It’s called “The Order of the Golden Day,” and it’s a bit of fun that can change your life. You set aside a clear and uncluttered day to work and love your craft. Start early; end late. You put your head down and push yourself from one thing to another. It’s a day where everything comes out of the end of the brush (or pen, or chisel), a luxury day where all that counts is the universe of your creation. After, on your weary way to bed, you can give yourself a badge.
This day has rules: No TV, no email, no phone, no car, no visitors. Add your own personal controls, lack of controls, or whims. Prepare a polite statement for the telephone: (“I’m sorry but there’s a conflagration at my easel — do you mind if we talk tomorrow?”) Even the mayor understands and respects this.
I had my first ten-thousand-dollar-day using this system, but that was a side benefit. The real value is the action on the creativity graph. Creativity is an organ that improves with use and when fully engaged is difficult to wear out or to get stopped. You put your heart into the adventure and try to keep making new demands on yourself. Second-winds and surprising breakthroughs will come as the clock rolls around. Ideas beget ideas. The hand moves faster. Imagination goes off the dial. In a dawn to dusk marathon these hours can be almost disorienting — they are certainly more exciting than any cabaret or racecourse. Before long you’re pushing into bonus territory and you may startle yourself. It won’t kill you. It’ll hook you. You will know that it can be done again and again. It’s a beautiful high, like love itself.
PS: “Travelers on the way of dreams receive gladly the badges that they award themselves.” (The Dreamway)
Esoterica: If you send a photo of yourself wearing “The Order of the Golden Day” — a badge you have made and given yourself, we will publish it among the responses to these letters. If possible your photo should show your work and a bit of your workspace.
A creative day
by Debbie Johnston
I have done this, and it’s a joy I won’t forget. I do it with a no painting day in-between. It starts as a groggy morning. Kind of ho-hum, okay, this is my day with no interruptions. The canvases are prepared the week before so all is ready. You’re in a daze at first thinking what ever am I leading up to. After a couple hours of no phone calls, you realize how peaceful it is. Your energy lifts, your mind is calm. You can’t believe more hours pass so fast, you’re hungry, your mind is still spinning on ideas. The next few hours you are excited and high on painting. You have to have a break, but the only thoughts are ideas and your break ends short because you just have to go get that paintbrush. It can end at 3:00 A.M. so be prepared, but don’t have a clock in your art room. Your painting high doesn’t want a time limit. So you may want to tell people to call later in the day, for you might sleep in, you may get up and put those last ideas on canvas. Take the next day off. Your enjoyment of the day before will make you have a calm-self-image-proud-smile-of-accomplishment.
Debbie wins a free copy of “The Painter’s Keys” for this letter which refines the idea.
Signs of the times
by Nigel Mark Parker
Your letter reminded me of a sign I saw hanging from a friend’s studio door: “WARNING! COITUS: DON’T INTERUPT US.” I was prompted yesterday to hang a sign on my door: “STOP! T.T.D.D. IN PROGRESS. DO NOT ENTER!” (That stands for “Ten Thousand Dollar Day.”) Thanks for the idea. It works. I didn’t quite make ten. My work is not that expensive. (Yet.) But I did make enough in one day to pay for this computer.
by Sharon Williams
What I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to have 18 hours of uninterrupted time to do an art marathon! Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury as any mom of four in a very busy household knows. However, I do treasure the hours that I can squirrel away in my studio, which, by the way, is converted from my dining room (what other room in the house is more expendable) so that I can paint and watch dinner bubble away at the same time. I know that my time will come eventually, and then I may even lament my empty nest, but I cannot think that possible at this time! I find that one of my best creative escapes comes in grabbing my gear and a friend and heading off to paint en plein-aire. It totally fills all of my senses, my efforts either please or don’t but it doesn’t matter there. There, it is not about success, it’s about being as an artist.
It is extremely hard for me to keep up with any correspondence because I am always too busy. I work an average of 15 hours a day. It is just too much. I am hiring someone now to do some secretarial work for me. I hope it will help. I try to hire other businesses to do part of the work, but there are things that I am the only one who can do. Besides, I am too disorganized to even delegate.
Cut through the procrastination
by Alan R Taylor
I shall go down to the studio next hour to immerse self in the molding of the 1920’s forest fire lookout tree on “Spook Ridge” here in western Montana. I have finally completed the clay body (model), and it’s ready for the tricky job of painting on the rubber mold. Crucial step, and lots can go wrong, but your latest helps cut through the procrastination shell and spurs me on to “immerse”… both myself in the work and the model in rubber (in order to cast into the mold paper pulp… using techniques learned at a summer workshop at Lester B. Pearson Peace College of the Pacific, on Vancouver Island, back in 1995 and 1997)
by Andrea Matthijs, Louvain, Belgium
As a coordinator for ‘International Aquarel Workshops’ in Belgium, with participants from all over the world, I personally have felt the lack of time just to be able to paint for myself. However, I really love to organize these workshops, with Master Painters from all over the world… Zoltan Szabo, Jeanne Dobie, Tony Van Hasselt, Robert Wade, Brian Ateyo, Gerald Brommer and many others who have been teaching here in Belgium. We have participants from Norway, Ireland, Maine, Austria, Germany, Bermuda, Illinois and of course Holland and Belgium. It’s great to give so many European painters the chance to paint with these artists. The result can be seen in the International Artist Magazine. But where has my painting time gone? Two months ago I made that decision: no calls, no emails, my house is like a German bunker, and the process is working. I have found again the time to experience new colours, new concepts. Yes, we have to shut off the GSM and phone calls. We can give only so much to other people, but missing your own painting time is a disaster.
by Duane Pittfield
In a previous letter you mentioned Othon Friesz. (Who he?) He was born in 1879 and died in 1949. He studied under Bonnat at the École des Beaux-Arts, along with Matisse, Marquet, and Rouault. Early influenced by impressionism, he adopted the same bold, colorful style of the painters involved in the development of fauvism. He exhibited with them until 1908 when his work changed to become less explosive. His Miarka in the Art Institute in Chicago is characteristic of his later period. Braque and Friesz first met and painted together in 1906.
A garden in spring
by Lin Souliere, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
This weekend I was suffering one of those emotional dips where I questioned the very being of myself as an artist. Nothing in particular happened to start this, in fact it was because I had a piece accepted into a very competitive juried show, which most people would think should have the opposite effect. But as I gazed at my painting hung among the other accepted works, my heart became heavy and I wondered why I ever bother to paint. While my work is good enough I felt somehow I had become shallow to my own expectations. We are our worst critics. Thoughts of what I should be expressing in my art flooded my brain, feelings of a wasted life, of not working hard enough, ate at my soul. Luckily, I live with a fellow artist who comes to my rescue on such occasions. He reminded me what was good about my work, what was good about myself. And he reminded me my art is not the end of our world, that we have so many other wonderful parts of our life to celebrate. Today, the sun is shining and I decided to be a gardener instead of a painter … at least for a few hours. There, in the middle of struggling spring flowers, compost, singing birds and dirty fingernails, I remembered who I was. And I remembered why I paint.
(RG note) Lin wins a copy of “The Painter’s Keys” for this one. There are so many sensitive and valuable letters. Thank you. Thank you.
by Sari Grove, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I suppose being married to a spider makes me sensitive to webs. I think your book, The Dreamway is a metaphor for the World Wide Web. At the time of writing (1988?), the internet was merely a fantasy. The reality of the present is a link unprecedented between intellectual creatives who due to their uniqueness often experience feelings of isolation. This electronic channel bridges the gap, and reassures us that globally, we are not alone in our weirdness. Indeed, the web seems to favor the artist. The Dreamway was a vision of the future, especially relevant to you, Robert Genn, who has connected using this technology to the souls of some in need. This ‘socializing’ among kindred spirits, in reference to your letter, is a major factor in maintaining mood balance for those who spend much time in a corner of the planet, watching flies.
(RG note) I never thought of that. But now, thinking again, the Dreamway is a desire to connect beings into a universal intimacy. Yes, and the WWW was not fully invented when the Dreamway was dreamed in 1988. Perhaps the Dreamway was just waiting. And we are now the beneficiaries of a new level of brotherhood and sisterhood. Thank you so much.
Receive the gift
by Cindy Schave, Platteville, Wisconsin, USA
Thank you so much for the copy of The Dreamway, which I received yesterday. While I have not yet had time to read it all, my brief foray through your introduction and a few of the pages has made it clear to me that you have been blessed by a visit from a being of another dimension, perhaps a “live appearance” of your Muse. In 1988 you wrote, “…she herself did not seem to be of that place. This bothered me then and it still does.” Personally, I’ve discovered that experiences of this nature rarely make sense at the moment that they occur — sometimes it takes years to fully realize their meaning. The important thing is to never take such experiences for granted. They are, indeed, very real. You received a very special gift, and you shared that gift by penning “The Dreamway.” So it is as each of us grab the courage to face the easel and paint our souls for others to see. Those who are meant to benefit from the gift we share will do so at the right time.
by Joy Cooper, Valley Head, West Virginia, USA
What fun. My friend and mentor, Kay, has a timeshare condo an hour away. We packed up our stuff and minimal food and had a paint-in. We’re both wildflower hunters, so it was a good thing that the weather was stormy. She took the dining room table; I set up a card table in the living room looking out on a beautiful West Virginia mountain scene. We painted from dawn to dusk, coming up for air only when we needed a break or a quick snack. It was wonderful. That’s my badge there. I’ll wear it proudly and find another whole day soon.
(RG note) A free copy of The Dreamway goes to Joy.
You may be interested to know that artists from 85 countries have visited these sites since January 1, 2001.
That includes Ilana Raviv of Haifa, Israel who has prepared an exhibition based on “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s updated: she calls it “Alice in Wild Land.”
And Diane who simply had a burst of energy and painted 25 paintings.
And Jason Korn of Singapore who “easily but exhaustedly blew off 9 paintings yesterday.”
And J C Benjafield of Birmingham, UK, who says he “noticed a significant increase in the temperature of my easel.”
And writer Ed Griffin who says, “Success in the literary world is outside us. Victory is within.”
“And these men for whom life has no repose, live at times in their rare moments of happiness with such strength and indescribable beauty, the spray of their moment’s happiness is flung so high and dazzlingly over the wide sea of suffering, that the light of it, spreading it’s radiance, touches others too with its enchantment. Thus like a precious, fleeting foam over the sea of suffering arise all those works of art, in which a single individual lifts himself for an hour so high above his personal destiny that his happiness shines like a star and appears to all who see it as something eternal and as a happiness of their own.” (Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf)
Jon Hack sent this to Peter Collier, who passed it on to us.