One day at school, my art teachers Jenny and Carolynn gave me a book of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. I was 12 and O’Keeffe was 96, still living on a 31,000-acre ranch in New Mexico. I didn’t know this at the time, but it would be Georgia’s last year there after summering on the ranch and wintering in nearby Abiquiú for over 50 years and now having lost most of her vision to macular degeneration. She would pass away peacefully in Sante Fe two years later.
Author sara genn
One of the benefits of travel, particularly if you are staying as someone’s guest, is that you get to look over their libraries. Further, you find out what they are reading right now. Here, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp has caught some eyes. Funny to be reading a New York choreographer while hanging out in Tuscany. I have a hard time putting down books by achievers. They are often clear and practical, and speak with first-hand authority.
Earlier this week, a person whose opinion I respect came into my studio and made some remarks about the surface quality of my paintings. While deeply encouraging, the following day I found myself longing to make my work better. Ways of refining an already technical process suddenly became apparent to me and, like a door opening to an unknown room in my house, the new idea expanded in discovery and play.
At the easel yesterday I was listening to a stockbroker on the telephone headset at the same time as my assistant Carol Ann was holding some cheques for me to sign. Just then one of the city fathers came in the door. “When do you find time to paint?” he asked. I told him that sometimes it seems like I do my work in my coffee breaks. Then, inwardly, I had a little silent epiphany: “If you’re having interruptions, you need them.”
My family’s resolute belief that the music of The Beatles is the foundation of a proper upbringing isn’t limited to the 1970s. Just this year, my big brother Dave, a parent, a bona fide Rocker and a person who could devote his life to musically evangelizing the Beatles as the greatest composers of popular music and the greatest band in history, gave me a ceramic yellow submarine cookie jar for Christmas. “This is the most special present I have ever given to anyone,” he whispered, as if in church. “I hope one day that I, too, could receive the gift of this cookie jar.”
There’s something to be said for families and extended families who live and work together in a creative hothouse. Think of Robert and Clara Schumann — they took in a boarder, Johannes Brahms, who managed to fall in love with Clara. She had eight kids and still had time to produce twenty compositions. The boys did quite a bit of work as well. Under one roof they made beautiful music. And then there are William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy up there in the Lake District writing poetry together among the daffodils.
Vicki Lynn Rae of Vancouver, BC wrote, “I have noticed from time to time subscribers have written with art related questions and now I have a situation that has me stumped. A few years ago a client bought from me two large paintings. One, an Orca, I had already painted and listed on my website. The other was a landscape commissioned to go along with the Orca. Recently, I received an email from this client saying he is having to downsize and wishes to sell the Orca painting. He asked me to handle the sale.
Outdoor work can be confusing. Because there is often so much to look at, the painter may not know where to begin. Here are three basic approaches you might find useful:
Even though your planned subject may be off in the distance, before you do anything about it, search around your immediate environment and find something in the foreground. This can be anything that interests you or has design potential — a stump, colourful foliage, animal or human figure. Render this to some degree of completion first.
Rajat Shanbhag of Ohio wrote, “I have been sneaking every chance at work and most of time between paintings to read much from The Painter’s Keys. Next year, I am planning to take a hard right and move from the US to Canada to begin my painting career. I began painting nearly 3 years ago while I was getting my Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and have been working really hard at it every moment since then, and now I really do feel confident I can make a living out of it. I am looking for any light you can shed on steps to take the very first year.
It seems that a struggling young composer asked Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to give him a few tips. Mozart told him to go home and work at composing for a few years. “But,” said the young man, “you didn’t have to work at it for years.” Mozart replied, “Yes, but I didn’t have to ask for tips.”