Ahead of time


Dear Artist,

“Just like aging wine, a product of creative work acquires quality over time,” suggests theoretical physicist Avi Loeb recently in Scientific American. “It is colored by the response of the audience as well as by imitations.” What Loeb proposes is that truly innovative ideas, both scientific and artistic, gain strength when shared. By being sent out into the world, they have a chance to be scrutinized, absorbed into the culture and even copied. The world can then measure and contextualize them in the era, giving them the chance to become cultural assets. Perhaps ideas are meant to ripen — or the world is — allowing new thought to emerge as new truth, over time. You might even say letting your ideas live in the world offers the world the chance to catch up.

1Sunflowers, 1889 Oil on canvas 95 x 73 cm by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Sunflowers, 1889
Oil on canvas
95 x 73 cm
by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

The rub, of course, is that sharing creative work can be terrifying for the sharer, especially when the work is untested or high-risk. Failure, problematically defined as a lack of applause or a long, slow burn, is a thing we’ve short-sightedly labeled as weakness, rather than just unpleasant. In a world of blustering blowhards, what happens to the quiet offerings of artists and thinkers who don’t naturally geyser with the ego force or blind compulsion to polish and present their private discoveries? Art must be shared to be encountered and measured so that it might ultimately enrich the human experience.

Loeb rattles off a list of those whose brilliance was initially dismissed, then later recognized as breakthrough — among them Alfred Wegener’s theory of the continental drift in 1912, rejected by geologists for 40 years until plate tectonics were recognized; Fritz Zwicky’s 1933 discovery of “dark matter,” which took the astronomy community 40 years to accept; and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin’s 1925 doctoral thesis about the sun’s surface consisting mostly of hydrogen — dismissed for years and then, after almost 40, lauded as “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.” All were shared, then simmered in a world not yet ready for them.

Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888 Oil on canvas 72 x 92 cm by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888
Oil on canvas
72 x 92 cm
by Vincent van Gogh

Perhaps new ideas, being new, don’t just take time to be understood, but require it? “The initial circumstances are reminiscent of an admirable infant,” says Loeb. “It is fascinating for a scientist or an artist to watch the interaction of their creation with the world, just as it is for parents to watch their children.”



PS: “The products of the creative process are surprising at first in all venues of human inventiveness.” (Avi Loeb)

Saint-Rémy - Road with Cypress and Star, 1890 Oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm by Vincent van Gogh

Saint-Rémy – Road with Cypress and Star, 1890
Oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm
by Vincent van Gogh

Esoterica: Every early piece belonging to what we now know as art movements began its public life as clutter in the Salon des Refusés. How close you want to be to the leading edge is part nature, part self-nurture. It behooves you to step onto the dancefloor. What the rest of us think of what may one day become our cultural treasures, and in what time frame, is only a small and for now, irrelevant part of who you are as an artist, today. In this sense, there is no time. Stick to what is propelling you towards your personal discoveries. Revel in the stillness. If there is, indeed, a formula that may or may not include a ripening of 40 years, that half of a lifetime is just long enough for your untainted inspirations and hard-scrabbled discoveries to blossom and arrive — in time, and timeless.

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“Time is not a thing that passes…it’s a sea on which you float.” (Margaret Atwood)



  1. Wonderful letter Sara. The bonding that occurs on sharing, whether it is a tall tale or true, is unique to homo sapiens. This letter gives me hope. I have so many things in my top draw, equally cluttered, that may one day be shared beyond the dust mite colony they sit beneath.

  2. So very well articulated Sara! I was working late last evening down on the shores of the Salish Sea plein air painting and testing out a new surface. I know, without a moments doubt, that these small works are just for the pleasure of brush in hand and being in nature. This morning I shared this small painting sketch, along with some process images. A long-time serious fan of my paintings, Bryan-Carlton Flournoy, left the following comment that he has given me permission to share and will be included in the next “Brush with Life” issue of the gallery newsletter – “Every time I see these geographic themes of land and water in your omnipresent photos that become less and less photos and more the feeling of just being there/everywhere, I see a meeting of minds [of land and water], an agreement to coexist for dynamic reasons, a suggestion of how things got started or how things [might] end up with a promise that any/either way is just fine as open skies look down bearing witness.” When I receive reflection like this they are like echos from my heart to brush to audience coming full circle. I will paint anyway, and a slow burn it continues to be, but every once in a while something happens that aligns my inner and outer worlds in ways I hadn’t imagined. For this I am grateful. All the best of the weekend to you Sara and everyone here at The Painter’s Keys!

  3. Sara, This piece touched deep and dark places and gives me an energy burst after working and working and working to prepare for our summer exhibit at the ArrowheadEtc Gallery here in St. George, Utah and another show of abstract work. Over the past two years, work comes slower, with more Aha! moments as it unfolds. It’s no longer slap dash, or done alla prima, bot as a delicious revelation that surprises me as much as those who view it after I have finished. Savoring the creative energy seems to explain it best! Thank you for marrying art and science as we artists marry land land and sky.

  4. I was struck by the impact of the two van Gogh paintings with people at the bottom. It’s as if he expected large spaces to be filled with projected images of his work and these were the visitors to the show. Having been there and enjoyed the experience I’ll stay no more. Except that if our criteria for our work includes looking for the new, as apart from breakthroughs in competence, things can get conflicted. As the article says- new is not always obvious. Thanks, Sara

  5. As artists I believe our job is to discover and share while respecting space and time, which seem to be necessary. Thank you for another insightful letter.

  6. Love this. I have more than often marveled at the lasting power of music. To learn work written by composers who lived and created centuries ago is an experience that transcends the human spirit to all corners of the ceiling of beauty. I wish I could confidently believe the artwork I created over the years has it’s own lasting beauty and shouldn’t be shuddered at. Oh heck, maybe Bach had his own shudders at his older works, just learned to allow the public to decide where it shall take it’s journey. :)

  7. Thank you for a thought-provoking letter Sara. I was thinking, only yesterday, how important (to me) it is to connect with people through my paintings and for them to experience, through viewing them. Your letter reminded me that that is the purpose. Sales are nice (and yes, more would also be nice, for financial reasons) but they’re the cherry on the cake. Thank you for reminding me about the reason for Shari g. I would be ecstatic if my art ‘took off’ long after I was no longer present, and it was still connecting with people.

  8. Very thought provoking! I’ve been “picturing” going in a different direction with my artwork and hesitate to thwart consistency. This article made me realize that I have to follow my heart and creative spirit and trust that it’s the only way for me to follow my artistic path. Thank you for this very timely message Sara!

  9. Certainly one of your best letters Sara. Your Dad would be pleased. For the art, it is best to walk your artistic journey alone. I can do that given a 36 year career that pays the bills while avoiding expensive distractions like golf, fast cars and fast everything else too. Art and science are the same thing anyway and surrounding oneself with the truth and honesty of nature that nurtures, is far better than any of the other options. Thanks!

  10. Rick Charvet on

    Ahhh…so apropos for me at this juncture in time. Covid put us all in uncertain times, but for me it was pure “silver linings.” After all these years, I decided to let my art live and breathe again. I have spent the last six months or so going through my cherished memories, processes, and artistic endeavors by pulling those living souls out of old art tubes. For me, the art is a part of me and I decided it was time to let others share in what brought me such joy. Are they going to make me the next Van Gogh? No. They will, however, show that a little old kid who loved art grew up into a man who got to learn more about painting and in the end got to share his paintings to bring color, line, shape, ideas, texture and conceptual narratives to life for my little town to see. My hope is that others feel a warm sensation in their hearts or a desire to talk about a piece. Today, I am putting my last framed pieces up in our small gallery in Gilroy, CA. I taught art to children for more than 25 years, now it’s my reveal party. And to me, that’s what art is all about.

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January 23, 2022 to January 30, 2022

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https://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/219927-Turn-in-the-Road-24x30-1-wpcf_300x246.jpgTurn In The Road
24x30 acrylic

Featured Artist

My art represents an artistic journey that has been on-going for more than thirty-five years with help and guidance from many wonderful artists. Now, with years of plein-air painting experience, study and solo exhibitions, I believe that my current work has reached its highest level, reflecting the depth of my absorption in the wonder and beauty of the world around me.  I have learned that, as an artist, I will never stop looking for better ways to express my feelings in art and that struggling to more fully understand myself is integral to my painting; a philosophy that was part of every workshop I taught. Still is.


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