The art lotto


Dear Artist,

In the pub the other night, I watched a couple of workmen fresh from plastering. Pints in hand, they were going over their lotto tickets. “All wrong numbers,” they said. Every examined ticket received a resigned smile and a mumbled “disappoint’n.”

Making art is like buying into the lottery. While we may play often, we may never hit the really big pot. Creatures of habit, hoping to get lucky or simply being stubborn, we continue to play.

Furthermore, driving out into the environment or entering the workaday studio, we can soon be in the company of negative feelings: “It’s all been done before,” “Why bother?” and, “There I go — failed again.”

But there’s something that keeps us buying tickets on ourselves. In the lotto that is art we still have a certain amount of control. Actually, we can print our own bloomin’ tickets. Talk about stacking the deck!

It’s our personal sense of uniqueness that keeps us reinvesting. Maybe you’re wondering how to give yourself a little edge so you might get more regular winners? Artists might consider repeating a few self-designed mantras. Better still, get up and sing:

“It may have been done before — but not by me.” “Something worth doing is worth doing differently,” and “Oh, the lovely feeling of failure.”

While it’s difficult to put a unique spin into every work of art, it’s this feeling of “first-time” uniqueness and personal, workmanlike exploration that rings the winning buzzer. And even mild distresses, distractions and disabilities make their chancy contributions. The idea is to walk away with a few items that are different from the standard fare. It’s a push, and it’s certainly not everything in life, but it’s way ahead of whatever’s in second place.

Best regards,


PS: When Barbara Walters asked Sir Laurence Olivier how he might wish to be remembered, he replied, “As something like an expert workman.” Barbara said, “Sounds so prosaic.” Olivier reflected for a moment and said, “Well, I think a poet is a workman. I think Shakespeare was a workman. And God’s a workman. I don’t think there’s anything better than a workman. Or a workwoman.”

Esoterica: We are workpeople who give ourselves permission to put our own individual spin to our craft. It is this spin that makes art so absorbing, so interesting and so valuable to others. It’s this spin that keeps us at it. You can have small wins practically every day, and what losses you may suffer can often be rectified on the next go-round. Artists spin their own lottos.


Investment of time and effort
by Gary Lanthrum, Manassas, VA, USA

There is one significant difference between returning to the studio, and returning to the lottery vendor. In the studio, something is learned each day that contributes to the next day’s painting. Occasionally, there is an “aha” moment that propels the next day’s art to a new level. Small advances in understanding composition, or color temperature, or value recognition provide positive feedback that keeps us going even when the total result is still short of what we are striving for. When buying a lottery ticket, each purchase is like the very first one. No lessons are learned that help the selection of future number. When we win, there is no feeling of accomplishment, just the fleeting pleasure of being lucky for a day. All lasting satisfactions come from investment of time and effort – and that is no lottery game. Ultimately, everybody who invests effort on their passions is a winner. Those that sit idly by waiting for luck to strike are perpetual losers even if they strike it rich.

There are 3 comments for Investment of time and effort by Gary Lanthrum

From: Ron Ruble — Jun 16, 2009

Ah, Gary, you are a true sage. And furthermore, I will now stop my practice of picking the previous days winning numbers when I play the lottery today.

From: Cheryl O — Jun 16, 2009

Well said, Gary. I love what you said about “lasting satisfactions”. And now I won’t feel like such an odd duck for not buying lottery tickets.

From: LKPerrella — Jun 18, 2009

Gary’s comment expressed my feelings perfectly. One of my ongoing goals is to “work without outcome”, and just GET INTO THE STUDIO regardless of arbitrary considerations. Whether I feel “brilliant” (!!??) on a given day, or wake up bursting with ideas, or feel totally bottomed-out, etc. – I know that merely going to the studio and starting something is my mission.

Regardless of “Results”, I know that exploration and curiosity are invaluable to find out what is “next” in my art process. I totally agree with the sentiments in Gary’s letter, and appreciate the clarity of his words…..and I was also left with a renewed feeling of gratitude that I have an opportunity to spend a lifetime doing art. Thank you.


A dearth of home runs
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA


“Autumn lane”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

I liken my artistic effort more to a major league baseball hitter. He faces a ninety mile an hour ball that is dipping and moving with a narrow piece of rounded wood. Even the best players fail to get a hit 70% of the time. Failure is the norm. Occasionally, though, a minor miracle occurs when the bat intersects the ball a certain way and sails way off into the stands producing the home run. A player practices for hours and days and years to improve his slim chances of hitting a home run. In the process, his average production improves. Artists don’t have statisticians like major league baseball but practice definitely improves our chances for the “home run” painting. In this sense we are workmen like your plasterers. Over the years our ‘average’ production gets better. We can still produce a lousy result or perhaps a great one. It is that potential that keeps us artists hacking away. I recall museums where a loosely hung large diameter red velvet rope separated the viewer from the masterpiece. I use to joke that maybe I could do one good enough to merit the red velvet rope treatment and as an ancient old man could watch the viewers admiring my masterpiece. The odds aren’t much better than the lottery!

There is 1 comment for A dearth of home runs by Paul deMarrais

From: B J Adams — Jun 16, 2009

Great Analogy. May I borrow it?


Photo-collage art
by Russ Henshall, Pulham Market, Norfolk, UK

I take many photos of flowers and fruit in our beautiful garden. I then cut the photo pictures to jigsaw into a whole composite picture, each flower in its full glory, interlocking into the next. It’s a lotto as to whether the whole ‘works’ or not! This then makes a scene in the garden. Do you think this is genuine art, creative and acceptable as an oil painted picture or a sketch in watercolours etc.? I would be most grateful to hear your view and the vies of our readership on this kind of creativity.

(RG note) Thanks, Russ. I don’t know about the others, but in my mind pretty well everything you assemble with paper, paint, clay, metal, wood or found objects is art. If it can be moved around and gives joy to make, it’s art. And even though the public may not treasure it the way they do conventional forms of painting, sculpture, etc., it’s still art. “Art is what you can get away with.” (Marshall McLuhan)

There are 3 comments for Photo-collage art by Russ Henshall

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jun 16, 2009

If digital manipulation of photos can result in art, why wouldn’t what you do be art? Collage has a fine tradition in the arts, and you even take the original images from which you assemble your works. They sound fascinating. Do you have some photos of what you do posted somewhere? I’d like to see!

From: LKPerrella — Jun 18, 2009

As a collage artist, I hope you will take some time to further investigate this wonderful artform. Some further research might bolster your confidence in what you are doing, and will encourage you to keep going.

Like the others above, I hope you will fully embrace what you are doing (and enjoying!) and come to realize that collage is wonderfully spontaneous and tests your ability to compose, work with colors, find the “sweet spot” of every composition, etc. I also think it is one of the most non-threatening artforms when one is a beginner. Please – by all means – research the history of collage and perhaps that will give you the confidence to call your work by its proper name…..

“Art”. (and by the way, one of the Hot Topics in Collage is the debate about using “canned” collage materials – and you have already hopped over that fence by using your own photos. Bravo!)

From: Gayle Gerson — Jun 18, 2009

As a teacher of the art of collage, I wholeheartedly applaud your efforts with your flower photos. People often wrongly think that “cut and paste” can’t be fine art. However, the collagist is using the same principles of composition, color theory and design that a worker in any other fine art media is using. The result can be a landscape, a still life, figures or an abstract. Please research the fine art form of collage.

BTW, Picasso was the first fine art collagist as he experimented with flattening the picture plane (and inventing cubism with Georges Braque). He used old wallpaper, chair caning and newspaper among other things.


True purpose
by Peter Daniels, White Rock, BC, Canada


“Sea to Sky”
original painting
by Peter Daniels

I never bought into the stuff of “It has all been done before.” When you think of your soul, and what uniqueness you bring to the table, it will astonish you how important your actions are to the universe! If you align yourself (soul) with positive purpose, you can work on dimensions that few have walked into before you. These old souls which have transformed, will guide you and become true friends to your journey! True purpose leads all of mankind forward!



There are 3 comments for True purpose by Peter Daniels

From: Anonymous — Jun 16, 2009

“When you think of your soul, and what uniqueness you bring to the table, it will astonish you how important your actions are to the universe!”

Beautifully said, thank you! I love your painting too.

From: Ralph Legros — Jun 16, 2009

I am with you Peter! Happy painting!

From: LKPerrella — Jun 18, 2009

Mary – “You had me at “hello”. I concur with the previous letter. Before I started to read your letter, I was totally engaged by your painting. Such strength. Quite unique – a forceful powerful image.

So, although your letter moved me and provided strong “take away” ( I agree with the letter above and will never let my bad knees keep me from exploring a museum again!!?) — it was your artwork that stopped me cold and made me pay attention. Keep it up, Mary.

Well, of course you will. Consider me part of the cheering section.


Doing it differently
by Mary Duffy, Newcastle, Ireland


original painting
by Mary Duffy

Reading your letter this morning makes me realize I have hit the jackpot. And that I hit it every day. I can honestly say that I never feel “It’s all been done before,” “Why bother?” or, “There I go — failed again.” Never. Not once. Ever. And I wonder why? So many people artists, and others, expect that the artist’s life is one of waiting for “my muse” waiting to feel “in the mood” or some such accepted ritual. So, for me it’s different. My muse or mood never leaves me. I am always ready to paint and I nearly always paint en plein air.

I have no arms. I am 48 years old. I have been painting professionally for a thousand days. I am making a living – just. I paint in a different way than most. But I have been avoiding the life of the painter for decades. I find it hard to deal with condescending comments, and the traditional association of people like me with charity cards… the “foot & mouth painters.” I always give the Chinese saying in response, “One paints with one’s eyes and heart.” If this is not experienced by the questioner as me, the bitter and twisted cripple throwing down the gauntlet good and proper, as opposed to a great opening line, well then some real conversation might follow.

So, if the day is dry, and there is not a howling gale, and I can get help to load up myself and my car, I can usually be found out painting. But it is hard. I do get fed up walking this tightrope between being a painter and doing it differently. And yes, after twenty years of avoiding painting, and a thousand days of doing it despite myself, I do realize that my battle is within.

There are 9 comments for Doing it differently by Mary Duffy

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jun 16, 2009

You are very brave and I encourage you to continue painting, because for all of us the battle is within. We all (artists) battle with self doubt, embarassment when painting in front of others and wonder if we have what it takes. Go with your heart and keep painting. One of my teachers used to say that painting is 98 per cent in your head and 2 per cent in your hands. So, you are already ahead of the game!

From: Linda Gerson — Jun 16, 2009

You are an inspiration to persevere! Thank you for writing.

From: BJ Wright — Jun 16, 2009

And I sometimes let a little arthritis pain keep me inside instead of getting out and painting en plein air. You’re an inspiration. I’m packing my easel and heading for the door. Thank you for reminding me that I’m an artist and artists paint.

From: David Gellatly — Jun 16, 2009

May your paintings shine and move the soul as the written words of your countryman Christy Brown, of “Down All the Days (My Left Foot)” fame. Slainte!

From: Anonymous — Jun 16, 2009

The Untitled piece that you included with your comment is beautiful and different, which I love. You certainly do paint “with your eyes and your heart”.

From: In awe! RLR — Jun 16, 2009

Ah, Mary, you are a beauty and I breathe deeply of you, as you are truly there.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jun 16, 2009

Mary Duffy, you are an artist, pure and simply. You do what any dedicated artist does: you paint with whatever means is at hand. Your art is the proof. No explanations needed. I’m glad you told us, though. One more thing to celebrate about you and about art. Thank you.

From: Tinker Bachant — Jun 16, 2009

Good for you Mary Duffy! You are the epitome of a true Irish woman. Or any strong and resourceful woman. Remind me of my female forbears and my own determination to not let others meaningless criticisms affect me.

I know who I am and what I can do .

From: Liz Reday — Jun 17, 2009

I loved your painting before I read your letter. After reading, I’m in awe. You have a ton of talent and a beautiful soul. Keep painting despite all obstacles, you are an inspiration to all painters everywhere.


by Lynda Hartwell

I do not understand the cynicism that says the painting genre is dead, “It’s all been done.” Hogwash. That’s like saying beauty is dead. Language is dead. Opera is dead? I’m an art collector, but not a well funded one. Still, since November, I’ve collected enough to open a small gallery. I’m a passionate fan of oil/acrylic paintings, and I find new (to me) artists on the Internet every day. The work I am seeing is astoundingly good. Furthermore, Robert, much of the work is unique. These artists are trailblazing into totally new directions that are not self-consciously different-just-to-be-different. Really extraordinary. Painting will never be dead as long as the good Lord keeps bestowing talent, and I don’t think that’s going to stop any time soon.

There are 2 comments for Hogwash by Lynda Hartwell

From: Lynda Hartwell — Jun 16, 2009

I collect for myself, not for resale.

From: Ben — Jun 16, 2009

I think the “painting is dead” comment is shorthand for “painting no longer moves our uber-culture in volcanic throes.” If that’s what is meant, I think it’s probably true. We’re a culture swamped with images of all sorts. Adding the halo effect of asserting that an image is art, can still get it regarded as being culturally effective — I bet academics have better words for this! — but I think the gauntlet has been past to other media. That being said, I don’t think I care too much that it’s true. It might be great to have the cognoscenti earnestly perturbed by or swooning over new work — as opposed to lauding market forces that talley huge dollars for stuff — but if my landscape paintings are now relegated to genre work (discounted as decorative or illustrative), I’m okay with that. I love the stuff that others do. I love doing the stuff I do. People who earn livings writing endlessly about iconography as pertains to this or that stream of culture can continue to do that and I’m not terribly effected one way or another. I’m someone who loves the way a thick smear of rich paint makes a hillside or watercourse come alive, and I know I’m not alone in that. If the mavens of high culture want to paint a scarlet letter A, for anachronism, on my forehead, it’s right here under my sun visor, out where I’m standing, in front of my french easel.


Focus on the pleasure
by Marilyn Ross, Washington, USA


“June day in Montana”
original painting
by Marilyn Ross

Regardless of whether our efforts result in “the really big pot,” we are already one-up on a majority of folks who buy lotto tickets. If the constraints of our lives were removed, freeing us up to do anything we wanted, wouldn’t it still be to paint? Just focus on the pleasure and forget “the really big pot.” Maybe the ideas will flow more naturally.




There are 4 comments for Focus on the pleasure by Marilyn Ross

From: Carol Cox — Jun 15, 2009

What a BEAUTIFUL painting!!

From: Tinker Bachant — Jun 16, 2009

This is a really lovely painting!

From: Ralph Legros — Jun 16, 2009

Have to love that painting!

From: Kells Mooty — Jun 18, 2009

I agree, this is a BEAUTIFUL painting!


Doing the impossible
by Jean McLaren, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada


acrylic painting
by Jean McLaren

I like your idea of finding new ways of doing things. I love doing what people say is impossible. It makes me stubborn to see if I can work it out. Because I work mostly with acrylic paint, and like working on canvas but like the look of using paper and attaching it to the canvas, I use Strathmore Aquarius II and attach it with gloss or matte medium, which is how I did the enclosed painting. Lately many of my friends say that they love to paint with watercolour but cannot afford the costs of framing. So I thought, why not paint watercolour with the Strathmore paper on the canvas. So I did! I let the painting dry thoroughly (overnight) and then sprayed it with Krylon Workable Fixative (do this outside because it smells awful) Give it 2 coats and let them dry in between.

Then give it a coat of gloss or matte medium. Voila — no frame needed. By cutting the paper a little smaller than the canvas and then painting the edges black you have a frame.

There are 2 comments for Doing the impossible by Jean McLaren

From: Anonymous — Jun 17, 2009

Framing is more than adding a border around the image in black paint. The purpose of framing is to support, present and conserve. A good framing job does not take away from the painting, but it does present it in a professional manner. Artists should be aware of this when approaching galleries to display their work.

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Jun 17, 2009

Being in a framing dilemma as I am right now, I think your idea is a good one, it is a notch above just presenting a work on paper, some mounting beats none as far as I can see, besides it could still be framed.


Difficulty with comparisons
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic


“Peace/ Plenty/ Solidity”
wood sculpture, 47 x 59 cm
by Norman Ridenour

Many years ago I was living in Barcelona and befriended a wonderful ceramic craftsman/artist. Wonderful, both as a human being and as an artist. He showed weekly outdoors in a plaza. As we talked almost each week he became more and more despondent. Finally one day I showed up with some wine and we really got to talking. He blurted out, “How can a man show his art in front of that?” He pointed at the magnificent Gothic church standing behind us on the Plac de Pi. He kept on doing the work but his wife showed it. I never saw him again. I had expected the Rodin museum in Paris to be inspiring – it was totally debilitating for months. How can I compete with that? (Brancusi on the other hand got me to work.) I am lucky that I have a lot of ideas, good health and am as stubborn as a Mexican burro, but no winning lotto ticket.

There are 3 comments for Difficulty with comparisons by Norman Ridenour

From: Catherine McLay — Jun 17, 2009

If we paint to compete with all the great artists of the past, we are lost! Just think — no writers would have penned anything since Shakespeare!

From: Catherine McLay — Jun 17, 2009

P.S. Your sculptures are awe-inspiring, Norman — I love the beauty of your shapes, the contrasting wood grains and the delicate balance!

From: LKPerrella — Jun 18, 2009

As long as we are evoking Shakespeare……Let’s recall his words, “Comparisons are odious”. And by the way – WONDERFUL wood sculpture. It made me want to touch my computer screen to feel the textures.

Keep it up – you have winning ideas, and what could be better than that?


Not a loser
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada


“Lake Minnewanka, Banff”
acrylic painting, 20 x 24 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I am not in love with my husband’s habit of buying lottery tickets. Every time I happen to be present when he is checking the ticket in the mall and “not a winner” flashes on the screen, it gives me some perverse pleasure to shout loudly “LOSER!!!” to the resentment of all the people around the Lotto booth.

Last night while I was pouring hot water over my acrylic painting with the intention to “just scrape off a small area,” and large patches and lumps of acrylic paint and gesso started peeling off all the way down to the canvas, my husband walked in and I was very grateful for him not shouting LOSER at that. After reading this letter I think I’ll be more compassionate to the perils of the non-artists lottery — I can now relate to it.


Free, loose and carefree manner
by Liz Reday, South Pasadena, CA, USA


“LA night ride”
original painting
by Liz Reday

Having stumbled through some large oil on canvases before finding success, I realized that learning to paint this large could get expensive. It took three 36″ x 48″ paintings to prepare for the winner on the fourth one. Yes, I can cut down the failed paintings and re-stretch, re-gesso, etc. using the original stretcher bars, but still, I wanted to approach painting large in a freer, looser, more carefree manner. So I unearthed some large large 4′ x 6′ paper, got out all my massive jars of acrylics which were miraculously still fresh and useable and mixed up a batch. I’m so glad that I hoarded art supplies and kept them in relatively good condition (only a few dried up or rotted!).

Attaching the big paper on a magnet board, I turned up the music and laid in large swathes of paint: JOY! Well, not so much joy in learning how to paint with acrylics on paper all over again, but the feeling of freedom was worth it alone. I have about 25 sheets of this large paper and hope to find success halfway through the stack. It’s only by repeatedly painting on this scale can I learn. Sooner or later, I’ll get a winner if I can just keep going and not get demoralized by my mistakes along the way. And it beats spending money on stretched canvas and oil paint in these times of fewer sales. Acrylic on paper opens the door to experimentation and the divine pleasure of intense, saturated color, full size. Plus you can paint over it and under it, gesso it and get out the spray cans and florescent tempura with gel medium, collage, mixed media… the beat goes on. Who knows what I will do with all these paintings, but it doesn’t matter, I’m in love with Slow Dry Gel Medium. The whole set-up is redolent of kindergarten poster paint on paper and I’m loving it!

There are 3 comments for Free, loose and carefree manner by Liz Reday

From: Dottie Dracos — Jun 16, 2009

I LOVE this painting! You’re doing something right!! Keep it going. You inspire me.

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 16, 2009

The only lottery producing our art is within ourselves. That elusive satisfaction we feel when we have completed a work that is so much better than the one previous, that’s our “lottery” win. The competition is our own limitations. When the work flows and it begins to breathe life and competence … there is no substitute for that.

“It’s all been done before?” How many times did Monet paint the gardens at Giverney? Four? The haystacks? How many richly varied paintings did Vermeer paint from inside his own house? Every day is different, the light, the foliage, our perspective. Part of the art is in finding that unique difference that demands another painting. I’m currently painting the Taos Pueblo for the second time. I last painted it in 1986. The Pueblo has been in existance for about a thousand years, and studying my photographic references I was surprised to realize what a dynamic site it is. I found a smoke stack that now has an adobe base. The doors are painted different colors. A couple windows are stuccoed over, a couple more have wooden shutters, and drains have been replaced. Wooden steps have been removed and added. Whole walls have been eliminated at entrances.

The Taos Pueblo has been painted by thousands of artists, but not by me, not at this time, and not with the influence of the current residents. Interestingly, I found on line a photograph taken in the 1940s … and the same flat rock propped up against one particular wall to divert rain water is still there.

I find the Pueblo fascinating, and so did the individual who commissioned the painting. I’m enjoying this work immensely, working through the intricate values painting the adobe. No matter “it’s been done before.”

From: Ralph Legros — Jun 16, 2009





Golden eagle

original painting 16 x 20 inches
by Ken Cochrane, Kelowna, BC, Canada


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 Laura Tovar Dietrick of Germany, who wrote, “Each piece may not be a masterpiece, but once in a while, something good is produced and for that, I’m grateful.”

And also Kristina Zallinger who wrote, “As an artist, I feel that I win the lotto every day!”

And also Randi Lockhart of Orangeville, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I totally agree with today’s letter. Every time I go out to paint with George Perdue, I say ‘this time I will get a painting right,’ and every time when we are going back home I say ‘I blew it again.’ You would think I would stop buying those lotto tickets, but I don’t.”

And also Betty Billups of Sandpoint, ID, USA, who wrote: “I have found that if you are willing to risk losing all, if you just jump off and pray like heck, you just may come up with something totally different than you had ever dreamed of!”


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The art lotto



From: R L Sullivan — Jun 11, 2009

When my ship comes in I’ll be at the airport.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 11, 2009

Ah- cynicism… my favorite! My understanding is that if MY ship comes in- it’s MINE- and try as I may to escape it by not being present- it’s gonna find me anyway…

Robert- in your words- ‘the really big pot’ (considering you’re rich by most folks standards) there’s still a material-plane perceived wealth based upon a monetary value system judgment- which suggests that to win- or be a winner- you have to have monetary wealth. Wealth means many different things. The ‘lotto’ of course- is all about the big money jackpot where all you did was invest a tiny little bit of yourself hoping to get a huge payoff. (Not a description of my art-making process.) Often- lotto winners find after the fact that their lives are altered so irrevocably by money (or overnight success) that they are often destroyed. Susan Boyle might be a case in point.

So what’s worse? A small loss with no large return- or a large win and the destruction of your way of life? It is we ourselves who make the call that ‘if I only had enough money’ well then- all would be well. I’ve never had enough money- so I had to get well without it and find ways to continue to create on a virtual shoestring. And there was no insta-win of anything. My winning has taken me more than 30 years and I still really don’t have enough money- although as a matter of fact money does seem to be becoming less of an issue at this point.

But I was never able to stop doing what I’m doing just so I could go do something stupid for someone else JUST to have enough money. So how I accommodated myself was by giving everything up along the way. And yes- ‘money’ would solve a few survival-based problems- but that’s all it would do- because my level of depression is precisely related to how much I’m not creating. The more I’m creating- regardless of how much money I don’t have- the healthier I am spiritually/mentally/emotionally and physically. And so money- per say- ceased to have a stranglehold over me- as did unnecessary ‘things’.

I learned a while back that I’d lived long enough to become a mid-career artist- something I didn’t know existed when I was younger. But in coming to understand what that meant I also gained the understanding that I’ve already won the lotto big time because of the amount of work unique to me that I have manifested and brought into the world- and yes- I mean birthed. There’s enough of it to be recognized as a body. It will exist long after I’m gone. And so if it doesn’t actually get recognized until I’m dead- it will still get recognized.

Money along the way is nice- and helpful of course- but even this lifetime- the length of this ‘single’ embodiment- has become irrelevant. You don’t HAVE to win big now to win in the long run. Yet the more you work at it NOW- the more likely it is that the universe will deliver- even if it is ART. So if you never stop creating- you win- regardless. Vincent won.

From: Darla — Jun 12, 2009

Making art is a way of life. You can’t buy the ability and vocation to make art, though money can smooth the way.

Like anything else, money is only important when you don’t have enough. That’s why people who really don’t have enough money get so angry about overpaid CEO’s and others who think of money as merely game points and not something to be used for survival.

From: Randolph Surrey — Jun 12, 2009

Vincent was one of the most successful painters in history. Too bad he wasn’t around to witness it. Seeking approval, as he was, he would have enjoyed seeing things go well for a change.

From: Mike Young — Jun 12, 2009

Yes: let’s gambol through our art practice…….

From: Jeanne, Manhattan Beach — Jun 12, 2009

Damn, I sure needed this letter today. The timing was perfect. “It may have been done before… but not by me,” resonated with my soul. And “Something worth doing is worth doing differently,” gave me all kinds of permission to jump into the deep end of the creative pool with the confidence I was sorely missing of late. I think those who are focusing on your Lotto metaphore are missing the big point of your letter. Creating is the big pay-off. If life as an artist were easy, everyone would be doing it. Thanks for the boost, Bob.

From: Casey Klahn — Jun 13, 2009

You touched a chord here!

I am reading de Kooning, whose wonderful capacity for doubt held him in great stead.

From: RussHogger — Jun 13, 2009

Thank you Robert for your inspiring letter,”The Art Lotto.” The only time I try to get lucky is when I’m working on a color mix on my palette that I haven’t used before. Gambling with my art is not new, it’s become part of the creative force that drives me. When it comes down to my art, call me selfish or what but I only paint for myself. I win some and I lose some but when I win, I win big. There’s nothing more satisfying than looking at the latest winning effort and realising all that gambling paid off.

From: Connie — Jun 14, 2009


I disagree completely. Artistic endeavours are not in the least like buying a lottery ticket. If I spend my life hoping for the “big break”, I may spend my life being disappointed all the time. Being artistic means tuning into and following your internal compass in the direction which brings you satisfaction.

I once saw an actor on the “Actor’s Studio’ who answered a student’s question about making it big by saying that if you want to act, get out and act in what ever venue you can. Spend your whole life acting. Stop worrying about the ‘big break’ because it may actually happen and then you can become a “has-been” before you realize it.

From: Anna — Jun 14, 2009

Hmmm… Robert , although I understand where you are coming from with this one I believe this is not always exactly the case, (with regard to my own journey at least). Although my experience as an artist started out as a lottery, it is becoming less and less lottery like the more I learn. I am self taught so spend time searching out knowledge in the areas I feel I am lacking (which I usually find out through seeking out the critiques of fellow artists I respect and admire) – I am currently reading up on perspective and have spent many hours with my nose in books researching topics such as lost and found edges, composition, technical/archival stuff and have even delved into the realm of marketing (blak). Although I know I still have alot to learn and can improve immensley, I strive to take as much of the lottery out of my art journey as possible.

From: Haim Mizrahi — Jun 15, 2009

You just got close enough with this e.mail to understand that there should be an attitude in place in order to serve the desire to create. But not close enough to realize that real freedom is acquiring a technique that helps us by-pass so many small obstacles that on the behalf of which we find ourselves paralized in rare and promising moments. I work (and still am working) on an attitude that is as firm as a rock, and the rock is mine, and the presence is a given on the heights of fusion. It is all about balancing the amount of pain since pain represents all sides of the spectrum to begin with, it is all about the adamant approach to greatness, that is what makes it uniquely ours,

God bless the quiet attempt; the humming and the squeenting!

From: Michael-Ann Belin — Jun 15, 2009

I just wanted to say, of all the newsletters I receive, yours is one I always find the time to read no matter what crazy stuff might be going on in my life. Most of the time I find something relevant and meaningful within your words and want to thank you for the gift of inspiration you share with folks.

From: Linda Saccoccio — Jun 15, 2009

It’s also important to remember when you are creating original work, it will not always be received positively the first time around, and it probably won’t please all audiences. It’s not necessarily easy to absorb, not comfort food or vanilla ice cream. It will be more like food we don’t enjoy until we are mature enough. Original work is like good literature or poetry, in contrast to tabloid newspapers, or the evening news for that matter. Original work comes from the authenticity of the artist seeking to engage, enliven and evolve. Joy is involved in the creative game and because of this art has the capacity to inspire and alter the viewer. However active viewer participation is necessary, we cannot expect art to be easy to consume or obvious.

From: Pene — Jun 15, 2009

Dear Robert, I like the way you paint. I like the way you write. I like the way you think. That’s three out of three.

All I can add is thank you so much for sharing.

All the best!

From: Madhu Saxena — Jun 16, 2009

Your letters are just fantastic. They are very inspiring to people from any walk of life. Thanks a lot for giving back to the society.

From: Carol Beth Icard — Jun 16, 2009

I just want to tell you that your two paintings (with sand!) made me assess what appeals to me. My personal opinion is that the one on the left feels absolutely wonderful to my eye. I especially love the shape of the distant land form (cliffs?) and the low diagonal in the foreground. The painting on the right does not appeal to me. I feel blocked by the rock despite the diagonal thrust. Thanks for putting them up.

From: Cathy Harville — Jun 16, 2009

Reminders are so important. With the advent of post-it notes, life is made so much easier! I have reminder notes in my wallet, in my appointment book, and sometimes I write on my arm. With all the paint all over me, no one seems to notice.

With respect to sand – I paid good money for a jar of sand texture gel! Great stuff for beach scenes or tree trunks! After it dries, color flecks can be added with a palette knife. Awesome!

I haven’t tried the “open” acrylics. Perhaps you could elaborate your experience in the near future.

May the wind be always at your back, and the sun in your face….


From: Kathy Connelly — Jun 16, 2009

Are you really where you say you are (Ireland)? Say “hello” to my Irish relatives. Great writings, I always take time to read them.

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 16, 2009

Almost on the same day I got a rejection letter on two paintings I submitted for exhibit and an acceptance for one painting submitted to an affiliate show. Talk about lottery. For me it’s missing the big prize and hitting the second award.

I liken the business of painting more to a crap shoot. In the end life’s a lottery if you think about. Its a game of chance with the artist having a bit of control of the outcome. We can stack the deck by being better and persevering. I heard a joke once about a guy who always complained to God about never winning the lottery. One day after his regular complaints a thunder clap rang out from the heavens and a voice said ” BUY A TICKET!”

From: Sharon Marie — Jun 16, 2009

I love your traveling and it feels like we are with you. thank you

I did an oil on board, got home and set it outside. This morning I retrieved this warped board and I have to laugh, it could have been my masterpiece..ha enjoy the sand. sc

From: Asta Dale — Jun 16, 2009

Dear Robert,

Just this once I would like to tell you how much I do apreciate your twice weekly letters.

You are a wonderful, persuasive and encouraging correspondent and each one of us has need of this positive support.

I often wonder how you find time to write all these twice weekly letters, arrange your world-wide travels, paint your daily output and support your letters by current knowledge about several different subjectmatter.

I find it very difficult doing just my daily chores with house and garden and grown family and keep up interest in painting. For me it is hard work and intensive concentration to get back into my studio.

I have to delegate certain days for painting only.

It seems that the outside world interferes with my activities in the studio. Each morning i go for a long walk to free my mind of worldly worries before I go into my studio.

This sums it up nicely – a constant struggle for better results –

Thank you for your moral support! asta

From: Gary Holland — Jun 16, 2009

On entering art contests: Over the last 20 years I’ve only entered a few contests. I’ve judged many more than that. So, why the disdain for contests? Consider: In any contest with 50-500 participants, there is a miniscule chance that the judge will balance every variable that goes into a judging, and will decide I am the best. I mean, artists by reputation are generally disagreeable characters, right? So what are the odds I’ll please that judge on a given day? In fact, statistically if one does win, it may have more to do with the earth’s gravitaional effect on the judge’s emotions than on sound logic. And then, even if I do win, you know I may not really have won for the right reason..and my work may still be junk in my opinion.

To me, it’s much better to know I’ve set my goals for the painting, and noted my improved progress toward that goal when I have finished. Then I feel validated by the one who matters…me.

And yet, it seems one must enter contests in order to increase sales, knowing many collectors judge the value of a painting on the press it has recieved aka “he won an award so he must be good, so I’ll buy him.” I recall an artist who painted blue dogs..exclusively, a master marketer if ever there was one. He makes a lot of money, has many friends, and I read that ex president Clinton/Gore even commissioned him to paint the presidential portrait…when all he can clearly do is paint his dead blue dog, badly; (Like the dog, I also want to die when I view the work). Or one can consider the income and renown of a certain Painter of Stuff that Glows, obviously a master artist;;)

So, here I am evaluating my navel fuzz rather than painting. But what have I learned? If I were a collector, would I rather buy a piece of art noting that it clearly, with good technique, expressed profound passion, or would I choose to buy one that had recieved a lot of press and honor, but was just another piece of “high priced wallpaper” in my opinion?

To me, this quote sums it up: “This above all: to thine own self be true” –Shakespeare.

When I ask my collectors why they buy my work, and they say “it’s because you captured the subjects passion,” I glow inside.

From: — Jun 16, 2009

I love the second try, Robert. The lovely variation of color in the rocks is perfect. The clouds are so interesting and make me feel like a real storm in coming soon. Keep up the trials and errors. Makes me feel I am human, too.

From: Mary M Hart — Jun 16, 2009

I am in awe of the creativity spun within the words you all have shared. That creativity is akin to my own Spirit of uniqueness and the striving to Become all that I can in my life.

Behind your words I see hidden stories, stories of the unique Inner pictures you all paint from the “learning pot” medium of your life experience.

So many of your writings are canvasses of the Soul, canvasses full of color, tone, texture and rich language of the Spirit-Self. I see the Inner artists in you, the artist rich with what life has shown you, with what has been learned and is now being applied to “color” personal life through unique experience and reflections.

Throughout my life, sketching, painting and photography have been methods for me to connect to my Soul, to my Heart. Though I have had no inclination to share them, or sell them, (or perhaps the courage to do so), those art forms have often affirmed the very existence of my capacity for creativity, a quality that is reflective to me of my Soul.

My true art and passion, that which I most use to express myself, is through the pen as a writer. The symbiotic twin to that passion is Life and Spiritual Coaching, working with those who are searching for ways to change and improve their lives so they can make a positive difference for themselves and in the world.

Thank you for your words, and all the life wisdom, hope and inspiration behind them. As in your art, how fully creative you all are in the sense of living, truly living your lives!

And, thank you Robert, for initiating, participating and contributing this space for creative community to arise for us all!

From: John Mix — Jun 16, 2009

Doing what I love for a living is winning the inner lottery.

From: B.J. — Jun 22, 2009

Well, putting a new spin on stuff, what better time than during a sunset!! TO TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT!


FOR ANOTHER: can barely THINK, no less try to COPY either someone else or even oneself!!

FOR A THIRD: It sure gets your juices flowing!!! Not sure if it is excitement, fear (of failure), OR…. ????

AND actually, working this fast, one will either have a few beat up canvases, a lot of wasted paint…or may just discover something special!!! SPECIAL sometimes comes from not being TOTALLY IN CONTROL!

I have found, that if you are willing to risk loosing ALL (what, a few hours of your time? BUT at sunset… Maybe, MAYBE 60 minutes max!!!)… If you just jump off and pray like heck, you just may come up with something TOTALLY DIFFERENT than you had ever dreamed of!!

Did three paintings, 10×8 oil on board, of the same sunset… which were all created in maybe… gosh, 20 minutes each, and each just took off on it’s own! At first, had no idea if they were even successful of not.

By the time I was cleaning up, tossing the panels into the carrier… It was beyond dusk! BUT boy, was that fun!!!

So, yea, playing the lottery… Jumping into the unknown! You bet!! Some times you just may be the winner!!! (and believe me, it sure makes up for all the failed canvases!!! BUT, then again, were they failures, or just the stepping stones to the jewels that await you!!! (if you care to see these three, they are shown on my web site ( under sunsets…

From: arlen of arizona — Jun 23, 2009

Gary Holland…..thanks for your comments. Have seen much of your wonderful work and appreciated your comments, especially, “to yourownself be true”. Yes!

From: artistbehaz — Jun 23, 2009

hello all: it is happened now days for the first time in algeria history to seeing so the the premiering of the first north african theather fiest inauguration in batna tonwe exactelly into the regional theather of batn,a town whether weria it has happened for the first time the oppening of an oher verry newest theather exactelly into timgad ton just nerbay the historique romen site : the evenement will see its all activities allike withe the timgad vestival activities now days

thus and the evenement of theather will unclud so all the endavour of how ton starting so the biginning of the fine arts revewing for the wolly northe african countries and all others african country for to performing so the fine arts press revewing in it s singl first time in algeria history

good luk

by behaz toufik

From: J R Collins — Jun 24, 2009

This is a nice one I read somewhere…sorry not to be able to attribute it.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and hums it when you forget the tune.” Thanks, Robert, for being a friend who reminds us.

From: Aurora Feinlein — Aug 17, 2009

Hi, I am a big fan of Mary Duffy and a working artisan myself. The idea of art’s popularity as a lottery I understand but am mystified by the prospect of treating my own (or anyone else’s) work as a potential ‘winner.’ The greatest art has always been made by those who follow their own inner discipline and hunger. When I’m working -thoughts like “will this sell?” or “who am I making this for?” compromise what I’m doing. For work to resonate, for it to be successful, it has to be true. I harbour old school opinions about integrity and on any day of the week ‘I’d rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery’ (Conor Oberst). Also (not sure who said this) Quantity yields quality, you’ve got to put in the slog no matter how gifted. Incidentally, I work a job, make small lots of commercial items for reliable money and raise three kids to support my work. I achieve something like real moments of joy and love in the act of creation. I feel so lucky to have discovered this possibility, to be humble – an eternal student, and I am so grateful. Griping about how hard it is won’t really wash. Its called a gift for a reason.

From: Sara — Sep 02, 2009

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


From: Elizabeth (Betty) Jean Billups — Oct 17, 2009

Well, putting a new spin on stuff, what better time than during a sunset!! TO TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT!


FOR ANOTHER: can barely THINK, no less try to COPY either someone else or even oneself!!

FOR A THIRD: It sure gets your juices flowing!!! Not sure if it is excitement, fear (of failure), OR…. ????

AND actually, working this fast, one will either have a few beat up canvases, a lot of wasted paint…or may just discover something special, unique and original !!!

SPECIAL and UNIQUE sometimes comes from not being TOTALLY IN CONTROL!

I have found, that if you are willing to risk loosing ALL (what, a few hours of your time? BUT at sunset… Maybe, MAYBE 60 minutes max!!!)… If you just jump off and pray like heck, you just may come up with something TOTALLY DIFFERENT than you had ever dreamed of!!

These three paintings, 10×8 oil on board (please view on my web site: and then go to SUNSETS … Were all created in maybe… Well… Look at the location of the sun… That should tell you!! By the time I was cleaning up, tossing the panels into the carrier… It was just beyond dusk! BUT boy, was that fun!!!

So, yea, playing the lottery… Jumping into the unknown! You bet!! Some times you just may be the winner!!! (and believe me, it sure makes up for all the failed canvases!!! BUT, then again, were they failures, or just the stepping stones to the jewels that await you!!!)

Elizabeth (Betty) J Billups

Hope you will visit my web site… the paintings described here are under PLEIN AIR> SUNSETS



Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop