Who you know

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Dear Artist,

Recent studies of more than 5,000 people by social scientists Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler show that happiness is contagious. The happy people you know are party to your own happiness. Moreover, the happy people you do not know and will never meet also have an influence on your happiness. Just like the guy who catches the cold from the guy who catches the cold, happiness (or misery) is epidemic.

It’s been observed for some time that if a person has a lot of obese friends, they themselves are at a higher risk of obesity. Smokers hang out with smokers, glue sniffers with glue sniffers, etc. It doesn’t take a big leap of faith to see that an artist who hangs out with mediocre artists is more likely to be mediocre.

Conversely, an artist who is attached to artists with high standards and professional ways is more likely to become one of them. In my ideal world, all the 250,000 “friends” who read my letters would somehow seek the higher ground, identify with and learn from the better artists out there, and become the truly great artists I know they can become. But I also know this is wishful thinking. Many happy campers will always be contented to go with the comfortable crowd.

In my ideal world, artists would be rugged individualists with impeccable standards and would not allow mediocrity to transgress their doorsteps. They might keep the company of their favoured greats through the miracle of books. That’s the short answer. The longer one is to establish relationships with admired others who walk the walk. For those who desire to put themselves on the path to growth, the wisdom to choose true authority is the bottom line of progress.

A reasonable route is to know a lot of informed and gifted mentors and to balance them against one another, as in the recently mentioned smARTist telesummit. Hanging out with informed people makes it more likely that you yourself will become informed. But sooner or later, no matter who you know, you have to go to your room and reinvent yourself in your own glory. It can be a bit lonely struggling in your room, but by that time you’re less likely to catch a cold.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “We have a collective identity that transcends individual identity.” (Dr. Nicholas Christakis)

Esoterica: Collective identities can build empires as well as destroy them. A collective is just as apt to close minds as to open them. Struggling on your own, thinking things out for yourself and being a rugged individualist works just fine for many artists. But it doesn’t work for doctors, engineers or architects, so why would it work for other professionals who require knowledge, skill and practice? In the arts, before we jump we need to stand — however briefly — on the shoulders of others.

 

Community connection
by Rick Smith

 

Many might be happy to take the middle road and go with the comfortable ground, but the beauty of written communication, is you’ll never know unless they tell you. You’ll just have to assume that most are “rugged individualists who would not allow mediocrity to transgress their doorsteps.” Why not? I don’t know you or any other the people who write you, so why shouldn’t I just assume that they are what they write. This way I can believe I’m in touch with this huge community of serious, dedicated artists. What more could I ask for?



There are 2 comments for Community connection by Rick Smith

From: Dan McGrath — Dec 26, 2008

It’s not even necessary to find out an hang out with incredibly better (as if I was able to consistently judge) artists. What I love is learning from different artists; in our plein-air group I paint with one who adventurously throws on lots more paint than I do, one whose palette is narrower and the results more atmospheric, etc. What a joy it is to learn from them! Our verbal communication is minimal on site, it’s the results that speak. It doesn’t get any better than this.

From: Bob Martin — Jan 01, 2009

Love your letters. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve tried to reach out to other high calibre artists only to get nowhere. Some are very busy keeping art galleries satisfied with their work and don’t want to be slowed down by any mentor. money talks-I understand. I’ve find out most (not all) artists like to be independent — do their own thing on their own time. Even art groups meet and try to share ideas, but when it comes to finding places to exhibit  — to each his own. No one usually share they have a new location and suggest I try it.

Thanks, “Confused”

 

Contagion of reinvention
by Brian Kliewer, Rockland, ME, USA

 

“Aldermere’s Pride”
oil painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Brian Kliewer

Reinvention is something I’ve longed for, for a long time. Having been known as a lands cape artist for years, it’s hard to break the habit or be accepted when I do. So, I might try looking through different eyes, or a frost covered window. It’s still a landscape. It’s really about perspective, if you ask me. Interestingly, whenever I have “reinvented” myself, as above, the strongest response has always come from other artists. Maybe it’s because they feel the same way — and want to reinvent themselves as well?

 

The right friends
by Cristina Monier, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

“Onions and eggs”
oil painting, 16 x 12 inches
by Cristina Monier

For 8 years I took painting lessons with a very important Argentine artist, Guillermo Roux, I learnt a lot but I did not make the progress I was looking for, then I met my actual teacher, Gabriela Aberastury, and I really took off. She is incredible, no matter the level of the student she always manages to elicit the best of him or her. I am surrounded by very creative people, we show and sell our work, we receive important prizes, we share experiences and knowledge, we do not compete, we really help each other to grow and the result is amazing.

 

 

 

Gregarious artists
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA

 

“Geometries”
oil painting by Peter Brown

The myth of the lonely, troubled artist is just that: A myth. In most every urban setting there are artist’s “quarters.” These are areas of low rents, or abandoned industrial spaces, turned into loft spaces where artists live and work together. Indeed, with the exception of the priesthood and the military, there is no profession that compares to art in terms of gregariousness. There are artist’s clubs and societies in every hamlet. There is no myth about the lonely and troubled tradesmen. At the same time one never finds groups of plumbers and carpenters living adjacent in large numbers. Perhaps artists should be more concerned about the other professions, and more thankful for their own good luck.

 

Pedestrian art
by Michael P. Ives

 

“Man playing guitar”
acrylic painting by Michael P. Ives

This morning I find myself re-painting a 40 x 40 inch oil that has not sold in so many years that I felt it necessary to do something about it. Although it is one of my favorite ‘painterly’ pieces, I recognize that because of its abstract and non-compromising composition, it’s difficult for the normal viewer to read very easily. Over the years I have found that ‘Pedestrian Art,’ that is; art that is easy to visually digest and, well, kinda dumbed down compared to what I think is important work, sells the best and fastest. Especially when donating a piece to an organization for auction, even though I want to highlight my most important work that I’m proudest of, I realize I’d better donate a piece that’s simple, pretty to look at and non-threatening for best results. I wonder if this sounds familiar to you or your readers?



There are 4 comments for Pedestrian art by Michael P. Ives

From: anonymous — Dec 26, 2008

I think your emphasis on words such as important, pedestrian and dumb, are getting in the way of everything you create. Enjoy the process first and celebrate the fact that anyone would want your results hanging on their wall. What you think is important and uncompromising may just in fact be dumb and pedestrian to a larger audience than you are willing to admit.

From: Moquin — Dec 26, 2008

I know what you are saying, and it is a familiar story. The general public doesn’t want to be challenged by art, they want to be entertained. But, what the other commenter states is also true, what we think is great, someone with a different understanding might still find trite. That is why it is important to keep striving for our most authentic expressions no matter who approves or disapproves. Stop donating pieces if that is what it takes. Send them a cash tax donation instead. Stay true.

From: Tova Gabrielle — Dec 27, 2008

I think your painting is great and it inspires and informs me as to where to go next in my process. I am in Mexico and this painting you put up is representative of a cutting edge school that people seem to admire here. Where are you and have you considered that you just haven’t found the right audience to show to?

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Dec 29, 2008

I think that most people prefer to do important things themselves rather than pay to own important deeds of others. As an artist I am thankful for the collectors who do otherwise.

 

The Schmid connection
by Alfred Serge Kappler

 

Some time ago, one of your letters recommended several books, including Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima (which I just finished reading). This is to thank you for that recommendation. Over the years, I have read a lot of books about painting. Schmid’s is the first that left me with the sense of a book having grown out of the author’s long struggles with actual recalcitrant paint. The chapters on edges and on color and light are the best and the most useful pieces on these topics that I have ever come across. And then, there are the occasional side comments, such as that humans do not see in the same way as cameras see; which serve as precious reminders of obvious and important truths one routinely forgets. The book also has an important accidental virtue in that it causes acute reader awareness of the difference between two questions: How do I — should I — go about painting? And “What should I paint and why?” Because Schmid answers the first question superbly well, his silence on the second provokes the reader to ask “Why would anyone be out there in the cold, rain, or snow, painting landscapes?” Perhaps Schmid’s repeated dwelling on the discomforts of outdoor painting also prompts that question. His implied answer is that he’s painting nature because “nature is perfect,” is about as convincing as suggesting that musical composition is the recording of birdsong and other natural sounds. Perhaps he himself has not achieved an explicit peace with the second question, but that matters less than that he inadvertently causes his readers to confront it. It’s a question every painter must ask at some point and seek to answer in ways more illuminating than “I just love to paint trees and shrubbery (or portraits, etc.), and it gives me great joy when I manage to do it well.” In any case, this is a wonderful and provocative book and I thank you again for recommending it.


There is 1 comment for The Schmid connection by Alfred Serge Kappler

From: Anonymous — Dec 26, 2008

Alfred,

Buy Richard’s VHS tapes and DVD’s and watch him paint out doors!!! Makes you want to grab your supplies, to heck with the weather, and go paint! He is one of my mentors!!! A modern master.

 

Happiness is contagious
by Fc Millard

 

Meeting people can really inspire us but only close the bedroom door “cocooning” can really help. “Loneliness is god’s way of leading us back to ourselves” (Hermann Hesse)

“Genuine communion,” said Demian, “is a beautiful thing. But what we see flourishing everywhere is nothing of the kind. The real spirit will come from the knowledge that separate individuals have of one another and for a time it will transform the world. The community spirit at present is only a manifestation of the herd instinct. Men fly into each other’s arms because they are afraid of each other — the owners are for themselves, the workers are for themselves, the scholars for themselves! And why are they afraid? You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself.

“People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves. A whole society composed of men afraid of the unknown within them! They all sense that the rules they live by are no longer valid, that they live according to archaic laws–neither their religion nor their morality is in any way suited to the needs of the present. For a hundred years or more Europe has done nothing but study and build factories! They know exactly how many ounces of powder it takes to kill a man but they don’t even know how to be happy for a single contented hour.”

Demian predicts there will be some kind of large scale conflict. He says not much will really change, but it will at least “reveal the bankruptcy of present-day ideals, there will be a sweeping away of Stone Age gods.” p 115



There is 1 comment for Happiness is contagious by Fc Millard

From: Beth in San Diego — Dec 28, 2008

Thanks for sharing — Hesse was my first mentor; Damien was ‘the’ book that turned my mind inside out at the tender age of 17 in 1969; he continues to inspire as poet, painter, writer, observer, philosopher, and pacifist….. all the qualities I now possess; for me, art is ‘being’ expressed; having my art recognized is secondary and payment for my art is tertiary; I do it because I love doing it and makes me feel alive and connected… the conundrum is we don’t need others to feel connected; art is an extension of my mind and fingers and heart and soul, and to think I need others to validate my expression is odd for that would mean if I did not receive such recognition & validation I would be denying my very existence — that’s bunk and an illusion that too many artists buy into; I recommend Piktor’s Metamorphosis as a wonderful adventure into the world of Hesse;

 

Problems with “higher ground”
by Mary Moquin, Sandwich, MA, USA

 

“Through The Rain”
oil painting, 36 x 36 inches
by Mary Moquin

What is higher ground? The problem I have found is that artists often think they have found it, but it is just a plateau and they have ceased to look up and realize they haven’t reached the top yet. Then they stop and start preaching about it. No matter who we hang with or how great we think they are as artists, we are all limited because Art is greater than our capacity to understand it. There are plenty of artists out there that are “successful,” but, not necessarily “better.” I get nervous when you use words like “better,” “higher,” “true authority.” There is no one answer. Many “great” artists and historians have argued bitterly over what is “good” art. I believe the answer it to remain very skeptical of artists that claim to have all the answers, learn from them yes, but, as you say, sooner or later you have to sort through it all and make your own path.



There are 3 comments for Problems with ‘higher ground’ by Mary Moquin

From: Mishcka — Dec 26, 2008

Hear! Hear! Very true Mary. You take the words right out of my mouth.

And, I like your painting!

From: Anonymous — Dec 26, 2008

Very well put, Mary. Why is it when people learn to paint a little bit, their egos start to grow ????

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Dec 29, 2008

My understanding of “better” and “higher ground” is that those terms are relative to ones personal growth. Wherever we are, beginners or masters, we strive to get better and reach up, or we decide to stay where we are.

 

Tarred with the same brush
by Collette Renee Fergus, New Zealand

 

“The vineyard”
original painting by
Collette Renee Fergus

This is what my parents always told me with friends “you get tarred with the same brush” it took me many years to work out what they meant. The reality is that you tend to emulate your peers whether you mean to or not and they will always have an influence on what you do or how you behave. I do, however, feel that as most artists tend to work in isolation they don’t often come across this cross pollination and are not affected in the same way necessarily. It is when you do start to mix with others that it tends to have that influence that can make or break you.

Us creative types do tend to want to be individuals, at least further along in our careers, as who wants to be similar or ‘like’ someone else when you have worked hard to create an individuality that you hope is unique enough to make you stand out from the crowd.

Work ethics maybe a good thing to learn or not learn from others as that can make the difference of good production and behavior as opposed to poor standards.

I see some artists who try to emulate well known artists whose paths they have crossed, they seem to think they can command the same prices and achieve instant fame and short track their way to the stardom that these others have strived over many years to achieve and then I see others who perhaps should be up there names in lights, only they don’t have the drive or idea to make it happen. All in all I really believe that mixing with other artists is important but learn to weed out what’s good for you and your career and what’s not.


There is 1 comment for Tarred with the same brush by Collette Renee Fergus

From: Kelley MacDonald — Jan 04, 2009

I completely agree and I know I have benefited from close friendships with other artists who are serious and committed to their work, we all share workshop information, gallery tips, opportunities to show our work, and fascinating artists that we’ve heard about, seen or found on the internet. My friends paint plein air together, go on museum trips, encourage professional development and courage to try, to push and to explore our medium. Top that off with people who really care about each other, and it’s a no-fail group!

 

Solitary experience
by Su Rogers

 

Making art is a solitary experience; one has to accept and learn to love the process of being alone with it. In most artists’ daily lives, it is very hard to find a living breathing artist to have a dialogue with that one respects and admires. The closest thing I can come to is going to an artist talk at a gallery to hear someone speak about their process or work and that is a rare event. My process has always been to dig deep into my personal sensibilities, my personal experience, my gut feelings, my sense of longing and my sense of aloneness to find a path for my expression; anyone else’s experience with these things really doesn’t help me at all. It needs to be true to me.

I give myself permission to function as an individualist in my art expression and I rarely talk to other artists any more. I have access to galleries and books and the inner recesses of my own soul for sustenance — my two cents worth.



There is 1 comment for Solitary experience by Su Rogers

From: Beth in San Diego — Dec 28, 2008

Beautiful; I live this way as well: self vs Self

 

Going for the ideal
by Keith Cameron, Sierra Madre, CA, USA

 

“Baron Davis”
print by
Keith Cameron

This email more than any other has touched me. The effort to seek out this kind of life would be my ideal. The disappointments have been to meet those with great purpose cashing it in for the sake of their ego, but on the other hand having those moments of realization that make life great with another soul feeling similar are the best of times. I guess I have a greedy side because I am not very tolerant of the less enjoyable moment. I do appreciate you referencing this topic from within your vast personal library at this time, as it is a worthy goal to seek this out in the New Year.

All the best this holiday season, and though I have been seasoned in a California state of mind it is at this time I most miss my home country Canada, and the enlightened souls who live there. I know I am going to enjoy a nice cup of tea and some Neil Young to toast your email, and the aspiration it encourages.

 

Thankful for letters
by Eileen Bowie

 

I thank you for your consistency and insights. Your letters are beautiful, gentle and thoughtful and more often than not, timely. Maybe thoughts are contagious along with happiness. In any event, my friends and family wish you the best for this season and all the nexts.

(RG note) Thanks Eileen, and thanks to all who wrote with season’s greetings and appreciation for the connection.

 

World of Art Featured artist Kathleen Piscioneri, Brooklyn, NY, USA
'Lifestory Overview by Kathleen Piscioneri, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Lifestory Overview
oil painting, 42 x 72 inches
Kathleen Piscioneri, Brooklyn, NY, USA

 
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 Selwyn ‘Sell’ Owen of Toronto, ON, Canada who wrote, “This thing about planning, allowing for being human, expecting the unexpected, doesn’t this say that our finest hour is the one spent on the battlefield? I mean what’s a warrior without a battle?”

And also Paol Serret who wrote, “Thank you Robert, for all this instructive and lovely letters, I am proud to be part of the 250,000 friends from around the world, good on you, I wish you and family a great and relaxing holidays …. Here in Australia we will do with a 30 degrees lunch with friends and relatives and a dip into the ocean, I will think about you when I am in the water.”

And also Jan Blencowe who wrote, “You just concisely stated one of my biggest goals for the New Year, to break away from the comfortable, the mediocre, the herd mentality, and truly become the accomplished artists I know I can be. Thanks for stating it so clearly, I hope it encourages others do raise their bar also. I’ve already signed up for the smARTIST Telesummit, one step closer to achieving my dreams.”

 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Who you know

 

 

 

From: Jewels — Dec 22, 2008

So what do you do if you live in an area where talented artists are scarce? Is it acceptable to converse online with other artists? To browse their galleries?

Or is it better if you can interact with them in person?

This is the predicament I find myself in now. I’m not able to move right now, I live in a quaint, rural setting… and while there are artists in town, they are more on the “crafty” side of creative and few have any solid talent or training. (I wince as I say this as it sounds so superior, but it is true.)

What can be done?

From: Joel Suganth — Dec 22, 2008

@ Jewels I think the mind can grow in many ways, its great to associate with people in person, but sometimes its great to meet people online also and share ideas. In fact, sharing ideas online is sometimes better because the ideas become more refined when put in to words or images, and looking back at the photographs I have posted on flickr I realize that I have grown and its mostly because I find a lot of other photographs and photographers there challenging.

We are have got a community of artists in India mostly and other countries who interact, and its very useful. I am sure you can find such networks online.

joelsuganth@gmail.com

From: Bette Laughy — Dec 22, 2008

I think that any art is a life-long learning experience, so I am curious whether there are artists you still consider to be mentors. Who did you learn from? Who are you still learning from?

From: Catherine Stock — Dec 23, 2008

Hmmmm. I am becoming a bit confused by what I perceive as mixed messages in the last few letters. I liked Gladwell’s ideas a lot: the most important asset in becoming a good artist (or anything else) is focused and dedicated time for an extended period. Then the next letter seemed to say marketing skills are the trick, and that there is no such thing as an undiscovered brilliant artist. And now we learn that we have to make sure that we hang out in an “in” crowd… For the time being, I am going to follow Gladwell and just blot out all this other stuff.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Dec 23, 2008

Struggling alone can be debilitating.

From: D A Bickford — Dec 23, 2008

Thankfully, the arts are as diverse as the rest of the universe and so the levels and niches that require being filled are equally diverse!

Being an artist is a way of life to me. There are as many different ways to create that life as there are different people. Although it would be nice to think that every single person in the world could put food on the table doing only what they love it is not practical. Struggle to practice your love often brings a success not otherwise found – “friction causes shine”

Instead, people who have the desire FIND a way to practice and progress in what they love no matter what it “gets” them externally. That is called passion and passion fulfills your soul.

People gravitate towards what they like and aspire to be level with that. Aspirations are different for different people. My proof? I teach an adaptive art class with pretty limited MR teens. One girl upon gazing at her still life tempera painting that she just completed said “Wow! I guess I AM an artist! I really painted that!” The pride in her body language was enormous.

Proof enough for me that an aspiration that may be lower than mine is the top of the world for another.

From: Joy Gush — Dec 23, 2008

Close to my age of 80 now, after painting for over 30 years, I appreciated hearing comments of my displayed work, and was thankful for each one. I am reclusive these days, when I look back on my memories and paint what people have loved to see in my work that gave them peace. Your letters each week Robert are like letters from my parents, that have passed over now, and I treasure them. I am grateful for what life has taught me and know that someone, somewhere, in this world is enjoying one of my 600 paintings 24/7. Thank you Robert. Happy Christmas!

From: Nick — Dec 23, 2008

I agree with Catherine that there seems to be an interesting link between your last few letters. I’m not sure what but I guess it comes out of your own journey Robert. Just a thought, if all us 250,000 readers sold as successfully as you, would there be enough buyers? Seriously though, I am fascinated by the sheer diversity of approaches and opinion that are reflected here and elsewhere on the web. I also feel enriched by the continual connections I am able to make and as Joel pointed out, because most communication is written, it is often more focused and clear. I too am always challenged by what I see but I wonder if I am alone in detecting a Transatlantic divide in the ways we deal with that challenge. To me, a European, North American culture often seems to reflect a competitive spirit which I find both admirable and disturbing. Admirable because it appears to be born from history and leads to the idea that “anyone can” as evidenced by the recent election. Disturbing because any competition implies losers as well as winners. My competition has always been with myself. I like to associate with achievers not because I aspire to their success, but because I can learn from them. Amongst the wonderful artists who share their work and process on the net, the ones who truly inspire me are those for whom Kipling might have written that they: “can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same”.

http://100onions.blogspot.com

From: Bev SF — Dec 23, 2008

I agree with you Melissa. I aspire to be a great artist … but the road is a lonely one when you live in a rural area … thank God for Robert’s newsletter which gives me the inspiration and contact with others, albeit online, that people in my position so desperately need.

From: Tinker Bachant — Dec 23, 2008

I agree with Nick in that “my competition has always been with myself”. In my area, I am surrounded by “artists” , would be , might be, wanna be, etc. The ones that inspire me are in books or videos, and I continue to learn from them. Although I’m primarily a pastelist, and gain much from Greg Biolchini and Maggie Price, 2 of my favorites, I also greatly admire Don Demers, and others in other mediums.

My current situation requires me to be a stay -at-home, so “letters from Robert” and replies from the readers, are a wonderfully insightful way to look at art from a new perspective

From: Ghost — Dec 24, 2008

Who is to say what is Art and who is an Artist? Etc etc etc etc etc — “this argument.”

From: Consuelo — Dec 24, 2008

It seems that being called an ‘artist’ isn’t good enough for most and only being known as a ‘successful artist’ will do. For those seeking the latter moniker, do you not see how lucky you are and the treasures you have in your hands by just being an ‘artist’. I’m not saying don’t strive to become a successful and renowned artist, I’m saying do not marginalize what you take away each day from this life and what you can give others by being just an ‘artist’.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 24, 2008

As others become confused, I on the other hand become more amazed and motivated by the diversity of subjects, topics and altering points of view offered here as fodder for discussion. I am often chastised, by my wife, for taking an opposing argument when someone decides to offer up an opinion. Even if I agree them, I sometime take the opposite view to stretch my thinking and see if I can come up with a viable argument. Though this seems malicious, it’s more fun for me and I try never to let it get out of hand. Some of my mentors did the same to me. They challenged me to have the facts whenever I spoke and not be frivolous with my words. To his credit, Robert offers opposing views I believe to stimulate his readers. I for one am stimulated enough to keep coming back for more even if the previous letters contradict each other.

As for associating with artists that have a higher developed sensibility, I’ve come up against a strange problem. When I was young I was always the one who learned from others. Now when I paint with groups or in public I find I’m the one who is being watched. I have reached a level of proficiency with my art that there are those younger who seek to learn from me. I find this role ill fitting because I see myself still as a student. I have a feeling that this might be one yardstick to judge that I may have become an artist in the eyes of others. Now this is great for ones ego, but more importantly this gives me a better vantage point from which I can judge how far I’ve come as an artist.

“The student becomes the teacher”. I’ve heard that phrase for years and never fully understood if it would ever apply to me. Seeing this has given me a greater sense of self and my ability and I believe I don’t seek out others who are only different than I and not better or more successful.

From: Richard Mazzarino — Dec 24, 2008

Jewel – There is no substitute for personal interaction with others of higher stature and ability. Many other alternatives like museums, Internet chats (like RG’s), galleries, and books, while not being the real thing, are helpful informative and instructive. Being “separated”, while lonely, can also lead to being unique. It takes a strong will to be able to work alone and in a vacuum. Other local artists you have otherwise come into contact will not influence greatly what you do. To create art, artists need “alone” time to think, experiment and falter. Artists are unique in that they have a collective as well as an individual identity. I’m a firm believer that art needs to be seen by others. If it isn’t it becomes an exercise in futility. We paint to communicate, to show others how we see and think. It’s our vocabulary, our way to get our ideas out to others. If your rural surroundings keep you isolated, there are ways today to get into the world without leaving home.

Use those who are “crafting” to socialize. Knowing what not to paint can be as useful as knowing what to paint and in the process will satisfy your collective needs.

Good luck.

From: Caroline Stengl — Dec 24, 2008

I think rugged individualism is an unhealthy aspect of being an artist. Yes, I need to be alone a lot to work. But if I fall into the habit of being alone too much then I am cut off from the world and lose my joy. Luckily I teach two days a week at a First Nations adult education centre. This gets me out of my house, regardless of how I feel, and gets me interacting with smiling, laughing, joking, kind hearted people who are working hard to achieve just the basics in life. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have felt touched and inspired by my students’ humble attempts at drawing or painting and how very pleased they are when they have some success! Personally I get a lot more out of hanging out with them than I do from “successful artists”. There’s no noses in the air at my school! And none of them are bending their creativity to fit in the mold of commercially viable artwork. They just want some art in their lives!

I do enjoy talking to other professional artists and have a few close friends from those circles. But I tend to choose people who value community above capitalism. I also do a lot of community art projects that involve people who rarely do art of any kind. My art has become permanent public installations in my neighbourhood and city. I really love this kind of work because of the connections I build with people through the projects. Again the antithesis of “rugged individualism”.

Even my artwork itself reflects my need to connect with “average” people. I’ve always shunned the highly academic and confusing world of contemporary art criticism. My art is deemed “too happy” for those circles, and frankly I’d rather be happy and understood by many than only appreciated by the ivory towers of art academia.

Thank you Robert for making me think about these things and providing a forum for artists to discuss their wildly different view points. Best wishes!

From: Loiuise Francke — Dec 26, 2008

I have spent Dec 08 playing Santa. I like to think I’ve made lives happier with a small token of my orphan art works out of my distant past. To give without any expectations and seeing the unexpected receiving has brought me more joy than I ever could imagine.

From: Joyce Goden — Dec 26, 2008

Only you can hold your brush.

I’ve seen artists with grand egos that can throw some paint and think its magnificent.

I know alot of flesh and blood artists but choose not to hang with them much anymore.

This site motivates me enough, finding more time to paint is my current focal point.

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season.

From: Bobbi Dunlop — Dec 26, 2008

Joyce, couldn’t agree with you more…and Rick, always enjoy your banter! And now for my two-cents worth and humble opinion….

Learning and challenging oneself is what being an artist is all about. Without this there can be no growth, whether

you are just starting out or a full-time artist. This, in itself, has given me a lifetime of satisfaction. I embrace the analogy

that ‘one learns about life while one learns to paint and one learns to paint while one learns about life”. As artists we

are forever students; we never stop learning. In fact, learning IS the goal. The business/commercial side of the equation is secondary but has become a necessary reality for many.

Over the many years I’ve been at this, I have become very selective about the people I choose to spend time with and this

extends to the artists whose friendships I treasure and seek. However, I have many long-distance friendships with artists, many made through my website and blog…artists whose opinions and support I’ve come to truly value.

While I believe it’s great to attend workshops and gain as much from the company of like-minded individuals, I’ve always

cautioned my students and the artists I’ve mentored to be true to yourself, be good to yourself, and ensure that those individuals have your best interests at heart also. While attending workshops and comparing notes with others is a wonderful way to learn, and perhaps necessary, I have noted that done to excess can lead one to self-doubt and considerable wheel-spinning. At the end of the day, your successes and growth will be greatest

in measure as a result of those hours you spend in your studio, at your easel, alone. Finally, being an artist requires enormous patience. It truly is a way of life and the journey, no question

a lot of work, is an amazing one. Whether you paint solely for your own enjoyment or aim to pursue this on another level, enjoy the process. Happy New Year!

‘Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow” – Author Unknown

From: Hiria Ratahi — Dec 26, 2008

Thank you Bobbi for your two-cents worth, I found it very encouraging. I enjoy being with like-minded artists, who use other mediums. I have a good friend who is a carver of wood and also uses different types of bone including whale bone. His photograpy has become a new source of inspiration in my abstract paintings and just bantering ideas creates ongoing stimulation when I am alone painting.

I have also taken the opportunity to look at your website.

From: Bev Bunker — Dec 26, 2008

Thanks for a very timely article. I have had the privilege of knowing several excellent artists who have been so accommodating to act as a second pair of eyes. Some of them have become good friends. I respect their opinions and ideas not only for the comments they generate for my behalf, but also for the vision and integrity they present of themselves. It does rub off. At the beginning of my journey entering galleries, one of them told me how important it was to find and be with like-minded people. It is so stimulating and inspiring when I have an opportunity to get together with any of them. Our conversations are enriching, yet each of us realize that the bottom line is that we each must show up in our own studio and do our own work.

From: Margarete — Dec 27, 2008

I truly enjoy your emails and find the topics inspirational.

Thank you and best wishes for 2009.

From: R Joe Hutchison — Dec 31, 2008

Consuelo, Your comment is so very cogent both to life and its better part, that being art. Your thought’s brevity of expression, I think, is important to its ability to impress and perhaps to influence us.

From: Brad Michael Moore — Jan 01, 2009

I have hung out with plenty folk more famous, better represented, and even much more wealthy than I. It has always been easy for me to see the purity of talent in others – so if I am going to socialize – they will be my company – or it is back to my creative endeavors. Even if they (the more famous than me) fail to exercise their gift as I would – were I to hold such an offering within my capacities to express. What we seem to have in common – is that we are tethered to the same frailties shared by all humans. Some are just in the zone long enough to, “Finish it out.” Others have the right stuff but do not exercise it – because it bores them. Still others are emotional cripples – only a very few set such distractions aside and sojourn on. That is the lesson learned for me, forget about yesterday – just be on the lookout for the tools to help me implement my present visions for tomorrow. After all, someday, someone else is going to have to clean up after my mess, I want to leave them something to marvel over… Brad Michael Moore

From: Jan Canyon — Jan 02, 2009

Jewels, I can relate to your lack of artistic friends and colleages as I, too, live in a tiny rural town. I have yet to find even one person here with a grain of creativity, much less any passion for artistic endeavor! Struggling along alone is difficult. I do find some stimulation from online groups however and keep hoping…..

 

 

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