Yesterday, half workday, half holiday, I voluntarily lived in my studio computer. “Where do you buy your frames?” a subscriber asked from Reno. “What do you do with your bads?” asked another from Toronto. Emails came from the four winds. Luis Sei Fong of Uruguay wished, “For all the Artists of the World that they Find the Magic Wand of Creativity.” Yaroslaw Rozputnyak remarked from Moscow, “Artists are to be thought-generators, transformers and amplifiers.”
At the end of the year I like to stand on a small hill and look both behind and in front. Somewhere here I’ll refocus, gear down, and rev up once more. This time I’m doing it online. Plans and resolutions. Last year, when I asked for artists’ resolutions, someone wrote, “Only damn fools make resolutions.” As many know, we actually offer to store resolutions in confidence and “return to sender” in 365 days. This year, it seems, there are several thousand that Andrew is going to start sending back on the 30th. “Thanks for providing your excellent resolution storage service,” a lady wrote about noon. I was playing the computer like an organ in a vast cathedral. “What are you doing?” asked Dorothy. “The New World Symphony,” I said.
Yep, it’s a new world, and it’s viral. Like Topsy, it grows. Even when I’m underwhelming, it grows. When the rumour got around that Robert didn’t even exist — and that he was only a cyber-figment of Andrew’s mind — it grew more than ever. Yesterday, there were 231 new subscribers. They may be after different things. There’s the idealistic, the innocent, the eager, the curious, the ambitious, the iconoclastic, the rigid, the wild, the jaded, the practical, the smug, the shy, the poetic. There are those who require instant gratification or hard-nosed information, and there are those who have a sense of timelessness and vision. I think of everybody as friends and partners. Peter Brown wrote, “Art is a real thing. Art is the soul of the whisper of the cloud on the horizon. I spent much of my childhood watching that cloud. The cloud took forms. One of those forms became my soul.”
Yep, it’s the real thing. And it’s my sincere wish that you’ll get something of value from my partners and me in 2006. We’re honoured to try.
PS: “Art is a partnership not only between those who are living but between those who are dead and those who are yet to be born.” (Edmund Burke)
Esoterica: I get advice. Peter Brown suggested, “Artists are just people. I think you should stress that in your twice-weekly letter. I teach high school kids to draw. Most all of them learn to draw. In my classes I’ll say 95% of my students learn to draw. Art is nothing special. Art is just one of the things that human beings can do. Humans can also make septic tanks.” Thanks Peter. Leave out the “septic” and you’ve got it. Art’s bigger than tanks. So here’s my resolution: I’m going to be more like me, but with more conscience.
Giving out the magic wand
by Janet Sellers, Monument, CO, USA
At our annual art show and sale for my students, I give each of them a handful of red pencils with our studio name and number on it, and teach them to meet the crowd coming in. We introduce ourselves by saying, “Hi, I’d like to give you this — it’s an artist’s magic wand. Can I show you what I do with them?” It breaks the ice, even for the youngest ones (age 4 or 5) to start up an art conversation, and the shy older ones (39 and counting!) they have a way to meet and greet the people. It is such a nice way to meet and make a new friend, hopefully a new fan as well.
Members of the same family
by Helen Scott, New Bern, NC, USA
Yaroslaw Rozputnyak’s comment on what art/artists is/are brought to mind the statement by Gary Zukav in his 1979 book The Dancing Wu Li Masters: “It is possible that scientists, poets, painters [artists]and writers are all members of the same family of people whose gift it is by nature to take those things which we call common-place and to “re-present” them to us (the world) in such ways that our self-imposed limitations are expanded.”
Power of the Internet
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia
Today the twice-weekly letter is a real resource of resolutions. But time-country border-languages are the triple barrier that the Internet tries to leak through. Internet is real thing — its inventors are noble Nobel prizers. But again the simple Internet is first level technology — we must build next levels. Materializing of ideas about breaking of time-borders-languages with Internet tools might turn your webmaster Andrew Niculescu into some powerful World Wizard. Why not? If he can do that (close down) unpleasant stealing Chinese website why not the RG TWL society can do not the same in civilized form.
Telling visual stories
by Christine Taylor, Barbados
Mr. Ren lived in a small wooden chattel house near to where I live with my husband and three children. He wore old fashioned, button pants and cooked on an old wooden stove. He could be seen every evening, at sunset, leading his back-belly (local) sheep and white goats home and I have painted him in acrylic and plan to also do another one with him and his sheep. I feel blessed to have the ability to see the world through the eyes of an artist and share this with others who seem hungry for positive energy. We tell visual stories for others to contemplate and I love hearing about others who have the same child-like soul.
Bonus for exerciser in studio
by Ann Snyder, Mountain View, AK, USA
I have some exercise equipment, and in good weather it is on our deck. I love it as I look out over the horizon and vistas we have from our 3-acre mountain top retirement home. Well… when winter comes to Arkansas, too cold. So, against my better judgment, we moved the equipment into my art studio (doesn’t take much space). My studio is 16′ x 20′ with a full bath and large storage closet. Yesterday while I was exercising, I studied some of my “I don’t think they are finished paintings,” and immediately finished one of my prizes.
by Elizabeth Lasley, Asheville, NC, USA
My grandfather was a math professor at the University of North Carolina. His math partner was another professor named Archibald Henderson. Mr. Henderson was friends with Mark Twain and he wrote a biography of Twain. In it he tells the following story:
“Mark Twain was taken by a friend to Whistler’s studio, just as he was putting the finishing touches to one of his fantastic studies. Confident of the usual commendation, Whistler inquired his guest’s opinion of the picture. Mark Twain assumed the air of a connoisseur, and approaching the picture remarked that it did very well, but “he didn’t care much for that cloud,” and suiting the action to the word, appeared to be on the point of rubbing the cloud with his gloved finger. In genuine horror, Whistler exclaimed: “Don’t touch it, the paint’s wet!” “Oh, that’s all right,” replied Mark with his characteristic drawl: “these aren’t my best gloves!”
Honest, true and pure
by Petra Voegtle, Munich, Germany
The hard thing is to define exactly what you want to become, change and see yourself in a totally unmasked way. Humans tend to put one mask after another on their face, depending on the programs they have gone through and it is a hell of a job to get rid of all these programs and masks until you find the “real thing.” I know this is not what you actually meant but for me it is like art is not a mask, not a wannabe, not only bits and pieces but the real thing: honest, true and pure.
Return to the real thing
by Mary Ann Laing, Victoria, BC, Canada
This time of year is always one of many emotions. I find that opening the decorations before Christmas is like pulling open a door to a vault of a lifetime of memories. I think back to my childhood at Christmas time. How the anticipation was the real thing about Christmas. How I dreaded to think about it being over… how sad, have to wait a whole year. Funny thing — now, in those pre-Christmas flurrying days, I think about when this is all over, I can paint again. It waits for me like a hungry babe waiting to be nursed. Yes, the studio is strewn with left-over Christmas wrappings, but I have my brushes, my paints and a painting half started, or finished, depends on my mood. I can clean up the mess in the New Year. Yep, this is the real thing!
Pigment gathering builds continuity
by Glenda Shomaly, Australia
Love is the most important ingredient in art for me, that includes the hard things of life. I collect my own pigments from one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, and the feel of continuity between time, place and creation is a blessing. I look for nuggets that are exposed after rain above high tide at the base of the cliffs. After much lobbying the area is now a Marine National Park and the cliffs have been incoroporated into the brand new Great Otway National Park. What is valuable is the ready availability of pigments that are very easy to find and prepare if you have an eye for them.
They can range from fine black silts through red, yellow and brown clays to lime whites. All that is needed is to grind them with a spoon or mortar and pestle, soften them in water if hard and mix with a little water unless you want oil paint. They are then ready to be mixed with your chosen medium.
by Sherry McGrath, Browns Mills, NJ, USA
I’d like to make a comment about what Peter Brown says about artists just being people. Well, it’s no wonder he prides himself in a 95% rate success of his students since they already came to the class with desire and skills to draw. His attitude is arrogant and stands to reason why there shouldn’t be a thing called ‘tenure.’ I would never want myself, nor my son to take a class from him. His attitude is crap. Maybe he’s the one who isn’t anything special, but I’d like to see him try to engineer and build a septic tank!
Passing on cynical views
by Shari Jones, Centennial, CO, USA
Regarding Peter Brown the art “teacher.” He could probably teach a monkey to draw and it would be just as inspired as his students must be. How sad that he, and I am afraid he is not alone, is passing on his cynical, burned-out views to hopeful young people. Anyone can learn to draw, anyone can learn to play the piano, anyone can learn to write but only a few learn it with passion and go on to inspire others.
Tapping into higher consciousness
by Sandra Bos, Cookeville, TN, USA
Regarding Peter Brown, the whole idea behind Art (with a big “A”) is to “Create.” When and if that happens, we are ‘higher beings,’ and not as much ‘Human beings.’ Yes, I respect the person who ‘makes tanks’ — this is good, but true works of art should be from more than just ‘mechanical,’ and should speak to the soul. I do like the resolution, “to be more like me!” but also to tap into that higher consciousness. “To become truly immortal, a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken, it will enter the realms of childhood visions and dreams.” (Giorgio De Chirico) Yes, Art is bigger than tanks!
Native lifestyle beats ‘cutting edge’
by H. Margret, Santa Fe, NM, USA
Virgil Ortiz is a Cochiti Pueblo Native American and clearly states what drives his work is his native lifestyle, not the trends or demands of the New York scene where he shows his designs via Donna Karan’s company. In a world of ego and pretension, Virgil is fresh air. Maybe the reason art seems so irrelevant to so many people is the boredom of the public with all the isms and hype. Site Santa Fe, for example, is now advertising a show with a picture of a tiger shot with hundreds of arrows. Will I go see that show? No. Who are they trying to attract? Endangerment of wildlife is not a new subject… yet this is “cutting edge?”
Drawing under fire
by Nancy Moskovitz, Ocala, FL, USA
As I sit here reading your letter, I have just returned from the post office after mailing a package to my son who is serving in Iraq. For his 29th birthday he has asked me to send him sketch books, pencils, and a couple of instruction books. I beat a path to Michael’s to buy them and send them along with some cookies. Sitting in a guard tower for 12 hour shifts gives him lots of time to think, and he wants to refresh his drawing skills in what little free time he has. I don’t know why I am telling you this. He used to draw, and I was his art teacher for many years at a small private school. I am thrilled he wants to draw, and I am so pleased to be able to help him do so.
by Barbara McGee, Peterson, IA, USA
My friend Millie called me a while back and invited me to go with her to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to see the Grant Wood Exhibit. I had seen the exhibit about 20 years ago in Minneapolis. I really enjoyed it then but Millie and I have a long history of having great times together at exhibits. We walk around and discuss all of the whys and what-fors of every painting. On the trip to Ames I mused about what we would have to say about Grant Wood. I didn’t think we would be tearing it apart much but who knows.
Well we got up the next morning and headed for Cedar Rapids. We were excited to be together again and were talking a mile a minute. When we got there we asked directions and took everyone’s advice and went to his studio first. They had a video that lasted about 1/2 hour that was very informative then we went up the stairs to his apartment-studio. It was in an old hay mow of a coach house. He lived there with his mother for many years. While I was in that studio a strange thing happened. It was like he became a part of me. I am not sure how this happened but it was wonderful. When we went to the exhibit I saw his famous works through his eyes. I saw parts of his studio in the paintings and knew why he used the same shapes over and over. The one I loved the most was not one of the famous ones, it was one of his last paintings, a young girl. He had been to Germany and seen the works of Durer. It was amazing, gone were all of the hard edges and all of the other things that tell you this is a Grant Wood. If he had lived longer I believe his work would have taken on a whole new direction. He must have been a very teachable artist.
Now back to Millie, we discussed each and every one of the paintings just like always but when we got to the Barter, the one where the city lady comes to the country to buy a chicken, his sense of humor was unmistakable. The two women are standing in front of the country woman’s home. The country woman is in her old coat held shut with a safety pin holding her prize chicken. The city woman is in all of her finery and the contrast is stark. The house is a typical farm home except for the flower garden which was obviously painted from a carpet. I just thought that was so funny and Millie just couldn’t understand why he had done that. I guess I got it because I met Grant back at his studio. It is good to take time away from your own studio and go out and meet another artist, even if they have been gone for over sixty years.
Travelling with a paint kit
by Linda Craddock, Cochrane, AB, Canada
I plan to go to Spain to paint for a month or so. I expect to paint quite a few works, maybe a dozen or so. I wonder how to best get my materials in and out of the country. I prefer to paint with oil (liquin dries it a bit faster) on canvas or linen that I stretch myself. I’m flexible about the size: 24″ x 30″ though I would prefer 30″ x 40″ for example. Should I build a protected shipping box to size and take it in and out the same way as luggage? Or do I roll the finished work? Should I ship work back separately via mail — unsigned as you once suggested. Are Customs difficult about such matters?
(RG note) Thanks Linda. When flying, I take all my paint stuff in one ordinary suitcase. As I paint in acrylic, and mark it “water based” the subject of ‘flammable’ does not come up with inspectors. Over 24″ x 30″ is a bit large for travel, and in that case I take rolled up canvas and re-stretch there. Eight “sticks” can be made to produce six different sizes. I pack a staple “gun” and a staple-puller. I bring the canvases back rolled or flat, and unsigned as they are then considered unfinished and tend not (not so far) to attract duty. We’ve dealt with this important subject before in Packing for a trip.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2005.
That includes Denise Paquette of Canada who passed along this Starry Starry Night video with Don MacLean singing [download video – MS Powerpoint Format]. If you have sound and relatively high speed, please go here. You won’t be disappointed.
And also Marilyn Califf of Memphis, TN who wrote, “I bought a video of interviews of the painters who were in the New York school in the ’40s and ’50s. It’s called Painters Painting. The abstract expressionists, DeKooning, Hofman, Stella, Johns, etc. A fascinating 2 hours.
And also Greg Packard of Ranchester, WY who wrote,
“Oh Lord I stole this day.
Her blue she gave away.
Lying down beneath the flowers,
I’ve stared and dreamed and lost the hours.
I laughed a country mile,
While the sun simply smiled.
And now it’s dark and the moon is grey.
Lord I stole this day.”
And also Jean Burman of Australia who wrote, “I may not be idealistic, innocent, eager, curious, ambitious, iconoclastic, rigid, wild, jagged, practical, smug, shy, or poetic… but then again… maybe I am all of those things rolled into one. I am an artist after all! But there is one thing I know that I am… and that is grateful — that you take the time twice a week to keep me in the artistic loop! It’s a small (art) world after all.”
And also Susan Burgess, Marblehead, MA who wrote, “I think the reason for the rumor that you are just a cyber-figment of Andrew’s imagination is that many people cannot imagine anyone would be so generous or care enough to open his/her heart to all these strangers in a world where advice is mostly only bought and sold.” (RG note) But I am a figment and I just slipped this in hoping he wouldn’t notice. (Andrew Niculescu note) I need to see someone about keeping the Genn character under control.