Five easy pieces


Dear Artist,

A childhood friend messaged, “How’s your creative process doing at this time?” I replied that I hadn’t heard a single complaint from an artist about self-isolation, myself included. What I’d noticed instead were artists experiencing a collective, organic re-assessment of what their work means and their art’s purpose. I’d been reading about a guru who’d suggested that whoever we were before the pandemic would only be magnified during self-isolation. I thought perhaps the same could be said for our work, or maybe the crisis would instead crack open a global, creative breakthrough. In art, these breakthroughs can be total reinvention or a leap from the springboards we’ve been building. Here are a few ideas:

Illustration for Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, commissioned for the 50th anniversary of its publication by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial (Spain), 2017 by London-based, Chilean illustrator Luisa Rivera

Book illustration for Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, commissioned for the 50th anniversary of its publication by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial (Spain), 2017
by London-based, Chilean illustrator Luisa Rivera.

1. Look at your last piece before lockdown and re-see it in the context of today. This doesn’t have to be literal — a poetic nudge or new energy is equally valuable.

2. Pull back to all of your work from the last two years, and reassess the over-arching themes. Can your paintings provide a clue to who you are becoming today? Where might they go now? What might they mean to others?

3. Is there a corner you can turn in technique, subject and energy that will push new creative, spiritual, material and emotional needs to the fore?

4. Now put it all aside. Is there yet another way, or even a new medium in which to tell a story you had not, until now, found the moment to tell? Or a story that has only just arrived?

Book illustration for One Hundred Years of Solitude by Luisa Rivera, 2017

Book illustration, 2017,  for One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Luisa Rivera

5. Lay five blank sheets or cards in front of you and assign to each a theme. If “theme” is too strong a word, then substitute it with, “vibe.” Connect your five “states of being” to your old work. Now, imagine them for a new world.



PS: “He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” (Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera)

Book illustration, 2017 for One Hundred Years of Solitude by Luisa Rivera

Book illustration, 2017, for One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Luisa Rivera

Esoterica: In Gabriel García Márquez’s biography A Life, Márquez told writer Gerald Martin, “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.” Lying in bed listening to the wind, I noticed my imagination’s silent, hidden questions growing louder. The rain crackled on the wood roof and I pictured the falling snow in the high desert. Our spring sleep has hushed the urgencies and distractions that have shielded us from our abysses and highest expressions. “This is not the inert silence of a stone, but creative silence,” wrote Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “We have to find it for ourselves. We decrease activity until silence becomes creative, and we sit in creative silence and close the gates of perception for insight into the content of life.” Our secret lives may have a chance, now, to step into the light — their wishes explored and perhaps even made champions.

“There is always something left to love.” (Gabriel García Márquez)

Artist Luisa Rivera’s illustrated, 50th anniversary edition of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is here. Her illustrated edition of Love in the Time of Cholera is here. Both of these editions are in Spanish. 

Luisa Rivera

Luisa Rivera in her London studio.

I wish each and every one of you well during this global health crisis and encourage you to flatten the curve by staying at home with your creative materials. I hope our Painter’s Keys community can be a source of friendship and creative inspiration during this time and always.
In friendship, Sara 

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“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” (Gabriel García Márquez)



  1. .Art is not a physiological necessity, but it is a psychological and spiritual one. In this time of fragile uncertainty we find ourselves re-assessing our values and priorities. As an artist who has made a living from my work, I often opted for “salable” pieces in my offerings instead of prioritizing work that appealed to personal creativity, but not common aesthetics. I forfeited 40-50% of my prices to middle management in galleries that made “safe” choices. I’ve paid jury fees for the privilege of rejection from judges I have no knowledge of nor respect for, and venues which abide by the subliminal safe choice rules. Art should be a thrilling and risky experiment instead of just another commercial retail market in a world full of ridiculous excess and exploitation. Perhaps I won’t have a market, but from now on, my creative priorities have shifted to suit myself.

    • I made your decisions after 2008 when my middle income market collapsed. My income has essentially stopped but I am so much happier and growing rapidly. I really have not marketed myself but have an income from a small business I own a part of. Art feeds the soul and to eny it is a criminal act. My bestto you in this endeavor. MM

    • Joan Bazzel……..your message is so spot on and relatable, I believe, to other artists as well. I love this: “I won’t have a market, but from now on, my creative priorities have shifted to suit myself.” The fact that you’ve come to this conclusion is remarkable considering you made a living by producing “salable” pieces instead of prioritizing work that appealed to your own creativity, but now you’re allowing to let that go. I think that most of the artist population as well as the general public are realizing just how precious and limited each and every one of our lives is. As for me, I’m trying to “go to my room.” Easter blessings to all……Suszanne

  2. Sarah, I so resonate with your observations and suggestions. I particularly appreciate the notion that “whoever we were before the pandemic would only be magnified during self-isolation”. I have painted two large seascapes during the past three or so weeks we have been practicing social distancing. The first is called “Hope For A New Day” a 36 x 40 inch oil on canvas and is of a sunrise catching on the clouds and reflecting off the sea as the waves rolls ashore. There is a “resting” image of the work on my website. The second, is of “Wickininnish Beach in the Pacific Rim Park Reserve” a 30 x 40 inch oil on canvas and is shared in a public post with a cookie recipe on my personal Facebook profile because the home studio is currently the backdrop from my kitchen counter. The majority of comments in these works has been how soothing, peaceful and calming they are. My reply is that when times are difficult, I paint what I need most and hope it is of value and helpful to others. After reading your letter, I realize that this isn’t just for difficult times. It is how I approach my work in general… it is only simply magnified with a pervasive intensity right now. All the best, be well and Happy Easter to you and your family Sarah and everyone!

    • Thank-you Sara – your words are good reminder, catalyst even for many artists & creatives.
      While I THOUGHT the pandemic lock-down would provide more creative opportunity, my
      reality is the opposite, because I suddenly have 3 extra adults at home with me, and all of
      the attendant distractions. But I can’t wait to see what everyone else is creating! Thank-you
      for your encouraging words.

      • It is so helpful to read of other’s struggles. I, too, am frustrated by the present stay at home as I have a daughter, granddaughter and two great-grandsons staying in my home at present (as well as a needy husband!), so have had very little time to spend on my art. But this, too, will pass and I’m at least able to prepare for the time I can get back to it. Happy and blessed Easter to all.

  3. I have grown in this time…but simultaneously, as Paula wrote above, my husband is now home full time, with lots of things for ME to do, and at the same time social isolation is very hard for him, so there is lots of negotiating going on that I didn’t have to do before. So sometimes it’s hard for me to get my butt back in the studio, even with lots of wonderful new things to work on.

    It isn’t just isolation; it’s isolation with other people who don’t have the same priorities you do. Even if you love him or her, it’s hard.

  4. Hi Sara:
    I read your most recent newsletter this afternoon after doing a restorative yoga class on zoom. What the Maharishi says in Esoterica resonated with what we had just been led to experience by our wonderfully intuitive teacher. The Yogi says: We decrease activity until silence becomes creative, and we sit in creative silence and close the gates of perception for insight into the content of life.” If we think we should wait for a better time to do this that better time may never come. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be alone and not forced to be constant companions or home-school teachers, should look at this opportunity as one not to let pass by.
    Your suggestions for taking a fresh look at our work and initiating new ideas are practical and ones which my art group will discuss on our weekly zoom meeting.
    Thank you for continually providing us with thought-provoking topics and achievable strategies for moving ahead as developing artists.

    “There is always something left to love.” (Gabriel García Márquez)

  5. Artists have always liked to work in isolation. Many not all. CV 19 Time is a time to plan for artlife,
    after CV 19 runs its course. I am making a hit list of things to do- Journal on paper – to do stuff.
    My list is people to be in touch with, subjects to explore, letters to send, Plan a BOGO sale.

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_DSC5177Four separate, 7-hour workshops where you will learn all the fundamentals of approaching plein air painting. You will also learn modern colour theory which makes working with a reduced palette and mixing colours a breeze. Two of these workshops are held in Markham, Ontario, the other two in Peterborough Ontario. Your instructor, Keith Thirgood, has been painting en plein air and teaching art for over 12 years. These workshops are suitable for beginners wanting to learn to paint in a fun, outdoor location, as well as more experienced studio artists who want to try plein air, plus artists who are looking to loosen up and paint in a more post-impressionist style.
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Featured Artist

We all need beauty, especially at a time when it appears to many that the world is in chaos.

Painting is the way I view my life, and it helps me keep my mind straight and my eyes on the positive. I look for beauty wherever I go. For that reason, I know that my life will not be long enough to paint all the ideas that I have.

I am painting because the Lord put the passion and desire in my heart to glorify Him in this way.

I have dedicated my life since 1983 to creating a body of work that testifies of His Creation, majesty, power, beauty, life and love.

Light and how we see it on the earth is the subject of all of my paintings.

I paint the landscape because I believe that we can see the Creator in His Creation, if we just look for Him there.

Since all who are sighted may see our surroundings, I believe this is one of the most evident ways we may see Him.

If I were to give a name to my entire portfolio of paintings, I would call it “The Sight of Heaven Touching Earth.”This Scripture, Romans 1:19-20, is foundational to all of my work: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made, so they are without excuse.”

 Beauty, order, and the possibility to love is all around us—all we have to do is want to see it.


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