Birth notice


Dear Artist,

Some recent items in my inbox: “I’ve been busy this past month and not doing much painting.” “My work had to wait.” “Sometimes I’ll sneak in an hour or two.” “These days I can’t paint.” “I have wrung myself dry.” Sometimes my inbox is so full of this sort of stuff I fear people will unite, rent buses and march around our circular driveway with placards reading, “Can’t paint,” “Won’t paint,” and “Don’t paint.” It’s been my experience that telling people what you’re going to do can steal the thunder of doing it. It stands to reason that telling people what you’re not doing is even more deadly. As an antidote, how’s about those birth notices you see in the classifieds: “Aidan James Wyatt, seven pounds eight ounces, 2.15 am, March 28, 2010, to Scott and Marion Wyatt of Plattsville.” Just the facts. It’s a notice of accomplishment with no mention of the problematical conception or the current jaundice. No invitation for criticism either. Little Aidan has merely been announced and welcomed into our world.

Like a lot of painters, Zoë was not sure when she was overworking, and needed friendly advice when to back off and move to another area.

Like a lot of painters, Zoë was not sure when she was overworking, and needed friendly advice when to back off and move to another area.

Consider something similar for the birthing of your art: “Morning, Wiggins’ farm, 11″ x 14″, March 28, 2010, oil on canvas, by Bill Buckley, Plattsville.” Just the facts. Accomplishment. Twitter with words to spare. Or post it on Facebook for the eyes of the non-busy. Illustratable, too, if you feel like it. Thousands of “daily painters” know all about this and publish online while the paint is still wet. For those of you who are less exhibitionistic, archive it on your computer, print it out for your own album or journal, or quietly send it off to a friend. The buddy system is as good as any. When two close friends mutually announce their accomplishments, progress speeds up and negative placards get dropped.

Zoë’s easel is a little unit I concocted myself. It fastens to the front of the highchair and turned out to be remarkably stable.

Zoë’s easel is a little unit I concocted myself. It fastens to the front of the highchair and turned out to be remarkably stable.

As kids, we leave our stuff lying about for parents and grandparents to find and register. An approving nod may be all that’s needed. For folks who start early, accomplishment becomes natural. Late starters need to consciously build the habit of publishing at birth rather than agonizing the labour. With the buddy system you can also confide personal baggage and perceived impedimenta, if any. These confidences are best made orally, in person. That’s what friends are for. A good friend for free is greater than two psychiatrists paid. Birth notices need to be in writing — evidence of effort and the demonstrated ability to complete. May you print lots of them. Send ’em to me if you want.

Best regards,


From time to time Zoë had quite a bit to say, and while it was in no known language, it was enthusiastic and made a lot of sense.

From time to time Zoë had quite a bit to say, and while it was in no known language, it was enthusiastic and made a lot of sense.

PS: “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” (Émile Zola)

Esoterica: Speaking of starting early, on Saturday, granddaughter Zoë and I had a creative afternoon. We had a great discussion while we were at it, and while she has a few English words like “dada” and “papa,” most of our conversation was in something like Armenian. As art discussions go, she made a lot of sense. Nothing negative.

This letter was originally published as “Birth notice” on March 30, 2010.

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“Composition No 1” acrylic on canvas 11 x 14 inches March 27, 2010 by Zoë Genn

“Composition No 1”
acrylic on canvas
11 x 14 inches
March 27, 2010
by Zoë Genn

I wish each and every one of you well during this global health crisis and encourage you to flatten the curve by staying at home with your creative materials. I hope our Painter’s Keys community can be a source of friendship and creative inspiration during this time and always.
In friendship, Sara 

“My friends are my estate.” (Emily Dickinson)






  1. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of going to the studio. Start to paint and you wind up not painting for several minutes, but several hours. Sometimes it’s a matter of beginning a new piece, dealing with an older piece that needs work, or doing something else, but in the studio. If what you have in you is a moment, give the thing that moment. Or clean up some. But, whatever you do, do something. Anything works.

  2. Ah, it’s amazing how many times the letters are so smack on what I’m experiencing! Love Zoe’s painting, hope you saved it.

    • Yes, for goodness sakes let us see Zoe’s painting now. My grand kids are 30/40 something now and some great grandkids are finishing high school. But we have a wonderful stack of watercolors done by some of that gang over the last four decades. Their art has worked its way down several creative avenues, but their interest has never flagged.

  3. Katarina Vlasic on

    Thanking for sharing that lovely image and anecdote of Robert spending time with Zoe. I can hear the laughter and joy emanating between them. It is sparklingly beautiful and a lovely image with which to begin my day.

  4. I have been painting almost nonstop for the five days since I have started staying home. I am surprisingly calm most of the time. I am finishing pieces and starting pieces I have thought about doing for a long time. I fortunately have a lot of art supplies in my studio. My art has been a source of comfort for me through some very difficult times. I encourage all of you to use your gifts especially now.

  5. What a wonderful time captured and shared. Thank you, Sara, for including me in this joyous moment. And the painting, Zoe #1, is great. Why do we lose the freedom to just paint or photograph or (fill in the blank) that she exhibited. And I like the painting! I hope that Zoe has continued to paint.

  6. Steven H. Lawrence on

    What an uplifting post in this time of trouble. I’m sure that Zoe will always love her grandpa and by the way, even though we never met, I do too. His letters and paintings have been with me for a long time and I hope to have a long time ahead too. Steve

  7. I loved the pictures and thought how fortunate Zoë is to have had some time with her grandfather and to have artists in her world to support her creative endeavours.
    I appreciate the message on what one shares regarding their art. I have to admit I am guilty of sharing the process, often. Thank you for This perspective.

  8. Ooooooh…..I loved this post so much. Thank you, Sara, with all my heart for re-posting it as I hadn’t seen it before today. Zoe is adorable and she had a tremendous art partner to share her master piece in progress with and have some good “Armenian” discussions. How lovely! She was so very blessed to have spent time with her grampa, the great, late Robert Genn. Thank you, Robert for being you……Suszanne

  9. Katrina Covill on

    Thank you for this particularly joyful post today! Made me smile. And a little sad too. But so lovely all the same. Much love to you. Take care xx

  10. Always relevant. I must say, I have never said those things but I do sometimes use “no time” as my excuse. I am painting more than ever now that we’re semi quarantined, and will seek times to do so even though now my kids are home again. :) Love and health to all who are painting or not!

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11 x 14

Featured Artist

I am a self taught artist, I work in oil, Acrylic and watercolour also in Pastels. Started painting In Ashcroft with Mr. Campbell. I taught my self how to paint by studying professional artists’ work through reading, TV programs, educational DVD and work shops.


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