Browsing: Letters

4 Passing storm

Dear Artist, Late yesterday afternoon and then again all last night a terrific storm passed through this island. Helpless boats tramped at their moorings and became swamped. The Alexander Mackenzie bashed heavily against the skimpy dock. Fortunately I was able…

9 Finding confidence

When asked how an artist finds her voice, writer Roxane Gay says it’s not something that you really find. “It’s something that’s in you and you allow to emerge,” she says. “Oftentimes people go looking here or looking there, instead of just recognizing that they already have the voice, and they just need to use it.”

20 Wild Child

About fifty documented instances exist of children reared by animals. Children brought up by wolves or bears tend not to speak or draw. On the other hand, children born into a world of speech and art adopt the skills of their elders. Most cultures encourage children to make images as soon as they can hold a tool. Remarkably, at about four years of age, all children produce similar imagery. In a now-famous research project, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) found that toddlers from all cultures, when encouraged, do the following:

7 Over the top

A friend, I’ll call him Cosmo, was a lifelong art collector and a generous museum benefactor. He loved to support artists young and old, and had even infected his kids with his collecting joy. Early in our friendship, Cosmo and I paddled the rapids of his beloved Northern river. There, he told me that his passion for business was like mine for art. Another time, he took me to the top of a skyscraper so I could see a banker’s view.

11 Howard Pyle

Yesterday, in the New York clubs — Salmagundi Art Students League, the Society of Illustrators — I was cruising historical and current members’ work, listening to wisps of conversation, digging in archives, wandering down memory lane.

Howard Pyle (1853-1911) came to New York from Wilmington, Delaware, in 1873. “Pyle arrived at the right time and instinctively recognized the power of pictures for everyone,” says Pyle’s biographer, Henry Pitz.

17 Self-delusory avoidance activity

“What happens with you when you begin to feel uneasy, unsettled, queasy?” wrote American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron in her 1996 book, When Things Fall Apart. “Notice the panic, notice when you instantly grab for something.” For artists, we may make sense of the discomfort of creative inquiry by giving it a name and influence. A genuine self-delusory avoidance activity is better known by its power-handle: “Block.”

23 Mess-makers anonymous

The well-known physicist and writer David Deutsch is also well-known for the messiness of his workplace. Once, when a TV crew came in to record an interview with him, they offered to tidy up a bit before beginning. He told them they could if they put everything back exactly the way it was. They did.

31 JOMO for artists

German-born English psychologist Hans Eysenck, in his studies of the brain’s reticular activating system, suggested that we all have a set point for regulating arousal levels.

Fifteen percent of us, Eysenck determined, have a naturally high level of arousal, which makes us introverts. He also notes that when introverts develop the skills for managing social activity and relationships and then optimize their penchant for looking inward, they can be among the very happiest of people.

3 Santa Claus

A subscriber wrote, “I received a call from someone that had seen my work in a gallery. Then she bought a piece from my web page and I mailed it. I called the gallery to tell them the good news and let them know that I owed them some money. Our agreement is 50-50. I told them how much I owed them and they said they’ll take it off my next check. Great! Yesterday, I got a call from a neighbor of this art buyer, and the neighbor bought a painting as well. Should I also credit the gallery another 50% from the neighbor’s purchase? Both paintings were on my website, and not at the gallery.”

22 Decoding the road map

Artist Mitchell Freifeld wrote from Portland, Oregon to ask for more clarity concerning the letter “Ignorance,” which mentioned my dad’s criteria when jurying. “It would be a great benefit to have this road map ‘decoded’ in the simplest possible terms. I’m sure others who read the piece would like to see this as well.”

While these points are subject to modification — sometimes there’s something major to upset them, like, “I like it” — here’s Dad’s list, with my notes:

1 2 3 199