A fireball artist

Dear Artist, Cory Trepanier of Caledon, Ontario, Canada is an example of an artist who goes it alone. Cory has achieved remarkable success and popularity without benefit of dealers or galleries. He’s what we like to call a rugged individualist. Like most self-made folks, he has some ideas on how to make it. In his own words, here are a few:

Cory Trepanier

1) Create quality art. It all begins with creating meaningful, passionate and high quality work! If it’s not meaningful to you, how can you expect it to be meaningful to anyone else? 2) Get inspired. Hunger for excellence. Continuously seek inspiration to make your work better. 3) Have a website. A personal website is vital, but it needs to change and evolve. You can learn to build one yourself or use one of the many templates widely available. 4) Use social media. A Facebook page (business, not personal), Twitter, Google Plus, etc., are great ways to grow and connect with your audience and clients. And they’re free. 5) Develop a mailing list–anyone who comes through your studio or meets you at art shows or anywhere. It’s the power of permission-based marketing. Email your latest work to the list, every month. 6) Find a business mentor. Connect with others who are successful in other lines of business. Bounce ideas off them, pick their brains. Maybe they can re-write a proposal for you. 7) Spend at least 20-30% of your time marketing. You have to pay for this either way. Either you pay a gallery to do this for you (taking an average of 50% commission), or you put your time and effort into it. Unless people see the great art you’re making, they’ll never buy it. 8) Tell a story. Tell about your processes; how you get ideas and develop your paintings. Most people view the artistic process as something of a mystery. Leverage that, and engage your prospective clients with good stories. For many, buying art is their escape from the real world. Make it entertaining and enjoyable. From these points you can tell that Cory is a fireball. I enjoyed Cory’s full-length movie adventure, “Into the Arctic II.” It’s breathtaking. Best regards, Robert PS: “Rather than listening to music while you paint, listen to the sort of wisdom that can help grow your career.” (Cory Trepanier) Esoterica: In these days of in-your-face media, product placement, and the ubiquitous infomercial, self-promotion may be the new normal. The full-length movies that Cory makes of himself give credit to Tilley Endurables, Bell Canoes, Daler-Rowney, Fredrix canvas, Eureka Tents, as well as several northern airlines, the Sony video cameras that catch the drama, and a dozen other sponsors. But the advertised product you’re most likely to notice is Cory himself, the star of what anyone can see is an exemplary life with some fine art to show for it.   Cory Trepanier

Cory Trepanier


“Out To Pasture”
oil painting
7.5 x 12 inches


“Twin Peaks”
oil painting
12 x 16 inches


oil painting
24 x 40 inches


oil painting
12 x 18 inches


“Superior Morning”
oil painting
24 x 40 inches

          Telling the story by Dan Mosheim, Dorset, VT, USA  

“Folding room screen”
wood sculpture furniture
by Dan Mosheim

Cory certainly seems like an interesting guy. I would say his piece of advice #8, should be closer to the top of the list, like maybe 2.5 (after quality art and get inspired). I often feel with the furniture we make that the story that goes with the object is almost as important as the object itself. In our own home, we only have one painting that is by an artist we don’t know personally. All of our art is personal, and stories to go with them.         There are 2 comments for Telling the story by Dan Mosheim
From: Marinus Verhagen, Dongen, the Netherlands — Apr 16, 2013

In my opinion a piece of art like anything must speak by itself. If you need a story to appreciate the art, you will end up buying the emperor’s new clothes.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 16, 2013

I absolutely agree that every piece of art must speak by itself without any story at all.

Unfortunately- some (idiot) (moron) (fool) (a**hole) will still- at some moment in time- ask you what the story is- and if you’re incapable of telling your story or the art’s story- you won’t be any better off than the person asking. We artists both have stories and have to be able to tell them effectively- when that is what’s needed. It’s called education. And if we artists think the whole world had an art history education and that every single person on the planet comprehends what we are doing and why- is- well- ignorant- at best.

  My Inspirations by Corrine Bongiovanni, Windham, ME, USA  

“Nova Scotia Sunset”
acrylic painting
by Corrine Bongiovanni

Seeing artists like Cory Trepanier always motivates me to do more plein air work. But in response to what spurs on my creativity? In all honesty, it’s two things. Traveling around with my camera and feeling primed to capture only small references for a potential painting. By focusing on small imagery, I’m forced to automatically break down larger scenes into sections that are interesting for shape and color and which otherwise, may have gone unnoticed. The second thing that inspires me is this website, Painter’s Keys. It has everything for new thinking and seeing. Robert, I’m glad you’re continuing to offer the breadth and depth you’ve generated. There is 1 comment for My Inspirations by Corrine Bongiovanni
From: Joanna — Apr 16, 2013

Wow Corrine. I love the painting. Its an explosion colour and movement. A great Inspiration. thanks.

  Awestruck by Cory’s bravura by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA  

“Late Day on the Intracoastal Waterway”
oil painting
by Brenda Behr

If I could spell my own applause for Cory Trepanier, it would be a thunderous WOW! Thank you so much for sharing with us Cory’s incredible commitment to capturing in paint our wondrous world. I am awestruck by his bravura. When I went to his Facebook page, my awe was overcome by tears by all the other artists who reacted to Cory’s commitment much as I reacted. You are so right — we do belong to a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood of like souls. Thank you a million times for sharing with us artists who wow and inspire us to seek the next level.   Sticking to the process of art by Terri Brewer-Parmentier   If that’s what Cory wants to do, if it works for him and he enjoys it, good for him. I want nothing less than working website and social media and peddling pictures. I guess it’s one of those “different strokes” issues. I have a “day job” which I enjoy, then I spend every extra moment painting. Sometimes people sell my stuff. When I can afford to let go of my day job and paint full time, I will. In fact, if not another painting sells, and I have to rent storage space, I will. I love the process, then I let go of the result. Some people view this as a cop out, but it works for me.   The wrong vision by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA  

“Red Triangle”
original painting
by Peter Brown

Artists and painters should never live in the here and now. Vita brevis, ars longa. Life is short, art is long. You toss out words. Words like: “quality,” “inspired,” “mailing list,” and “social media.” I would like to say, “Screw all of that.” An artist’s job is to reveal the world unseen. The world that cannot be captured by a camera. I hate to see talented painters who only deal with their vision of the real world.     There are 5 comments for The wrong vision by Peter Brown
From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Apr 16, 2013

“I hate to see talented painters who only deal with their vision of the real world.”

Am I being obtuse? How can they deal with anyone’s but their own?
From: Charlotte Schuld — Apr 16, 2013

Ouch, Peter. Aren’t all forms of vision what it’s all about in art?

From: tatjana — Apr 16, 2013

I wonder if you meant to say “vision” as in what they see with their eyes, as opposed to a more insightful internal “vision”. I like your painting.

From: Liz Reday — Apr 18, 2013

I admire your refreshing honesty. I too reacted strangely to the commodification of the ambitious business artist, listening to great philosophers on headphones while creating quality work, updating their Facebook page and finding successful moguls to be mentored by. Being an artist for me is more like plugging into the great unconscious and letting go all thoughts of financial renumeration.

From: Anonymous — Apr 19, 2013

It is difficult in 8 points to get an understanding of the passions of another artist, and their vision. My ultimate reason for embracing the business side of art is ARTISTIC FREEDOM. To paint that which inspires me most, and that which moves me to the core.

  Listening to the right stuff by Mike Porter, Beaverton, OR, USA  

Richard Bach, author
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”

Cory Trepanier’s quote at the end of your letter doesn’t make an impact with me… what is he talking about? Podcasts on philosophy? I listen to classical music when I paint to enable my creativity and set the mood for creating something beautiful. “There is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” (Richard Bach)     There are 2 comments for Listening to the right stuff by Mike Porter
From: Susan Holland — Apr 15, 2013

Mike, I’m with you on the listening material. I like my word oriented brain to be quiet , my logic to take a back seat, and let the music part take over. I hear strokes as music, even when the music is not playing!! It may be that Cory has to keep his logic side more alert, painting as he does in places where survival is an issue. :)

From: Cory Trepanier — Apr 19, 2013

  Sentimental crap by Anonymous art dealer  

“Bambi’s First Year”
by Thomas Kinkade

Your letter and illustrations confirm my lifetime of experience in the art field. Artists who spend a high percentage of their time actively engaged in marketing, promotion, dealing with clients and making over-the-top infomercials (think Thomas Kinkade) tend to produce overworked sentimental crap. Cory Trepanier’s trailer to his movie is ludicrous. The production values actually make you laugh. The better painters are discovered by both alert galleries and sophisticated collectors. They do not have to be flagrantly advertised, however cleverly, and are diminished when they are. As a serious art dealer and owner of two galleries, I do not represent this sort of self-promoter. When overbearing commercial instincts pop in through an artist’s door, integrity goes out the window.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for A fireball artist

From: Kay Christopher — Apr 11, 2013
From: A. Trussell — Apr 12, 2013

Thank you for your sincere desire to help other artists. I really appreciate all you do.

From: Richard Robinson — Apr 12, 2013

Go Cory go! Nice one Bob, you couldn’t have promoted a nicer guy in a better way.

I’m at the plein air convention in Monterey right now, having a ball with our tribe – you both should be here!
From: Marti O’Brien — Apr 12, 2013

I totally enjoyed Cory’s advice and will take it to heart, as there are some things he says which I had not thought of…

Now…it’s confession time:—I find that when I have a tad of Fireball…(cinnamon whiskey) when I paint it makes my brain even more befuddled than it already is and I paint like a fiend. Smiles to you.
From: Mark C. — Apr 12, 2013

Good for Cory, he obviously enjoys the exposure and resulting benefits. I enjoy a simple life with less focus on adventures and more focus on creation. I outsource interface with the world to others – works for me. Good to know that there are all kinds of successful artists out there.

From: Jackie Knott — Apr 13, 2013

All good, but be respectful of others privacy and time. We all understand the value of networking but be a gentleman and gentlewoman, especially in dumping emails on your contacts.

There are people a whole lot busier than I am who have no patience with constant interaction. I just sent out over two hundred emails this week, but I had something worthwhile to announce, plus it had been six months to a year since most of them had heard from me … they paid attention. I don’t want to be intruded upon either. I would rather check out someone else’s blog or website on my own schedule, not theirs. I receive several emails a week and most I glance at and delete. This forum is a must-do exception and the quality of the input is priceless. My point is there is a balance and comfort level in how connected we personally want to be.
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 13, 2013

I’m open on First Friday and have been since I moved into my current studio/livingspace almost 6 years ago. I’m near Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe (Drive) and so felt I could play the game. At first I sent out an email every month- and the singular thing that did was burn out all my friends. Too much and too often is just that.

From: Walter Kunzler — Apr 13, 2013
From: Jack Pinsonneault — Apr 13, 2013

Yes, painters need to celebrate the adventure and excitement of taming the forces of nature and exploring our great planet for the singular goal of inspiration. These days there is too much emphasis on ordinary bravado, pugilative sports and the conquering of mountains for their own sake.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 13, 2013
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 13, 2013

One more thing… these days my primary source of inspiration is the work itself. While working on whatever I’m working on at the moment, the reality of being immersed in working spawns another idea, and then another and another, and I couldn’t keep up even if I tried. No helicopter ride necessary.

From: Jeremy — Apr 15, 2013

I am like Bruce, I live for my art and need time to create. But I understand that there are celebrities in every profession who do well with travels, videos, sponsors and such. That lifestyle pays very well, but swallows most of the time that people like me crave to spend in the creative process. Cory’s amazing travels are very interesting to watch. His paintings are nice but wouldn’t capture my attention as long as his movie, so kudos to him for recognizing his strengths and using them so well. Regarding the frequent mailouts, my suggestion is to be very clever with the mailing list so that you can focus on potential clients, not spam the whole world. There is a school of thought that everyone is a potential client – which is a ridiculous, lazy and offensive way of advertising . I receive numerous emails from many artists that I barely know. I keep adding them to my “block sender” list – it’s simpler than trying to figure how to “unsubscribe”. The result is that I will never receive any emails from them ever again. I am happy that my friends are doing well and I like to know when they are having shows, but frequent “marketing language” announcements stop making sense after certain point. Neat client list and responsible communication reflect good business practice.

From: Pierre Larocque — Apr 15, 2013

It all starts with Cory’s Number One–Create Quality Art. All the smart PR in the world will not generate worthwhile collectors for lousy art unless you happen to be in an area where people have little discrimination and are easily taken in by artificial buzz.

From: Adam James — Apr 15, 2013

Quality art handled by legitimate galleries sells itself.

From: F. H. Hansen — Apr 15, 2013
From: Lena Leszczynski — Apr 15, 2013

Several of my students, after participating very successfully in an open studio tour, were asked to make giclees of their sold work, due to demand. How would one price the giclee in relation to the original? I heard “twice the cost of the giclee” but that didn’t feel right. Ideas?

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Apr 15, 2013

I just love the artwork of those 7 and 8 year olds! Don’t you think the ones you posted are remarkably cohesive as a group? I would frame the whole set and hang them together where they would bring a smile to my face on a daily basis!

From: Bonnie Anderson — Apr 15, 2013

Wow! They have a good teacher.

From: Lisa Garness Mallory — Apr 15, 2013

I appreciate every letter you write. I’m a full time, always open to new and different ways to think about art concepts, marketing, etc. Thanks!

From: Margaret Kevorkian — Apr 15, 2013

I agree with Laurel! Thise paintings are delightful and would be great framed together as a group. Something joyous to look at. And, truly, what a good teacher.

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Apr 16, 2013

Watching that introductory video made me think once again of the person who is never mentioned in commentaries in documentary films, yet who is far braver and stronger and is taking more risks than the star of the film: the cameraman! Those sophisticated cameras are heavy and cumbersome, and the poor guy is not only walking and climbing everywhere the star is, many times he’s gone further and higher.

So let’s hear it for the dogsbody who actually makes the film, and creates stunning works of moving art in the process. My idea of amazing wilderness that far outstrips Africa in its animals and scenery is northern Canada – it’s on my bucket list. ;-)
From: Karen R. Phinney — Apr 16, 2013

I just have to say, I love the kids work of Ms. Vlasic’s group! It is fresh and exciting, spontaneous….all the things I want to be! Very inspiring, and I get that about the age difference in reaction, from elementary to high school. I remember feeling that I could do anything when I was in grade 5 and got positive feedback from teachers on my artwork (we had art back then, in school!). Then in high school, I got all tight worrying about whether I was as good as so and so, the teacher’s fave. It crushed my nascent talent and I shut down for a number of years…I think back on the time when I was free and spontaneous and didn’t care what anyone thought, I was having fun! We need to encourage that in young people….it is a great release for anyone, but especially for teenagers who may be searching for some way to self express!

From: Rick Rotante — Apr 16, 2013

I have to add my praise for the work at the top of this clickback. These kids show a remarkable quality of finish and unity in their work. Seeing these ignites again by belief that art is not being taken seriously in our schools. When will the powers that be see and understand that Art is as important as science and mathematics and encourages free thinking and creativity that allows our minds to open up in all fields of endeavor.

From: Frieda Gallegos — Apr 16, 2013

I don’t think we need more art in schools. I think we need more art in homes.

From: Ruth Ann Mitchell — Apr 16, 2013

Wow! Amazing, imaginative and fun. Getting into the flow is so much fun.

From: sally jackson — Apr 16, 2013

These are wonderful–I laughed and wanted to weep for what most of us adults have lost.

From: tom hoffmann — Apr 17, 2013

Since half of my comment got deleted, I’d like to add here that “the emperor has no clothes!” Those paintings made by the 7-8 year olds are perfect examples of how adults put limits on the “flow” of kids. Take another look at the paintings. Is it really likely that each kid spontaneously colored inside the lines, with perfectly flat color, and that they all brought their lines to the edge of the paper, and left no white paper? Look at how several of the pages are divided into equal-sized shapes. This is the influence of the teacher, who was intent on ending up with a collection of handsome products. If you really care about how kids get shuffled into sameness, save your praise for someone who really respects what kids do. I hope you’ll print this, Robert, so we can have a more spirited discussion. If you feel you must censor my comment, please just cut the whole thing.

From: Carol Hetherington — Apr 17, 2013
From: Rick Rotante — Apr 18, 2013

There is an aspect here that I am getting from some of the negative comment regarding the work above. The work of these kids, while exceptional to say the least, should be taken in context of art by children. If these were produced by an adult with years of experience, I don’t think many of us would praise them as works of art worthy of much attention. They are childlike expressly because they were produced by children. These works is just a beginning. This is the stage where creativity is allowed to run free with no thought of methods or techniques. What I hope with these kids and all kids for that matter is that they aspire to greater ideals of art and will use this early experience as a catalyst for interest in further study.

As wonderful as these works are, we must remember they were produced from a child’s point of view and the content reflects the minds of seven and eight year olds. For those who continue into a future in art, I would hope the work would mature and that they contain universal and social interest interests. I expect their work to express to us aspects of the world they will come to live in.
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Endangered Species

acrylic painting by Jaxine Cummins, AZ, 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 Cory Trepanier of Caledon, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I would have emailed sooner but we’re having an ice storm over here and it knocked out my satellite internet connection. Thank you for the most wonderful plug today! You are a master with words. I’ve received some very nice comments, and I hope the info helps other artists out there.” And also Anonymous who wrote, “I recommend this book for introverts: Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack. We don’t want become endangered species.” And also Joel Hernandez of Taxco, Mexico, who wrote, “Mr. Genn, you kindly illustrate so much of the work of others. Is there a possibility you might show some of your work?

“Islet in Klewnuggit Marine Park, Grenville Channel, B.C.”
acrylic painting, 16 x 20 inches
by Robert Genn

(RG note) Thanks, Joel and others who have asked this question. For a good idea of recent work you might take a look at the Genn page of one of my dealers.