The cold-easel syndrome

Dear Artist, The complaints are so widespread as to suggest there may be an epidemic. While many mention the word “obsession,” the malaise takes many different forms. Here’s one from yesterday’s email: “I’m compulsively watching art instruction DVDs in place of doing actual paintings. I’m obsessed! What can I do?” Others include, “I spend all my time preparing to work, sharpening pencils, cleaning brushes, etc.” “I’m completely occupied with my aquariums and all my fish. They keep breeding.” “I go to the beach every day and hang out with girls.” It’s called “The cold-easel syndrome” (CES) and it happens sooner or later to most artists. Fact is, these complaints and excuses expose a variety of natural human frailties. The examples above indicate fear of failure, need for nature’s nourishment, and loneliness. There are lots more. Afflicted artists need to self-examine. In studying my own distracted periods and those of others, I’ve often found one or two minor setbacks that have derailed the progress. The overly-sensitive artist may be tripped up by an insignificant rejection or misunderstanding. Ambitious projects can bog the artist down. Not-wanted or difficult commissions can block the will to work. After such events, CES can fester for months, even years. Unexamined trip-ups can lodge invisibly in the subconscious where they are difficult to dig out. My advice: Dig them out early. Unlike painters, the vast number of workers work for someone else. Self-employed easel-work requires a self-directed problem-solving approach and a few self-taught skills. One such skill is “pump priming.” In our case — Squeeze out. Get started. Get involved. Make mistakes. Let the work tell you what it needs. Find the joy. Fall in love again. Best regards, Robert PS: “As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.” (Ernest Hemingway) “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” (Zig Ziglar) Esoterica: “I’m restoring my ’52 MG.” “I spend most of my time just looking at my sterile work.” “Now that I have my new studio,  I never go in it.” “Since I won a prize in a Signature show, I don’t feel the need to paint anymore.” “I’m a workshop junkie — I only paint at workshops.” “I tape and re-watch episodes of Honey Boo-Boo.” “I’m finding my church more fulfilling for the time being.” “My boyfriend is teaching me backgammon.” These actual quotes from subscribers make me think that distractions may be a natural way to winnow the non-contenders. Like potholes, they nicely impede progress along the hi-way of toil. Question is, do I need these hazards? Iaculis dignissim! said the great self-employed Roman poet and philosopher, Kjerkius Gennius (36BC), “Grab the brush!”   Dying oysters by Oscar Bearinger, Killaloe, ON, Canada   If I don’t shuck these oysters right now, they’ll go bad. I am also awaiting a signed copy of The Ethics, by Spinoza, in the mail.   Out of town by Robert Sankner, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA  

“Stonehouse Twilight”
acrylic painting
by Robert Sankner

I haven’t painted much because I was in Afghanistan for 4 years.       There are 6 comments for ~ Out of town by Robert Sankner
From: Michael McDevitt — Aug 01, 2013

Love the contrast of the deciduous with the evergreens.

From: Patrick Matriscino — Aug 01, 2013


From: Sherry Purvis — Aug 02, 2013

I am assuming you were out of the country in service of our country. Regardless of you 4 year lapse of painting, I am certain your experiences in Afghanistan will only lead to a deeper sense of who you are and how you paint. Thank you for your service and I do love this painting.

From: Virginia Wieringa — Aug 02, 2013

What a gorgeous painting! I hope you carve out some time to paint again soon! If you could once paint like this,I think might be some joy for you at the end of a brush.

From: Shirley Dickenson — Aug 02, 2013

WOW! My excuse of a broken ankle pales in comparison to yours Robert.

Chute a Blondeau, Ontario,Canada.
From: Jackie Knott — Aug 02, 2013

Regardless of the free book you get the win.

  Taking a workshop by Kamal Bhandari, India  

oil painting
by Kamal Bhandari

I am an India based realist painter. I finally selected Florence Academy of Art in Sweden. I participated in their Intensive Still Life and Figure painting workshop in June-July 2011. After attending that workshop I felt so complete, so satisfied that I lost the urge to paint. I didn’t pick up my brush for the next 2 years. I do not know what has happened. I feel as if I know all the secret of good painting and have reached the epitome of painting and that there is no need to paint anymore. There are 3 comments for ~ Taking a workshop by Kamal Bhandari
From: valerie norberry vanorden — Aug 02, 2013

Either that, or you are afraid to paint without the tutelage of your instructors and school peers. Obviously you respond well to structure. Get yourself into a workshop and a plein-air paint-out, and get painting.

From: Sherry Purvis — Aug 02, 2013

There are no secrets, but the ones facing you while you learn to paint. I have been painting over 40 years now and I can tell you that each painting is different and each one is a learning experience. The epitome of painting is to do it over and over and over again, realizing that we never reach a point of knowing or doing it all. This is a lifelong process, not a once along the way thing.

From: Carrie Givens — Aug 02, 2013

Myself, I paint because it is what I love to do, it is my passion. Obviously you are not in love with painting. Otherwise, you would take what you learned and expand your creativity, and your skills with explosive passion.

  Book project by Bob Maurer, Canton, OH, USA  

“Smile, It’s a Top Down Day”
original painting
by Bob Maurer (36BC)

I have put my art work on hold until I complete an authoritative biography of Kjerkius Gennius.               Snake problem by Claudia Balthrop, Oak Ridge, TN, USA  

“The Carlton B Came Home”
watercolour, 22 x 15 inches
by Claudia Balthrop

One day I found a small snake slithering near my easel. Now moving anything in the room or just standing at the easel, I imagine a snake showing up at an unexpected moment. For a long time I avoided even going into the studio. I’ve moved since then but I’m still cautious.         There are 5 comments for ~ Snake problem by Claudia Balthrop
From: Michael McDevitt — Aug 01, 2013

One day our cat put a lizard in my water jar when I was painting. He did it on the QT and just stared at me. I looked around to see him sitting calmly on the floor. When I glanced at him, I swear he nodded toward the jar to get my reaction. When I jumped, he just purred and walk away. Cats!

From: Sarah — Aug 02, 2013

Certainly hope you keep on painting–you’re really skilled.

From: Anonymous — Aug 02, 2013

I also have troubles with skunks and possums coming into my studio when the door is open at’s just too dangerous to paint at night!

From: Jim Oberst — Aug 02, 2013

Great painting, Claudia.

From: Tatjana — Aug 02, 2013

I have a giant house spider living in the floor of the laundry room located just off my studio. Luckily, so far she hasn’t been interested in any of my work.

  Studio impedimenta by David Ashworth, Minneapolis, MN, USA   Distractions? Never. I am far too lofty a human being, don’t cha know, to be side-tracked with mere distractions. The pesky figure studies are a nice to have; to clean up this place. Right Now is a need to have. To finally make a personal mini-color wheel of every stupid blue mixed with every stupid yellow so that I have a reference for every stupid green is a nice to have; to check all the catalogs to ensure I have all the blues and greens is a need to have. To do something, anything, so I don’t feel so itchy is a want; to wait for the Muse to grace me with ease, competence, and clarity is a need. I think it’s time to eat again. Gotta run! There is 1 comment for ~ Studio impedimenta by David Ashworth
From: Terrie Christian — Aug 02, 2013
  Inspiration from others by Elisa Choi, Paco, Manila, Philippines  

watercolour painting
by Elisa Choi

I surf on inspirational works and words from artists that it made me ready to start my painting duties only to find myself diving in further for more of their instructional videos, more works and their encouragement. In reality I didn’t start anything at all for myself but I always got this feeling that after all those good stuffs I am ready. Guess not.     Sick chicken by Jan Thomson, St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes, New Zealand  

“Acting the goat”
watercolour painting
by Jan Thomson

Today I should have been finishing a painting which needs to be done by Friday. Instead I found myself sitting in the sun minding my sick chicken — even catching her worms to eat, which takes a while…       There is 1 comment for ~ Sick chicken by Jan Thomson
From: Judy — Aug 03, 2013

Wonderful goats.

  Reference material by Adebanji Alade, Belvedere, Kent, UK  

“The Berimbau player”
coloured pencil, 11 x 9 inches
by Adebanji Alade

Faced with a big publishing commission, I keep scouting for reference books, styles of illustrators I like and every other thing apart from being able to start this work. Fear or failure and over perfectionism with a very critical client has bogged me down and it’s not that I can’t do it, but for 3 months I’ve just courted this assignment!           Big dominoes by Karina Bjerregaard, Copenhagen, Denmark   Here’s my best distraction. It’s an art project in Finland.   There are 6 comments for ~ Big dominoes by Karina Bjerregaard
From: Angela Treat Lyon — Aug 01, 2013

wow – amazing! what it must have taken to set that up! I’d give my left 11th finger for a fraction of that beautiful limestone!

From: valerie norberry vanorden — Aug 02, 2013

That was quite a distraction! I think your people are better-behaved in Finland, it’s amazing you got cooperation like you did from bystanders!

From: Margaret — Aug 02, 2013

Imagine how distracted the artists were who made this, and how much distraction did they create for other people, and bystanders. They’re producing quite a bit of distraction themselves. Creative.

From: DEE — Aug 02, 2013

Well, I just was distracted! very nice though…thanks for sharing!

From: Frances — Aug 02, 2013

Wow! I will let that distract me any time!

From: Lynn — Aug 02, 2013

Unbelievable! Upstairs and around corners?

  Not cold — hot! by Richard Taylor, Mississauga, ON, Canada  

“The Tail”
original painting, 12 x 16 inches
by Richard Taylor

What about the opposite of cold easel? I have trouble stopping, and therefore keeping on top of day-to-day chores and responsibilities. I have enough sketches, slides, digital images and abstract concepts to keep me painting for ten lifetimes.     There is 1 comment for Not cold – hot! by Richard Taylor
From: Angela Treat Lyon — Aug 01, 2013

yes! I’ve always said it isn’t WHAT to do, it’s WHEN!

  Primal therapy by Julie Eliason, Royal Oak, MI, USA  

original painting
by Julie Eliason

Most of my distractions are pretty mundane except for one. There have been times when I’ve attempted to “primal” my resistance to painting. I lay down on the bed, close my eyes and I sink into the feeling I am having at the moment regarding my art work. Because of my experience in regression therapy, I usually go back to a scene in my childhood or infancy that is relevant to my current feelings. For example, often I feel the fear of doing art that I felt as a child because my mother didn’t want me to be an artist. I needed her so desperately that I was afraid to go against her wishes. Fortunately, my dad and my grandma always encouraged me to do art. But after my dad died when I was eight and we moved away from grandma, my mother was all I had. Often as a child I avoided art and I couldn’t understand why – because I was happiest when I was drawing, painting or working with clay. It has helped a lot to primal these childhood memories. I work with a creativity coach now to keep me focused on what I love the most, which is art.   Quote research by Sally Penley, Olympia, WA, USA  

original calligraphy
by Sally Penley

I teach a workshop called “Background Blitz!” (10 techniques for painting backgrounds for calligraphic work) and we talk a lot about this issue–how to just START, and why it seems impossible to remove the distraction and get there. I’ve heard a lot of great excuses/distractions, but I will share with you one of my own: the compulsive need to do “quote research” before I begin a piece. I have a fat book of quotes I’ve collected for 30 or more years (thousands!) and I always find myself sitting down with the book and searching (for the bajillionth time) for just the right quote. I make notes in another notebook about possibilities. So now I have MANY notebooks of repeatedly-written quotes stashed away in cupboards, drawers, taborets, work surfaces, etc… and interestingly, I never seem to use those quotes. I just keep “doing research,” then I close up those notebooks after a lengthy amount of time that could have been spent doing real work, and go to do laundry or grocery shopping. Sigh. (RG note) Thanks, Sally. We’ve invited Sally to become an editor and contribute to our Resource of Art Quotations, the largest of its kind in the world, and she’s agreed. There are 2 comments for Quote research by Sally Penley
From: Michael McDevitt — Aug 01, 2013

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver are words aptly spoken.” Or in this case beautifully scribed. What a good idea to have you on board for the quotes.

From: Suzette Fram — Aug 02, 2013

Lovely illustration of these quotes, but I don’t see any credit given to the authors???

  Four techniques to get off the pity pot by Laurel Adams, Danville, KY, USA  

by Laurel Adams

1. Be grateful… I allot 15 minutes of woe is me-ing, then I snap out of it! Give thanks for the ALL of life! Get up. Go out of the “mood” and into Nature… it’s all there… the Light, the darkness, those amazing colours and the shadows that ensue. One must self-immerse in the unitive Life experience before dealing with the illusion of one’s separateness. 2. Get Creative… I am an artist! I doodle with my glasses off… Wow, I follow Monet… I try literally squeezing out fresh primary colors and set up in a darkened room. This develops my third eye, reminding me to feel more than see. 3. Turn on the Love… Set the mood… play your favorite symphony, or jazz it up, or dance to the oldies… whatever enlivens your spirit! Put on a pot of tea, invite a friend… Make love! Make a gourmet feast for your soulmate… See the colors of it, observe the textures. Make life your palette… then paint it! 4. It’s not about me. It’s my openness to channel whatever creative energy is flowing through me. So, I deliberately invite the Universal Creative Flow (call it whatever label you like) to play with me and we paint on… whether it is at my studio table, before students, or wherever. There is 1 comment for Four techniques to get off the pity pot by Laurel Adams
From: Lila — Aug 02, 2013

Love your comment and the painting!

  Get away from it all by Rebecca Stebbins, Santa Barbara, CA, USA  

“The Lay of the Land”
original painting
by Rebecca Stebbins

For me, a change of scenery will quickly eliminate CES. I am sitting in the Toulouse airport in France,waiting for the flight back to the States. For the past two weeks I have been in residence in a remote artist retreat in the Midi-Pyrenees. It is a luxury, I know, but I worked to get here and because I am paying for my space and time, I am compelled to make the most of it — and I am coming home with a dozen small oil paintings as well as a sketchbook of drawings and watercolors; I updated blog posts and social media and read a few books, including Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. But what I didn’t have was laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, animal care, and a social life beckoning. I highly recommend getting away from it all — where there is not much else to do and beauty abounds.   Writer’s block by Glen Hargrove   The “Cold-Easel Syndrome” that you described has an equally daunting second-cousin, “Cold Typewriter (or lap-top if you wish) Syndrome.” Writers, too, come up against fallow periods when the subtle temptation to find something else to do (practically anything) is just too compelling to rise above. Word cobblers describe this condition, when they just can’t seem to muster up the juice to get started, as the daunting “blank page.” It’s more than just running out of ideas or inspiration, it’s the void where the very amplitude to push on seems entirely elusive. This is where many writers are forced to face a horrible truth; that they really wanted to “be a writer” more than they wanted to actually write. You see them talking about their latest project, discussing characters, plot development and such, but when asked how the work is going, they are eternally in a state of “compiling ideas” and never quite to the stage of actually doing anything. Rather than acknowledge the realization that it is the inner self that projects all outer aspects of our lives as a manifestation of our self-perceptions, the ego faculty, the idea of self that we hold in our minds, tends to fancy us in the role or image of a specific “something.” We must establish a specific place in relative existence by laying claim some identity label as a lifeline to a specific segment of created reality. Of course, practically anything will do, but whenever possible we shoot for something flattering. Yet, we must be honest, at least with ourselves, and ask, Does the idea of being an artist or writer or poet or whatever, the identity, the bragging rights, the wearing of tweed jackets and berets and hanging around cafes and coffee houses, hold more fascination than the poetry or art or creation itself? Could it be that the ego-niche of the artist/writer/poet sometimes calls louder than the boots on the ground creative process of “arting?” (forgive me this one) Statisticians, in their ongoing efforts to enlighten us all, have determined that there are more people today who write poetry than there are who read poetry. Now, I’m just a country boy, but this seems to hint that some of these people who write poetry don’t read their own work. Could it be that they lose interest even before the ink dries and head to the cafes and coffee houses? There are 3 comments for Writer’s block by Glen Hargrove
From: Anonymous — Aug 02, 2013

Your post has helped me realize why I so hate the selling part of “being an artist.” Pretty much by accident I found myself in a very touristy, commercial environment when I decided to get a space where I could experiment with art making. Everyone assumes that if you make art you must want to sell it and “get your stuff out there.” I have had the questionable benefit of more exposure (accompanied by the pressure to market my stuff) than I am actually ready for, and it has almost taken all the joy out of it for me – even when I actually win a prize or make a sale. It’s letting other people decide my identity for me that I really hate. It is almost completely demotivating – ALMOST. Thanks for your thoughtful post!

From: Mishcka — Aug 02, 2013

Great post!!!

From: Tatjana — Aug 02, 2013

It’s our unique scar-tissue that makes us genuine. The cartoon character with a beret is the same thing as the green light walking man.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The cold-easel syndrome


From: Jenny Mackay — Jul 29, 2013
From: Kathryn — Jul 30, 2013

I have about five more minutes until I need to leave for my full time design job. When I come home I need to cook, do some cleaning, pay a few bills, and hope I have energy and time to do anything creative on my own. Oh, got to attend to an elderly parent and now I need to get some exercise to keep some of my “pre-existing health” conditions under control. I can cut out the half hour I spend on the internet or just wait for the weekend. I’m not sure I have that time either considering I’m going to be moving and need to do some cleaning and de-trashing and looking for a new place to live………..You get the picture. I want off this merry-go-round of every day the same thing with no time or energy left to do my own thing. I’d love to quit my job but….health issues and health insurance is a concern. Time is ticking….it’s now or never. The best I can do is grab any little bit of time that I can get. It’s so interrupting but it’s the best I can do. If you have the time to paint and find yourself unmotivated, do what I do as a full time designer – FORCE myself to do the work and just keep doing it, editing it until you get it right. Strangely, after all these decades…it always gets done and looks pretty good in the end.

From: Debbie — Jul 30, 2013

my art room is set up very nicely, with everything in order, just sit and paint, or go out into the woods and find something to paint but instead I find myself doing online jigsaw puzzles,, wonderful photos set in jigsaw style, pick the cut and number of pieces you want to put together– instant picture in 5-10 minutes or more depending on the cut. and so the painting gets left behind for another day,, when duties of life are complete,and jigsaw puzzles or finished,,

From: Zoey — Jul 30, 2013

May I be the first to say it…”Thanks, I needed that!”

From: Helen Hermanns — Jul 30, 2013
From: Denyse Milliken — Jul 30, 2013

Staying in the groove is essential. Look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am an artist” and then go be one! Honestly, I get distracted, too, sure yes I do. Especially in the summer, there is the huge distraction of The Three B’s : beach, bonfires and beer. Plus in the summer I work in a museum every day, and then come home and do the single mom routine, so by the time I find some time for myself, I’m too exhausted to do anything but delete emails ;-)

From: Kim Eshelman — Jul 30, 2013

I believe the worst personal distraction for me is feeding the crows in my backyard – much to the chagrin of my husband and neighbors. It started with a pair and their sweet, curious youngster, but have since multiplied into about half a dozen black bodies squatting like hobos in our lovely yard this summer. In fact they’ve trained me so well that if I don’t feed them in a timely manner they will angrily caw at me from the posts on our deck until I come feed them their due. I hide my face in shame every time they scream from the pines just as I happen to open the window of my studio, and hope the neighbors aren’t home.

From: Janice Cleland — Jul 30, 2013

The dogs won’t settle down. One, two or sometimes three of them (I have four dogs in total) accompany me on my plein aire ventures or to my woodland studio. The dogs stay busy sniffing out mice, rabbits or maybe even bears. Or meeting other dogs or finding out what has previously been left behind. I know, I know…………leave the dogs at home but the remembrance of their mournful eyes distract my thoughts and fill me with guilt when I leave them.

From: Marie Castellano — Jul 30, 2013

Your letter came at the perfect time. I haven’t been able to paint for the past two weeks! Why? Because I’ve been taking a class and the first assignment up was a lovely lake. I completed it and submitted it to the class critique the next week. The instructor started out with the statement: “There is a rule in this class that you can’t do a better painting than the instructor!” (with a big smile). He concluded with: “That’s it. You’ve graduated, you don’t need the class anymore!” (Bigger smile). The next week, though I certainly tried, I couldn’t complete a decent picture for the assignment. I tried to salvage it, but couldn’t. Needless to say, I didn’t submit it for the critique. This is the third week and I’m completely stumped. I know I can’t do as well as that first assignment…..and I’m completely perplexed. Other students are looking forward to what I will do next, but I feel like I’ve shot my wad. I’m embarrassed to submit what can only be inferior work compared to my first painting. What to do!!!!

From: Vanessa Marais — Jul 30, 2013

My personal distraction has not been one, but rather many since one rejected baby Mouse Bird happened to make it’s unfortunate (or fortunate) appearance in my life (the dog’s mouth) on April Fool’s Day. My father advised me that a bird is more than a handful and my life would get complicated . What could I do, leave it to my Cocker Spaniel for lunch time? Suffice it to say, my father was right and perhaps the dog knew better too, as the bird has been a handful. My Dad passed away on 16th April, so life became somewhat complicated, and the Mouse Bird (aka Mo-Bi) is a constant reminder to listen to those wiser and older; thus my cold-easel syndrome. Said bird has taken residence in my studio and is a persistent reminder that ‘bird in the hand is worth two on the brush’ …and listen to Dad!

From: Pene Beavan Horton — Jul 30, 2013

I’ve been back from France almost two months, after spending most of May this year visiting with family in Grilly, with four marvellous days in Provence – came home brimming with thoughts of painting Provence’s poppies, and the Palais du Papes, in Avignon. There are 4 new 18 x 24 canvases, and 4 new 24 x 24 canvases and they sit here, untouched, while I think about the ancient town of Gorde, with its stone buildings and breathtaking views … I think about the hotel La Vallon de Valrouges, in St. Remy du Provence, and how we sat on the sunny terrace under mulberry trees and caught up with each others lives … at times I felt I couldn’t wait to get home and paint and now that I’m here I haven’t squeezed out any oils or lifted a painting knife … Can good memories be a major distraction? Or am I maybe just afraid I’ll spoil the memories by trying to paint them? I’m feeling bottled up … hamstrung … not just cold easel, cold canvas …

From: Rain Longson — Jul 30, 2013

So far my two most difficult distractions are; • My girl Maggie (Bernese Mountain dog) has been diagnosed with K9 degenerative disease, which has me either by her side or thinking about her. • When I’m thinking about her I’m in my studio sitting in my chair with a cat or two sleeping on my lap and I don’t want to get up and disturb them.

From: Jane Angelhart — Jul 30, 2013

Okay, how about the person whose brain has raced for six hours (since I first read today’s Robert Genn letter) thinking up an original stall tactics… (of course, too occupied to be painting).

From: Holly Ulrich — Jul 30, 2013

Off the top of my head my most original personal distractions are: 1. Adopting the concept – Slow down accomplish more 2. Journalling is taking over. (been doing “morning pages” for years, introduced to me by Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s way) 3. Trying to forge artistic kinships. 4. I would rather be barbecuing! 5. Just started a framing business. 6. Drowning in digital images of my work, but technically challenged to do anything with them… 7. Too busy taking “time management” courses. 8. Constantly asking myself what I need to work on, creatively, mentally, physically, emotionally… socially… 9. Sweating the small stuff.Battling with my ego! down boy! 10. Spending too much time reading tarot cards and self help books. It’s kind of embarrassing really… haha.

From: Glen McCafferty — Jul 30, 2013

There’s nothing like playing Spider solitaire for three hours at a time to keep me away from my brushes and paints, which by the way, happened to be in the same room as the computer. Perhaps that is the problem… or it could be that I am presently feeling daunted by the task of starting something new. Or it could be, that having my two submission to my watercolor societies annual show passed over for submission (let alone winning anything) has me wondering what it’s all about Alfie?

From: Merritt W. Seymour — Jul 30, 2013

I like to paint in the morning. Sometimes, I get up too late. (After 8:00.) If I get up too late, I’ll often say, “No painting today.” So, my excuse is, “I got up too late.”

From: Jan Ross — Jul 30, 2013

1. Checking out online plastic surgery procedures/results. 2. Cleaning the catbox, and entire room where the box sits. 3. Researching the latest paints, paper or techniques. 4. Yardwork 5. Waiting for the mail to arrive with show entry acceptance letter. 6. Laundry, laundry, laundry. 7. Teaching others how to paint. 8. Checking out artists’ FACEBOOK postings. 9. Thawing something for dinner. 10. Heading over to the Social Security office to obtain new card, having lost the original. 11. Flossing, brushing, rinsing. 12. Sanitizing the bath. 13. Entering new contacts in my cellphone. 14. Cashing in all the coins in jars, drawers, etc. around the house. 15. Meditating 16. Seeking music to paint to. 17. Hair removal. 18. Sinus irrigation. 19. Taking nearly new clothing to donation site. 20. Ordering something, food, art supplies, online products. There certainly are lots and lots of excuses, aren’t there?

From: Robert Regis Dvorak — Jul 30, 2013

Making love is definitely a distraction.

From: Mary Savage — Jul 30, 2013

My potential distraction is: Squirrel jumping. Trees in my back yard are part of a highway for the locals and it is entertaining to watch for the acrobatics. Timing is unpredictable. The kitchen and dining area face this distraction. How I combat this: Keep the coffee maker in the studio, set up the night before. It is ground level.

From: Colleen Perry — Jul 30, 2013

Walking on my wooded acreage looking for bear scat hoping to get a picture of mother and cubs. I could wait until the fall, they usually show up to harvest my apples in my backyard. Making crop circles on my grass while on my riding lawnmower. What fun not to have to be restricted by straight lines and even rows.

From: Dorleen Mc Bride — Jul 30, 2013

There are the cats litter box ..may not be a common one.

From: Sue Kelly — Jul 30, 2013

Cold Easel reminds me of writing a term paper many moons ago…all of a sudden I needed to do the laundry, check the stove or polish the silver. So what I finally learned to do was put a word on the paper and see how many words I could find that rhymed with it. By the time I had practically written a poem, I was into the mood to get the term paper started. At least I was generally in the creative & writing mode. Maybe something similar would also work for artists….like put a drop of paint on the paper, spread it around, mix in some other colors or intro a new brush for a while and see what turns up.

From: Ani Slevin — Jul 30, 2013

The best suggestion I got years ago was to go into your studio every day as if you were going to play. Play for a kid is serious work, even if it’s so much fun. Suddenly, work equals fun. Pardon me while I go play.

From: Marya McLellan — Jul 30, 2013

I don’t think my excuses are original but there are many: “must keep the house clean for my hard working husband to come home to, must buy groceries to feed the family, must make delicious meals for my family so they eat properly, must do laundry so they have clean clothes to wear, must walk the dog, must brush the dog so I don’t have to vacuum so often, must water and weed the garden, pick the raspberries, plums, beans…, must stop dropping everything I don’t know what to do with in my art area as I can’t sit down in front of my easel”

From: Mimi Ball — Jul 30, 2013

I am at this stage! Cant seem to get going, have started, but get stuck in the middle of it all this one painting. Seems to last for ever. Anyway we are going back to Norway for a short time, nature and fresh air, maybe that can give me back inspiration. We have been in South Spain for many months, and the heat and dryness, is quite brain blocking.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jul 30, 2013

For no apparent reason I got obsessed with Scotland and am reading the entire Inspector Rebus series of books. There are also 2 bird families (chickadees and warbles) teaching youngster to fly in my backyard and I am following the progress. The young crow is now bigger than it’s mother and is harassing her to keep feeding him, and terrorizing the entire neighborhood with its loud protests. I did however give myself 1hour to clean up the studio last Sunday and started working on paintings for a November show. There are 7 large canvases around the easel with initial compositions and imprimatura on them, so things are happening.

From: Theresa Eisenbarth — Jul 30, 2013

My life has been one big distraction as of late. It started with the Medicine Hat flood at the end of June. We had 4-5 people at our house as evacuees from the flats area and my distraction kept growing from there. I have no studio space now; sewage and water had to be dispelled in the old church basement in which I rent a room. Thankfully I moved my art supplies up to the choir loft! I have re-setup the studio (partly) in my garage. The ambiance is not right. I walk on there and only think about how my flowers need water, how many loads of laundry I need to get done; what will I make for supper tonight? and so on. To most people, it looks like the picture perfect set-up. To me, it’s a mess and crammed space to work! I’ve worked hard at getting in the right frame of mind to create and this space just shouts at me to do everything else but paint. I’m stuck. Phoned the artists of the studio church and asked for a space crammed in between them on the main floor until the basement is sufficiently habitable. On holidays now. More distractions….

From: Sally Larson — Jul 30, 2013

Where to begin? Even as I started this note, Wilson, the gray cat, threw up on the bar stool and surrounds. The two, large, active dogs added their barks and playful growls to the cacophony. The TV is on to The Price Is Right to distract my daughter from the pain of her recent back surgery. Can’t imagine why at the end of the day filled with care-giving, dog handling, house keeping and chauffeuring that I don’t make time to paint. Is there a problem here?

From: Debra Andrews — Jul 30, 2013
From: Rick Rotante — Jul 30, 2013

I paint every day come hell or high water. Some pieces are simple one item things. I don’t worry about the results. The primary thing necessary to call yourself an artist is showing up and working no matter what else in the world interferes. No other way around it. If you are looking for Robert to tell you how to get started, maybe you need to re-examine your reasons for painting in the first place. This email makes for interesting fodder, but bottom line is you can make excuses for everything. Get in there, pick up a brush, and start. The rest will take care of itself.

From: Gretchen Markle — Jul 30, 2013

My most used distraction (I’m not sure I can call it ‘favourite’) is to move. If you’re packing/unpacking/organizing, you can’t be painting. (Though I swear I did manage to do a few quick sketches.) We’ve moved 26 times in 30 years, six times in the last 3 1/2 years. These most recent moves include going all the way to Nova Scotia and then coming back about 18 months later. By the way, we’ve just bought a house on Gabriola. It includes a small studio space – the first ever that is (1) close (2) free (well, sort of) and (3) completely mine to do with whatever I wish. I’m hoping we stay here forever.

From: Saeed Mahboub — Jul 30, 2013

Cold Easel Syndrome is a condition I know well. Now that my kids are grown I plan to leave the city and move to a Warm Easel Climate.

From: Rebecca Skelton — Jul 30, 2013

My painting is taking a turn for the worse… I must see what’s in the fridge.

From: Ann Koziell — Jul 30, 2013

I feel like I should do plein aire painting, but I don’t like to be outside when it is hot, cold, wet, or windy.

From: Karen (Foxy) Fox — Jul 30, 2013

I admit to being distracted by reading twice-weekly letter emails.

From: Beverly Galante — Jul 30, 2013

My husband is going through a distraction of his own (he sings), which causes me to empathize strongly and I lose interest in my own projects.

From: Hati Modr — Jul 30, 2013

I have learned to love the quiet space in my head when I am painting and I never finish a painting without starting another. That way there is always something on my easel calling me back. I also belong to a great co-op gallery so I need to keep producing paintings. I consider myself very fortunate to have this wonderful opportunity in my life. It keeps everything in perspective!

From: Kathleen Isacson — Jul 30, 2013

My (hopefully) unusual distractions are making kettle corn and watching my husband nail braille patterns into furniture. (but not at the same time) That and trying to win free stuff to help me be a better artist.

From: Hannah Beck — Jul 30, 2013

I attended a wedding this past weekend and was discussing my inability to approach my easel with a family member who is a professor of special education at a college in Boston. He immediately threw out the term ‘post-reinforcement pause’ (a pause in responding that typically occurs after the delivery of the reinforcer on a fixed ratio of reinforcement). Check it out. It’s a complement to CES. What am I going to do to break this pause……I’m going to stop thinking that the clutter in my house has to be removed from every flat surface, drawer and closet before I can create and prepare my paper to paint!

From: Nyla Witmore — Jul 30, 2013

Surroundings make a difference. I have carpeting, wall-to-wall white carpeting throughout the house), including the loft area , the only place I can use for painting. It came that way. So I placed a large indoor/outdoor synthetic carpet on top of that….plus another set of “stand-upons” to further give me comfort while I paint and to protect the underlying plush carpet. The only problem is…from standing there, then stepping back to view my work…I notice the carpet keeps moving…inching its way in a northeasterly direction…the far corner of the large area rug carpet now seeming to crawl up the wall. The studio feels so like a squishy forest floor. The more it (the carpet) moves, the less I want to be in my studio because it feels like a hazard waiting to bite me. Not a good excuse, but it is amazing how something so little can be unnerving. (You are saying, why not pull the carpet back to center? The extra soft padding has made my painting table and standing easel sink in….all the furniture is cumbersome to move and I postpone the chore of doing it every day. Which brings me to a positive conclusion. For a few weeks I avoided painting…but now I have a solution. PAINT ANYWAY!!! And I am doing that, overcoming the “everything needs to be perfect before I paint” excuse.

From: Joy Anderson — Jul 30, 2013

Our house is for sale. We have followed the guidelines and “staged” the house to make it look its best. Our realtor advised that I could leave my studio as is: a somewhat chaotic workspace. But, I find myself arranging it into a “show” studio. This fantasy is not conducive to the way I work. I am now reluctant to mess it up. But, now I see that this is probably a version of CES.

From: Coco Carey — Jul 30, 2013

Love your columns and as for cold easel, my excuse of late has been, ” I don’t want to get the paper dirty” (how nuts is that?)

From: Deborah Severance — Jul 30, 2013

My art room is set up very nicely, with everything in order, just sit and paint, but instead I find myself doing online jigsaw puzzles, wonderful photos set in jigsaw style, pick the cut and number of pieces you want to put together– instant picture in 5-10 minutes or more depending on the cut. And so the painting gets left behind for another day, when duties of life are complete, and jigsaw puzzles or finished.

From: Pamela Nichols — Jul 30, 2013

I often suffer from CES. There are many excuses, but the most prevalent one is mother/wife/hostess guilt. My husband tells me to go out to my studio and paint…don’t worry about anything else. But, I know that if I don’t cook, do laundry (sort, wash, fold, put away), sweep dust bunnies(and so much more), grocery shop….someone else will FRY something unhealthy in my kitchen, we will run out of clean clothing and linens, the dust bunnies will grow into something not-so-cute, and my husband will bring home Fritos and ice cream instead of arugula and fish. Really! I, too, watch as many painting videos as I can get my hands on, and I am about to attend my very first painting workshop! There are so many great videos out there, and so many approaches to color mixing, drawing, etc. I find that when I find a technique that works for me, and I practice the ones that work, I get excited about my painting, and the next thing I know it’s 3AM and I can’t wait to show my family what I have done! Then I see the dishes, laundry, and junk food… Yes, I need a maid!

From: Jodie Copelin — Jul 30, 2013
From: Jane Forth — Jul 30, 2013

Something I have noticed in my now lengthening painting journey is this—-at times when I did “own” most or all of my time but often was scrambling for financial backing…..I had a “dead” space every day between 10 am and around 4:30 pm every day. But you see I think this is OK if you acknowledge this and spend that time in simple and joyful pursuits—because sooner or later that fluid state required for painting arrives once more and quite often on schedule. I think it is important to —if you do own quite much of your time—that time off with no brush in your hand is a positive perk of being a visual artist and that you have the capacity to get lost in the moment as others without your talents do not. So, I recommend taking a walk or a nap or cook your dinner, cooking is an art, or a million other simple pursuits instead of “waiting it out” in an anxious pose. It is called the law of allowing. Always be setting new goals for yourself.

From: Ellen Key — Jul 30, 2013

We are currently in the middle of an employee art competition that is in conjunction with the Business Council for the Arts of Dallas and my company, CBRE, Inc. Since I am the Company Coordinator, I have been VERY busy with all of the employee artists in coaxing them to make the commitment to even produce an entry form and now, I am seeing how many are actually following up with a piece of artwork! And, of course, with all of this getting the “show on the road”, my own muse has been very silent. And, with just three days remaining on Sunday, I was frantic about getting started on my own entry into the art show! However, I just had to find the time to do the following: A) Vacuum the house; B) Go out to my garden and prune back my butterfly bushes (so that they’ll re-bloom in time for the monarchs to come through this October!); C) Find old photos to fit into all of my unused picture frames; D) Peruse the local stores for ideas from their framed art hanging on the walls Needless to say, I finally decided to just “bite the bullet” and started slapping paint down on the canvas to create a painting that someone suggested I do back in March! And, I have been up until almost midnight the last two nights trying to make some sort of headway! p.s. The deadline for receiving art is tomorrow. Lol!

From: Joe Soulagnet — Jul 30, 2013

I have three excuses; I was working on my new patio. The patio needed to be dug out, gravel tamped down, bordered, rebar, and poured. I did that the first summer (and only in summer). The next summer I wanted to rock the patio. I did that (only in the summer) with stones weighing 10 lbs to 400 lbs. The next summer I built a pergola over my creation. I have run out of excuses and I am now pushing my pencil/painting and creating on paper. You are so right about self examination… I had a highly critical analysis of my art work by an professional artist. He set out to hurt me and I let him get to me. I now realize the problem was about him and not my work. Lesson learned. The good things are that I am drawing and painting again and I now have a lovely painting /drawing space!

From: Karen Bonnie — Jul 30, 2013

15 years ago, I visited a small Colorado town during their big event, “Covered Wagon Days”. I have been a passionate lover of horses and horse culture since I was born, and here was this amazing parade in this small town, filled with horses and all manner of carriages and wagons. I set my sights on living here, and did indeed move within 2 years. Here, my art blossomed, I built a beautiful studio and am now represented by galleries. Since moving here, however, the event has slid into oblivion so I stepped forward this summer to try to bring it back to its former glory. Every day, all summer, I wake up thinking, “I WILL paint today!” By 10:00 I am slammed with problems that need my attention, or new ideas to make it better. It’s going to be a grand event this year, the parade will be filled with beautiful horses and floats, a flyover by local pilots, an immense flag hung over the parade route and, hopefully, throngs of grateful spectators wishing our firefighters well after they fought wildfires all summer. It will be very satisfying on a personal level, and has made the community aware of me as an artist. In the back of my mind I know I chose this distraction, very much on purpose, for all the reasons you list. It has been frustrating, but in the long run I have become just as passionate to get back to my art the moment the sun sets on Saturday’s event.

From: Kerrie McNay — Jul 30, 2013

I cannot write this morning because… …I have to go to a Monastery with my son so we can sing & dance, I can see invisible eight-foot high, two-foot wide catwalks, and grab a branch to walk with and defend against invading chess-masters. (*True story.) Off to defend the Valley!

From: Sandra Wilkes — Jul 30, 2013

I thought it was just me! Why, oh why, I ask myself. And this may not be very original, but I am afraid that maybe I am just lazy. Today, however, or one day this week, I WILL paint.

From: Jane Angelhart — Jul 30, 2013

this morning my distraction is waiting for a landscape guy… he’s late. washing the dog… she smells sorting out old photos (it must be done!) polishing silver?????? what a waste of time that is, but wouldn’t mom be proud if she were alive. taking a cousin to the emergency room (has to be done).. she chopped her finger with a stick blender….. priorities, priorities.

From: Michael Drake — Jul 30, 2013

I have been taking Monday painter classes in 6 week series as available. I sold the first two class paintings. Then I was a featured artist in our local paper. I have been taking care of my wife who had cancer, and she was out of work for over a year. She has returned to work part time trying to build her hours towards full time. I had to go out of town to help a brother get back on meds for bipolar, and get a handle on his drinking. somewhere in there I got lost. I have been painting for almost 4 years and have done a few pretty good pieces of art, sold 28 out of 220+, gave 60-70 as gifts. Now I am trying get back to it with some success and new painting techniques from classes, and seem to be hitting a wall. My confidence and new knowledge are butting heads.

From: Sandra L. Sibley — Jul 30, 2013

I have found myself distracted by cats. Let me explain: I have four of my own and they are seldom a distraction, but I also enjoy fostering cats and kittens from the local humane society. Have you ever tried to paint with four six-week old kittens prowling around the studio? They are such fun that I end up sitting on the floor playing with them instead of painting. And for good measure they’ve been known to unscrew the knobs on on my easels. The good news is that the kittens are usually a temporary distraction and once they leave to find forever homes I can return to painting.

From: Kelly Reed — Jul 30, 2013

I study and read about a whole new free-form style of art or political collage art opposite than my personal favorite representational style. Fiddle around with it, usually sends me back to my easel.

From: Alison Nicholls — Jul 30, 2013

Ironically, new ideas can be my greatest distraction. I thoroughly enjoy planning, spending time designing new paintings and coming up with new marketing ideas. This may not sound like much of a problem, but having too many new painting ideas in the pipeline often leads me to lose interest in whats currently on my easel, and it is difficult to put new marketing ideas into practice when there’s no work to market! After too much planning and not enough painting I get a little fidgety and even a little bad tempered at my lack of progress in the studio. Getting back in there is the only way to relieve my darkening mood. A good day’s painting comes as such a relief – not only to me but to those around me!

From: Joyce Washor — Jul 30, 2013

I go for acupuncture which not only treats any ailments I have at the time, it gets the energy moving in an hopefully creative way.

From: Lida van Bers — Jul 30, 2013

My husband passed away 2 years ago and at that time I just loved to be in my studio. Since this month of July I hardly step I’m my studio, have no inclination are desire to be there. I just had my 80th birthday and after all the celebration I am just have no ambition. I miss the family time and just want to hide in books. Is there any help??? I feel so guilty!!

From: Richard Gagnon — Jul 30, 2013

Sometimes the fear of something too big gets in the way. If something difficult is broken down into small pieces then there is a sense of accomplishment generated each time one of the smaller pieces are completed and that provides the encouragement to go on. Painting is a process of little steps and should lend itself well to generating that sense of accomplishment as long as the accomplishment is recognized. As for the excuses for not painting…….. I have to attend to my day job so I can pay the rent, the groceries, the vet bills, …… I could go on.

From: Jan Faught — Jul 30, 2013

I have spent the last six years teaching third grade. Teaching took every day, night, weekend, summer, and vacation. I managed to dream of painting and even paint for maybe a couple of hours now and then. Then work took over. I began teaching the moment I finished my BFA. I was 50 when I got the degree. Earlier I had a degree in Biology and a Teaching Credential. My dream when I was young was to do botanical illustration but I was discouraged by lack of learning opportunities, confidence, fear and low self esteem. My best work was when I was totally immersed in art during the BFA experience as well as when I was young and unencumbered. Your letters were very inspirational when I was reading them six years ago. I just read the first one I have seen in six years, today, and I am remembering how much you inspired me back then. Thank you! I am retiring from teaching this summer. I am back into doing art everyday. What a blessing.

From: Ben Wilmot — Jul 30, 2013

I have been painting for about five years, and so am still a beginner. I “dart all over” my paintings as they evolve. A little dark here a little light there- a stroke here a stroke there. Teachers have criticized this, but I think it helps me keep the total idea in my mind as the painting evolves. I think you have given me permission to persist in this (?) eccentricity. Or per chance do I just have a short attention span??

From: Donna Jurovcik — Jul 30, 2013

Life is somewhat of a coasting process in mental thoughts going up & down with cells of the brain swirling endlessly.. Such is the case with me from way wee years of my life to now in a retired inactive work-alcoholic state. All my life my right hand & brain did the talking on paper…..hundreds of sketches, drawings, paintings in any paint that met my inspiration plus lots of written thoughts about the subject at the time of my creation or reflection of what was on my mind. Now that I do not have the energy-drawing job, my art already done/completed or need to be finished is neatly set before me making it possible to spend the countless hours framing and presenting/organizing in book form. There is an audience of many people out there and my gifting of my past illustrated on paper is rewarding to me now. It sometimes relents itself to wonder what people think but when I see it framed & in their favorite place for viewing or I hear them talk about my work, I don’t feel so lost in space……mind coasting has added to the world not just art but total sharing with some joy connected.

From: Maxine Jenner — Jul 30, 2013

One of the more comical, but frustrating distractions was my determination to make home made black licorice. The actual recipe for this candy is a closely guarded industry secret, but there are amateur approximations on the net. Perfect opportunity for a pro tangent type to really waste some time! For several weeks, I consumed large quantities of molasses, flour, syrup and powdered licorice root, cooked and extruded in various ways. The end result was trays of what looked (and unfortunately tasted) like ropes of dog doo drying all over the kitchen, and a (former) sausage extruder completely jammed with hardened toffee. The only good news, was that it was so bad, that it sent me back to the easel! Maybe that’s the solution, – be distracted by something even more frustrating that painting!

From: Diane Voyentzie — Jul 30, 2013

My distraction presently is: ” continually weeding the little garden in front of my studio door.”

From: Conroy Hudlow — Jul 30, 2013

I like the one about going to the beach and hanging out with the girls. At least it could be fun.

From: Sharon E. Steinhaus — Jul 30, 2013

I come into my studio every day and accomplish nothing creative. I watch the TV, play on FB, dust, re-arrange supplies…… once or twice even opened the paint tubes and got everything ready only to go down the hall looking for something else to do. Alas, the paint has dried out and another excuse to not do anything. Being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago…. This came when we were just in the midst of downsizing from our house to an apartment. Needless to say the wind was knocked out of my sails. Today I’m fine health-wise and have my energy back but no creative juices are flowing whatsoever. I stopped doing shows, accepting commissions, not even going to my art clubs. I keep up with my friends on FB or on the phone. Any suggestions to break out of this self imposed recluse would be greatly appreciated.

From: Peggy Wilson — Jul 30, 2013
From: Bonnie Dillon — Jul 30, 2013

I use the library a lot for books on art history and technique. I live alone so having like-minded company around in workshops, group plein air outings or open studios surrounds me with like-minded people that stimulate the creative energy that I have been soaking up. My cat is also a distraction because as soon as I sit down that is the moment he wants to settle on my lap and be the centre of my attention. Walking across my art table is also one of his favorite tactics. Opening the screened window usually changes his focus. For every distraction, there is a stronger ebb back to the painting experience. Perhaps we need distractions too.

From: Jill Garity — Jul 30, 2013

This column made me LOL. I am currently facing a house portrait commission that is to be tighter than I like to work. At the same time, I am redoing my bathroom, and find that I would rather spend time stripping grout with a multi tool (a truly hateful job) than face my easel. I guess that tells me something about house portraits.

From: Von Kimbrough — Jul 30, 2013

My personal distraction is to hand feed bluebirds to food trays attached to bluebird houses twice a day….It takes time!! But those babies need me…don’t they????

From: Nan Mahone Wellborn — Jul 30, 2013

For those of us who paint outside, tracking the weather to find the right moment can be distracting and delay the painting process. And being obsessed with having “the right weather” to paint can really slow you down!

From: Luann Udell — Jul 30, 2013

One strategy that’s helped me warm up my easel–er, work table–is to keep a small notebook handy wherever I go. I jot down ideas for future scribblings, because I never “just remember them”. And I keep an “inspiration file” on my computer: Images that have caught my interest or taken my breath away. When I’m feeling disconnected from my work, I take a peek at the file. Soon I’m back to my clay, exploring a new idea. Which quickly morphs into the idea inside ME all along.

From: Shirley DeLaet — Jul 30, 2013

I want to paint but then I go to the studio and realize I need to clean or reorganize the studio, or I need to go to the grocery, or I need to do this or that. I always find an excuse. I am blaming it on spending my career in commercial art where other people’s needs were my priority. My needs to create and produce art for myself were always put on the back burner. At the end of the day I was to exhausted to paint. Now, I can’t seem to make painting my priority. My spirit keeps telling me to paint, but I can’t seem to get myself off the “back burner”.

From: jane angelhart — Jul 30, 2013
From: Anne Parker — Jul 30, 2013

I am a mosaicist. I have recently moved from a 3-bedroom, full-basement house to a 450′ cottage. Ask me how the hell I fit a mosaic studio into THAT?–rife with distractions–mainly the divesting of a lifetime of living, parenting, collecting, working. Have you ever seen a mosaic studio? big heavy material–especially the pique assiette type material–bins of broken dishes, stones, jewelry, adhesives, bases, grouts, tools–quilters have it easy! I am an artist. I am creative. I can do this.

From: Francine Harvey — Jul 30, 2013

Okay this is ridiculous! You see I have “Goals”! Every morning I wake up I know I need to practice my piano (to be able to play by ear as well as by music sheets) I want to make sure I do my half hour of yoga (I really do feel good after getting this done). I need to write a few pages in the series of children’s books (that I’m writing and illustrating). But now I have to include a novel that came to me in a dream very vividly. I started it the next day. Of course I have grandchildren that visit, a husband to feed, a daughter getting married and lately I’m having second thoughts about going to church anymore…this weighs very heavily on my mind. Yet with all these things to do I will take the time to read an hour, or goodness even watch TV at 8’oclock at night to slow down my mind. All through this, every day, I think of my art and kept telling myself I should be doing that….but I don’t. Oh and now, you know what I’m doing…I’m building an old fashioned outhouse. I’ve wanted one of these for years. And yes I do work with wood. My wonderful neighbor gave me some 2x1x2 foot pieces of cedar, which I cut, planed and make made 4 outdoor chairs and two end tables for on our stone BBQ pit that we just built! You see I just can’t get my priorities right.

From: Charlotte King — Jul 30, 2013

I have not painted for two years. My first excuse was I will start when my basement is finished for my studio. Well it is mostly finished and some of my older paintings are on the walls and I have the space to work. Now I spend my time working on small craft projects or cleaning my space to prepare to paint but I don’t actually start. I get distracted with television, so I don’t have cable, so I put in movies. Well I figured I will put a TV in my studio and kind of half watch the movie while I work… I usually sit and watch the movie. I have also started an arts council in my community, so this is another way of keeping me from my actually painting. I am running out of excuses. I also have my laptop where my palette should be. I know I am procrastinating.

From: Karin Snoots — Jul 30, 2013

I have experienced cold-easel syndrome on many occasions…I admit I also have a fear of the “White Canvas”! – so to get around that I paint them a solid color first and all is well! This sample painting I have included is a tribute to my beautiful distraction in the garden…my squash plant was amazing, I took great care of “her” and she provided a plentiful harvest, in order to stay focused on producing work needed for an upcoming exhibit I painted my beloved squash blossoms to keep me focused at the easel too!

From: Jennifer — Jul 30, 2013
From: Gary Cameron — Jul 30, 2013

My personal distraction anecdote stems from a commission –I had offered friends their pick of framed works I had done in watercolours, and they chose one that has received compliments. On their return from a tour some years ago, they asked me to do one from a photo of a tree in the sea off Australia –it had such a complex root-system that I had no idea of how to draw it, never mind render it in watercolour! I left it undone until recently, when my daughter-in-law suggested we take in a Bob Ross oil workshop working from one’s own photo –I had originally started in oils 27 years ago and hadn’t worked with them for over seven years, so I took the photo and did it in oil instead of staying stumped by the medium. In less than six hours I had the piece that had plagued me for years. Since, I attended a demonstration of Liquitex products, and did a miniature in acrylics. Maybe soon I shall get at a watercolour version?

From: Kate Pearce — Jul 30, 2013

Alas! I am no longer at my easel, as I am sitting here trying to think of an original distraction to send to you.

From: Gerry Madden — Jul 30, 2013

The most basic and destructive Cold Easel stump must be…. “What’s the point”.

From: John Vedilago — Jul 30, 2013
From: Ilana Lydia — Jul 30, 2013
From: Lois McLeod — Jul 30, 2013

I can’t leave my puppies to watch “Wagon Train” without me.

From: Mary Beth — Jul 30, 2013

Distractions? Or am I distracted? I love to paint, can’t decide on just one medium as I love them all, so I have tons of oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, batik tools, pencils, colored pencils, every brand…but…I have moved to a painting Paradise, Coronado Island, sold my big house in the Midwest with a painting studio to come here, and am squeezed into a one bedroom apartment, with no place to set up. My painting supplies are spread thru my small three rooms and I can’t have anything sitting out to work on. So all I am doing is taking a small watercolor set and watercolor postcards to the beach to be painting something. It seems I am at an impasse……

From: Judith Madsen — Jul 30, 2013

What I did was responded to requests to instruct the art volunteers, who helped me with the after school kids art program, on how to paint with acrylics. Fridays morphed into Tuesdays. How perfect, here I was helping people to paint, and handling a brush and colours but not actually painting for myself. Perfect rout of intention. I even created a group…a web page, a showing etc….and all the while I was not painting. Now that is displacement behaviour.

From: Esmie McLaren — Jul 30, 2013

This is a great idea….distractions. I have a dozen commissions, and two shows requiring ~25 paintings this Fall. So far I have 5 paintings for the shows, and I’m partway through a challenging commission. So when my sisters phoned to see if I wanted to go away with them for a week, I said “Yes!” Well, how could I say no to Hawaii? And it is my sister’s 50th birthday, after all! Hawaii Five-O! And I can’t keep offering to drive my parents to their doctors’ appointments. They’re getting tired of going to the doctor. Think I should bring my paintbrushes on the trip?

From: Glenis Gray — Jul 30, 2013

My distractions here in Australia are my neighbours The oldest neighbour gets his favourite chainsaw out . I need to watch a) he doesn’t scalp my hedge again and send his dog after my kids cats coz I’d never be forgiven, b) I don’t have to call the ambulance and find the severed arm or c) need to find those earplugs. Another retired neighbour weeds by hand on his acreage. Trouble is he’s outside my studio most of the time sitting on the grass pulling up dandelions which is when I get distracted wondering about his purpose in life. Yet another neighbour regularly does his star jumps naked ( ex-RAF!). Thankfully the trees have grown ….despite having to admit he must have been as fit as a butchers dog, it used to be horrific viewing ……And finally every month or so I have paragliders overhead. How can I see them? Living on a ridge I see them swoop by and carry on conversations at altitude I seem to be able to hear snatches of. I have tried waving but judging by their response they seemed to think it was some rude gesture ! Maybe I need to relocate!

From: Wendy Miller Lambeth — Jul 30, 2013

Being a homemaker (not very original but true) seems to keep me from my easel..laundry ( a new washer and dryer that beep and chime and almost chat with me)…cooking (I’m a foodie) and now have the added distraction of the internet with instant recipes for anything… Along with a beach walk that beckons…a puppy that needs some loving…a child that needs yakking with..a grand child that needs a letter..a kitty that needs a pat…back to back house-guests…a husband that likes my company (and I like his)..a friend that asks me out to lunch..a sunset…a glass of good wine..a fine memory to enjoy..a full life..

From: Elihu Edelson — Jul 30, 2013

Not necessarily bucking for a prize, but noting that a terminal case of ADD is a terrible thing for an artist to have. (I’m the daydreamer type, not hyperactive.) There are so many distractions all around that it takes quite an effort to get started on a project. Once started, some momentum might develop, but getting there is the problem.

From: Will Enns — Jul 30, 2013

Reading these letters can be a notable distraction. Unlike most of your other entries, this one comes bundled with the solution: Delete the letter before reading it. In this case, I am deleting it right after sending this! No offense intended.

From: Mike Barr — Jul 30, 2013

Distractions take on many forms and vary from artist to artist. Sometimes they come in an avalanche in which digging out becomes a matter of life and death. I had every intention of getting stuck into some much needed painting and took a week off work to do so. First, I was going to work on the two new panels I had purchased just a while ago. I knew they were in a box with some other supplies, but where? A commission that was crushing my spirit was goading me from on top of the desk. I looked behind it to see if the missing panels were there. Some of the colors I needed were in the car after a plein air session on the weekend and even more where on the back porch where I was painting the other day. I couldn’t find my favorite rigger brush that I may just need if I ever got round to painting, but in the end decided I could live without it. The panels turned up close to where I was sitting. The box had been unpacked. My paints were at hand, as was my bucket of water, the panels were unwrapped but I had misplaced my reference photos. The commission painting looked at me with disdain. I didn’t get back to the easel for a week. Surely, disorganization is the biggest distraction.

From: Michael Nickle — Jul 30, 2013

I left my easel nearly four and a half years ago. I was upset over a breakup with a girlfriend and subsequently found out that she had been selling my paintings for far less than I thought was fair. To get even, I stopped painting. Reality is the one that I ended up hurting was myself. On the bright side, I now have paintings all over the world. Occasionally I’ll receive an email from a client who had purchased one of my pieces just to tell me how much it meant to them. Now, I’m getting back into the swing of things, but it’s been a long, tough road. New life, different studio. The arrival of grandchildren -what a joy they are!

From: Bert Beckford — Jul 31, 2013

I live next door to a pub and my wife and I go there at least three nights a week. This means that I will, working in the evenings, take twice as long to get good.

From: Dell Fergusson — Jul 31, 2013

I find philately very absorbing, relaxing and nicely distracting.

From: Jim Cussen — Jul 31, 2013

Bookcases bulging with books; boxes chock-full of paint tubes; a head stuffed with theory – I could open a book store, an art store, and an art school to boot! But, here’s my problem: though blessed with good physical health, when it comes to ‘doing’ art, I suffer from paralyses: talk the talk, I can; but walk the walk, I can’t. Oh cure, hear my cry: I can’t paint, I don’t know why!

From: Dana VanWestrienen — Jul 31, 2013

Oh I have to help my kids move. So and so’s coming to visit for two weeks, can’t possibly do my own thing then. Oh I really need to get this place together before I paint. I haven’t talked to so and so for so long better call’em. You don’t get time to paint! That would be the ultimate then what?

From: John R. Koehler — Jul 31, 2013

The fear of failure is over come by what I found out. If I keep working on a painting it will eventually be come agreeable to some one,,, nature’s nourishment,, stay off the express ways, the older road’s have more scenery’s and that will stimulate the mind,,, loneliness,, is best overcome with art groups, not art clubs,, you need people that will give you constructive criticism and encourage you ,,,remember quitters never win and winners never quit,,

From: Dee Smart — Jul 31, 2013

My distraction from painting was Gourds. I took up gourd crafting, a little known but growing art form. The surface of a gourd is so accepting to all medias, plus the process is so hands on that you can’t help but get in the ZONE. I had a lot of fun doing gourds and was successful in selling them. Now that I’m back to doing my painting I feel more confident and I think my art has really improved through my own hard work.

From: Margaret Jensen — Jul 31, 2013

My cat insists on laying on my in progress watercolors and occasionally deposits some barf there. Consequently I have to wait until it dries to scrape it off and proceed. You can see this is a show stopper. She is a sweet cat.

From: Judith Angell Meyer — Jul 31, 2013

I have two lights on my drawing board, one of which is a round fluorescent tube surrounding a magnifying glass. To my left, also the south, is a high window. At the height of the severe Colorado afternoon sun, I noticed a concentrated light beam shining through my magnifier, onto my watercolor paper. I had to wonder if left alone it could start a fire on the paper. I moved it up and down and at all angles trying to see if I could get the paper to burn. Moved the paper, now hoping I could accomplish some smoke. Never did, but the time lost experimenting with making fire was impressive. Every once in a while since I’ll give it a go again. I keep a cover on it now, just in case. Pretty silly segue in a work day, but better than sharpening pencils and lining them up perfectly!

From: Wendy Christensen — Jul 31, 2013

There are always litter boxes to be scooped! I have 9 cats and ten boxes. That’s a lot of poop to scoop. Purrrrrs… wac

From: Alana Dill — Jul 31, 2013

There’s a (cat) (baby) (cat and baby) on my lap. Check one.

From: Judith Jewer — Jul 31, 2013

I have started a meditation practice… There are a lot of health benefits that have started adding up… Also very pleasurable… Similar joy to plein air painting when process going well… Heightened sense of colour, euphoria… Less stuff to manage, a break from ego achievement… I have set up a meditation chair in the garden… You could say that I’m sitting around watching the tomatos grow… Although I am painting outside… my easel is pretty messy… I just cannot bring myself to work in my basement studio, I seem to be addicted to sunshine and greenery…

From: Sylvia Boulware — Jul 31, 2013

My neighbor has a new dog. I have no dog and I love them. So when I hear him barking outside my window I leave my painting and join the puppy play time.

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 31, 2013

I’ve got another name for CES – unreasonable expectation and poor time management. Military training taught me “mission.” Regardless how bad you feel, how many hours you’ve worked, how tough the job, you get it done. Such a mindset tends to impart self discipline. One blessed curse of being an artist is you are self employed. You can waste time or work yourself to exhaustion, neither of which is efficient. Your mission is to produce art yet balance your personal life against your calling. Those with heavy responsibilities and day jobs cannot give total immersion so quit beating yourself up over it. Goal setting is crucial. I’m not a painting-a-day person and never will be. I set a reasonable goal of a painting a month and I’m satisfied with that. If you’ve set impossible demands upon yourself you will fail. When I was in college, raising a toddler, working a family business, and caring for an elderly in law all at the same time, I was sleep deprived for years. Over the course of time responsibilities change. I’m not doing any of that anymore and dang, it feels good … I’ve never had the luxury of time before (sixties). The old adage holds true: “You can have it all but not at the same time.” Mine was never a question of inspiration gone cold it was having the time to do it. Time management is an individual thing. Decide if you must paint daily. I don’t, because I write as well. When I do paint, I put in marathon sessions by choice. Allow for goof off time and stop feeling guilty about it – no one can be productive every hour of the day. I submit a cold easel is unrealistic goals and poor self discipline. The best cure for CES is to reevaluation those things and find what works.

From: De Gillett — Jul 31, 2013

As a self taught artist, finally signing up to attain my Bachelor of Fine Art did a comprehensive job of keeping me away from my easel! Now graduated, with no more essays to write or scholarly research to pursue, the outpouring of easel-based creativity is astonishing even me :)

From: Elizabeth Yelland — Jul 31, 2013

My many distractions from working on paintings and commissioned work: Some of these must be done in succession… Taking a long hot shower to start. Stretching and then Meditating quietly for 20 mins or if I do full program… an hour. Starting with cleaning/organizing my artfiles-resume images on my computer.. then searching for and organizing reference photographs and deleting old files and e-mails. Choosing the right music is so important-must find the right songs or group of songs! Searching for the right colors/paints-mixing colors in separate containers can take at least two hours. Setting up the table in my garage for large acrylic work-temporary (some delay if it’s windy) but still it has to be done…car moved, sawhorses set up, clean surface and paints picked/mixed out/pallet set up-rags for cleaning and floor needs to be swept and if it’s raining the garage needs a heater to dry things out while I leave the door open so the light is better.

From: Valerie Cordaro — Jul 31, 2013

Being honest with oneself about where they fit into art making and how hard they want to try for their ambitions, is a critical discourse the artist can only have with himself even if it is a life time, repetitive conversation. Even the very best of artists have had to face ‘quitting’. And yes, many of us have to say, that one day we will stop this effort. Hopefully it will not be from a sense of failure, but salutations and respect for what we know to be beyond what we had wanted or could do and that our ‘excuses’ had a legitimacy. I don’t see this as ‘Cold Easel Syndrome’.

From: Reggie Sabiston — Jul 31, 2013

I find I keep organizing and reorganizing my studio. It’s a distraction for me and I manage to avoid getting a painting started. I believe it does have something to do with fear, the fear of failure. For example…I have a commission and it is to paint a dog (pet) for a customer. I want to do a great job, but the photos the customer supplied are very small and lack much detail. I have wanted to start painting all day today and did so many other things around the studio until it was too late to get started. I know that once I start I will be motivated to keep painting and maybe even do a wonderful job of the painting, but somehow I have managed to spend my precious time doing other things like organizing things around the studio. Is there a cure for my procrastination?

From: Linda Verdery — Jul 31, 2013

I recently rescued an amiable 6 year old golden-doodle, who it seems wants to eat small dogs. In this small neighborhood that delightfully includes a stained- glass craftsman, two fabric artists, and generous gardeners who keep me in abundant fruit and vegetables, are also “Elvis”, “Marley” and “Harry”- all small, yippy terriers. I am spending my waking hours watching for their outings while rescued Charley, pretends to snooze.

From: Kathryn Kaser-Nichols — Jul 31, 2013

My main distraction is compulsively cutting my hair, little bits to shape and style it, every time I’m in front of a mirror, several times a day. Another thing to think about regarding blockage: If you are thinking, “I ought to, I should, I must, I have to”, you will automatically resist. I learned this in a Louie Tice seminar years ago. Take those words out of your vocabulary. Want to do, choose to do. Just do anything.

From: Jennifer Malin — Jul 31, 2013

I read books on motivation and how to find inspiration. Of course, most of these say to just start, not be afraid of making mistakes, not to seek perfection, and simply allow inspiration to come. And of course, I continue to search for the one book that has the ‘correct’ answer.

From: Billie Brinkley — Jul 31, 2013

I thrive on other artists … comments, critiques … when I am “home alone” I can find a gazillion reasons not to make art … reason number one is….DIRT THERAPY…my yard calleth and by the time I have spent some time in the beautiful (humid) Texas Gulf Coast outdoors I am too tired to pick up a brush. What really motivates me is being in shows and feeling responsible for making 5+ new works…this gets me moving.

From: Vicki D. Thomas — Jul 31, 2013

Domestics X 100 Teaching art to kids Cooking dinner Framing and matting my watercolors for shows and competition Cleanup after meals Filling out forms for entering shows and competition Grocery shopping Photographing my art for my files and future publication. Changing bed linens Buying art supplies Doing laundry Drawing from the model on Fridays Ironing Painting plein air Dusting the house Teaching adults art Organizing my work space Club Meetings Reading Company prep Going to Artist Receptions Cleanup after Company leaves Other Meetings—always a potluck! Mopping floors Talking on the phone to my family Responding to emails Reading newsletters Church Writing YA novels Going to writers’ groups Gotta’ go teach kids right now. Can’t finish my endless list. I’ll just leave that load of dishes to be washed later.

From: Naomi Topuzoglu — Jul 31, 2013

I’ve have been an artist all my life, yes all. Except for the period of time when my Greek parents thought I was seriously becoming an artist that they put their foot down and made me train for; business administrator, drafter, home support worker and baker. I’m a colorist by nature but as of 2002 I could not touch color. Any color. Any medium. I could only draw BW. I wanted to paint very much but every time I tried it was like facing a monster I couldn’t see. It would physically make me sick. But I wanted to paint so bad that I had been collecting paint for twenty years prior to this, every kind of paint. I mean who had heard of an artist having what basically seems like a ‘color allergy’? Every time I stepped into the life drawing room at school I would turn three shades of green followed but four hues of blue to the blend of white. At least I had a harmonious color palette on my face. I would add paint to the point of invisibility just to fool myself that I was painting and keeping my lunch down at the same time. I learned what the connection was for this ‘allergy’ and have created ways to ‘fool’ the sabotaging instinct that creeps over us in different ways, disguising themselves as distractions or anything else. Now I paint every day if I can. My hubby and daughter are my best critics ever. I try not to listen sometimes and do my own thing but they are mostly always right and I end up doing what they say in the end. So now I’m a Greek artist making a living from my art for the last ten years or so. And my parents? Are my best supporters – still astonished when I sell a painting for HOW MUCH?

From: Linda Harbison — Jul 31, 2013

This is far from original, but lately I feel overwhelmed by responsibilities that have nothing to do with art. I have raised two sons almost to young adulthood, mostly by myself. I own my own home and have two dogs and one cat. I work at my regular job 35 hours a week. I garden a little and clog with a dance group. It doesn’t sound like much, but there are times when it seems like any one of the entities (human, animal, plant or property) I am responsible for will suffer irreparable harm if I dare to stop paying attention long enough to indulge in a little creative time. I feel guilty for painting or sculpting when: one of my sons needs help preparing for a job interview the dogs need grooming the carpet needs replacing the lawn needs trimming one of my sons needs to see a doctor about an unexplained pain the dishes need washing we all need dentist appointments my tires need to be rotated the unusual sound my car is making needs to be investigated corn needs to be pickled (an Appalachian delicacy) money needs to be made clothes need laundering In addition to these, I have hit that time in mid-life where I want to make sure I haven’t missed out on anything important. I look back and hope I did the best I could for my sons under difficult circumstances. I have worried myself into digestive troubles like one of Toni Morrison’s characters. Sometimes I get so frustrated I want to scream. I live in an area where art is not valued. Most people here are impressed if someone sells a painting for thousands of dollars in some big city somewhere, or if someone can make a painting that looks “just like a photograph”. Very few will buy art for their own enjoyment. I am torn between making art for myself and trying to make art that is marketable so I can keep up with ever increasing expenses. I am working on self discipline and focus with mixed results.

From: Patricia Heller — Jul 31, 2013

I have 21 chickens and a man who eats as often as they do!

From: Phoebe Ackley — Jul 31, 2013

When I am really wanting a big distraction from my studio, I decide to take care of the chickens. They are really fine, but I feel the need to fix the run up a bit more securely, to clean out and re-fill the water dispenser, find a few tasty bug filled handfuls of tree collards to feed the starving girls! At least I’m thinking of making art when I look at my big red hen named “Sienna”, my sweet little white named “Crema”, who lays lovely blue eggs and my 2 speckled black and whites named “Limestone” and “Granite”. I am also a sculptor. Oh well, one can procrastinate only so long! OOPS, it’s time for bed! Darn, it will have to wait till tomorrow.

From: Elle Fagan — Jul 31, 2013

Accept the wisdom of the Muse. Sometimes a painter MIGHT not paint. If it does not pass after a bit, then get diagnostic – there is an ocean of help, online and off, to win through artists’ block.

From: Karen Meredith — Jul 31, 2013

Distractions abound but the worst is my iPad…It is so easy to go down the rabbit hole finding a way to escape the actual doing of art. Often I am on the “art track” when I do this and find wonderful tips, newsletters, blogs, images, videos…and that can be prime pumping unto itself. But often I slip into doing “Words with Friends” or “Bridge Baron” or visit friends on Facebook…or check out the stock market or the weather or my emails and back and forth again. It truly takes pushing myself up the stairs, walking to my studio, and pouring out the paint for me to get on track…but the pull of the digital demon is always beckoning. That said, once the canvas has its first strokes applied I’m hooked there for at least two or more hours. And of course that’s a wonderful thing!

From: Leslie Thomas — Jul 31, 2013

I have painted for 10 years and until recently I have painted because I “have” to – painting has been like yoga for me. I have not understood the change I have felt recently. I just don’t “have” to paint any more. Maybe it is, in fact, due to distractions. And for me those distractions are two of the greatest things in life : Golf and Grandchildren!

From: Kare Chapman — Jul 31, 2013

Sadness over extended family issues empties my will. I feel frozen in time.

From: Sue — Jul 31, 2013

Its twee but true – reading Robert Genn’s letters….. hmmmm. A brilliant distraction tho.

From: Frances A. Chuba — Jul 31, 2013

distractions? brushing/flossing teeth! yes! really …. ugh!

From: Flora Baumann — Jul 31, 2013

I have found that the easiest way to get back ‘at it’ is to save/find a couple ‘easy fix’ paintings-those that only need a couple of touches of the brush. As we all know, one thing leads to another….

From: Marie Morgan — Jul 31, 2013

I want to paint. Really I do. But instead I have been reading my way through years of my Genn archives.

From: Linda Jones — Jul 31, 2013

Ha, cannot resist this one. My biggest distraction ……I try to paint as much as I can, but because I teach after school it is usually 10 to 3 pm and then again at 8:30 pm. I always have my TV on while I paint and usually on my soap operas. The distraction comes when they preempt the shows for the BASEBALL or BASKETBALL playoffs……I can’t paint a thing and off to the garden I go. Other than that, not much keeps me from the easel.

From: Melissa West — Jul 31, 2013

Here are my top 3 favorite distractions: 1. cutting dreadlocks from the stomach of my longhaired cat (who hates to be touched, so you can imagine how engrossing and time consuming this is) 2. scraping, then buffing the bottoms of revereware pots and pans so they gleam (this from someone who swore off cooking about 5 years ago) 3. picking cat hair (from aforementioned cat) from between the strings of my harpsichord with a long fondue fork

From: Anne Sete — Jul 31, 2013

I do what I call “mind painting” . . . which is lying on the sofa with my eyes closed painting pictures in my mind. I have even gotten to where I can erase the parts that don’t work and / or paint over them (all in my mind, of course). I’m a genius at mind painting.

From: Louisa S. Cooper — Jul 31, 2013

Are you kidding? I live 30 steps from Lanikai Beach on Oahu! It is LABOR getting away from it! (but the easel does beckon)

From: Diane Doehring — Jul 31, 2013

Cleaning the fridge or the oven! The absolute desperation of indulging in such an odious task speaks for itself ! Oh, and my latest one is writing a masters thesis on an unrelated topic (Foucauldian discourse analysis of prenatal screening for Down syndrome) – but that is another thesis in and of itself.

From: Alex Zenger — Jul 31, 2013

1.Moving – not having a GOOD place to work. 2.Problems looking for a new house. 3. Caring for my dog (maybe to a little excess). Worrying about his elbow hair not being so perfect. treatments 5. Looking for new hair styles 6.Planning for travel instead of using the opportunity for art 7.Wondering why I don’t have better photographs. 8. Not being interesting in photo technology and worrying about that. 9.Reading everything on the INTERNET. 10. Knowing the weather in Bangladesh and Siberia. 11. Learning to drive in this new area only with my GPS. Never needed one before. 12 Nailpolish Thank you, These are only a few.

From: Pam De Pena — Jul 31, 2013

I need to do a sketch today. Hmmmm. I’ll just check on my farm and feed my animals. Oh, cool, I’m out of water; I have to go visit my neighbors to get more. Aren’t those chickens cute? And that Angora rabbit; much better than the ordinary rabbits. I think I’ll get a few peacocks…how many coins will they cost? Oops, time for the county fair. I got a bonus, yeah!” Etc, etc, etc. By the time you’re finished you’ve forgotten what you originally set out to do. Potomac Falls VA

From: Art Robb — Jul 31, 2013

I went out a while back to think about what to paint and I was stopped by the police for loitering and questioned. Does this count?

From: William Gjessen — Aug 01, 2013

I have golf to blame. Even though I am getting progressively worse at the game, when my buddies call, I go, even if my brush is wet.

From: Martha Vanoni — Aug 01, 2013

I have a 3’x4′ prepped canvas I’ve been looking at for a week now. It does seem overwhelming at present. But there’s a possible sale at the end. I have no idea how it will end up but I will now just PICK UP THE BRUSH! and get started.

From: Erin O’Connor — Aug 01, 2013
From: Patricia Anne Wilson — Aug 01, 2013

Thank you Robert. This has been a major problem for me.. going big. I find that if I have left it for awhile I do warm up exercises to get me going again and it works and at least they are always an experiment with color if nothing else.

From: Megan Williams — Aug 01, 2013

I’ve been a college art instructor most of my adult life here in Toronto. The best reason for not getting work done that I’ve ever heard came from a participant in my senior creative process class where everyone is self directed and working on bodies of work for exhibition. “I couldn’t get my piece done because Prince Edward came for tea.” The woman in question was in charge of billeting the young members of a choir visiting Toronto from England on a concert tour. Prince Edward was their patron and happened to be in the city too. She gave a tea for the choir members, their hosts and the Prince.

From: Paul Harman — Aug 01, 2013

I am hit and miss on my easel right now because I am tearing out a deck where my new studio will be added on. I still manage to work on the piece on my easel, but am usually too tired to spend more than an hour because I am physically exhausted from cutting up the wood and transporting it down the bottom of my garden to burn it when cooler weather arrives. My plans are being finalized and then I can take them to the count. Once approved my contractor will start and I will be his helper. It is taking time away from the easel, but when my studio is done I will have a well lighted studio instead of my dark extra bedroom. That will give me an ideal painting venue for studio work, and I will still go out and paint plein air when I can.

From: Tatiana Yanovskaya-Sink — Aug 01, 2013

My utmost self-distraction is my “beast” thought that makes me paranoid — what if I never be being able to find my unique “Me” within and explore it through painting–. I would treasure having your book at my bed side. Your writings give me a big boost to become more intelligent and subtle person (as well as the artist). Thank you.

From: Jan M’Ghee — Aug 01, 2013

Hope I’m not too late. I got distracted.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Aug 01, 2013

My grandfather said that “half the job is getting started”.

From: nancy loh — Aug 01, 2013

I have recently entered an art exhibition, and a local paint challenge, and I have been owing myself four illustrations for a book project, but for the past months I’ve been watching re-runs of NCIS on TV, and and blaming Mark Harmon for it. Before this, I had waited for us to move house, then trying to design a sort of C-scoop contraption to attach to the air-con (which blows the other way) so I can ‘work’ in comfort. Oh, and I’m planning on how to store my paintings…even as I’ve not been producing many–four no bigger than 8×6 over the past months. Argh!!

From: Tovah Morschein — Aug 02, 2013

Over a decade ago I suffered “cold easel.” It went on for a couple years. When I began to work again, I decided that I would never allow my easel or drawing table to be empty. Since then I’ve had no problem lasting more than a couple days. There is always some work beckoning, and I cannot seem to let it be for very long. Even when I feel least motivated, I will suddenly see something that needs doing. The method has worked well. It also has helped with the “lost cause” attitude I seem to develop during the earlier stages of a work. It’s sitting there staring at me, and even if I don’t come up with a winning idea, I’ll at least add a few marks. Then– and I realize this is a cycle that continues — I get a second wind and bring the picture back around. So, my recommendation is to keep something unfinished and in process on your easel, and look at it now and again. Chances are you won’t be able to let it be.

From: Marti Meyer — Aug 02, 2013

A little over a year ago my oldest son received a double lung transplant. I moved to Seattle with them and cared for their two year old. I did not hold a brush in my hands for seven months (I did do a really good sketch in the AIRLIFE plane). My son is now doing well and I am again painting. God is good!

From: Geraldene Ford — Aug 02, 2013

My need/wish to cripple myself after a successful show and then a change of hemisphere resulted in my going in to depression for 4 years. I distracted myself from my real work of life by telling myself I was not yet settled/resettled in Australia. I finally squeezed out and restored my zest.

From: Pam Wong — Aug 02, 2013

Getting you wheels to the ground? 1.Need for order..clean the house, open the mail, pay the bills, do the banking, laundry maybe? Maybe not. Do the books, call the kids, feed the dog. Check my cell..answer emails, complain to a friend. 2. Go to the studio..vacuum the summer bugs off the carpet, dust the desk, walk around the room, empty frames, old paintings, lots of how to books, thousands of cards, mental inventory. 3. 3 Days at the cottage, no company, pack it all up, call my best friend. I’m coming! Leave the dog, hubby, the books, bills, banking. 4. Drive across Ontario..its August. The fields are ripe and lain with wheat, canola, hay. The skies are huge, different at every turn. The air is fresh. Tree shapes stand out against it all. Take it all in. 5. Park, enter cottage, look out at the lake, take a deep breath and sigh. My space, my place, my moment. 3 days..spread out the table cloths, paints, prep canvas. Listen to the breeze, the birds, even the chippy we need to feed. 6. 3 days..wheels are on the ground .. .ahhhhh!

From: Jan M’Ghee — Aug 02, 2013

Hope I’m not too late, I got distracted.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Aug 02, 2013

It’s so much fun to read responses with distractions! Thanks for turning something as grim as cold easel into comedy, laughing helps with everything. Women complaining of house chores are a norm. I decided to finish every of such sentences with “but I will paint now instead”. For example “I really need to get that laundry done…but I will paint now instead”. Or “There is some very strange smell coming from the kitchen…but I will paint now instead”. Moles in the back yard are having a blast!

From: Marianna Vanderklift — Aug 02, 2013

Instead of starting my new series, I went to Hollyhock to learn the Ukelele. Now I have to play it. I tell myself that art and music are closely related!

From: Ruth Fletcher — Aug 03, 2013

My current most consuming distraction is Pinterest — pinning other artists’ work on all my well-organized boards: Figurative, Landscape, Still Life, Animal Art…….. Roswell, GA

From: Bob Appleman — Aug 03, 2013

I spend an inordinate amount of time on my genealogy on when I could be painting.

From: Ed W. Greenspan — Aug 03, 2013

I am so behind in my reading that I didn’t get to your site til now.

From: Deb Harclerode — Aug 03, 2013

When I explain/complain to a friend that I have not painted in quite a while, I have been telling telling them that I am already a master at procrastination and am now working on my Ph.D. in procrastination. I finally decided to do a very small simple painting just for fun and experimentation…something I would not ordinarily do. This seemed to get me back on track.

From: John Berry — Aug 05, 2013
From: Joyce Hoge — Aug 09, 2013

I love to paint and I love to read books of all kinds. This includes cookbooks. And I love to cook! One of my ongoing distractions is writing out appealing recipes before the books are due for return. I absolutely will NOT pay a library fine. Therefore I am under the gun to make good use of the time I have with the books. My paints? They are always here- no deadlines to meet, no due dates. It’s up to me when I sit down to paint and draw. If only I didn’t love to cook and eat so much, I might be painting more.

From: Laura Reed — Aug 20, 2013

I am obsessed with playing “Words With Friends” (none of whom I know) on my iPad. I don’t really care if I win or lose, and I wish I felt the same way about my painting.

From: Sandra Larimore — Aug 22, 2013

Will my next painting measure up to the last one that received grand-champion at my local fair, then went on the the state fair, and won a blue? I painted it last summer in 2012. Haven’t painted since then. I design and make jewelry, cut my own cabachons, and am a violinist in a symphony, and a fiddle player! I don’t have time for all three, so, I don’t do any of them until I absolutely must. I did win 3rd in our state fiddle contest, and only practiced the day before. Maybe I would have won 1st, had I practiced and learned something new; I must re-string a necklace for a customer. I paint outside, and pretty soon winter will be here. Much of my painting is mixed mediums including spray paint, which won’t work in cold weather. Has another year passed me buy? If I hurry up, I can finish that Mahjong game I started last night on the computer, and I might find the time to read Robert’s last two “Clickbacks”. Oh dear, it’s time to start dinner, and the dogs still have not been fed or walked!

From: Michelle — Aug 22, 2013

I just completed a ptg that was due yesterday (Wed). All last week, when i had time to work on it, i did anything else, mostly turned on computer, checked email, looked at youtubes (all interesting things, but not doing the painting) I had to go to my full time job over the weekend and even called out one day at the beginning of this week to finally make myself paint. FINALLY, after getting 4 hrs sleep both Sat night and Monday night, and 2 hrs on Tues night, (because I stayed up almost all night painting) I finished, enough to submit the painting Wed a.m. I don’t know why I have to wait until the last minute: fear? laziness? obviously procrastination. But as a bonus, I became really loose (the direction i would like to go) those last hours of Tues p.m/Wed a.m; however, i would like to be able to paint all the time (days off) and not need a gun to my head or fire lit under me or a deadline! Help!!

    Featured Workshop: Barry Coombs 080213_robert-genn Barry Coombs workshops Held in Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.     woa

Evening Surf

oil painting by Don Demers, Eliot, Maine, USA

  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 June Pryor of New Canaan, CT, USA, who wrote, “I call it ‘Fear of Flying’ or ‘Failing’! LOL It happens to us all. Fight it — if your will is strong, your courage will return.” And also Roxanne Clingman of Milwaukie, OR, USA, who wrote, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks is an insightful look at the whys of self-sabotage to keep us operating at a level of competency when we could soar in our zone of genius. He also provides some effective remedies.” And also John C. Barsness of Bozeman, MT, USA, who wrote, “As one of my painting mentors once said, ‘The most difficult brush stroke in a painting is the first one; break the white expanse, preferably not in the center, and just get on with it!’ ” And also Laurel McBrine of Toronto, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s little book, How to Avoid Making Art, which exposes many of the self-defeating behaviours we sometimes engage in.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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