Yearly Archives: 2019

Letters Las Meninas, 1656
Oil on canvas
10′ 5″ x 9′ 1″
by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)

At the easel yesterday I was listening to a stockbroker on the telephone headset at the same time as my assistant Carol Ann was holding some cheques for me to sign. Just then one of the city fathers came in the door. “When do you find time to paint?” he asked. I told him that sometimes it seems like I do my work in my coffee breaks. Then, inwardly, I had a little silent epiphany: “If you’re having interruptions, you need them.”

Letters The Creation of Adam, c. 1512
fresco, 9' 2" × 18' 8" 
by Michelangelo

My family’s resolute belief that the music of The Beatles is the foundation of a proper upbringing isn’t limited to the 1970s. Just this year, my big brother Dave, a parent, a bona fide Rocker and a person who could devote his life to musically evangelizing the Beatles as the greatest composers of popular music and the greatest band in history, gave me a ceramic yellow submarine cookie jar for Christmas. “This is the most special present I have ever given to anyone,” he whispered, as if in church. “I hope one day that I, too, could receive the gift of this cookie jar.”

Letters The Last of the Mohicans (endpaper), 1919
by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

There’s something to be said for families and extended families who live and work together in a creative hothouse. Think of Robert and Clara Schumann — they took in a boarder, Johannes Brahms, who managed to fall in love with Clara. She had eight kids and still had time to produce twenty compositions. The boys did quite a bit of work as well. Under one roof they made beautiful music. And then there are William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy up there in the Lake District writing poetry together among the daffodils.

Letters Ranch House, Santa Fe, 1925
watercolor over pencil on paper
13 7/8 x 19 7/8 inches
by Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967)

Vicki Lynn Rae of Vancouver, BC wrote, “I have noticed from time to time subscribers have written with art related questions and now I have a situation that has me stumped. A few years ago a client bought from me two large paintings. One, an Orca, I had already painted and listed on my website. The other was a landscape commissioned to go along with the Orca. Recently, I received an email from this client saying he is having to downsize and wishes to sell the Orca painting. He asked me to handle the sale.

Letters Late Surprise, 2007
36 x 40 inches
Acrylic on canvas
by Robert Genn

Outdoor work can be confusing. Because there is often so much to look at, the painter may not know where to begin. Here are three basic approaches you might find useful:

Even though your planned subject may be off in the distance, before you do anything about it, search around your immediate environment and find something in the foreground. This can be anything that interests you or has design potential — a stump, colourful foliage, animal or human figure. Render this to some degree of completion first.

Letters The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (ca. 1830–32, Edo Period)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
10 1/8 x 14 15/16 inches
by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)

Rajat Shanbhag of Ohio wrote, “I have been sneaking every chance at work and most of time between paintings to read much from The Painter’s Keys. Next year, I am planning to take a hard right and move from the US to Canada to begin my painting career. I began painting nearly 3 years ago while I was getting my Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and have been working really hard at it every moment since then, and now I really do feel confident I can make a living out of it. I am looking for any light you can shed on steps to take the very first year.

Letters Dancer at the Barre study (1877)
by Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

It seems that a struggling young composer asked Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to give him a few tips. Mozart told him to go home and work at composing for a few years. “But,” said the young man, “you didn’t have to work at it for years.” Mozart replied, “Yes, but I didn’t have to ask for tips.”

Letters The Enchanted Owl, 1960
Stonecut on paper
Printer: Eegyvudiuk Pootoogook
60.9 x 66 cm
by Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013)

If painting is like navigating, you might want to put down your phone. Neuroscientists at the University College London scanned the brains of London cabbies and discovered that the volume of their hippocamps — the part responsible for spatial memory, visualization and narrative — was larger than average. As possessors of “The Knowledge” — knowing by heart over 320 routes, 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks — London cabbies are said to have had an atlas of the city transplanted into their brains. The magic is that “The Knowledge,” unlike a smart phone algorithm offering every driver the same directions, allows the cabbie to create novel routes based on a mastery of experience and to retrace, tweak and embellish these routes over time.

Letters The Lime Burner, London, 1859
Drypoint etching
55.6 X 40.5 cm
by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)

A subscriber wrote, “I’m spring cleaning. Sketches, old matted drawings, paintings that aren’t my best, oil studies, unimportant works, etc., have finally found themselves in a big pile. Some, if properly matted and framed, could sell. The problem is that I don’t want to invest in the time, energy or frames. Would slipping them into poly bags with backing be appropriate to move this stuff? Right now, I feel like throwing them into the dumpster, but I have been told not to do so. What do you do with your studies and sketches? What do you think of having a fire-sale?”

Letters Pasture (1958) 
cotton, 394 x 356mm
by Anni Albers (1899-1994)

Recently, I received an email from an Italian contemporary furniture brand. Sandwiched between complimentary remarks about my work, they requested I send some paintings to Venice for an upcoming photo shoot. “We guarantee you a lot of visibility, your credit will be printed on the catalogue and we will share with you the hi res pics. Also we will tag you in every social media platform where your artworks will be.” They signed off by dangling the names of their photographer and stylist and telling me to let them know if I was “in.”

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