Monthly Archives: September, 2017

Letters lilla-cabot-perry_japanese-picture-book

Victoria Prooday, a Toronto occupational therapist and blogger specializing in child brain development and neuroplasticity, recently cited some alarming statistics about skyrocketing childhood depression, ADHD and teen suicide rates. Calling it a silent tragedy, she attributed the problem to an epidemic of well-meaning but bad parenting. Her post has been read over 10 million times, proving to her that the dilemma is real and prevalent.

Letters robert-bateman_mossy-branches-spotted-owl

On Saturday I was looking for something to paint when I noticed a commotion near at hand in the bush. A bear, I thought. Then the hook of a walking-cane stuck out. “What are you doing in there?” I asked. A man’s voice and then a man emerged. “Lookin’ fer an’ pickin’ chokecherries,” he said. He was a rough character, like an old cowboy in a baseball cap — he was wearing an old-fashioned galvanized iron apple-bucket with a canvas bottom. The cane was for getting at the high branches. “Try ’em,” he said, handing me a handful

Letters edgar-degas_place-de-la-concorde_1875

I recently returned from travelling to find a pile of mail gems, many from readers of these letters. One was a gift of a small paperback postmarked Crescent Pond, New Hampshire. I crawled into bed and into a list of timeless painting tips ordered by importance, the essentials highlighted and supported with first-hand insights from old and modern masters.

Letters emily-carr_deep-forest

A subscriber wrote, “Success as an artist to me is when you go to sleep your last thoughts are about creating. When you wake up in the morning your first thoughts are about creating. It comes from the gut, from your insides.”

They say that if you wake up in the morning looking for a cigarette, you’re addicted. Quite a few creators — not all — fit the profile described. Further, it seems there’s often a relationship between our feelings of success and some sort of addictive behavior. But unlike other habits that may threaten health and happiness, this condition might just be good for you.

Letters i_am_big_bird

As a five-year-old who loved drawing and painting, Caroll Spinney discovered puppets after seeing a performance of The Three Little Kittens. When he was eight, he bought a monkey puppet at a rummage sale for 5 cents, collected some scrap wood and built a puppet theatre. He made 32 cents from his first show. “That’s when I knew I would be a puppeteer when I grew up.”

Letters robert-rauschenberg_cactus-kiss_1988

A subscriber wrote, “I used to evaluate paintings by looking at composition, technique, color, tone, texture, perspective, etc. Now I realize that even though these are important, they are really about craft and artisanship. I now think they come at a lower priority than the totality. I’ve rewritten my evaluation process: 30 points when the passing viewer comes to a stop. 30 points if viewer gets the point — message, feeling, mood. If too explicit, I deduct points. 35 points to artisanship as before. If, after a year, the viewer still enjoys looking at the painting, it’s worth another 5 points. Does this system make sense?

Letters romero-britto_flowing

This morning in Miami Beach, the hoteliers are battening hatches and tying down the potted palms in preparation for Hurricane Irma, and while she’s not their first storm, Irma has been reported to be one of the strongest in recorded history and has already mowed a path of destruction through the Caribbean. Just a few days ago, the beach splashed with holidaymakers glistening with Brazilian cuts — decorations to a sunbathed paradise of private islands, Lamborghinis and the multicultural, tanned cheeks of an American dream. This morning the dream is sobered by among other things, bobcats and sandbags.

Letters picasso_still-life-with-cheese

Art historian Jack Flam wrote a book about the relationship between Matisse and Picasso. It’s useful reading for any artist who has a close and competitive friend in the same business.

Matisse and Picasso were strikingly different, both as artists and individuals. Matisse, older by eleven years, was prissy compared to the rascally Picasso. Picasso’s approach to art tended to be literary. His works were generally based on the imagination and centered on a particular idea. Matisse, on the other hand…

Letters gauguin_vincent-van-gogh-the-painter-of-sunflowers

“It is useless to advise solitude for everyone,” wrote Paul Gauguin, “One must be strong enough to endure it and to work alone.” In these days of social sharing and manufactured applause, bona fide aloneness has become for many a kind of terrifying emotional enterprise. I’ve even noticed that solitude for some would-be creative types — once the de facto maturation ground for an artist — can now feel intolerable. Add to this the new reality that real, unadulterated solitude can be difficult to carve out — it’s practically endangered. Where do we go to be truly alone, to access our deepest stirrings and hear our inner poetry?