Recently, there’s been a lot of publicity about the benefits of a short, brisk walk. Apart from it being a matter of life and breath, there are immediate benefits to digestion, continence and muscle tone. The chances of heart disease, stroke and cancer are lessened by a regular brisk walk. (The Journal of the American Medical Association reported today that the potential for breast cancer, at any age, is reduced by 20 percent.)
Have you noticed that your creative imagination and resolve are strengthened when you get the old heart pumping? Have you noticed that you have clearer priorities and fresher ideas when you stride out? Have you noticed renewed energy when new blood gets to the extremities of your brain and your limbs? Or that a brisk walk can help you to get unstuck from a sticky situation?
Most of us are aware of the statistics — but many still find it hard to make the time to do what’s necessary. That’s where the IABWU comes in. The International Artistic Brisk Walkers Union has been formed by me to get artists out of their studios on a regular basis. Originally I thought that all of us might arrange to walk at the same time — but this involves complicated time-zone problems — walking in the middle of the night for some — to say nothing of the fact that many artists dislike taking part in group activities.
Here’s what you have to do: Go to the current clickback and print out the page with the IABWU badge. Cut it out, paste it onto cardboard and attach it to yourself. Read and memorize the manifesto. Pick up your card. Fill out the short form and pledge yourself to three twenty-minute brisk walks this week. Mark in the times you’re going to do it and show up. If you’re truly sincere you can make it a habit. If you’re so inclined, you can make a report to another member. If you’re already in the Union — Good going comrade! See you out there.
It’s amazing that such a minor commitment should have a positive effect on your art — but it’s true. “Artists of the world arise — you have nothing to lose but your plaque.” (Joe Blodgett)
Esoterica: Our Union fights for your right to be creatively aroused. Through a time-honoured negotiating technique internal artistic disputes are resolved, work tensions are relieved and your right brain will begin to bargain in good faith with your left. Membership puts you squarely into the brotherhood and sisterhood. Other benefits kick in. Our Union has no dues.
Walking with the great ones
by Cecilia Echeverria, Buenos Aires, Argentina
As I read your letter, visions of two exceptional persons I love, Tolstoi and Darwin, started to promenade for me to remember. They used to walk on a regular basis; they needed it, it was part of their way of living, not a pose. In England, Darwin planted trees he liked along the walk. And in Russia, Tolstoi, after mending shoes in the morning, walked in company everyday too. I love to walk, but the city is so noisy and definitely not so beautiful or peaceful! I always think that if I lived in the country I would walk more often. Meanwhile… I find your club amusing, appealing and healthy. I join!
(RG note) Thank you to the several hundred artists who immediately wrote to say that they were signing up, were already a member, or were seriously considering becoming a member. Thanks too to those who wrote to say they were too busy to write because they had to go out brisk walking. When I was out brisk walking this morning I thought I could feel a sort of presence — as if there were a lot of fellow travellers around me. There was a funny buzz in the forest that Emily and I walk in, spooky, like Tolstoi was walking just over there, that sort of thing.
by Tricia Migdoll, Byron Bay, Australia
If you want the discipline to exercise, all you need to do is to get yourself a dog. I walk for an hour on the beach each and every day — rain or shine — just for puppy… wouldn’t dream of doing such a grand thing for myself only. Along the way, I marvel at the colours I see and try to imagine mixing them on the palette. Along the way, I might write a poem in my head, or a song even. I think about my painting projects, and all sorts of other lovely things. God bless my dog (so long as she does none of that tubular shaking in the studio!)
by Lynda Sappington
I’ve been riding my horse 6 days a week for a year and a half, and I have so many creative ideas, I’m endlessly frustrated at not having enough studio time to follow all those thoughts. At least I don’t have to worry about “artist’s block”! Riding is great exercise (as long as you’re working at it, not being a “passenger”). The times I’m away at art shows and can’t ride are frustrating to me. I have a lot of trouble making myself “exercise” — but riding is a joy! I’ll see if your union plan will help me do more walking.
Takes camera when striding out
by Dave Edwards, Blyth, England
Thanks for making me smile, Robert. I refer to your message about taking a brisk walk. As an angina sufferer I have been advised to take at least half an hour every day to walk briskly. I try to stick to this, although it’s often split into little walks. The big problem here in England is that everyone seems to feel obliged to travel by car wherever they go. I make it a rule that unless I am needing to carry anything bulky I never use the car locally. Lately I’ve also started carrying a digi cam with me in case I spot anything I’d like to do a painting of.
Work based on walk
by Gerten Basom
A year ago, I created a body of work based on my daily walk. This walk consists of a 4.5 km journey and fortunately for me, in a beautiful rural setting. In deciding to create a body of work from this journey, I found that I had reawakened to my surroundings. I also found that by approximately 3/4 of the walk’s end, all of my worldly problems (well, most) had resolved themselves. A new perspective had opened. The next ‘series’ of work revolves once again, on this ‘journey.’ I adore the likes of Richard Long, and the work of Janet Kardiff, who focus on different mediums on ‘the walk.’ What a way to get reacquainted with life!
Other exercise also appropriate
by Sandy Sandy, Tabernacle, NJ, USA
I liked your idea of the IABWU, however brisk walking is not the only form of exercise that gets the heart and mind pumping. Considering weather conditions and many other personal variables, perhaps the IAREU would be more appropriate for some of us. (International Artists Regular Exercise Union) After days of heavy rain, it’s a beautiful day here in the pines and the idea of a brisk walk in the woods to start my day already has my creative juices flowing! Your letter is the push needed to get me outside on this beautiful morning and to make a personal commitment to regular exercise.
by Sandy Sandy, Tabernacle, NJ, USA
Well my walk was invigorating and inspiring. Upon returning to the house however, I noticed my ankles were peppered with chiggers! I had sprayed my shoes and ankles with “Off,” but I guess not enough. Well, after debugging and a shower, I’m back in business. So ’til after the first frost, I guess I’ll stick to the road or my treadmill!
Talks to herself
by Jo Scott-B
I am not a joiner, nor a badge wearer and I already applaud the benefits of my walks. It is amazing how nature provides the answers to painting problems. How colours react to each other, shadows, filtered light etc. It’s akin to a philosophical dialogue.
by Lin Rudolph
This badge and manifesto for walking for clarity and health is such fun. I think I will transfer mine to an iron on patch and put it on my walking pack, as my coast is windy and wet and it would be blown off the body in seconds. Though I have walked (with intent) for years it is nice to know there are other artists all over doing the same. “A man should learn to detect and watch the gleam of light that flashes across his mind from within.” (Emerson)
by Audrey Belotte
Let me add another fringe benefit of walking — tuck a plastic bag under your belt and as you briskly walk along, when you spot some trash on the path, bend over, pick it up and put it into the bag and trudge on. Dump the refuse in your garbage bin or someone Else’s first opportunity. The added benefit is that you clean the environment and get some bending exercise into the regime.
Bruce Chatwin did it
by Margaretha Burnett
There is a great quote by Bruce Chatwin in Songlines (brilliant book about the Australian aboriginal method of charting their world) about walking… something to the effect that there is no problem great or small whose solution cannot be found at the end of a walk, and each step is a step closer to resolution.
Report from rank and file
by Janet Trahan
I am already a member of the union. I walk at least 3 times a week to the shore of the Great South Bay and back to my studio in an hour and a half. This does many positive things for me among which is it allows me to gaze more on one of my favorite painting subjects — water and how light affects it. It also enables me to study leaf and tree formation and light and shadow along the way, to hear the wonderful natural outside sounds of nature, all of which feed my starving artist soul (starving for money, yes, but in this case and more importantly, my creativity, my inner being, my minds eye, is always looking to absorb more and produce more, is never satisfied, never quenched). Walking enables me to work out things that may otherwise block my creative processes and it just plain makes me feel invigorated, energized and healthier.
Endorphins the original Prozac
by Diane Whitehead, Utah, USA
I appreciate the reminder to all about exercise. I walk/run 30-40 minutes a day 5 days a week, and kick-box a bag for about 1.5 hours a week. I am 46. Things don’t work like they used to. It’s important to me to have this schedule. No one else will care if I get fat and frumpy and grumpy… and yes… it certainly does help not only with painting but with Hope — endorphins are the original Prozac. I’m addicted to them.
Find yourself a path
by Sandi Fein, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
I have been walking around what I call the loop in my neighborhood for over 20 years now. It’s never boring. Knowing the distance helps, because sometimes you may have a greater time allotment. However, I did find keeping my path to almost the same area is better because in 45 minutes of walking briskly I can better observe the seasonal changes. I find that early morning walking is the best because mother nature is waking up and the birds are busy chirping and gathering food. If I miss my a.m. walk, well then after dinner or just before is gratifying because you get to see the most beautiful sunsets. As you walk you can do a study of cloud formations, lighting effects of the sun and sometimes if you are lucky a rainbow might appear. See you out there.
Hiking is medical remedy
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia
In youth I awfully suffered from chronic colitis. To me nominated medicines such as varying intestine motorics, killing all intestine microflora, and also ferments. Nothing helped. Then I have analyzed, why such situation. And I have made a correct conclusion — mine organism cannot regulate interaction of systems because I much worked and studied instead of ensuring normal needs of organism. The decision of a question consists in forcing mine intestine to produce enough ferments and to supply normal digestion of food. But you know as way work glandula giving ferments into intestine? They work as factory — quantity of raw material for a time unit. I needed to increase productivity of this factory. And I have made it. To have more blood proceeded through glandula I began after work to go on foot some kilometers in fast rate. I came and had supper by appetite, the symptoms of disease have disappeared in one half-year, without any medicines.
Schnauzing for art and health
by Marney Ward
I am delighted to become a member of the IABWU, but in my case I might have to leave out the “B.” I walk my miniature schnauzer, who spends almost the entire walk with his nose to the ground, following scents. Except for the moments he is contributing his own scent, which means a sudden cessation of all perambulatory activity, and seems to happen every minute or two. He doesn’t seem to notice or care that he runs out of pee early on in the walk. It’s a slow process, but there’s fresh air, meeting neighbours (especially neighbours with dogs), and some physical activity. As I try to do it every day, frequency will have to compensate for speed. Curiously, I’ve noticed that those times I really didn’t want to go out, and certainly would not have, were it not for the dog, are the times I feel most enlivened.
Walks in verse
by Judy Hudson, Duncan, BC, Canada
I have always walked a lot and find having a dog gets me out there. Also great when you have small children to regain some perspective. But my observation is that after walking for about twenty minutes I start thinking in verse. I have never written poetry other than this, and in fact I don’t ever write it down when I get home. But the twenty minutes seems important to rest some basic (biological?) rhythm.
Full commitment required
by Bev Willis, Fresno, California, USA
It will do a lot to improve a lot of things for me. 1. Helps me lose weight. 2. Stimulates my mind. 3. Gives me a thankful spirit. 4. Helps me to see more wonderful things to paint. My husband and I started to walk everyday about three weeks ago and then that lasted about a week. So many activities that weren’t necessarily healthful came up to take our time when we had been walking. After reading this encouraging challenge from you I plan to get back at it again.
by Michael Hackett
Henry David Thoreau was an avid proponent of walking for lifting the spirit and clearing the mind, and I believe devoted a few pages to the subject in Walden. His bottom line: “Trust no thought arrived at sitting down” (as I sit here at my computer all day!)
Something to look at
by Rose Beattie
I had just come in from a walk with my border collie when I read your letter about how walking regularly inspires creativity, etc. I agree that getting out in the fresh air (it was raining this morning) makes you feel so much more alive. I am lucky to be able to walk on a dirt road above our house where there are forests and mountains all around. As you know there is so much to look at: cloud patterns, mist hanging in the valley, the amazing number of different greens, etc. Now that the summer heat has gone getting out for a daily walk is a must — a great way to start the day before heading downstairs to the studio. I have printed out the IABWU cards and manifesto — gotta love it!
Troubled after walk
I am a good painter (occasionally I think I am REALLY good!!), I have sold quite a bit of my work, won some awards etc (necessary as I need to make a living from this). For the past four years, since turning professional, I have been extremely focused, motivated and prolific, everything seemed to be moving forward, which doesn’t mean there were not peaks and troughs and hard times. Anyway, to cut the story short everything now seems to be falling apart… major life changes result in my being a single mother, broke, living in someone else’s home. The economy has affected sales and I seem to have lost my drive and energy for my painting and for the very first time I feel hopeless. I seem to be going through the motions and getting nowhere. Your letter made me smile because I walk, run, swim and gym and usually know all the ‘right things to do.’ But it is not working for me now, all the things I know to do are not working. Right now, reality says I have to get a ‘proper’ job. I am angry, frustrated and bitter and stunned into procrastination and indecision, and that is after my walk!
by Gail Griffiths, Monmouth, NS, USA
I’m not a joiner but I totally agree and have experienced the creative flow and happy flutters of the heart that being out and walking gives. I like this idea and, pun intended, I will put my best foot forward and give it a go. I like the purpose of this walking.
(RG note) The information that artists need to obtain membership in this union is here. There are no dues, no statistics, no problems. If you strike — that’s your business.
by Larry Moore, IWUBWU, Winter Park, Florida
Does this mean I have to give up my membership in SEBDA (Society of Excessive Beer Drinking Artists) or AWAIL (Artists Who Are Inherently Lazy)? By the way you can help stamp out this whole joining mentality by becoming a member of SPUGA. (Society to Prevent Unions, Groups and Associations) The good news is we never meet.
Walked from burning home
by Murray Roed, Kelowna, BC, Canada
The art give-away is a wonderful project. I personally received a lot of email in sympathy to our personal loss, directly as a result of the twice-weekly letter. I thank those who wrote and offered to contribute their art. There are as many as 237 families that are far worse off than we are. Tragic as it may sound, the future does intrigue me in how this disaster will play out, not only in terms of my own humble ambitions, but for the numerous families many of whom were, are, our neighbors and good friends. For sure there will be a lot of walls to fill with works of art. This city and its army of volunteers carried out a remarkable emergency response, and this is exemplified by Stewart Turcotte of Hambleton Galleries in Kelowna, one of the prime movers of our art-give-away project.
(RG note) Murray Roed’s home burned down in the recent fires. He managed to save many of his paintings and is giving one to this project. Stew Turcotte is the brave art dealer of Kelowna who rescued many works of art. If you would like updated information there’s a printer-friendly press release on this site at http://painterskeys.com/press_release/
painting by Barbara Feuerbach, Germany
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, 2003.
That includes Jan Brieschke of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA who wrote, “I have been walking two miles every morning, starting at 5:30 a.m. I have to do it that early because I teach art at a middle school. I now have a badge.”
And also Tania who asked, “WHY do you discriminate against pussycats?”