Browsing: Letters

Letters
16 Portrait of the artist at seventy

This past summer, a few months before his 70th birthday, Bruce Springsteen released his 19th studio album. Western Stars he said, would be a character-driven collection of songs that spoke to the themes that had always driven his work — the loneliness of the highway, the cowboy sky, isolation, family and work, and life’s small miracles that keep us going. Set in California and reminiscent of the 1960s anthems of some of his childhood musical heroes and orchestrated with sweeping, elegiac string arrangements, Springsteen’s stories are laid out as a metaphor for an artist’s quest and the quiet, inward revelations that arrive in life’s last chapters.

Letters
12 What success?

While wandering around in Romania, a question came into the inbox: “I guess I know the answer to this, but do successful artists pretty well sell everything they paint?”

I can’t attest for all artists, but in my case it’s a low percentage that sell quickly. My work is too erratic and varying. Also, as a lot of what I do is based on experiencing life and experimentation, all works aren’t “ships of the line,” and collector whiz-bangs.

Letters
33 One long quiet period

When my husband, Peter, attended his first Genn family gathering, he was delighted to find that after the meal everyone scattered to their respective rooms for what our family fondly and only half-jokingly calls, “quiet period.” No communal digestion, no idle chatter, no one’s company sought. Within minutes, everyone was under the covers in their own bed with a book or writing tool. Quiet period is when you get to go to your room to work on that thing you’re quietly working on.

Letters
31 The plight of the undiscovered artist

Last night I met with five of the 17 million artists who currently need to sell more of their art.

Two of my visitors came originally from a sales background. Two were young and disliked the subject of selling but were eager to get on with it. The other one had read a lot and taken courses — online, on the phone and in person. These courses included art marketing, eBay sales, art blogging, display advertising, selling yourself and your art, the business of art, licensing art…

Letters
10 Do it badly

Olivia Remes, an anxiety researcher at Cambridge, has discovered that we can develop coping skills for anxiety through the things we do. She says the way we cope can actually have a direct impact on how much anxiety we experience. We can lower anxiety just by making a few tweaks to how we deal with stress in the first place.

Letters
9 Bleep

On Friday we went to see What the Bleep Do We Know? It’s part documentary, part entertainment, part lecture. After being recommended by so many fellow artists, I knew it would be like no other film.

It’s about Quantum Physics. It asks and attempts to answer some of the big questions: Who are we, what are we made of, where are we going? The natures of intentionality, possibility, addiction, creativity, and self-love are examined and graphically demonstrated.

Letters
15 Cause célèbre

Before 1956, Desmond Morris was a surrealist painter who had recently completed a doctorate in zoology at Oxford. That year, he began studying the picture-making abilities of two-year old chimpanzee Congo, a resident at the London Zoo. As Morris had recently agreed to host a show on animal behavior for Granada TV, he caught the whole thing on film.

Letters
12 Thoughts on teaching

In the incredibly dark and grubby Odessa airport, waiting for the short flight to Kiev, I find a crumpled copy of the English-language Herald Tribune. While most of its words appear well used by previous travellers, there’s an interview with 76-year-old American author John Updike. “I’ve tried to avoid teaching,” he says, “which for all its charm takes a lot of your energy and makes you doubt yourself.”

Letters
13 Anywhere from anywhere

Annelise Fleischmann was a teenage art student from a wealthy German-Jewish publishing family when Oskar Kokoschka saw one of her portraits and asked her why she painted. She promptly quit, applying instead to the experimental Bauhaus School at Weimar, where she was rejected and then accepted after a second try. Because women were barred from most classes there except for weaving, Anni reluctantly eased into textiles. “To work with threads seemed sissy to me. I wanted something to be conquered. But circumstances held me to threads and they won me over.”

Letters
12 Tune up

Where I live, the spiders come out in autumn. They’re in my face when I bend to turn on the garden hose. Going about their sky-harvest and their devious mating-games, they spread their webs across my larger windows. In the nearby forest there’s a surprise of mushrooms. The longer, darker nights bring the owl’s call closer. Even by day the night birds are more active, silently moving between the tall cedars. It’s time to step out into a season — something to do with what John Muir called “washing your spirit clean.”

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