Marvelous confabulation


Dear Artist,

Just as the Santa business is a marvelous confabulation, so too is art. Perhaps it’s only with the addition of confabulation that art delivers its wizardry and magic. Scientifically defined, confabulation is the confusion of imagination with memory, and/or the confusion of true memories with false memories. In both the art of art and the art of Santa, falsehood gets to a deeper truth.


“A Young Lady’s Adventure”
watercolour painting
by Paul Klee, 1922

Early researchers, such as psychologist Daniel Berlyne (1972), linked confabulation with amnesia and abnormal brain chemistry. Nowadays, it’s more pleasantly harnessed to the marvelous potential of the human imagination. Fantastic and spontaneous outpourings of irrelevant associations and bizarre ideas come quite naturally to ordinary creative folks.

There’s a sack full of it in the world of art. One need only look at pictures. Take Paul Klee’s “A Young Lady’s Adventure” (1922), where convoluted lines, intertwining design and off-beat symbolism weave a sensual spell. Or Gustav Klimt’s “Mme Fritsa Riedler” (1906), where decorative elegance and over-the-top opulence, combined with a stunningly realistic face, spin the mind to suspend belief in the normal. Just look at the cascading negative-positive dress line that diagonals the painting. Is this not magic?


“Mme Fritsa Riedler”
oil painting
by Gustav Klimt, 1906

Art without confabulation is the plain goods. Confabulatory enhancement can come from an idiosyncratic style or stroke, or from some happenstance slice from an individualist’s hand. It can also come from the brain. Ancillary ideas, metaphors and the embellishments of truth add interest and depth to otherwise standard work. Consciously or unconsciously, we ask the viewer to avoid saying, “So what.” In a world where it’s easy to be complacent or uncaring, confabulation raises curiosity and is a key to a broader, more enriched view. It’s what we do with what we have that makes art. Confabulation adds energy, joy, fantasy and mystique to the human experience. Always, always, the hooves are prancing on the roofs of our minds. We need to listen. We are all delivered with a gift of canvas that we may fill any way we wish. “The world,” said Henry David Thoreau, “is but a canvas to the imagination.”

Best regards,


PS: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” (Albert Einstein)

Esoterica: It’s not confabulation that I’ve been signing and dedicating copies of “Love Letters to Art” all last week. Thank you so much for your encouragement in this venture. Extra elves were brought in to help with the wrapping, shipping and the filling out of customs forms. Every few hours a special sled went up to our local post office. Sometimes we were confused and in a dither. While we feel we have most of the books out for Christmas delivery, there will be some that will come down chimneys after the New Year. To those few who will be late in receiving, I apologize. Mrs. Claus and I sincerely hope that our personal shortcomings will not interfere with your belief.



(RG note) More than two thousand artists left their New Year’s resolutions in our safekeeping for the year 2007. The majority wrote one- and two-line zingers. A few resolutions were amazingly lengthy and loaded with specific personal details including the interaction of others. The writers also ranged from the dreamily spiritual to the fiercely practical. Some were vaguely optimistic and others were boldly monetary. Many artists mentioned health and, particularly, weight concerns. Others mentioned specific numbers of creative acts they were intending to perform. The highest was “500 paintings in 356 days.” The lowest was “I resolve to paint one good painting in 2007.” These included here are all anonymous, but the resolutions are real and will be returned to their rightful owners about midnight on the last day of the year. If you wish to leave resolutions for 2008 to our safekeeping, please send it to All the best in 2008! It’s going to be a great year.



Persistence and determination in daily work is paying off. Still, as I said last year, some of the most important still eludes me.
Health and wealth — I have to get to at least 140 lbs to have the necessary energy to do all of this. This means
1) Daily exercise and a PLAN for exercise every week.
2) Control of binge eating and excessive drinking. Starting Jan 7 promise to self 145 by May 1.
3) Control spending… buy no new clothes until May 1. EVERY DAY try to wear something unusual from what I have. Watch ‘little stuff’… pack a lunch always. Make sure to have $5000 to go to Italy!



1. Smile more. Eat less.
2. Sell more.
3. Paint better. Look more.
4. Network more.
5. Draw more. Criticize less.
6. Stay outside more.
7. Enjoy and share the rewards I have earned and deserve.
8. Drink no soda, almost no ice cream and less wine and chocolate, but not so little I can’t do #7.



With only two more galleries in less depressed cities added to the five I have now, and with the current desire and need to paint larger paintings and work on more ambitious projects in 2007, I will be able to bring production up to 70 majors and with the 10% price increase my income will be over $200,000 for the first time. This plan is doable. I have the ideas, the work habits, a supportive family, wonderful husband and the ability to make it happen.



in 2007, I resolve:
to create $3000 of painting inventory each week.
to submit my work to new galleries every quarter.
to enter one national show per season.
to continue to push my comfort zone — to be “uncomfortable.”
to continue my journey toward physical health — eating right and exercise.
to paint and sell more large paintings.
to continue my dedication to higher standards in my own painting.
to read my mission and plan once a week.



My resolution will be to record the time spent dedicated to art and see how close I come to 1/3 of the 8760 hours you state are available during this year. I will include in this the hours creating, planning, studying, teaching, and contemplating. This is a double challenge because when I begin a commission I always plan to record every moment spent and seldom get beyond the second session… so we’ll see.



This coming year may turn out to have some major changes, depending on what happens in the next month or two. In any case, I plan to make some changes in how I spend my time.
1. I resolve to spend at least two days a week painting.
2. I resolve to exercise daily, and work out with weights every other day.
3. I resolve to change the emphasis of my business to more engineering geology.
4. I resolve to clean out the cluttered files and boxes of stuff that I no longer use.



Strive for greater self-love and providing greater self-care. Continue healthy eating and exercise. Ask the Unseen Spirit’s guidance for help with prayer and then pray more. Support friends as much as possible, especially Anne. Take only the best care of Theo and Acadia. Draw and paint. I have saved the most difficult for last. Seek self-acceptance of all our work. Do the work as much as possible. Seek to resolve the creative block that has been harming us since July, if not before then. Take more photos. Look at more art. Make all we do with art a core activity of daily living. Be thankful. Love those we love and those we don’t. Forgive. Seek peace. Do what makes us feel life is with us and for us. Stay quietly aware and enjoy the senses. This really is a lot you know.



I just did 130,457 words in 36 days. Not very good words, but words. So, girl, keep it up. And:
– Make room every day for writing, even if just a little time.
– Make sure that you also make room for research.
– Remember that what gets the job done is doing the job, putting one foot in front of the other.
– Also remember that perfection is not the goal; completion is the goal.
– Finally, remember that you do know what you’re doing now — don’t let yourself second-guess yourself out of action.



1. To sell 12 paintings.
2. To keep my weight at 144 lbs.
3. To get more exercise.
4. To work on getting the condo organized.
5. To be able to entertain more.
6. Plan some interesting travels.
7. To really live in the moment.
8. To meditate daily.
9. Plan more interesting things daily.
10. To be in gratitude & grace.
11. To identify when it doesn’t feel right and stop.
12. To be kinder to myself and others.



“What is this painting about? What are you trying to accomplish or say?” I vow to keep these questions in mind every time I paint. So far I have been consumed by “How can I paint this? What colors match the reality I see? How good is my drawing?” etc. And while I still have a lot to learn of basics, it is time to move beyond so that, if by chance the technical parts are OK, there is something to say in the final product. Not necessarily a full statement, but at least a glimpse of a goal. “Here I’m trying to work with colors for beauty or to add impact or emotional content or reality or to play with complementaries or chiaroscuro.” “Here I am exploring ways to put on paint – more and more impasto and absolutely no scumbling.” This last year I have worked on, and achieved, a somewhat better sense of composition – how to put together a still life with visual interest. I continue to work on drawing but must learn to paint my object, not draw them. Away with line in paint! Maybe this will improve since I also want to return to the line work I love by going back to pen and ink. Work on line there, not in paintings. Finally, where is the “me” in my work? What do I want to say? And only then, “Have I even begun to achieve it?”



About 4 months ago, shortly after my 30th birthday, after some 14 years of shutting the door on drawing, painting, and all those things fun, I’ve opened the door again to the treasure trove of charcoal and colors. I picked up the pencil with a child’s curiosity (and tried) to draw a figure. First they were “action lines,” then rough geometric shapes. Then the sharp edges became rounder. With swift movements, I let go of rationality and what looked “right.” What turned out were figures that looked more and more semi-human. Then I turned to charcoal pencil. With that, I had to be bold. The outcome was marvelous. After many years of self-incubation, the gift was still there.

In 2007, I aim to:
1) Paint, paint, paint!! With acrylic, as well as oil, pastel and water colors.
2) Draw the human body in all its intricacies.
3) Complete 2 works twice a week.
4) Give away my works to friends as presents and token of friendship and good will.
5) Draw an hour each day.



Increase kindness to myself and others, maintaining a close bond with all of those I care for and gaining the acquaintance of others that happen along my way. To better focus and follow through on all endeavors – especially with my progress and production of art and my living environment. To improve my listening and learning techniques and to travel steadfastly along my journey through artland.




I will be doing pretty much the same as I did this year, producing 100 works of art, doing at least 20 local shows, and entering into some National competitions. I will also be doing a solo show or two this year. I may also try to enter into the arts festival scene on a more regular basis. Or gallery representation may be a better direction. I’ll be looking into taking my career to the next level. My main goal is to get a more focused direction to take. Galleries vs. festivals?, publishers vs. self-publishing?, seek consultation? are questions I will be trying to answer this year. One thing is for certain, I will enjoy the journey on whatever path it takes me.



To be thankful every day
To paint a minimum of 5 days/week
To make field work a priority
To complete 12 major pieces, plus several small pieces
To be accepted into at least one of the U.S. wildlife art galleries on my list
To be accepted into Leigh Yawkey Woodson “Birds in Art” 2007
To do my pages and take my artist’s dates



I hereby resolve to paint 104 paintings by 2008 and view a minimum of 1000 paintings per week. It really is not difficult to do so (It takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours total). I have been painting now for less than 1 year. I still have not found myself as far as style or subject is concerned but by viewing well over 1000 paintings per week on the Internet from galleries all over the world. I have grown quickly in many aspects. One aspect is a greater respect and appreciation of the many artists, their styles, their subjects and their willingness to keep the information highway freely open to rank beginners such as myself. Scanning this many paintings is so easy and only takes a fraction of a second to do so as you will get 12 to 16 views on a page. The paintings that grab me get downloaded quickly into a special folder which I can open at my convenience for closer scrutiny. It is only a few of the many downloaded that get real attention. Just by increasing the size of the painting, I am able to study the brush strokes and style of most artists. It’s a great learning experience! The overall result is my dabbling in styles I never would have entered.



don’t talk about it do it
follow the threads as they appear
health first
that means total health body mind soul
cut back on the phone time
don’t let others prey on my better nature
write again
read again
quiet time
in nature
just keep my feet on the path.
TRY to go and take the plunge regularly!


I aim to make my work more interesting and personal by using more bold color and changing a scene whenever needed for improved design. I’ve been stuck for a long time trying to make my work look as realistic as possible, and sometimes it just looks dull. Now that I have proven to myself that I can draw and paint, I want to have fun with my art, be audacious and not care about pleasing anyone but me.



I’m resolving to have my first show, either with another artist or solo. I’m looking toward one of the galleries in Sacramento that have started to draw large crowds on Saturday openings. I’m open to other galleries that are respected and frequented by art collectors. I’m resolving to allow for, invite and, if the situation is right, become involved in an intimate, loving relationship with someone who can give and take and with whom I can establish ease and healthy communication. I resolve to maintain good physical health by eating right, exercising and taking care of my body. That includes being increasingly aware of and able to speak in the language of feelings. I also resolve to further develop my art through printmaking — monotypes, but perhaps other methods as I find different ways to capture particular subjects. I shall begin marketing and seeking illustration projects and find ways to use various mediums to create illustrations for clients. I resolve to allow the whimsical way of my art to shine through in much of my work, and to welcome the more serious moods and images. Most importantly, I resolve to take the spiritual connection, physical well-being and loving compassion that I’m currently developing through body work and relate with others through those newly-developed senses and awareness. I resolve to carry my power openly, no longer be afraid to do so because I’m always and continually immersed in the river of compassion.



All I have to do for 2008 is to get through to my BFA. When I get that thing in my hand everything will be okay. There have been so many high and low points along the way, and I know my knowledge and appreciation has increased and will increase further. What I can’t figure out is why when freedom is so well preached so much limitation is exacted. But I must stay the course as my instructors have been wonderful.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Marvelous confabulation



From: Margaret Ferraro — Dec 28, 2007

At the end of the year, looking back, looking forward, taking accounts, I resolve to celebrate the effort and dedication already given, and the resultant accomplishments. I have achieved, am saying, what I have wanted to say through my art. This has happened through knowing deeply what I wanted, and being motivated through that to discipline. The disciplined life. Despite the non-believers, in spite of the non-believers. There is no other path for born-to-be artists. We are the leaders of the world. Because our purpose in this life comes to us through a deep LOVE. We didn’t decide to be artists because it would provide us with a regular income, or for the respect of our community. We had no choice. Because we love. A life centered on love. I’m not going to state anything I will do differently. I’ll just keep on keeping on. Feeling good, sleeping well, eating healthy, loving others, and loving, and being grateful every day for this beautiful life, and my ability to convey meaning through art, and thereby experience deep, true love.

From: Mel — Dec 28, 2007

Yesterday I drew. It’s been a very long time so it took me days to get enough courage to even begin. I started with a hand-lotion bottle. Dumb choice, but how can you go wrong drawing a hand-lotion bottle? By the end of the day, I’d drawn a small Native American pot in charcoal, and it actually looked alright. Not good, just alright, but after nearly 30 years of these hands only being used as pottery builders or in gesture for my storytelling, it was quite a buzz to know that I could still draw. In the coming year, I hope to be teaching art to elementary students somewhere that can provide my need to retire decently and respect my love of both children and art. Reading all your 2007 resolutions inspires me to predict my own advance in this visual art realm. And so it begins with “yesterday I drew.” Luv and Stories, Mel

From: L. — Dec 28, 2007

Wow, all those great resolutions. It must be inherent in artists to lay alot of pressure on ourselves. To aim high. I could choose almost any of those letters and it would all apply. And then of course, because it is impossible to live up to each one, I feel I have failed and I give up on most of them. Then I start all over again. Great ideals all the same and I wish for everyone that their goals are reached and mine too.

From: ME — Dec 28, 2007

I am so happy to be blessed with eyesight. Like time itself, eyesight is not something one can take for granted. Having challenged sight has encouraged me to persevere. Although my works have been accepted in many national exhibitions, the greatest thrill to me as artist is my self-acceptance. Having said all that, I offer a toast to us all: that we continue our quests endowed with some measure of vision, some measure of time, self-acceptance, recognition of spirituality and, important too, a sense of humor.

From: Susan — Dec 28, 2007

I resolve to place my strokes on the canvas and to leave them alone!!!! Leave well enough alone and don’t nik-pick. Be bold. Make more time to get into the studio and paint, think, dream and study. Overcome procrastination. Just do it and let it all hang out.

From: Ron — Dec 28, 2007

Life, like sweet wine, is savored best a little at a time. I resolve to continue living my life accordingly, God willing.

From: Carol — Dec 28, 2007

I will buy a heater for “the studio”, my closet-sized work and storage space. It is freezing in there. And organize it so I can find things when I need them and put them away afterwards. And keep reading the newsletters.

From: Sherrill — Dec 29, 2007

1. Paint larger paintings, but 2. continue doing the smaller “studies” 3. Start drawing classes and continue paint-ins 4. Participate with and join more art groups 5. Enter shows and competitions 6. Continue learning all I can about art from books, online, classes etc. 7. Work on a business plan, devote time to selling my art and 8. get out of the comfort zone, including painting plein air 9. Draw more (1 hour daily) 10. Place a stroke and leave it alone! Think first.

From: Daphne Hawkes — Dec 30, 2007

My teacher tells me that I have gifts, and encourages me to “kill” all the distractions, and do the work. And he is exactly right…it applies everywhere in my life. When I was younger, I always felt that I was driving with the brake on. My resolution for 2008 is to take the brake off. And live NOW fully.

From: Carola — Dec 31, 2007

To paint and draw more… to be more accepting and less critical of my own work… to get out more and network with other artists… to live life every minute of the day!

From: Bev — Dec 31, 2007

1. Spring clean my small cluttered studio and try out my new paints & brushes to create something magical. 2. Aim to have a larger studio this year. One that can accommodate a large comfy squishy chair or couch to contemplate new works, look at old ones, and those in between that tend to get put aside. 3. Sell a painting or two or five or ten. My storage is filling up with new works since my hiatus from galleries.







Gardening by Moonlight

watercolour painting, 22 x 30 inches
by Jill Brooks, Winnipeg, MN, Canada


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