Monthly Archives: July, 2016

Letters neural-activity_brainMRI

While learning the springs at my local Pilates studio recently, I noticed a sign above the cubbies: “You are only one workout away from a good mood.” I thought of a friend — a marathoner, hyper as a junkie, her “runner’s high” streaming with endorphins day after day. These endogenous opioid neuropeptides are pumped out by the central nervous system and pituitary gland to counteract the transmission of pain signals — a side effect is often euphoria. In lieu of a marathon, you can release them by laughing or getting a tattoo — but what about painting?

Letters Mary-Cassatt_Breakfast-in-Bed_1897

Termites, dormant over the winter, issue from a small hole in the corner of my studio ceiling. When I “Raid” them, they withdraw momentarily. Today, apart from the perennial easel-struggle, this is the main distraction. Rain streams on the windowpane and distant, silent lightning can be seen on the horizon. Here, all is quiet, save Mozart, and this studioscape is blessed with peace.

Letters robert-rauschenberg_retroactive-1-tribute21

Steve Koch of Clackamas, Oregon wrote, “Wondering if you might write on what it takes to go from being an amateur to being a professional. My dad was an independent businessman — if he didn’t get going, it wouldn’t get done. How to break the glass ceiling from one level to another? I know it’s not just “hard work” — ‘cause I have been doing that all my life. I was just introduced to Steven Pressfield’s book, “Turning Pro,” but I believe it was written for writers. How about some advice for painters?”

Letters robert-henri_storm-tide

When 25 new subscribers all have the same zip code, we can determine they are all from an art school or university. A professor of art or a painting instructor may have said to a class, “Here’s someone in the real world who struggles with art every day, writes this letter and gives tips. Subscribe — you might get something out of it.”

Letters Georges-Braque_1907-08_The_Viaduct_at_L'Estaque

Lee Hulcher from Clarkston Valley, Montana wrote, “I love to paint but being self-employed doesn’t leave much time, except in blocks of hours, sometimes days or months apart. Here lies the issue: When I step away from a painting that is going well, I dread the return, due to severe anxiety of messing it up and ruining the started painting. Of course, by the time I actually get to paint I am so stressed that I ruin the painting. I have found myself actually making excuses as to why I can’t paint. Do you have any suggestions, as I have a lot of unfinished paintings I would love to finish.”

Letters matisse_music-1939

“Naive” or “primitive art,” according to arts writer Linda Murray, means “untrained artists in a sophisticated society.” According to Murray, it’s “an unspoiled vision consistent with ‘amateur,’ or ‘Sunday’ painter, admired for its connotations of genuineness and purity of artistic impulse, and freedom from the trammels of professionalism, tradition, technique, and formal training.” The implication is that the genuine article is someone who doesn’t know how to paint properly, but does it anyway. As Ian Chilvers says, “In naive work, colours are characteristically bright and non-naturalistic, perspective is non-scientific, and the vision is childlike or literal-minded.”

Letters John-F-Carlson_forest

Last weekend, a ten-year-old friend took me to summer camp drop-off. We snaked a sea-hugging road through mountain passes while she described the intricacies of geocaching, bouldering, trail riding and ukulele. At bedtime without her Kindle, she told me she’ll be whispering in a cabin of seven others, with two teenaged counsellors on the other side of a soundproof curtain. After Starbucks, the highway narrowed to a dirt road and then a mulch path, where a Hawaiian-shirted adolescent wearing a wooden name badge motioned us with his clipboard into a parking space.

Letters e-j-hughes_Mill-Bay

One of the interesting things about Ed Hughes is the deal he cut with his dealer in 1953. The dealer was Max Stern of Montreal’s Dominion Gallery. Ed lived in a bungalow on the west coast of Canada. Ed and Max met only four times. Their deal was done by mail. Ed’s deal was this: “I’ll give you everything I make and you pay me a salary.” Ed was a pretty slow worker — about a dozen paintings a year during his good years. Gradually, his annual salary edged up. Then a new Jaguar was thrown in for good measure. Ed insisted on that. He liked the classics.

Letters h-d-genn_shell-painting

Yesterday, while disturbing one of the corners of Dad’s studio, I discovered a box of my grandfather’s paintings. Hugh Douglas Genn grew his Victoria, BC sign shop into Genn Advertising, making bus cards and ads for Vancouver Island businesses. His was an era of penmanship, “one shot” sign paint and a properly loaded quill brush. Everything he lettered was finessed with professionalism. On the side, Ad man Doug was a painter.