Yearly Archives: 2017

Letters frankenthaler_untitled_1991
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A burgeoning screenwriter recently told me about a side-hustle in her industry called, “pay to play.” For $30, a writer can book 10 minutes of Skype-time with a producer or distributer looking for new projects. After narrowing her pitch to seven minutes with three minutes for questions, her Skype ends abruptly with, “thanks!” and she awaits feedback by email. New to this system, my friend has already received a follow-up request from a global network for her latest script. When I asked how she knew about “pay to play,” she told me it’s a common path for actors looking to audition without an agent, or if their agent can’t get a meeting with a desired casting director.

Letters robert-genn_cuckoo
11

A subscriber wrote, “I find that doing demos is extremely challenging as I never know quite where a painting is going until I get there. There seems no time to ponder, to try this and that. The expectation is to just keep painting and turn out something reasonably competent in the given time.

“I know students benefit greatly from watching demos — I just don’t know if I will ever get comfortable giving one. It’s not getting any easier. I once watched you do a demo and you seemed very relaxed. What’s the secret?”

Letters sheila-hicks_embassy-of-chromatic-delegates
24

About halfway through the HBO documentary, “Becoming Warren Buffett,” a scene shows Warren Buffett and Bill Gates sitting at a table, each painting a picture — apparently a first for both. “He doesn’t know much about art,” says Bill in a voiceover. “I can’t tell you the colour of the walls in my bedroom or my living room,” says Warren. “I don’t have a mind that relates to the physical universe well.” For a moment, I thought I detected the slack-jawed bewilderment of a guy on the precipice of failure.

Letters whistler_gold-and-grey-the-sunny-shower-dordrecht-2
13

My experience has been that plein air requires a different mind-set than indoor work. Small inconveniences that do not occur in the studio can make or break the effort — a cool wind on the neck or a lightly primed canvas that lets the light through — minor irritants, but important to anticipate and prepare for. I recommend building up to the activity, finding comfort with your own methodology, not expecting too much. It’s the time-honoured “field sketch,” and it’s noble. Better to have a small diamond than a large piece of glass.

Letters van-gogh_wheat-fields-at-auvers-under-clouded-sky
15

At the National Gallery of Victoria here in Melbourne, throngs of sticky beaks move in mobs to inspect the largest collection of van Goghs to ever travel to Australia. The Seasons presents a four-sectioned survey of Vincent’s landscapes from the perspective of time of year — a pillar in his paintings and explored in his ebullient letters to his brother and best friend, Theo. Caressed by the Melbourne Symphony’s on-site Vivaldi and audio guide recordings of Vincent’s recited letters, visitors clog the galleries from open to close to channel his myth and scale, catching the Rhone breezes of Arles and taking selfies with a pair of satisfyingly on-style Cypresses.

Letters odjig_to-drop-the-mask-1980
42

This letter is a bit more difficult to write because it hits close to home. Apparently 15 percent of the general population are what psychologists now call “Highly Sensitive Persons,” or HSPs. Among creative types the percentage is much higher. In part, it’s the sensitivity that makes us creative. Carl Jung suggested that we are just introverted, shy or depressed. Recent research indicates that HSPs are genetically programmed to be that way. Getting rid of the condition would be like changing our eye colour. HSPs have valuable assets that have traditionally been given a bum rap by the not-so-sensitive majority.

Letters schenck_anguish
19

Recently, a subscriber wrote to ask about a letter he called, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists. Sounding familiar, I took to the Painter’s Keys search bar tool, but came up short. A quick pass at Google gave me a seminar aimed at 3D computer graphics animators, and so I wondered, might it be time to take a closer look at the “habits?”

First published in 1989, Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling self-help manifesto The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People triumphs character over personality in the achievement of goals.

Letters rene-cera_awakening_1979
5

We’re all familiar with the problems associated with Sunday Painters. Cranking up the old machine once a week may be okay in the vintage car hobby — but it’s bad news in the creativity game. The steady worker who applies his craft daily is more likely to make creative gains than an intermittent one. Even when tired, or even because of it, the rolling creator can generally squeeze further.

Letters gaston_the-young-artist
16

A recently retired schoolteacher shared her career-long response to students complaining of boredom: “Only boring people are bored.” I strained to think of an artist who had ever complained of being bored. I wondered: Are artists innately gifted with a love of time? Are they anointed with savvier powers to daydream, to reflect, to be curious, inventive, doodling and self-reliant? Do they possess a diminished need for pastimes and entertainment? How did they get here? Are artists born not bored?

Letters Norham Castle, Sunrise c.1845 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01981
10

Depending on your point of view, he was either one of the world’s most important painters, or the original amateur. J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) influenced many artists, particularly the impressionists. (Monet and Pissarro were knocked over by his work) His paintings of luminous vapour have etched their way into the popular imagination.

One magic day years ago I stood in front of the real stuff at the Tate in London. Ever since then I’ve been wired for Turner — both the artist and the art. I always feel I owe him a visit.

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