A noble dependency


Dear Artist,

Recent studies of teenagers’ use of cellphones and other electronic devices have revealed some interesting results. Apparently, if you deprive kids of social networking for a week or so, a high percentage become significantly depressed. They also lose efficiency, will, enthusiasm and sleep. Their marks go down and their lassitude goes up. For many artists, something similar happens when “the work quotient” is taken from their lives. A couple of unproductive days can send some creative folks into the dumps. They may not even be aware of what’s happening to them. “Fear of restart” and permanent creative catatonia can set in after long-term abstinence. Fact is, good easel time is a noble dependency that makes you a happier, more generous person — better able to enjoy an enriched family and social life. Here are a few ways to promote these glad tidings:

No Face (Pannier), 2018 Terracotta, graphite, salt-fired porcelain, steel, raffia 72 5/8 × 75 × 58 inches by Simone Leigh (b. 1967)

No Face (Pannier), 2018
Terracotta, graphite, salt-fired porcelain, steel, raffia
72 5/8 × 75 × 58 inches
by Simone Leigh (b. 1967)

Self control. While spontaneity is vital in the studio, monitoring easel time and work zones is also valuable. Work periods can be restarted with a gong or the change of a radio program. The “four o’clock reboot,” where you begin something new in the late afternoon (normally a slower time of day), accumulates bonus points, tops up the psyche and makes you more brilliant than Voltaire at the dinner party.

Serendipitous bumping. When you put in significant time in the work area, work automatically emerges. Creative tools, studio clutter and half-finished works conspire to attract your attention. Ideas breed and things need to be done. Rather than making a decision to get on with something, merely bump into opportunities.

Creative exhibitionism. Just as the kids get their thrills texting across a classroom, connecting your work with others is good for art and life. I’m not talking about dealer action or green feedback. The work itself, in progress or completed, in exchange or not, can be sent by jpeg to global friends in nanoseconds. A critique or approval may be forthcoming, but more often than not it’s just the simple human joy of sharing.

Untitled #97 (cowrie), 2014 Glazed stoneware 10 x 24 x 14 inches by Simone Leigh

Untitled #97 (cowrie), 2014
Glazed stoneware
10 x 24 x 14 inches
by Simone Leigh

“Electronic interdependence,” famously said Marshall McLuhan, “recreates the world in the image of a global village.” While we may operate as independent workers, we are not islands unto ourselves. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood is alive and well and living in cyberspace.

Best regards,


PS: “It’s a great time to be alive.” (George Lucas)

Esoterica: Another way of thinking of art dependency is in co-dependency. Your work needs you as much as you need it. Your work begs your expression. You need to materialize it on a daily basis, from your enriched life — the better side of your nature. Without your personal focus and action, your magic cannot and never will exist. Think of all the great work you have left to do. Think of how necessary it is for people to see good work. “Work,” said Kahlil Gibran, “is love made visible.”

Simone Leigh at the Staton Sculpture Studios, Philadelphia, 2019 Kyle Knodell photo

Simone Leigh at foundry Stratton Sculpture Studios, Philadelphia, 2019
Kyle Knodell photo

This letter was originally published as “A noble dependency” on November 1, 2011.

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“I feel that I’ve arrived here through a lifetime of critical inquiry and hard work. In recent years, as I’ve been able to accomplish things my foremothers would have only dreamed of, my way of coping with my success is to focus on the responsibilities that it engenders.” (Simone Leigh) 



  1. Needed this today. Sitting in my studio, beating myself up is not going to help me solve what is wrong. Procrastination is a dead end. Continuing to work on it, frustrating as it may be, is the only way out. Thank you, Robert, for continuing to inspire artists well-past your time here on earth.

  2. Right ON, Robert!!! I have only truly understood this until more recently. My time to paint has always been evenings, but in the past when left to the option to take a few days off, I would do that. Now I don’t do that. My time has been enforced by a current life situation that says if I don’t do it now, it won’t happen at all. So, tired or not, distracted with thoughts other than art, sore back, I still hit that studio and paint. May take some good warm up with the brush dancing to the right music before the muse sets in right, but I do it, and yes, it is a “noble dependency”, love that.

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January 23, 2022 to January 30, 2022

 DETAILJoin Ellie Harold for “Intuitive Painting: Permission to Paint Expressively,” designed especially for mature women artists of all skill levels who wish to explore this medium for soulful exploration. The retreat provides attractive accommodations (your own room!) along with lightly structured activities for centering, relaxation and low stress art-making. You’ll have plenty of free time to muse, paint, write and reflect while enjoying the colors, textures and flavors of San Miguel. This Retreat has the potential to transform not only your art but your life! You’ll return home with a specific art “care plan” to assure support for further creating. Details at www.EllieHarold.com.


https://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/purple-series1-2285-1-wpcf_300x295.jpgPurple series #1
Oil on canvas with pyrite and amethyst
48 x 48"/122x122cm

Featured Artist

Candace studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Angers, France but it is her travels in the deserts of Africa and Oman, Antarctica and the Arctic, and sacred sights of Machu Picchu and Petra that serve as her true place of learning. A desire to combine these experiences with a deeper understanding of her own spirituality has provided the underlying focus and inspiration for her paintings.