Our blessed life

Dear Artist, I was at my easel in a secluded corner of a quiet garden. Near sunset a thrush serenaded from a thicket and a rhododendron dropped petals at my feet. These days I get emails on my phone — sometimes several dozen an hour. I know it’s considered a bad habit, but I have this compulsive desire to pause and hear from folks. This one came in: “Hello, I am Nnadozie Gideon, one of your subscribers from Nigeria. I am a teenager and I started drawing at age three. In secondary school I won art competitions. Since 2011 I have been practicing painting and drawing with a poster colour set I won. I went into oil painting last year while still trying to perfect my drawing skills. I have been able to paint only a few because all I have is my oil paint set of six and a few brushes. Will you help me with some art materials? Please advise me on how to take my art to a higher level.” In a world where death and destruction are the norm, and distrust among nations and religions prevail, we in the West sometimes do not realize how blessed we are. Our leisure and relative wealth give us the daily freedom to create as we see fit, and a trip to the art store is not generally a problem. Brutality, injustice and tyranny in the Middle East and the toils of emerging Africa have our family helping where we can. Across our blue and beautiful planet many artists work under difficult circumstances and can be delayed in their quest for a “higher level.” Nnadozie Gideon has been a subscriber for some time and I have no reason to suspect he is part of a Nigerian scam, as some folks might wonder. He may indeed be a legitimate member of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists. In the same batch of emails there was a note from a Syrian man now living in Lebanon who asked if I thought metallic acrylics were permanent and might maintain their sparkle. (I think they will.) The words “Sunni,” “Shiite” or “Alawite” were not mentioned in his email, nor did they need to be. Like international sports that test the human mettle across boundaries, art is also great. While most emails here are either informative or inquiring, many artists write with complaints. Some are valid complaints, but many are the whines of the distracted and the spoiled. To them in general I say, go to a quiet garden and daily find the joy that lies within. And know for sure that many others are not so blessed. Best regards, Robert PS: “Let us grow together.” (Sri Sathya Sai Baba) Esoterica: I’ve written a note to Nnadozie: “I’m thinking about writing a twice-weekly letter about your situation. Perhaps we can help you. Please send me your mailing address, a few photos of your paintings that show your signature, and a photo of yourself.” So far I’ve not heard back from him. I’ll let you know when I do.   Nnadozie Gideon update (RG note) At this time Nnadozie has been in touch with me by email from his Nokia smart phone. So far he’s sent his mailing address, a photo of himself and jpegs of several varying and unsigned paintings. I’ve asked him for jpegs of signed paintings, jpegs of his awards, and a note from one of his teachers. There are several Nnadozie Gideon websites and Facebook pages originating in Nigeria. My inbox has loaded up with artists wishing to give art materials to Nnadozie. Hundreds are also suggesting we ask him to prove himself first. I’ll let you know when he does.   Not enough information by Annette Hanna, Boonton, NJ, USA  

“Golden Grasses”
pastel painting
by Annette Hanna

I had a conversation with some artists recently who talked about a scam that is prevalent in Europe that is exactly what you say about your Nigerian teenager. They started drawing at a young age, they have paltry supplies to work with, please send art materials. Many artists have already done so. Most likely the materials are sold and the teenager, or adult, is profiting from all materials that have been donated to him. Even though he is a long time subscriber to your letter does not mean that this person is not a scam artist. Why do we all fall for these stories with so little information? Just because they are on the internet or phone? Tech gadgets just make it so much easier for them to work. There is 1 comment for Not enough information by Annette Hanna
From: Sherrie Miranda — Jul 19, 2013

Robert, I mentioned Kickstarter to you before. It is a place to get your project off the ground, but you have to give something to your supporters (depending on how much they give – the artist or invented, himself, decides). If this person IS legit, he should have no problem going this route. He could then pass on to a link that you could then share with your readers. I am currently in the process, myself, of putting together a Kiscktarter campaign. My husband made the video but I haven’t figured out how to download it. Thanks for the inspiration. Sherrie P.S. Although my medium is storytelling, your writing does inspire me on a regular basis.

  Use of local materials by Tyna Adebowale, Lagos, Nigeria   This issue of internet ‘begging’ I will not say is a Nigerian factor, but am sure Nnadozie Gideon knows very well what he is doing, if at all he is an artist as he said. I am a Nigerian visual artist, based in Lagos. Art materials and studio supplies are becoming really expensive as 100% of products (oils and acrylics, brushes, and all) we use are imported. But artists in Nigeria are beginning to look for a way out of this. Hence we recycle, and we reuse found objects. Some of my colleagues recently started producing their own pigments in the studio. It’s acrylics and all I think what they did was to read the labels on the Windsor and Newton pack. We have lots of raw materials for pigment production as I discovered recently, but am not sure any factory is ready to invest yet into producing art materials. So I think the likes of Nnadozie Gideon should be advised to use whatever materials they have or find around them for their arts. Guess that is why it’s called art; a trade for (very) creative people. There is 1 comment for Use of local materials by Tyna Adebowale
From: Anonymous — Jul 18, 2013

For all my heart went out to Nnadozie (with no doubt a liberal helping of white guilt!), I did think of what you mention here, Tyna. In South Africa one sees how creative artists become when they have very little money so can’t “waste” it on luxuries like art materials. Maybe some South African subscribers could send some photos? Those wire sculptures, and collage pictures, using old tin cans, corrugated cardboard, etc.? Also, when one reads stories of how people in Africa have made their own bicycles (and I even read of a plane recently!), finding pigments and making their own paint should be a doddle. ;-) Time-consuming, but not difficult.

  Give it to your local hospital by Susan McCrae, Brampton, ON, Canada  

“Ancestral Eye”
acrylic painting
by Susan McCrae

I greatly sympathize with your Nigerian follower. I’ve visited many corners of the world where artists struggle to express themselves with so few materials it should make us all in North America blush. Even among our own communities there are people we could be sharing with. A friend of mine is a nurse in a Mental Health Ward of our local hospital. One of the biggest issues for patients on the ward is the lack of activities. Painting and drawing have long been known to have therapeutic value. The next time one of you is cleaning out your studio and getting rid of paper, paint, old brushes, remember your local hospital and take some art supplies to the mental health unit. They’ll be used and greatly appreciated.   There is 1 comment for Give it to your local hospital by Susan McCrae
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jul 16, 2013

Good idea! I have a sneaking suspicion that Art Therapy is not supported by hospitals as much as in the past because they have figured out that a good art program shortens hospital $tays. I heard a psychiatrist state defensively that art therapy opens people up before they are ready. No one in hospital draws things they are not ready to understand and perhaps talk about. Anyway the right brain is defenseless in these battles and art goes out the window.

  Difficult times in Africa by Merewyn Heath, Tampa, FL, USA  

“Summer showers”
oil painting
by Merewyn Heath

In reading your story regarding the fellow in Africa seeking supplies and the request of him in response, I noticed something that may present an issue for him. You ask that he respond with multiple photos to obtain further help. Upon my last visit to southeastern Africa, electricity was still out of reach for many houses. Transportation was often by foot, baths by creekside and the bush served as restrooms. If your writer is in one of these areas, the tools (phones or otherwise) are truly luxury items and he may not be able to produce them. He may possibly be able to get to the nearest town for photo help but even web cam situations require particular knowledge and newer tools. Perhaps there’s a PO box address you could provide to him so he could send an actual sketch, painting or similar item, in case the photo capability isn’t available to him? (Also factor the cost of mail for this idea however… perhaps prepaid postage…) (RG note) Thanks, Merewyn. It appears he is quite well served and connected.   Art in the time of war by Ola Sayed Ahmed, Syria   I felt really happy when you mentioned my country Syria and that guy in Lebanon. Art materials may not be the only thing that hinders you from enjoying painting. I started in oils only two years ago and there is so much difficulty in feeling the taste of beauty of my surroundings while my ears are filled daily with the sounds of death. I have finished with my exams and now that summer vacation has started my other problem is that my resume painting is unfinished. While it is in oil, it seems as if painted with water paints and does not have the glitter of oil. I have heard that the best to dilute oil is a light kind of petrol, but turpentine dilutes best for deep layers. If I use oil paint thick I will pay a lot. (RG note) Thanks, Ola. Too much thinner of any sort takes the binder out of oil paint, makes it less stable and less permanent. Linseed oil is the traditional binder oil and is probably available to you. Walnut oil, if available, is highly recommended. I’ve heard of painters in the Middle East using olive oil with the addition of a small amount of siccative or dryer. Perhaps some of our readers might be able to advise you. There is 1 comment for Art in the time of war by Ola Sayed Ahmed
From: Allan Piggott — Jul 18, 2013

Linseed oil or flaxseed oil is used in commercial paints and is readily available in hardware stores. When I was in the Middle East I used the sun-clarified variety without dryers.

  A crisis of trust by Chris Pool   I’ve been to India 20 times. In some developing countries it seems there is an automatic tendency to scam and that is part of what holds those societies back. Business slows terribly when there is no trust. The Nigerian artist might be for real and I think it very intelligent that you asked for photos of his work with signature showing. Since even in impoverished South India the garbage sweepers have cell phones, a high school student in Nigeria who wins prizes can surely get a photo of his work taken by a sympathetic teacher or relative posted to your email, and even doctored. You had a Sai Baba quote in the last email. I went to his place several times while he was giving darshan. There was some funny business there also but there was spiritual energy in abundance. Ain’t life strange, and grand. There is 1 comment for A crisis of trust by Chris Pool
From: Sherrie Miranda — Jul 19, 2013

Chris, good point. Although the artist himself may not own these things, he surely has run into people who do. That is IF he truly is an artist. Also, somehow he got access to Robert’s blog so he must have SOME connections.

  No taking blessings for granted by John F. Burk, Timonium, MD, USA  

“Castle Hill Reach”
acrylic painting, 11 x 14 inches
by John F. Burk

Earlier this year, a friend of mine and his wife returned from South Africa with a painting they bought from a resident who did wildlife subjects in oils on canvas. They bought a pair of zebras in high grass on a savanna. It was rolled up in brown paper. My friends asked me to re-stretch it so they could have it framed. The painter couldn’t part with his stretcher strips, apparently. They are a rare commodity. The canvas was old tent canvas that I assume he could find sufficient quantities of. This was my first realization of the difficulties many artists must endure to practice their art, way beyond any difficulties I have. I am very pleased to be a member of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood you speak of, so compelling to so many that even our precursors forgot their rumbling stomachs and the beasts outside to paint life as they saw it on the walls of caves in berry juice. And I tip my hat to those who work as hard in this day and age. I do not take my blessings for granted.   People with nothing by Hanna MacNaughtan, Kemptville, ON, Canada  

Artists and their work in Africa

My daughter Amanda is a Registered Nurse currently working with MSF (Doctor’s Without Borders) in a refugee camp in South Sudan. Talk about people with nothing… these poor folks have less than nothing. But the artist inside a person will find a way. These children somehow discovered with the rainy season that they could be creative with the only thing they had to play with ~ mud/clay! I think these young artists and what they have made are incredibly beautiful…don’t you?   The problem is the government by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

original painting
by Rick Rotante

I am constantly being reaffirmed of the simple fact that people of other nations are not our enemies. Conversely, we are not their enemy. Governments wage war on each other and the people are caught in the middle. I guess you can rightly say that “we” are the government, as we believe here in America, but the truth is, as the Bush years have taught us, government leaders wage wars with each other, even with the disapproval of their people. The turmoil occurring on foreign soils today illustrates what can happen when people try to take back their freedom and denounce their government. Most ordinary people struggle to have a good meal, a comfortable living space, money in their pockets and freedom to watch their children grow and thrive. Regular people want much less than do governments. Governments continually scheme and plot to gain more… of everything. Power, oil, resources, religious or moral domination or simply more territory. Given the imbalance of numbers, it is easier for a government (with limited people) to deceive its people (a much larger number) by diversion, subterfuge and misinformation. They perform in secrecy. This hasn’t changed in thousands of years and, sadly, may never change.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Our blessed life

From: kellianne land — Jul 12, 2013

It is a wonderful blessing to be interconnected as artists. To encourage, teach, share, enjoy and ponder the meanings of this mysterious life. I enjoyed the perspective of your letter; from a moment in the garden, where creation was itself giving its gifts to you to answering a letter from far away, yet in an instant seeing your blessedness… with a heart to share.

From: Patsy, Antrim — Jul 12, 2013

As a person who grew up in southern Africa, my instinct is that Nnadozie is genuine. We have become conditioned to believe that nothing good can come out of Nigeria, but the sad truth prevails: in any country there are the few who spoil it for the many. As for your not having heard from him again, it is quite likely that he might have some delay in getting photos done of his work. Or he thinks it isn’t good enough. Give him time – Africa does have a different time perception to the rest of the world, except maybe here in Northern Ireland, where the casual attitude to punctuality amuses me more than it annoys me – so far. ;-) I’ve never been so relaxed!

From: Darla — Jul 12, 2013
From: Elle Smith Fagan — Jul 12, 2013

You did it again, RGenn ! I was looking for a focus for my “Art With Heart” this month, and now I see a mission: I can write a friend who helps in Uganda with micro-finance in small villages and get an art supplies network going for his people. I am sure they want some. Artsfriends here have plenty and even with my careful little studio I have a trunkful of supplies from old projects etc. that are still nice enough to share. Many of my friends like SHOPPING for art supplies so much that they’d like nothing better than sending brand new supplies with artslove to Uganda! Thanks for the inspiration. You said, “Like international sports that test the human mettle across boundaries, art is also great.” How great, thou ART or how great, thou, Art, to get Shakespearean! I will go get it started and update – such projects are so easy! And because I will be doing this with a friend IN LOCO, who worked for WHO and who is accredited with this later-in-life smaller response group, I will know that the thing is totally honest. One of our college profs used to chide us for getting too “shopping for art supplies”-ish, but notttanymore if we can do it and help the world.

From: Ngoy Platty — Jul 12, 2013

This is far and away the best art blog anywhere. So wide-ranging, thoughtful and human.

From: Gins Doolittle — Jul 12, 2013

Art will prevail forever: a booster of our continuing strength, a pillar of our moral fiber, a way we can hang our thoughts, our hearts, and go beyond bloodshed to make our statement, as citizens in common humanity.

From: Irene Fields — Jul 12, 2013

I suspect that Nnadozie has no access to a camera. If there is a local photographer, her equipment may not be digital. A wandering photographer we met on a visit to Zambia had to mail his film out of the country to get it developed and printed. We visited a museum and art school there that had no access to watercolor paper. It’s true – life is so easy for some of us that we often can’t imagine the hardships that exist for others.

From: Judy Reinsma — Jul 12, 2013

Please, follow up on this. What a worthwhile thing it would be if your readers could, collectively or individually, send this young man some art materials. I certainly am blessed with the ability to buy more than I could ever use. What better way to spend some money on art than to help someone like him?

From: Blair — Jul 12, 2013

Your ability to reach out and to listen to all that is around you is amazing. Many people don’t hear the thrush serenade in the gardens. Thanks for sharing.

From: Ted Mooney — Jul 12, 2013

Given that he hasn’’t asked for money, Nnadozie is unlikely to be part of a scam. However, it’s also unlikely that he will be able to send you a mailing address. Most Africans live in villages or city slums where the streets have no names and the buildings have no numbers – an individual mail service as we know it does not exist. For most people, a mobile phone number is their identity, few have an email address.

From: Sabrina Hill — Jul 12, 2013

I am an artist who follows your newsletter. I read about the young artist in Nigeria, and if he responds to your invitation to provide an address and sample photo of his work, I would like to send him either some supplies or gift certificate for some supplies through an online retailer. I can’t save the world, but I can offer some paints, brushes, and canvases to a fellow artist. I don’t wish to burden you with the task of managing this; however, I also do not wish to infringe on the young man’s privacy. Please let me know the best way to handle this.

From: Nancy Schempp — Jul 12, 2013

Thank you so much for sharing this. Your description of the world is right on and it is a sad time, but also a time for many who are more fortunate to reach out and share their good.

From: Gloria O’Sullivan — Jul 12, 2013

I am an American artist (71)… I am hanging my 3rd art exhibit today… I struggle to go to the art store in America… on a fixed income… However, I work, save and now paint… after a life time of dreaming one day I will paint. There are many in our own countries who struggle…you bring hope! I live in a small cottage surrounded by my personal botanical gardens and God’s beauty all around… Love your quote this day! I read and re-read all the knowledge you share and to you I say Thank You… you bless so many around the globe, giving freely of you knowledge and talents! Blessings be upon you Robert Genn…in humble gratitude.

From: Rhonda Feldman — Jul 12, 2013

What lovely words you have here! I am one of those people who is easily distracted, but have found the most enjoyable painting sessions I have is when I am focused on the simple beauty of the world around me– not the things I WANT to have that I think will make my life more beautiful. I am thankful now for my old stiff and worn oil brushes, my painting box that needs the old paint scraped and sanded off, the cheaper canvases that I use sometimes in order to stretch my dollars, and the bad light in my studio that needs re- hauling. I think I’ll go out and pick a wild flower, and I just might paint it too.

From: Sharon E. Allen — Jul 12, 2013

An outstanding letter and a great reminder for all of us. And it reminds me that the very reason that I paint, especially en plein air, is that it brings me peace. And I strive to convey that sense of peace and beauty in my paintings so that others can feel it too. We are indeed fortunate and spoiled. When I participate in the International Plein Air Painters World-Wide Paint-Out in September, this year I will also be thinking about this young man in Nigeria!

From: Anne Anderson — Jul 12, 2013

Thank you for this beautiful reminder. What a perfect way to start the day, feeling blessed.

From: Elsha Leventis — Jul 12, 2013

In my studio in Toronto’s Distillery District are containers full of oils, acrylics and watercolours, rolls of Mylar and canvas, stacks of paper, and brushes of every shape and size. An art supply store is a short walk from home – located in downtown Toronto, the store attracts people from every part of the world. Artists in turbans, burka and saris and others bedecked more “normally” in jeans, and t-shirts with piercings, nose rings, and tattoos, exchange smiles as they hunt for supplies. United by passion for art making, we connect to exchange challenges and solutions – religion, politics and race are immaterial, unimportant, not even an issue. We are artists without borders, and we are so fortunate. Robert, is it possible that this young man has no access to a camera and cannot afford to pay for photos? Then again, a recent CBC documentary mentioned that many countries in Africa have very high rates of cell phone usage because these phones are cheap – cheaper than land lines. Looking forward to seeing more about this and would be happy to donate.

From: Janice Moser — Jul 12, 2013

I was touched by your letter today. The desire to create art knows no borders or nationalities. You are so right, we are fortunate and even the poorest of us in the west can find a pencil and paper (my medium for many years when I couldn’t afford paint). I think we should err on the side of trust in this young man’s case. I would be willing to send materials in hopes that he is sincere in his request. It isn’t my place to judge whether he’s worthy of help or not. And if its a scam, oh well, no real harm done. Thanks for brightening my day.

From: Mary Ehrsam — Jul 12, 2013

I am writing to simply say thank you and send some joy to you through the wire. I am about to turn 45 and my gift to myself it to celebrate the joy I receive and have from each amazing person in my life and you are on my list. Very simple but transformative phrase, “go find the joy that lies within”. Enjoy your day. You have made mine special.

From: Dorcas Nepple — Jul 12, 2013

You are so right. It would be hard to imagine a life where I don’t have the resources to have art supplies. I truly believe art and artists are part of what brings us closer to each other—helps humans connect and heal. I hope you do hear back from Nnadozie. I believe your friends in the global community would be very interested in helping; I know I would. Thank you for helping me appreciate my beautiful art supplies even more.

From: Susan Thompson — Jul 12, 2013

I hope you hear back from Mr. Gideon. I live in Santa Fe which is this weekend celebrating the Folk Art International Market with artists from all over the world. Last night they paraded in the Railyard Park in their native dress holding plaques with their country’s name. It was a sight to behold. Nigeria was represented and the man who held the plaque was someone I work out with at the local recreational center gym. Then we listened to a West African band and the whole park was dancing into the night. It made me proud to live in Santa Fe. We were all taking pictures of the representatives from the world in their native dress and they were all beautiful and happy. There is a great deal of connection with all these international artists here each summer and wonderful experiences meeting and talking to these people. I think we gain understanding and much more from this experience every summer.

From: Lin Distel — Jul 12, 2013

Thank you for this one today. I spent my teen years in Bangladesh before it was even called that. Even then, the arts were our bridge to interact in the local community. The arts has its own voice, spoken by all. The vast majority of these folks want what we all want — a peaceful, meaningful life.

From: George Karvel — Jul 12, 2013

Read your story about the boy in Africa with interest. As a traveller to Africa I can tell you that you set your requirements for assistance too high. The difficulty of taking and obtaining photographs is greater than you would expect. In much of rural Africa this is an impossible challenge. To receive a letter and address is about all you can hope for. Your heart is in the right place. Thank you for your insight to life and art.

From: Pam Schader — Jul 12, 2013
From: Maritza Burgos — Jul 12, 2013

Despite the seemingly endless demands of my ordinary life, I am privileged to live in a peaceful beautiful country, have plenty of supplies and all I need is to have more discipline to set the time aside to feed my creative need. As you so eloquently wrote, art and the pursuit of art in all its forms is above all differences, political or religious disputes, and those of us who are privileged to live in stable,peaceful lands and have so many opportunities and resources at hand, should just quietly and gratefully get on with it ! :-). In that spirit, I have planned a few hours this weekend to dust my brushes and see what emerges.

From: Barbara Bornet — Jul 12, 2013

Do not trust email such as those you have described here. Sorry.

From: Donita Vaden — Jul 12, 2013

“Having a little or enjoying a great deal….not what makes one happy.” I know I have been in both places…. Helping another is the key. Thank you for your “heads up” on this matter. Will look forward to hearing more.

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 12, 2013

I am humbled by the human spirit that can comprehend a higher calling in the midst of war, poverty, and struggle for mere survival. There are locales in the world where it is a terrible time to raise a child. Looking back in history at the creative arts most of those contributions were made during periods of peace. The Greeks and Romans at their peak comes to mind. It is hard to reconcile those things with a desperate search for food that day, not knowing if your home, such as it is, will be intact for you to sleep that night. Some may lament the indifference of a privileged youth but I maintain it is only because they have never been challenged. I have seen young people thrown into harrowing experience who were able to reach deep within themselves and triumph over adversity; in particular, the military. I read of a soldier returned from Iraq who stood in line at Starbucks and listened to a twenty-something complain about his latte wasn’t frothy enough. The soldier had to exercise control not to go off on the man; he thought, “Man, you don’t know what problem is.” To lay all those elements aside and strive to a higher calling is a grand thing. I hope your Nigerian correspondent is legitimate and you can provide supplies for him. A passion for beauty in the face of such adversity should encourage us all. Having said all that, I sit on my deck under the shade of an oak tree enjoying a peaceful and quiet valley. The deer, fox, roadrunner, and other birds are kind enough to share their sanctuary with me. I’ve spent several hours in my studio today and am satisfied with my progress. Oh, yes, we are blessed.

From: Karen Blanchet — Jul 12, 2013

Today has been a day of gratitude. I am so thankful for my new space in my studio (I just finished a mural). I was like a little kid in a mud puddle. Your letter reminded me of the excess in my life. I have an excess of most everything. Truly blessed. I have given most of my oils to my daughter, since I no longer use them. I gave away much of my student supplies to another artist who continues to teach in schools. And the biggest sale of the year is coming up soon so…. more excess. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful.

From: Chelsea Cordova — Jul 12, 2013
From: Jorge Garcia Hernandez — Jul 13, 2013

Mr Genn: Before you connect us to this young fellow, you need to see signed examples of his work, a picture of him painting, and a letter from his high school teacher saying he is who he says he is. Internet begging is now commonplace, and unfortunately these sorts of requests need to be properly filtered.

From: Bill Kerr — Jul 13, 2013

If you publish Nnadozie’s mailing address you may cause a landslide in a Nigerian post office. Years ago a young member of the Columbia Lake Indian Band put a rather poignant Christmas card in one of the Christmas trees that they harvested for US sale. He asked for a return Christmas Card. The story and card were published in the paper and it became a wire story. The Invermere postmaster was completely overwhelmed with cards for weeks! Packs of paint and brushes could kill a postmaster!

From: Patsy — Jul 14, 2013

Having read the kind and generous comments here, I am reminded yet again how difficult it is for Westerners to grasp the realities of life in the continent of Africa. Some of you who have visited do realise; others, quite understandably, assume similarities to their lives at home. So we have to be very careful as to how we help him. The fact that Nnadozie asks if you can help him with art materials tells me two things: one, he has an address to which things can be sent; possibly a postbox at the local post office; two, it’s not necessarily that he can’t afford them – they’re probably not available anywhere in the country. He probably had to use an internet cafe to email you – we know those exist, because that’s apparently where all the scam letters come from! If he were a scammer, he would be asking for money, not art materials. Also, his English would not be so good, or the tone of his request so unemotional – there’s no sob story. Also, you say he has been a subscriber for some time. Access to a camera/photographer could be difficult too, so photos of his art could be a long time coming. Rather email him to suggest he take the photos on a cellphone – it might be the only way. Landlines are few and far between, so cellphones have become widely available – there are more users of them (650 million) in Africa than the USA and Europe combined. The person who said he could be swamped if you publish his address is quite right – it could also endanger him, as he will be seen to be wealthy and could be targeted by criminals. A small parcel once in a while is safer. Lastly, may I suggest that readers do a google search on Nigeria, look at the images and read the stories, to get an idea of what life is like there.

From: Elizabeth Wysosky — Jul 14, 2013

If this man is true and legit who wouldn’t mind helping? I have a few times fallen for the crap people say and have spent money on them. If that man will prove he is true, you bet I will help, not with money, oh no, but with paint and brushes and canvases.

From: Maxx Maxted — Jul 14, 2013

Yep, you had me crying again. When I started painting 50 something years ago all I had was a tin of Reeves watercolour paints in little patties. My acrylic wash build-up technique has developed from that. Bali

From: Andre Satie — Jul 14, 2013

Robert, I LOVE this letter. Thank you for uplifting us.

From: Carol Allen Anfinsen — Jul 14, 2013

The story in the last one about an artist from Nigeria who is looking for art supplies or money is a scam. I have received that one many times, and so have other artists. Someone is always playing on our heart strings to get something for nothing. I’m sure there are worthy artists out there, but I don’t think this is one of them.

From: Terry Waldron — Jul 15, 2013

I was a public high school art and English teacher for 43 years, and I have seen much more than I ever wanted to see in “my kids” lives… right here in California!!! It probably sounds sappy, but kindness is the answer to soooo much. Giving that person some art supplies is a kindness. I figure that once given, it is gone from you, and it’s up to the “givee” what he does with it.

From: Nolly Gelsinger — Jul 15, 2013
From: Carol Clemens — Jul 16, 2013

Robert, Is it possible to contact one of your respondents (the email button doesn’t work)? Hanna MacNaughtan, Kemptville, ON, Canada displayed a photo from her daughter working in the Sudan. While I know we should work from our own photos, some opportunities will not be afforded me and I would like to obtain permission to use her(daughter’s) photo as a reference for a painting. Can you assist? Thank you for your consideration.

From: vonn — Jul 16, 2013

Please – not Sister/Brotherhood. We are the Community of artists !

From: Betsy — Jul 16, 2013

Scam requests do not start out asking for money. They get us people of good will and generosity attached to the scammer on an emotional level. A few emails down the line they will ask for your bank account information so they can “make a deposit into” your account. What’s more, if this man has a computer, a smart phone, or whatever technology he uses to make contact with you, how can he be so poor? May logic and reason rule us.

From: Peter John Reid — Jul 16, 2013

Benefit of the Doubt. Maybe it is a scam, but isn’t it better to give the materials in case it’s not. Even if it is, they will eventually get to some one who needs them.

From: Rachel Trockman — Jul 16, 2013

i like the idea too that an artist, in Nigeria or anywhere, opt for local resources. We had a cousin in Israel who painted for years while in deep poverty and assault conditions. He used old flour sacks for canvas and gravel to thicken his paint. The stretchers are all bent and warped. Some of his paintings have bullet holes in them. They are all collectible although we do worry about how archival. Since he survived to paint, so will his paintings, in some way. I don’t mean to be hard-hearted, but most of us don’t have to reach so far to find useable materials. The blogging conversation has value but don’t fall for the scam.

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 16, 2013

For whatever reason I can’t post on the instant comments above, but trust over the Internet is rightfully suspect. However, I am reminded of a Nigerian acquaintance years ago who called us from the DFW airport. He was going home and was hit for extra baggage fees he did not have the money for. He asked to borrow $300. My husband met him at the airport and came home saying, “That’s money we won’t ever see again.” Eighteen silent months later the gentleman knocked on our door and handed us $300, plus a hand carved elephant large as a soccer ball as a gift of thanks. It really was quite nice and I put in on my mantle. The next morning there was a foul odor in the house that became increasingly stronger. I took it outside and left it in the sun for several days but even that didn’t help. I finally had to discard it. I subsequently found out its beautiful ebony color was produced by elephant dung. I regret not finding a means to eliminate the odor but our faith in human nature was pleasantly enriched.

From: Cindy Adams — Jul 16, 2013

Nokia Smart Phone? I think that should put an end to any questions.

From: Sandy — Jul 16, 2013

I wonder when the last time a female petitioned for such support and was given material goods to further her career, particularly if she was without a “romantic” story to tell. How much of the outpouring of support stems from the desire to fulfill core beliefs about gender roles in our minds. Would we be so forthcoming if the gender switched? Or do we need to pre-sort those around us unconsciously putting them into categories of who wins, succeeds and at what? Science suggests that the pre-cognitive moment is where these decisions take place, the same general space – minus social training – where we artists process shapes. With socialization we become intrinsically aware and practice furthering these hierarchies. It becomes a reason women get sidelined because they aren’t supposed to be asking for help in achievement matters, artistic or otherwise. Can we look at ourselves without flinching — just like in crits of our artwork, writing, behavior — and consider what the filters are we use to process and then act with the hope that we can act mindfully rather than racing pell-mell into unconscious damage? Women can be deserving of material support rather than sidelined, can we open ourselves up to this? Are males the only ones who merit freedom to point their talents at things outside the home? Can we give our compassion this way?

From: Jo Watts — Jul 16, 2013

Just a thought about Nnadozie Gideon. I saved and scrimped to purchased art supplies long before I could afford a smart phone. Has this artist got his priorities in order? Just wondering.

From: stephan chmilnitzky — Jul 16, 2013

As a student at the Ontario College of Art back in the 60ths I was told a artist shouldn’t use the excuse of no art materials use what’s at hand maybe try a pencil or sand or what ever just keep the right brain active. Sometimes it’s the innovative artist that finds a new way or direction who will be noticed and will advance the movement of art in new directions.

From: Colleen O’Brien — Jul 17, 2013

My sister and I wondered if a woman beggar in rural China was scamming. We decided that even if she was pretending, we would not want to spend our days in dirty rags on the street…for any reason. So we gave her a little money. What a life, to be a scavenger, scam artist, or desperately poor. colleenobrienart.com

From: Serena — Jul 17, 2013

Hmm- tough to say, and I agree with you for wanting some proof- And- I grew up painting with less than 6 colours- as long as you have blue red yellow and white in there- ( black is good too) you can paint anything.. I used to think very differently about poverty in parts of the world I hadn’t been to yet, parts that had been highly promoted by charities, but flying over Nairobi, going into Kenya for the first time, I flew over tons of brand new beautiful houses overlooking a cliff- and wondered, maybe THEY should be remedying poverty in their own land. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give to poor people anywhere, but only that there are poor people here as well, and well off people all over the world. I wonder sometimes if anywhere else in the world has TV ads of charities for poverty in Canada and the US. I may sound callous and that’s not my intent. But I agree heartily with those here mentioning giving closer to home, and knowing exactly what they are giving to. It’s given me some good ideas- thanks

From: Jan Milner Cole — Jul 18, 2013

I am curious about how paints can be sent overseas as I have not yet been able to deal with the problem of taking my painting materials with me when travelling overseas or sending them ahead as they have to be identified as ‘toxic material’.

     Featured Workshop: Brent Lynch, Camille Przewodek, Michael Reardon and Michael Workman 071613_robert-genn FCA Sponsored workshops with amazing instruction by
Brent Lynch, Camille Przewodek, Michael Reardon and Michael Workman
Held in Whistler, BC, Canada   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Redhead in Repose

oil painting, 24 x 40 inches by Jeremy Lipking, Agoura Hills, CA, 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 Anonymous who wrote, “If this Nigerian artist is so poor, how does he have a computer? I can spot a scammer from one email — I’ve had dozens — and I think this person is one. Your letter in response to him was perfect; requesting proof of who he says he is was the only way to go.” And also Richard Mason of Howell, NJ, USA, who wrote, “Should you get a reply I’d be happy to help a budding artist in whatever way I can. A little here and there adds up. Helping someone gives you a feeling very similar to getting that painting you’re working on just right.”    

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