Letter to the Student of Painting

Dear Artist, Painter Charles Philip Brooks runs a teaching studio in North Carolina. He focuses on the American Tonalist and Impressionist schools of painting. Recently he sent me a letter he’d written for his student Laurie Gayle. I soon realized his letter was a classic, so I asked him if we could give it a wider reading. I think you’ll find it worthwhile.

“Nocturne with ivory clouds”
oil painting by Charles Philip Brooks

“Letter to the Student of Painting” “Your day contains a great measure of freedom. Your responsibility as a painter is here within the walls of the studio and in the setting of the landscape. You have the opportunity to exercise genuine mastery at every step, and it is in this spirit of grand possibility that I hope you will reflect on the advice made plain here. Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world. There is important work to be done here. We can best express our care for all others by attending to our work well. Allow yourself the peace of purpose and the knowledge that to make another attempt with the brush is a noble thing. If you accept the discipline of the truest principles of art, then yours is the reward of an unbroken line of tradition. Therefore, you may earnestly free your mind of all heartaches, sadness, and transitory despairs. Creation is above these things. Your vocation is as real and as true as any other. Those who denounce the artist as idle manifest a deep ignorance of the nature of art. Have faith that the civilized will somewhere, at some time, value your well-wrought works. It is a miracle that the world keeps its havens for art and yet it does. Know that to create art is to do a necessary piece of work. The most noble pleasures and measureless joys result from such endeavors. True art is undeniable and it is a gift for all humanity. The threefold responsibility of the artist is: to creation, to individual talent, and to humanity. For creation – the whole of nature — we must cultivate prayerful awe. This is our source of work and our refuge as well. We should seek harmony with nature. For the individual talent — long hours and years of steady industry hope to find our abilities fulfilled, our minds, hearts, and hands put to valuable service. In this way, we maintain the sanctity of art. Lastly, we make to humanity a willing gift of all we do. Our control over the material world lasts only a lingering moment and it takes a generous soul to build the ambition of a lifetime and then to hand it over in trust to the future. Painting requires the bravery of solitude. Painting requires disciplined labor. To be a painter is to search the world with a benevolent eye for every subtle beauty that the infinite world offers. Here is the opportunity to give your honest effort and to add in any small way to the legacy of art. Cultivate patience in your heart and you will improve. Learn to see well and your hand will become sure. No pain or doubt can invade the honest soul engaged in the communion of creation. We artists must love the world with our deepest selves and forgive it at every turn. To paint even a little passage with a measure of quality is to achieve a life’s triumph. Spend your days wisely with the best thoughts and works of those who have walked the road before you. Search their paths, their timeless inspirations, and the lineage of their genius. Learn your craft well and your talent will mature into its full possibility. Keep an obedient heart before nature. She is the master above all other masters. Nature is the concrete manifestation of all that remains true and sublime. Let us always be thankful for her abundance and hopeful that we might approach her in our art. Nature will renew every generation of painters, ready to illuminate the minds of those who practice the art with what is calm, rational, beautiful, sublime, and eternal. Such is the purity of your vocation. Treat every moment before the easel as a quick and tender opportunity. Invest your most noble self. Give your most noble self. To be a painter is to enjoy a precious state of life.” (Charles Philip Brooks) Esoterica: FYI, we’ve put a selection of Charles Brooks’ paintings at the bottom of this letter.   Charles Philip Brooks

“Heart of the Sea”
oil painting


“November Moonrise”
oil painting


“Chase the Pale Moonlight”
oil painting


“Holden beach at night”
oil painting

            Thank you, Universe! by Denise Auld, Poulsbo, WA, USA   Your email with Charles Brooks’ piece on painting came to me this morning as I sat sipping my tea. The timing is nothing short of magical. Last Sunday, my entire studio occupied a U-Haul truck as I moved from one county to another. I spent the last two days trying to organize the contents in some sort of logical layout in my beautiful new studio. Today I am looking forward to my first day of painting in my new space, and now I have the magnificent inspiration of Charles Brooks’ Ode to a Painter to hang on the wall next to my easels. Thank you Charles, thank you Robert, thank you Universe — I love being an artist.   A neutralizer of doubts by Karen Dedrickson, WA, USA   Thank you 10,000 times for this timely letter. I have been going through so many doubts, more than usual trying to make sense of why I want to paint. The purpose, the reasons, and the value of what I do have cast long shadows over my feelings and inspirations. I am a mid-career artist, and this letter puts the value of what I am doing into a purpose that I can understand with my heart and soul — and forget the laundry and the dirty dishes!   The permanence of art by Laurie Sain, Lander, WY, USA  

“Winter Horse”
watercolour painting
by Laurie Sain

I struggled with the idea of being an artist, both as a writer for 30 years and as a painter now, in light of all of the tribulations of the world. What was art good for, really? Then, when I married a few years ago, we traveled to Greece for a honeymoon. When we got back, I realized we had spent the entire three weeks looking at art and stone foundations of buildings long gone (my husband is an archeologist). I concluded that, in the long run, art was all that was left. It’s that important — to the artists and to the world that comes after them.   Shamed by letter by Patricia Brett   Charles Brooks spoke to my heart and soul and you can tell how he feels about the great gift of being able to create art, and to me that is one of the most important aspects of being an artist, whether you’re painting, creating mixed media, designing jewelry, weaving beads, sculpting, doing fine art photography, or any other form of art. He truly knows what it means to be an artist. His letter is the first thing I think I’ve felt deeply enough about to put myself out there and comment on (online I mean)! I also looked at his paintings online and he truly has a great gift. I am in awe of his talent and would love to be able to learn from him. It makes me ashamed that I haven’t picked up a paint brush in over a year!   The wisdom of Doris McCarthy by Lynda Pogue, Georgetown, ON, Canada  

“Maligne Canyon”
oil painting
by Doris McCarthy

The inimitable Canadian painter Doris McCarthy (very frail…very old…almost gone…) wrote this in the front of her autobiography: Look to this day, For it is the very life of life. In its brief course lies all the verities and realities of its existence. The bliss of growth. The glory of action. The splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look therefore well to this day. Such is the salutation of the dawn. Sanskrit There is 1 comment for The wisdom of Doris McCarthy by Lynda Pogue
From: Karen — Apr 13, 2010

Wonderful! Now it is on my wall, beside where I paint and next to Charles Brooks’ wisdom!!

  Working for a nobler cause by Sher Sester, Oklahoma City, OK, USA  

“Victorian Afternoon”
watercolour painting
by Sher Sester

Thank you for sharing this letter! Sometimes in the busy world as a “Commercial Artist/Graphic Designer” and freelance fine artist, it is hard to take a moment to remember that our art “is a gift for all humanity.” I feel that deep inside, but forget, in the rush to please others in the commercial field, that I am creating for the world, not just one job or person. Working for a State Agency for health care, my artwork helps and educates our citizens and gets a lot of appreciation from the people my art is designed for, my fine art is a bonus that I don’t ever have enough time for, but the rewards are great there too. The reward is inside — the joy of creating art that talks to others (commercial and fine arts) and brings joy to humanity!   Lofty, encompassing letter by Dayle Ann Stratton, Brandon, VT, USA  

“Stinking Water Pass”
oil painting
by Dayle Ann Stratton

I am quickly writing this before leaving on a week-long retreat, so it will be brief (for me!). Thank you for posting this letter, and thank you to Charles Philip Brooks for writing it and for allowing you to share it. It encompasses all the things that are important to me as an artist: diligence, discipline, vision, patience, industry, respect for those from whom I’ve learned, both in art and in life. To be fully present so as to render honestly. And above all, though I work in solitude, I remember my connection to all those around me.   Giving our best by Jill Paris Rody, Campbell River, BC, Canada  

“Autumn splendor in Red”
watercolour painting
by Jill Paris Rody

I can identify with that ‘seeker’ of beauty, and pray my work will be a blessing to the viewer. The message touched a core of belief in me that confirms I am “on track” with my passion of being an Artist. I have the honor of being the “Artist in Residence” at Still Water Books and Art (Campbell River, BC) and therefore am seeking to put forth the best of my current works, into the hands of wonderful shop owners, who, in turn promote the beauty of landscape (and other styles) to the local and visiting public. The lines in the message: “Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world. There is important work to be done here. We can best express our care for all others by attending to our work well” meant so much to me. Passion and emotion for my art is enough to propel me through the day, and the additional cares of the world can be so very overwhelming otherwise. I have no desire to paint about troubles and angst. Beauty is the expression I want to portray, and in doing so, I feel I am giving my best to an often heart-sick world.   Crisis in education by Rick Delanty, San Clemente, CA, USA  

“Mission creek”
acrylic painting
by Rick Delanty

For 32 years I was a high school painting and drawing teacher. For the final exam, it was my custom to give the advanced class a topic that I thought would be current to their understanding of the art world, or their own places in it. One semester I handed out what I told the class was a letter to the editor written by a community member entitled, “Art Classes in Schools should be Cut!” The letter included six reasons for dropping art from school curriculums, including the toll it took on student study time for “more important” subjects, the unnecessary monies that needed to be spent on materials and classrooms, the inability of the arts to contribute to or improve society, etc. I told the students that their assignment during the test period was to respond to the writer in a “letter-to-the-editor” format. Now I’ve had many final exams during which it appeared that students were reluctant to get started — but not this one! At the end of over an hour of writing, the students turned their response — letters in, and I selected some to read aloud to the class. No one thought that cutting the arts from school curricula was a good idea — in fact they were indignant, appalled, and disgusted that anyone would even suggest that! Student responses included the value of art as a leisure activity, a great way to spice up the school day, a class that could turn into a career, necessary to society for the design of just about everything, and a skill that would increase facility for all kinds of activities that related to creativity. Imagine their surprise when I told them that I had written the letter! They were even mad at me for coming up with the idea! To them it was obvious that without art, without creativity, without the freedom and opportunity to exercise it, both the school curriculum and society would suffer greatly. To them, both the creation and appreciation of art were privileges that — globally — we cannot do without. Even in my career as a professional artist today, I think of those letters, written by students, and reflect that the arts are some of our greatest gifts on this planet, for appreciating life, ourselves, and our fellow man. Whenever I walk into the studio, I give thanks.   Desiderata by Dorothy Adams   Thank you for sharing the beautiful letter to the Student of Painting; I will save it along with my best loved writings… the letter reminds me of the wisdom in Desiderata. Desiderata Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. Written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s There are 2 comments for Desiderata by Dorothy Adams
From: Debra LePage — Apr 13, 2010

“All passes-Art alone endures” is written over the entrance to The Fine Arts Building in Chicago and is included in our standing press release for monthly open studios….. “Since 1898 the Fine Arts Building has been “home” to artists — visual artists, musicians, dancers and dramatic artists – as well as architects, interior designers and graphic designers. This ten-story monument to the arts demonstrates the continuing history of the importance of the arts and provides proof to the adage — ‘all passes – art alone endures.’ ” This was a great article-thank you!

From: Anonymous — Apr 13, 2010

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars…” Thank you, Dorothy, for reminding me of the beauty of this piece. It always makes me cry!

    [fbcomments url=”http://clicks.robertgenn.com/charles-brooks.php”]    woa  

Painting The Blues

watercolour painting by Jill Brooks, ON, 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 Bill McCall, who wrote, “Artists should read this letter before every painting session. It is a powerful reminder of what we all should already know!”

And also Shirley Jo Falconer of Oregon, USA, who wrote, “Clear our minds, friend, with the sewing machine, or dyeing, or beading, or whatever art as we know it.” And also Marianne Deaver of Gap Mills, WV, USA, who wrote, “This I read with tears of gratitude.”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Letter to the Student of Painting

From: Andrea Harris — Apr 08, 2010

Dear Robert, This is a beautiful letter and one that should be taken out and re-read from time to time. Kudos to Charles Philip Brooks and to you! Andrea Harris

From: Jim Larwill — Apr 08, 2010

“Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world.” Is the artist the one not grieved too long for the troubles of the outside world???? Stalin might argue differently??? And now that I have dropped that signifier, what would Hitler argue??? There is so much with what Charles Philip Brooks says that I want to agree with. However; “Such is the purity of your vocation.” And those clouds???? Do they just wait for horses to charge out of them???? “Nature will renew every generation of painters, ready to illuminate the minds of those who practice the art with what is calm, rational, beautiful, sublime, and eternal.” BUT? What if? This is the last generation of painters????? What then of the thousand year realm? Yes remain calm. But keep your eyes open. And yes grieve your connection to the outside world. Even if it is necessary to let go of endless troubles. Jim Larwill wolf@ncf.ca

From: Peggy Guichu — Apr 08, 2010

This letter is beautiful and timeless. Since I’m in China at the moment for a show I would like to have this translated in Chinese so that I can give it to the new artists I have just met. I know they will find the peace and sincere quality as much as I have.

From: Renee King — Apr 09, 2010

I’ve read Charles’ letter many times as I am currently his student. His wisdom is timeless.

From: C M Henderson — Apr 09, 2010

What an inspirational letter! I would like to get permission to share this with members of our group of artist in Bastrop TX. I think it can rejuvinate the artist whenever that ever present self doubt rears its ugly head.

From: Ron unruh — Apr 09, 2010

The letter is a classic and it was worthwhile for me to read it but perhaps not with the results you expected for me. Brook’s advice to the artist was to disregard what critics might comment about the artist’s idleness of life when the world outside the artist’s own creative world is troubled, and to dismiss from one’s mind all of those temporal cares in order to focus upon the authentic and legitimate task of controlling that material world briefly in order to see well and then to nobly seize the opportunity to create something that becomes a portion of one’s legacy to others. As I read this letter, I projected the many unbearable life situations in which many artistic spirits find themselves today. This letter is written to someone in the almost idyllic North American culture where all one has to shut out is extraneous traffic noise or the rumours of wars on CNN. Yet internationally and even personally there are worlds of pain and hurt and destruction that are not easily dismissed in order to gain solitude for a creative moment. The letter caused me to reflect upon artists who have respected their craft so well that they did not have to justify it or even to find solace from a wild world in order to create. I think of the painters of the war experiences of our world, who like photo journalists today, recorded for us a material world coming undone, and faces of beautiful men and women dying, dead or fighting for freedom. I think of Vincent Van Gogh who early in his career tried to pastor the poverty stricken potato farmers and recorded their faces and gnarled hands because he could not ignore his world but found something to be treasured there. An artist is far more than a recluse needing affirmation for a vocation that doesn’t hammer nails or build empires. An artist’s vocation is not merely for the good times, or for the times when you can escape a bad world. It is for every world condition and that is why it is to be respected.

From: Jackie Knott — Apr 09, 2010

Dang, I was just going to putter around the house today after returning from a trip. After reading this letter I’m compelled to go paint! I think the finest point within CPB’s letter is not to let distractions pull an artist away from his or her calling. The letter addresses a purity of purpose. We pursue art for many reasons. I would not assume the student was raised in an idyllic American suburb insulated from the pain of life. It’s part of the human experience and no one is exempt. The student could be reeling from losing loved ones, the scars of poverty, or the emotional wounds of abuse ….. and expresses that pain in her art. If so, this letter would have even more poignancy. This is one letter I will also copy and hang in my studio. Reminders are grand things.

From: Ellen Wong — Apr 09, 2010

An inspirational gem of a letter.

From: Dorenda — Apr 09, 2010

All I can say is…WOW! (and thank-you.)

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 09, 2010

Gotta ask… “transitory despairs?” Who’s paying the bills? REALLY!

From: Pauline Lorfano — Apr 09, 2010

A truly inspirational letter. Good for the struggling artist ,all ages. I shall copy ( if O.K.?)and give to those who express despair. As artists often do.

From: Boa — Apr 09, 2010

This must be another North American thing. The way I see it (European), the nobility of the painter should be applied in his paintings, not in words. Sometimes saying less is better.

From: Jim Cowan — Apr 09, 2010

Reminds me of the time when I co-coached a kids soccer team. “Pay attention” the other coach said “This isn’t school…You are here to learn something !”

From: Helen Musser — Apr 09, 2010

Master Charles is much more than a teacher(which we need above all) he has the soul of a poet and paints with such passion. His words are a salve for all of us and washes away the vile comments the world hurls at us. Beautiful friendship you have! You both are giants in our art world

From: Alma H. Bond, Ph.D — Apr 09, 2010

The letter is absolutely lovely! It had me in tears. (And I’m not even an artist: I’m a writer. You may remember me as the author of Camille Claudel, a Novel.) Thank you for publishing the letter.

From: Sandra Essex — Apr 09, 2010

Beautifully affirmative. Thank you, Charles Brooks, and Robert Genn, for making it accessible.

From: Michelle Murphy-Ferguson — Apr 09, 2010

I want to say that this letter hit home with me this morning. On Easter Sun., my Mom passed away…she was my friend, my confidante, my main emotional support in my painting. I would complain at how slow I was in excelling at my painting endeavors…and she would say just keep painting, it’ll come together.Just keep painting. This newsletter is so her. The timing of this…amazing….Thanks much….and just keep painting.

From: Win Dinn — Apr 09, 2010

Thanks for that wonderful letter from Charles Philip Brooks – he writes as beautifully as he paints, and his letter now hangs on my studio wall as a reminder and inspiration. Thanks, too, for the twice-weekly gift of your own letters. Tuesdays and Fridays remain my favourite days in the gallery.

From: Aliye Cullu — Apr 09, 2010

This letter could not have come at a better time. As I was doing my floor exercises this morning looking up at the new green live oak leaves through the skylight, I realized why I’ve been feeling depressed. I have not been painting for a few weeks. As the threat of losing my home looms over me while I’ve been diligently job hunting and interviewing for jobs that would make me crazy, I have been ignoring my soul’s yearning. Thank you for reminding me that to paint is NOT a selfish act. It’s a responsibility. Your words perfectly articulate deep truths about the purpose of being a painter. Now I’m going out to paint today and tomorrow and the next day…

From: Debbie Underwood — Apr 09, 2010

This is such a beautiful and eloquent letter! I will actually post this at our Co-op Gallery “Canvas & Quill Studios” as well as passing it on to all my artists friends! Thank you for sharing this!

From: Harry Adams — Apr 09, 2010

Thank you for sharing such a profound bit of wisdom… I have printed it for future reference.

From: Anonymous — Apr 09, 2010

It seems like such a struggle to be poetic, romantic even more than maudlin. Kind of makes me gag a little. No doubt when one makes a really solid landscape painting much can be said for it’s significance as an object in the world and in the painters experience and of course to the certain viewer. I find the babbling on and on more of a sales pitch to a young student having little to say beyond that. Read Emerson on Nature or Self Reliance, or Robert Henry or lots of others to get the same input without all the gooey stuff. Anon

From: Chris Cullen — Apr 09, 2010

That was fabulous. I will keep a copy handy to remind me of all that you have said and I will SAVE a copy to reprint as I wear out each print and copy it for other artists that just need a little push to understand.

From: Fleta Monaghan — Apr 09, 2010

Thank you for publishing this inspiring letter! Sometimes we forget the importance of our job as artists in the context of history. It is a sacred duty to record the things we see and the imprint of our culture so that future generations may learn and reflect on the traditions and conditions of the earth and our place in it.

From: Andrea Katharina — Apr 09, 2010

Bonjour from Paris, Thank you very much for today’s letter. It came as I needed those words, and I’ll keep them, cherish them.

From: Julie Roberts — Apr 09, 2010

Charles Brooks appears to paint for the same reason many of us do; ‘ to search the world with a benevolent eye for every subtle beauty that the infinite world offers’. We are the ones who wish not to dwell on the problems of the world, but to keep a positive feeling and watch for beauty in wonderful or even mundane experiences. We presume that people will enjoy our work for the same reasons we do. That is my inspiration but it would be interesting to see letters from those people who paint to express different feelings altogether: loneliness, shock, sadness, curiosity, humour, historical record … or more? I would like to learn about their motivation and perspective.

From: Edith Rae Brown — Apr 09, 2010

Thanks so much for forwarding Charles Phillip Brooks “Letter to a Student” in your twice weekly letter. Each and everyone of your letters has to touch the artists who read them. Please never get tired of writing. I am sure you must realize the size of your audience.

From: Cushla Moorhead — Apr 09, 2010

Thank you so much for making it possible to read Charles Philip Brooks’ letter. It spoke to my heart and answered all my queries that I struggle with so often. I also love the paintings of his that are on here. Thank you so so much.

From: Katherine Lakeman — Apr 09, 2010

Thank you for sharing that; when I was a teacher of youngsters, I knew I had a very important purpose there. When I was painting full time, I was plagued with doubts about how I spent my time. Mr. Brooks has spoken with great love about the necessity of art and I thank him for that. It reminds me that it is a gift.

From: John — Apr 10, 2010

After I read his letter, I looked at some of Charles Brooks’s paintings on the internet. My impression is that the look of his paintings is consistent with the tone and sentiment of his letter. If you like his letter, you’ll probably like his paintings.

From: Rosanne Troncoso-Corpus — Apr 10, 2010

I have been a subscriber since 2005. In the beginning, I really couldn’t relate to some of the concepts spoken about that pertained to the daily, consistent efforts specific to artists. At the time my day job was that of a police radio 911 dispatcher. My goal was to eventually earn a living from my drawing skills. That finally became a reality in March 2009. Since then, I have been making the attempt (and am very fortunate to have a husband who supports me in this) and I can honestly tell you that the ideas in your letters have really helped me when I wasn’t feeling too confident about my decision. My biggest obstacles to overcome are time-management (as it pertains to trying to estimate how long it will take to do a commission) and anxiety surrounding the idea of being able to produce enough and consistently enough to pay the bills. Some of your letters have really helped on these issues. I look forward to hearing more. It is a real pleasure to go back to the letters I saved since 2005. Wow! Lots of nuggets of wisdom — now, some of that stuff makes sense to me!

From: Iola Loría Benton — Apr 10, 2010

Aren’t we all Students of Painting? I have been working constantly for more than 50 years and I am still learning. It is because of this that I find Charles Philip Brooks letter so inspiring. Thank you very much for sharing it with us.

From: Brenda Murray — Apr 10, 2010

Wow, that was, is and always will be ‘ breathtaking ‘ to read again and again. As i read, i could see my father ( a snowbird ) just as the letter said ” totally immersed in his love of painting, sketching and more, in such peacefulness. I struggle with the discipline, unlike my Dad, but thank you Robert for the thoughtfulness of having this letter shared with so many others. I will delve into his love of work after typing to you and attempt to acquire this, listening to Bob Holroyd, ‘ Without Within ‘. Please check out this tropical creation as you paint. I always look forward to your letters, this one is the icing on the cake Robert, thank you and have a great day. Your grand-daughter painting outside with you was a real treat!

From: Christina Rahm Galanis — Apr 10, 2010

Thank you for a series of fabulously inspiring letters. This was exactly what I needed right now. I feel like I am drowning in matters that don’t matter – with my art – but reading this, I remembered what it is really all about.

From: PeggySu — Apr 10, 2010

Ron, thank you so much. You said what concerned me about the letter much better than I ever could. However, I do agree those who pointed out that whatever you decide to do, it is probably better to focus on it while you are doing it.

From: Bethany Thurtell — Apr 10, 2010

Robert, thank you for sharing this letter. I think we all need some validation at times- some extra reminder that what we are doing is important in and of itself. I also love the mention of the pursuit of beauty, which is what I am all about, and for me it’s the human form. This will be added to my studio wall- along with other inspiring quotes!

From: Gretch Townsend — Apr 11, 2010

It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me go for popcorn. Sorry, I just don’t have much empathy with this sort of thing (like the “Dear Virginia” letter). On a less crass note, I sometimes think that investing too much philosphical universality in rather banal things is part of the great malaise of the world. It’s part of what makes people kill for religion, some of what gives them blinders to the stark facts of life among people, and allows people to invest themselves with solipsism, rendering their acts uncircumspect. I’m not saying that such advise, as is in this letter, is wrong, per se. Only that we need to be careful of how it affects us.

From: Hannah — Apr 11, 2010

This is the crux of it for me, what I personally obsess about. I’m with Tolstoy that the first thing that’s needed to appreciate art is a comfortable chair. I agree that art is the highest form of human expression but only in the sense that it’s the culmination. When there are so many still who find survival difficult, I find it difficult myself to find my place in society in good conscience as an artist.

From: Catherine Stock — Apr 12, 2010

“Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world. There is important work to be done here. We can best express our care for all others by attending to our work well.” I think I am going to print that out and post it in my studio. A couple of times, I have had one really unhappy person in a workshop who relentlessly recounts intimate details of their unhappy life/marriage/relationship with their children, etc that sours the whole atmosphere for the others. I found that one way of gently preventing this without causing offense before it gets too far is to play music.

From: John Crowther — Apr 12, 2010

Charles Philips Brooks’s letter came to me as a breath of fresh air, a moment of clarity in the eternal fog, and I was grateful for it. Ironically, I had just read it when I noticed my dog sleeping peacefully on my bed. He never asks himself, I thought, why he is a dog. He just is.

From: Kate Pethoud — Apr 12, 2010

I know I’ll read this again, because I loved it as I was quickly devouring it.

From: “Green Salad” — Apr 12, 2010

While painting makes me crazy (I thought it was going to be as easy as pie, but it wasn’t) it does, for a while “free my mind of all heartaches.” I wonder why this is? Keddleston, UK

From: Barbara Chappelle — Apr 13, 2010

Thank you for sharing these wise words from Doris McCarthy. It is sad to know she is frail and weak. But I will always think of her strength and beauty, and will picture her in my mind, painting in the landscape of Canada.

From: Karen R. Phinney — Apr 13, 2010

The CPB letter was another gem, thank you Robert, and thank you all who shared their passions and inner thoughts and wisdom. I will keep a copy and reread…….I need to keep that handy!

From: Deborah Angilletta — Apr 13, 2010

I have also hung a copy on my studio wall to remind me it’s okay to turn my attention to my easel and that sometimes by doing so that is the best way for me to help others. If I am fulfilling my vocation and feel joy in my efforts I will have the internal resources to deal with the challenges in my life. Thank you Robert for bringing this letter to us, for me the timing was serendipitous.

From: Len Platt — Apr 13, 2010

“Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world.” Is this realistic? Isn’t it part of the human condition of suffering that is a crucible for creating a work of art? It makes me wonder how empty of art our world would be, if Van Gogh, Tolostoy, or Handel, just to name a few, had no frame of reference from which to create their masterpieces.

From: Kathleen — Apr 13, 2010

Interesting that all but one response to Brooks’s essay were from women. I’m guessing that women, more than men, need that kind of support and inspiration — or at least are more open to the need.

From: Michael — Apr 13, 2010

I thought the letter had a sort of Desiderata-like ring to it; ‘go placidly, etc.’ Sort of inspiring, but what really inspires are fantastic paintings [as opposed to fantastic words].

From: Sarah Garland — Apr 17, 2010

Robert Genn will be signing books on Saturday April 24th between 1 and 3 pm at Canada House, 201 Bear St, Banff, Alberta, Canada. He’s shy, but he’d love to say hello.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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