Book launch

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Dear Artist,

For months we’ve been anxiously preparing, editing and proofing. Then suddenly, “beep, beep, beep,” a truck is backing up — and there we are, cases and cases of “Love Letters to Art.” Getting the actual book in our hands and a few tears in our eyes, we hit the wine. It all began last Friday at Mayberry Fine Art in Winnipeg, Manitoba. On Sunday at my solo show I signed dozens of them. We were giving them to active collectors and selling them to others. At no time was there a lineup, but for five hours business was brisk.

photograph by Peter McConville

A coffee table book, apart from being a beautiful thing in itself, gives people an insight into an artist’s comings and goings, his passions and mindset. Autobiographical, self-published and beautifully printed, this book gives me the opportunity to show my work and processes dear to my heart. Based in part on some of the Twice-Weekly Letters, the text gives artists and collectors an idea of what I’m up to. The foreword, written by a friend who just happens to be a significant collector of my work, gives an insight into the shortcomings of my character. It’s all a lot of fun. I recommend the catharsis to all creators.

Mayberry Fine Art Gallery

“By and large books are mankind’s best invention,” said author Ursula K. LeGuin. In all deference to the Internet and Electronic Readers now coming on the market, there’s always going to be a need for a handsome thing you hold in your hands and leave out for your friends to see. While books are conversation pieces in themselves, they also give enduring evidence that we walked on the planet. I’ve always thought of books as a kind of spiritual connection to all other humans. And every reader takes a different spin. While the book has only existed for a couple of days, some folks have already read it. An email comment this morning said, “Your writing is fine but your work is so-so,” followed by another who wrote, “Now I begin to understand what makes artists tick. This is the best book I’ve ever read.”

Like the art we create daily, a book is a personal conception. But while a painting can take place in a matter of hours, even minutes, a book takes months and involves a committee. Some on the committee you never get to meet in the flesh, but they are all true artists. Working with these artists, making this beautiful thing, has been such a privilege.

Mayberry Fine Art Gallery

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” (Jorge Luis Borges)

Esoterica: Once a book is between its covers, some authors desert it. I snuck a look and checked for truth, interest, information and amusement. It’s not bad. Stephen Jarislowsky writes in the foreword, “One Sunday morning Robert showed up at our door. Emerging from his mud-spattered motorhome — his mobile studio — Robert was ragged and dirty, his wild beard matted with dead mosquitoes. Gail and I saw to the washing of his clothes and drew him a bath. I lent him one of my better jackets and we took him out to a high-end restaurant and fed him.” Composing myself after reading this, I realized that all literature must surely be fiction.

 

 

Curling up
by Brigitte Nowak, Toronto, ON, Canada

 

Grave Island Rocks”
egg tempera, 12 x 24 inches
by Brigitte Nowak

As a subscriber to your letters, and occasional respondent, I have learned from your perspective and insight, and I have appreciated your sharing the development and birth of Love Letters to Art . Best wishes for success with this venture — yes, the cheque is in the mail, and I look forward to receiving my copy and to curling up with it beside a crackling fire over the holidays.

 

 

This is what 1000 books look like in your driveway. Left to right, Michelle Moore, Carol Ann Prokop, Al Stevenson, Zach Martin and Dorothy

(RG note) Thanks, Brigitte. More than 350 readers put in orders for one or more copies on Friday, the first day of our launch. We now have a team dedicated to wrapping and shipping, and needless to say I’m sitting behind a great pile, dedicating them. Many thanks for your friendship. I sincerely hope you get something of value from Love Letters to Art.

 

 

 

 

Book review
by J. G. Richardson

 
Love Letters to Art makes reference to the many facets of Genn’s work and interests. The 60 “chapters” are mostly based on his popular Twice-Weekly letters. Well written and dense, many of the items are amusing and passionate. As well, some of the cut lines under the illustrations provide an insight into how painters function. Genn doesn’t take himself too seriously and seems, from time to time, to fall into self-degradation. The book is currently being sold directly from The Painter’s Keys website and by selected art dealers with whom he is connected. It will shortly be available on Amazon.

 

 

Book love
by Lauren Everett Finn, Oxford, MI USA

 

“The Sky is Falling!”
watercolour, 22 x 30 inches
by Lauren Everett Finn

I am a book-a-holic. I LOVE books… The smell, the feel, the words and the pictures, the “right at your fingertips” knowledge they contain. I have an embarrassingly large art book library. It amuses me that I can learn different things from the same book at different stages of my artistic development. (One of the reasons I never part with them.) I especially love the serendipity of coming across the perfect solution to a problem with a painting that I’m stumped on.

 

 

 

 

Publishing a book
by Susie Orleans, Montreal, QC, Canada

 
I have been an avid reader of your letters and have followed much of your direction. I have just written a book and am trying to find the best avenue to get it published. I’m not quite sure what comes first: the chicken or the egg, in other words, an agent or a publisher. Would you be so kind as to shed some light on this self-publishing business? I hear that IUniverse is a good launch pad but would like some of your insight.

(RG note) Thanks, Susie. The traditional avenue is to shop your MS around to publishers. You need to pick up a copy of Writer’s Market. It’s a yearly updated encyclopedia of writer’s opportunities. The book also tells you how to go about it — things to do and not to do. Carefully fitting your work to your publishers of choice, you may get positive feedback, even acceptance. If you get negative feedback, or none at all, it may be time to reassess your project. You can then re-edit, rewrite, abandon, or, if you still believe in it, make your own investment in it. See further suggestions below.

 

 

The right time to write
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA

 

“Back Yard”
oil painting, 24 x 18 inches
by Brad Greek

I was wondering, when is it time to do a book like this? Or should an artist publish throughout their career? Most of us have plenty of images to illustrate a book, just not sure about the content. You being an excellent writer poses as a great benefit that most of us don’t have. So we would have to find an art writer. Which in my opinion can make the difference in whether a work is worthy or not. A good writer can make or break an artist’s book as well. I agree that a book does leave our mark in history that we’ve been here. Of course so do our paintings. But the book brings it to more viewers that otherwise would never be able to experience the work or find out who we are. It’s a document, we are who we say we are, and don’t forget us! I love books!

(RG note) Thanks, Brad. I love books too — they excite and intimidate me at the same time. I wish I had done more, earlier, and that I had the courage to make them more specific as I explored different areas of interest. I’m not so sure you need to employ another writer. There’s so much fun in turning your thoughts into words. And because you write, you get more thoughts, and your life and your work become enriched. But you also need an editor.

 

 

Book arrival
by Judi Birnberg, Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

 

original painting by Judi Birnberg

Your big, beautiful baby arrived by mail in Los Angeles today—and what a lovely one you have produced! The book is even more attractive than it promised to be from what I saw online. Don’t wear any clothes with buttons for a while because they will most certainly pop off.

(RG note) Thanks, Judi. Judi Birnberg is a professional editor. She’s often responsible for correcting the errors I regularly make in the Twice-Weekly letters. She was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to be one of the editors of Love Letters to Art.

 

 

Self-publishing
by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA

 

“Chinese Bamboo”
chinese ink, 18 x 21 inches
by Lisa Chakrabarti

A few years ago a writer/martial artist friend and I collaborated on a chapbook, Black Ink, Vol 1: Entering Spirit and Form. It got published by a company that said they’d do it only if we ‘held them harmless.’ We had to foot all the bills, so we printed them up on our computers/printers. It was about 40 pages and soft-covered. A 200-book run, we almost sold out (and we gave plenty away). We’re about to launch Vol 2. (Out of a projected 3-volume set). Our publisher left the business, so we might go a similar route as you did — and self-publish. I kind of always had this stubborn attitude that a book is more valid when someone else publishes. But then, Mark Twain self-published, and now you, too. So we’re in fine company.

(RG note) Thanks, Lisa. Things are changing so fast in the publishing industry. With the availability of niche promotion through blogs, websites, online lists, and “Long Tail” distributors such as Amazon, self-publishing is no longer the maverick, it rules. No one is taking much of a risk, the books are only remaindered if you want them so, and if you have the right system in place, they’re more profitable.

 

 

Printing and education
by Paul McDermott, Greenwich, CT, USA

 

digital photograph
by Paul McDermott

Regarding self-publishing, it is especially difficult for someone like me whose work is normally printed on paper to find a complimenting quality from book publishers. I know of several sites out there — mypublish, lulu, blurb — that allow people to self-publish but I don’t know the true quality of any of these printers. Although you can find reviews by customers, they rarely know what they are talking about. Are there a few printers you can advise?

I am currently a photo student earning a BFA from SUNY Purchase. I am not happy with my quality of education but understand that a Bachelors degree now is the equivalent to a high school degree years ago. I have heard a mix of responses from “It won’t make a difference working as an artist” to “It gives you credibility as an artist.” I understand both arguments but if my school isn’t helping me prepare myself for approaching galleries and making money with my craft once I graduate, what should I do? I cannot switch schools because of financial reasons.

(RG note) Thanks, Paul. Two widely different questions here. I used Friesens Printing in Altona, Manitoba, Canada. They are a huge state-of-the-art but traditional company with 1200 employees and a reputation for top work. To do a proper job and navigate the jargon, you need a book designer. Your printer will be able to recommend one suitable to your needs.

Regarding art education, a BFA might open your eyes, but it certainly won’t grow you into a successful artist. You may even pick up a touch of poisonous pedagogy that will delay your progress. Passion, private dedication, self-education and hard work are the keys to growth and joy in the art game.

 

 

Artists writing about their art
by Richard F Barber, Watford, Hertfordshire, UK

 

“Great Gables in the Lake District”
oil painting, 60 x 70 cm
by Richard F Barber

I would like to know my fellow artists views on how far should an artist go in explaining his/her art in the written word? I feel that the art should stand up for itself with, if necessary, a small statement towards what inspired the artist to produce it. I also think that the title is the most important factor which should define what the piece is about, so as to capture the mind and imagination of the viewer. Lots of artists write volumes of intellectual claptrap as to the conception of their art. I also feel that apart from taking away the opportunity for the viewer to make their own conclusions, right, wrong or indifferent, that it should be the gallery’s job to produce a short bio of the work. They are or should be more qualified at this as this is part of their job to sell your art, they know more about this field because it is them that are face-to-face with the potential buyers, so are more able to answer any questions about the artist and art in question. I would be interested to have views on this.

 

 

Why paint landscape?
by Alice Helwig, Calgary, AB, Canada

 

“Faith”
acrylic painting, 36 x 48 inches
by Alice Helwig

Recently I have been in the process of applying for a grant. One of my proof readers asked me why I painted landscape. Actually what she said was, “It’s such a prairie painter’s cliché. Why do you paint landscapes anyway?” It’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately. The Helwig email lines have been burning up. I’ve asked all my painting buddies. It perhaps is not a bad thing to question our practice. At best it does make us think and helps us formulate an answer the next time we are approached with this question. I even found a web-cast of Wolf Kahn called, Six reasons why not to paint Landscape. Of course it’s tongue in cheek — I really admire his abstracted landscapes. My favorite quote in the speech he gave was, “To be a landscape painter is to be a perverse individual.” I paint landscapes, I’ve decided, because it’s what I love. I think it frees me up to do other things in my painting. I think it will be the natural evolution to abstraction for me. My paintings continue to evolve towards an emotional response to the subject matter. But I am still curious as to why others choose to work with this subject.

(RG note) Thanks, Alice. Landscapes are painted for the same reasons mountains are climbed. Because they’re there. Landscapes contain unlimited permutations and combinations — enough to keep a curious explorer going for a lifetime. Regarding the grant questions, you state one of the main reasons you need not be bothered trying to snag one — grant givers tend to ask such inane questions.

 

 

Scamming artists
by Sue Sasso, Rapid City, SD, USA

 

“Bookworm”
original painting by Sue Sasso

You may want to remind artists about scam artists. Yesterday I received an email from a person claiming to be interested in one of my paintings. I was suspicious about the email for several reasons. However, since he mentioned a particular painting by name I thought I would be polite and reply with the pricing and shipping costs. I also asked him where he saw my painting since my artwork with that particular contact address is not in very many places. Today, I received an email back that he wants to buy 2 paintings for his client and the money will be sent right away and there will be extra for me to send back to him as commission.

(RG note) Thanks, Sue. This operator and another jerk claiming to be from the Ukraine are currently writing to artists on our site and others. If you ever do find yourself with a cheque in your hand, take it personally to a bank and wait for up to a month to find out if it’s legit.
 

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Stephen Snider, Penticton, BC, Canada

 
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Ni Elli of TX, USA who wrote, “My books remain within my brain… maybe best left there.”

And also Elsie Wilson of Fitchburg, WI, USA who wrote, “Since winter has settled in here in Wisconsin, USA, I can say that your letters are like having one’s car not want to start on a cold day and a dear friend coming along at just the right moment with cables and a willingness to jump-start.”

And also Vittorio Canta of Sutton, QC, Canada who quoted Instantes by Jorge Luis Borges: “In my next life I will try to commit more errors.”

And also this question: “I would love to have a copy of Roger Glenn’s book. Who is he?” (submitted by would-be book buyer who has since got the name right) For more fun things that have been written about the Twice-Weekly Letters, please go here.

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Book launch

 

 

 

 

From: Pamela Walker Hart — Dec 07, 2007

I just ordered a copy of your Love Letters to Art book. As a subscriber of the Twice-Weekly Letters for about three years, I decided early on to print out hard copies of only a few of the best. To your credit, I find myself printing out most. Each is a delight – filled with inspiration for art – and for life. I share them often with my painting students, creativity audiences, and artist peers. Thank you for gathering some of your favorite letters together in a book. I look forward to leisurely leafing through the pages of insight, practicality, and comic relief you gift to us through your writing! Happy Holidays, Pamela Walker Hart www.pwalkerhart.com

From: Alex Nodopaka — Dec 07, 2007

Dear Robert, Sight unseen, I am sure your book is a fine addition to any coffee table and library. In any case I have been pleased and at times gratified by your enthusiasm towards the fine arts and our virtual association through your Painter’s Keys twice-weekly letter. Amicably, Alex Nodopaka www.nodopaka.com

From: Faith Puleston — Dec 11, 2007

So what is the “bio” of a work, Richard? A difficult topic. Sometimes looking at a contemporary painting gives no hint of what it is supposed to be about (does a painting have to be about something?) and the title is a help. Or is it? How arbitrary are many of the titles of paintings, particularly abstracts? I often have trouble ‘naming the baby’ and would be in no position to describe what I do, except on a purely technical level, so why should a gallery be presumed to know better? But leaving a painting untitled is not a solution, either. There must be a planet somewhere scattered with untitled works of art (including all the cave paintings). It is customary to write reams about all kinds of creative work. Some of the writing is of course itself creative, or at least imaginative (it has to be). How else could a painting that is in fact a black square be attributed with a world of meaning and described by one “informal” painter I know as the best painting ever painted? What a claim! It’s a topsy-turvy world where paintings done by elephants have intrinsic value (go to novicadotcom to see some). The words about artworks (in critiques, gallery brochures etc.) are is there to encourage trade. Then there is a whole genre of writing on past masters and “masterworks” – most of those artworks being in museums scattered across the globe or in the vaults of fanatical (and immensely rich) collectors. How much has been written about van Gogh or Monet, for example? How many PhDs have been published on art topics? Mozart never wrote much about his composing, but others certainly did! The analyses of Goethe’s works far exceeds the amount he actually wrote. Putting paintings into words is a respected and endless task. Reading many artists’ statements gives an insight into how the artist wishes to be seen. He/she extols the virtues, speculations, soul-searching, religious convictions, philosophical mysticism etc etc etc of his/her approach to art, giving reviewers and the non-informed useful clues as to how they might approach the artwork. I’ve lost count of how many times I have then moved on to look at the artwork itself and been surprised………

From: Dar Hosta — Dec 11, 2007

Hooray and another hooray! I’m thrilled to learn that you have independently published (the preferred term among us, btw)! I thought this book of letters was some publishing exec’s scheme, to tell you the truth. Read the papers, fat cats, it’s the Age of the Independent Creative Person! I am on my fifth independent children’s book project and have been doing it this way from the start–never even attempted to submit because I wanted to do it my own way. Two years ago, a children’s editor from one of the Big-Five houses sniffed me out to try to reel me in. I was flattered, but kindly declined. Hard to imagine turning it all over after learning how to do it myself. You’ve gotten it all right, Robert, right down to a waiting clientele ready to purchase. It is exciting, in this day of technology, for creative people to be able to make something like a glorious book, without a book contract from a big publisher. May you have much success with your book–it sounds like you already have. I have just ordered two and cannot wait to hold them in my hands and smell the sumptuous pages. P.S. To all artists… if you would like to experiment with making your own art book, there are some very easy places to make some beautiful print-on-demand color books. You will not be able to price them for wholesale, but you will not have to invest in a full print run as Robert has done, and you can baby-step your way into a truly “real” book. Try Blurb, Lulu and, for Mac users, click that little button in iPhoto that says “make book.”

From: Don Cadoret — Dec 11, 2007

I agree with Dar Hosta’s assertion about independently publishing your own work. She has created an incredible body of work thus far, of which the quality meets or even exceeds the best in children’s picture books produced by the major publishing houses. Bravo to her and I can’t wait to get her next title.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Dec 11, 2007

Alice, thank you for posting the link to Wolf Kahn’s talk at Wheaton College. It was a much-needed affirmation of the direction I seem to be headed in. While it was built around landscape painting (also my love), the principles he talked about are salient to anyone who makes art, regardless of medium or subject. Why we have to do what we do and how we do it, and why it matters.

From: Sandy Sandy — Dec 11, 2007

Congratulations Bob! I know this project has been a long time coming. I applaud you for your tenacity. I just want to mention here that there are many good digital printers found locally today who can print and bind small quantities of very professionally executed books for those of us with more shallow pockets and less storage space. I designed, wrote and self published my first book in 2005 and have sold hundreds through my website and shows. Although I can’t yet go wholesale, as digital printing is more costly than four color lithography in large runs, it allows me to order a hundred or less at a time. Not a real money maker, however it is a feather in my cap and an awesome promotional tool. When I come into more money, I will bite the bullet and get 1000 printed in Asia too. Self publishing is the way to go nowdays and is even more lucrative for artists with computer skills and a graphic arts background.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 11, 2007

I don’t want to throw cold water onto self-publishing but I can see artists everywhere putting their work in little piles with the idea of publishing their work. One needs to ask several questions before taking on publishing a book of artwork. Firstly, does the world need another “picture” book of artwork. Second – does anyone remember “prints” or “giclees”? Make sure this isn’t a vanity book or you will end up with hundreds of copies that you will only hand out to friends and family. There are thousands of artists with piles of prints and giclees in their attics or garages gathering valuable dust. Now here comes “home publishing” made easy. This is just another way to separate you from your hard earned money. I know we all want our work to be published, but be realistic and sensible. Ask yourself if your book will offer something everyone else isn’t. Why would someone buy your book as opposed to another’s. Do you have a distribution network or just a website that doesn’t garner much traffic. I don’t say don’t publish, just think twice, three times and make sure you can afford to not sell one copy. These are realities in life. It sounds great to have your work published. Computer technology and software make this possible. Are you computer savvy? I write short stories. When they are done I give them to an editor friend and she comes back with all sorts of corrections for me in grammer, spelling, context. I’m not a professional writer and need an editor. You will too if your book will have text. If publishing were that easy, don’t you think everyone would have done it by now? Technology makes us believe it is easy because manufacturers of this product want to sell you software. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from this, only trying to make everyone think before they fork over money they can ill afford to waste. Good Luck.

From: Scharolette Chappell — Dec 11, 2007

Congratulations, positive thoughts coming your way, for a prosperous and blessed book launch. I am putt’n my order in today! I don’t think I have missed reading one of your letters since I found out about it. So how could I miss having your book on my library shelf, can’t wait to read it and look at the pictures, like a kid in a candy shop, that’s the feeling I get when one more book enters my door. Very excited for you!! Looking forward to more. loveyaschar

From: Anonymous — Dec 11, 2007

World of Art Feature:

WAY TO GO STEPHEN !!!! PROUD OF YOU !!!! HOPE THIS BRINGS YOU LOTS OF SALES. ALL THE BEST, SYLVER

From: Liz Reday — Dec 11, 2007

Good for you, Robert! I’m so pleased that you did this, and in such a way that you had a product that is well done, beautiful, and that you have your marketing well set up in advance. There have been many quality art books self-produced lately and I’m impressed with every one, (Alla Prima by Richard Schmid is another). I think this has gone beyond “vanity publishing” and into a fine example of independant artist-entrepreneur. At some of my shows, I’m often asked for prints or copies or visuals for around $50. – $70.- Even if I just paid for my costs, etc., it would be well worth it in terms of publicity and respectabilty. I have seen other, smaller books out of more local scenes and I’m very excited about this new development. I understand Rick’s concerns about this being a way for unscrupulous publishers/printers to bleed artists dry while promising them thousands of buyers, but the giclee phenomenon is a different case. As a printmaker previously (etchings & monotypes, with a degree in printmaking from the Royal College of Art) I was able to see how the print market was severely comprimised when giclees came onto the scene. I saw lots of artists with $$ signs in their eyes, shell out money to set up their paintings into giclees only to find that galleries were drowning in paper and the world was moving toward original paintings on panel,canvas,wood, etc….but books are a different thing altogether. Signed giclees were trying to sell at the same price as original paintings and they are reproductions, not orignial hand-pulled prints such as etchings and mono-types. But a book is something different, an investment in knowledge and a lovely visual feast – a wonderful gift for the collectors who have supported our painting and collected our work. I think if you produce a book as a labor of love and market it in conjunction with a good solo show and you have a mailing list and a level of interest in your work, it’s a great idea. Just don’t spend more than you can afford to lose in the event you may have to give half of them away. Robert is a great mentor to us all in this respect and here he’s just shown us how it’s done. Hey thanks Bob. My check will be in the mail because I’m dying to see it. Liz P.S. I get all my finished painting professionally photo’d , (and before they’re sold) so that if I want to put together a book, catalog or calendar later on, I can do so. In my case, I would start very small and very local and have a few galleries as outlets.

From: Bob Ragland — Dec 12, 2007

Bravo on your book. I have quite a library in my home studio. Books can be good teachers. I feel that an artist’s book works for that artist every day of the year. My friend Dean Mitchell has published two books about his art and life. He mentioned that several people tried to discourage him, but he proceeded and has an additional marketing tool in his PR toolbox. Books matter. Cheers, Bob Ragland

From: Vicki Ross — Jan 25, 2008

I co-authored a book last year,’Melangér avec Amour’, with Kippy Hammond (France, formerly Georgia, US). She and Jerome Henriquez own and operate a delightful artist’s retreat in Fontaine- Fourches, France. Kippy and Jerome wanted to experiment with a winter retreat for cooking enthusiasts, with a self-published book coming out of it. I was included as the design/production/electronic poobah. We hit our goals, but the book turned out to be more of a spiritual treatise with some recipes thrown in for good measure. The sub-title ‘Stir with Love’ becomes a mantra for every task you undertake…the essays we explore apply to every creative outlet from cooking to writing to painting to sculpture…etc. We developed the concept and edited ourselves…from start to finish in about 8 weeks. I highly recommend Lulu for self-publishing. You can see and order the book at http://stores.lulu.com/labonneetoile. We decided to go the Lulu route to save trees :), realizing that we are artists first, and book promoters second or third. Lulu’s printing quality is first-class, and books are printed as sold (therefore a bit more cost/less profit than printing thousands at a time). Our project was a success, but we wish it was in ‘real’ distribution. I highly recommend Lulu. Vicki Ross

From: Elsie Kilguss — Dec 10, 2009

Robert–I just ordered your book and can’t wait for it to arrive. Now I can unclutter my computer on which I have saved each and every letter you have sent. Just love their content. Instead, I will have a beautiful book to take with me and whenever I am in need of advice or inspiration I will be able to refer to your book of special letters.

Thank you. Elsie Kilguss, USA

 

 

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