Unexpected blessings


Dear Artist,

On Thursday morning I was at my easel when a courier appeared at the door. He was delivering an envelope from a friend, a local lawyer of my acquaintance. The letter stated that in 1974 I had brought some of my work to his office, and a recent bookkeeping search revealed that he had never paid me for them. Lorne’s note was filled with contrition and guilt. “How much do I owe you?” he asked. “Do I owe you a ton for arrears? Do I pay you the current market value? What about the money you would have earned on the money you should have had for the paintings?” As I was contemplating these thoughts, a $10,000 “down payment” cheque fluttered from the envelope.

Thinking back those thirty-odd years, I vaguely recalled the delivery. More recently, I had noticed two paintings in his office when I’d been getting his help in transferring some property. I had thought nothing of the earlier transaction, took it for granted that he owned the paintings, and only noted their need for cleaning.

Over the phone, Lorne and I had a good laugh. I put his mind at ease by disclosing my own sloppy billing and sieve-like mind. Carol Ann and I looked over our ancient records and came up with nada. A subsequent visit to Lorne’s office found four, not two paintings. I measured them, determined their probable cost when new, ran them by my current price list, cut that in half, and he cut me a cheque. I’m now in the process of cleaning and reframing them for free.

As I was removing three decades of lawyer-office cigar from the surfaces, I was thinking of Samuel Johnson’s remark, “We need to keep our friendships in constant repair.” Deeper than this, I thought, there’s a sort of Karma and integrity that mystically guides the creative life. You might say it’s one of our unexpected blessings. Every one of us has such a story. People respect artists and look out for them. The surprising and singular finding of my lifetime has been the value of friends and the sense of trust that builds between them. This includes not only collectors, but fellow artists, dealers, agents and curious observers. Sometimes I think friendships are even more important than the art. “Life is human relationships,” said the wise man from the East. By sharing our creative magic with others, we reap the magic of their friendship.

Best regards,


PS: “Friendship multiplies blessings and minimizes misfortunes; it is a unique remedy against adversity and it soothes the soul.” (Baltasar Gracian)

Esoterica: That’s not to say humour and passive amusement do not play a part in friendships. Among artists and their patrons I notice a mild form of banter. Perhaps it’s some sort of jealousy that lies beneath both surfaces — something to do with the fragility of the human condition and the fickle mystery of art. George Bernard Shaw wrote a note to Winston Churchill: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend… if you have one.” To which Churchill replied, “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.”


Missing the finishing touch
by Gerry Conley, Seattle, WA, USA

I know a number of highly successful painters who sell plein air paintings that have been only varnished with retouch varnish. They sell their painting too early to be varnished with a final varnish. I have bought their paintings and what I have observed is that that retouch varnish fades to the point where the paintings are unvarnished. I then deal with the issue, but I really wonder how many of their customers do. I would not think the uninitiated would want to take the varnishing task on. Nor do I expect that many will hire the expertise required. So there is a potential legacy here that ultimately may bite back at the painter by having work out that does not look its best.


Art and friendship intertwined
by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA


“Wild Heron”
acrylic and collage on paper
7 x 11 inches
by Nina Allen Freeman

Art and friendship are absolutely connected. I think art is the artist’s expression of his or her inner self and our patrons “get it.” That piece of art they own is a bit of the artist and they treasure it because of that. Most of my patrons have remained my friends and no matter how small the painting they purchased, they love it and remind me, often, how they love it. Friendship is, after all, sharing a deep part of your self with another person and receiving the same back. Knowing how a piece of art can have meaning to someone, I once saw a sadly neglected collage piece on the wall of a friend by another artist. I cleaned and reframed it for her at no charge out of love for my friend and for the art.


Stolen art
by Rodrica Tilley


“Grey Barns”
pastel painting, 18 x 18 inches
by Rodrica Tilley

At one of my first solo shows in the early 1980’s two small unframed floral watercolors were stolen from a print rack. The gallery owner was embarrassed and paid me for them. In 2005 I received an envelope in the mail containing the two paintings. They had my name & address on the back of their mats, and my studio has not moved. It remains a mystery. I hope someone enjoyed them all those twenty years. They took good care of them and when the paintings returned they brought me many possible scenarios for their little drama.




Culling camaraderie
by Lori Standen, Surrey, BC, Canada

With regards to the mystique of Karma, the value of friendships and the camaraderie amongst artists, I believe that despite the illusory nature of some art, many artists are truth-seekers, often attempting to represent this in their work, through their own perspective, with manipulation of their chosen medium. Artists generally tend to have keen observational skills – some more sensitive than others. We notice many things, including the ‘nature’ of people. We often seek out like-minded people, in support of our own views and attitudes, as others do in their respective professions or associations. It is this raw honesty that draws people together and through the sharing of ideas and concepts, friendships develop. Indeed, we are blessed by the gift of our friendships. We sense the ‘magic,’ this gift, in interactions with our friends.


The nature of art
by Vita , Sutton, QC, Canada


“A moment of peace”
original oil painting
by Vita

Contrary to the artistic expressions that characterize the world of art as we have known for millennia, contemporary art has reached a hermetic language that requires constant translation from the pompous words of screwed critics. In reality, abstractions leave an audience with a myriad of obfuscated interpretations. However, when writers propose fabricated values to a gullible audience, they become the catalyst for the eventual commercial success of meaningless works that would be otherwise mistaken for accidental spatters of paint. By perceiving art in its accidental form, some of us can appreciate form without the influence of some pseudo intellectual reading. In fact, the spectacle of our daily skies, the ripple in a pond or a field of grass, are a reminder of how individual sensitivity determines our ability to recognize those casual and ever-changing visions. While nature excels in form, it seems clear that the intelligible rendering of realistic elements provides content to images and presents the intent of the artist capable of providing humanity with a universal language that we like to define with the name of art.


The rewards of labor
by Mona Youssef, Ottawa, ON, Canada


“Strings of Ice”
oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
by Mona Youssef

What we sow, eventually we will reap sooner or later. A genuine artist can’t, by all means, give up just because he/she is not selling often or not receiving the value of their artwork. Persistence and continuation will pay off eventually. It is our choice to sell our artwork now or later but is it our choice to give it up now or later? Certainly not. With the same token for for friendship, what is life without a sincere friendship! I have always valued such a relationship and what we put into it we will reap it back. Although, there are times when we need to be alone just free of any interruption, in order to focus on our next piece of art. I have friends whom I have not seen for over thirty years, yet we are still in touch and care for one another dearly. Definitely, genuine friendship is a magic that will always remain as long as we live.


Divided by dollars
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada


original painting, 36 x 50 inches
by John Ferrie

I have many friends and mentors who have been supportive of me over the years. Some have helped me out at the most difficult times with money appearing in my bank account, no questions asked. I have given away more than I have ever sold and for the life of me would not be able to tell you who bought which piece when and where. One of the worst things in the world is having “issues” of money between friends. Like gossip, it can ruin relationships, end careers and topple friendships. What was once said as a “no big whoop” can lead, six months later to a huge contention and is a difficult bell to un-ring. Look, I could take a lesson or two in the exercise of frugality. While I have always been able to make money, I am way better at spending it. I would hate to think anyone ever owed me in life or I owed them. But I would have called that deal, 30 years later, a wash and for sure, not a blessing!


Good and bad clientele
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic


walnut and plum totem, 30 inches high
by Norman Ridenour

I’ve had clients short change me, try to stall on COD deliveries, beat me down on price and a rack of incidents of double-dealing manipulative behavior. In 20 years in southern California I had three clients I regret not keeping in contact with and one of them actually became a friend. Several of my clients I would rather have stuck a knife into than do business with them again. Here I have the glory of repeat customers who bring along the family, recommend me to others, get to markets first thing to buy more work, call up and visit the studio to buy.





No art without friendship
by Mark A. Brennan, Whitehill, NS, Canada


“Afternoon, Northumberland Shore”
oil on board, 5 x 7 inches
by Mark A. Brennan

I have just finished reading an in-depth biography of A. Y. Jackson, that great Canadian landscape painter. The book, The Other A. Y. Jackson by O. J. Firestone is a look at his life from that of a friend. It is very evident that Jackson put his friendships first and valued them it seems higher than anything else. To quote Jackson from the book, “A lot of people have been very nice to me. A lot of people have looked after me. I have just been lucky.” There is no doubt that artists are held highly in society, they are a reflection of their time and with that comes many things. We are appreciated and loved, for this we must remain humble and in return we give back our inner most thoughts and feelings through our work. We are able to bring joy to the lives of others and from this comes many things, including friendships. Without the admiration, love and kindness of our fellow travelers, what would be the point in creating anything?


A break from solitary conditions
by Linda Walker, Bemidji, MN, USA


“Elephant walk”
oil painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Linda Walker

I have always been fortunate enough to have close, nurturing relationships with other artists. Now, living in a remote area I have been blessed with a group of artists that try to get together monthly for critiques and visiting, some drive several hours in bad weather to visit. Although, while I find the critiques useful, often bringing ‘problem children’ to get a feel for areas I may not have considered during my solving sessions, I cherish the visits, finding them a balm for my more solitary painting conditions. As far as humor between artists, beware. I once made a joke about the misuse of some acronyms and the artist, a ‘friend,’ took such offense that a vicious campaign was made on not myself but my art career. Although my career didn’t suffer, I still on occasion must confront my anger from the attacks, something that is not good for my artist soul.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Unexpected blessings



From: Leza Macdonald — Feb 19, 2008

What does one use to clean Cigar smoke and three decades of living off a painting?

From: Brad Greek — Feb 22, 2008

Through art I have met many wonderful people and made many great friends who would otherwise not have given me the time of day. For that I am grateful.

From: Karen Finger Alldredge — Feb 22, 2008

To clean the smoke ‘yellow’ from acrylic paintings, I have had some success with careful and gentle use of denatured alcohol and soft paper towel. The denatured alcohol will cut into the surface of the paint enough to remove the yellow without removing the paint. This also works on stains on Acrylic /Latex painted walls.

From: Jane Champagne — Feb 22, 2008

Cleaning with a good, pure soap like Ivory– not detergent — and water works well with oils and more than likely with acrylics. Works for me.

From: Jane Champagne — Feb 22, 2008

Forgot to add that paper towels may not be the best solution. I was told years ago that cotton swabs worked well — and they did.

From: Joan Simpson — Feb 22, 2008

Painting friends…..I have much success with Neutragena (liquid) and the (harder/tighter type) cotton! Also works well on your studio leather furniture…

From: Linda Bean — Feb 22, 2008

I have often heard about using Ivory or other soaps to clean oil painting. I have never heard how the soap is removed (rinsed). Perhaps someone has the answer to that half of the cleaning. Thanks.

From: Toni Ciserella — Feb 22, 2008

My best friend/ex-husband/biggest fan of my work- passed away this last week. Among his few possessions were two paintings I had given him years ago. His family asked if I wanted them back. I said “no” and asked only that they be given to his sons- which is what he would have wanted. They are portraits of him; one looking like the devil that broke my heart; the other of him as a small child, innocent and pure. Our art is meant to be given away, stolen, borrowed, begged and paid for…like our heart.

From: Barbara Would Schaefer — Feb 22, 2008

Following the advice of a conservator, I cleaned an oil painting with cotton swabs and distilled water. It was slow but effective. It’s important there are no cracks in the paint surface.

From: R Joe Hutchison — Feb 24, 2008

Toni’s short story was poignant and hopeful, and almost heartbreaking for me. Too much of it seemed to relate to my spent life, one which leaves no one to remotely care for me as she does for her dear departed best friend. And, I have no talent, either, to succor me!

From: Leza Macdonald — Feb 24, 2008

Using water and a white cotton photo glove the colour came off my oil painting dated 1976. However the colour is much brighter in the corner where I tried this. Am I damaging the painting? I do like the results of the clean corner, yet I do not want to ruin the painting. I am wondering why the colour came off. Picasso did not dust his paintings because he felt it helped preserve them from light damage.

From: Jennifer — Feb 24, 2008

Baby wipes are gentle and don’t fray. Wipe, don’t scrub, then wipe dry with clean, dry cotton cloth. Old-fashioned diapers are useful for this…if you can find them.







On the KVR, Myra Canyon

acrylic painting, 16 x 24 inches
by Shawn A. Jackson, Richmond, BC, Canada


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 Marjorie Tressler of Waynesboro, PA, USA who wrote, “It does the heart good to know there are honest lawyers alive and well in this word.”

And also Max Elliott of Banff, AB, Canada who wrote, “Twenty-three years into art-making, I am perpetually discovering the importance of friendship in living a healthy and productive life. True friends will always be a reminder of how we are respected and admired, loved and valued as artists and as human beings. Caring for friends opens the heart, and gifts us with the privilege of sharing the fruits of our self-imposed and necessary solitude.”

And also Janina Cushman of Hilton Head, SC, USA who wrote, “We hear so much about how art is plagiarized or stolen etc. so it was wonderfully uplifting to hear your story and that of your friend.”

And also Helen Harper of Pender Island, BC, Canada who wrote, “You can’t just leave us hanging. How did you clean the paintings?”

(RG note) Thanks, Helen. Every soiled painting has its own problem and doing the wrong thing can lead to tears. Oils and acrylics can often have a fair amount of grime, smoke and fly specks removed with a light application of Mr Clean or other detergent and water. You need to do a test in a small, out of the way corner of the work. Clean off with a wet then dry cloth and see if there is any difference under bright light. Check all rags for what you are removing — make sure it’s not colour. For truly valuable work you are best off using small swabs of cotton. Be gentle. If you suspect further damage such as cracking, flaking, or chalking, seek the help of an expert conservator.




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