Readers’ emails arrive here in Ireland on my Blackberry. These days, with the blessing of laid-back leprechauns, I’m reading every one. I sincerely appreciate your input and the confirmation that these letters are in some way affecting your life. “Reinforces what I’m doing,” and “Needed to be reminded of that,” are sentiments frequently expressed by readers.
I’ve always had the same idea as the motivational writer Richard Bach: “Learning is finding out what you already know.” Time and again people write, “I knew that — thanks for reminding me.”
Indeed, recent studies show that regular reminders, particularly by email, can change lives. According to a study published in the June issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, simple reminders to eat more healthfully or increase physical activity had a significant effect on recipients’ behavior. In one obesity study, 700 individuals who received regular email reminders of healthy lifestyle choices lost more weight than a similar non-emailed group.
So there’s a purpose to these missives. Lone workers as we tend to be, the Twice-Weekly Letters may be simply a way to remind us we are not alone. Right now I’m hunkered down out of the wind in the dunes on Ballyness Bay, Donegal. The Blackberry sits on the side of the paint box, and some distant subscriber causes it to buzz every five minutes or so. It’s not a distraction, it’s a confirmation — the warm sharing that goes on within our worldwide Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists. Thank you.
Here in the painting department, it’s the interminable struggle between lofty aspirations and the reality of my limitations. Blown sand also runs interference, but it could be anything — a shortage of white paint or the disappearance of a favourite brush. Right now there’s only gritty stuff adding texture to the acrylics. “An inconvenience,” said Confucius, “is an unrecognized opportunity.” This could be my “sand period.” Further, with travel, drying becomes a factor. I’m trying to find the “sweet spot” using Golden’s slow-drying “Open” acrylics and the regular fast-drying ones. I know that you, too, are finding inconveniences that lead to opportunities. Thanks for reminding me.
PS: “As a doctor, I am convinced that most people know the healthier choice; they just need frequent reminders to make it.” (Sanjay Gupta, MD)
Esoterica: In these letters we’ve often talked about multi-tasking. While writing this one I’ve painted two modest sketches. I’m not saying they’re brilliant, but they are a record, and the results are in a way more casual and understated, having been painted while writing. Shoot them down if you like. For those of you who write informative, insightful and often amusing notes, please consider copying them into the “live comments” section on our clickbacks. That way, everyone can share them. Right now I’m going to have to get the sand out of this Blackberry.
Appreciators bring life to art
by Sujata Tibrewala, India
I signed up for your letters when I was still working and they were a great inspiration for me to leave my job and pursue my art full time. In fact, I remember the first time I had responded to you; you had selected my letter for your clickback. Now I am an active artist and I still read your letters. And like you said, they reinforce what I know already. So far my paintings have met very favorable reviews and have also found good critics. I attribute a part of my success to your letters. I know as an artist the greatest thing we want to do is leave our footprints. So when I get a good review or somebody says they can identify with one of my paintings, it means more to me than them buying it. Of course we need money to live, hence we need buyers too, but appreciators are more like a breath for our art, without them we cannot create.
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Happiness kicks in
by Cindi Hiers, Fort White, FL, USA
I have been reading your letters for years now. They go much farther than “reminders,” they have become connections to my inner art self. Without your words I would not connect as often, which in turn might slow my art making, thus causing a possible depression. I get antsy when I am not creating, sadness kicks in. So, in view of this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please continue. The energy you send me transcends to the world around me on many different levels.
Travel and supplies
by Merv Brandel, BC, Canada
We did a house exchange with someone from England a few years ago. He is an artist so I had the pleasure of working in his studio for 6 months. I brought my own supplies because I didn’t know if I could purchase them in the small village where we were going to be staying. When I arrived at the airport in Vancouver to go to England, they made me take all my oil paints out of my carry-on and put them in my checked-in luggage. Now if that had been acrylic paint I think it might have been frozen when we arrived in England. Do you purchase your supplies in other countries when you travel or do you take along what you need?
(RG note) Thanks, Merv. It’s a good idea to put your paints and paintbox in the checked luggage. I’ve never had a problem with frozen acrylics, even in Alaska. Aircraft luggage-holds are somewhat heated. I take a basic supply of canvases (primed, ready to go) but I always keep an eye open for an on-location supplier. (Googling “art supplies Donegal” got me a few nearby here). Besides, it’s always good to find out what the locals are using. Last year in Italy I used a lot of Maimeri (Brera acrylics) and loved the stuff.
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Aspirations and limitations
by Brenda Jacobsen, CT, USA
I am writing my first note to you — a fellow Canadian — though I live in the States. Don’t hold that against me! Your words are fitting as they often are; painting is a lone road and I am fighting with my brush and paint. You might be in the sand period; and I must be in the “can’t get the background to stay in the background” period. I decided to take a break and here was your note. Ireland sounds fabulous — I have been reading your letters for a long time and find them very encouraging and enlightening, so thank you for extending yourself as a teacher to people like me. “Lofty aspirations and my own limitations.” Wow that is me. For the past year I have taken on the joy and challenge of oil painting — after working with gouache and acrylic. One aspiration is to send my work to your site (as well as making a living selling my paintings!) but today my goal is to paint and paint some more — it is in the doing that I improve along with reading your letters.
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My own little world
by Brenda Swenson, South Pasadena, CA, USA
Thank you! My life as an artist can be very solitary (by choice) but you have helped me not feel alone in my own thoughts and realizations as so often you validate what I am thinking or experiencing. I do participate in the larger art community and have served on numerous national boards for watercolor societies, teach nationwide and abroad, participate in shows but the paintings require that I spend long blocks of time, focused on painting alone. So often your emails remind me that I am not really alone in this world of art! Recently I came across this simple one-liner and I posted it in my studio. I hope you enjoy it too. I know I’m in my own little world but it is okay, they know me here.
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Medium par excellence is watercolor
by Raynald Murphy, Montreal, Canada
I started writing my blog almost three years ago, being influenced by your letters, and I get on average 70 hits a day passing on art tips — mostly about plein air and drawing — so, yes it is comforting to see some are reading them. On the subject of painting outdoors as you are doing, I feel the medium par excellence is watercolor. Time tested by the masters such as Turner et al who ran up and down coasts and towns quickly sketching in watercolor. The reason I turned to watercolor many years ago for outdoor work rather than my oils was simplicity. Now I hustle down town or to the country with small back pack and in 30 minutes to an hour at most I have a small watercolor on paper, which, I can redo larger in studio. Most, though, are finished works. As for liquid acrylics, I feel that means lugging a lot more stuff than for watercolor.
by Wendy Packard
I can relate to what Confucius says about an inconvenience being an unrecognized opportunity. However, this is not directly connected to painting but somewhat of a parallel situation. I was recently laid off from my job which will end June 30th. In the transition there are lots of politics that seem to prevent the current dedicated hardworking program staff from receiving the much needed support and honesty from the powers that be. As a result, I am letting go of what I thought were great relationships in my life and seeking new employment which is an inconvenience, no doubt, but in my heart I know it will be much better for me in the long run. I have a second interview for a great opportunity on the horizon. And I do read many of your letters and can relate to needing that connection to my brothers and sisters. Thanks. I am already more relaxed, living a more balanced lifestyle and hope to get back to painting soon. An inconvenience has become an unrecognized opportunity.
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Sharing a moment in time
by Edith Rae Brown, Greenvale, NY, USA
In my hectic life, balance has not yet been achieved. I need to let you know how very much I appreciate and respect your writings. You have an incredible talent with expressing thoughts that touch all of us as artists. I look forward to reading your twice-weekly letters; they are an awaking to what I feel and who I am. One day I will start responding in the open dialogue but at the moment my time is just too limited with taking care of family matters after losing both parents in the last 3 years. There is a lot of paper work for me to take care of which has a priority at the moment. Please know how much your letters mean to others and especially to me. I am so glad to be alive at this time when technology has made it possible for you to be on the Donegal Dunes in Ireland and I can be in my house on Long Island, New York and we can read each other’s words in a moment in time. I just love reading your letters and look forward to receiving them.
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‘Original’ art thoughts
by Jen Castle, Bennettsbridge, Ireland
Welcome to Ireland! I have been here for 3 years now (out of Africa) and I thought you might like some Irish companions for your trip, so have attached two oils. And should you find yourself in County Kilkenny, I have attached an oil of Kilkenny Castle for you. If you are passing through a small town called Bennettsbridge in County Kilkenny, you are more than welcome to visit my studio to see the originals. Thanks you for your inspirational letters sometimes quite un-nerving to have your seemingly ‘original’ art thoughts so eloquently expressed each week.
Debate on quality
by Danielle Laffitte, France
I live in a small village in the centre of France and feeling connected with other artists is more a matter of imagination than fact. Your letters help. The problem in getting more involved is that I don’t like most of the work shown on your site. I don’t feel related to it. Sometimes I don’t even respect it. Is it arrogant to say this? Probably. Does it matter? I keep telling myself that it does not, and that I just have to dig more deeply into what it is giving me and forget about the rest. But it does not always work. It does bother me. It is important to know whether what one is doing is worth the time and the involvement or not. Reassuring talk is not enough. There have been endless discussions about “the quality of work” on your site. Often the debate was really lively and interesting. I read some of it, and there again I felt ill at ease because much of it sounded like patting each other on the back, not a serious, disinterested discussion on what makes a painting good or not so good. I would have liked to participate but I am not brave and have no answer to offer on the question. I don’t think it is either skill or professionalism or even sincerity which makes a good painting. I don’t think it is just a matter of taste. It is not. I ask myself constantly about the quality of my own work. And as with you and your readers, it does not stop me from working. Maybe this is the answer to my question.
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Breaking away from the line
by Charlotte Lyon, Amsterdam, Holland
I am writing to you on a wet morning in Amsterdam. I receive your mail every week and am very grateful for it. A couple of years ago I was completely stuck. For ten years I had been producing the same work at the demand of the gallery. It sold and that what was important to them. But I became a production line and could hardly face it any more. So I wrote to you. I received so many encouraging letters from all around the world! It made me realize that firstly I was not alone and secondly to take the brave step to change. So I did. I took time out away from the galleries. The results, in just a few months were life-changing for my work. Since then I have not looked back. My style has changed, yes it’s possible, become more spontaneous and open and as a result looser and lighter. I am happy with my work again after so many long years in the doldrums.
Globs of tar and other crud
by Angela Treat Lyon, Kailua, Hawaii, USA
Ten years ago, I got over my own suicidal depression using the Emotional Freedom Techniques. After, I started to teach teleclasses that help people become emotionally sane using EFT. I used to wonder why people kept coming on the calls over and over again. Didn’t they ‘get it’ after two or three? But then I realized that as we float down life’s river, globs of tar and other crud stick to our boats, we get cracks in the hull, the storms rip off our sails, and we need to go to port to refuel and take on water on a regular basis.
It’s the same with our inner selves: we need reminding who we are, to know how to clean out limiting thoughts, beliefs and habits, we need to see how glorious it is to do what we do, how precious and valuable our little lives are within the context of the Big Wow. So now every teleclass and local group I do is as meaningful to me as the ones before. And I feel much better about buying book after book on how to deal with life and business! And here I’d thought I was just a thick ninny!
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by Polonca Kocjancic, Slovenia
What I like about your letters is that you really are a person on the other side. And that you write them as you go along the way. It is wonderful to see how you develop. Please put more of you and your results online or let us know where your e-gallery is.
Painting is also very close to me. My mother started painting passionately and with a lot of constant discipline after retiring. I, on the other hand, am trying to paint before retirement – despite the constant lack of time. When you go through all the battles and remain alive with the result in front of you, you get a feeling of uniqueness. And indeed, it is unique. No one can repeat it, not even the author themselves, as they have been changed by the process. Everything that contains personal effort is unique. After the effort, a feeling of satisfaction emerges.
With me, you broke the ice some months ago with a fantastic letter about habits. I really liked that and immediately printed it out and hung it so that I can see and read it every day. It is good to know that you like our responses. So indeed we are becoming a community and we all grow closer to each other by doing and learning similar things.
Sailing with a gypsy heart
by Sue Bayley, Maui, HI, USA
As a completely nomadic artist with my studio in my suitcase, I look forward with great anticipation to your letters. They are my link to the worldwide artistic community and I delight at your stimulating missives and everyone’s replies. Most of my time is spent in the tropics so I am well used to blowing sands, insects and other creatures that make their way onto my acrylics. I have tried all sorts of ropes and bungee cords to hold the panels in the winds but it is hard to paint around them, so I just hold them in my hand now. I found some ‘Open’ acrylics in Hawaii and have been using them in combination with my regular ones for quite a while and love them for use in the tropical heat. As much of my travelling is done by sailboat, I have additional challenges and multitasking is the rule rather than an exception. Fresh water is usually scarce so I always use the ocean and it doesn’t seem to harm the paintings. I am always finding inspiration when coming toward land and then I am supposed to be navigating and avoiding said land!! I have attached a sketch done with one hand while steering a 44′ catamaran into the harbor at Bonifacio, Corsica. Then hiking above the town I added another study to my sketchbook. I cannot carry canvases in my one bag so I have a collection of strong paper pads that I work on.
It is often hard to find art supplies as I travel so I combine some acrylics with children’s wax crayons, pens etc. Whatever I can find in the stores. After the South Pacific, Caribbean, Latin America and Bahamas I have the luxury of art stores now I am in Europe. In France house sitting while I wait for a new crewing job in the Mediterranean, I revel in painting without the constant motion of a boat. There is no rush to the next harbor, just time to wander the beautiful countryside and paint on solid land. Whenever I am in one place for a while I buy some canvas panels and have often sold them off the easel as I am painting a tropical beach. Tourists love to take home an original and affordable piece of art, and I have used others to barter for accommodation. Two paintings got me a month in Antigua!! So although I have little money, I have a rich life following my gypsy heart and fulfilling my artistic passions wherever I may be.
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original painting 16 x 20 inches
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 Jim Pallas of Applegate, MI, USA, who wrote, “I’ve always had the same idea as the motivational writer Richard Bach: ‘Learning is finding out what you already know.’ So did Socrates. In fact it is the basis of his questioning method.”
And also Anand Channar of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who wrote, “You are doing a great job. I eagerly wait for your mail and forward all of them to my artists and other friends. It is informative and encouraging. Keep the good work going.”
And also Parviz Rad of Tehran, Iran, who wrote, “Your twice-weekly letters and others’ inspirations are an open door to the art world. Especially in hard times as now, which I’m witnessing in my home town, Tehran, where there are many uprising and demonstrations against the showcase election. It is something I may sketch in watercolor.”
And also Allie Lull of Southport, NC, USA, who wrote, “Not sure how it would work, but could your BB be kept in a zip lock bag you could see through (for sand protection?). Happy painting, the western coast of Ireland is also one a great inspiration! And no sand!”
And also Dabau Singh-Heer of New Zealand, who wrote, “I think sometimes it is hard to ‘remember’ when you need to and that’s especially when it is timely that someone else’s input helps to get us back on track. Reminders and/or new information is important knowledge that makes us more aware of ourselves and others to enrich all our lives. Thank you for the twice-weekly letters and yes, they sometimes motivate me, or reinforce, or make me question, or remind, or encourage me to seek my own answers.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Just a reminder…