Lifestyle

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Dear Artist,

Recently, Stacy Brooks of Golden Bay, Clonbur, County Galway, Ireland wrote, “Somehow I have deleted your letter that quotes Picasso saying, ‘I want to live like a poor man with lots of money.’ One of my favorite letters, I’m wondering if you might be so kind as to resend it to me? It’s the one about living a monk’s life and the ideal lifestyle for artists.”

Thanks, Stacy. We’ve forwarded the letter to you. We actually get lots of letters like Stacy’s asking us to resend emails that somehow get lost. Some subscribers ask us to “send it again but make it shorter and easier to understand.” Simplified letters aside, the best way to retrieve them is to go to the Painter’s Keys clickback pages. The letters are posted just minutes before your personalized email version is supposed to hit your inbox.

One nice thing about the Internet is that you can work it into your lifestyle in your own sweet time. I’ve come to visualize our readers as self-motivated Energizer Bunnies — artists in a constant state of self-edit — making judgments about what to do, how to change what’s been done, whether to look outside for more stimulation or to dig down into the personal well. Some subscribers confess they have many unread letters which will be read when they feel like it. Others are gratified by pressing “delete.”

As managers of our own destiny, we artists are party to a unique lifestyle — a self-anointing attitude based on self-trust. Daily, we demonstrate the triumph of egocentrism — in a nice way.

Perhaps more than any other race of humans, artists are in a position to hone a lust for life. With the addictive dope of Universal Creation in our blood, daily we sharpen our processes, explore new opportunities and rebuild our belief systems. “For everything that lives is holy,” said William Blake, “life delights in life.”

How do we harness this great power? Self-management is key. I’ve noticed that the business of self-management is automatic and regular for only a blessed few. It is fitful and difficult for most others. But with application and self-knowledge, patterns evolve and in time self-management becomes the default habit. Self-management makes possible the grace and beauty of choice. In life we can say “no” and we can say “yes,” and the delete button is always an option.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.” (Oscar Wilde)

Esoterica: Calendars, day planners and “to do lists” are the choice of many. Some highly effective artists of my acquaintance need only move around their workspaces, bumping into things that need doing. Theirs is a life of picking up and putting down, of repairing, deciding, and beginning again. In the creative life there is always something left to do. Thus our days to their end are filled and fulfilled. “Do not fear death,” said Bertolt Brecht, “but rather the inadequate life.”

Living with the cycles
by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA

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“The open road”
oil and pastel 33 x 45 inches
by Warren Criswell

This is all true, but on the other hand these patterns of self-discipline, so necessary to keep us working, can also be deadly to our creativity. Instead of leading us into branching paths of discovery, they can lead us around and around the same circular path. It’s less dangerous than when we started out and didn’t know the way, but art without danger is empty. The other day I re-watched an old DVD from 1995 called U + Me, about the abstract expressionist Milton Resnick’s return to the figure in his late ’70s. Resnick says:

“There’s something peculiar about artists. They have ups and downs… After a while everything you do is just wonderful… then you slide back. If you’re a good artist you’re going to go down. And then it’s up to you. And pulling yourself up again is the most important part of your life. Getting out of the bottom that you put everything into — yourself! That’s why… you always have the memory of the bottom, and fear of the bottom. And when you start going to the bottom you panic. There are people who can’t stand the pain. What happens is they begin to develop some kind of technique to keep out of that hole. Once they do that, they’re finished. They never go any further. They’re done.”

By “technique” he means just the kind of working patterns you’re talking about — and which, ironically, are so important to keep us productive! I guess that’s why I’m always exploring new mediums — sculpture, printmaking, and animation —  trying to stay out of that circular path. I like to always be on that dangerous edge where I don’t know what I’m doing. Somehow the paint knows, the clay knows, and I just try to follow them. As Resnick says, “You have to give in to what the paint says…. You have to do what it’s telling you to do.”

But that’s when the muse is singing. When she’s silent, like now, I need a good dose of the Genn self-discipline to get my butt in gear. Either that or the lightning of inspiration! Sadly, I usually mope around waiting for the latter.

Lifestyle of Trust
by Carol Mayne, Leucadia, CA, USA

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“Slice of summer”
original painting by Carol Mayne

I’ve only had one J O B that took me briefly out of my home-based and self-employed lifetime. It has come to mind that a definition of the Lifestyle of a ‘free spirit’ (artist) may be ‘those who don’t have to answer to others on a daily basis’ (ie: at a J O B) but rather present themselves when their work is ready for the marketplace. Sometimes that’s way too soon and our work is immature, but it’s never the wrong time to go for it. I’ll share my favorite quote: “There’s no such hour on the timepiece of Fate as ‘too late'” I’m still heading uphill, and there’s no one to tell me otherwise! Early on I consciously traded security over freedom, and found security in freedom. What a Lifesyle, indeed, that stretched my muscles of trust.


There are 3 comments for Lifestyle of Trust by Carol Mayne

From: Nan Mayer — Oct 07, 2011

A beautiful ‘slice of summer.’Warm and joyous. Thanks.

From: suz1 — Oct 10, 2011

maybe this works

From: Karen McGahagin — Oct 17, 2011

Loved your painting. I feel it has the right mix of warm and cool. Very inviting.

The magic of indecision
by Susan Holland, Bellevue, WA, USA

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“Owl and Pussycat’s Pea Green Boat”
wood sculpture by Susan Holland

“Theirs is a life of picking up and putting down, of repairing, deciding, and beginning again. In the creative life there is always something left to do.”

You have described my life… that is, the life I have at last claimed and own now after a lifetime of not quite giving myself permission to own it.

I am wondering where my next financially secure month will come from, but I am meanwhile in a phase of what you described: everywhere there is art happening in my studio and workshop. It is, by far, my favorite kind of life. As you describe, I often put something down when I am “not sure” whether to do more or leave it this way… and then move to the next thing. A thousand next things! At day’s end there are collections of paintings and bowls and paintingson bowls and paintings of bowls. They litter my life and they are what I get up for the next morning.

If asked what else I might want, I would ask for a person to answer my phone and do my accounting. Those are two grumpily neglected areas, along with housekeeping and social doings and such. Never mind. I have done a year’s bookkeeping in a week at tax time and it works okay. I just think of it like putting out the rubbish — not fun, but necessary. The social stuff is okay, too, since people just accept that I am friendly if approached, but not a party person, i.e., eccentric. It seems to be alright to be that way if you are putting out some nice art.

It’s so nice to have the affirmation from someone in the art world that has some mileage and accomplishment behind him so that I can go on with my odd life and feel triumphant about it!


There is 1 comment for The magic of indecision by Susan Holland

From: suz1 — Nov 12, 2011

am again, on this windy and brisk autumn evening, here in NJ, re-reading your writings and so thankful that God put you in my life , even just for a little while….you are such an inspiration to me….your suz1

On not bumping into things
by Gail Caduff-Nash, Mountain home, NC, USA

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“Dragon Vision”
original painting
by Gail Caduff-Nash

This summer I set my ‘studio’ up on my front porch and started piling into it. I had started a pretty good momentum and was getting some work done when I decided I should revisit my older work and maybe even finish some unfinished pieces that I like. So I brought them into the studio area. Then I made some new backgrounds and they sat there. And I switched from oil to watercolor for a bit. And the next thing I knew I was overwhelmed with all the things I’d put in there, not able to pick which was to be done next, everything calling me to it, nothing getting done. So I stopped going out there. And painted my bedroom instead. Talk about “bumping into things”! Note to self: don’t do that again!

Other stuff coursing through the veins
by Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley, CA, USA

The “addictive dope of Universal Creation”…great phrase! It’s an elixir that courses through my veins, and, as part of my self-management, accompanied occasionally by French Roast, and (not simultaneously) red wine.

The poor man spends less
by Jean Burman, Australia

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“Reef Girl 1”
watercolour by Jean Burman

Picasso’s quote “I want to live like a poor man with lots of money” ties in unexpectedly with self-management. The artist with financial woes can neither create nor have any peace. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Money isn’t everything but it does buy peace of mind. When the bills are paid, with enough left over for a relatively comfortable life, almost anyone can apply themselves to paint!


There are 3 comments for The poor man spends less by Jean Burman

From: Silvia Forrest — Oct 07, 2011

So very true. Like your painting :-)

From: Sarah — Oct 07, 2011

Really like this painting–the idea, the composition and the color.

From: Jenny Linn Loveland — Oct 07, 2011

Can agree having experienced financial woes in my art life. Probably easier to bear w/o the pressures of family and home, happy events that occur with time. Love the whimsical and fresh quality of your water color, congrats.

Art is the breath of life
by Gail Shepley

I have a feeling the Picasso quote meant more like he wanted his woman to live with him poor while he had all the money. I think we want to find a comfort zone in our heads regarding ‘money’ and ultimately it is what it is and sometimes just the luck of the draw (ing?) Here’s my quote: “Art is the breath of life… and when I am invalidated I hold my breath until I turn blue, then my survival instinct kicks in and I create yet another breath…”

Darkening colours
by Susan Hildreth, Tucson, AZ, USA

While looking at some 1920’s paintings by J.E.H. MacDonald recently, it surprised me that his colors were so dark. “Why is this 20th century painter using such dark colors? That was common in earlier centuries but was that normal for his era?” I’m still thinking about this and have brought my inquiry to a few areas of speculation about an artist’s color palette. Are we as a society moving towards lighter and more colorful paintings? Was that his personal choice? In earlier centuries were dark colors available and light colors were not? Do oil paintings tend to darken with age? Your letters and their responses brighten the week (to use a pun).

(RG note) Thanks, Susan. Over the last few decades palettes have lightened up. Part of this has to do with the resurgence of Impressionism in popular art and the current emphasis on optimism and the sunny outlook in art as opposed to darkly sentimental and oppressive considerations. Regarding J.E.H. Macdonald, he was one painter who used sophisticated darks deftly and with limited stroking. And yes, oils do have a tendency to darken over time.

Living with a broader stroke
by Dean Wilson, Victoria, BC, Canada

I always find it interesting how you discuss everything as if the only people reading your observations are actively involved in creating works of art. Your twice-weekly letter was recommended to me during a time of rehab work, where I spent a great deal of time, by choice, with paint and pencil. At present I am not actively producing but find myself drawn to the process of thought that creative people seem to live in. Your column exemplifies this. I have been reading (and forwarding to others) your writing for two years now and look forward to each insightful foray into your world. This helps me think in abstract, and I endeavour to live my time with a broader stroke.

PS: If your writing didn’t have me, your wonderful collection of quotes would keep me coming back.

(RG note) Thanks, Dean. While it has been difficult to figure out, we think there are more than ten thousand readers of the twice-weekly letters who are not actively involved in the creation of art. Many are collectors, dealers, dentists and lawyers, creative professions all, and yes, a lot of the good stuff comes from the Resource of Art Quotations.


There is 1 comment for Living with a broader stroke by Dean Wilson

From: Ron — Oct 07, 2011

R.G.-I am almost your age.I read your stuff,because I like where you have been and where you are coming from..

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 Featured Workshop: Scott Lloyd Anderson

100711_robert-genn
Scott Lloyd Anderson Workshops

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Iskra Johnson, Seattle, WA, USA
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Listening to music

transferprint collage 9 x 12 inches
by Iskra Johnson, Seattle, WA, USA

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 Gavin Logan who wrote, “It is not laziness that propels us to work harder than the others, but that the possibility always exists that a shorter, more efficient and more elegant route will be found.”

And also George Kubac who wrote, “We used to be quite poor under the Nazis and Communists. I know what it means to live on bread and potatoes only. Unfortunately, this society is spoiled and the pubs and eateries are crowded while the population is complaining about low income and poor living standards. People have to work so that they will know the value of stuff and recognize the work of the working class.”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Lifestyle

 

 

From: Gail Caduff-Nash — Oct 03, 2011

I grew up hearing so much about Picasso, who was alive at the time, that it really put me off artists a bit. He was so arrogant and annoying. But everyone was in love with his stuff. When I went to an exhibit of his work and found out he was an excellent representational artist, I didn’t understand why he started doing cartoons. And especially the ones that looked like a child had done them. The bulls. Anyway – that quote is exactly how I feel. Lots of money; few needs. A tube of white, a tube of blue and a good brush.

I love the Iskra Johnson painting and might ‘steal’ the idea.

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Oct 03, 2011

The “addictive dope of Universal Creation”…great phrase! It’s an elixir that coarses through my veins, and, as part of my self-management, accompanied occasionally by French Roast, and (not simultaneously) red wine.

From: Diane Voyentzie — Oct 04, 2011

Loved this letter, and will keep it on my desktop to read many times in the future..It is very self affirming.

From: David Garcia — Oct 04, 2011

Once again, you nailed it. Thanks, thanks, thanks for all your wonderful letters and insights and sharing. As a daily ‘in-the-studio’ artist, I greatly appreciate them.

From: Ted Chapman — Oct 04, 2011

Yes this is right on target. yes/no/delete. I am a wood turner and the shop always needs something and the projects are up for yes or no’s at all times. Hard to balance the monastic life with a wife but we get on.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Oct 04, 2011

What is “lifestyle”? What does it matter what lifestyle has to do with being an artist, a painter? Does it lend to talent or the ability to draw? Does it also influence the sale of art. I think that painting is a part of an artist life and it should not take over your whole life. You do it because you like doing it and it maybe also your life’s work. It is a matter of giving a part of your day devoted to it without giving up on other part of your life like family and friends. Perhaps when you interact with friends and family may give insight to what is going on in this world or they may give you inspiration for your subjects. Like budgeting your income so you would with your life prioritizing what is important to you and give time for other essentials in life. One has to come up for a breath once in a while and explore the world around. Fresh ideas come from association with the people around you and the change in environment.

From: MJ — Oct 05, 2011

I find self-management to be almost impossible these days! Why? Working full-time pays the bills but doesn’t allow for the flexibility and peace I need. The job is like a voracious monster eating up time along with two demanding elderly parents. Any advice? Yes/No/Delete seems hard to understand at this time.

From: Anon — Oct 05, 2011

MJ – some ideas. Use your day-job lunch break to go out and draw. Use your time with parents to make their portraits. Maybe that would make those times more pleasant, and add something to look forward to.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Oct 05, 2011

Note for MJ

Not having control of one’s time, whether due to the demands of work, or parents, or kids, or whatever forces conspire against us, is frustrating, but, as “anon” has pointed out, it is still possible to make some time for whatever passion one has. Set aside some time, perhaps before work or after dealing with the elderly parents, even if it is just an hour, to do whatever you want to do, whether painting, drawing, meditation or going for a walk. Depending on the type of job you have, it may be possible to plan out paintings (composition, colours, mood) in your head while you are at work, and then you may find that, with some of the problems already solved, working on the painting after you finish work is more effective. Perhaps it might be possible to take your paints and art supplies and do some painting while with your parents, if painting is your thing.

As I’ve mentioned in these clickbacks before, it is possible to make time – perhaps not as much as you would like, but some time, nevertheless, to pursue the goals you set for yourself. And once you’ve set those goals, and are working toward them, that is a huge step toward self-management. Good luck.

From: Jackie Knott — Oct 06, 2011

The lifestyle of an artist is satisfying for no other reason than we control what we do. No one puts a project in our “inbox” that has to be dealt with – we decide what we want to create and work on. We don’t have to have a regimented workday of specific hours or lunch break. If we want to paint at midnight or dawn our manufacturing facility is always open, at will. Our R & D department never shuts down, as we are constantly soaking up our environment, evaluating, observing, seeking inspiration – God, that mindset is priceless.

I also have the option to not be consumed with a calling that is impossible to turn off. I think this is what Edna was saying. I try for a life of balance and to be available to family.

My casual approach to work fits me. Yesterday I spent eleven hours on a project with a few breaks to eat. Today it might be four, I don’t know … I seem to get it done and that’s the only important thing.

The greatest lesson I’ve ever learned in self-management is to say “no” and not feel guilty about it. No to commissions that didn’t excite me, no to volunteer work that can drain me, no to distractions, no to incidentals and the frivolous. Rather than trying to squeeze time to include more, I hunt for ways to eliminate or delegate. I also include a bit of goof off time every day.

From: Peter Christiansen — Oct 06, 2011

The lifestyle has always been very good but right now the style of the cash is lousy.

From: Carol Kairis — Oct 06, 2011

~~Know where we are going…for ourself…in spite of ourselves~ tomorrows peace will settle in~

From: sell owen — Oct 07, 2011

I am a painter .Early unschooled years consisted of calling myself an artist, exhibiting & selling. One man shows, group shows, it didn’t matter.I had some criticism; who doesn’t. One day , after an exhibition, a one man show at quite a well known gallery,that resulted in no sales, and needing to sell in order to pay the rent and buy more materials: I said enough is enough.I stopped worrying about selling as I thought that there was a need to develope as a painter. 35 years later, with support, I agreed to exhibit again. This time the sales results, not much different from the last show couldn’t bother me less or interest me really.I was given a commission: we are 90% finished on a movie about you know who.There are two studios full of work; and I have painted myself into more than one corner.I will never know, and it is pointless to speculate about how different the career might have been, had I stayed the gallery/sales/promotional course. I have assembled a body of work that is I think worth seeing.I regret nothing other than a lack of space, and this time round, I might not even mind the critics. For me, my decisions, were and are art for art’s sake. As for how I have survived and supported my work, well, it’s in my name. …..Sell

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 12, 2011

Lifestyle isn’t something you try on like a dress or a suit. If you walk the walk and talk the talk, your “lifestyle” IS who you are. You don’t have to wear the trappings of what others think an artist is. Just be who you are and live the life you need, to be yourself. I knew an artist once who wore a smock and beret every time he attended a show of his work. Did that make him an artist?

I’ve seen studios with crap everywhere with no room to move around. Conversely, I’ve seen pristine spaces where the artist literally put away everything when done and cleaned. None of these attitudes make one an artist. By an large, no one cares how you make the work or what you wear or the size or condition of your studio. The work is all that matters. Only the work.

From: Martha Graves — Oct 13, 2011

I have forged ahead without thinking a lot about the arc of my life, only about the individual choices I’ve run into. So far I have found the unexamined life definitely worth the candle, as the old timers once said.

 

 

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