Easel living

13

Dear Artist,

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.

giovanni-boldini_woman-at-a-piano

“Woman at a Piano” ca.1871-9
oil painting by
Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931)

Then through the veil of the remaining Christmas nog, I was remembering that time in Vejer de la Frontera when Jack and I were set up in a narrow cobbled street. Some playful Spanish kids had crept up behind us. At what they thought was an appropriate time, they fired off a couple of strings of firecrackers. Jack and I only glanced at the ruckus and at the hysterical, running kids. We were like a couple of cud-chewing cows, our minds dulled to any potential doom by the simple demands of our easels. The sky could have fallen and we wouldn’t have missed a stroke.

giovanni-Boldini_Artist-Ruth-Sterling

“The Artist Ruth Sterling in Her Studio” ca.1892
oil painting by Giovanni Boldini

Stroke: It’s simply a matter of putting the right colours in the right places and doing it well. Touch: Touch can be tender, casual, tentative, bold, curved, straight, thick, thin, sensual, energetic, dramatic or violent. Words: Design, pride, joy, grand, flourish, style, quality, work, play, confectionery. Thoughts: Waiting for the right mood or inspiration is counterproductive. Inspiration comes from doing. Action is more valuable than thought. Preparations: To take moments to scrape along the golden riffles of memory. To cruise present as well as old reference. To decide size and format. To make sure that the tools are ready to go and that supports and materials are readily at hand. To decide to pre-mix colours — or merely to squeeze. To raise or lower a daring blank canvas to its beginning height. To realize that all other artists, living and dead, are sitting right here beside me. To turn up the Mozart, to count blessings and to commit. Regrets: There is never, never enough time at this place.

giovanni-boldini_the-pianist-a-rey-colaco

“The Pianist A. Rey Colaço” 1883
pastel on paper on canvas
by Giovanni Boldini

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “I’m as happy as a cow in her stall. That’s the only place where everything is all right.” (Louise Nevelson)

Esoterica: “Easel living” is not necessarily easy living. It’s a low-tech station where toil makes miracles happen. Like a lot of the important places, little things mean a lot. Light, music, handedness, ready ideas and subject matter all play a part. Whether your easel is in the bush or the basement — it holds a promise of well-being and self-sufficiency. With all of the frustrations to be had at an easel, there’s also a cozy smugness. Your easel is the nuclear sun of an uncommon universe.

This letter was originally published as “Easel living” on January 6, 2004.

giovanni-Boldini_in-the-studio

The audio letters are now ready to give as a gift!
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.” (Joseph Campbell)

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13 Comments

  1. Oh easy for Robert! Lol. But Joseph Campbell was right: “This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.” We can only hope.

  2. LOUISE NEVELSON WAS RIGHT…..I’M AS HAPPY AS A COW IN IT’S STALL, WHEN AT MY EASEL…IT LITERALLY SAVED MY LIFE, AFTER MY WIFE DIED FIFTEEN YEARS AGO….I AM A PORTRAIT PAINTER, AND SHE BECAME MY MOST PRECIOUS MODEL, AND PAINTING HER IN MANY AGES OF HER LIFE RESTORED MY SOUL, AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE WITH HOPE……………………………….

  3. Alicia Laumann on

    I trust you will be able to visit Vejer de la Frontera. We were lucky to be there on a beautiful, sunny day in the winter of 2016 and took a city tour led by a member of the local tourist office. So full of history, so quaint and those cobblestone streets your father mentioned. Out of the beaten path, a place I’d like to visit again.

  4. Andrea A Seitz on

    Such a beautiful post. Robert was a true artist…visual and poetic. A lovely way to start my day as I gaze at my easel.

  5. Robert Genn’s statements of life as an artist are so timeless. Travel keeps us fresh and learning. While in Italy on this past Adventure-Artists journey I was walking up a very steep hill in a coastal village. Looking up the tall mountain in front of me I saw a woman walking toward me in the distance on the opposite side of the road. She had on a classy looking raincoat to the ground in a beautiful fabric the color was peach. As she got closer I noticed she was carrying a cobalt blue umbrella. The colors were brilliant on the grey afternoon and her scarf draping loosely was a black and white checked pattern. As she walked swiftly past me I noticed she was only about 4ft tall. Her age was obvious now as I smiled at her, pure white hair and lined, weathered brown skin as her piercing eyes looked straight at me and unsmilingly walked past. My shock came only as I turned to look back at her, because I registered what I had just seen. On her chin, a thin wispy white beard about 2 inches long perfectly trimmed straight across. I smiled. I thought, wow, that crazy hair on my chin I keep pulling out…perhaps a move to Italy is what this artist needs! Join me to Peru to see what the Peruvians are like. I love the interesting world we live in and love sharing it! Cheers!

  6. Thank you for continuing to send these weekly messages of inspiration. I read them all. Sometimes they get saved up and read all at once, because I don’t want to miss learning or sharing any of the comments.

  7. This letter is beautiful and rings true to me. I often think this is the only place I can be me. There is no one else but me. In front of my easil I am truly my best. It is a sacred place.

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MEXICO WINTER GETAWAY – Plein Air Painting and Figure Drawing
February 14, 2018 to February 28, 2018

mexico-pleinairTake a winter break! Join me, Hermann Brandt for one or both of these retreat/workshops in sunny Mexico.

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http://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/lorraine-duncan-art-dividing_big-wpcf_300x294.jpgDividing the Waters and Sky
acrylic
24 x 24 inches

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I seek to paint the essence and beauty of the natural world, land and sea impressions, textured nuances of tree bark or beautifully imperfect jars of clay.
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