Yearly Archives: 2016

Letters enchanted-owl

In the uppermost corner of Canada is the Inuit hamlet of Cape Dorset, nestled on its own tiny island at the southern tip of Baffin Island, on Hudson Bay. In the Inuktitut language it’s called Kinngait, or “high mountain,” where ancestors date to before 1000 BC. Originally a place of isolation — of drifting ice and nomadic hunting — for the last half-century Cape Dorset has been a place for art. With more artists per capita than anywhere else in Canada, drawing, printmaking and carving are the defining economic and identifying activities.

Letters hans-sebald-beham_genius

Questions these days seem to come in multiple editions. I have to tell you that this week artists are thinking about going into reproductions — Giclee prints in particular.

Giclees are multiple edition prints that are made on big sophisticated photocopiers. Over the past year the quality of these products has improved. For those who want to know something about the Giclee phenomenon — permanence, technicalities, costs, etc., we’ve prepared an overview at “Giclee printmaking for artists.” The question artists have to ask themselves is what they are going to do with the prints

Letters etsy_ldawning-scott

In my last years of high school, I made hand-painted cards and t-shirts to sell at the local craft fair. When I got to art school, I found I could support myself by selling t-shirts on my residence floor. Painted one at a time on my bed with supplies I’d brought from home, it was the most unsophisticated moneymaking scheme I could think of to pay for paint. While other students worked at the copy center or the college pub, I sat in my room with my t-shirts and eked out what my dad called, “the gift of poverty.” It was enough to get by and, like original art, impossible to scale.

Letters john-stobart_Waiting-for-the-Tide20x28

When I was at the Los Angeles Art Center my friend Tom Bizzini used to say, “Fine art is a sham.” It was a popular sentiment around that workmanlike, survival-of-the-fittest, quality-counts school. In those days it seemed that there were lots of artists who were “putting in a nickel and trying to get a dollar tune.” Same as today.

Recently, I saw some of John Stobart’s work in a gallery and was reminded once again just how good he is. John is one of the world’s top marine painters — his work sells in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Letters louise-bourgeois_arch

An idea has been floating around creative circles recently that belief in the infinite potential of our dreams might reduce our ability to address limitations. When dreams fail to deliver, feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt surface. Art reaches for truth, and fear is a natural hurdle in the approach. Accomplished art-making is achieved not by magic but by developing the character to understand and challenge fear. Better to roll up our sleeves than to suffer death by a thousand delusions.

Letters Pierre-Auguste-Renoir_Luncheon-of-the-Boating-Party-

Not many hikers are on the Grand Randonnee in the Cevennes this time of year. You’d think in a country the size of France the public footpaths would always be busy. But no one is around, save a few mushroom-gatherers quietly moving in the undergrowth. My hiking companion, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, has just turned 166, but he keeps right up with me. He’s great company and has an opinion on everything.

Letters sam-francis_untitled-1962

While walking recently through a California olive grove, a budding art collector and I ruminated on love and investing. “I’m an intuitive collector, but my husband likes to research. He wants to learn about the artists and their drives,” she confided. “We have an agreement. Whatever we buy, we must both love it.”

“As an artist,” she asked, “does it bother you if a collector buys your painting but later sells it?” Without hesitation, I replied, “The art world needs speculators. What would emerging artists do without someone willing to take a chance? And what fun would collecting be without the gritty discovery of future treasures?”

Letters Galen-Rowell2

Photographers, unencumbered by a thousand years of process, have shone their light onto new levels of pictorial creativity. Good examples are Galen Rowell and his wife, Barbara. Through countless adventure-photography assignments to the Rockies, Tibet, Patagonia, Galapagos, Antarctica — even to a falcon’s nest at skyscraper top, Galen’s eye and brain have reassessed the business of viewfinder seeing. As well as taking spectacular photos, he has written about the process with clarity and charm. Noted for his invention of selective neutral-density filtering, he has also helped re-define other systems. For artists of all stripes, many of his ideas and observations are worthy of naming and claiming.

Letters andy-goldsworthy7

Recently, Steve Howard, Head of Sustainability at IKEA, declared that developed countries have reached “Peak Curtains.” He was speaking at a Sustainable Business debate hosted by “The Guardian.” “In the West, we have probably hit peak stuff,” said Steve. “We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff… peak home furnishings.”

After reporting an annual net profit of $3.5 billion — achieved by providing fast furniture to Western consumers and by finding new customers in developing countries — IKEA announced a goal to double its sales by 2020 by pivoting away from disposables and instead making things that can be repaired and recycled.

Letters pollock-studio

A friend of a friend phoned this morning and said, “Don’t waste my time Bob — what’s your all-time best tip?” I had to put down my brush for that one. I used to think it was “Keep busy while you’re waiting for something to happen.” After some thought I realized I had honed the advice further: “Pick up your tool,” I told him.

It’s been my observation that pretty well all growth, success and creative happiness are based on the discovery and exploitation of our tools. Some tools, tried and true, come back and are used again to new advantage.

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