The persistence of creativity

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Dear Artist,

After my last letter about art skills persisting after dementia has set in, there was another bonanza of material in this inbox. A dozen or so wrote to say that grandma can’t recognize the grandchildren — but she can still paint. Others, like Allan Soffer, mentioned “the spontaneous, non-thinking process we call ‘the zone,’ followed by a period of examination and corrective activity.” Artists wondered if this corrective activity was part of the main brain that goes, or the creative one that lingers.

Right On! encaustic painting by Alan Soffer

“Right On!”
encaustic painting by Alan Soffer

Going by my own experience and the observations of others, serious artists can be pretty involved in their art. Living with and troubleshooting their work on a daily basis, they become hyper-focused. Another subscriber, Leslie Hoops-Wallace, observed “When working on a painting, everything else seems to take a back seat — the brain is too occupied with the painting process — and decides not to sweat the small stuff.” This thought gives a clue to the persistence of creativity. In a possessed state, the creative mind may begin to find the regular stuff — like tidying up or recognizing the grandkids — of secondary importance.

Fact is, at one time or another in an artist’s productive life, the brain-easel axis can actually take over and become the main event. Depending on your point of view, this is either unfortunate or fortunate. Our anecdotal correspondence seems to confirm that persistence of creativity may be simply the result of prior focus.

Jaguar acrylic painting by Leslie Hoops-Wallace

“Jaguar”
acrylic painting
by Leslie Hoops-Wallace

Something else came out of these emails — there’s a big difference between, say, the composing of music and the performing of music. In performance of the elderly, motor skills and muscle memory may have weakened. Brain function itself has often slowed down. The elder composer, painter or writer, on the other hand, may just have to take more pains to get it right. Several correspondents wrote: “My work is taking longer now because I’m fixing more things.” This indicates to me that older artists might be “fussier.” Maybe fussiness is a characteristic of age, just as audacity can be a characteristic of youth. Come to think of it, a few workshoppers told me that their main goal was to help mature creators become audacious again.

Ironically, some older artists reported having the “I don’t care anymore” attitude. This can go either way — sloppy work, or enhanced creative abandon. Flamboyant age trumps conservative youth.

Four Dancers by Edgar Degas (1899)

“Four Dancers”
by Edgar Degas (1899)

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Age breeds caution and a yearning for security. Youth invites risk and challenge. As we grow older it becomes important to be able to balance our sensibilities with our curiosities.” (Elizabeth Azzolina)

Esoterica: There were lots of opinions. Georges Braque was quoted: “With age, art and life become one.” Artists welcomed the idea that their talent and capabilities might prevail after other joys had failed. Some pointed out that a lot of creative persistence has to do with the honouring of a perceived truth. In the words of Pablo Casals (not a subscriber), “To be young all your life, you need to say things to the world that are true.” Then there’s the bittersweet “running out of time” problem. On his deathbed Edgar Degas (another who has not yet subscribed) was reported to have said, “Damn — and just when I was starting to get the hang of it!”

 

Park your rocking chairs
by Jean Morey, Ocala, FL, USA

 

Marsh Dwellers watercolour painting 36x24 inches by Jean Morey

“Marsh Dwellers”
watercolour 36×24 inches
by Jean Morey

This past Sunday I graduated from Eckerd College with a major in creative writing. I turn 80 on the 29th of June. I remain audacious in my pursuit of recognition and expression of the value of all people of every color and gender. I have been expressing this in my children’s book illustrations since the early ’60s and now can write my books with confidence as well. It is a myth that people get less capable as they get older. Too many people buy into this idea and just fold. Not my approach. I will now go for my MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design this Fall and maybe on for more anthropology and archeology after that. It helps to be computer literate. I say, park your rocking chairs, we have too much that this generation need to learn from us to give up now.

 

Losing it at work
by Marsha Elliott, Covington, OH, USA

 

watercolour painting by Marsha Elliott

watercolour painting by Marsha Elliott

I’ve been a sign artist for 42 years and, while I can still do the creative part of design/layout with seemingly no problems, here of late my boss gets on my case about all the mistakes I make when making out a job ticket, such as omitting bits of information, transposing numbers, etc. It really comes across as my not paying any attention to what I’m doing. I, myself, am painfully aware of this “slipping” and I don’t like it. I took up watercolor painting 3 years ago so I plan to continue with the creative process long after my day job has ended!

 

Painting becomes a chore
by Charlotte Lyon, Amsterdam, Holland

 

Snakes oil painting 60x60 cm by Charlotte Lyon

“Snakes”
oil painting 60×60 cm
by Charlotte Lyon

I have worked as a painter now for 30 years with relative success, but over the past 5 years the work has become laborious. The pleasure I get from it minimal. The reason I think is the demand from the galleries I work for always wanting the same sort of subject matter, i.e. what sells. I need to feel that people like my work and a check in the hand is always a sign of appreciation. But at what cost? I have tried to take time out and work on different styles and medium but somehow my work always ends up going in the same direction. So my question is: Is style something unique to our selves or can we develop different ones without it being too calculated and loosing that natural flow if you see what I mean. I want so much to love my work again but at the moment I dread going into the studio. It has become a chore.

 

Keeping on creating
by Caroline Jasper, Rotonda West, FL, USA

 

Gold Leaf oil painting 24x30 cm by Caroline Jasper

“Gold Leaf”
oil painting 24 x 30 cm
by Caroline Jasper

My mother, well into her 80s was forgetting everything rapidly. Dementia was overcoming her mind at a steady pace. However, she constantly knitted dolls, making them up completely from imagination… each unique character with different colors, different hair, dressed in patterned clothing, accessorized with hat, purse, shoes, etc. No two alike. Meanwhile she often could not find names and at times the words to express her thoughts. Always creative and artistic, these strengths held out longer than many details in her memory. Now nearly 91, she sadly no longer knits. I’m counting on being able to keep painting, even if I eventually lose my mind.

 

Simple request
by Cristina Monier, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

Le rouge est mis by Cristina Monier

“Le rouge est mis”
by Cristina Monier

I will be 72 in November. After years of painting realism I started trying my hand at geometric abstraction. I have finished 4 paintings and sold two of them and I have had a wonderful reception to my work, both from buyers and galleries. I am slower on my feet and more forgetful but the painting gets better and that is all I ask of life.

 

 

 

 

Early knowledge remains intact
by Karen Quinton, Toronto, ON, Canada

 

I had a very elderly piano teacher who was absolutely convinced that her neighbors were trying to steal from her and poison her, and that the cleaning lady was having affairs upstairs; etc, etc. However, she taught sometimes and read the New Yorker and other papers to keep up with artistic events. When you spoke with her about the musical events of the world you would never know that she was literally living in fear for her life. Only those close to her were aware of the dementia. The former famous students who called on their way through town had no idea. It is frequently observed that what you lose in Alzheimer’s and dementia is the most recent learning. The art and other things which which have been with you since youth remain intact.

 

Truly creative work comes late
by Alberto Valentini, The Hague, Netherlands

 

Alberto Valentini painting plein air

Alberto Valentini painting plein air

If one’s work is not changing, hopefully for the better with old age, then one is not being true and honest and is more attached to a concept of expectations. Artists whose work doesn’t mature, like a good wine, become boring.

“The Slave Ship”
by J.M.W. Turner

Consider J. M. W. Turner, for example. He made great works in his youth, won all kinds of recognitions, but not until he upset everyone with his unique way of painting, and that controversial canvas, (recording an historical fact that was hard for the English Aristocracy to swallow). As old age set in, and whatever else happened to him, not till then did he make sublime, highly creative work charged with an energy strong enough to shift galaxies.

 

Having a great time
by Paul Austin, West Drayton, England

 

Straw Hat (inspired by Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Straw Hat- 1887) oil painting by Paul Austin

“Straw Hat (inspired by Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Straw Hat- 1887)”
oil painting by Paul Austin

Age has advantages when youth departs. For many years I have felt restrictions on my talents — the lack of money to purchase materials and, above all, the shortage of time, in my case due to running a small business. These restrictions have prevented me from truly committing myself to anything other than pencil or pen & ink… but now? Semi-retirement has given me the freedom, and a few pounds, to extemporize as never before. And the results have been amazing. All the frustrated desire to break away from the restrictions has given me a completely different outlook and I feel like a twenty year old student, straining at the leash. I truly feel, at seventy, that the world is once again my ‘oyster’ and, even as I write, I am impatient to pick up my brush and palette and enter my little private world of expression and renewed experimentation. Boy, am I having a great time!

 

Lost track of time
by Hap Hagood, Clover, VA, USA

 

Servant of the Sun sculpture in Maple Burl by Hap Hagood

“Servant of the Sun”
sculpture in Maple Burl
by Hap Hagood

I can totally relate to Leslie Hoops-Wallace’s comment. When I’m carving a block of stone or wood the rest of the world ceases to exist. I had been carving all day and everything was falling into place perfectly. So, after taking a break for supper, I decided to go back to my studio and carve for a couple hours more. Again, I was really rolling, everything materializing perfectly as I carved, when all of a sudden the light changed in the room. I looked over at the window, and to my surprise, it was first-light. I had carved all night, without realizing it.

 

 

 

 

Lost facility is overcome
by Mary Jane Q Cross, Newport, NH, USA

 

Blossoms of the Fall oil painting 22x28 inches by Mary Jane Q Cross

“Blossoms of the Fall”
oil painting 22×28 inches
by Mary Jane Q Cross

I am 55, a painter. I lost the ability to control a brush 14 years ago. I had taken a popular drug that produced a severe right-sided permanent tremor. Five and a half years later I relearned how to paint with my fingers, after nearly 20 years of a previously successful career. Long comeback, but know so much more about what the brain really can do. Even when I could not paint, I painted on the inside. It is a delight to still be able, after all this time, to do it again well on the outside, and not waste the precious time that is left.

 

 

 

 

Taking breaks from productivity
by Gregory Packard, Montrose, CO, USA

 

Daisies and Sunflowers oil painting 34x34 inches by Gregory Packard

“Daisies and Sunflowers”
oil painting 34×34 inches
by Gregory Packard

Josh Waitzkin, a chess prodigy and today a world champion martial artist, discusses in depth in his book The Art of Learning, A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence that those of us passionate souls with extreme intensity need more than anybody to learn to take real breaks between our periods of intense engagement. He describes learning the necessity of breaks during his chess matches as a kid where he would face grand masters with such intensity at the beginning of a tournament that although he would win the match he would then have nothing left for the remaining matches in the tournament, and the rest of the tournament would be filled with mistakes and disaster. Real breaks from our art, such as a walk, a play with the kids, meditation — any kind of true release is critical to then be able to sustain high-level engagement for the long run. I have found this to be true with painting in that solutions and creative insight often surface when I’m relaxed and not even thinking about painting. When I have sufficient breaks, painting itself becomes the ultimate release for the stresses of life that it should be. I wonder if, in the bigger picture of life, people who have a disposition of passion and intensity who do not learn to find regular releases are more prone to become afflicted with diseases such as dementia, depression, Parkinson’s, etc.

 

Anecdotal generalizations
by Sandra Merwin, MO, USA

 

Racing acrylic painting 11 x 14 inches by Sandra Merwin

Racing
acrylic painting
11 x 14 inches by Sandra Merwin

How did we get from creativity to dementia and finally to generalizations about aging? “The elder composer, painter or writer, on the other hand, may just have to take more pains to get it right” (quoted from your letter). These types of anecdotal generalizations contribute to a stereotyping of aging. People are individuals and are usually complex, even when they are old people. Individuals have different personality characteristics which are very pronounced when we are toddlers and teenagers, and may also be evident when under pressure or as we age. The perfectionist will probably become more of a perfectionist with age, the intuitive artist will probably paint more intuitively, the cautious artist will become more and more cautious, etc. Whatever your innate personality traits, the process of creativity, self-discovery and growth are available to all living, functioning human beings who have the courage to embrace the journey.

(RG note) Thanks, Sandra. You’ll note that I said “the elder artist — may — just have to take more pains.” Anecdotal, sure, but it’s what I and others have observed. Don’t blame the postman. Regarding generalizations, how’s about your, “the perfectionist will probably become more of a perfectionist with age,” etc. I’ve met a few that didn’t. As a matter of fact, one of the main art lessons for me has been that leopards can change their spots.

 

Take the serial road
by Luc Poitras, Montreal, QC, Canada

 

The “right stuff” is really “Focus” that permits us not to sweat the small stuff (as Leslie Hoops-Wallace’s wrote). I’ve always maintained that multi-tasking is not necessarily the road to success. It permits you to get all your projects done to 90%, but not finished at all. Serial-tasking — focus on the main task — gets one project done at a time, but completely done. Yeah, I’ll take the serial road anytime — as long as I’ve got a map to find the other roads.

 

Refusing to conform
by Vita , Sutton, QC, Canada

 

Ready to leave oil painting by Vita

Ready to leave
oil painting by Vita

For a mature individual the process of creativity consists of bringing the subconscious to the conscious. Maturity is a great component of being “fussy.” Before anybody could be labeled as demented, we should first consider the amount of accumulated information in the brain of the elder person. This in itself may slow down or impair the kind of thinking process which is not present in the mind of a young person who does not pay taxes, rent, debts and that does not worry about health, family deaths, etc. When the aged individual gains in wisdom and knowledge there is a price to pay. Yet, when we refuse to conform and use all our strength, we can express opinions that others will have never been able to conceive and surprise the constipated minds that take everything for granted.

 

Embracing age
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA

 

A boy's world pastel painting by Paul deMarrais

A boy’s world
pastel painting by Paul deMarrais

With age comes the ability to honestly assess ourselves and our skills, our capabilities and shortcomings. I’m teaching a lot of people in my age bracket, 52 and above. These people are often beginners or intermediate beginners but they are not frustrated. They are a joyful, fun bunch to teach and to be around. I believe our strengths and weaknesses are amplified as we age. A tight artist becomes tighter. A person who lacks focus is a person who has trouble learning and using new concepts. It is as if we are willing to pull off the masks we wear to hide weakness and to expose who we are. I use to marvel at all the hype that artists spout, how they worked seventeen hours a day, seven days a week on their art, etc. I came to believe the time spent was irrelevant. What was important was the intensity of focus. In several very focused hours of painting I was able to get a great deal done. What I seek is focus. If I get a great hour or two to focus on painting each day I am happy. In between I accomplish to many tasks my household requires. I love the George Bernard Shaw quote that “youth is wasted on the young.” How true. With age comes the ability to really appreciate, to really savor, to really enjoy, to embrace the wonder of living. These abilities surely carry over to painting. I love the last painting Edward Hopper painted as an eighty year old. It was vintage Edward Hopper. The last paintings of a nearly blind Monet, and terribly crippled Renoir, clearly show these artists’ unique styles and painting interests. Critics might not single these works out as their best productions, but they have great authenticity. They were done for the love of painting and against great odds. You can’t help but marvel at these heroic efforts of these aged heroes of painting. Age is a good thing. Aging and failing are real human destinations that artists must embrace in their work in the same way as in other professions.

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Djordje Prudnikoff, Belgrade, Serbia

'Days of Happiness by Djordje Prudnikoff, Belgrade, Serbia

Days of Happiness

original painting by Djordje Prudnikoff, Belgrade, Serbia

 

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 Linda Myers who wrote, “It is funny how I yearn for that intense meditative state that comes with working in the studio, especially if I find I haven’t had an opportunity to do so for long periods of time. Like right now.”

And also Rae Aeberli of Mt. View, AR, USA who wrote, “I was in a sculpture workshop on the first anniversary of my beloved Father’s death and was sculpting a clay likeness of him. I looked down at my left hand, and it was working independently of the rest of me, as it formed the eye socket and right cheekbone. When I became aware of it… it stopped. This was a very strange experience as I am normally right-handed.”

And also Jill Brooks of MB, Canada who wrote, “My friend Dale Willows of the U. of Toronto, who is involved in research into the acquisition of language skills, tells me that music is stored in a different part of the brain than language and can still be accessed once dementia has occurred . That explains why music therapy is so effective with the elderly clients and why Vera Lynn and The White Cliffs of Dover remain a perennial favourite!”

And also Jo Houtz of Abingdon, MD, USA who wrote, “I listen to audio books while painting. Seems a part of my brain needs something to focus on while the hand-eye thing is going on. Classical music while I cut mats and frame, but good murder mysteries while I am painting.”

And also Edna Hildebrandt who wrote, “Older people can be both exuberant and audacious as they are critical of their work. They have more time in their hands to spend in their art. With the change of social attitudes I think they also become bolder in their creative expressions. Recently some seniors of my acquaintance volunteered to pose for a charity calendar. They had fun doing it.”

And also Deloris (Lodi) Drane of Indianapolis, IN, USA who wrote, “My mother battled Alzheimer’s. It was heart wrenching. She was an artist – in every sense of the word. At the end of her life, she couldn’t remember even how to hardly speak, yet, she sang every word to every song, not missing one note or one beat to whatever song I started singing. She was on key and on time with each song. Yet, she could not speak her own name. We are just passing through. We are artists because we are. Enjoy!”

And also Kelly Borsheim of Cedar Creek, TX, USA who wrote, “I have been fortunate in that no matter how much worrying I may do, I have always had a deeper belief that everything would turn out alright. It is this, more than most, perhaps, that keeps me moving and venturing out.”

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The persistence of creativity

 

 

 

 

From: Diva — May 25, 2007

I enjoyed the “Forest spirit” very much, the calls of birds, woodpecker especially are very pleasant. Thank you.

Diva

From: Maritza Burgos — May 25, 2007

It’s almost winter downunder (Melbourne, Australia), days are shorter, there’s a nip, chill in the air and the trees are almost bare. What a delightful break to the greyness around to receive Robert’s twice weekly letter with a Bonus video clip!! (What a wonder this new technology is). I sat and enjoyed it with a hot cup of tea , savoured the music, the birdsong and seeing a fellow artist at work, Marvellous!! Now I am feeling inspired and the creative juices have been stimulated. Thank you for your timely gift. Long live your creative muses.

From Downunder;

Warm Regards

Maritza Burgos

From: Angela Treat Lyon — May 25, 2007

I always enjoy watching you paint – I love how you swipe on that light layer of blue halfway through – and how you leave the center of attention a little lighter than the rest – and then stick in those pokey little patches of sky and the brilliant light between the trees. I paint the background first if I can, which means there is little to do other than adjustment after I get to the foreground, so it’s always a bit of a surprise to see you go from front to back, rather than from back to front! Nice feeling in that piece. You can almost hear the birdsong – aloha – Angela

From: Sue Martin — May 25, 2007

Living in the Dandenongs just out of Melbourne I am surrounded by forests with all the beauty you portray in your part of the world. My husband died almost two years ago and left me with a partly finished special motor that on completion will be like a Bugatti. It left today to be completed by a master restorer. Now I can’t wait to open the boot and pull out the easel and paint just as Robert has done. What a great idea with the drop down work space. More reason to paint ‘en plein air.’

From: Bob van Lindt — May 25, 2007

From your car arriving till leaving the forest shows that your daughter has that artistic talent as well. Personnally I have a Forest of Love collection in which I paint romantic, spiritual, mysterious woods scenes and your rendition of Forest Spirit is right on simple, truthful & merry. Thank you.

From: Kate Lackman — May 25, 2007

Thank you for sharing your gift with us. I think that what I saw was that you had a pretty good idea before starting how to get onto the canvas what you saw and the feeling you felt at the moment. There was a beauty in the mood that you captured. This is such a wonderful way to get pumped up to begin another day at the easel. After that short clip, I feel in the zone already. Happy birthday and thanks again.

From: Jan St. Cyr — May 25, 2007

Michelle has made a wonderful “little movie”! It’s effect on me was relaxing and it made me smile. The length of the movie was perfect – just enough of your arriving (in style), of seeing how your painting evolves and how you use your brushes and color. Just a little bird song, just a little dog enthusiasm, wonderful piano music – not too much, no time to think, just to absorb and enjoy. What a great way to start the day!

Perfect! Thank you.

Jan

From: Colin Ruffell — May 25, 2007

Lovely car, great spot in the forest, very nice painting. Happy birthday.

From: Sylvio Gagnon — May 25, 2007

Through that video, what a wonderful experience you lived and shared with us. It is a message worthy of sending in a time capsule through space.

From: Pam Coffman — May 25, 2007

Even though the video was shot on your birthday, what a beautiful and wonderous gift for us. Each week I look forward to your insight, inspiration, knowledge, humor, and generous spirit. Painters Keys is a true gift. Just as Robert Henri brought the Art Spirit to the print, you bring the spirit of art to the Internet. Happy Birthday and may you have many more.

From: Scharolette Chappell — May 25, 2007

Happy belated Birthday! What a gift to yourself and now to others, thank you for sharing.

I lifted my small dog Ebbie to watch the film with me, she gave a low whinie growl upon seeing your dog. Her ears lifted at every brush stroke, but she must have gotten bored midway for she yawned. But surely watching every move, waiting to see your puppy again finally she gave a growl and tried to smell the screen when the full portrait of your pup appeared. She looked at me as though she wanted to jump through the screen.

Christina Monier, love the reds and geometric shapes, looks like you are going in a great direction. Age has no boundries in Art.

Thanks again for the relaxing moment, like watching fish swim…loveyaschar

From: Scharolette Chappell — May 25, 2007

Charlotte Lyon, What is relative success? Sounds like you have forgotten who you are – you need a play day to start a new series and trust where that will take you. If you have time to meet the demands of “the other” then do that too. Somehow the universe seems to make it work when you think it couldn’t possibly be the way to go. Trust your instincts. Demand time to have fun just because! I dare ya! loveyaschar

From: Shirley Quaid — May 25, 2007

Thanks for sharing your day and letting us see how your paintings progress. I especially liked your car!

From: Sandy Sandy — May 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Bob! Someone once said that a birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Bon Voyage and thanks so much for taking us all along! “Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.” ~ Jean Paul Richter

From: Mary Englert — May 25, 2007

Today is my birthday and you gave me a wonderful gift without knowing it. I have played it twice and loved the arrival in the woods and the dog being with you. I so admire your spirit.Thanks. I am inspired.

From: Mishcka O’Connor — May 25, 2007

The most depressing part of turning 70 is group agreement of what/how I am supposed to be at this age. It’s true, I don’t have to agree, but individuals are not an island and the influence of the stereotype is sometimes hard to buck. There is, without question, a prejudice out there. I was at a neighborhood association meeting where a comment was made to exclude a certain few people from participation because “they’re in their 70’s and 80’s.” And this was not an unkind person who said it, it’s is a prevailing opinion that one is irrelevant as an older person. And as an artist I have caught myself trying to fit in instead of embracing the courage it takes to “put it out there”, whether or not “it” garnishes approval. The subtle compromises we make for approval and acceptance accumulate to bury us and it takes vigilence and ruthless honesty to stay the course to one’s own truth of expression. This is probably true for any age but because of society’s ageism I think it is more true for the oldest of us.

From: Russell Mang — May 25, 2007

I really enjoyed watching your “Forest Spirit” video…where did you get that travel easel? What is its brand/manufacturer? I work in an art supply store and generally try to be aware of products that would be of real use to our customers. I’ve also often wondered what YOU look for in an art store? I know what I look for in other art stores and strive to help provide at work: a desire to promote creativity, providing sound information on products, trouble shooting problems with product applications, etc, while also striving to provide materials at a decent cost.

From: Val Norberry — May 25, 2007

That was fun and refreshing to sit here and watch you paint, enjoyed it immensely, as did your dog. However, one comment: At the end you did not give Michelle a little photo credit. I think she deserved one. So your steering wheel is on the right? It was fun to watch your perfectionist tendencies as you placed the green highlights at the bottom of the trees, once you nearly placed one but changed your mind before the brush hit the canvas. Neat car too. Nice sounds of birds. Using a Balschtick is good idea.

From: Phyllis Harpster — May 25, 2007

Dear Robert, I so enjoyed your birthday clip of you painting in the woods. Well done! I too love to paint in the outdoors and I also love to paint with acrylics but I find that they dry way too fast for me to complete even a small painting. Do you have any tips that would help? I use mediums and additives that slow down drying time with not much success. Any help you can be is very appreciated. Regards Phyllis

From: Gladys Johnson — May 25, 2007

I’m a recent subscriber to your site and find it really inspiring. It makes me want to let some other things go and just paint. “Forest Spirit” is beautiful and I felt I was taking a class from a great artist. I couldn’t believe you could swipe across your painting and create the beautiful background color without messing it up. A technique I would love to learn. Thanks to both you and Michelle for sharing your talents to help others enjoy the beauty that is in this world for all of us.

From: Katherine Kean — May 25, 2007

Happy Birthday and thanks for sharing this with us! Warm regards, Katherine

From: Ron Rumak — May 25, 2007

Your “Forest Spirit” clip reminded me of a similar trip that I made a few years ago to celebrate nothing other than late spring somewhere in the backwoods of Squamish with my Chow Chow buddy, Sargeant. The resulting watercolor painted while I was set up on a forest path where the motor vehicle trail ran out is called Sargie’s Way and is a regular reminder to me of Sargie, the enchantment of a natural enclave, and the magic derived from painting therein. It wasn’t quite a religious experience, but close. Thanks for the reminder and Happy Birthday, Bob. Great wheels!

From: Donna — May 25, 2007

Plein aire, the most fun you can have with your clothes on…I smiled through the entire movie of your birthday outing. Thank you for sharing the mood of being outdoors and painting on your special day. What a memory all year for you.

From: Shirley Erskine — May 25, 2007

Thank you for sharing your birthday with the world. To watch you work and feeling your spirit come through – you gave us all a beautiful birth-day gift. Thank you for this.

From: Clair Raabe — May 25, 2007

Thanks for sharing some of your birthday forest painting day. it is a delightful little film…… inspired me to take a field trip even tho it’s not my birthday.

From: Roger Asselin — May 26, 2007

Great video and very inspiring to a budding artist like myself. I learned more in just those few moments of video than some of the association meetings I attend. Time permit, do one per week. Your daughter did a great job of filming. She deserves an award!

From: Judy Gosz — May 26, 2007

Bravo!!! Loved it all. . .filming, location, music, inspiration!!! Thank you! Just one question how DID you add that lovely light blue-green without smudging the whole works??? I saw it with my OWN eyes. . but still don’t get it!!!

From: Jeanne Fosnot — May 26, 2007

I appreciated your article on outdoor painting because I’m currently conducting such painting and continually am flabbergasted when the painters take a photo and use it to “freeze” the composition of light and shadow, not having experienced the frustrating necessity of creating one’s own personal creative solution to an “insoluable” problem; then, fighting it through to one’s own invention, have an indescribable sense of accomplishment that lays down a foundation for further discovery. But until one goes through the pain, frustration and resultant joy, one never discovers the immense difference between confronting then giving order to the chaos, and relying on a photo to substitute for such a necessary development of one’s own ability to achieve authenticity as an artist. Any comments or suggestions from any teachers out there? I would appreciate it. Jeanne Fosnot, Carmel Valley, Calif.

From: Richard Brown — May 27, 2007

Robert what a wonderful present you gave us on your Birthday. You are a fabulous mentor to us all. Like our friend Ron Carwardine who as you know was a very prolific artist and the cause of me getting back to the drawing board to produce art and have fun. Thanks to Michelle and yourself for putting out that inspirational mini movie – it’s such a joy to see. After viewing your piece I would defy any Artist for not wanting to retreat to the studio or the great outdoors to paint. Thanks Robert for being such a giving person. Cheers and Many Happy returns. Richard Brown. ( The Cobble Hill Richard Brown )

From: Norma Greenwood — May 28, 2007

Thank you so much for a surprisingly moving film; an inspiring moment that I hope stays with me all day long.

From: Jo VanderWoude — May 29, 2007

“Forest Spirit” really touched me – so simple, and yet captures you as an artist. Your family will treasure this one long after you are gone. It will give special significance to the painting you created that day. A belated happy birthday from Sioux Falls, SD. Thanks for adding to my day week after week.

From: Marg Doman — May 30, 2007

I, too, so enjoyed your “Forest Spirit” very much. It made me feel that I was right there enjoying nature and the excitement while your creation was evolving. You have inspired me to get outdoors and paint in another world. Your daughter should be commended for her work as well. Thank you!!!

From: Roz Zinns — Jun 01, 2007

As I approach my 70th birthday, I came upon your article. I, too, believe that the excitement of learning and trying new things is the way to avoid stagnation and to continue the marvelous experimentation and creativity of painting.

From: Laureen McLoughlin — Jun 04, 2007

“Forest Spirit” was so peaceful and beautiful to watch. Thank you and love your dog. I am going to watch it again in the evening, the painting is very restful and pleasing to the eyes.

From: Jane Morgan — Jun 05, 2007

It’s strange how when you are young, you don’t “appreciate” the energy you have until you get older and you still wish you could leap over those fences; however, I find other ways to help me accomplish my goals. Being “older” now has, for me, been a great advantage because my thinking process is aligned with my goals and I can afford to do the things I couldn’t do when I was younger with a family, career, etc. I have always been very active and very energetic. I went back to college in my early 50’s, had breast cancer and still stayed in college pursuing my art degree. Cancer certainly slowed down my pace for about a year, but my art kept me sane and at peace with myself and my surroundings. As a matter of fact, painting probably saved my life. Then in 1998 I founded a group that I call The Plein Air Painters of KY, we’re still very active and there are 15 artists in my group. I still wanted more, so in the early 2000’s I set up a studio/gallery in a large complex that housed other artists like myself; stayed there about 3 years but found I wanted more, so then in June of 2006 I rented space in a wonderful Shopping Center and set up my own Gallery. I don’t operate it like a regular gallery, but I do have about 4 shows a year. I will continue doing this until I am physically unable to run the business properly. I am still the leader of my plein air painters group. By the way, I’m 70 now and still going strong, even though my body is aging, my mind is still young and energetic and I hope it remains that way until I die. I try not to worry about things I have no control over; however, I do think (to a degree) that one’s attitude has a lot to do with how active one wants to be as they get older. I also want you to know that I do have some health problems, but they stay on the back burner as my art keeps me young for now!

From: Jayshree — Jun 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Robert (and many more to come). That was the best gift that you could give us…Forest Spirit embodied the joy of painting in plein air. Thank you !

From: — Sep 08, 2007

 

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