Deferred adulthood


Dear Artist,

In his recent book, America Alone, Mark Steyn makes frequent mention of “deferred adulthood.” While mainly taking place in Europe, this is where young people in their twenties and thirties are choosing to stay in their folks’ homes and sidestep responsibilities, including marriage and childbearing. They live on the welfare of parents or state, indulge themselves in frivolous, self-gratifying activities, seldom negotiate life improvements, and essentially sleep in. While Steyn is looking at the political ramifications of the phenomenon, it holds implications for the creative life.


by Mark Steyn

The situation may not be helped by people like me who are always trying to get folks to access their inner child and see the world and their work “baby-eyes new.” Many Western art schools promote the same sorts of concepts. It’s our times. “It takes a lifetime to become a child,” said Picasso.

Last weekend, twenty-five senior members of the Federation of Canadian Artists juried new applicants to various levels of status. The slides rolled by, and the original work of each artist was paraded before us. We privately marked our ballots “in” or “out.” The work ranged from goofy to gorgeous, conservative and stodgy to fiercely modern. While many jurors were eager to see new visions triumph, when the ballots were counted mostly the work with old-fashioned technical superiority was honoured. While jurors may crave freshness, the frequent appearance of glibness and childlike, immature concepts as well as technical laziness didn’t cut it like it used to.

Call us jurors a bunch of fogeys, but we are indeed arbiters of what gets shown in galleries. Partly because of sleeping in, civilization may be going to hell in a conservative hand-basket. There’s a pile of younger, smarter people who seem to have dropped out of the creative race. We’d love to see them trying, but they’re busy with other priorities. We wouldn’t like to see a time when only older, establishment painters get all the action. Graying societies are declining societies — they lack the chutzpah for re-growth and rebirth. The game is totally worth playing. As Steyn pessimistically says, “Otherwise, it’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Best regards,


PS: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” (William Shakespeare)

Esoterica: Jurors are not allowed to gasp, moan, groan or enthuse while jurying. Secretly, I often wish we could. Many of these aspiring artists need to know that the greater world is more important than our fusty chambers. New stuff needs to be energetically run up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes. Young people need to know that they must always be putting themselves forward, that it’s worthwhile getting up. “We do not always get what we deserve, but we often get what we negotiate.” (Gary Karrass)


Grow as you go
by Stacey L. Peterson, Littleton, CO, USA


“Late Afternoon at Maroon Lake”
oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches
by Stacey L. Peterson

I have watched many of my contemporaries go down the path of “deferred adulthood” and wondered why they do it. The way I see it, experiencing life is all about jumping in there and seeing what I can make of myself, and that includes having the discipline to pursue my dreams and passions. As a representational landscape painter, I find myself in a unique position. At 29, I’m far younger than any of the artists that my galleries carry, so I hope that puts me in a good position to have a long career. As you said — I think that “the game is totally worth playing.” I wouldn’t want to wait until I’m old to discover that I spent half of my life avoiding responsibility and missing out on the big things in life. Doing it now puts me in a position to learn and grow as I go, and nothin’ is better than that!


Just now learning to paint
by Perrin Sparks


pastel painting
by Perrin Sparks

I read with a chuckle your comments re the FCA jury process. I was one of those ‘traditionalists’ your jury designated SFCA status. I was thrilled to get that, but plead ‘guilty’ to your astute observations. Like so many others, I didn’t have access to the thorough classical training that gives a truly creative artist the freedom to create something beyond technically competent. I have to do that now. The more I paint, the looser and more adventuresome I get. I spent 35 years as a medical illustrator which at least had me drawing constantly, studying the human body. But only now have I started to learn how to paint. And I’ve got to do it the old fashioned way with miles of canvas and paper. I think maybe what you and your fellow jurors are seeing is the result of poor focus on technical skills in the art teaching business. The quick buck easily distracts youth. I was. This is beginning to change. The Atelier’s are helping, but as they so well know, they can’t do it in the standard 2 to 4 year format. Most of what we see in these juried association shows are folks who want to improve their skills so they can really step ‘outside-the-box.’ That’s my goal!


Worth the effort
by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA


“Hanging Out”
gouache on paper, 14 x 22 inches
by Nina Allen Freeman

In my home town of Tallahassee Florida, the LeMoyne Center for the Visual  Arts has an annual exhibition of high school students’ art. The originality and freshness found in some of the work is reassuring. There is still creativity in the young. Some of these young people do go on to careers in art. The truth is, however, very few will go on. The creative life is not for sissies, it is not easy. In addition to having technical skill, talent and originality, one must have nerves of steel to continue working when your friends and family say, “When are you going to get a real job?” To create your own vision and nurture your growth as an artist while the world around you expects conformity is a difficult journey. Many take the easier route and give in to the expectations. As for those young, smart people still in the creative race, I say keep pushing on and don’t give up. It’s worth the effort.


Lazy virus spreading here
by Judith Meyer, Greeley, CO, USA


“Coyote Coat”
watercolour painting, 12 x 16 inches
by Judith Meyer

As for “deferred adulthood” being the laziness of young people not leaving home, especially in Europe, that is a traditional way of life in Italy. There, men of 30 up to 40 do not leave their mother’s home. Maybe the virus has spread from there and is appealing to youth who have been given no sense of responsibility. I do not believe that by teaching students to look for the inner child, you have contributed a bit to art that is created without responsible “old fashioned technical superiority.” Looking for the child within is to see the world as you did as a child. Fresh and with wonder. If the adult student cannot put that vision into a work of art that is enhanced even further by proficiency, then we really are in a sad state.



The Peter Pan syndrome
by Rod Mackay, Lunenburg, NS, Canada


“Bluenose II, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia”
acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10 inches
by Rod Mackay

I have never shaken off my Crayola fixation, and my pencil and I were later the bane of elementary school text books. I had formal English-style art classes from grade one. Art, History and English were the only subjects which had the power to retrieve me from the imaginary world of the doodle. Things have not changed much since then. I have now and then veered away from representational painting but have always tended to keep my crayons within the lines. I therefore always come back to subject matter. Beyond that, I paint as I once coloured, alone, with full involvement, representing colour just as I see it in spite of the protests of those who live in a watered-down world. I really like red and am happy when I have an excuse to use it. Now We are Seven(ty+) and still have a lot of fun playing at being an artist. This precludes joining formal associations of painters, jurying and workshops. They used to pay me to do/be judgmental, but it made me feel uncomfortable remembering my earliest days on the wrong end of the weeding-out process. The remuneration paid to teach or judge could not be high enough to attract me these days!


Parallels in literature
by Tom Disch, New York, NY, USA


“About the Size of it”
by Tom Disch

It’s much the same in the worlds of fiction and poetry. Ambitions have been pared down among the younger aspirants to a minimalist minimum. Formal competence in verse is as likely to meet with scorn as competent landscape painting or good portraiture. In fiction first-person, present tense pabulum abounds, and high school grads are encouraged to write their memoirs (“write what you know”) which does give the edge (as you note of painting) to those who do dare venture out to sea.





Accessing the inner adult
by Theresa Bayer, Austin, TX, USA


“Mother and Child”
watercolour painting
by Theresa Bayer

The philosophy of getting in touch with your inner child is good for sometimes, but not all times. Sometimes it’s best to get in touch with your inner adult. You don’t have to choose one or the other and cling to it all your life. It’s really a matter of being flexible, and doing what is appropriate to the situation.





Wisdom takes too much time
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA


“Netherland Inn III”
pastel painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Paul deMarrais

The computer is skimming off a lot of the young art talent. They can ‘make a living’ with computers a lot more readily than with the gallery artist regimen. Let’s face it, the gallery artist game is a glacially paced career for most of us. It takes time to put all the pieces together where your technical skills are where they need to be and you understand the business, marketing and professional side of this career. Many that are successful are in their fifties and beyond. This is an anathema to the attention deficit youth of today. They aren’t going to invest the years of time on a crap shoot in the gallery artist business. You can’t gain artistic skills with some sort of download or DVD. The bigger problem is discipline, perseverance and other old fogy values that fly in the face of the television culture of America where everything is immediate or needs to be. As George Bernard Shaw aptly put it ‘youth is wasted on the young.” You need time to develop the wisdom and maturity and if the shoddy and slapdash wasn’t up to snuff, that’s too bad. Let the old timers fill the galleries.


Still painting like a child
by Roscoe Wallace, Shalimar, FL, USA


“Panama Shore”
acrylic on watercolour paper
28 x 36 inches
by Roscoe Wallace

Back in 1974, I moved from Ohio to Northwest Florida. I felt I had stepped back 20 years in time. The predominate paintings and style in the art community was very conservative and traditional. I consider myself to be an abstract impressionist. I liked non-objective abstractions better than subject matter. In my new community, I entered one of the better outside art shows. On my exhibit were several paintings, all non-objective abstracts. A gentleman was guiding a young couple around the show and was doing an excellent job describing in detail the media, style, and process involved in the work being displayed. They arrived at my exhibit and looked it over for a couple of minutes looking back and forth before saying anything. Finally he said, “Now these are finger paintings.” I laughed to myself and thought I should be so lucky to paint like a child. I started exhibiting more and found that my work began changing to more acceptable work for sale in conservative communities and winning many awards. I still consider myself an abstract impressionist but my paintings have evolved into a more conservative style. I still love color, shapes and line, and in many of my paintings, I hope I still paint like a child.


The cult of ‘fun’
by Maureen Glynn, Montreal, QC, Canada

What is different today is the totally hedonistic climate into which our unfortunate young people are born. Not only does everything have to be “fun,” but fun, enjoyment and pleasure are the primary goals, governments and educators have got it wrong. Britain, especially, is now paying the price for a misguided educational philosophy which a few decades ago decided that “learning” comes as a by-product of having fun, forgetting entirely that a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and self mastery are naturally concomitants of learning — GREAT FUN! Fun begets fun begets fun and a life pattern is established. When the “fun” is artificially provided and not the result of individual exploration, individually the self motivated drop out; those youngsters who need more direction are not learning and get bored with “fun.” Every aspect of life comes to require a major “fun” component — even brushing one’s teeth. What chance does a routine workday have?


Kids not all dropping out
by Bill Hibberd, Summerland, BC, Canada


“simple pleasures”
original painting
by Bill Hibberd

Robert, I think your concern that there is a movement of “younger, smarter people who seem to have dropped out of the creative race” is unfounded. As a painter and father of three I spent many hours with my children having drawing contests and encouraging them to take risks creatively as they matured. My two oldest sons, 23 and 21 now work for Disney and Nerdcorps as a game designer and a 3D animator. Certainly, the world is changing, and art expression will reflect its time and environment. I am amazed to see the individual “voice” or “signature” that my sons’ digital work communicates. I really don’t think there’s much chance of all creative young people abandoning the unique world of painting but there is an explosion of emerging art forms to explore so, of course, many will explore the new terrain.


Creative responsibility
by Jasper Light

I am glad to hear that old fashioned technical superiority was so honored in the jurying. I am a “new” artist; my mediums are paint and metal. My inspiration comes from the old masters; perhaps my life experience (without art) comes to my work now. In some ways I am glad I am an old new artist today because I wouldn’t have wanted to be influenced by “modern” art so much. So let’s say, born an artist, always an artist. Perhaps we should focus on the value and importance of enduring art, that we may someday inspire the postponing adults to create and start their creative opening at any age. After all when we are given the sight to be creative is it not also our responsibility to go to the ends of earth to awaken what may seem the most dead.


Change yourself
by Hugo , Calgary, AB, Canada


“Gracious Rapture”
original painting
by Hugo

Just as we get the government we deserve, is it possible we get the art we deserve? Yeah Robert, you want the new visions but you want them well executed, within the confines of your definition of quality and craftsmanship! How can a new vision be mature? That is the problem all of us face, who don’t just talk about change? but actually change things: If what I do does not neatly fit into a long ago perceived and structured framework, the work gets discounted or rejected. So who loses? Lucky for me, my work in another profession is sought after so that I can afford to produce and not sell my work. I’m not out there to change the world? I just keep changing myself.


Kids appreciated nevertheless
by Debra Davis, Bella Vista, AR, USA


original artwork
by Debra Davis

My own “kids” have moved back to the homestead at the ages of 28 and 30. My daughter from the fallout of divorce and my son from the “this is not a recession economy.” While I may have planned for my golden years to be in a house without offspring, it is what it is. To accommodate the kids, my studio is now wherever I can find the space. However, I have found that I have been given the opportunity to really know who my children are as adults and it has been a great gift to all of us. If I start to feel the resentment of how hard I had it at their age without parental support, I think of how different the times are now, and how blessed I am to truly get to share time and space with the loves of my life.


Other reasons for staying home
by Antonia Small


original photograph
by Antonia Small

I would urge you to consider carefully the use of Mark Steyn’s “deferred adulthood.” Not because I don’t think America/The West and her artists have some growing up to do, but because his view takes a pointed swipe at a population that may be deferring their adulthood for more reasons than selfishness. I am a single woman in her late 30s who made a choice to move back in with my American parents to care for my elderly father. This meant I have deferred marriage and childbearing (are we still insisting on these being adult responsibilities? — Wow) and postponed Graduate School. I have always followed a different path, but I am certain I am not alone in having to make some pretty tough choices. I take offense for myself and for others like me, who are making grown up choices and being taken over the coals by the likes of Mark Steyn. Europeans and Japanese may be living at home longer, perhaps Muslims as well. In America that is a sign of weakness, is it not? I think our day will come when we will have to adjust our priorities, grow up, and hopefully find a way to begin making art work that reflects that. I think Picasso’s comment remains just as true today… truth is, I don’t think until we’ve gone through some serious scrapes and bumps do we get to appreciate what it means to be a childlike adult and that, still, takes time.

(RG note) Thanks, Antonia. According to Steyn’s book, Europeans and others are staying with mom and dad into their forties. This is having a profound effect on current birthrates. French women, for example, are having 1.89 children per woman, not enough to maintain the population of that country. Japanese women are at 1.32. The five Continental countries (apart from war-torn Bosnia) with the highest birth rates are currently Albania, Macedonia, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, and these happen to be the countries with the highest proportion of Muslim citizens. The USA has a current birth rate of 2.11 — enough to grow the population. Canada is looking shy at 1.48. Russia is uninterested in kids at 1.14.


How to get out of bed
by Rebekah Wilkinson, Westbank, BC, Canada


“Garden Gate Number Three”
acrylic painting, 20 x 16 inches
by Rebekah Wilkinson

I was wondering if there were any tips and pointers for us younger artists who are trying to gain a foothold in this extremely competitive art world. How can we compete with artists who have had years upon years of practicing their art form to perfection? How can we build an art career when all the galleries are filled and are not taking on any new artists? Practice and experience build expertise, but how can we continue when the cost of practicing well surpasses the income generated from the sales and the opportunities for experience are taken by the experts? Sometimes, it just seems easier to stay in bed. In my experience, the art groups are filled with the older generation and I am often the youngest in the bunch. The artists my age have given up and are out in the working world trying to pay the bills with the hopes that one day their art will resurface at retirement. Maybe an art career is only for the older generation? Is there any advice from your experience that you can give to the younger artists to help make the art road that much clearer?

(RG note) Thanks, Rebekah. I’m sorry if my letter seemed pessimistic. Actually, young people make it in the arts every day. The idea is to compress each learning cycle into as short a time period as possible. Grab, process, rethink and rework, and begin to stand on your own shoulders. In my experience, every successful artist, young or old, has at some time realized that the application of private character, often in solitude, is the key to progress, creative growth and acceptance. Every day someone writes to ask me for the “secret.” As far as I can see it’s, “Go to your room.”


Gray just getting going
by Bobbo Goldberg, Orlando, FL, USA


original painting
by Bobbo Goldberg

While I’m enchanted to see “chutzpah” used in such a scholarly context, I must disagree. The face of age is changing, Robert. Gray is becoming a precursor to all the primary colors, not a residue. Look around. From the Eldering work of Rabbi Schachter-Shalom and Ram Dass (both of whom have loads of chutzpah to propel their wisdom) to the recent ascension of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth to the top of all the best-seller lists (thank you, Oprah), older people are seeking — and finding — new levels of meaning and adventure. My 55-ish friend “R” and her 60-ish husband are off to India in three weeks, and I don’t mean the tourist traps. They’ll be seeking out the Dalai Lama’s residence, the home of poet Tagore and walk in the footsteps of Yogananda. A 56 year old friend is taking a lifetime of making wonderful art and putting herself out there with a show at Omega this Spring. “K” is exploring new careers. “D” in Highlands is just getting started marketing her brilliant nature photography. I’m opening to a spiritual counseling practice after 30 years in the recording business. All of us are exploring new depths career, spirit, discovery and personal metaphor. How gray does that sound? All over the planet, and perhaps most conspicuously in the west, older people are exploding into new beginnings and encounters with life. It does seem almost unprecedented to see this phenomenon moving so widely into what was once a contracting, quieting phase of the life cycle. There are those who say that a spiritual reawakening is upon us because we’re so in need of it — when were we not? — and because we’re making ourselves ready to receive it. Artists have ever been in the vanguard; the left hemisphere isn’t all there is to life, and we’re opening wide to the influence of the right. It takes many forms, some old, some young, but wears the face of reverent curiosity. It really is a great time to be gray, Robert, and every other color as well. I think you’re a shining example that contradicts the quote above. There’s a currently popular mythos that says the Aztec calendar ends in 2012, and a new beginning is in store. Many “gray” folks aren’t waiting!


Getting out of the house
by J. Bruce Wilcox, Denver, CO, USA


art quilt
by J. Bruce Wilcox

Apparently you missed it. The end of the world as we knew it happened some time back. The Piscean Age of self-sacrifice and martyrdom is over — but still dying a slow death. The 2000+ years Aquarian Age — though just in its opening phase — has firmly begun and brings with it all those things like instant worldwide computer connectivity to information that make this twice-weekly letter of yours possible. So, damn — I wish I could just align with what you say here about things but I can’t. I graduated from high school in 1971 at the age of 17 and before my 18th birthday had left Utah and run off to Los Angeles — anything to get out of my parent’s home and away from a repressive and aggressively destructive religious culture. Though I didn’t stay long, when I returned to Utah I immediately moved to Salt Lake City and in the next 20 years didn’t set foot in my parent’s home again even 5 times. I then moved to Denver and never looked back. This trend of young people continuing to live at home and taking no responsibility for themselves disgusts me totally. Pathetic. On the other hand, I didn’t really grow up myself until I was in my mid 30s. Why? Because nobody does — really. You don’t grow up UNTIL you’ve been out of mommy and daddy’s house for long enough a time to have had to figure the world out on your own. However, the former rules of marriage and childbearing — with or without college thrown in for both genders — have always been bass-ackwards. People want to have sex — not babies. Sex wasn’t culturally acceptable outside marriage. That rule has been permanently altered, hopefully forever, but we still have too many children having children. We just can’t seem to figure out how to have universal birth control be the rule of the day — following the very best sex education possible at the youngest possible age to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Stupid religious rules still get in the way.


Bistango boss replies
by Antoinette Sullivan, Irvine, CA, USA

Regarding the pricing of art and art exhibits in alternative spaces and specifically, Bistango Restaurant Gallery in Irvine, California, I am an art consultant and the owner of StudioGallery in Irvine, California. I have curated art exhibits, primarily in alternative spaces in Southern California, for over two decades. Among my most successful and gratifying undertakings has been to curate four yearly exhibits at Bistango Restaurant Gallery in Irvine for the last 21 years. Each show is comprised of the painting, sculptures and photographs of around 18 artists. This means that I have exhibited thousands of works by more than 1,500 artists at Bistango since 1987. I do not need to point out to you or your knowledgeable readers that there are very few art galleries (or restaurants, for that matter) in Southern California or anywhere else that stay in business this long. Let me state up front that I understand your general reservations to exhibits in alternative spaces, as many of these are not professionally curated nor do they make much of an attempt to meet museum quality standards. I also realize that you reside in Canada, so I will assume that you have never been to Bistango Restaurant Gallery in Irvine, California. If you had, you might have tempered your criticism directed at this establishment. Bistango certainly is a restaurant first and a gallery second. This said, when it was built, the architect designed it to showcase art. Art is the centerpiece at Bistango; it was not added as décor. Your response, sight unseen, lumped Bistango with “barber shops” and “parking lots.” I see this as rather unprofessional. I would also add that there are many other art exhibits at alternative venues such as major airports, libraries and other public and corporate buildings that provide excellent exposure to artists and their work, to the delight of many people who might not readily go into a museum or much less to “legitimate” galleries. The sad truth, as many artists have observed in letters to your Web Site, is that a lot of these “legitimate” galleries won’t give the time of day to most emerging artists. I also want to go into some details regarding the issue of pricing, which was the other main topic you commented on. Here, you pretty much lump our pricing for exhibits at Bistango with the work of, in your words, “brigands.” I most certainly resent being called a “brigand.” Again, you did not bother to try and check the details before publishing this opinion. The way I first look at pricing, as you vociferously suggested, is to ask each artist what they expect to get for their work. I endeavor to evaluate with them a fair market price based on many of the criteria you mention such as the artists’ curricula, type of work, size and media. The amount that the artist states he or she expects to receive from a sale is “untouchable.” So if an artist, as in the case of Kirk Wassell, does not agree with pricing, he certainly should have discussed this up front. The artist has total control over the amount he will receive for any given sale, as you recommend. He does not have control over the cost of doing business. Nor would he at any “legitimate” gallery. Bistango and I have displayed the works of established artists (as famed as Litta Albuquerque, Laddie John Dill, Eric Orr and Richard Diebenkorn, among many others), mid-career artists and emerging artists. They include local Californian artists, American artists as well as artists from many countries in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. We have always made the greatest effort to treat all artists fairly in every way. I realize that out of more than 1,500 artists we have exhibited, there may be a few that see things in their own way. I conclude, based on your website and what I’ve heard from many artists who wrote to us, that your basic objective is to help other artists. If you visit my StudioGallery Web Site, you will see that our objectives are very much on the same track. I thank you for providing an open and stimulating forum for everything that has to do with art and artists. I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you for lunch, at Bistango, of course, if you should be in Southern California. I believe you’ll approve of the food AND the art.

(RG note) Thanks, Antoinette. We had many responses defending your two restaurants and published a few of them here. Thank you for clarifying and setting me straight. The amount an artist wishes to receive is indeed untouchable in your case, and I appreciate that, but does the final price that collectors will have to pay vary between you and other galleries that some artists may have? This part of your price policy is not clear to me. This worry is coming from artists who may have a stable of galleries and need to see that final prices are the same from city to city. I find all of this is often the artist’s fault for not taking control and establishing the final retail price of their art. Many of our subscribers are concerned with both “profiteering” and “discounting” — the twin knives that slice at the perception of an artist’s stable price structure and progression. Geographically, the Internet now levels the field with “instant comparison pricing.” If you don’t respect an artist’s retail price, how can an artist build a stable of dealers?


Bistango boss replies again
by Antoinette Sullivan, Irvine, CA, USA

I do at times work in conjunction with other galleries. In this case there is always an agreement to maintain price parity. However, with many emerging artists there frequently is no true “price history.” Things can and do get somewhat subjective. I believe that art is pure creativity but, at the time of sale, merges with commerce. There are so many variables, as you and many artists have discussed on your Web Site, that the process is not always scientific. As you recommend, we certainly try to keep an even playing field for all involved, artists, reps, galleries and, of course, buyers. I personally do not always have a failsafe way to verify pricing in others cities or even other countries, and there may be valid reasons for price differences to exist.

Your second point refers to “profiteering” and “discounting.” Fortunately, I have hardly ever had to deal with “profiteering.” If an individual artist might suggest a price that I believe is out of line or not justified by the criterion you have already mentioned, I will endeavor to counsel him/her accordingly. As to “discounting,” while you are obviously correct in pointing out that this works against stable price structures, I find it to be a fact of life. Deals between buyers and sellers are negotiated, much like in any other business. In many, many cases, it comes down to the point that if the artist wants to make the sale, he/she will have to make some concessions. It is market dynamics, but in the end the demand may dictate the price. I guess the famous caveat emptor and caveat vendor apply to the art world as they do to all commercial exchange.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Deferred adulthood



From: Edna Hildebrandt — Mar 16, 2008

I have no stomach for the modern art that seems to be bizzarre to me. I am a retired registered nurse and I took art classes over the years. I have always been interested in it and has been one of my ambitions to take on as a professions but as some parents they believed that it won’t sustain me as a profession to live on it. So I am an amateur as that goes and you may not even call me a Sunday painter. But lately I have been more serious about it. I have some projects that stem from my memories of my native land the Philippines. I don’t know if you are familiar with our Filipino painters but I admire the works of Fernando Amorsolo whose paintings depict the rural life in pre-World War II Philipines. I think his works are realistic as well as impressionistic. I am not really sure. I appreciate your commentaries.

From: Lorna Dockstader — Mar 16, 2008

In organizations such as the FCA, there will always be those who are willing to speak up and those who choose to remain complacent. Age has nothing to do with it. Attitude is everything. Many persons, both young and old, keep doing things as they’ve always been done simply because they are resistant to change. The new digital projector that was used for the jury was researched by myself; or were only slides used? Skype was also set up in the gallery by a person of my more senior age. Several board meetings were held using Skype; then abandoned. For the yearly jury, Senior members outside the province are expected to pay all of their own expenses if they want to participate. Therefore, the same jurors are always there. We senior members outside the province could easily be participating via web cams now. Age has nothing to do with being innovative.

From: Patsy Lewis-Gentry — Mar 16, 2008

I keep every email that I receive from you. You are a blessing to me and my creative bent. Thank you for giving of yourself so others like me may benefit from your unselfish desires to give to others. You are appreciated.

From: Gail Shepley — Mar 17, 2008

Regarding the “Federation of Canadian Artists”… whew!… Where do I start? Probably I could say who really cares? But, here goes…I am a middle-aged female artist who decided like a lot of women that I could do it all and after the liberation and 70’s drug scenes, I am a little messed up…I chose to become a mother of four children and agree with another female artist friend of mine, who is turning 60 this year, that as committed artists we should have been more selfish and not brought children into the world so that our art didn’t have to “suffer” because we just can’t stop creating art, even if some politically commercial gaining groups think it sucks…I have been turned down plenty of times for artistic groups and gave up on it all about fifteen years ago, I do not exhibit in galleries, but I do have an arts degree, my work is in historic collections, I have two books published with my illustrations and another Albertan artist’s poems, and have taught art to many for over twenty years…I soooo understand the inception of the dada movement and today’s society is forgetting that we are walking history…I personally am disgusted that an artist can live poorly, die, and then some schmoe can make possibly millions off that person’s work…We need a REVOLUTION!

From: Jeanne Rhea — Mar 18, 2008

I am beginning to think that most of the rest of the world is more aware of the over-population problem than most of us in the U.S. This is the one area that the U. S. will not address in any form. Instead, we worry about not having enough water, enough fuel, enough food, enough resources and having too much pollution of every type and stretching our social services to the brink. You mentioned the countries with the highest proportions of Muslims as having the highest birth rates. I can’t wait to know what the next census will tell us about the US — if it does — as to where all the increase in population is coming from in our country.

From: Sylvia Domney — Mar 18, 2008

I wonder if all those jurors that insist on, or fall back on the easier “technical quality” position realize just how much damage they do to the field they all claim to love. How many times have I visited juried exhibitions finding the same “comfortable decorative” paintings – the same old “beautifully rendered” landscapes, portraits, floral studies, still life settings. I have gone through juried shows without once having my heart, emotions, or intellect being stirred by all these wonderful and beautiful works. Technical superiority and the “certified art” formula that so many jurors use as their default positions is doing nothing but driving away the younger viewers of art and the viewers and buyers that would be open to art work which speaks to a different sensibility – an art vision that is not concerned with “the beautiful” or “high technical skills” but art works that connect with strong emotions, either of great joy or great sorrows. As one of those artists that is having their very souls and ability to create art crushed by the Jurying Process for exhibitions – the process that gives precedence to technique over content, I urge any person involved with judging to remember that Art is about so much more than “easy on the eyes” – that works of art are about the great sorrow of life and the dark paths we live with – that abstractions of the real world and the new electronic world we all live in are equally important and a vital part of the art field. Stop taking the easier path, bring in some of the “not so easy or comfortable” art works into the juried shows process.

From: Dawn Cosmos — Mar 18, 2008

Art has always been a major part of my life. I have won awards and money and done some commissions on a very modest scale comparitively speaking. I have read about all the “how to’s” with regard to the chase for the big bucks, fame etc. but my own personal success came as “tears of joy” from the recipient of my work, paid for or not. That will always be my personal claim to fame of which I am very grateful for and no amount of money or regognition could ever compare. If art is truly a “gift” it must be the one that keeps on giving and touches one’s heart, as well as pays the rent..

From: Vernita — Mar 18, 2008

Your population demographics were interesting. If you delve further into the different cultures of the USA, you will find that Caucasians are becoming the minority because they have fewer children than some of the other races and cultures. It is happening in Texas today.

From: Nancy — Mar 18, 2008

I agree with the younger generation not being as creative. When I was very young, 52 now, I explored sewing to the max. Even changed patterns around to cleverly add my own touch and what was in the expensive department stores. Now fabric stores are practically obsolete. Wall Mart and Joann’s are the only places I know who even sell fabric anymore. Kids and young adults don’t even know what to do with a sewing machine. They want everything new and designed by someone else. They buy clothing that is on display on the mannequin. Creative gift wrapping is also practically obsolete. Now the stores design “gift bags” with tissue and card included in an array of designs. No need for designing yourself. I myself, always chose a creative route and have a hard time finding what I need for supplies. I actually bought hot pink tissue paper and used my paper shredder to make frills. When I was a young school girl the teachers always kept my artwork to show the next years classes, I regret that today! I would like to see now what I did. I am the only oil painter in the family. I have this tremendous need to create. I have been fortunate to be a home maker and raise my twins, now 23. The term Home Maker is what it is. Make a Home! Including my own curtains, my paintings hanging everywhere, decorate for every holiday and I can’t put it in words how I operate. YIPPEE, now that two grandkids are here, or almost 2, I feel more comfortable with my creative ways. Felt kind of foolish designing Easter baskets with only adults around. That’s just me, perhaps my inner child? I don’t know. I always have a painting to work on in my studio. I had been so fortunate and blessed to paint weekly when Elin Pendleton opened up her studio once a week for about 8-9 years before she moved to Riverside. We still keep in touch, she is now my consultant where I bring over a few paintings and critique them and we are good friends. Yeah, before the new developments I had to go out of town to buy a spool of thread!

From: Frank Armisteaed — Mar 18, 2008

I’m surprised that so far no one has connected the philospophy of our present education system with a cultural loss of technical skills and pride of accomplishment. When children are passed upwards with their age group without any need to master their curricular skills, they don’t have the basic skills to approach the next level. They quickly fall behind in development. Yet they continue to get passed anyway. There is no connection in their minds between performance and consequence. They resent any teacher who actually expects them to complete class work or gain competence. Teachers have to teach to the lowest common denominator. Many of today’s parents and teachers are graduates of this type of system, so the common denominator keeps getting lower. What hope do our children have? As a parent and youth worker with a high work ethic, I know how frustrating it is to try to raise children who take pride in acomplishment and in hard work.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 19, 2008

It is one thing to aspire to childhood for creativity’s sake and quite another to remain a child. It takes a lifetime to become a child and only after suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. Also to achieve this state takes the will to go after it and a willingness to endure years of disappointment along with the disparaging comments from your friends and parents. I can remember my folks wishing I’d grow up and get a real job. Spending hours drawing and painting didn’t seem like real man’s work. Those who want to stay at home and avoid adulthood are not in the same category as creative people. In fact, they are anathema to an artist. Wanting to be an artist takes drive, ambition, fortitude and a thick skin, not to mention a modicum of talent and a strong will. Something the deliberate stay-at-homes sadly lack. I don’t think you will find any artist worth his/her salt that falls into this “deferred adulthood” category. You have to work at being childlike again. I also agree with Frank Armisteaed. This may be at the root of the problem.

From: Brad Michael Moore — Mar 20, 2008

I think, being an artist these days is one affectation to substantiate, “Deferred Adulthood.” Just look at the enigma. Fewer gallerias, fewer true gallerists. There are hardly any prognosticators, either willing to lead in the world of criticism – or followed as if their review assessments were words of gold and fleece. Self-declaration has become the first finesse in this humanity of Internet image veneer – “I Am Artist…” A lifetime to become a child is even a shorter era to become pure in art.

From: Bonny Leibowitz — Mar 20, 2008

Just wanted to forward some of my thoughts on allowing the child to come out in paint: Becoming too bogged down in creating “likenesses” in the sense of “recording the likeness of things” and calling it realism is actually “abstract” because it is the creation if an illusion of three dimensional “things” on a flat surface whereas creating the essences of things; the concept within; emerging through color, form and composition is true realism because it records the truth of the soul…..even if that truth and that essence emerges through the appearance “things”!

From: Brad Greek — Mar 20, 2008

I believe a lot of this problem is due to the fact that here in the States they are cutting all art out of the schools. I know that here in Florida there is hardly any art in the grade and middle school levels. They have music but very little visual art. At home, most of the youth are involved in video games and computers. Which I believe is great training for their futures, but is limiting their own creative flow in the art that we traditionally create. There are some very talented school kids out here that are producing awesome works. They, I believe, are those that were born with the desire to create. The rest will find their creative voice, possibly, sometime in their life time.

From: Margaret Blank — Mar 20, 2008

This is definitely not fodder for growth and re-birth in the arts! As a parent whose children do *not* live at home any more, whose children are working and paying their own way, doing work they enjoy (one in the arts), I would suggest that it is, in part, the ‘old fogeys’ who are at fault. Not for encouraging a wide-eyed, child-like approach to art, but for trying to befriend our kids, dress like our kids, act like our kids, rather than step up to the plate as parents, encouragers, mentors, elders. It is a parent’s job to develop his children into adults, and it is made harder in the Western world these days by those who would have us over-coddle our children, and those who do not understand the need for a balanced approach of loving discipline, creative activities etc in a child’s life. My husband and I never did our children’s homework for them. We helped them understand and see what they were having difficulty with, so they could solve the problem. We didn’t have them in so many activities they couldn’t see straight. We attended the ones they were in and cheered them on with pride. We insisted they refer to adults as Mr, Miss, Ms or Mrs — or whatever title — not by first names — until they were invited to do otherwise. We insisted on the little courtesies — grace at table, don’t start to eat before everyone is served, don’t leave the table till you are excused…There were chores to do, and allowances paid. They knew the difference between a treat and a usual occurrence. There was play, and there was work, there was bed-time, and there was party time. I love my kids and welcome them ‘home’ whenever they visit — but they are adults now, and they know it. And most of the time, they act it! :-)

From: Michelle Madalena — Mar 20, 2008

This letter is extremely interesting to me. I am finding my inner child from whom I draw strength and passion and combine it with my 42 years of life and let my brush do the talking. For many years now I have been painting in all sorts of different ways and I have mastered the brush with little skill. I do not want to paint like the Classical Artist although I admire and love their work deeply. I have made attempts at some have been better than others. However I still seem to drift off into trying to figure out my own style. This is why I do not sell my work because each piece is a well loved lesson that in truth I have little knowledge of the subject I adore next to my children of course! Since I became a mother I had decided that my children were the most beautiful people in my world. I encouraged them to draw colour and paint. Now they are much older and they are going through their teenage years and my youngest daughter has slowed down tremedousely and she is insisting that she can not paint! My eldest daughter has descided to take up art on a more regular basis and is very talented and I am hoping she will pursue her happiness with art being part of her life because art is what saved my life. Art of all kinds is extremely important to the survival of people it always gives one something in common and it nurtures the sole of whom ever chooses to let it into their lives.

From: Helena Tiainen — Mar 20, 2008

I know you likely used the idea of sleeping in as a metaphor but first of all, not everyone is a morning person or an early bird. There are those of us who rather create later in the day or during the night time, if possible. The energy of night offers a totally different orientation from that of the daytime. It makes it easier to access inner realities. I also believe that it is always the inner child that is the creator no matter what the technique or how sophisticated the creation looks like. The child is that part of us that lives in wonder and dares to question the existing status quo. The constantly changing economy and threat of any financial certainty has made it harder for many to leave the nest they were born to. Certain cultures in Europe even encourage this type of behavior. From what I understand it is still perfectly normal for an Italian man to stay with their original family until they marry. The children leaving the nest to create a life of their own elsewhere is actually a pretty modern idea. It is not that long ago that we all lived in extended families where generations pulled together for the good of the all and nobody left except to marry and start a family of their own because the house/grounds did not have enough room for yet another family. Maybe this was never as common in America as it was in Europe. After all Americans are known for their independent spirit and unconventional ways. Industrialization and the creation of big cities has also cultivated the idea of smaller, independent families with their own homes. I think society overall needs to remember that without art there is no culture. Americans seem to find arts too optional. They are the first ones to go when the budget is tight. I want to ask: What else besides arts is there that nurtures and feeds the soul and makes it soar to new heights? Nature nurtures, but more like a muse. Good relationships nurture by getting us in touch with our loving nature. But the need to create is innate in humanity. Learning the process of creating would benefit all of us in being able to create more fulfilling lives for ourselves and thus giving the most that we have to give to the society at large. I think we should teach creativity/creative thinking in all schools and start it early. After all, anything new, anything innovative, has always come from creative thinking and creative action.

From: Sally Hedges — Mar 28, 2008

I have a question and wondered if you could give me some “insight” into marketing my art. I have been painting for several years now. I am now attempting the “art fair” market to get myself more out there. Do you find these bad economic times are affecting your sales? Do you think people are

spending less money on art and this might be a bad time to attempt these art fair endeavors?

From: Odette — Mar 28, 2008

As a fifty something artist and parent, I know that my values are not on automatic transfer, and yet, I do still hope that those who pursue a creative life understand that that life is also work. All that

is necessary is a strong sense of purpose. Though the youngsters may be forming a new work ethic, perhaps out of sheer will or out of seeing that they do not want their parents’ life (all the while taking full advantage of same!) who knows what the future holds?

As far as art shows go, I gave up years ago trying to convince the powers-that-be of my or my art’s worthiness. I decided a better use of my energy would be instead to just keep working = a consistent and beautiful body of work as my proof. Now I get other artists (not all of them young) imitating me, so does that mean I’ve made it?

Question: if there is a large amount of freshness out there, why not have two shows instead of one? Call it “Two sides of the Same Coin” the creative life is a combination and balance of both creative play and technical application – but one thing that remains true, the work doesn’t get made if you stay in bed!








mixed media: china, volcanic rock, yellow jasper, handmade ceramic tile, smalti,
24 x 36 inches
by Virginia Gardner, Charlottesville, VA, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Don Bryant of Johannesburg, South Africa who wrote, “The young are as they are due to the allowances and carelessness of liberal immoralities which has allowed their parents to let them become the vegetables and weeds you describe, sown mainly by the likes of by Freidan, Spock, et al.”

And also Gordon France of La Grange, IL, USA who wrote, “Your point about laziness and lack of discipline suggests the hell-bound basket be woven from liberal permissiveness. Encouraging dreamy, baby-eyed vision and childlike abandon are all very fine if it results in a meaningful and thoughtfully executed canvas.”

And also Loretta Puckrin of St. Albert, AB, Canada who wrote, “I object to the tone of the article which pre-supposes that only young people can be innovative and challenge the norm. It also appears to suggest that once you know the traditional basics you are unable to be innovative. I subscribe to the theory that when you know your media and how to use it properly, only then can you challenge the known boundaries and explore “What will happen if I… ”

And also Barbara Coffey who wrote, “Regarding Chutzpah, there is no upward age limit for audacity or brashness.”

And also Karen Cooper of Spencer, IA, USA who wrote, “I am beginning to believe this is a unilateral work ethic problem across America, thinking we are worth mucho dollars, but not really eager to work hard enough to earn them. Thanks for your letters that make us think a little deeper! On a ‘booklist’ I found: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Hardcover) by Timothy Ferriss (Author) How ironic. That wraps the problem up in a nutshell, eh?”

And also Clementina Llanes of Oceanside, California, USA who wrote, “Maybe all those young people who are dropping out and sleeping in should paint people sleeping, since that’s what they know. Yawn.”




1 Comment


    Timely piece ! I learned a lot from the insight , Does someone know where my company might get ahold of a blank SDRC Medication Administration Record (MAR) example to type on ?

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