It’s our behaviour


Dear Artist,

In this studio, a high percentage of inbox letters are from artists complaining about things. Some are like leopards jumping out of the screen, clawing wildly. As I like to keep our website fairly positive, some of this growling gets answered personally. A lot of complaints are about art dealers, art clubs, and general and specific lack of support. Other complaints include the state of the economy and personal frustrations. Many of these are real and genuine, but I always think how things might improve if artists were to bend their own behaviour. I’ve noticed that some artists thrive in all seasons — in sunshine and in rain. They somehow rise above misfortune and the influence of problematic others. It’s more than a shield that they carry — it’s how they are. Without claiming any kind of uniformity, artists who thrive often have a certain kind of behaviour.

A lot of this behaviour has to do with what these artists have to say. I recognize that in certain environments it’s difficult to keep optimistic, to keep a smiley face. That’s one of the reasons why thriving artists tend to avoid certain environments. Because we’re a most specialized type of creator-entrepreneur, we have to develop specialized techniques to maintain our rights-of-way. As well as becoming masters, some of us become masters at avoiding the negative. “Don’t, can’t, won’t,” and a pile of others get purged from vocabularies. We retrain ourselves to be positive beings. Pundits like Deepak Chopra and David Simon have written books on this sort of self-management. We artists need to customize this knowledge to suit our profession.

Each and every artist is a unique island — living with a unique set of expectations and conditions. Self-management and self-education start with introspection. Quietly and in our own lairs we owe it to ourselves to take a look within — to get an understanding of who we are and why we do the things we do.

Inside, we creators are a pretty interesting bunch. I’ve spent a lifetime observing and trying to fathom the artistic mind. One thing I’m pretty sure about: Leopards can change their spots.

Best regards,


PS: “Use language that is empowering rather than victimizing. When we say, ‘I feel neglected. I feel betrayed. I feel humiliated,’ we are requiring someone else to change their behaviour in order to change our feelings. Rather, describe your internal state using language such as, ‘I feel sad. I feel empty. I feel lonely.’ Taking responsibility for your feelings enables you to make the changes you need to feel better.” (David Simon)

Esoterica: Never underestimate the value of friendship. Clear friendships are made by those who stake their territory and claim their rights-of-way. Friendships are earned. One of the reasons the Painter’s Keys works for artists is that it’s loaded with opportunities for friendship. One way the word gets around is that owners of large and small group-mail lists are including some of these twice-weekly letters as content. If you are thinking there might be value in this idea for your friends, please let us know.


“Fertilizing weeds”
by Diane Arenberg, Mequon, WI, USA


“Pine Medley”
pastel, 18 x 24 inches
by Diane Arenberg

Thank you for the reminder to stay positive. As an artist and a gallery owner, I see and experiencethis negativity often. Much of what happens to artists is a direct result of their own behavior, yet they fail to take ownership. It’s so easy to blame someone else, but that doesn’t promote careers or keep galleries in business. “Dwelling on negative thoughts is like fertilizing weeds.” (from another pundit, Norman Vincent Peale)



Success happens in the studio
by Cathie Harrison

Your letter today made me recall one of my favorite movies, League of Their Own. In one of the most memorable scenes a female player is brought to tears, which results in Tom Hanks jumping off the bench and screaming “There is no crying in baseball!” Maybe we can take something from that. “There is no crying in art making.” I too become really frustrated with artists who become angry because their art doesn’t sell or because the general public doesn’t “get it.” You cannot force people to support your individual creative journey. If you do something that connects with others you will be “successful.” Of course, first you must define successful. The well-known artist Bunny Harvey says that, “For artists, success happens in the studio.”


Drain the toxic infections
by Chris Riley

I have a quote by Mahatma Gandhi on my wall: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” As gargantuan a task as it appears, we can begin to heal our own wounds by draining any toxic infections poisoning our thoughts. Quit playing the negative tapes over and over and replace them with positive affirmations. Our minds can handle one or the other and it is our choice. This is a good time of year to take the opportunity to step in the right direction and do a random kind deed for someone in need. Pay it forward.


Busy night person
by Dyan Law, Chalfont, PA, USA


“All is Calm”
oil painting, 14 x 17 inches
by Dyan Law

I’m pondering why I am still awake this late, re-re-reworking my biography for a soon-to-be couple of websites, a magazine feature, and a workshop opportunity teaching and painting again in France. I do realize, however, that this “compulsively-creative” mind works best in the wee hours. Speaking positively, how fortunate I am being able to have enough “history” to re-write? I’m thrilled to be thriving on art all through the daylight and the dark-of-night hours, only to go off and snatch too few hours of rest, dreaming of the art I want to challenge me tomorrow! I’m thriving on this behavior and my paintings seem to be surviving as well.


Singing in the rain
by Kim Power, The Netherlands


pencil drawing
by Kim Power

Sometimes it’s just easier to complain than do something about it. When I hear myself singing the same old song I say, “What can I do to change this”? I don’t like staying in an unhappy place. There is always something to cheer one up, even on a rainy day (we’ve have lots of those here in Holland). You might see a spider’s web with droplets of water and be reawakened to the beauty of Nature. That is my true inspiration for living — Nature. It just keeps striving to grow and exist in spite of the odds. That and my goofy dog makes me smile every day.



Problems at the Arts Council
by Corrie Scott, Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados


“Tropical Carriage II”
acrylic on canvas
by Corrie Scott

I am on the executive of the local Arts Council which has nearly 300 members, and it is interesting how different we are. The ones who spend their time moaning their fate and doing nothing, see nothing. It is very sad, plus they have immense jealousy when others move away and ahead from them. I also have found many artists overprice their work and then wonder why it is not selling. I have had many of them come to me and ask me why my work is selling and not theirs. I then ask them if they want honesty. If they say yes, then I tell them if it is perhaps overpriced, and also what are they doing to get their work ‘out there.’ This jealousy and mean-mindedness is disturbing as many of them are talented, but not willing to move forward.



Internet brings people together
by Ruth Cox, Myrtle Beach, SC, USA


“New Corn”
oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches
by Ruth Cox

I discovered the value of a support group when I was a medical transcriptionist working at home.Instead of trying to compete, I looked up all the others who were doing the same type of work and got us together for lunches. We formed a group of friends who could call each other to ask for help with difficult words, overwhelming projects, and hateful doctors. We even filled in for each other. Now that I’m a full-time artist, I have a support group of local artists who meet every Monday to draw from a live model. I have a group of more spread-out friends in NC and SC who get together whenever we can, 2-3 times a year, to paint. There are times when I do feel victimized, unworthy, or just plain dumb, but all I have to do is think about all these people who care about me and realize that it just ain’t so. I get instant love and cyber-hugs.


Out of the cookie
by Pua Maunu, Juneau, AL, USA


“Little lakes at the top”
oil on masonite, 8 x 10 inches
by Pua Maunu

“To have a friend, be one” came out of my fortune cookie over 25 years ago. I kept the fortune for the longest time, taped it onto my phone, so it always reminded me to always answer my phone, or to keep in contact with friends. Also, give your paintings to friends with the same care as you would frame them and put them in a gallery.




Go create something
by Jo Appleton, Duncanville, TX, USA

Don’t let those “leopards” who take precious moments of life to growl at you get to you — some people would rather write you and bitch, thinking you will agree with them because you have the same passion for art, rather than fork over the money and see a psychotherapist and change their attitudes and/or their behavior. You can tell them from me that “You only get what you expect out of life and people only treat you the way you allow them. So suck it up, get over it, and go create something.”


Too many bunnies?
by Larry Moore, Orlando, FL, USA


“Waiting Backstage”
oil, 60 x 60 inches
by Larry Moore

I find it interesting that people get mad when their work doesn’t sell. To expect sales is a set up for a letdown. What we create is a luxury item; no one needs a painting in order to exist. If you aren’t in it just for the pure joy of doing it, you will have disappointment. And is it me, or is there a sudden proliferation of artists out there? They are reproducing like bunnies — and we all know what happens when there are too many bunnies on the island.




Lemons into lemonade
by Jeanne Aisthorpe-Smith, Nova Scotia, Canada


“The Orchard”
original painting
by Jeanne Aisthorpe-Smith

We all have choices. Every moment presents itself as a choice and we can choose to complain about the world or not. When we go to the quiet place in our hearts where our Spirit lives and we train ourselves to listen to that Voice, our mistakes and disgruntles become less and less. We have to learn to trust that Voice. Also, when things don’t go quite right, we need to look for the lesson which is always a Blessing. This applies in our art as well as our everyday life. I have had to work through some “stuff” the same as everyone else and when I choose to look for the Blessing, it turns the lemons into lemonade and I emerge, a little further down the Path, as a stronger, wiser, happier, healthier human being. This contributes to making better art.


Do something about it
by Nancy Smith Couick


“Mexican Doorway”
original painting
by Nancy Smith Couick

“It’s only work if you’d rather be doing something else!” …my motto and my message to other artists. How lucky can we be to get to do what we do! I quit my career in real estate to open a studio and gallery. I teach six classes a week, run a gallery, teach traveling workshops and do annual outdoor shows. I “work my buns off” and put many more hours a week into this than anything ever before. And for fun… I paint! The people I meet are absolutely wonderful! My students are terrific! I have learned that if I want something to happen in the art world, I need to make it happen. To be successful, we have to be positive and pro-active. Where else in this world will we have the opportunity to do what we love with such passion, and to have the opportunity to meet such amazing people? If you don’t like what is happening to you… do something about it.


Free up the energy
by Haven Pfeil

When I made the choice at age 34 to give up a reasonably lucrative web design business and paint full time, I learned really fast that I had to dodge people with negative comments. Suddenly everyone I knew had a friend or relative who had tried full time art and failed, or was failing, or starving, or on the brink of disaster, and so on. I have enough of my own fear-generating thoughts that I have to overcome everyday, thank you. These same people, upon hearing I just made a large sale, tend to give me a sad look that says, “Sure you had a sale but don’t be surprised when you don’t get another one”. As creators it is imperative to avoid as much of this as possible, keep your own council, and choose friends who can be uplifting in general, not only about art. This more unstructured lifestyle is not for everyone but it is right for me, including all the challenges. Choosing to be positive may not pay the bills directly, but it does free up energy so I can create things that do.


Happy to be dancing
by Susan Easton Burns, Douglasville, GA, USA


“Red Head”
original painting
by Susan Easton Burns

A year or so ago, I read a book by Lynn Grabhorn, Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting. Her theory, that ‘like’ vibrations attract gives us ways to test our own personal vibrations in many different life situations. I experienced immediate and positive results from these simple exercises, and would be interested if it affects other artists similarly. Awareness of our feelings is essential. I’ve always assumed that I was in touch with my true feelings, and that all artists are, but what I found out was that many of my feelings were learned, and not authentic. If we vibrate at a low level, with anger, fear or intolerance, what do we expect to be attracted to? And what will be attracted to us? It is a simple as a choice. The best example I can give of this is that when I was in my early 20s my sister and I would go dancing. We were shy and self-conscious, but really wanted to dance. One night we invited a girl along that we sort of felt sorry for because she was very unattractive and always alone. She was authentically happy and wild on the dance floor, however, and every man asked her to dance, while we stood in the corner. My sister and I were speechless and laughing to think that we felt sorry for this girl. She was happy to be dancing and not worried about what anyone thought.


Wisdom of Wayne Dyer
by Helga Wilhelm, Hawaii, USA

I have read the books of Wayne Dyer for many years. This is some of the (selected) wisdom:

“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.”

“There is no way to prosperity, prosperity is the way.”

“Within you is the divine capacity to manifest and attract all that you need or desire.”

“We are divine enough to ask and we are important enough to receive.”

“You are always a valuable, worthwhile human being, not because anybody says so, not because you’re successful, not because you make a lot of money, but because you decide to believe it and for no other reason.”

“When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous.”

“The measure of your life will not be in what you accumulate, but in what you give away.”

“Successful people make money. It’s not that people who make money become successful, but that successful people attract money. They bring success to what they do.”

“Self-worth comes from one thing — thinking that you are worthy.”

“Prosperity in the form of wealth works exactly the same as everything else. You will see it coming into your life when you are unattached to needing it.”

“Our intention creates our reality.”

“Love what you do.”

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.”

“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”

“I will grow. I will become something new and grand, but no grander than I now am. Just as the sky will be different in a few hours, its present perfection and completeness is not deficient, so am I presently perfect and not deficient because I will be different tomorrow. I will grow and I am not deficient.”

“Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place we must find.”

“A non-doer is very often a critic — that is, someone who sits back and watches doers, and then waxes philosophically about how the doers are doing. It’s easy to be a critic, but being a doer requires effort, risk, and change.”

“Anything that has been accomplished by any other human being in the physical realm is within the field of possibility.”

“Anything you really want, you can attain, if you really go after it.”

Also see The Painter’s Keys Resource of Art Quotations for Wayne Dyer quotes.


Email connector idea
by Richard Rudnicki, Nova Scotia, Canada


“After the Bath”
acrylic on panel, 14 x 22 in
by Richard Rudnicki

I am going to add your name to my Sketch-of-the-Week distribution list. You should get the first one next Sunday. Every day I do a memory sketch and once a week I write a few words about one of them and send them free to a few hundred people — family, friends, associates and acquaintances that I’ve picked up along the way. It’s expression, discipline, exercise, a feedback mechanism and a marketing tool.

(RG note) Thanks, Richard. I look forward to those. It seems that variations of your idea are catching on. Regular mailing keeps your friends and collectors aware that you’re on the job. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we were to hear that some artists are starting to make a great living from this system alone. I can’t see it not working. It’s personal and people love to know what artists are up to.


Quotations query
by Nigel Dickman, London, UK

I’m currently researching the use of colour by both Matisse and Picasso and have found two quotations on your Resource of Art Quotations that I’m interested in. Picasso: “When I haven’t any blue I use red.” And Matisse: “A certain blue enters your soul. A certain red has an effect your blood pressure.” Do you happen to know the origin of these quotes? I would like to find out in what context they are meant.

(RG note) Thanks, Nigel. We are starting to get letters like yours every day, and now we are a bit sorry we didn’t get more info when we started this project. Our Resource of Art Quotations is the work of more than two dozen “compulsive quote collectors.” Many of these folks just grab quotes when and where they find them. Most of the best private collections that have been passed on to us do not have scholarly reference back up. Incidentally, the small letters after the quotes signify the initials of the volunteer who contributed them, and these people can sometimes guide us, but not in this case.


by Michael McDevitt, North Bend, WI, USA

I enjoy your comments, the reaction of others, the sample paintings, and the links to artists. Please, count me as a person/man that abhors/not strumpets the proliferation/not prochoiceration of language cops. Continue to use the simplest and most direct pronouns to explain your theses/not feces. Everyone in mankind/not womanpersongentleness can grasp his/her/its own meaning. Oh, what tortured webs we’ve woven from the inflax of bilinguist looms! What did I say? Anyway, I like your letter.

(RG note) Thanks, Michael. Thanks for your mungement.






At the Cafe des Artistes

oil painting
by Paul Oxborough, New York, NY, 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, 2004.

That includes Jean Murphree who wrote, “Those who cannot or will not bend their own behavior are doubly punished by having to live with their own misery and to watch others fly. How sad their destiny: to sit and lick their unchanging spots.”

And also K.A. Collins who wrote, “Negative thinking is so costly to my spirit that when I am approaching a zone that contains this thinking, a question arises: ‘Do I want to spend my creative energy like this today or use it to create something of beauty which can be healing?’ ”

And also Anne Copeland, Lomita, CA who wrote, “I’ve lived through a lot of personal challenges in my lifetime, but I haven’t let anything stop me from living my life fully. I’ve actually never been so productive in my art as I have been since I have taken on all these challenges.”




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