Monthly Archives: January, 2018

Letters Will-Barnet_self-portrait

Older artists don’t necessarily lose their chops. New studies seem to show that the aging process actually improves certain abilities. At McMaster University in Canada, researchers found that elderly people are better able to grasp “the big picture” than younger people. As the big picture is a desirable element in all pictures, this insight has implications for artists both young and old. The study tested young and elderly volunteers. In a series of computer-generated images, the appearance of a set of bars changed while they watched.

Letters winston-churchill_last-painting

While discussing the turning year recently with an actor friend, he confided that if he could do it all over again, he would have been a writer. Now in his early forties and after 25 years of auditions, he’s pivoting to the blank page. “Great news!” I said. “Unlike ballet or being a starlet, being a writer doesn’t depend on the trimmings of youth, and you don’t have to rely on a production green-light to get sweaty. Writing is a doing activity. Writers write. You can start today, and you’ve got plenty of decades to try to get good.”

Letters Edouard-Vuillard_portrait-of-Ambroise-Vollard_1900-01

A subscriber asked some tough questions: “You often use the term ‘serious collectors.’ What kind of person is this? How do they choose who to collect and who not to collect? Do they collect only artists that the marketers have made into a hot item? How large is the demographic? Where do they congregate? What do they like? What do they not like? How does one capture this market? As an artist is there more to this than just putting out good work?”

Letters RG-On-the-Douro-Portugal-near-Oporto-30x34

A question appeared in the inbox recently, and I’m wondering what you think: A brother and sister inherited two of my dad’s paintings and devised a plan for how to best enjoy them. They decided to each keep one painting and wrote to ask if they could make two giclées — high quality digital copies, most likely on canvas, made on an inkjet printer. This way, brother and sister could enjoy both paintings in each of their homes.

Letters giovanni-boldini_woman-at-a-piano

After the electronic shower of your New Year’s resolutions, (and my own resolution to grow my hair this year) I was passing my easel and paused to note its magnificence. Like many artists who wrote to mention that they don’t believe in resolutions, looking at the upright, decent instrument that my easel is, I realized that, with its help, things pretty well take care of themselves.

Letters joni-mitchell_self-portrait

In the new pile of books brought by Santa and others, I noticed an early edition of The Inner Game of Music. Written in 1986 by Barry Green, former Principal Bassist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “The Inner Game” explores how musicians can temper the hang-ups that stymie heightened creative expression. After researching the nuts and bolts of peak performance with his co-author, sports psychology coach W. Timothy Gallwey, Green determined that performance techniques used by tennis players might also be applied to the arts. Artists, like athletes, while chasing flow and the truth, can instead be bound up with fear, perfectionism, rote ad bad vibes.

Letters sam-gilliam_spread_1973

A subscriber asked, “What do you say to people who are acrylic snobs? One of the oil painters who is in a show with me said that it might not be a good idea for me to mention the word acrylic on the title cards. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘it’s just plastic goop.’ This hurt me and I can’t stop thinking about it. Worse, I couldn’t think of a nice comeback — nothing better than, ‘But I love acrylics!’ ”

Letters albert-namatjira_waterhole-macdonnell-ranges_1950s

Amid 20th Century masterworks here at the Art Gallery of South Australia glimmers a collection of small watercolour landscapes: delicate white ghost gums striped in creeping shadow, wisps of desert brush and tumbleweed, weighty, dirt-red hills under distant clouds. Unlike the museum’s flashier acquisitions, the landscapes hint at timeless spaces, their strokes describing light and leaves, inviting us in with a quiet ease. I drag my nose through a plump, dauby stand of sap green gums, whispering aloud, “Who, what, when, where?”

Letters mark-rothko_tentacles-of-memory

“Pride,” said Alexander Pope, “is the never-failing vice of fools.” This certainly applies when we kid ourselves that something we’ve done poorly is somehow worthy. Fact is, pride’s always suspect, even dangerous. Religions warn against it. Along with envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth, pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.