Readers might recall that my daughter Sara and I conduct a couple of painting workshops each summer — one at the Cortes Island retreat called Hollyhock, the other heli-painting in the Bugaboo mountains. Last summer at Hollyhock we were accompanied by Dennie and Peter Segnitz, owners of the White Rock Gallery, where both Sara and I are represented. Peter, a videographer, strung us up with remote lapel mikes and over four days we went about our business, only switching off when we needed to sleep. The result is an 18-minute video documentary that gives an excellent insight into the Hollyhock event. The video includes the well-known improvisational singer Rhiannon, the WeB3 trio and their a capella students.
Sara and I can’t help but notice the number of professional educators who participate in our workshops. Inga Poslitur, who teaches art at San Jose State University in California (and had her painting chosen for the cover of Hollyhock’s catalogue this year), wrote recently, “I gave my students the exercise you two gave us at Hollyhock — to paint a landscape in 37 strokes or in 37 minutes. The results were mind-blowing! Even the stubbornly uptight students relaxed and painted with broad juicy brushstrokes and color!”
For painters whose work is traditionally tight and detailed, the “broad juicy brushstroke” exercise can be a welcome irrigation. On the other hand, we’ve also been known to help loose painters tighten up. With our attitude “We’re all friends here,” we have even more fun and devilish stuff up our sleeves this year. Four days of cross-fertilization, as demonstrated by the buzzing bees in the Hollyhock garden, doesn’t hurt artists one little bit. Both pros and beginners leave with wider vistas and professional advice.
We’ve also noticed that hard-working painters, by heightening sensitivity and facility, add professionalism to their work. Melissa Jean of Kenora, Ontario, for example, has since been accepted by several excellent galleries and has launched a promising career. Apart from all the joy that exudes from these events, these are the stories that Sara and I love to hear.
PS: “Even the simplest little video camera is an astounding tool for journeying through Time. Stories can be coaxed to emerge. It’s magic.” (Peter Segnitz)
Esoterica: There are still a few places left at Hollyhock and up in the Bugaboos (August 22 to 26). This year’s theme for both workshops is “From Plein Air to Abstraction.” We love to see people who put their own unique stamp on their lives and their work. We’re presumptuous, but we think we know a bit about this. In the meantime, you might take a look at Peter’s video. To us, the video brought back fond memories of summer joy and truly remarkable new friends.
by Janice Kelly, Sydney, Australia
You mentioned doing a painting in 37 strokes, and then again doing a painting in 37 minutes. Do you have a source where I could clue into this concept and give it a shot myself?
(RG note) Thanks, Janice. The reason for the 37 minute exercise is because I have an old hour glass that for some reason gives us only 37 minutes. I like the hourglass because people can look at it and see time is running out. I’ve written about this here. I also wrote about a similar timing system, the Pomodoro, here. Doing a painting in only 37 strokes (could be any number-25-100) is a good one too. It forces painters to make their strokes count and to leave them alone after they’ve laid them down.
Discouragement all around
by Barbara Simpson, Brockville, ON, Canada
I find your letters quite inspiring, and very much so with your mention of Melissa Jean and her triumphant story. I am inspired, but at the same time, longing to receive similar encouragement from my partner and family. They say it’s nice that I’m “doing my art and very nice pictures” but they also say, “You have to get a job.” I’m old enough to make my own decisions but this is disheartening as I’ve always believed in supporting and encouraging, being there for my partner and family regardless of the path they choose to follow. I know that they are probably looking out for me in their own way, saying get security with a job. But I wonder how much they realize that if they were to encourage me in my art, brainstorm with me when I talk about my ideas, etc., etc., that I’d be better for it. This rips my heart apart. I do not know how to approach the subject with any of them any longer.
Do you have any words of wisdom for keeping my “ups” up, finding the people I need to help me, and keeping the ‘discouragement’ from my partner and family out of my mind?
(RG note) Thanks, Barbara. In studying the lifetime paths, both up and down, of so many over the years, it has struck me that steadiness of character is at or near the most important. For those who would thrive with sincere work, quality is all important, and quality takes time. Success does not listen to the howling of the wolves. Further, success for an artist is not a committee thing. As the video says, it’s a job for rugged individualists.
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by Howard Cowdrick, Sarasota, FL, USA
The new treatment for my cancer has severely destabilized my personality and every painting recently is nothing more than crap and I end up destroying them. I am finding it hard to concentrate and have hot flashes and cold flashes that are bordering on the absurd. My doctors keep telling me that this is my life from here on for possibly the next 20 to 30 years. I don’t know where to turn from here. I haven’t produced a decent painting in months, I am frustrated, emotionally a ping pong ball and they still can’t find the cancer, but, won’t stop the therapy.
What do I do from here to get my artistic life back on track? Frustration, anger and fear are my constant companions these days. No doctor wants to understand the agony of this life.
(RG note) Thanks, Howard. While I can’t comment on the trials and anxiety that must accompany something like cancer, I can mention a useful technique for rebooting better work. After a short holiday of a couple of days away from the easel, you need to accept that your first few paintings might be less than satisfactory. This is when you need to call upon all your reserves and engage extraordinary effort to significantly raise standards on one small painting. It may take a while, and it may take several starts. But this one new work becomes a talisman and a standard-bearer for the next and the next, which generally come a little easier. While often a joy, all art production is at base a battle. For you, the battle has just got a little harder, and you must know that it is possible for you to win that battle. A small masterpiece leads the way.
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Workshops with other media
by Janet Agulnik, Ottawa, ON, Canada
What I saw in the video was fascinating — the location and the work being done was very inspirational. Do you have people working in watercolour at your workshops? This is my medium of choice, and I would love to attend one of your workshops if I could use watercolour.
(RG note) Thanks Janet. We have people working in oils, watercolours and acrylics. Both Sara and I have worked in all three media and we feel we can be of use to you. If artists are thinking about either workshop, at Hollyhock or up in the Bugaboos, feel free to give me a call in the studio to discuss your concerns or just to get an idea what you might expect. 604 538 9197 I’m in all week.
Retreat at Shellmouth
by Jan Layh, Langenburg, SK, Canada
This summer’s retreat — our 17th — will once again host 30 artists. After the first two years we outgrew our farmyard and have moved the location to a beautiful valley just 10 miles to the north of us — a little spot on the Assiniboine River Valley called Shellmouth.
We welcome sculptors, musicians, song-writers and writers, mosaic artists and wood carvers. I need not describe the awesomeness of a week-long opportunity to work with creative, talented people. Because our venue cost has risen, the registration has also risen to $170 for the entire week. It is important to me that the retreat be affordable. How is that possible? The artists make the meals — the best idea I have ever had, truly!! We come away inspired, smarter, fuller, and determined to do something with our work. Our modest little retreat has inspired a northern community to begin their own retreat — exactly what should happen!
To print or not to print
by Sharon McGauley, ME, USA
I love the video you posted, I am going to do my best to get to your workshop. I would love to be there. I have a question! Do you answer these? You must get so many! But I would be grateful for your advice. I recently started a painting project where I am selling quite a few paintings online, by auction. It’s going well, I’m having fun and selling most all of them. The bidding has been consistent and sometimes exciting: prices frequently far surpass the starting bid. I am thrilled about this. I post 2 to 4 paintings a week. My question is whether or not to tackle the limited editions print market. On the one hand, of course, it seems like I have a great opportunity to capitalize on all the website traffic I am receiving and the interest in my work.
People would be able to buy a print of a painting that they missed out on in auctions. Also, I could sell them in stores for exposure, etc., etc. Lots of possibilities. The plan would be limited edition prints professionally mounted on beautiful bamboo boards, custom made to order, and signed. But I hesitate. I wonder if this will hurt my auctions and diminish interest in my project. It is hard to know: will bidders stop bidding at a certain point if they know the piece will become a print eventually? By offering prints am I removing the excitement and one-of- a-kind, move-it-or- lose-it, auction frenzy that has been so fun?
Personally, I know that the original is so much better than a print and should still be generating excitement and competition for it’s ownership.
But I’m not sure everyone feels that way and I wonder: will I damage my auction excitement and my relationship with all these interested buyers by offering a secondary, less-costly option for owning? And will people be less interested in originals (or in the project in general) if they know everyone else can buy their painting in print form?
I would love to hear your thoughts. I have never stepped into the print world before and it is tempting, with it’s offers of (perhaps) that elusive residual income. But at what expense?
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Prices on older paintings
by Mairi Budreau, Kamloops, BC, Canada
When your prices go up 10% annually does that apply to work you did five years ago that might not have sold?
(RG note) Thanks, Mairi. The price increases are theoretically on all paintings, however long ago painted and owned by whomever at the present time. Thus owners of my paintings, some of which were purchased for peanuts many years ago, are an ever-growing investment. Of course, many other factors are involved that contrive to interfere with this scenario quality concerns about the art itself, the fluctuating popularity of various periods, and the vagaries of auctions and other secondary market venues.
Greatest achievement of mankind
by Bob Rennie, White Rock, BC, Canada
With this Hollyhock workshop video I was most impressed with what I consider the greatest achievement of mankind. That is, how well you have raised your family, and it comes out clearly with Sara. I enjoyed the way you looked at her, so lovingly, and with appreciation for how well she turned out. So I compliment you on this wonderful teaching video and an exemplary episode in your life.
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 Fran Chausse White of Facebook who wrote, “I watched the Hollyhock video this morn with my second cup of coffee. I really wanted to be there. Wonderful video!”
And also Janet Odell of Facebook who wrote, “This post is wonderful. I hope you leave the video up as I really want to enjoy it more. You are so blessed to be able to see the beauty in small things. Thanks for the share.”
And also Joseph Melancon of Sarasota, FL, USA, who wrote, “This is one of the best art documentaries I have seen. I just loved the whole atmosphere and involvement in such a serene way. Wow!”
Enjoy the past comments below for Summer joy…