Seizing the day

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Dear Artist,

Out over the dark sea, near the horizon, whales move steadily northward. People silently gather on the rough black lava and red dirt at Makahuena Point. Cameras ready, braced against the wind and crashing surf, they await the sunrise. These are not sun worshippers or members of some peculiar cult. They are neighbors, tourists, morning joggers, loners, and honeymoon couples up before dawn to witness an event.

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The arrival of a new day
at Makahuena Point

It’s not just that we are given our day — it’s what we do with it. Have you ever noticed that some folks keep busy from dawn ’til dusk plugging away at things that need doing? In many ways this is the artist’s mode — a permanent state of repairing. Others among us are dawdling dreamers who rather bump into things as they go. Most of us, creative or not, are somewhere in between. “Keep busy,” I like to tell artists, “while you’re waiting for something to happen.”

I figure there’ve been 10,950 sunrises since we first started coming to this part of Hawaii. And just as the sun climbs inexorably in the sky, happiness and fortune rise and fall with what’s to be done with a single day. To make good things happen, a bit of self-organization may be necessary. To-do lists, card files, day-timers, delivery calendars, alarm watches, radio regularity, interspersed exercise, even inspirational fridge magnets. As always, having the materials ready to go is Job One. If you’re thinking about going out and buying a certain brush, you can be delayed in your progress for weeks, months or years.

As the sliver of light blossoms into its full orange mango, I wonder how I might squeeze every drop from its potential. The now sunlit shore-people are in mild celebration. Like nailing the trade winds to coconut palms, some are trying to catch the meaning with their point-and-shoots.

A long-haired, surfboarder-type guy is journaling in a dog-eared Moleskine. “Are you going to paint again today?” he asks. I tell him I am. “Some dudes just do it, natural like,” he says. Walking back toward my second cup of coffee I’m wondering about that. “Seize the day,” I tell myself. I can smell the paint.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “No one expects the days to be gods.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Esoterica: Our friend’s home on Kauai is where I wrote my first book, In Praise of Painting. It’s now out of print and a bit of a collector’s item. Back in 1979 I sort of knew what I wanted to say but I had to motivate myself. Short on self-esteem and unsure I could get started or even complete, I put my ideas on file cards and tacked them to insulation boards. Like one of those mind webs the experts recommend, I spent days just moving things around. Then the cards began to make sense and take over. The sun began to shine on my project. The writing began to flow.

The olfactory connection
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic

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“Wave”
wood sculpture
by Norman Ridenour

I smell the wood instead of the paint, tart acidic oak, sweet but penetrating apricot, musky walnut, candy-like sycamore, choking spicy acacia. Studies show that smell is our most acutely connected sense to memory and thus nostalgia.

Nothing like just doing it
by Darrell Baschak, Manitou Beach, SK, Canada

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“Black poplars”
original painting
by Darrell Baschak

Lately, I have been very fortunate to be able to take some time off my “real job” as a carpenter to spend quality time in my studio and out of doors painting to my heart’s desire. There is nothing like just doing it. The continuity of heading to the studio every morning and beginning the day’s work is great! I heard an interview the other day featuring the billionaire Sir Richard Branson and his favourite saying is “screw it, just do it.” I couldn’t agree more. Many of us spend far too much time getting ready to do things. Meanwhile, life continues on.


There is 1 comment for Nothing like just doing it by Darrell Baschak

From: Dottie Dracos — Jan 28, 2011

I love your painting! Makes me want to walk through those woods – but without leaving footprints.

Get serious about time
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA

012811_paul-demarrais

“First Cutting”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

Your sunrise is symbolic of potential. We all have potential to make our short moment on earth special, both to ourselves and to others. I think most people have a sincere interest in reaching their potential, but the world gets in the way. Inspiration can easily be lost; lustrous silver dulled to gray by daily routine. It’s kind of funny the great lengths we go to for inspiration. Sunrises in Hawaii, trips up Mt. Everest, cruises to exotic locales are all meant to shake us out of our lethargy, to prove that time does matter and that every day is important. Inspiration can be had closer to home. I always loved that quote from Thoreau when he was asked about his travels. He told the questioner “that he had traveled extensively in Concord.” I love that quote by George Bernard Shaw as well that “youth is wasted on the young.” It seems by the time we get serious about time, our time is up!


There are 2 comments for Get serious about time by Paul deMarrais

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Jan 28, 2011

Couldn’t agree more, Paul. Love your painting :)

From: Shirley Fachilla — Jan 28, 2011

The turquoise in your painting is beautiful and the Thoreau quote wonderful. We’re all travelers I suppose, travelers of the mind.

Retired and working like there’s no tomorrow
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA

012811_rick-rotante

“Lanquishing”
oil painting 14 x 18 inches
by Rick Rotante

I was at an art opening the other night and met this unassuming aged gentleman in his eighties with his new wife of two years. We got to talking about aging and he said that now that he’s this age he’s noticed his priorities have been adjusted. He no longer worries about the things he once did when he was in his twenties. He no longer worries about accomplishing as much but concentrates more now on simpler things, things that make him happy. It would be easy for me to just sit in front of a television or walk my dogs endlessly in the park or do those things that need doing around my house. But I would surely be dead in short order from boredom and mental neglect. I wake every day anxious to get the dogs fed, do some light clean up and head for the studio.

I’ve been retired now for almost two years and have been in the studio working like there is no tomorrow. I don’t think I will have time enough do paint all I wish to paint before the last round bell sounds. Mind you, I am not frantic or desperate to “get it done”; I enjoy the process of it all; the prep, setting up, hiring a model, painting on site or painting with others. I look forward to my next class and the faces on my students faces as they discover something new. I enjoy contact with my gallery on the next works for the upcoming shows. About the only thing I don’t like is when I run out of steam for the day. As I’ve aged I’ve learned to pace myself more. What needs to get done will get done in due time. I believe I now understand what that gentleman was talking about.


There are 2 comments for Retired and working like there’s no tomorrow by Rick Rotante

From: LD Tennessee — Jan 28, 2011

Well said; Beautiful painting

From: Sharon Cory — Jan 28, 2011

Yes, I have the same experience and I’m also thinking I won’t have enough time to explore the stack of ideas, so I’d better get to it.

Strategies for a rich day
by Iskra Johnson, Seattle, WA, USA

012811_iskra-johnson

“The Golden Bird”
mixed media by Iskra Johnson

This morning I set the cellphone alarm by the espresso machine, and when it went off at 5 a.m. I did not go back to sleep to remember my dreams. Instead I will be waiting for them to emerge throughout the day and trusting to my unconscious. If I get up at 5 a.m. instead of 7, my entire day runs differently. A fact of running a modern life is email and busywork. I need an extra two hours to get it done, otherwise all day the unfinished micro-tasks nag at me. A few strategies I have picked up really help:

— I decide which things on my list are things I really don’t want to do. By acknowledging my resistance I defuse it and create a strategy. Either I do what I don’t want to do first and reward myself with everything else after, or I do a slow start by easing in through tasks that are less aversive, building up to the worst. For instance, this morning on my aversion list are dealing with taxes and how to ship a fragile piece of artwork. I want those off my list or they will be annoying me with background chatter all day. Whichever strategy I use it makes a huge difference to have a strategy— or the daydreaming bumping-into-things takes over.

— I invite someone over whose opinion I care about so I will clean the studio up once a month even if it doesn’t need it. Order in my environment leads to order in my mind and a sense of clarity towards my work.

— Throughout the day I use the mantra, “Is this a good use of time?”

— At the end of the day I look at my list and ask what moved me forward, and what held me back.

I love the morning celebration of the sunrise you describe. Equally wonderful is the ritual of sunset. In San Pancho, Mexico, nearly everyone seems to go to the beach around six in the evening to sit, reflect, and look. The measure of a day becomes richer if I invite my responsibilities in the morning but also take time to reflect back upon what I have done in the evening.

Inspiration leads to success
by Carol Mayne, Leucadia, CA, USA

012811_carole-mayne

“Aloha from my heart”
oil painting by Carol Mayne

I wanted to report a success, due in part from last year’s RGTW inspirations: From the first I read about renewing oneself for 2010, I did take months to experiment, slowly finding a new determination to focus and expand. Then the “Peanuts” article came at the same time I was formulating the idea for painting daily. Perhaps you received the newsletter we sent to you yesterday, introducing the completed vision.

I just wanted to thank you for your major contributions to artists around the world who have gained support from your heart-felt passion and insightful prose. Your high-minded purposes have raised the bar in quality, integrity, and intention.

Comments

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 Featured Workshop: Heli-painting with Robert Genn in the Bugaboos


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Don Cavin and Ina Climpson (left) and The Howser Towers (right)

Heli-painting with Robert Genn in the Bugaboos

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World of Art Featured artist Wendy Chaney, MI, USA  

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Late Summer

pastel painting by
by Wendy Chaney, MI, USA

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That includes Daniel Proteau of Beloeil, QC, Canada, who wrote, “I never intend to stop painting voluntarily. Almost every day I spend three hours or more painting and I derive much pleasure in doing so even though I destroy two out of every five paintings I start.”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Seizing the day

 

 

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 24, 2011

I was at an art opening the other night and met this unassuming aged gentleman in his eighties with his new wife of two years. We got to talking about aging and he said that now that he’s this age he’s noticed his priorities have been adjusted. He no longer worries about the things he once did when he was in his twenties. He no longer worries about accomplishing as much but concentrates more now on simpler things, things that make him happy. It would be easy for me to just sit in front of a television or walk my dogs endlessly in the park or do those things that need doing around my house. But I would surely be dead in short order from boredom and mental neglect. I wake every day anxious to get the dogs fed, do some lite clean up and head for the studio.

I’ve been retired now for almost two years and have been in the studio working like there is no tomorrow most every day. I don’t think I will have time enough do paint all I wish to paint before the last round bell sounds. Mind you, I am not frantic or desperate to “get it done”; I enjoy the process of it all; the prep, setting up, hiring a model, painting on site or painting with others. I look forward to my next class and the faces on my students faces as they discover something new. I enjoy contact with my gallery on the next works for the upcoming shows. About the only thing I don’t like is when I run out of steam for the day. As I’ve aged I’ve learned to pace myself more. What needs to get done will get done in due time. I believe I now understand what that gentleman was talking about.

From: J . Bruce Wilcox — Jan 24, 2011

I’ve said this to a friend in the last week- Robert- so I’ll say it again here/now. The Sun doesn’t rise. Ever. It is a total illusion based in un-reality. The Sun hangs there in outer space generating enormous energies of all kinds- but it is our silly little planet here that is ROTATING that causes the illusion of a sunrise/sunset- and our totally myopic self-centered view of things that see it otherwise. Sorry if the TRUTH is so unromantic.

Personally- I work in the morning- the afternoon- the evening- and sometimes I work late into the night and then sleep in. Couldn’t keep busy-er if I tried…

From: Marvin Humphrey — Jan 24, 2011

A beautiful sunrise is exciting. It brings about fresh thoughts of what you can do with the new day “clean slate”.

From: Suzette Fram — Jan 25, 2011

The event of the sun appearing in the sky in the morning is a beautiful one, it brings about hope and renewal and faith that the universe is unfolding as it should. And we call that event sunrise. Whether or not the sun actually rises is irrelevant. Lighten up Bruce.

From: Sullivan — Jan 25, 2011

Earths rotation sees a new day? The sun never rises or sets it just is? I like it!

This idea (somehow) corners my thoughts like pegs on a tent and gives truth to the idiom “the earth moved” — . We paint but what do we see in our work really? Did the earth move for us? I know when I work out on the canvas the love and a good sense of joy for myself, the passion is aroused and I know its good. I suppose one could say “the earth moved” much like a brilliant sun showing over the steel waters, we are made aware of something greater than ourselves. Right now where I live we seem to be surrounded by an Irish mist — perfect time to forget about that new brush I’ve procrastinated with and get right into it.

Thanks for the wake up call.

From: Bruce Bateman — Jan 25, 2011

“Sunrise” is of course a figure of speech, like “squeeze out” or “play the ponies.”

From: Denise Bezanson — Jan 25, 2011

Carpe Diem was our High School motto and one I’ve never forgotten. Morning is my best time, and I love to get up and “seize the day”.

From: Edna V.Hildebrandt — Jan 25, 2011

There is nothing more beautiful and more inspiring than the changing shows that nature have like sunrise, sunset and the northern lights the most spectacular show one can imagine. I wish I could have the opportunity to go and capture their beautiful colors but they change so fast it is difficult to paint it down exactly as you have seen them. Taking pictures is a good aid to record the moment but not as great as the moment unfolding before you.Thank you Mr.Genn, for the great advice: be prepared and get organized to capture the display before you as it happens. I now have handy painting gear I bring along when we travel to take the opportunity to paint presents itself. Instead of just admiring the scenery I try to capture it.

From: Shelley Ross — Jan 25, 2011

Thanks for the file card idea. Are you reading my blog where I ranted about being stuck? I swear you must be, cause you answered my questions.

From: Hank — Jan 25, 2011

I read this and asked myself; Why do I love art and painting so much but find it so hard to take time and do what I enjoy? Sometimes I blame it on age, or health or just plain laziness. It takes an article like this to motivate me and at least admit that life is to short to waste the time we have. Thanks for the little push that I need.

From: howyadoin graphics — Jan 25, 2011

You couldn’t have timed this better, Robert. I was up before sunrise today, painting by 9:00AM, and as I told my friends, I kicked Monday’s ass before 11:00.

From: Thierry Talon — Jan 26, 2011

I just read Art by Committee.

I stuns me to see no one mentions marketing your own stuff on the net. Several years ago the fine ladies of a gallery called Canada House in Banff told me almost half their revenue came internet sales; the number may be higher now.

Does no one have the courage to do this? If you are prolific, you may need galleries, but most artists are not.

Why spend all that energy complaining here?

From: Sandra Chantry — Jan 27, 2011

Of course to suggest its the sun moving rather than the earth is the reality… but to grasp the passing moment it happens, to appreciate the beauty of it… thats the work of our hearts and minds, some never see it, others make an effort to ensure they do so, some see it and pass on. As in all things it’s our ability to respond that makes it something special… that’s the reality!

From: Alan Channing — Jan 28, 2011

The day is all we have been really given. It is the one thing we can be sure of. It is as reliable as a good watch. Shall we be up to filling it appropriately and with gusto?

From: Ellen L. Simpson — Jan 28, 2011

I shall go to Makahuena Point and await the sunrise.

From: dick Williams — Jan 28, 2011

I thought if only I could have certain materials I could get started. In my case it was several of the colors. I had some others but I didnt think that was enough. I didnt give myself permission to work with a limited palette. I didnt think it could be done. but I found out it could. This held me up for several precious months.

From: Signe Gustaffson — Jan 28, 2011

We all have our own Makahuena Points

From: Wen Redmond — Jan 29, 2011

Begin, begin, begin! Each day is a new slate upon which I write the rest of my life.

From: Selma Trevison — Feb 01, 2011

I admit to not worrying about how I use my time, or how productive I am. Those things are not part of my equation. There are things I must do to live. There are things I have promised others to do. There are things I want to do. I’m always doing one of these things or another. What I’m going to do almost always chooses itself. I like it this way. It’s a bit like the way I choose my clothing for the day. What’s the weather going to be? Once I’ve figured that out, I take the first suitable article without regard to its color or style. Purely a functional decision. I get a great deal of pleasure from zombying through life this way, and don’t intend to change much. If I find myself worrying about something that I can’t do anything about, I banish that entire beehive from my bonnet, trying to keep myself out of the way of fret and worry. This might not work for others, but it’s let me sail pretty placidly through some difficult health issues, and not get embroiled in a lot of things that are, at root, unproductive. I like Wolf Kahn’s three mottoes. *Follow the brush. *I just work here. and (modified for the sensitive) * I don’t give a …..

 

 

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