At this time of year in many countries people are wondering what to give and what they would like to receive. I’ve conducted a little poll among my immediate artist friends to get a few ideas and a general feel for the situation this festive season.
While there’s the standard conformist requests such as vacuum cleaners, jewelry and sweaters, when you get right into the heart-of-artist’s-hearts, there’s repeated wishes for the more intangible gifts — the ones that are ever so hard to actually give:
“To be left alone to work and get good at this game.”
“A calm environment — conducive to concentration.”
“An unending string of valuable new ideas and motifs.”
“The feeling that I’m actually getting somewhere.”
“To have people truly love what I do, and show it.”
“To more fully exploit my gift of natural talent.”
“To be given more time than other people.”
“To be offered a large space to fill up with my stuff.”
“Peace and good-will so I can get on with it.”
I can only conclude that as a race we artists are remarkably free of the blight of materialism. Further, we are not naturally greedy for the kinds of claptrap that ordinary people must have in order to feel complete. While we artists may be self-absorbed, we demand little of others. In this way we stand out as marvels of unselfishness and exemplars of the true spirit. If only everybody were like us what a wonderful world this would be.
PS: “I would also like to get one of those palm-pilots.”
Esoterica: Last Christmas Joe Blodgett and Mary Smart exchanged gifts. When they came to open them up they were surprised to see that they had given each other the same thing — a large box of soft-pastels — same brand, same set.
James Langston, Crystal River, Florida, USA
Your last six letters have really been advice that I needed, almost like a note from a friend offering excellent suggestions. The letter today with the ideas about Christmas was the very best one you have created. Thank you, it is printed and will be pasted on every note asking what I want for the holidays.
Need a whamo for Christmas
Betty Newcomer, Mt. Gilead, Ohio, USA
I was amazed that other Artists want exactly the same things I want! I have a tendency to feel alone in my quest for greatness. What I want is a whamo–A painting that will knock their socks off! Misery loves company, they say, and I certainly feel better knowing so many are striving along with me, to learn, to create, and excel in Art. That is my gift, so Merry Christmas!
I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus dept.
Some of us are kissed with talent and blessed with the health and energy to create. At this time of year we ought just to be thankful that we have an interest or a passion in our lives that feeds our souls. Many among us are denied this privilege.
Moncy Barbour, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA
Yesterday I was in the drugstore waiting for a prescription to be filled. When an elderly tall black man allowed his cane to fall, I bent over and picked it up for him and he turned around and said that I must have known that he could not bend over, I said no but I knew that I could. So giving of myself to the world in some small way is what I would like for my life in art, it feels good. If only I could be as true to myself as those first known cave painters in France, 25000 BC than I would be content as an artist.
The best Christmas
It all goes back to a Christmas when I was about 14. Opening my presents that morning I found a wooden box containing a set of small Winsor and Newton Oils. Perhaps it was something of the mystique, the smell, or the precious and lovely way those intense colours squeezed out of the lead tubes, but I was forever hooked. I’ve had countless tubes since, but those were the best and the finest.
No Scrooge here
Blake Smith, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Something I’ve learned—perhaps it has not been through art—but possibly. That is to be always more than generous with your art. I think it’s a commodity to be shared. Partly because it comes so remarkably easily and effortlessly. Perhaps this understanding is based on the fact that I always squeeze out generously, and lay the paint on as if I was always going to have lots of it.
Marlene Rudginsky, Marietta, Ohio, USA
Today I bought myself a big set of Berol Prismacolors that was going for half the price. (store going out of business). I am so ecstatic. I am now cleaning up my work space so I can use them. I am so happy with this season… my work has been selling well and the quote “do what you love the money will follow” is now starting to kick in. Of course since my art has a lot to do with gifts and making people happy, the Christmas season has proved to be good to me. What I need to work on though in the New Year is being able to have a life besides my art. Perhaps you can touch on that in your later articles. In my case feeling frustrated with lack of ideas or motivation does not apply. I swing the other way. When I do force myself to have free time I find myself thinking about bringing my next idea to birth. I know I probably am compulsive but creating is like breathing to me. I simply do not know what else to do that can be more enjoyable. Which of course has repercussions on my relationship. So I guess my gift would go something like:
“The ability to be not producing and still feel emotionally satisfied.”
Private island please
Laurie Irwin, Mission, B.C., Canada
What to give and what to receive: Yes we can be a group of constantly giving people and to some extent avoid some of the materialism of most, but we are gatherers of art, supplies and space. I have seen myself in an art store, sale or not, gathering all kinds of goodies. So my wish list has to include a gift certificate at a well-stocked art store. Then too I love to peer into other artists’ lives via top-notch art magazines. So that goes on the wish list too, a good art subscription. The biggest wish has to be for that private, secluded art studio. Yes I have my own studio in my home, more fortunate than most but still must walk by the dirty dishes, laundry and usual house chores. The friends that mean well when they call on the phone and do not realize that yes every moment with them is precious but so is my art. A private studio where there is plenty of heat and light but no phone. A fridge for food and nibblies but no welcome sign. A large easel and plenty of paint and canvas. Then once a month or so a wise collector comes to view and select those treasured pieces that will be taken and hung with pride for all to see. If none of the pieces move out we wouldn’t have enough room to create more. Plus one can get frustrated seeing the works pile up and trip over them while trying to find room to paint the next masterpiece and view it on its own without the influence of all our previous mistakes and endeavors. One day the studio will come, atop a private island with nothing but water to view from every window.
So, Santa baby, hurry down my chimney tonight.
Dreamin’ of a white Christmas
The Christmas gift I long for more than any other is fresh virgin canvas. Having canvas on hand, preferably in volume, is the basis of what I do. It’s all right to have the ideas but what is important is that the media is there and ready to receive. Canvas is the field for my expression and the ground for my entertainment.
The greatest gift of all
Arla J. Swift, Harrison Lake, B.C., Canada
Well, if not a singing Christmas bass, or a talking catfish, how about a leaping lobster?
But seriously, looking over the artist’s wish list, after all the tangible items (don’t forget Breadmaker), I believe most of the intangible items might be granted with just one thing, and that is the gift of someone who has faith. Someone who sees “the pilgrim soul in you”, who has faith in your abilities, your vision, your project, your need to create. Those who have been granted such a gift should thank their lucky stars. Those who haven’t should continue to wish upon them, and keep faith with themselves. “Dreams come true …”
You may be interested to know that artists from 75 countries have visited these sites since December 1, 2000. That includes Michaela Akers of Atlanta, Georgia, who announced to all of us, “An exception has been made in your case… will Eternity be enough?” And Radha Saccoccio of NYC, who wishes us “everything that was listed, in regular installments.” And Mindy Drolet of I don’t know where who says, “All I want for Christmas is more time to paint.” And Jesi and Sid Barron of Victoria, B.C. who wrote, “All we want for Christmas is more paint.” And Frank Vangrinsven of Belgium who says he wants the capability to “build on” rather than “please anyone.”