‘A dumb idea’

Dear Artist, I sold my first painting when I was 14 — a watercolour of a hovering Rufous hummingbird and its nest. The painting was exhibited in a craft fair in Victoria, B.C., where I grew up. The buyers, a couple from Portland, Oregon, phoned me at home to thank me. This act of good will blew me away. Not only had they paid $15 for my joy, but they phoned me. I offered to meet them and show them the actual nest, and they accepted. The next day, on my bicycle, I met them in a parking lot in Beacon Hill Park and led them to the nest. Even then, it didn’t feel like I’d done enough for them. I offered to change the painting if they didn’t like it. The lady said, “I’m sure we’ll like it just the way it is, Bobby.” Years later, I was explaining to a fellow artist about my ideas of “value added” and “guaranteed for life.” He told me that sort of thing wrecks the integrity of your original concept. He also pointed out that it was economically unsound — because of the risky nature of our business, artists need to take the money and run and get on with the next sale. “Yours is a dumb idea,” he said. Yesterday, my friend Barbie Newton brought me an acrylic portrait I’d done of her brother Jimmy in 1990. Jimmy, at the time, was learning to fly and dreamed of becoming an F18 pilot in the Canadian Air Force. When Jimmy had visited me in my studio, he was an idealistic 27-year-old with the beginning of a dashing moustache. I included his moustache and ghosted two F18s in the background. Jimmy’s fighter dreams didn’t pan out. He ended up flying a Sea King Helicopter for Canada’s famed 405 Squadron. Barbie asked if I’d change the fighters to a helicopter, and remove his moustache. “Jimmy’s wife, Jennine, never liked him in that moustache,” she said. Barbie left the painting with me. Using ammonia, I carefully tested one corner of the painting to make sure the paint was stable and then I cleaned off the old varnish. Using a thin, opaque tone (titanium white, yellow ochre and ultra blue) I obscured the fighters and popped in a couple of Sea Kings. The moustache came off with more dispatch than the razor of an Air Force barber. Best regards, Robert PS: “When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.” (Margaret Wheatley) Esoterica: I’ve always been aware that this sort of thing might get out of hand. But in all my years of “guaranteeing for life,” it never has. This policy has brought a wealth of friends. Because of this dumb idea, my cup runneth over. The Jimmy job took little time. I was the only one in the world who could safely do it. It was a joy to inspect the old painting, clean and re-varnish it and send it on its way once more. Future black lights will learn its secret. What they won’t know is that there was no charge.   Before and After

Before: Jimmy Newton, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, 1990. The F18s were ghosted in because Jimmy was only dreaming of them.


After: I made the Sea Kings a little more definite as they became reality. The painting also brightened up with cleaning.

                Significant act by Padmaja Madhu, Bangalore, India  

“The Goal”
acrylic painting
by Padmaja Madhu

It was gratifying to read this post. I think what the young fifteen year old did was out of truthfulness and a craving to do his best, without fully knowing what “value added” meant. Or maybe he was mature enough to realize the significance of this act. I am amazed at this “dumb idea.” It shows an artist who is honest in what he does and it also shows how valuable changing the painting without any charges was to both parties.         Generosity by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA  

“The Itch”
watercolour painting
by Lisa Chakrabarti

Mr. Dumb Idea sounds like he is using the business model often favored by used car salesmen. Professional integrity matters. We are the sum of our deeds – good and bad. I’ve always believed most artists seek to share their joy with the world — the “connection” you quote from Ms. Wheatley. I think it is inseparable from the notion of self-expression. Without this as a basis, there is little point in getting our work “out there” to be sold. An unrepentant capitalist, I don’t find these ideas to be at odds. The favor of repairing or adjusting a piece of artwork that someone bought in good faith is an act of generosity that rewards both ways. Call it karma. I hope Mr. Dumb Idea chews on that for awhile. There are 2 comments for Generosity by Lisa Chakrabarti
From: Cyndie Katz — Nov 13, 2012

“We are the sum of our deeds – good and bad.” Love that line, and I’m going to use it all day. Sweet painting/title/concept. Thanks!

From: Jackie Knott — Nov 13, 2012

Ditto Lisa, on your comments. Art is so much more than a bottom line.

  Your ‘friend’ the jerk by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“The Keefer”
acrylic painting
by John Ferrie

I think your “friend” sounds like a jerk. “Take the money and Run” is a terrible thing to say and an even worse thing to do. When it comes to being an artist, whether you are a painter, sculptor, dancer or actor, you have to paint like nobody is watching, dance like there is no music, sculpt from found objects and act like you don’t have a script. Do it all like there isn’t an audience and you don’t need the money. I have always said, if you are looking for fame and fortune, go sell real estate. But to get paid and run off without following through is nothing short of shameful. This was a wonderful shot of self-esteem to sell a painting at 14 years old. You followed through with your client and showed them the spot where you found your creativity. And years later, to follow through again by reworking a piece for a client just to make them happy is called Service. While there is very little justice in the world, I think you have shown something even fewer people show… INTEGRITY. These are now lessons I plan to use to up my own game when following through with a client. Hope your fair weather friend doesn’t darken your door again sometime soon. There are 3 comments for Your ‘friend’ the jerk by John Ferrie
From: andre satie — Nov 13, 2012

Love the painting, John. Love the comment. Yes.

From: Suzette — Nov 13, 2012

LOVE this painting!!

From: John Ferrie — Nov 13, 2012

its for sale…part of my new collection that opens in the new year…48″ x 72″, acrylic on canvas…john@johnferrie.com

  The peril of giving too much by Peter Lloyd, Blacker Hill, England   This is a delightfully old-fashioned approach to life which I have always aimed at but continue to regret, because in my case others have invariably taken undue advantage of my being a ‘soft touch.’ Even my wife used to say I was an idiot for doing too much for not enough return! But I am as I am, and cannot, will not, change. Nevertheless, for such skilful work, I think you would have been entirely justified in charging the client — even if only time and materials — for changes made at the specific request of the buyer. Your portrait of Jimmy is outstanding. His character is as clearly apparent as his features, a sure (but usually absent!) sign of a great portrait.   A romantic story by Eleanor Blair, Gainesville, FL, USA  

“Santa Fe river”
oil painting
by Eleanor Blair

A young man I’d never met before came into my studio a few days ago with an interesting idea. He wants to ask his girlfriend to marry him, and he wants to do it with art, and he wants it to be a surprise. The plan is for them to ‘spontaneously’ visit my studio during a casual downtown walk, and ‘on impulse’ he’ll pick out a painting to give to her as a gift. The surprise will be her discovery of an envelope attached to the back of the painting, with her name on it. Inside: a beautiful note asking her to marry him and a diamond ring. You’d think the ring would be reminder enough of their special moment, but he likes the idea that the painting will also always bring them back to the beginning of their life together. I am amazed and honored to get to be part of that. There are 4 comments for A romantic story by Eleanor Blair
From: Don — Nov 13, 2012

Better hope that she likes the painting as much as you do….all art is personal.

From: Maureen B — Nov 13, 2012

I say she will love it no matter what, if only for the sentiment her soon to be fiance took to make the proposal so special and unusual.

From: Christine H. — Nov 13, 2012

You do beautiful work…what’s not to like?

From: Mariane — Nov 13, 2012

wow. How beautiful. And inspiring. I think they will have a great marriage: any man considerate enough to do all this must be an amazing beau: I envy you for being there when she finds out!

  Offering the choice by Leigh Cassidy, Quesnel, BC, Canada  

Leigh Cassidy and her grand daughter

I have always and still do guarantee for life, as most people who buy from me or hire me to paint for them know how I work. They are also people that if they damaged it, would volunteer to pay to have it fixed, accept if it could not and we would work something out. I like my gut feeling of knowing that the people who buy my work would offer something if they could, or just appreciate my efforts in changing something. It is nice being offered and choosing to not need recompense, but accepting if offered under particular circumstances would also not make me feel guilty. This is where knowing how you work and endeavouring to work with quality materials to one’s best abilities in one’s own particular ways is of great merit. Further, in case of downstream problems, I often make notes. There is 1 comment for Offering the choice by Leigh Cassidy
From: Sheila Minifie — Nov 13, 2012

Love the photo!

  An endearing connection by Susan Peck, Merrickville, ON, Canada  

“Reflections and Refractions”
coloured pencil
by Cathy Pascoe

My drawing, “Reflections and Refractions,” was done in coloured pencil. At the time I drew this, I was not aware that my supposed “artist” coloured pencils were not, in fact, what I had believed they were. Only after I joined the Colored Pencil Society of America, did I learn through research using the results of tests performed by CPSA, that my Prismacolor Premier pencils were not all lightfast, to my dismay and chagrin. My set of 120 Prismacolor Premier pencils was reduced to about 95 pencils, once I had eliminated all the colours that were fugitive, about 35 duds. Multiply this number by 3 (since I have three sets of 120 Prismacolor Premiers) and that adds up to 105 pencils that are now useless to me, since their pigments are fugitive… almost a full set. It was a painful, agonizing and costly process to eliminate all the fugitive colours in all three of my sets, since a set of 120 Prismacolor Premiers now costs $250.00 before taxes. My drawing has been displayed in digital format on the large illuminated bulletin boards at Times Square in New York City, in the 2012 “Art Takes Times Square” event. It has also been accepted for publication in the upcoming “Strokes of Genius 5, Best of Drawing; Composition,” book to be published by Northlight Books in the fall of 2013. I have made several attempts to contact the owner in the past year, without success. If it has faded, I will feel obligated to fix it for her. Needless to say, I am using ONLY lightfast colours now. (RG note) Thanks, Cathy. This is a problem that’s generally noticed by artists who have been at it for some time. In tubed paint, artists who seek permanence need to check the ratings that are usually printed on the tube. Some reds, for example, are given longer, brighter lives by admixture with red oxide. There are many examples of this safety precaution. There is 1 comment for Fugitive colours by Cathy Pascoe
From: Cathy Pascoe — Nov 13, 2012

I am very fortunate to have joined CPSA – it was through CPSA that I learned that lightfastness was an issue for artists to be concerned about. I have only been using coloured pencils for 7 years. I learned to draw using graphite.

  Removing varnish by Corrine Bongiovanni, Windham, ME, USA  

“Nova Scotia”
acrylic painting
by Corrine Bongiovanni

What did you use to clean off the old varnish? I’ve wanted to do that with a painting of mine but haven’t known how or dared to try on my own. (RG note) Thanks, Corrine. I always varnish my acrylic paintings with Golden Final Varnish Gloss with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers). Most painters do this sort of thing. A final varnish is often quite reduced by oxidation after about 20 years — but there is always some of it still remaining. In order to paint in acrylic on older acrylics you need to remove whatever varnish has been left. Household ammonia lightly applied and washed off with water does the trick. A significant problem with acrylics is improper use of acrylic medium in the original production. In acrylics it’s good to use lots of medium. In the event that passages are produced with watercolour effects, ie, thinly painted with little medium, they can become chalky and unstable after just a few years. This is the reason surfaces must be tested before you try any cleaning. A white, soft terrycloth or cotton batten are best. If you see colour coming off onto the cloth, you can stabilize the chalky stuff with a spray of acrylic medium (not varnish). After that another thin coat of 50/50 liquid medium thinned with water will definitely hold things down. Then you do your repairs. Then you put on a coat of medium again, maybe two, and then after a while, a final coat of varnish. One of the reasons I like to get older work back into the studio is to see how healthy they are. “Jimmy Newton” was in good shape, but I have seen a few older ones of mine that required special handling. To simply remove smoke, flyspecks and other grime from older acrylics, I test first and use a soft white cloth and Mr. Clean (a household detergent with no evidence of grit) mixed with lots of water. Wash off thoroughly and make sure it’s completely dry. A courtesy re-varnish is always appreciated before returning it to the owner. After you’ve done something to any older work, it’s a good idea to date and note this info on the back.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for ‘A dumb idea’

From: Chris Everest — Nov 09, 2012

Nice one Bobby !

From: dorothy lorenze — Nov 09, 2012

Wonderful attitude Robert! Rather than “wrecking the integrity” of your work I think you honor it. Re-working the painting slightly shows that you care enough about your artwork to make it even more meaningful for the collector. Of course there is a limit to being accommodating and I’m sure you won’t paint Jimmy’s hair grey down the line ;)

From: Marvin Humphrey — Nov 09, 2012

Well done. You made them happy. As a result, they will value your talent, your integrity, and the painting much more.

From: A. L. Holmes — Nov 09, 2012

Yeah. “Take the money and run” and put it in a Cayman account.

From: Ron Unruh — Nov 09, 2012

If an edit, correction or addition can be made to satisfy a customer, I will also comply. I recently found a customer for one of my paintings in which a seaside bicycle leaned against a wooden sand fence. Parts of paintings are detailed and other parts left vague. I left the spokes out. She loved the painting but asked whether I could add spokes. I told her I had an entire new shipment of spokes that just came in. Rendered in oil, a few days later she was able to peddle it home.

From: Jill Bukovnik — Nov 09, 2012

I for one love your idea of “guaranteed for life”. The before and after photos are a testament to how well this idea works. Are you ever tempted to go further than what a person asks? For example: add a bit more hair or make the jacket darker? I think that I would have a hard time keeping my hands off the rest of the painting, on the other hand I’d try to remind myself that the client loves this painting and is only asking for one or two changes. If I started to mess with other parts of the painting I’m sure I would make an unhappy customer.

From: Susan Gainen — Nov 09, 2012

Why not “guarantee for life?” This gives a buyer the opportunity to make the meaningful changes that Robert describes, and it gives the buyer both peace of mind and something to talk about, as in. “Wow. The artist guaranteed this for life!” If something happens to the painting or the paint or the mat or something that is within your control, when the customer comes back and you fix it, you have a chance to sell something else. You also may have a permanent place on your customer’s wall.

From: Jose DeLaRosa — Nov 09, 2012

I think it interesting that you change the direct of the air crafts….curious, why?

From: Marie Harold — Nov 09, 2012

Good for you Robert! Integrity is desperately needed in today’s world!

From: Darleene MacBay — Nov 09, 2012

I don’t think your lifetime guarantee was or is silly. I do that also and send Thank You Notes and if I am there I take their pictures with the paintings. I am always sooo grateful, proud and excited when I sold a painting. I do enjoy your letters and admiring yours and others art work.

From: Pat Weekley — Nov 09, 2012

I too have a painting that I did years ago…5 or 6 perhaps… and I need to make a correction. I used Damar glossy varnish and I am afraid I’ll make a mess trying to remove it. Several art friends have said to just paint it out on top of the varnish. I don’t think that is a good idea…. but am leery about trying to remove the varnish without some sound advice. In recent years I have started mixing (50-50) Grumbacher Damar gloss with Damar Matt finish and it seems to be working. I have to warm up the Matt varnish to get it to dissolve and then work quickly. I like the effect. Any hints would be greatly appreciated.

From: Heather Assaf — Nov 09, 2012

Robert, you are a true gem! By guaranteeing your work you are making great friends for life. I can imagine how happy you have made this customer by altering your painting and the ‘no charge’ shows you are a real gentleman! Congrats! Well done!!!

From: Sandra Fisher — Nov 09, 2012

Integrity seems to be out of fashion in our disposable world, as your sell and run friend has displayed. He is cheating himself as well as the people he runs from. I would never take a painting back to an artist for a “touch up” unless somehow it was damaged. Just knowing that someone stands by their work is enough to give this work of art itself respect as NOT just another throw away image. It is this intangible thing of value.

From: Dora Gourley — Nov 09, 2012

Barbie, I love the paintings of your brother. And yes, I do agree, he looks better without the mustache. The change in the background works well also. Thank you for sharing this wonderful painting.

From: Zena Weldon — Nov 09, 2012

I haven’t thought to guarantee my paintings and drawings. I like the idea, and find your flexibility respectful of your work and your buyers. My own “value added” is a clearly handwritten story on a 3″ x 5″ paper pasted on the back of the painting. My words speak of what inspired me to paint that particular piece, and a few words about how I came to the sight I wanted to remember. Buyers have told me that they liked knowing both what drew them to the painting and what drew me to paint it. They feel they have met me, though often not in person.

From: Linnette Johnson — Nov 09, 2012

Robert, I wholeheartedly agree with your friend “take the money and run”.

From: Sandy Essex — Nov 09, 2012

Take the money and run” ??? What a lack of integrity that “artist” has! If nothing else, an artist should view his work as the outcome of a talent s/he has been given; a talent that one should share with others. That man’s attitude is already too rampant in our society, and, I feel, has much to do with the sorry state so much of our world is in. There are too many that think only of themselves and the money they may “make or take” off of others. Not an attitude I am willing to hold; I have more self-esteem than that! Thank you for your “dumb ideas”, Robert, for I look forward to reading your letters about integrity and courage – especially in a world that has often lost its way – not only in art.

From: Sara Spanjers — Nov 09, 2012

How can acting instinctively ever be a wrong idea? It is your natural path in life to react and do as one does! If it does turn out to be bad idea, it is your schooling of life in the art world. Some artists would never be able to take the same steps as you did and do & some take very similar steps when it comes to their work, that is what makes us so unique in this wonderful world of art!

From: Lucy Weigle — Nov 09, 2012

How do you clean an acrylic painting? I have used alcohol to remove acrylic paint for corrections. Does ammonia work better?

From: Margo Duke — Nov 09, 2012

I’m not a painter, my brother is a wonderful painter (he studies every week at the National Art Gallery) but I connect so much with your “message” of giving more than you get. Just this morning I’ll gather up a bag of wool for someone who contacted me via the internet and wants to learn how to felt; she has signed up for a class I’ll be teaching shortly. She used to be a bronze sculptor in China and is desperate (I understand that obsession) to make a felt flower today after school with her children but she doesn’t have wool. I’m leaving a bag on my deck for her (I’ll be at work) and I get such pleasure thinking of that Mom from a far away place being excited about felting — and I get to help!

From: Paul deMarrais — Nov 09, 2012

It may be a ‘dumb idea’ to some, but it points out an often obscured fact. Being an artist is a people business and as such it is a ‘service’ business. The connections with people are what allow us to keep painting. When we are willing to go the extra mile for our customers, it brings us inner satisfaction. Our generosity brings unseen and sometimes tangible rewards.

From: Marjorie Tressler — Nov 09, 2012

This letter reminds me of the time when I did a very large painting of 15, yes that is right 15 people in one painting. This was done as a surprise anniversary gift from the husband to his wife, the mother of the “blended” family, yours mine and ours kind of family. Not only their children and young grandchildre, but the spouses of their children. One such spouse was a long haired blond fellow my husband referred to as the “ax murderer”, and you guessed it (and no he did not commit murder), the daughter divorced him and they came back a few years later and requested this “ax murderer” be “removed” from the painting. Now he is part of the back ground, just a puff of powdery mist in the background, never to be seen again!!!! Wouldn’t it be so nice if only you could remove an ex family member that easily!!!! as always ,” paint from the heart with joy”.

From: Rose — Nov 09, 2012

People tend to learn from their experience. Perhaps your friend had bad experiences with overbearing unreasonable clients?

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 09, 2012

Once, years ago, I would do pencil sketches for extra cash while exhibiting my oils, I would do a half hour drawing and charge $20.00. It was clear that these would be quick sketches and was advertised as such. After one sketch of a young woman, she left and returned a half hour later and asked if I would adjust the nose a bit which I did and she left. Returning again later, she again asked if I would adjust the eyes a bit more. Again, willing to please, I did and she left. After another half hour she returned again asking me to adjust the hair. This time I reaffirmed that these were quick sketches and not meant to be finished portraits. She was not pleased that I would not adjust the sketch again and was making a scene. I took the sketch from her, refunded her twenty dollars and told her if she wanted me to do a better job, she could contact me at my studio and for four hundred dollars I would paint her portrait. She left never to return. You can’t please everyone.

From: Shirley VanWanderham — Nov 09, 2012

This letter is a lesson in life and how we change and view things. I look back over watercolors that I did early on and think to myself……a child could do that. BUT, it is my work and my work alone even if I never sold it my children will always treasure those things. Thank you!

From: Kate Pearce — Nov 09, 2012

We do need to connect with others in this way, to give added value and go the extra mile. We always appreciate this quality when we receive it from others, so why not practice it ourselves? When so much of an artist’s life is spent in solitary occupation, we need to welcome the chance to connect with those who love our work enough to buy it.

From: Steve Kuzma — Nov 09, 2012
From: Elle Fagan — Nov 09, 2012

Yes…..that commitment to the project and its people counts I think a lot. It keeps the health and spirits right in it and meets the goal of quality of life when we see the beauty and live it. One client loved an historic building and had me do a portrait of it. But when some interior improvements were being done they moved the painting to a bad spot and it bleached it out to an awful cartoon. By chance, I asked to include it in one of my one-woman shows and when I picked it up, I gasped at the damage. I told my friend: you did not need to be afraid to tell me – it’s fixable. In fact, the spots that faded were ones that looked better with more layers of the watercolor to give them the richness of texture – the restored painting was better than the original and the only cost, that of replacing it “snappywise” in its frame. Happy everyone is what it is about.

From: Bess Glenn — Nov 09, 2012

In all the time I have read and enjoyed your commentaries, I like this one the best. It shows your good heart and decency. Not that the others haven’t, but this is the best.

From: Petrina Gregson — Nov 09, 2012

I’d be interested in how you cleaned the painting, Robert. What if the painting had had no varnish on it?

From: Esmie G. McLaren — Nov 09, 2012

Well done, you resisted touching up other parts!

From: Ann — Nov 09, 2012

Few years ago my gallery asked me if I would take a portrait commission. The client was an older gentlemen with terminal illness. He wanted a portrait of himself which he would giclee in a few copies and leave to his children after death. This project obviously couldn’t be done without a strong emotional connection with the client and possibly to his family. My mother had just passed away earlier that year and I was still emotionally raw. I just couldn’t take that job. I still feel bad about it, but I hope that he was probably better accommodated by another artist. Even with best intention to provide great service and connect with people and make them happy, that just isn’t always possible. The Jimmy and the Hummingbird nest stories are the best scenario. We also need to learn how to deal with other kinds of situations. My friend had a rowdy alcoholic client who demanded to be invited to all of the artist’s family events…

From: Turiya — Nov 09, 2012

Great story and a great message. You’re obviously on to something good, something that works, even from a business perspective. A friendship is a lot more important than a sale.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Nov 09, 2012

If I had a wife who didn’t like my mustache, in a painting or for real, I’d get rid of the wife.

From: Emmett Sloan — Nov 10, 2012

If you got rid of her over such a frivolous issue as your moustache in a painting or for real, she would still take 50% of your net worth.

From: Halverson Frazier — Nov 10, 2012

First of all Robert, your exampled portrait is wonderful and the solution for a modification of background and facial trim was most gracious on your part. The process of pentimento comes to mind, or better yet..what lies beneath shall forever remain a mystery. In addition, having any rapport with ones clients in the naive youthful stages of selling a work and aiming to please as well as present day experienced transactions seems most appropriate within the framework of self promotion. Most collectors are eager to meet the artist they purchase and I have found this of great personal value. It’s natural curiosity to want to know something about the mystery person who has made this personal connection to ourselves after a sale, be it via a gallery or another venue. That works both ways as well. I do draw the line though regarding any client requested alterations to an existing piece and admire your perseverance to do that for a friend so willingly and successfully. Regards, Halverson

From: Audrey Cooper — Nov 10, 2012

I agree with you totally about added value and so on. I keep in touch with my clients and make sure my work goes to good homes! Only once have I refused to go along with a request. A woman once asked me to change the little boy in the Maple Leaf sweater, and put him in a Montreal Habs sweater!! Sacrilege! One has to draw a line in the sand, or on the ice.

From: Gail Ingis — Nov 10, 2012

Your “dumb idea” is the best in the world. I have a similar philosophy. It is the only way to service our clients!!!

From: Sylvia Hicks — Nov 10, 2012

I’ve always worried over taking an orphan painting of yesteryear and revising it. Somewhat the same as your pilots painting. What was good and pleasing 20 years ago may need a retake today for tomorrows audience!

From: Nora McDowell — Nov 10, 2012

I have heard of more than one famous artist whose clients were in danger of him visiting and taking his artwork off the wall to “improve” it. Although you did a lovely job altering your friend’s painting I find there comes a time when going back to a painting makes it over worked and it loses the original spontaneity. My husband is the painter in our family and I have been known to say “That one is done. You can do another painting.” Years ago he did a lovely painting of an apple tree in field. I left town to visit my folks and when I returned he had put a transparent wash over the whole thing. It is still a good work of art but it no longer holds my heart.

From: Adrianne Moore — Nov 10, 2012

I am not so sure yours was indeed ”a dumb idea.” I have always believed it is of paramount importance to allow the buyer of your work to feel very comfortable with the sale. I think the ”grab and run money” is a dumb idea. I always include a short story about what inspired the work and how I enjoy the reaction as they hear about the experience. Last week I had a request from a lady in Saskatchewan to purchase one of my books about my dog. I did not recall ever meeting her but I posted a copy of the book and she wrote remembering all about the Steveston area and how much she appreciated the fact that I sent it without a money guarantee. I have often allowed the purchaser to take the work for a week or so to get the feeling if it really fits and my clients respect not having to be stuck with a work that they do not in the long run relate to. My current gallery supports me with this philosophy and the dealer issues a really informative booklet about my work to the buyer after the sale, usually with a little personal note from me. He has even been known to close the gallery while he personally delivers the work if the buyer does not have transport. One buyer had come by bus and bought a 30 x40 and could not get it back home. I do feel that the relationship between artist and buyer is not all about money. There has to develop an element of trust and that ensures that both parties are satisfied.

From: nigel necklen — Nov 12, 2012

re dumb idea, as a relatively newcommer i am so pleased to add that the lifetime garantee has worked to build a strong customer relationship with my growing client base i too have revisited a painting recently and after a small costfree alteration 2 friendsof my client ordered a painting each. they both wanted to deal with someone who has empathy in our monet driven world. wow i was pleasently surprised. not so DUMB after all

From: Jean W. Morey — Nov 13, 2012

It is quit possible to create stunning work digitally if sales are the primary object. If however the great joy is in the process and the growing and learning then forget it. I am adept at the computer and use it as a tool every day. But put a brush or pencil in my hand and I’m working from the subconscious artist in me. Not always really good but very satisfying on a much deeper level

From: Page Highfill — Nov 13, 2012

Regarding Tatiana Mirkov-Popovicki’s comment about digital art being devalued by printing it on canvas — how so? No media owns canvas any more than parachutes or tents. Canvas to art is simply a vessel which delivers aged wine as well as poo poo.

From: Dean Wilson — Nov 13, 2012

WOW! A great deal of thought, feeling and effort went into this and like all things in the creative realm all things new will find their audience.

From: diane akey — Nov 13, 2012

In regards to Don Lambert of Weatherford, Texas. I believe that a painting like any piece of art has another invisible dimension. The dimension of storytelling that the viewer can imagine. The details within the artwork encourage the viewer to participate in the artists purpose for creating the piece. How the artwork is created is one dimension, how the piece is appreciated is another and then the Dimension of imagination and storytelling are limitless!

From: Helen Opie — Nov 13, 2012

I agree; a loving attitude always wins out. We love our buyers – or at least appreciate them. If we feel we are being taken advantage of, well, we are free to decline to act. I am sure that you did the right thing to repaint that man’s upper lip and the airplanes. I have spent quite a bit of time repairing smears and fingerprints when people have bought my wet paintings at the Annapolis Region Community Art Centre’s annual fundraiser paint-out (held in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia on the 3rd weekend every August), called Paint the Town (Trademarked). People do not understand how long an oil painting is wet and go to take it out of its pizza box and hang it – and find they’ve made dreadful smears. I happily repair them, leaving a happy person who’ll buy more later. (I don’t have to do this often now as I write on the bid slip that it is a Wet Mess and should be left in its box for two weeks, preferably in a warm place like one’s car or a sunporch.)

From: Andrea Pottyondy — Nov 13, 2012

You just have to visit The Builders (Canadian Biennial) at the National Gallery of Canada to see that photography, in its many forms, plays a huge part in contemporary art.

From: bffa is back! — Nov 13, 2012


From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Nov 14, 2012

Dear Emmett, The wife requesting that a mustache be removed from a painting because she doesn’t like it, which pretty much means it got removed from the person it used to belong to somewhere along the way, is what’s absolutely frivolous here. But I do appreciate your comment. However, what it so obviously describes is just how dysfunctional hetero relationship actually is. I started growing my mustache the week before I graduated from high school. A year later I shaved it off for one day, for a scathing college photographic art project. Although it’s gone through many different incarnations, I’ve never shaved it off again, and never will. And I’m almost 60. This need to change a painting because of a personal piece of relationship crap- unwilling to leave the painted portrait as an actual remembrance of who the person used to be and what the person used to look like is utter female bullshit. I’ll never have a wife or partner of any gender that thinks she/he gets 50% of something she/he didn’t earn.

     Featured Workshop: John Skelcher at The Retreat
111312_robert-genn John Skelcher workshops Held in Tuscany, Italy   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

African Women

watercolour painting, 16 x 11 inches by Stass Shpanin, Springfield, MA, 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 Stewart Turcotte of Kelowna, B. C. Canada, who wrote, “When you go through the Pearly Gates, Robert, God is going to pat you on the head and say, ‘You didn’t have to change anything, Bobby, you were just great!’ ” And also Moncy Barbour of Lynchburg, VA, USA, who wrote, “One of the things that made it a joy to work with Andy Warhol that he was so easy to get along with.” And also Shannon Kelly who wrote, “Sharing yourself is at the heart of our spiritual connection to one another through the gift of art.” And also Gretchen Boyd who wrote, “Do you think you could remove my wrinkles like you did Jimmy’s mustache?” (RG note) Thanks, Gretchen. My friend Alan Wylie told me about a time he was painting a portrait of a woman when she began to ask for some “improvements” here and there. Alan said to her, “Madam, I am a painter, not a plastic surgeon.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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