Letters 080712_robert-genn4

Painting techniques are easily adapted for oil and watercolour, but fast pleasure is found by going for them in acrylic. Speedy drying times and the knowledge that mistakes can be covered up in an instant keep the process uncommitted and playful. Here are five that enliven the act of painting and are generous with surprises:

My second-year painting prof called them “suckerblends,” which I took to mean that they snuck into your heart and made you love them forever, like a sucker. There was a time when many painters believed that a smooth gradation was impossible in fast-drying acrylic.

Letters kristen-dukat11

Yesterday, I received an email: “I began my journey at the University of Toledo in Fine Art. Lacking confidence, I switched to Art Education. I felt I couldn’t take the rejection from galleries and shows and what it takes to be a real artist. I just wanted to paint beautiful things — I wasn’t looking for angst or meaning or whatever it is that the experts say makes art. I actually won a scholarship for ‘student with the most promising portfolio’ but, nevertheless, my work wasn’t accepted into the annual student show. I was defeated. I didn’t pick up a brush for seven years

Letters fiona-rae_hope

Having heard from many of you with juror experience, a theme has emerged around the very basics for artists submitting to a juried show. While one regular juror may hinge all on technical merit and another cruises for signs of imagination, a few fundamentals stand out as universal. They’re so simple they serve as a gentle reminder for anyone at any stage of the submission game:

As well as providing important archival protection, most paintings benefit visually from a coat of final varnish. For acrylics, this means UVLS varnish cut 50/50 with water and brushed on or poured and then wiped off with a lint-free rag

Letters callum-innes_in-studio

I’ve never been fully able to put my finger on what it is — but I’m going to try again. For those of you who might know more about it, I’d really like to hear from you. I hate to admit it, but it’s actually a bit of a mystery. I’m talking about “the groove.”

I got onto the subject again today because I found myself in a bit of a panic. Shows coming up, so many things to do, so many projects to which I had optimistically said yes. I knew in my heart to slow down and take my measured time, to live in the paint

Letters Wood-Bike-and-Trailer-Poletz

Last Monday a museum curator, a watercolourist and I met in a community centre to jury a show for the local arts council. While most were paintings, the entries also included sculptures, pastels, drawings, ceramics, fiber arts, papier mache and works in collage, printmaking, woodworking, metalwork and batik. There was silver and goldsmithing, felting, glass, quilts and mediums called “joining compound” and “scratch art.” And there were photos: digital and film, composites and painted, with prints on metal, plastic, fabric, canvas and watercolour paper. Everything had been made within the last two years — a miracle of productivity. We had but one day to cull eleven hundred entries to a third.

Letters mark-adams4

“With our calculated sensitivity we artists are able to see and to some degree reproduce nuances that others may know of but not be able to express. That’s why we’re so highly paid.” Every once in a while, in a workshop or a speech, I mention something like the above. Funnily, this line always gets a laugh. Artists roll their eyes and think, “Oh yeah — highly paid — who does he think he’s kidding.” I’ve never thought I was kidding.

Letters christoforos-asimis_voreina

Around Cycladic archeological sites, in the museums and even the sunscreen shops, are small and large figurines chiseled from local marble. They have the look of the Moderns — smooth and stylized, with blank, polished faces. The locals call them Kouros, or “man” — a term now used for all male figures in Greek sculpture. Near the village of Apollonas you can scramble up a rocky bank where an 11-metre-long marble Kouros lies across the hillside overlooking the sea at the edge of the quarry from which it came. He’s thought to be a statue of Dionysus — the god of wine — abandoned mid-chisel around 600 B.C.

Letters Anders-Zorn_Emma-Zorn

My friend and fellow artist Joe Blodgett devised a system he calls “The 14 Golden Stations.” At the time he was concerned with procrastination and time wasting — conditions that attack some artists. It works this way: You need a clock or a watch with an hourly chime. On the hour changes — generally from 8am to 9pm — you make a one-word note in a journal accounting for what you catch yourself doing. For yesterday mine looked like this: Walking, emailing, painting, painting, varnishing, driving, dreaming, planning, painting, painting, reading, snoozing, painting, painting.

Letters linds-redding

The Cycladic island of Naxos is dotted with white, cube-shaped houses clumped along the hillside in spaced, diminishing line-ups or stacked in a town labyrinth, an ever-narrowing grid climbing to a cloudless, cerulean sky. The edges are hard and soft with flat, angular shadows creeping across the summer walls in warm and cool greys. Balance and function make room for eye-stretches, patterning and design glee. I’m a rubbernecker on the back of the quad bike, grabbing at shapes and inhaling feelings for future art meals.

Letters dianna-poindexter_painting-Levi-Leisha

My studio is now silent. Visitors have evaporated to their own spaces. It’s late at night. The brush dashes here and there. Is it habit, addiction, pastime, a need to connect again? Why am I so absurdly happy? I’m thinking of Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Over the summer artists have written — out of the blue — to confide the nature of happiness. Although varied, many of the remarks spoke of a universal idea — along the lines of Arthur Schopenhauer’s idea: “Happiness belongs to those who are sufficient unto themselves…

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