The feminine mystique

Dear Artist, Many readers of my letters may not be old enough to remember Betty Friedan’s 1963 bombshell book, The Feminine Mystique. In those days, 78% of college faculty were men, as were 95% of physicians and 97% of lawyers. Only 30% of college graduates were women. Now, women outnumber men in higher education and are apparently nearing par in job placement and life achievement. One of Friedan’s main points was that post-war, middle class women had to figure out what they were going to do after their little ones had flown the coop. With longer life expectancies, smaller families, relative economic freedom and a shopping cart full of labour-saving devices, millions of women apparently grabbed the brass ring of creativity. They found they were well suited to it. Based on this subscriber list, workshop attendance and popular statistics, 78% percent of living painters are women. And to the disgruntlement of some of the boys, we know that women in general tend to have better art-brains. Long-time readers may remember I’ve frequently identified women artists as the next big thing. Going by my inbox, it’s possible to get the idea that women are in a bit of a bad patch. Many tell me they are “not motivated,” “lack passion,” and are “too distracted to be anything other than mediocre.” Perhaps an indication of our anxious times, in my darker moments I also wonder if these concerns are mainly from those who are reading too much self-help stuff. Like the sort of thing I put out. But in my vast and virtual part-time mentoring practice, which I generally do for free, I also see highly optimistic, ambitious women who value education and are willing to put in time and treasure (when they have it) to achieve their goals. These women cut to the chase and, in my experience, get good. Here’s what they bring to their easels: — The capability and the desire to work alone. — A degree of independence from outside opinion. — Steady, well-regulated, workmanlike habits. — The understanding that passion comes from process. — The curiosity to explore sets and series. — An intuitive sense of quality and reasonable taste. — A philosophical but nevertheless combative attitude to the miserably dying vestiges of the boy’s club. Betty Friedan would have been particularly enthused by these women. Best regards, Robert PS: “Who knows what women can become when they are finally free to become themselves.” (Betty Friedan) Esoterica: Possibly, like the tail-ends of the Roman and other Empires, the West is in danger of losing faith in itself. Nations are now burdened with fear, anxiety, hubris, xenophobia and popular ignorance. This time around, the women are joining in. Could it be that everything nowadays is just too easy and too available? For many of us, both men and women, there is enough to be done just watching the world go by — and being entertained. Spectator sports are at the apex of popularity, and the gladiators are the top earners.   Mystery and mastery by Michael Aronoff, Saltspring Island, BC, Canada  

acrylic painting
by Michael Aronoff

My belief is that a good male artist works with his feminine nature. A good female artist works with her masculine. I subscribe to Jung’s ideas on what it takes to be a balanced and individuated human being. I figure there is mastery to be gained by hard work and study. But, not to disregard the complimentary aspect to mastery. It is Mystery; the feminine, unknown, the soft focus to all that is possible. With both in operation, I believe real good art happens.     There is 1 comment for Mystery and mastery by Michael Aronoff
From: Cristina Monier — Feb 02, 2011

I love your painting, do you have a web page? Mine is Best regards, Cristina

  Flying from the feminine nest by Louise Francke, NC, USA  

“Rain of Fire”
original painting
by Louise Francke

Women certainly have all the attributes you have given to them. The one detriment I find with many women’s works is a tendency to dote on the femaleness. Many simply do not venture beyond their own realm or comfort zone into the vast global community of universal issues and not private mundane problems. I, too, have struggled with life’s cards of single parenting and divorce, but we have to move out of the nest and fly to see the world with a different perspective.         There are 2 comments for Flying from the feminine nest by Louise Francke
From: Anonymous — Feb 01, 2011

Well,yes, I as a female artist would have to agree that my psyche, trials and feminine issues underly my paintings. I do not understand how it is possible for that to be avoided regardless of the obvious subject matter.

From: Rose — Feb 01, 2011

Nice painting !!!!!

  Women are a sound investment by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“Lower Watauga”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

I have come to admire the many qualities that women bring to art making. In my workshops, well over 90% of the students are women of all ages. I wish I had their attributes as they are as nice a group of people as you will ever run across. What stands out to me is their complexity. Women just seem to have a natural ability to navigate the rough waters in life. They are hard working, compassionate, tolerant and unflinching, no matter what the problem might be. Women don’t demand perfection. They are team players, kind and more often than not they possess a keen sense of humor. I read a lot about the frustration of women, how despite their great numbers in the art and business world, they are not getting recognized and famous and as prosperous as the men are. My current view is that women can sacrifice too much. In other words, men have a much easier time being selfish. It’s not hard for us to put our needs and desires as top priority and to not worry about the ‘other guy.’ Being selfish is often seen as a successful business model. Things are changing. Natural qualities women seem to have gained in life are becoming more valued in the workplace. People skills and communication skills are becoming highly sought after in business and more respected by men. Men are opening their eyes and seeing women, seeing their great creativity and talents as artists and as people. I heard once that you could gauge the health of a society by the treatment of women in that society. Looking around the world today, it seems to be true. We need successful, powerful women to achieve greatness. In these uncertain times, women are a sound investment. There are 7 comments for Women are a sound investment by Paul deMarrais
From: Diane Artz Furlong — Feb 01, 2011

I think I love you, Paul!

From: Nany Mayer — Feb 01, 2011

Will you marry me?

From: Gwen Fox — Feb 01, 2011

Paul….you have said, in a beautiful way, what we as women have know all along. Thank you for being so kind to share your observations.

From: Andrea Pottyondy — Feb 01, 2011

I have always believed exactly what you say in your letter… how women are regarded in a society make the society what it is… we have to see each other as human beings first and foremost.

From: Dottie Dracos — Feb 01, 2011

He’s mine; I found him first!

From: Selma Trevison — Feb 01, 2011

I think Paul’s found a sure fire approach to scoring! Is this a wolf in a reasonable man’s clothing?

From: Grey — Feb 01, 2011

I suspect that Paul never had a woman boss.

  Permission to pursue passion by Gwen Fox, Colorado Springs, CO, USA  

original painting
by Gwen Fox

When we women give ourselves permission to pursue our passion, we give our children permission to do the same. This is especially true for our daughters. This offers our children an opportunity to see us in a different light… not just Mom, taxi driver, cook or the one who cleans but a woman filled with excitement, unrelenting curiosity and a smile that says to our children, I want what she has. This passage into creativity has not come easy for us as it came with a bucket load of guilt. “Why isn’t dinner ready… you were doing what?” Or the classic statement: “Now dear, remember your art is a hobby.” It takes tremendous courage to overcome this subtle put down from friends and family. After all… isn’t your first job to take care of others? Women are strong, bullheaded and curious. Women artists are the most delightful people on the planet. We as artists have tremendous power and it is our responsibility to share our love for creativity with those who may be questioning their strength. There are 8 comments for Permission to pursue passion by Gwen Fox
From: Denyse — Feb 01, 2011

Gwen I have just quoted you on my signature file. Like X 100 How many times have I heard that one from my unnapreciative “support” crew… —

From: Denyse — Feb 01, 2011

How many times was I told that my art was just a hobby. But it was my art and sales which kept a roof over his head, and kept dinner on the table when he couldn’t hold a job for longer than 3 months at a time. Anyways, I am free to fly now:) The jerk finally moved out. No more complaining about my mess, where’s dinner and why isn’t the kitchen painted and the garbage taken out, yada, yada while he sat on his butt upstairs playing computer games all day.

From: Jackie Irvine — Feb 01, 2011

Well Gwen; After telling my daughter this morning that I was cancelling my show and quitting. Your message is a life saver. I “SO RELATE” to what you are saying – there is always something else I could or “should” be doing. I want to show my daughter that it can be done but most importantly I need to show myself. thanks so much

From: Beverly — Feb 01, 2011

Oh Jackie….please don’t cancel your show and quit! To truly show your daughter that you matter and that your passions and views matter, you must go on with the show! It is important to our mental health to do what we love and love what we do. My day is also mixed with doing dishes, sweeping floors, doing laundrey, etc., etc. AND it is those very ‘ordinary’ things that keep us balanced.

From: Gwen Fox — Feb 01, 2011

Jackie….I hope you let us know how fabulous your show went…you know…the show you decided not to cancel! I have been in your shoes so many times but let me share with you…..DO NOT CANCEL THE SHOW!!! Once when I was getting ready for one of my shows I kept getting interrupted by others in my family so I put a sign on my studio door that stated…. “Do not enter unless there is blood”. This sign gave pause to those contemplating their entrance….. this will then give you the silence needed to complete your paintings. Name the paintings, put a price on them, go to your show and accept the success you have given yourself.

From: Annette, Rotorua New Zealand — Feb 03, 2011

For over 20 years I have put myself and my passions on hold while my husband has followed his! NO MORE! Now I am teaching myself to be selfish and know my self! While dishes and laundry are not being done my mind is flying free and my passions come to the fore in my art and in my actions. I am finding that a man does not like playing second fiddle, nor does he embrace my selfishness – I keep telling him “IT’S MY TURN NOW” and he can like it or lump it!

From: Gwen Fox — Feb 04, 2011

Annette….You Go Girl….follow your dreams!

From: Anna Sellers — Feb 07, 2011

After all– isn’t your first job to take care of others? – That is the hardest thing to overcome. Even when they aren’t saying it, the guilt sucks the soul right out of me.

  Success in persistence by Loraine Wellman, Richmond, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Loraine Wellman

Gender hasn’t as much to do with excellence as to do with persistence. Another factor is that women artists are often looked upon as “hobbyists.” It could be because, historically, women were not encouraged to be artists. One doesn’t have to go too far back in time to find that women were not allowed in Life Drawing. Then, when they were, they had to be in separate classes. Even when I went to Art School the male models wore jock straps. Take a look at the lists of “artists represented” with top galleries and you will almost always find a preponderance of male artists. Who knows why? Is it preference on the part of the gallery? Are men being bolder at approaching galleries? I know a number of artists serious about their craft — men and women. What we have in common is that we paint because we must. “Success” is working towards continual learning and improvement and not measured in sales. There are 2 comments for Success in persistence by Loraine Wellman
From: Liz Reday — Feb 01, 2011

I just saw another art fair in L.A.- galleries from all over the world, many female art dealers, gallery owners and the work was done by roughly half male female. The work was very contemporary & edgy, the buyers seemed very young and international and many of the artists were young females also. The most popular work for sales was done by a female photographer who did a series of herself interacting with household appliances in a very fresh and funny way, she even had a broom closet and laundry hanging. Multiple sales. Good women painters as was the previous weekend. Sadly, traditional art is more male dominant, as is the subject matter of western themes, women in white dresses at the kitchen sink romantically pining for the man to return. Do we see a pattern here?

From: Cynthia Rey — Feb 02, 2011

Thank you women, and I needed a chuckle this morning and as always I have a need to belong to a welcoming group of people who have experienced situations similar to mine. That way we can laugh (instead of crying) we can laugh at ourselves and then go back into the studio.

  Playing field still not even by Anonymous   I’m sorry to say that the boys club is a long way from dying out in the art world. I consider myself a feminist, partly to simply acknowledge that equality for women in professional fields, including art, is far from here. It may be that the majority of your subscribers, or even people making art, are women, but I’m sorry to say that the majority of money being made by artists is being made by men. The boys club is alive and well. There are still more men in power in the art world than there are women, and those men are invested in giving breaks to other young men whom they may see as versions of themselves. I saw it happen plenty in art school. The “art stars” of contemporary art are mostly men. If you read through lists of prestigious group shows including biennials, take note of the gender gap. The majority of artists being shown and celebrated and the ones making the big bucks and getting the big contracts are men. As an artist, I am very grateful to the women who came before me who sowed the seeds of equality for women in the art world, but the current situation is still troubling. At least I don’t have to make artwork about being a woman, or objectify myself in my work, so I am grateful for that. But at least in the money-making prestigious sector of the contemporary art world that I am circulating in, the playing field is still not even. Sadly, young female artists are still at times encouraged to be cute and unthreatening and pander to the egos of men in charge. Or ride on their coat tails; be complicit in that power structure. I’m not saying it’s all like that, but those politics have not gone away. I was appalled in my MFA program to find that in some academic classes it was for the most part only guys talking, the women were silently taking notes. Not all the classes, but certain ones with a male teacher were like that. There’s unfortunately a lot of retrogressive sexual politics that are promulgated and popularized by popular culture — all the young girls wanting to be sexy and dumb like Britney (not that I don’t love Britney) and the idea that feminism is unsexy and militant and boring. It may be boring, but it’s still a necessary topic in my opinion. Women may be working in many spheres, but they are not making the same money the men are. Still. Get the word out.   Women excelling on international scale by Liz Reday, South Pasadena, CA, USA  

“Ladies Night”
acrylic painting, 40 x 60 inches
by Liz Reday

I just went to the L.A. Art Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center and I’m happy to report that more than half of the exciting work that I saw was done by women. It’s really great to find that out after responding to work seen at a short distance. This work was mostly contemporary, but there were some paintings done in a partially figurative/abstract way as well, and most of them were large and well priced, plus they were selling. I’m looking forward to the Art Contemporary Fair in Santa Monica this coming weekend, which hopefully will have more excellent work done by women and men. Men artists do seem to be more ambitious and single minded, but maybe this is changing. There are certainly more women art dealers, gallery owners and museum curators now than there used to be 20 years ago. The only place where I see the deck is stacked is in Western art, as there still seems to be a macho cowboy vibe, but that’s mainly in the smaller regional art clubs. But on an international scale, women are really doing some impressive stuff.   Artistic courage by Kristine Fretheim, Maple Grove, MN, USA  

“Earth Dakini”
watercolour painting, 30 x 22 inches
by Kristine Fretheim

It’s great to be reminded of characteristics that promote growth and development. Thank you. I also wonder about the self-help industry and how it affects the general psyche. Someone says, “Don’t think of an elephant.” And of course, what then is the first thing that pops into your mind? The same is true of any kind of thought and if we are awash in a plethora of “helpers” telling us all we are anxious and depressed… a lot of us obedient little followers are going to go down that path. It’s important for us to be mindful what we allow in. Fortunately, artists tend to be more kinesthetic, sensing and intuitive than conceptual. Our own direct experience leads us often upstream rather than going with the general flow of society. And that takes courage. Maybe we should add courage to that list of artist traits? On second thought, the entire list bespeaks courage. There are 3 comments for Artistic courage by Kristine Fretheim
From: J H Hinton — Jan 31, 2011

That is a beautiful piece of work!! I look forward to watching for more from you.

From: Sarah — Feb 01, 2011

Love your work!

From: Vivi — Feb 01, 2011

Strong and beautiful.

  Good art raises the bar by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“View of Northern Mountains”
acrylic painting by
Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

More than the female aspect, you got me thinking about the trends of the time, especially what’s going on with all the women and middle class joining the art democratization (as you once called this great thing where we choose to become artists instead of being initiated by a degree). I’m thinking how we sometimes complain that there is now too much bad art out there. Maybe it’s also true that there is too much good art out there — actually “too much” is not the right thing to say, just way more than there ever was. This would mean that while bad art drops the bar, the good art raises it up and we choose with which we want to compete. It’s not enough to be good, we have to get much better and be exceptional to win the collectors. With that in mind, going back to focus on quality and originality would bring more satisfaction than productivity and marketing, which were the buzz in the past decade. Everyone by now knows how to crank out product and make it available. Maybe that’s just not interesting any more. Maybe thinking of making just one fantastic painting can inspire excellence. There are 2 comments for Good art raises the bar by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Brigitte Nowak — Jan 31, 2011

That’s one fantastic painting – beautiful colour and composition. I love the way the snow-capped mountains in the distance, and the patterns of colour in the clouds, are echoed in the patterns of snow on the rocks in the foreground.

From: Quin Sweetman — Feb 01, 2011

I agree! Lovely painting. Great rhythm!

  Asking the right questions by Bonnie Mandoe, Las Cruces, NM, USA  

“Picacho Peak Sunset”
oil painting
by Bonnie Mandoe

As an oil painter and sometime instructor of workshops (which mostly consist of women), I find the two biggest challenges women painters face are 1- Trying to paint what they see, rather than what they feel and 2- Recognizing and demolishing sentimentality. The latter is my pet peeve. My college art prof told me that sentimentality in painting is a product of the romantic era, and that prior to that time, sentimental concepts, such as “small things are cute,” didn’t exist. I don’t know if this is true or not, but as a teaching tool, it has value to me because I find sentimental paintings so repugnant. You refer to women having “reasonable” taste, and in that comment I detect a hint of what I’m talking about. Sentimentality in itself may not be a bad thing, but in my own less than humble opinion, it makes a painting stink. It is difficult to root out without risking an insult to some lovely woman’s sense of style and taste. But I have to take the risk. As an instructor, it’s imperative to stimulate people to think, and this is something all painters need to think about. My method is to ask questions. The right questions can guide a woman to Herself. There are 4 comments for Asking the right questions by Bonnie Mandoe
From: Mac McCarthy — Jan 31, 2011

Picacho Peak Sunset: That is an amazing painting! The structure is wonderfully advanced — the mass of the sand thrusting into the water, the mountain behind — this is a wonderful talent!

From: Ken Flitton — Feb 01, 2011

I agree with all the others about the great painting! Also, Las Cruces reminds me of what I believe is one of the best movies ever. Charley Varrick with Walter Matthau. I have tried repeatedly to rent it. No-one seems to have heard of it. My all-time best film!!

From: Darla — Feb 02, 2011

Sentimentality is a matter of taste. It’s when the overly emotional connotations of a subject rather than the visual qualities of the painting are used to “carry” a painting. I find that men are just as sentimental as women, but they tend to paint “noble animals”, cowboys and idealized female nudes rather than children and idealized florals and landscapes. Any type of idealized subject is sentimental. Gender stereotypes come out in what men and women are supposed to care about, or allowed to care about. The painting itself rather than the subject of the painting should be the important part unless it’s a commissioned portrait.

From: David — Feb 02, 2011

Darla, are you sure about that comment “any type of idealized subject is sentimental”? That wipes out all classical sculpture and half the rennaissance at a stroke!!

  Grateful for the gift by Terry Gay Puckett, San Antonio, TX, USA  

“Calle de Chichicastenango”
watercolour painting
by Terry Gay Puckett

When I went to art school at Texas University, there was only one woman teaching. I never dreamed that I too one day would have the opportunity to be a college art professor, but thankfully it happened. Originally, I never dreamed that I would be able to sell my work and exhibit frequently, but that too happened. If asked how or why, I attribute it to just keeping on keeping on. Woody Allen described it best, when he said that 90% of success is just showing up. Artists, male or female, who show up with the work that they have loved creating, month after month, year after year, seem to get somewhere with it. Those who give it their best effort keep improving and get their 15 minutes of fame. Is that enough, considering how hard it is to develop the skills of being an artist, and riding the tides of disappointments and rejections as well as the joys and uplifting moments? Yes, for me it is. I would do it all over again. I am grateful for the gift of art and the companionship of others who love it as much as I do.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The feminine mystique

From: Beverly Rimer(newman) — Jan 27, 2011

I remember the days that we women had to use our last names because of a mans world and no one wanted a painting by us . Now i sign my paintings Beverlyee and proud to do so. Bev

From: Rene (Mr.) — Jan 28, 2011

Here is another to add to the list: *Women like to talk and can participate in several conversations at the same time while painting. (They drove me away from the class/studio. Listening to music and ear plugs did not help).

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jan 28, 2011

Betty Friedan’s book was one of those I read that changed my life! I learned to look at the world in a whole new way. Following your passion has never been easy and even though times have changed, women still are confronted with the same blocks and issues we had 40 years ago. Families who think we should have a “real” job, husbands who want us to focus only on them and the kids, and bias against artists who are “strange”. Most women I know have to find a balance of their artistic life and their personal life to make it work and try to ignore the nay-sayers. Many wait until retirement before pursuing their passion and sometimes this works. I have a lot of respect for the women who pushed their way through the difficulties early in life and stuck with it in spite of everything.

From: Darla — Jan 28, 2011

It’s always guaranteed to start a conversation, if not an argument when someone says, “women are ‘this’ and men are ‘that'”. So much generalization! What REALLY annoys me is that we seem to be back to the 1960’s when there are pink pastel passive toys for girls and blue bright active toys for boys, and heaven forbid that a girl should play with trucks or a boy like to cook or decorate! Gender roles for kids are more fearfully segregated than they ever were before. I don’t know if this will spark another backlash, or things will just get more restrictive. Strangely enough, I think it’s because of the hard economic climate. When things are rough, people want to go back to the “good old days” but they don’t seem to remember what wasn’t so good about them.

From: Audrey Bunt — Jan 28, 2011

Just this last weekend, an premier league English soccer game was groundbreaking, because it had a female linesman. First time at this level of a game. The really interesting thing was the presenters were recorded making insulting off-air remark. Here is one of the lines recorded “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” The big problem for these boys was, she was flawless in her performance at the game. It resulted in both of these presenters, who are very well established in there careers, have been suspended from their jobs. I believe Betty would be very pleased. The fact that a woman was doing a “linesman’s” job, and that the male bonding of talking trash about woman is no longer acceptable. Our daughters will think a book like Betty’s, should belong in a museum, and this generation will be happy to donate our copy for the purpose.

From: Thierry — Jan 28, 2011

This will be quite the discussion! I hope there won’t be much wailing though.

From: Evelyn — Jan 28, 2011

Women artists need a wife!

From: Jackie Knott — Jan 28, 2011

Betty Friedan indeed changed western thinking about women in their traditional role as homemakers. Thanks, Betty. I was along for the ride and benefited. However, from most reports she was selfish, combative, abrasive, and the fireworks at home were equal to what she instigated wherever she spoke. An artistic life is a balanced life and a revolutionary rarely has one. Your list of attributes women bring to the easel could easily have described men. When we can evaluate an individual work instead of “women artists” or “men artists,” art is the beneficiary. We’re not there yet and it may still take another generation. The title of “Housekeeper” was once a paid and honorable profession. What is bewildering is why some are perfectly willing to hire those services but most American women pursue a career thinking they can do so without breaking stride. Impossible. “Men work from dawn to done but a woman’s work is never done.” Instead of railing over that fact I’m comfortable knowing I personally am a nurturer and anything I accomplish in life will be subjective to putting family first. There is no conflict in knowing yourself and no anxiety in working within perimeters. I wish more men would consider that. If we’re not careful the casualties along the road to success are our children. Equally, artists of both genders face the same feelings of distraction and anxious times. We’re in this thing together and economics does not discriminate – only those who are in power do.

From: Jim Larwill — Jan 28, 2011

Hi it is the mad poet in the woods here, As always I enjoyed your morning artistic self help. One does wonder about gender and the arts. As a poet it seems to me the base audience for poetry is women. I believe women are a better audience for poetry as they may be more hard wired to respond to complex audio cues. Men are fairly simplistic when it comes to their attraction to visual cues, and women since the beginning of time have been aware of this discourse and had tried to use it to their advantage within the power structure. Weaving was maybe the first mass visual art form that employed colors and design. For “fine” art the question arises, sure the gender of the workers may change; especially at a time when the “professional painter” may be paid less and less within the gallery system; but who are the patrons? Does changing the gender of the workers in the factories change the basic contradictions of the system? Today most of the workers of the world are third world woman. They will not be the ones buying your paintings. Their bosses are the ones who will buy paintings. Painters here will have to paint what they like if they want to sell. Different factories. Same bosses. The West? We speak of a Global Economy and then say “The West” is being threatened? The Chinese invented paper money. Western Feudalism is long dead. Capitalism and its relationship to the global communist property of pollution is now the major contradiction of our times. “Route to Evanescence” Poet-girl’s response to Painter-man’s Landscapes laced with subliminal sex. For I have but the power to kill, Without – the power to die – Emily Dickenson For I too have but powers to kill Within – power never lies – for snake, hummingbird and I – my poems can never identify lightning honey on a tongue buzzing bee a silenced hum in mansions never disclosed snake stretches out his cloths hummingbird, my lead dew he licks, overflow Pearl of an other’s – dick. The Apparatus of high yellow Art turned here into my inadvertent fart. “Your cxx is clouds on my tongue.” now in galleries of King’s is hung. Eyes wrung wet with my Storm – $5000 can never be called – Porn. Revolving Wheel’s Morning Ride – I like to feel it when it is applied. Economical God Amherst Bell? Cochineal birds “moved” to Hell. Victory is soon coming to hot lips – as my drop drowns investor’s ships. Lick up landscapes my thunder’s son! Steam on Stones – Plated Wares fun. Venom beats as starving hearts sing, pure silver pulse of amputated Sting. Forever a hummingbird and a snake – bee falling dead – into a tranquil lake. Jim Larwill Lac Bussiere, Quebec

From: Shawn Marie Hardy — Jan 28, 2011

Now, if only people would stop buying “art” from places like Target and Bed, Bath’s & Beyond. These mass-produced prints that cater to tight budgets make it almost impossible for artists, male and female, to sell, unless they’ve already made a name for themselves. Here’s a case in point. I was up in Traverse City two summers ago, perusing the galleries and enjoying a bit of retail therapy. I was in a little alleyway, in-between a real art gallery and a print gallery. Both places offered art, but one had original art from local artists, and the other had mass-produced prints — the same kind you see on the shelves at department stores, from non-local artists. I was sitting on a bench in the alley, people-watching and sipping a latte. Two men were commenting on the lovely original work, but then decided on a print from the shop next door. I watched them from the beginning of their search to the end, and when they picked their print, I called out, “buy original art — you’ll be happier!” They laughed and carried their print into the shop to pay for it. As they walked out I asked them why they opted for the print. The reply was, “it was cheaper.” I have heard similar comments from other people over the years. Many who just want to fill wall space. There are many injustices in the art world and trying to survive, and keep up one’s morale in the midst of it, is very difficult when you don’t have a name for yourself. Not to brag, but I used to sell more work five years ago, when my work wasn’t nearly as good as it is now. I have continued to develop a style that has attracted many people from around the world, but nobody wants to buy it. It’s a sign of the times. There are so many artists out there offering wall filler for dirt cheap — it’s hard to compete. Thankfully, I make art because I HAVE to, not because I want to get rich doing it. For me, it’s like breathing. I am proud that I have come this far in the world, with my art and with everything else I’ve done, as a strong, independent woman. I have to work hard to stay motivated, especially since I deal with certain OCD tendencies, agoraphobia, and a neuromuscular disorder. I am not housebound, but I am on permanent disability. I struggle every single day. I flow and I ebb, but I persevere. I think my work is better than some, and not as good as others, but worthy. In the big sea of art, I’ve dog-paddled all the way because I couldn’t swim through the obstacles with ease. But I’m getting there. SMH

From: Suzette Fram — Jan 28, 2011

Robert, Something you aid at the very end of your letter today, really struck me. For many of us, both men and women, there is enough to be done just watching the world go by — and being entertained. That is really profound. Is our world, and are our lives, slowly changing from ‘doing’ to ‘watching and being entertained’? That would certainly be tragic, on so many levels. Unfortunately, I fear you may be right. Inactivity is becoming a way of life for so many; being entertained is the order of the day. Certainly food for thought.

From: Jean W. Morey — Jan 28, 2011

Hi all! There are so many possibilities out there, I think its time to drop the gender comparisons and just do art. As a book illustrator and writer (as well as a painter) the advent of electronic books and their infinite possibilities of interaction and creative scope opens up a universe for all to explore. Glad to be alive and able to learn and grow in this astounding environment.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Jan 28, 2011

Another attribute that women bring to their easels is attention to detail and an honouring of the process of craftsmanship. Men, by contrast, bring the big ideas, the audacity, the willingness to take chances. Good artists, bring a combination of these to their work.

From: Catherine Mansell — Jan 28, 2011

I was 13 years old when Betty’s book came out. I read it then. I couldn’t believe how great her ideas were to me as a Midwestern girl and the hope that she gave me.Thank you so much for acknowledging all that you said about her, about painting and about women. I love to paint. You are wonderful to understand that much about woman and our challenges. I have never heard it said before. You must have an amazing wife and perhaps female children?

From: Nikki Coulombe — Jan 28, 2011

Something as basic to human-kind as creativity is not, nor has it ever been gender-specific. Male and female brains evolved side by side. “Millions of women” probably designed 95% of that shopping load of products apparently responsible for their surge of creativity. Women jumped on the wagon of creativity Pre-wagon Era. In fact we probably designed the wagon too, because when we weren’t cleaning that wagon, washing clothes on stones, cooking, mending and sewing, we were sitting in it caring for future generations of creative souls, and we probably wanted to be comfortable as possible, so we persistently developed means and ways to achieve that. “Philosophical but nevertheless combative attitudes” are only exasperated responses from a gender shut out of the boy’s club as if we weren’t as worthy, denied rights to open self expression, and who obeyed for far too long.

From: Yvonne George — Jan 28, 2011

In high school my teachers encouraged me to try for a scholarship to one of the many wonderful NYC schools. My mother wouldn’t hear of it. Her comment..”Nice girls don’t become artists”. She was obviously thinking about Greenwich Village…a hippie hotbed! Well, I did NOT try and became a Registered Nurse instead…even though she favored teaching as a profession. Marriage and four children later saw my nursing skills only being used to raise my family, By then I was living in Miami, FL and had just found Miami-Dade Community College…a very excellent college. During 4 years of studio classes there, I was recommended for a Merit Scholarship…and got it! (Only about 22 years late!). For about 30 years I created ceramic sculptures and art for the Interior Design Trade and high-end home builders. The next chapter of life has brought me to North Carolina where I started refreshing my painting skills. (I always joked that when the bags of clay got too heavy for an old woman, I would paint again.) Well, lo and behold, I am painting …and TEACHING art in the Continuing Education program at our local Community College. I teach oils, pastels and acrylics……and loving it!!! So I guess I am a teacher, after all! Never too old to change. Betty would be proud!!!

From: Pepper Hume — Jan 28, 2011
From: Gary Storey — Jan 28, 2011

When I received my Bachelor of Agriculture Degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 1963, a class of 65, all were men. There was no woman student in the College. All that changed, and changed dramatically. For over 20 years women have outnumbered men in the College and generally outperformed them. When I served a term as Associate Dean Academic in the ’90s, the top 20 to 30 students entering from High School were young women. Gary Storey Professor Emeritus

From: Heidi McCurdy — Jan 28, 2011

Don’t you mean, “Steady, well-regulated, workwomanlike habits”? ha ha

From: Sell Owen — Jan 28, 2011

I must say for some inexplicable reason, that I read your letters. I have always looked for information on the arts; in particular, painting, that might in some way be useful to me. I am utterly selfish on this point I know. But today’s article wherein you either seriously or in jest deal with Gender is…….disappointing to me. I can well understand that the need and search for material takes you to different parts of the world to paint, comment and interact with the “art reader”; to that extent; there has been interesting material. Delving into psychology, and gender based statistics is not your your strongest suit. I do feel that quality has nothing to do with gender and more to do with luck, training and angst. I believe also that quality in all it’s various forms is actually what people are looking for in the arts. Yes it could be the quality associated with shock or performance, as well as sloppy paint strokes but quality none the less. Every one is a critic. I have now joined that group.

From: Rita Young — Jan 28, 2011

At 60 and still starting out I find myself giving in to the demands of adult children still in the house and a full time job in my husband’s law office as well as a part time job on the side. While all of that commitment takes a big chunk of time, there are small bits of time I can regularly carve out for solitary exploration instead of sitting to be entertained. And I dearly miss the solitary exploration. It comes down to I just have to do it. I need to carve out my time and my space.

From: Suzanne Joubert — Jan 28, 2011

Thank you Robert. This is a generous and I believe sincere letter.

From: Sharon Cory — Jan 28, 2011

As the song says, Sisters are doin’ it for themselves, and the added bonus is that, now that our shackles are off, men too are free to be themselves. Some of them are finding that they like being the one to stay home with the kids, they don’t want a powerhouse job, and they’d rather not die at 60 from stress-related illnesses.

From: Cathy Johnson — Jan 28, 2011

I am old enough to have read Friedan’s book, though as I remember, I don’t think I did. I lived it, instead. I was very, very fortunate in my choice of parents—my dad always taught me that I could do anything I was willing to work hard enough for. We had little money, we were definitely blue collar, but I believed him. 40 years and 34 books and hundreds of paintings later, I still do.

From: Phillippa K. Lack — Jan 28, 2011

True that women tend to have negative feelings about themselves. But we can get over that!! I have just finished reading a most interesting book called something like 12 secrets of creative women. We really need to bring more of Betty Friedan to our work! You put it so well… Thanks as always for the good advice.

From: Carmen Beecher — Jan 28, 2011

Many of us women have motivated ourselves by becoming Daily Painters. There’s nothing like it for practice, tuning up the work ethic, establishing a new tempo, and making new friends online. I am a member of and every day I jump up, eager to paint the next one. I’m loving it.

From: Michael Aronoff — Jan 28, 2011

My belief is that a good male artist works with his feminine nature. A good female artist works with her masculine. I subscribe to Jung’s ideas on what it takes to be a balanced and individuated human being. I figure there is mastery to be gained by hard work and study. But not to disregard the complimentary aspect to mastery. It is Mystery; the feminine , unknown, the soft focus to all that is possible. With both in operation, I believe real good art happens.

From: Carole Pigott — Jan 28, 2011

As a 62 year old woman who has made her living for 35 years totally from her art — Bless you for this article – especially the line “And to the disgruntlement of some of the boys, we know that women in general tend to have better art-brains.” Georgia O’Keeffe thought that generally men created on a more logical level and women on an instinctual level. Can’t wait until women do become the next big thing in art – it’s about time.

From: Theresa Bayer — Jan 28, 2011

There are many painters I admire and want to emulate. I don’t consider which gender they are at all; I only know that they inspire me. And when I paint, I don’t think at all about being a woman. I just paint. Perhaps I couldn’t have gotten to this kind of consciousness without all the women who went before me, who had to figure all that gender stuff out as they went. But I certainly hope that when they painted, or sculpted or sang or wrote, they forgot who and what they were, and just let the art come through them.

From: Mandar Marathe — Jan 28, 2011

Whichever art workshops I have been to or have seen photos of on the internet, I have found that women outnumber men by a great margin. Could this be the reason for women being the next big thing in art? Artist’s gender doesn’t matter if the art is good and good art comes from perseverance which I think women have in plenty. -Mandar (

From: Don Bryant — Jan 29, 2011

My wife read Friedan’s book and it changed my life. Did it ever! She divorced me! I suppose it was not all Betty’s fault. We had some mututal discord and Betty probably clarified some points that struck a nerve which fomented action and splitsville. Actually, in thirty -five years hindsight, Betty probably did us all a good favor.

From: Margie Cohen — Jan 29, 2011

The list has been printed in bold type and put on the studio wall. As I read it, my mind ticked off, “got it, got that too, yup.” Then I realized that what I really meant was, “mostly, yea but sometimes not, I’d like to think so, still working on that one.” *The capability and the desire to work alone. I’m absolutely capable, though by the third day with no human contact I simply must go out for a bit and talk to someone. The guy at the post office will do in a pinch. *A degree of independence from outside opinion. The older I get the easier this one is. *Steady, well-regulated, workmanlike habits. I mentally punch in and just make something, even when uninspired, even if all I can do is clean tools or sit in the space where I paint. Showing up is the first and most important step for me. We ladies seem to have an unconscious ingrained draw to the sink, the laundry, the garden, the kids, the grocery store, the desk to pay bills, the neighbor who calls. Damn, all the worthy distractions!! I say, “Walk away, go punch in, they are expecting you in there!” *The understanding that passion comes from process. Some evenings it is hard to put it all down. Flow is so precious! *The curiosity to explore sets and series. You said this many years ago and I try to do this. When I don’t, those are the designs I find least developed, flat, surprisingly disappointing. *An intuitive sense of quality and reasonable taste. Well, I have MY taste and that second point helps here. Go with your gut instinct. (First you must find it, quiet the distractions in your own head and listen) It will be there advising you but you have to listen hard sometimes. *A philosophical but nevertheless combative attitude to the miserably dying vestiges of the boy’s club. Been there, done that. I divorced the boy’s club about 15 years ago… never looked back.

From: Claudia Roulier — Jan 29, 2011

I have to adamantly disagree with you. The women’s movement these days is mostly political, and has little to do with what’s good for women. I don’t know about anywhere else but in the art district where I work the women artists with children have husbands supporting them and they catch a moment or two when they can to do their art between taking care of kids. A number of older women who are artists have men supporting them and they are free to paint or whatever. Conversely, I know a number of men artists who are being supported by their wives and they are the ones taking care of the kids and snatching time just like women. As far as classes go there are a lot of baby boomers who made it and now the wives spend the money doing artsy stuff and by nature women just do that stuff more than men, human nature not nurture. I don’t think the women’s movement has as much to do with women in art as the financial stability of the home. Many men artists are in a different boat. They have families to support and then their art on top of that; many that I know have help from the wife, too. You need to rethink your theory.

From: Miriam Ruberl — Jan 29, 2011

Last night I came home elated from having been NOT selected for a national art competition, celebrating that I have once and for all finished with seeking acceptance from the old boys’ network. One participant proudly told me she knew the judge really well, which she felt explained her inclusion. Had my wax and ink on paper pieces been selected for judging I might well have been seduced into producing more to please people of that ilk, rather than pursuing the path that my creative process leads me down – exploration, working alone but also alongside other independent, self-organized artists of both/all genders, learning, watching the paint dry, see what happens, follow the next observation – all the things that you list at the end of your piece. And I totally agree with the last piece of writing, the esoterica – the gladiators are those artists who have learned how to perform for the judges, and good luck to them. But the fact that this exhibition was displayed in a war memorial hall says it all. Tauranga, New Zealand

From: J Fairman — Jan 29, 2011

This is from the Huffington Post: “Females of all ages, races and education levels are paid, on average 22 percent less than males. African American women earn 30 percent less than males and Latinas earn 42 percent less than men. The median income of older women is half what it is for older men. The AAUW states that female workers are still concentrated in traditionally female-dominated professions, especially education and health industries, which continue to be lower paying than male-dominated professions. Even in so-called male-dominated fields the disparity is great–female marketing and sales managers earned $46,696 compared to $74,932 for males according to a 2005 survey.” This from CNN: 28 out of One Thousand (emphasis mine) Fortune companies are headed by women. This from “The poverty gap between women and men widens significantly between ages 18 and 24—20.6 percent of women are poor at that age, compared to 14.0 percent of men. The gap narrows, but never closes, throughout adult life, and it more than doubles during the elderly years.” Now these statistics are only for America. Women in Third World countries have considerably less than their male counterparts.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 30, 2011

Only four out of thirty five respondents so far are men and to a large degree the discourse has been civil. Robert opens a Pandora’s Box whenever the subject of comparisons of equality between men and women is the subject. I grew up through the sixties and the women’s movement and in looking back much have already changed while much still needs changing. The important fact here is things are changing. More importantly when women use this forum to bash men and only championing women just serves to widen the chasm that is beginning to heal. I didn’t read one comment on how much has changed and the opportunities available to women today. We need to see the cup half full not the other way round or we belittle the work of the Betty Freidan’s who worked so diligently to get this far.

From: Anonymous — Jan 30, 2011

One advantage most men have over women in the art field is . . . they have WIVES! You know, the person that cooks their meals, washes their clothes, takes care of the kids, cleans their house and probably their studios, answers the phones, takes messages, offers support and succor, and generally runs everything allowing the artist to actually do artwork. A significant number of woman artists have to be and do all of the above, unless they are fortunate enough to have a stay-at-home, supportive significant other. So . . . all you artists out there . . . be thankful for the help and support you are receiving from your ‘wives’ and remember to say, “Thank you!”

From: Mary Jay McClave — Jan 30, 2011

As one of those women of a certain age, i.e., graduating high school the same year that Betty Friedan published her milestone book, I have seen the possibilities in life for women change dramatically. What my daughter (three children, PhD in Statistics, challenging career as a consultant) and daughter-in-law(two children, law degree,challenging career as corporate counsel) take as their due, we struggled to get a glimpse of when their age. It has been a remarkable and unmistakable march to the inclusion of women on the path that heretofore was clearly marked “Men Only”. Womens’ inclusion in life as a whole has literally doubled our workforce, our brain power and shot creativity through the roof! As far as art is concerned, it was the one outlet that has been a constant part of my life over almost the entire course of it. But, when I attended college, my widowed mother made certain that I pursued a course of study that would allow me to always be able to support myself. Thus I got two degrees in education, never even considering pursuing my passion. Now that I have raised a family, helped my husband start a company, which, the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, still is going strong some thirty-plus years later, I am finally giving rein to the right side of my brain. It is an unbelievable joy to simply create art. I have no expectations of creating ART, writ large, but I do enjoy the process of doing what I’ve always done, but do now with intention. I belong to a group of mostly women who take a studio watercolor class with an amazing woman artist who is also a gifted teacher. Those three or four hours a week we meet to paint, critique and support one another’s artistic endeavors is one of the best parts of the week, one that we all look forward to with delight. Creativity validates one’s life as no other act, for your own creative expression, no matter how amateur or professional the results may be, is something only you can do. No one else can produce exactly the same painting, sculpture, art quilt, book, poem, photograph, whatever, that you do. So thanks for the reminder that women are called to art, just as they are called to all venues of life. As the younger generation says “You go, girl!”.

From: S Purvis — Jan 30, 2011

Self help, self absorbed, self pity, self…………whatever. It still comes down to making excuses for not doing. I know that, for me, it was awhile after I had children that I was able to, somewhat, freely produce work. It isn’t about male or female, but it is about putting the time in and going through the motions until you understand the process. Not only do you understand, but you also learn how to manipulate the process until it becomes you. If you stay with it long enough, it really does become a part of you. Maybe I am too pragmatic, but so much of what I hear is about making this art stuff much bigger than life and in my mind that is where one loses the connection. Just paint, don’t stress over it, just paint and do it some more.

From: jcb — Jan 30, 2011

You say, “we know that women in general tend to have better art brains [than men]”? I haven’t heard that before, and I haven’t seen any evidence of it. So, I’m curious, what is your factual basis for saying it?

From: Dirk — Jan 31, 2011

Good question, JCB. What do you have to say Robert?

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Jan 31, 2011

As a writer I’m phobic about gender-benders in dialogue, so I’m considering safety of a sort in saying I want to join the ranks of the gladiators, as that phrase you wrote applies to success…” gladiators are the top earners”.

From: Sandra L. Jones — Jan 31, 2011

78% of painters are women? How depressing to see that figure and know that the majority of “successful” painters are men!

From: Anders Knutsson — Jan 31, 2011
From: Theresa Bayer — Jan 31, 2011

Rick Rotante said, “I didn’t read one comment on how much has changed and the opportunities available to women today.” I thought I had implied that in my comment. But maybe it was too vague. So let me make it abundantly clear: Yes, I am very very glad for the changes that have taken place in my lifetime that have enhanced society, and for the opportunities women have nowadays. Dude, I totally appreciate that. As for the glass, it’s full: half full of water, and half full of air!

From: Cassey — Feb 01, 2011

Theresa, I loved that line, “As for the glass, it’s full: half full of water, and half full of air!” I really am glad Robert decided to bring up the touchy subject of gender… it’s a subject that I think is too often ignored in today’s society because people wish to avoid conflict… or widening the ‘chasm that is beginning to heal’… but personally, I think that’s a mistake; just pretending like everything’s okay because it makes you uncomfortable isn’t going to fix anything.

From: Mimi Ball — Feb 01, 2011

Well what a lovely painting , you get the feeling you are in it , and how wet you are getting ! . fabulous !!!

From: miss_peggy_artist — Feb 01, 2011

Re: Conversation Piece – I love that the reflection is missing ! “There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)

From: Casey Craig — Feb 01, 2011

Being an artist means different things to different people and we each have to define our own version of success. I find Ms. Friedan’s reference to being a wife and mother and all it involves akin to a “concentration camp” extremely disturbing and quite belittling to women. Many women CHOOSE to relegate their art careers to the back burner while they have young children in the home. If equality is the objective we must recognize that the choice of careers is what matters, not the career itself. And for some that means a balance of career AND family.

From: Dee — Feb 01, 2011

Did you write ‘clicback’ on purpose? Funny how in our art, it is creative licence to produce an anomaly, but in creative writing, it is still taboo? Just sayin’! : )

From: Mary Ulm Mayhew — Feb 01, 2011

My goodness, this is a mysterious painting, definitely don’t change a thing.

From: Marlene Lewis — Feb 01, 2011

I was painting all day (from 7a.m till 3 pm) and my daughter came home from school in a terrible mood…When I asked her why she was in such a bad mood, she said to me, “Well, I’d be in good mood, too, if I’d stayed home and colored all day”…Yikes! That hurt!

From: Stan — Feb 01, 2011

I don’t think I’ll worry about gender roles. They’ll pretty much take care of themselves.

From: Sparksrick — Feb 01, 2011

Demon Umbrella! No Shadow!

From: Kelly Borsheim — Feb 01, 2011

The Maestro John Angel likes to tell his students at the Angel Academy of Art in Firenze, Italia, that it is not entirely true that there were no female professional artists throughout history. He is making it a bit of his mission to showcase women artists who not only painted professionally, but made good money doing it. Perhaps they did not earn the money of some of their male counterparts (perhaps they did — I do not remember). His point was that it is an error to think that women did not have access to becoming artists. He lectures that the problem is that history books were often written by men and that history books control much of what we know of the past. John Angel tends to dig deeper to find out about these professionals who were by-passed by the writers. I hope that helps someone feel better about their liberation ideas. Thanks.

From: anon — Feb 01, 2011

My wife is trifling and annoying. She waste my time with endless errands and does all she can to keep me from my studio. She is good about spending the money from my art though. She also considers it a “hobby”. She complains when I buy supplies, she complains when I hang out with other artists. Get the picture? It is a two way street. All of the art organisations locally are female dominated as are most of the teaching positions. All of the local art organization meetings are held at times men are working and are mostly attended by retired men. As an artist I have chosen not to “play”. I work by myself, I seek opportunities for myself and enjoy my own company. I think women use to be in the minority but it is rapidly changing. As all things do the pendulum will swing to the extreme and eventually back to center. Until then I will work by myself.

From: Kamoos Obomor — Feb 01, 2011

Robert’s claim that “We know that women in general tend to have better art brains [than men]” is not only laughable, it’s a cynically sexist attempt to cater to his mostly female audience. Shame on you, Robert.

From: Purell — Feb 01, 2011

I believe that Robert is sincerely in awe of the “female art brain” which I think is just a figure of speech, not a reference to the anatomy. Sudden flood of female artists brought an amazing contribution to the art community with new and fresh ideas. The steady male presence appears to take a backstage in these circumstances, with nothing fundamentally new and exciting at this time. This of course is a stereotype, there are exceptions, as in any trend.

From: James Bright — Feb 01, 2011

You know …I do not want to appear a prude or conservative…but of late with a surge of interest in the so called old masters…it seems that many of the magazines, are all full of nudes…I sometimes think it has gone too far…and why the almost obsession like to paint like the old masters?? Why not paint like today…I definitely think that knowing full well the rigid long structure of painting…learning the basics, grinding pigments…and so on…I think you know what I mean, that many have become more interested in process rather than painting…seems to be more emphasis on buying way too much in art stuff and supplies rather than simplifying the process and getting to the doing and painting…Why this over complicating and resulting mediocrity of much of what claims to be old master style…so much of it is just …well boring…maybe technically wonderful…but how long can you gaze into the wonders of amazing..when the presentation is only one dimensional in subject and depth…well …I am not expressing myself as well as I am thinking or feeling it…but …of the many tutorials I have participated…and the money spent…many of them by so so artists themselves…I have felt duped into thinking this would help…farthest thing from the truth ever…I firmly believe that simple process and learning to use a simple palette of colours and materials will challenge in ways that may seem apparent at first but help a potential artist immensely in seeing much much more. And tell those artists to put some clothes on those poor models…it is freezing out there and enough with the cheap and bad skin paintings…no different than your Dad’s men’s magazines under the mattress.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 01, 2011

Theresa Bayer – I have to disagree with you. I don’t know of one women or man writer, singer, painter, sculptor who can perform or create and not be who they are as men or women. This is what makes us unique as artists and as individuals. When we create, the work produced comes from who we are. I can’t speak for you or women any more than you can speak for me or men. My work is as uniquely male as I am. I may try and speak for women but my voice is male. We can never separate our gender from our work. We may attempt to speak with a masculine/feminine voice, but ultimately, we are who we are forever and for eternity and thankfully so.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 01, 2011

James – I’ve never read an email of someone who has missed the point of art and painting and life so much as you. You have obviously been with the wrong teachers and been given bad information. It’s time you do the work yourself and find out why the masters are called “the masters”.

From: Thierry — Feb 01, 2011
From: Helen Opie — Feb 02, 2011

Re Anne Swannell’s umbrella reflections: I think that if you’d put that missing reflection in, the composition would be “ruined”. There is a lovely flow of light watery pavement throughout the painting, leading from lower right and wending its way to the back. A dark reflection there would block the eye’s entrance; there would be no path leading in, not enough space between things for the eye to rest and think. Your artist-within knew what she was doing and you did not block her! Leave it…and the owner may not have noticed, or may also have concluded that it was better compositionally and possibly intended. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

From: doolie rule — Feb 02, 2011

I have forgotten my umbrella several times. Your painting is lovely. leave it alone and start on another. Sometime we artist LOOK for things to worry about, because we want whatever the thing is that is called “perfection”. Wish i had thought of something as lovely.

From: Thierry — Feb 02, 2011

My wife suggests I mention that the text above comes from the article for which I give the link at the bottom.

From: Nancy Warren — Feb 02, 2011

Robert has dealt with the creative ability of women in many letters that can be found on this site or in his books. The main thrust of these arguments is the bicameral nature of the brain, the tendency of more women to be right brained than men, and the evidence of a larger corpus collosum in women — the conduit between the hemispheres. He also notes the lack of stubbornness in women, their excellent networking ability, and willingness to take advice from other, including men. (As opposed to men taking advice from women)

From: Tetley — Feb 02, 2011

Rick, what do you think about authors who write novels from the point of the opposite gender? I am always amazed when I read a book where the main figure is a woman and the author is a man. I am a woman and find that some of those novels are very believable. How can those authors so subtly express themselves is beyond me, I could never do it, just as you say. But really good authors can.

From: Theresa Bayer — Feb 02, 2011

Rick Rotante, thanks for your comment on gender. Perhaps my work comes out with a woman’s voice, I don’t know — I guess that’s for others to decide. I just know that when I make it, I’m not concerned with my gender. IOW I don’t FEEL particularly feminine or womanly as I make art. I can’t speak for anyone else, male or female, however.

From: Theresa Bayer — Feb 02, 2011
From: Susan Volk Stanley — Feb 02, 2011

I am feeling much more optimistic today after reading your piece on the Feminine Mystique. Yes……I am often overwhelmed by the needs of my family, my home and my life. It is hard to keep all the balls in the air and stay on my creative path. it requires the hours of a vampire, the concentration of a Buddhist monk, the skill of a Criss Angel and an unshakable desire to keep going against all odds. I’m sure many of us would just give up if we could….. but if you are truly a painter then I have found there is just no stopping you. Thank goodness!

From: Deanna Apfel — Feb 02, 2011

I was glad to see you changed ladies to women in your previous post, The feminine mystique. I’m curious. How many women wrote to point that out? I think the use of the antiquated term ladies might be food for another post?

From: Paul deMarrais — Feb 02, 2011

The rather tame response to your feminine mystique post was interesting. Have feminists gone underground or are they tired of fighting against the tide or are they doing something differently! I believe women are just “being themselves’ more now and it’s refreshing. Strong women don’t need to hit men with a sledgehammer or hate us for being men. My ex- wife was a powerful academic and I got a bucket-load of the “boys club” rhetoric and other anti male sentiment. The university is a hotbed of anti male activism. However, I really don’t regret the ‘retraining’ I got from her. I was guilty of many of the crimes of the dominant gender. I learned to talk a bit less and listen more, to take women more seriously, not to overtly favor the overtly sexy attractive women etc. Men are just as conditioned as women and by getting some of these attitudes out, you are able to really enjoy the other gender. Women are fun and I am glad they aren’t like me, don’t think like me, and don’t paint like me. Thank you for the Painter’s Keys. Always a great way to start the day!

From: Thierry Talon — Feb 02, 2011
From: Rick Rotante — Feb 02, 2011

Tetley – You would have to tell me to which book you are referring. But even then, I know enough about women to generalize from a female point of view. If I couldn’t do this, I’d get some women to enlighten me. What I’ve been saying throughout is when we do anything; it’s based on who we are unless, as your author did, he wrote a convincing female character for the purpose of his story. But this is fiction. I doubt very much this author could do an ongoing dialogue as a women without some women (and men) eventually seeing thru the sham. George Sand was another effective women writer who wrote under a nom de plume. I believe if we want to be fooled, we will be fooled. Theresa – I can’t believe anyone paints “with their gender” in mind. I don’t sit and say before every painting “I think I’ll paint this as a man!” It’s more complicated and physiologically ingrained. I DO choose subject matter that could be construed as “feminine” but that idea happens in those who still think some subjects are gender specific, like babies and flowers, tea sets and the like.

From: mars — Feb 02, 2011

Re- Annes painting– about umbrella?? Wonderful painting–leave it as is– it’s a conversation piece — —- did she or did she not —  want 2 omit it?

From: Martha Corkrin — Feb 02, 2011

Well, Robert, I truly believe your perspective on female artists is sincere and honest, but I worry about some of the folks who made comments against you.

From: Rafe Elway — Feb 03, 2011

Previously I found women a mystery. Then I realized I was generalizing. There’s a saying, If you think you know what’s going on, you don’t know what’s going on. While that’s not pertinent as it stands, I now understand that if you think you know what’s going on, you aren’t paying attention. There’s not a lot of mystery, just a handful of unknowns. There are a lot of things to pay attention to, where previously there were assumptions and presumption.

From: Lilach — Feb 03, 2011

Don’t worry Martha, nobody cares about those few angry pseudo-intellectual babblers.

From: Theresa Bayer — Feb 04, 2011

LOL Rick Rotante! I’m glad you don’t try to to manhandle those brushes when you paint! :^)

     Featured Workshop: Barrett Edwards
012811_robert-genn Barrett Edwards Workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Hoar Frost

oil painting by John Berry, 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 Diane Overmyer of Goshen, IN, USA, who wrote, “In my region of the world, even with a greater number of women artists, there is rarely an equivalent ratio of awards being given to women versus men. At best it seems there is a 50/50 split between awards going to women or men. I have heard both men and women say it is the opposite gender’s world today but perhaps it is all a matter of perspective. Personally, I thank God every day I am able to paint, that I didn’t live in earlier times when women didn’t have nearly the opportunities that we have today.” And also Elizabeth J Billups of Sandpoint, ID, USA, who wrote, “I have always painted for my own passion and to this day my work has seldom been accepted by the gallery world. Perhaps, change the word “Women” and replace it with ‘Who knows what artists can become when they are finally free to become themselves.’ ” And also Tom Andrich of Winnipeg, MB, Canada, who wrote, “I have been teaching painting in Winnipeg for over 20 years at the Forum Art Institute and 90% of my students have been women. I have gained a great respect for women and their capabilities. They make the majority of men look like children. Women have so much more to offer the world and are slowly being given the chance to do that.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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