Dear Artist,

When I was a callow youth I was lecturing a hundred or so painters one evening. I was talking about my then-current method of working on a bright russet-red ground and consciously leaving out one of the primaries. As I spoke, a gentleman in the front row rose to his feet. The tall, bearded Gordon Kit Thorne, an elderly and respected painter, waited until I paused in my verbosity. Having gained everyone’s attention, he then spoke out in a stentorian voice that echoed all over the auditorium: “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”


“My Special Flowers”
watercolour painting, 16 x 22 inches
by Gordon Kit Thorne

He then turned to the group and gave us all a short lecture on “correct” methodology.

Gordon and I were both expressing choices. It was a good lesson for me. Anyone who sticks to his game–any game–can fall into the trap of thinking he has an immutable system.

Today I spoke on the phone to several colleagues. We were talking about planning versus improvisation. While many fine artists plan everything in detail and then simply execute, others admit they don’t know what they’re doing from the get-go, but they start anyway and spend a lot of time fixing up. Both systems work. Just as some folks are happy and others are miserable, we can simply make choices. The nice thing about choices is that they can be changed.

If I had 50 cents for every time I’ve made different choices about grounds or primaries, for example, I could send all you subscribers a couple of bucks. Watch the mail.

Because there are so many roads leading to Rome these days, the trip must be sufficiently engaging for all pilgrims. The wayside choices we make, however minor or major, determine our signature, our style and our level of personal satisfaction.

I’ve just hung up the phone from a discussion on the business of painting the background first — working your way down like you are pulling a blind — as opposed to laying in a foreground first and working up the painting behind. I’m currently of the latter persuasion. My telephone friend is currently of the former. As the wise man said, “And this too will change.”

Best regards,


PS: “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” (

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop
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