Studio definitions


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, after some friends had left my studio, I realized that I’d been bumbling around and lacing the atmosphere with some odd words and phrases. While gathering up the empty glasses, I also reminded myself that, as individualists, we all have the right to “name and claim” our own terms. Here, in an attempt at clarity — for you five treasured friends — are some definitions:

“Strip-Mining” Methodical search into personal reference for new material and new directions.

“Glancing” To see enough of another’s work to sufficiently prime the pump — without corrupting principles.

“Early squeeze” The simple act of squeezing out paint as a method of prompting creative action.

“Scumbling” Dragging a brush-load of light (often bright) colour over uninteresting areas.

“Nuancing” Modifying elements from prior works in order to extract further interest.

“Biggerization” Repeating satisfactory smaller works in larger proportions.

“Terminal-Spotism” Final canvassing of a work in order to spot minor opportunities.

“Smoke and mirrors” The full variety of methods used to assess work-in-progress — including the mirror.

“Self-immolation” Brutal, self-actualized, critical evaluation.

“Blind hubris” A pervasive and often chronic, ego-based stubbornness that strikes artists of all ages.

“Co-dependency” Mutual approval and help systems that may or may not enhance mediocrity.

“Personal foolism” Falling into the trap of “good enough is good enough.”

“Strategic recyclism” The act of moving work from place to place (or gallery to gallery) in order to refresh it.

“Banishing” Physical disappearance of inadequate work in order to clear the air for better work to proceed.

“Re-virginization” Shipment of finished work from studio area in order to renew vision.

“Re-humanification” Inviting friends into the studio in a spirit of sharing and reaffirmation of our brotherhood and sisterhood.

Best regards,


PS: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'” (Lewis Carroll) “Words are pegs to hang ideas on.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

Esoterica: We are all islands. While we may reach out to one another, and for a time, connect, we must, in the end, be ourselves. “The simple fact of yourself… there it is… just you… no excitement about it… a very simple fact… the only thing you have… keep it as clear as you can.” (Georgia O’Keeffe)


Gathering choke-cherries in northern Alberta, Canada. The berries taste like bitter, chalky grapes, but they make a fine jelly.


by Rich Hawk, San Diego, CA, USA


painting by Richard Hawk

Your list of studio terminology is helpful — identifying as specific concepts things that before were just amorphous hunches, instincts and notions. The term “glancing” in particular is a gem. We are subject to such a bombardment (in which we sometimes willingly participate) by the work and ideas of other artists, great and small, that it can dilute or derail our own central vision. I think my work has gotten to a point where I now need to insulate and focus — but I still need to peek now and again. This one little term gives permission to do that, and at the same time reinforces the discipline not to feast the soul too much!


“Banishing” valuable
by Jerry Waese


painting by Jerry Waese

The description of residual words hanging in the atmosphere after your conversation is apt. All are valid terms representing real issues for the artist. Personally I fear issues such as “Co-dependency” “Personal foolism” and “Strategic recyclism.” However “Banishing” remains an option for the residue of those foibles.




Is she French?
by Larry Moore, Winter Park, Florida, USA


painting by Larry Moore

A few you may have overlooked:

Schmaltzing: The inclusion of romanticized evening cottage scenes in your paintings.

Gaslighting: The annoying habit of gallery owners who turn the lights up and down on paintings that have been schmaltzed and say “afternoon, evening! afternoon, evening!”

Westernization: The inclusion of cowboys and/or Indians in one’s work when one lives less than an hour from the eastern seaboard.

Cretinizing: Adopting the philosophy, “If you can’t make it good, make it big or make it red.”

Simping: The very pleasurable experience of walking into a gallery that sells a lot of Iris Giclee’s and saying, “Man, I see this Iris Giclee’s work everywhere; she is so prolific… is she French?” and watching their expression.


by Joe Blodgett

Pump-primer: An artist, other than myself, who is able to get my creative juices flowing without interfering with my own individualism and unique vision. Thank you, Robert.

(RG note) Thanks to everyone who wrote and offered their own and others’ definitions. There were several who quoted The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (from our own Resource of Art Quotations)

Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.” And Painting: A system of covering a surface while exposing it to the critics.” And one by an unknown (to us) and unsung wit: “Bore: A person who won’t let me speak.” Here are more, some original, some not:

Street-Angel: An art dealer with above average taste who openly enthuses about my work.

Visa-banger: A quality work of art with built-in, recognizable sales appeal.

Ready-made: Subject material or reference that requires little or no modification.

Alpine meadow: A place or environment where everything is just about perfect.

Concert pitch: Those times when you are totally on top of your craft, functioning confidently with high energy and flawless technique.

No fish day: Those times when nothing seems to work out very well.

Slip-in: Poor work by a good name.

Sleeper: High quality, often inexpensive work by an unknown and as yet unrecognized artist.

King’s new clothes syndrome: Unwarranted and often senseless “artspeak” praising obviously poor quality or borderline art — influenced by promotion, pedagogy or other forms of bamboozlement.

Heartless wonder: A well executed and competent, often tightly realistic work with little or nothing to say.

Neutral subject matter: Material or ideas that produces a bland work of art — the main value of which is that it does not offer much challenge to the (often conservative) viewer.

Conversation piece: An in-your-face subject that arrests and often polarizes viewers, and gives critics and others something to talk about.

Decorator art: Fashionable print or original, generally neutral art that is often seen matching things in furniture stores and is difficult to recycle.

Best before: Art like the above that will be declared gauche by the next generation of interior designers.

Collector art: The work of a followed artist (dead or alive) of generally known consistency, that appears on the secondary market and that often holds or builds in resale value.

Rumpus room: The place where formerly proudly featured art ends up. The type of art that’s bound in that direction.


Art, criticism and fear
by Liz Reday, CA, USA


painting by Liz Reday

If you can’t handle criticism, you’re in the wrong game — forget art, join a support group. And the fear of art, fear of painting, fear of going in the studio? Art is love! Painting is the most joyful, the most absorbing, the most interesting thing I know. I think about art constantly, which is not easy as I have a very active 8 year old son. I never seem to get enough time to paint and I paint at minimum 4 hours a day. It is a positive experience (when I’m not gnashing my teeth in frustration) Making art is something I crave, a need that keeps me up at night and wakes me before dawn.

Art and making art is a passion. Patting yourself on the back because you overcame the fear of failure and picked up a paintbrush sounds bogus. The art world is so big and hard and bumpy that if you are not absolutely compelled to make art you will fall by the wayside at your first critique. This Fear factor sounds like an excuse for mediocrity. What ever happened to backbone? Gotta get back to the studio…


Artists spiritually rich
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia

Some indications of genetic relativity are inside of natural love preferences of man to woman of certain genetic type and vice versa. But possibly, love preferences between artists and artistesses are spiritual, except of only physical love. After all, artists/artistesses in all fields are spiritually rich people.


The cycle
by Hyalie Bryant

I enjoyed your story about the visitor who played the oud. It made me think about all those things in this big world that may seem different at first but when experienced first hand are truly wonderful. Have you ever heard leaves falling softly through the tree branches searching for a place to spend the winter? They will decompose and enter the soil to help feed countless trees, to have their leaves again fall and repeat the cycle. It is a sound that gives meaning to our life and death and our purpose on earth.


Getting past fear
by Susan-Rose Slatkoff, Victoria, BC, Canada


painting by Susan-Rose Slatkoff

Reading Susan Strassberg’s letter in the clickbacks, I can identify, too. I have found several things which work for me to help me get past that frozen place. Maybe they will work for you, too.

First, have a Failure Festival. For each failure that you make, give yourself some reward. Five failures will get you a pedicure, etc. It takes the sting out of so-called “failures.”

Second, reframe what you mean by failure. If today you learned that you can mix a great gray with two colours you haven’t done before, then this is success. I went to a workshop with a very famous painter whose work I admired. We were going to do plein air landscape painting. As a leader he was useless, he never actually did anything except do his own paintings. The weather was ghastly, rainy and cold. I was freezing. I was up to my ankles in very tenacious mud. I could go on, but suffice to say that it was the worst workshop experience I ever had, and my friend said it was the worst she had ever heard. But… I did learn some very important things. First, I learned that I hated painting outdoors, and secondly that I didn’t want to paint landscapes. Very valuable info. Success after all.

Third, be clear with yourself about why you are painting. Are you going to make your living at this? Is it fun to do that? I know that when I went from amateur to professional acting that the fun went out of the process. For me, painting is a way to make a spiritual connection, a way to get into the greater flow of life. No matter what I produce, I get that sense of connection and the whole process is worth it, is in and of itself a success — because I connected.

Fourth, focus on the process not the product.

Fifth, know that a painting you may think is lousy may be somebody’s favourite. I dashed off a painting once, just doing an exercise. Turned out it was my teacher’s favourite, and the favourite of many other people. Personally, I never liked it all that much. But hey, I sold it tonight!

Sixth, follow the advice of another successful artist by the name of Tiko Kerr. “Be Bold. It’s just canvas, just paint. If it doesn’t work for you, paint over it and start again. Don’t be afraid that you are wasting supplies. Every failure teaches something, if only what not to do.”


Workshop disappointment
Stanley J. Shapiro, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

Please don’t despair about beginning artists. This beginning artist who has only been painting for two years wants to assure you that I always try to “see and respect excellence,” and I certainly do “care.” Also, I regularly take workshops and regularly practice. The few times to date that a senior artist critiqued one of my paintings, it has mostly been done kindly and with encouragement. However, I once had the unpleasant experience of a workshop instructor who took me to task for a less than perfect watercolor wash (gulp, I didn’t know this was a heinous crime) and then when I asked him to comment about the rest of my painting he actually said, “Why bother” and walked away. There’s no excuse for rudeness in my books, I learned zip from his critique, and I was also out-of-pocket $60 for his workshop. A critique should be a learning experience for the artist.







Summer Nights 2002

Kenneth Currie, Glasgow, Scotland


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, 2003.

Charles Corbet wrote, “What do you mean by “Re-virginization”? Is that the same as being “just-a-little-bit-pregnant?” (RG note) No, nothing like that. I meant what I meant it to mean — that you could become a virgin again. Nothing to do with pregnancy. Yet. 

Mary Jean Mailloux wrote, “Yesterday I went to my 11 year old daughter’s cross-country run. A hilly terrain over 2 kms. I helped at the finish line. So many of them arrived in tears, this was a real test to their endurance.

Something of what artists must push past, the pressure to quit when the going gets tough.”Mickie Acierno quoted Anais Nin with a welcome addition to our Resource of Art Quotations: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom.”


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