A study of us


Dear Artist,

Hadia Hassan, a fourth-year honours visual art and anthropology student at York University in Toronto, is working on a research study of online communities. As an artist herself, Hadia is especially interested in how artists use the Internet to further their art practices, connect online and even shape their creative lives. The Painter’s Keys, she says, is interesting because of its many long-time artist, student, curator, collector, dealer and educator subscribers and The Letters’ 21 years of evolution.

Buried Undergrowth by Hadia Hassan

Buried Undergrowth
by Hadia Hassan

Hadia is looking for volunteers — members of our community who are willing to offer their insights about The Letters and their relationship with The Painter’s Keys. “We live in a world which is at once physical and virtual,” writes Hadia in the proposal for her study. “Consequently, we see a rapid growth of Internet-based parallel virtual communities where people with common interests or vocational practices congregate.” These shared-interest communities — what Hadia calls “communities of practice” — allow people to further their knowledge, interact with one another and even build parallel and intertwined online and offline identities. Hadia wants to find out how effective this all is — and if the original purpose of The Painter’s Keys is being fulfilled.

If you are interested in participating in Hadia’s study, you can reach out to her at hadia97@my.yorku.ca



PS: “The primary objective and research area of this online ethnographic study is to assess the impact of going digital on the behavioral and professional practices of visual artists.” (Hadia Hassan, final research proposal, The Painter’s Keys: Digital Ethnography of a Community of Visual Artists)

Silhouettes by Hadia Hassan

by Hadia Hassan

Esoterica: Hadia’s interview questions will include:

Why did you become a member of this community?

How long have you been a member?

How much time every week (month) do you spend communicating with other members of this community?

How would you describe your role in this online community?

Are there any unique rules, values or cultural meanings within this community that you have learned while being a part of it?

Is there a relationship between your individual identity and this community?

Have you learned anything new about yourself by being in this community?

How do you feel about this community?

What does being part of an online community mean to you?

Would you have been part of a similar community if Internet access was not available?

Do you think you will continue to be a member of this community in the future?

Sunrise by Hadia Hassan

by Hadia Hassan

Have you considered a Premium Artist Listing?  With each letter, an artist is featured at the bottom of this page. The Premium Artist Listings are a means of connecting artist subscribers through their work.  Proceeds from each listing contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys. 

“In digital and cyber anthropology, there has been a debate about whether ‘computer-mediated communities’ are in fact real or simply ‘imagined communities.’ This paper by and large agrees with the notion that online communities are very much real because they allow the user to delve into an environment that supports cultural and artistic learning but at the same time, impedes on the process with which the artist was previously familiar.” (Hadia Hassan)



  1. Great idea! I will be happy to participate when the email is confirmed to be correct. I love that online is not a separate place but a tool that connects us, like the letters. For example this letter’s feature artist, Peter Hobden, first connected on twitter about 10 years ago. We still on occasion will chat on facebook and it was seeing his work in the premium artist listings that helped me to decide to submit my own work. Then the other day a local artist in my own small island community off the southwest coast of Canada came up to me and said “you read and comment on the “Painters Keys!” She went on to say she had been eating them for years but had never thought about commenting. I found this online community just a couple of years ago after purchasing a hard copy book of Robert Genn’s letter. It is a good place for inspiration and encouragement of the very best kind – the kind you sift through and own as personal discoveries. The kind that stick and become part of the fabric that supports a solid creative fabric. Thank you Sara continuing to host, convene and moderate such a valuable opportunity.

    • Rose Easterbrook on

      I love your paintings, Hadia. I don’t want to commit to being part of a study, but, it’s true that by reading these letters I have gained a lot in many ways. The letters introduced me to Emily Carr and even instigated a journey that led me to British Columbia from California!

      • Hey there Rose! I do not usually pay much attention to the names of folks commenting however YOUR name some how shouted out to me. I would love to see you and hear about your work. Love, your Waldorf kindergarten teacher, Mary. Bowen P S. I trained as an Anthroposophical Art therapist and lead groups in Sonoma in painting, sculpture and drawing.

      • It would be interesting to note the gender responses, both in volume and distribution, to this query. This is not a sexist question, but one of communication preferences and abilities. In my experience, community organizers tend to be female, to the betterment of art displays…they seem to have more interest in organizing?

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