Artist for life


Dear Artist,

Yesterday Alexis Ramos wrote, “I’m impressed that you’ve worked as an artist full time for all of your life. What would you recommend to a young person like me who wants to make a decent living as an artist?”


“Seeds of Hope”
acrylic painting, 17 x 21 inches
by Alexis Ramos

Thanks, Alexis. Your letter reminded me of something said recently by one of my dealers. I was actually trying to get him to take on a couple of promising young painters. He turned them down. “These artists have not yet ripened, Robert,” he said. “They’re not yet marked for destiny.”

The “destiny” remark was unusual, so I asked him about it. “The artists I believe in are those who eat and sleep their art,” he said. “They compulsively chip away at their statues, and this gives value in both the short and long term. They need to be lifers, like you, Robert.”

I protested that I wasn’t always a lifer. When I was in art school I had the distinct idea that fine art was a sham. Somewhere along the way I somehow fell in love with my art-making process. After that, sham or not, I just had to do it. Sometimes I think I did it because I was incompetent at everything else.

To answer your question Alexis, here are a few ideas:

Know that others have gone where you wish to go.
Put “getting good” ahead of “making a living.”
Learn to be alone and to be your own best critic.
Cut back on impedimenta and outside distractions.
Work more hours than the average factory worker.
Notice interesting directions and go there again.
Become a perpetual student of your own progress.
Don’t expect too much help from anyone or anything.
Stick to your vision, but don’t fear change.
Do not be adverse to developing skills.
Know that raising standards has to be chronic.
Know that marketing is easier when you have quality.
Be curious about everything, including how you turn out.
If you fall in love, accept the gift, surrender.

Thriving is all about self-education. “Go to your room,” is my advice that has had the most significant effect. Funnily, all kinds of would-be lifers somehow neglect to do just that.

Best regards,


PS: “When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece.” (John Ruskin)

Esoterica: “Starving artist” is one of our popular myths. Dentists would starve too if they didn’t know a molar from a bicuspid. Getting into the mode of perpetual self-generated studenthood may not immediately make all of us thrive. The human psyche has too many other frailties for that. But it’s a direction that gives maximum satisfaction — a feeling of personal accomplishment and the possibility of worthwhile public enthusiasm. You can try other directions like spin, shock, extreme narcissism, smoke, mirrors, etc. While some of these may very well work for you, they might also represent the sort of sham that I noticed when I was your age.


Steps to success
by Maxine Price, Wimberley, TX, USA


“Early dawn comes waking”
oil painting
by Maxine Price

“Get good, Get unique, Get recognized.” The first thing to do is master the skills of being an artist. Quality is important. Being unique, different or developing a style that is not like anyone else’s is the hardest thing to do. Remember that just being different is not enough — one has the have the quality to go with it. Getting recognized is going to be a lot easier if you are good and unique. I would add, take the risks necessary to get recognized. Enter competitive shows, put your work out there, however you can. Quality and uniqueness will pay off. Although, an artist should never feel that they have “arrived” even if recognition comes your way. Always try to do better than your last creation.



Meaningless abstractions
by Vita, Sutton, QC, Canada


“The flat”
oil painting, 47 x 38 inches
by Vita

I can’t avoid dueling on the text you have sent and the esoterica in particular. If we take this quote seriously we should begin to wonder about the state of contemporary art. Love is a broad word that could indicate either the love for the self or for humanity. Skill has also doubtful meanings since no one seems to go to their room in order to develop it but rather relies on random devices. Currently, we could sarcastically say that the “love” of art is in the hands of those with the manipulative “skill” to fulfill the public hunger by glorifying meaningless abstractions as works of art.


Full-scale creativity
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA


acrylic painting
by Linda Blondheim

Being a full time artist means you are driven by your work. It is an obsession. I think the most important thing which has gotten me through all the years is determination. You must be willing to stay the course no matter what the roadblocks are, and there are many. You must be willing to sacrifice a high end life style for a few years too. Creativity is not just on canvas. You must be creative in marketing, budgeting, and time management to succeed in the arts.


Matisse’s wisdom
by Diana Nicosia, Boston, MA, USA


“Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt” (1906)
oil painting
by Henri Matisse

There is a very good book with material by Matisse Matisse on Art. He wrote it for students so they might understand the life of an artist. I recommend it. I have been supporting myself full time as an artist for most of my adult life. It takes courage to be an artist. However, we have only one life to live so it’s best to live it to your own personal goals and joy.





Live like Jonah in his whale
by Tom Disch, New York, NY, USA


Novels authored by Tim Disch

Usually I’m skeptical about power point lists of “Things You Must Do to Succeed,” but your advice for today is truly exemplary. Everything you say is true, not only for the art of painting but for the other arts as well. You must let your Muse eat you alive, like a shark. Then live like Jonah in his whale. Another way of saying, Go to your room, young man, and stay there!



Weighing comfort and passion
by Kathy Gear, Tucson, AZ, USA

In college, after being told that I would never make my living as an artist, I wanted to go into the theater. I interviewed with the director of the department who asked me if I liked to eat three meals a day. When I said yes, he advised me to go into science and not theater. I was so disappointed that I burst into tears. But perhaps he saw the lack of determination to pursue theater at the expense of my then standard of living as a precursor of future failure in the field. Had I truly wanted theater or art badly enough, I would not have thought about a “decent living,” I would have starved to be in the field I thought I desired. I’ve made a “living” in science but have finally come back to art, but without the expectation of being able to retire on it. I’ve lost too many years of practice.


Only so much to put out
by Wafa Daya-Tarrab, Long Beach, CA, USA

As a mother, artist, and a wife I feel pulled, stretched and torn in so many different directions other than the one I want to pursue the most, so I can understand very well your advice to Alexis and wish I can spend the time that I like doing my art, because that’s when I find my true calling and forget my self and time and all… But reality and practicality of my life only allows me to spend as little time to do so, since my daughter requires a lot of care and supervision. I often feel torn between my responsibilities as a mother for a young lady with special needs that by itself gives me so much to put out there… and puts a hold on me as well.

There is 1 comment for Only so much to put out by Wafa Daya-Tarrab

From: Anne — Dec 31, 2009

Students seem not to notice when they ask thier teachers about making a living in art, that the very people they are asking often live by teaching.

The answer the teacher can give them is already before them.


Be seen
by Laura Culic, Toronto, ON, Canada

I love reading your letters, and your advice is the best — except I think you missed the mark in your response to Alexis Ramos. Everything you advised is true, but what you neglected to mention is that the Dentist would also starve if no one knew he had a practice. He has to advertise — he has to let people know he exists. To become a successful artist, one also needs to get out there. Alexis, and anyone else who wants to earn their living this way should also make an effort to:


“Red roof”
oil painting
by Laura Culic

Apply for juried exhibitions held by art societies.
Apply for juried exhibitions/sales (such as Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition)
Attend above mentioned exhibitions, sales, shows, whether you got accepted or not.
Apply for membership in Art societies, whether local or national.
Go to the galleries.
Apply to local art groups as an instructor, or offer painting demos.
Apply for an artists’ grant, residency, etc.

In other words, pit your work — your very best — against that of other artists. View your work with a critical eye — how does it stand up? It is very difficult to develop that critical eye if you are utterly self-absorbed, working alone in your studio. And admittedly, its also very scary to put your art — your heart and soul — out there, on the line, to be judged by others. But its necessary. This is a passion, but its also a business. And don’t give up.


Finding motivation and conviction
by Jacqueline Wood, Memphis, TN, USA

I have been “into” Art, and guiltily considered myself an Artist since I was a child. But I feel that I have been somewhat of a traitor to the trade. I have allowed the noise of life to distract me from things that I would love to get done, and have sorely lacked the drive and motivation to force myself to be what I truly desire to be on the inside. I know it’s easy to do this because there are so many things we can use as an excuse to “do this later” or “maybe I’ll paint next weekend. ” You stated in the letter that even you had not always been a “lifer” — How so, and what events in your life led up to your becoming a “lifer” and what prevented you from being so before? As well, have you ever struggled with motivation and conviction?

(RG note) Thanks, Jacqueline. As a young person, seeing poor work gain ascendancy and good work stand neglected tended to discourage my participation in the game of art. Working privately and to my own standards, and building a bit of confidence, I gradually fell in love with my own art activity. This love story turned me into a committed lifer. I’ve never had much of a problem with motivation because I’ve always been curious as to how things might turn out and if I might improve.


Harmful self-criticism
by Jennie Rosenbaum, Springvale, Australia


oil painting
by Jennie Rosenbaum

Creating definitely is a compulsion — it’s like an addiction and I suffer withdrawal if I am stuck without it. It’s fun to watch the journey, I often feel that I am outside the person painting and watching somewhat bemusedly — it’s hard to reconcile that person with myself. One part of your letter that stuck out for me was being our own ‘best critic’ — I am definitely my worst. I frequently fly into a rage or a depression over my work. While that feeling helps me work harder and harder and learn more and more, sometimes it is crushing. I would love to learn more about becoming my own best critic — or to at least stop beating up on myself quite so much. It’s that which most gets in the way of my development.

(RG note) Thanks, Jennie. With a bit of self-delusion you can develop two personas, two egos. One knows exactly what she’s doing, and the other thinks she’s hopeless. It’s a beat up, yes, but both amusing and productive when you understand it’s a game.


Art-making as a profession
by Dustin Curtis, Decatur, AL, USA


“In the thick of it”
acrylic painting
by Dustin Curtis

Sometimes it’s hard for us artists to accept that we need to work hard, for many years possibly, to get to where we want to get. That’s the way it is in any “business,” and if we want and need to make a living as an artist we are in “business.” Nobody starts out at the top in any endeavor, but for some reason many artists, including myself, have the idea that we should start at the top. It’s a true saying that we have to pay our dues, and I think that’s what you mean when you say, “go to your room.” Why should it be any different for us than it is for other people in other professions? If an artist doesn’t like the word profession, then that artist is most likely not trying to make a living from their art, and that’s ok. But if we’re interested in making a living, we need to approach it as a profession.


Motivation must be internally driven
by Luann Udell, Keene, NH, USA


wood sculpture
by Luann Udell

Years ago, I was board president for a small start-up non-profit group, whose mission statement was to support small craft and farm producers in our state. I was just getting started myself, and it seemed like a good fit — I could learn and help others along the way. It seemed to be a great cause, too — helping fledgling artists and small businesses get on their feet and in the door. I was surprised to find that some people were not as impressed with the venture as I was. Why not? I asked them. Well, they said, no one had helped them when they were first starting out. But they agreed that sounded kind of selfish. In the end, they felt that there was no such thing as a free lunch. Either you had the gumption to get where you were going, or you didn’t. You either believed in your art or your business, or you didn’t. You were either willing to work hard, against all odds, because it was that important to you, or you weren’t. I felt they were being harsh, and they said maybe.

A year later, I returned to them and said, “You were right.” I realized that, odd as it seems, too much encouragement early on can be just as deadly to a new venture as not enough encouragement. You can spend a lot of time supporting someone/something that isn’t really that committed to the process. You can waste a lot of energy on folks who aren’t really in it for the long haul. Sometimes it’s just a matter of that person finding their stride on their own terms in their own good time. Sometimes people head so far down one path (that isn’t right for them), it’s almost impossible for them to turn it around and start over. Too much “help” at the wrong time doesn’t do anyone any good.

(RG note) Thanks, Luann. My friend Egbert Oudendag used to say, “The best way to help artists is to hinder them.” Needless to say he didn’t care for grants, scholarships, sinecures, tenures, residencies, or any form of free lunch.


Artist’s sabbatical
by Cleah Bunting, ON, Canada


Cast drawing, charcoal and chalk drawing
by Cleah Bunting

What would you say about artists taking sabbaticals? For an artist to discover what they need — in order to create, a year somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.

As a full time practitioner in the arts I discovered that I needed to get away and went to a remote small town where I thought I would be left alone to discover a voice all my own. However I realized that was not true–people were constantly going out of their way to make comments, suggestions and worse manipulate my situation. I had made a conscious decision to not get involved in any relationships to just devote a full year to my craft — sans gallery, sans family, sans my own demons. I needed to work on shapes, contours, speed, brush stokes, application of paint — to me I seemed very busy. I unfortunately suffered major consequences for this — the town could not understand why I wasn’t with anyone — I became strange, my persona developed around rumors. For example: that I talked to myself, I was gay, I was a man (I am a woman), I was poor, I was stupid, I was rich, I was crazy, and so on. I became sick, dizzy, anxiety ridden — emotions came out of me that I had previously been protected from experiencing while I was at school. Thoughts of Matisse, Emily Carr and Picasso all doing the same thing. Were they subject to such society scrutiny? I realized the importance of an artist carving out a niche where they are able to create — but also to have people around them who protect them when they are at their strongest or weakest in their career.

(RG note) Thanks, Cleah. Sounds like an excellent setting for a Stephen King novel. They might have burned you as a witch. Maybe some women treat women that way, but women can be wonderfully supportive of others as well. I’m a believer in new environments, buckling down privately and finding out what the self-anointed sabbatical can offer. Try another town.


Make art or make money
by Skip Rohde, Asheville, NC, USA


“Strange Fruit”
oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches
by Skip Rohde

When young people ask me that question, I ask them, “Do you want to make a living? Or do you want to make art?” If you’re an artist for life, you’re making works that appeal to you, not necessarily the public. If you’re making a living, you’re making works that, of necessity, appeal to the public. Along the way, an artist for life will find the right places to market the works. Hopefully it will generate enough income to at least pay the studio bills and maybe make a decent living. This may take many years. I’m not there yet, but I will be. If you’re focusing on making a living, you take note of what work in your medium is selling well, and you make stuff like that. You put the desires of the marketplace in front of your own. A lot of artists do this, do it well, and enjoy it. The artist just starting out needs to think about which way they’re going to go. It’s a fundamental decision to the way they approach art.


Painting for pure joy
by Jane Champagne, Southampton, ON, Canada


“Lumbs’ Point”
watercolour painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Jane Champagne

Last week, for the first time in 11 months, I went out to paint. I went to a favourite, private place I had painted before, and produced the best painting I’ve done in years. Being ill for so long seems to have eliminated any remaining thoughts of pleasing people — clients, family, friends — or vestigial “shoulds” or any of the other old habits that get in the way, and I painted with pure joy, for the love of it. All that love for life and gratitude for being alive flowed through the brush — I really can’t describe the experience, just that it was unique.


Corneal transplant
by Bob Rennie, White Rock, BC, Canada


“Making Time”
watercolour painting
by Bob Rennie

My ophthalmologist has suggested that I have a corneal transplant along with a lens replacement because of cataracts. He tells me that this surgery will significantly improve my vision, but will take about one year of recovery. I have talked to a senior friend who has had replacements in both eyes. Indeed his vision has improved once he overcame some double vision, but he tells me that his eyes are still very light sensitive. Naturally I am concerned how this will affect my ability to paint. I am wondering if there are other artists who have had the surgery and could comment.


Push to move forward
by Cara Bevan

Your letter “Artist for Life” has really shed a light on my own life. I’m 19 and I wish to pursue a career in art as a wildlife painter. I’ve always created art and spent every waking moment honing my skills while I was in high school (which means I had few friends but art enthusiasts like me.) I’m a rarity of the art world I think — I’m a neat freak and a perfectionist! I’ve taught myself most of my techniques and until recently I’ve discovered that some people dislike the extreme realism my art. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really ready for the art world, even though many of people that view my work say that I could be the next big thing. Anyway, your letter has inspired me to press onward despite the criticism people have of younger artists. Thank you so very much for lighting a well needed fire in a young heart!


The role of the dealer
by Alexis Ramos


“New Life”
acrylic painting
by Alexis Ramos

Thank you for responding to my letter. I have read your letter several times and I find your advice practical and helpful. I will keep a copy of it. After reading the story about your dealer I wondered what the criteria of a dealer is in deciding who is ready for “destiny.” Is it hard work and quality of work only? And, at what point and why does a dealer become the decision maker concerning the life of an artist? Thank you again for including my letter as part of your twice-weekly letters. I hope my questions served to lighten the path for many artists out there.




Making the cut
by Thangamma Cariappa, Indonesia

I can second what Alexis Ramos wrote about the uncertainty of being an artist but to a further degree. Having doodled freely as a child, I had fun creating jewellry from washers, stones and bottle caps and making book marks to supplement my allowance in college but I have never taken the plunge to study art. However, the dream to become an artist surfaces now and again. After 12 years I did apply to an art school but failed to impress my panel of judges at the third and most crucial round of the gruelling entrance exam. I was asked to describe the emotion I felt in creating a red, black and white abstract in crayon and I said I wasn’t sure what I was thinking! The woman on the panel continued to coax me, urging, “Were you sad, angry or did you have a fight with someone?” I told her that I was glad that my drawing evoked certain emotion in her. She was evidently unimpressed.

Disheartened I got a bachelor’s degree in communication, psychology and English literature. However expression through colour and charcoal have been a constant. Yesterday, I viewed an old friends exhibition of a collection she has been putting together for 2 years. I came home and put pen to paper relentlessly. How important is discipline in pursuit of art? Today I’m back to nurturing my artisitic and creative pursuits. I recently quit my job. I’m 22 years old and have my entire life ahead of me. How do I know it is the right career choice to make? 4 years in art school seems daunting… Am I good enough? That is the internal debate. My work has always been deeply personal and apart for a few near and dear ones they have been kept well shielded from people’s gazes. But I guess the journey of self exploration and discovery is worth it and wallowing in an array of different colours would be a better alternative to the uncertainty of not ever finding out. A friend said “wasted potential is the worst thing in this world.” So today I have to make some choices and the hunt for an art school begins! Hope I make the cut…


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Artist for life



From: Dallyn Zundel — Jul 25, 2007

All of us have to find our own paths in life to follow. Some work all of their lives as accountants or such and only later on discover that what they really want to be is an artist. Others discover this early on and that is what they do. I have always wanted to be an artist so I started out as an illustrator and later on found out that what I really want to do is paint. However, due to some health issues with my family (wife with Lupis and a daughter with E.G.) I have had to work as a full time graphic designer so that I could get the insurance. (Cannot get covered privately with Lupis on the form) My time will come later, now is the season of my family. My painting is third or fourth. When my kids are grown a little more and as long as I’m painting as often as I can I’ll get to be a full time painter later in life.

From: Ed Pointer — Jul 27, 2007

I “retired” from graphic design in 1992 but have been painting most of my days and have supported myself as an artist since 1992. It isn’t an easy life by any stretch, sometimes it isn’t even creatively rewarding and sometimes it completely defeats me. But, as the song goes, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again…” This business of art does require almost total withdrawal from everything else one might hold dear and therein lies the rub. Can we actually commit to that kind of total immersion– I’ve never been able to do it. Perhaps it’s the coloration of association with friends and family and other events that actually make the artist’s life fulfilling and bring it into accomplishment and completeness, polishes the stone and makes it deep and bright. — Ed Pointer

From: Marti Schmidt — Jul 27, 2007

My comment relates to two specific readers. Artist’s sabbatical by Cleah Bunting, ON, Canada & Only so much to put out by Wafa Daya-Tarrab, Long Beach, CA, USA. I have been a lifer, and throughout this wonderful life as an artist, mother, wife, daughter, I have raised a family and often carried a (real)? job to support my obligations. I often lost myself and my creative spirit along the way. I struggled to prove the validity of my need to paint and dealt with other people’s judgements and attitudes toward my endeavors. I began to believe that women artists had it tougher then men. My only saving grace was my art sabbaticals, I have survived and thrived as an artist as a result. I carved a week or more out for just me and my muse… family, friends and community were left to stew and would just have to understand! Sometimes I just stayed at home and worked nonstop in the studio (a sign on the door stating ARTIST AT WORK!!, but more often I went away, with my paints and reconnected with my true love, ART. So, my adivce is to always go and spend some one on one with your muse, it will always be with you, no attitudes or judgements. It will keep you young in spirit and strong in mind and you will never be dissappointed.

From: Dee — Jul 27, 2007

I spent twelve years not painting because I was raising and home-educating three active boys. I also did not paint because there was just no room in our home to leave a wet painting sit out until it got done. I did teach my boys how to draw as part of their curriculum. I knew if I kept my drawing skills in practice the painting skills would not die. I picked up painting again in July 2005 after my second graduated and moved out. In that time, I posted paintings on for poster prints and currently have six paintings hanging in a local gallery… some of which you can see here at this link: I have done some form of drawing or painting my entire life and am determined to push myself to get as good as I can possible be. I love drawing and painting. I, too, “have only so much to put out”, as Wayfa above, has stated. If you can involve your child in drawing and using quick drying paints it will keep you in practice to a certain extent until you have more time and space to do what you are really itching to work on. I am also currently learning about marketing and would like to share some good titles that might inspire someone else to do the same. If you don’t know how to let people know you exist, they will never know you exist, unless someone else will do it for you. Why leave your future to chance? Here are the titles: “Self-Promotion For the Creative Person”, “Career Management for the Creative Person”, and “Time Management for the Creative Person”, Organizing for the Creative Person”, all books by Lee Silber. If Thomas Kinkade can market himself, so can I. In the meantime… practice, practice, practice! Always move forward even if it’s a fraction of an inch, because momentum will eventually pick up. The other side of a mountain always has a downward slope!!

From: Catherine Robertson — Jul 27, 2007

Robert Rennie – as it is such an important issue, please get a second opinion regarding your eye surgery. Also, your tug is just marvelous !!! Best wishes.

From: Barbara Spyrou — Jul 27, 2007

In the today’s video clip about the two muralists, I saw them projecting their drawings onto their canvases. I would greatly appreciate it if I could have a step-by-step process of this step. What kind of equipment was used? What kind of computer should be used? Could you project photographic images this way? I did see some equipment in the video but the information provided was very limited. Thanks in advance, Barbara Spyrou

From: Mary Sims Morey — Jul 27, 2007

Having read all the letters here, it appears to me that people who are able to be “lifers” in art have had fortunate circumstances that allowed them to pursue it full-time. Many artists would like to be “lifers” and full time artists, but the real problem is: how does one make that financial leap from requiring a full time job to pay the bills, to quitting your job and pursuing your art with the “hopes” that it might “eventually” pay the bills. Most people can’t afford to take that gamble. Even more so if there are children to raise, or family to support. Unless you have independent financial support, or free room and board somewhere, and are free of family obligations, it is nearly impossible for most people to make that leap. That is probably why many artists do not pursue their art full time until after retirement. My suggestions: pursue a career that allows you to earn a reliable monthly income, with benefits, and still allows you to draw nearly everyday. Careers in medical, science, or graphic illustration are good choices. Meanwhile, dedicate time each week to fine art. If this is hard to do, join a painting group and paint with them regularly. I work as a medical illustrator in Toronto, Canada, and I have dedicated Saturdays from 9 to 1 for painting. I can’t afford to quit my job, but I have recently asked for my work week to be shortened to 4 days a week instead of 5. Not every boss will be understanding. I was lucky that mine was – fortunate circumstances. Now I also dedicate Mondays to painting, and although I am not a full-time artist, I am still growing. The great thing is, I find that what I learn when painting, really helps me do my illustration job better. I think the art dealer is pretty harsh in disregarding those that do not have the financial means to be full-time artists ALL their lives.

From: Marj Vetter — Jul 27, 2007

Thangamma Cariappa’s letter disturbed me quite a bit, my advice, keep your job and hone your craft in your spare time, always feed and clothe yourself! Nobody owes you a living, if you do this I’m sure good luck and success will come to you.

From: Margaret Stone — Jul 27, 2007

My note is in response to Robert Rennie and his question about cataract sugery. He asked for feedback. I had a severe injury to my right eye a number of years back. Lost my depth perception and because my lens was pushed well out of place, all straight lines were curved. It was something that would not correct. The brain is a wonderful organ. In 6 months or so, although I still had limited and distorted vision in that eye, the above problems corrected. I seemed to see as I had before. I had been a practicing artist for around 20 years when this happened, and I continued with artwork. A few years later, a traumatic cataract formed on that eye. I had that corrected through surgery. I believe the opthalmologist did a bit of corrective surgery at the same time. I have no problem with light sensitivity. What seems to be light sensitivity is just the ability to see the world through clear lens rather than ones clouded with the muddy veil of cataracts. The art work I created while I had the problem, now that it is corrected, and prior to all that has not seemed to be affected. Makes one wonder about perception and the brain/vision connection.

From: Meredith Sunshine — Jul 27, 2007

I suggest that artists without children consider staying childless. It sounds like children consume their artist parents. Nowadays parenting is a CHOICE, thank God. I chose art over children with no qualms at all.

From: Dave Wilson — Jul 27, 2007

Someone has written that it is not always so easy to make of oneself a committed artist, given family and financial responsibilities, and I just want to say that this is why some people are writing and trying to clarify things for younger people. BEFORE you have babies and mortgages is a good time to consider the prospects of being committed to art.

From: Sue Cole — Jul 28, 2007

About Robert Rennie’s questions about eye surgery: I just had cataract surgery on both eyes on May 10th and May 17th. I can now see as well without my glasses as I could before WITH my classes. I had coke bottle bottom lenses. My new prescription lenses are very thin and are clear in the middle with prescription for seeing clearly at a distance and up close. It was a very easy surgery and I talked to him for most of the time that he was working on me. It’s just a 15 minute surgery, then you have to wear a pressure bandage for a day and a half. They had to block out my other eye with tape on my glasses lens for a week because I had double vision from the dramatic difference in eyesight between the two eyes while I was waiting for the other surgery was the only drawback. While waiting, I would notice that things looked bluer with my left “new” eye and yellower with my right “old” eye. Things look much cleaner and bluer to me now. It’s settled down some, but I’m still amazed at how much better I can see colors now – it’s like someone cleaned the world with Windex. I would say don’t be afraid at all, it’s the best thing you’ll do for yourself for a long time. I wear sunglasses when I’m driving and the main thing I’ve noticed about light sensitivity is that I’m more aware of the flickering of flourescent lights now than I was before. Most of the time I don’t wear my glasses now, just when I want to see clearly at a distance. I can drive and read without them, which I’ve never been able to do, so it’s a good change. You have to use special eyedrops 3-4 times a day for 2 weeks is all. They pretty much have been stable since the end of the eyedrops. I did not have corneal transplants, just the cataract surgery. I don’t believe my painting has changed since the surgery, but when I look at the world, it’s like looking at it with “new eyes” of wonder at the colors. Sue Cole – Fairbanks, Alaska

From: Judy Singer — Jul 29, 2007

As an abstract painter of 33 years and as an instructor at York University for 31 years, I felt compelled to comment on Vittoria’s sad comment on “meaningless abstractions”. For me, the issue itself about abstract verses representational is meaningless. Even the issue regarding “meaning” is debatable. I prefer to think of Archibald Macleish’s last line of his great poem “Ars Poetica”: “a poem should not mean but be”. This applies to painting just as well. As artists, we all deal with the same issues of facing the flat empty canvas, composition, space, colour, etc. As far as the “public hunger for meaningless abstractions as works of art”, my experience has been that the general public still prefers representational art over abstract. Let’s just all strive to do the best art that we possibly can. This is our collective monumental challenge.

From: Greg Rapier — Aug 08, 2007

Your answer to Alexis was great. It captures the artist life to a tee. I have been working at making my art my full time career. That means I have been spending endless hours in my studio painting or on the computer trying to get my artwork out in front of the public. Or building displays to hang my art on at shows. I work a full time job that takes up 12 hours a day. Then I spend hours on hours painting. Then when there is a show I go there and set up my artwork in hopes of getting that break that will send my art over the top. So far I haven’t sold any paintings at these shows. I have sold 40 to 50 paintings other ways over the last 3 years. Or I should say show because I have only done one show so far. I’m about to do the second show and there are indications that there may be some good things happening at this show. Like a TV show has contacted me to say they will be covering the show and will be coming by my booth to talk to me. So I hope that that will be an interview on TV. Your answer to Alexis’ question fits my walk though this life as an artist perfectly. I do have to say that my wife of 38 years (as of August 9th) has been by my side and backing me all the way with this. I could not have come this far with out her support. Thanks for your letter it is something that I look forward to reading very much. Greg Rapier







Old Oak

oil painting  
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, 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 Tisha Rose of Hampton, VA, USA who wrote, “Robert, You rock! Do you ever sleep?”

And also Johannes Vloothuis who wrote, “Gosh I like your dealer. He is right! You need to make art your top priority. Although, I say if you don’t go outdoors to paint you will always be mediocre.”

And also Lynn Coleman who wrote, “You can tell your dealer that individuals that eat, drink, and sleep their art are not only mentally ill (obsessive compulsive) but very selfish individuals.”

And also Anne Cooper who wrote, “I must point out that being marked for destiny is often eclipsed by becoming a parent. There is no time to go to one’s room.”

And also Bruce Meyer of Arlington, MA, USA who wrote, “‘Go to your room’ is a little like ‘apply butt to chair.’ Good advice for everyone.”

And also Barbara Fracchia who wrote, “I really wonder about these promising ‘young’ artists. Do you know how many good artists out there are promising ‘older’ artists. When are these people going to get wise to the fact it doesn’t matter how old one is because we are ALL promising artists.”

And also Carol Nelson of Aurora, CO, USA who wrote, “Your advice to Alexis was fantastic. I only wish someone had told me that 40 years ago.”

And also Kittie Beletic of Dallas, TX, USA who wrote, “Funny how you paint and write and sing and stitch and one day, you look up, and you’re a lifer! What a wonderful state of being!”

And also Don Bryant of Johannesburg, South Africa who wrote, “Your advice would apply to most every other pursuit in life.”




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