The Claus phenomenon


Dear Artist,

As you’re probably aware, every year about this time engineers get together and reassess the seemingly miraculous moves that will be made tonight. Even with only fifteen percent of the world’s families that might be considered believers, and assuming that there is at least one good child under each roof, it’s been calculated that Santa must enter and leave some 997.7 chimneys per second. These successful deliveries of an estimated 500,000 long tons of gifts involve sleigh and reindeer speeds of over 4,000,000 kilometers (2,800,000 miles) per hour.

None of these statistics are of course surprising in an age where miracles are commonplace. A hundred years ago, for example, who would have thought that a guy might be painting a small acrylic called “Evening, Lake of the Woods,” while moving at 600 kph, 39000 feet over Havana. (Peering out the window, I’m wondering if Santa might be making an early pass at this small nation. Fat chance, I’m thinking — the Jolly Old Elf probably has Cuba under embargo) Fact is, art can evolve at a miraculous speed. While our processes may be traditional and old fashioned, the execution time need not be lengthy. It seems to me that many creative events tend to linger longer than need be. Just deliver the goods. Santa himself is a mentor in this matter. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been at it for a while. At speedy delivery he might be considered a pro.

Which brings me to the concept of “gift.” Say, for example, that Santa’s massive load did not really exist. Say the gifts just manifested themselves as he went about his merry way. They are perhaps a figment of his imagination, ready to leap into life when required. (The weight reduction alone would go a long way toward cutting down on reindeer fuel. A side benefit would be the reduction of greenhouse gasses) Like a work of art the gifts would go from nothing to something, and in the twinkling of an eye. What a gift! What a gift to be in charge of the manufacture and distribution of miracles.

The wheels make a thump. The hostess is gathering the headsets. We’re coming back down to earth.

Best regards,


PS: “Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving. Those who give are tremendously strong.” (Robert Henri) “I am so rich that I must give myself away.” (Egon Schiele)

Esoterica: The Claus phenomenon draws attention to the value of giving without the expectancy of repayment. That’s the real magic of the season. It’s simple: Give away your treasure. Art-giving is a real clatter on the rooftop. It’s win/win. You get the gift when you make it — they get the gift when they get it.

The following are selected responses to the above and other letters. Thanks for writing.


Gifting benefits all
Julie Rodriguez Jones, San Pablo, CA, USA


artwork by Julie Rodriguez Jones

The gifting of art benefits all. If artists participate in fundraisers for non-profits, they can pledge a sizable percentage of the proceeds from a given sale or period of sales to benefit the organization. The organization benefits, the artists will still be able to cover their costs including perhaps a small profit and then the pledged contribution may be tax deductible. To simplify the process, purchasers can give their receipts to the organization’s administrator who can confirm the pledged amount.

(RG note) When working out a contract for a worthy charity fundraiser don’t forget to put in a “Santa Clause.”


Giving is so easy
by Anne Alain

I enjoyed the picture you painted of Santa and his delivery system. For me it helped put all (or some of) the hoopla attached to this beautiful season into perspective. After reading that Christmas originated around the 4th century in Europe and was called Mithras, and was at that time an unruly celebration centered around the bounty of the harvest. It was Christian officials who wanted to put an end to it, and they did. They somehow made a connection with the birth of Christ. Some experts maintain that the arrival of Jesus actually took place in the spring, since the shepherds normally do not ‘watch their sheep’ in the winter months. Whatever the reason we celebrate each December around the solstice, your message from the artist’s point of view, in the spirit of giving was the most meaningful one. I am in love with art, always have been and always will be, even though it was only recently that I took some serious steps towards doing something about it. And you are right when you say that when you ‘create’ you have already received, and giving is so easy.


by Judy Aldridge


painting by Judy Aldridge

I had just decided on giving my art to animal protection agencies free so they could make money for the animals. Art for the animals. I’ve been through three years of college and received my fine arts diploma. I make my living in horticulture though. Anyway I was just typing a letter to send to the local SPCA and then I decided to check my email, and there was your letter. Thanks for the reinforcement of my decision. I love the art I do and it’s almost sad for me to let it go out into the big scary world but if it’s for the animals I can do it. If you have any advice for me on this please let me know.


Artists needed to pop bubbles
by Anonymous

No insult to the spirit of giving, but we all ought to be thinking of dumping some of the old myths that have got civilizations nowhere. The Claus, miraculous births, and rising from the dead are ideas that have been harmful to mankind and distracted us from manifesting our destiny of becoming loving and caring beings 365 days of the year. Artists need to play a bigger role by popping the bubbles of ignorance and hypocrisy. I am 18. As I don’t care to receive a flood of nonsense from others, please leave my name out of this.


What’s a shut-in to do?
by Jane Fergusson-Storey, NWT, Canada


painting by Jane Fergusson-Storey

I like to paint outdoors directly from nature. That’s how I create my best works and after a successful painting I feel an ‘artistic high.’ However, I’m tied to the house because I have a newborn and a toddler. (I’m not complaining. It’s wonderful) Also it’s a long cold winter here in the Northwest Territories. So plein air painting is not an option for me right now. I would like to keep an easel up in my kitchen and paint for small intervals when I have time. Here’s the problem: I have a hard time painting from sketches and photo references. I try to get myself geared up for the painting but it usually turns out bland and dull and afterwards I feel an ‘artistic low’ (in a bad mood). I know many landscape artists paint outdoors and are also able to paint from sketches or photo references. Do you have any suggestions? P.S. I’ve also committed to having a show in the spring so I feel under some pressure to produce. The show is supposed to be of landscapes.

(RG note) I’ve found that creativity comes from three areas. Direct from nature, from great reference material, and out of your head. You may try extracting more from the latter. Try to paint a half dozen that are imaginary and based more on your feelings and memories. While nothing beats good reference or being on the spot, slavish dependency on either can work to derail the potential of the human imagination. “An inconvenience is an unrecognized opportunity.” (Confucius)


Speedy delivery
by JoAnn Janson


portrait by Cal Pawson

Last Saturday, I was on the road when I was struck by the inspiration to commission my friend, Cal Pawson, to do a portrait of my friend Marilyn (who was here to settle her father’s estate, and was feeling less than festive, to say the least.) The catch was that Marilyn was to go home the following Thursday, and we were having an Xmas lunch together on the Wednesday to exchange gifts. That left only three days to do the painting. I went home and talked to Cal. He had never painted anyone’s portrait, but I just knew he could do it and although he considers himself a slow painter, I knew he could do it in the time allotted so that I could prepare it for packaging. Nervously, he accepted the commission. Marilyn was at first speechless and then overcome with emotion at the preciousness of the gift. We typed up a narrative sheet similar to what you did in your totem pole painting. We included photos of the process, step-by-step, and even the scans and enlargements of the original photograph Cal used as a reference.

Marilyn is now back at home, but she says has shown everybody and his dog the portrait. She has called three times to date with progress reports on who has seen it, and all the oohs and ahs it elicits. She is just overjoyed with this gift! And Cal is richer for the fee plus knowing what he can do (and how fast he can do it) under pressure, with no previous experience! Your letter on criticism came along just as he was doing that painting, and I had offered a couple of observations in a diplomatic way during the process. He was very good about it, and I referred him to your letter. The synchronicity of all this makes me smile.

(RG note) JoAnn Janson is the author of Define Yourself and Discover Your Destiny.


Artists should band together
by Denise Dupre

If artists banded together in support for original art and less in contracts with printing houses, then perhaps the emphasis and financial turnaround would be in favor of the artist. I believe the general population could learn to value original art on a greater scale, not just simply those whom already do and collect these valued works. I have such mixed feelings about the printing processes of reproducing original works. The honorable artist in me says I would never agree to have prints made of my works in support of the original pieces, and in support of every other artist who adheres to the same values. Yet would I ever in my career casually agree to do so. I believe art created by hand is a humanitarian fundamental and treasure of our creative energies and potential. Long live the artist who adores the creative process!


Give a message of hope
by Rigoberto Rodríguez, Caracas, Venezuela


artwork by Rigoberto Rodríguez

Why don’t you send a letter with a message of hope for the artists (like me) that are living right now under circumstances of horror and fear of a tyrannical government. How can an artist work under a regime of this kind? The blood starts to run on the streets. I am located in Caracas. There is already lot of people dead. Much of Venezuela has been paralyzed for more than two weeks by a general strike demanding the resignation of President Hugo Chavez. In particular, the strikers have managed to choke off much of the country’s all-important oil industry, of which the U.S. is the major client. I don’t see the opposition succeeding in forcing him out any time soon, for three main reasons. First, Chavez still has enough support among Venezuelans to guarantee a really bad backlash. He may no longer have the backing of more than half the population as he once did, but he has enough support to create a serious danger of bloodshed if he is thrown out of office. The second reason is that the opposition itself is really producing more heat than light right now. Its strategy is ill-defined; it’s poorly organized and it has put forward no leader of its own as a focal point for the challenge to Chavez. Thirdly, the opposition may not realize the tacit, if grudging, alliance between Chavez and the Bush Administration for the moment. With the U.S. poised to invade Iraq, it needs to keep the oil market as stable as possible. [Venezuela is the source of more than 10 percent of U.S. fuel supplies.] And that means Washington can’t afford to alienate Chavez. In fact, for the past few months the Bush Administration and Chavez have been quite chummy in negotiating deals to keep the oil flowing to the U.S. If they’re seen to back the opposition and Chavez manages to survive, that could mean trouble for Washington.


A great discovery
by Mary Sharpe

I was pleased to read your response to copying originals by using machines. I haven’t produced huge quantities of originals but my tugboats are popular amongst both our employees (my family is in the business) and other associates. I used ‘mailbox’ to produce our company Christmas cards last year using my own originals. They were a hit. We had calls from people in the business who had known us for years saying, “Gee, we didn’t know you could paint”. I just finished a large watercolour for my husband to give to a retired skipper. After framing costs and time etc., I’ve told him even he shall be paying in the future. It had not been my intention to paint to make a living because I have always had another source of income, but as time passes making images by using watercolour, or acrylic, or whatever means, is just something I want and need to do. What a great discovery!


The new digital imaging revolution
by Raymond St. Arnaud, Victoria, BC, Canada


artwork by
Raymond St. Arnaud

That was a very good overview of Giclee Reproduction. I did find it a bit over biased to the Iris/Ixia. I do agree that the reproduction business has adopted the various ink jet options and have created a small revolution in that market.

There is another revolution in the making, and that is the creation of original art with computers and printing the resulting images to an ink jet printer. The main engine in that revolution is the Epson line of printers, starting with the Epson 3000 in 1998 with the release by Lyson of an archival ink set for the printer, the first affordable archival inkjet printing system available to the common artist. Epson has released subsequent wide format printers addressing the needs for original fine art and as a replacement for the color darkroom for photographers and the reproduction market. The most recent being the 7600 (24 inch wide paper) and the 9600 (44 inch wide paper)

These printers are being adopted by fine art schools across the United States. In some cases Universities are closing their traditional printmaking labs and installing computer labs with these Epson large format printers. (Parsons in NY and I think UCLA are 2 examples that come to mind) This may be a reaction to student demand, where students do not want to work in traditional printmaking media and want the ability to create and manipulate images in a computer and then print a hard copy. The schools probably see this as an advantage, as they can eliminate an area that deals with toxic and dangerous chemicals with all the attendant problems of safety and potential lawsuits.

One of the driving forces in the adoption of the Epson printers is the cost. Here are current prices for the Epsons: Epson 7600 $4750 CND, $3000 US (list price) Epson 9600 $7880 CND, $5000 US (list price) I haven’t looked at Iris/Ixia printers for some time, but they used to be in the 5 figures, well out of reach of the average user. I suspect the maintenance costs for an Iris printer would exceed the cost of purchasing an Epson. I recollect seeing an article in the early years of the digital printing revolution and the relevant comment was, if an Iris printer was donated to a University Fine Art Dept. (free), it would probably destroy their budget because of the Iris’ maintenance costs.

The Ultrachrome ink set for these printers also has a longevity that exceeds that of the Iris ink sets. Ultachrome is currently rated at about 100 years. The other available archival ink set from Epson is rated at 200 years. All ratings by Henry Whilhelm.

So the next revolution will be original art created in a computer and printed on an ink jet. And the number of artists using these tools will probably expand enormously over the next few years, as they start to come out of the schools with that background.

Personally, I have been creating “Original Digital Prints” since 1998 and I love it. I don’t use the phrase “Giclee” because it has become synonymous with reproductions, and I don’t like what the phrase means in the French vernacular.

I am relieved to no longer be enclosed in small dark rooms with toxic photographic chemicals, I am relieved to no longer have to use toxic solvents and inks in printmaking, I am relieved to no longer have to deal with toxic pigments in paint. (I always refused to use oil paints because of the continuous exposure to solvents) I now work in a “studio” that is 8×8 feet, with an additional re-configurable multi purpose area, to do mat cutting and framing. When I painted, I needed 1000 to 1300 square feet of space, and always felt cramped.

By printing on paper, my storage needs are greatly simplified. As pointed out in your overview, I do not have to stuff 200 unsold copies of lithographed prints under my bed. I can print as required.
“The proper artistic response to digital technology is to embrace it as a new window on everything that’s eternally human, and to use it with passion, wisdom, fearlessness and joy.”(Ralph Lombreglia, in Atlantic Unbound)

(RG note) Our overview of giclee printing for artists is at Giclee printmaking for artists.


Miracles occur
by Linda Saccoccio

Yes miracles occur spontaneously,

Fruits of living life consciously

No need to beat great art out of oneself

Just be prepared and let it flow&

Then let it be…

Miracles are always and everywhere.

Accept the gifts of generous grace.







John Banovich, Livingston, MT, USA


India Temple
by John Banovich


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2002.


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