A Wing and a Prayer


Dear Artist,

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.”


“Storm Tide”
1903 oil painting, Monhegan Island
by Robert Henri (1865-1929)

As a product of an art school, I have a pretty good idea what art students are facing. I’ve noticed they can be divided into two camps — those who would be artistically literate and those who would be artists. My letter and its connections are mainly for the artists. It’s my sincere wish that you do get something out of it.

Of the thousands who read this letter, we think that about 69 percent are professional or semi-professional artists. Most are pretty busy. It actually surprises us that they have time to open their emails. To those students who will make a life of art — and the 69 percent will back me up — you can look forward to this: The really big learning will begin when you finish school. You will grow increasingly frustrated and increasingly in love with your job. You will have the lifetime joy of working harder than most of your working friends. Further, you will have to discover some sort of inner strength — some ego-based willfulness that will, almost like a religion, keep you flying.


“Street Corner in Paris”
1896 oil painting by Robert Henri

“The world’s engagement of beauty is my bible,
and Art is my religion.
I come to it as a child,
and I add all the grown wisdom I can gather.
Creativity is my salvation.
My easel is the altar.
My paints are the sacraments.
My brush is my soul’s movement,
And to do poorly, or not to work, is a sin.”


“The Goat Herder”
1917 oil painting by Robert Henri

Best regards,


PS: “No matter how good the school; education is in your own hands. Education must be self-education.” (Robert Henri)

Esoterica: I wrote that little “artist’s prayer,” quoted above, when I was a student at Art Center School in Los Angeles. I’m looking at it right now on my studio wall. It still seems to work.




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“The artist should be intoxicated with the idea of the thing he wants to express.” (Robert Henri)

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