Dealing with fixations

Dear Artist, “Laura” paints tough-looking, thick-necked women in tight skirts and high-heeled jackboots. She does lots of paintings like this, and they’re not self-portraits. Laura turned out to be delicate and petite, with a gentle, apparently happy, thankful and optimistic nature. Now 40 years old, she told me she had been sexually abused as a child and had lived in a series of foster homes and was processed by a parade of social workers and psychiatrists. For obvious reasons, I’ll not disclose her real name or show her work, but I have asked her permission to write about this. The question of why some of us choose trees and rocks while others choose houses and barns while others choose figurative subjects or complete abstraction is a mystery worthy of study. Laura’s situation is what we might call obsessive. For her, the female Amazon image is like a glass of wine that she can’t help reaching for. While she loves her work and relishes the joy of working alone, she knows she lacks a professional’s touch. Laura feels stuck and would like to make progress away from her fixation. I’ve drawn Laura’s attention to some relatively new and easily accessed therapy known as Cognitive-bias Modification. CBM is based on the idea that some people have built-in biases that propel their behavior and influence their interests and attention. For example, a young woman who had been abused by a male might gain comfort from the sight of a strong and dominant woman. Fact is, we artists have a tendency to keep making and remaking our comfort. Laura may be creating visions of her own safety and thus reinforcing her power. A typical CBM technique for treating fears and anxiety is to show the client two faces on a computer screen — one frowning and disgusted, the other neutral. A stressed client tends to become fixated on the frowning visage, mirroring feelings of disapproval or threat. CBM treatment involves superimposing a series of positive visual experiences near or on top of the fixated face. The idea is to neutralize the repetitious reinforcement and make the imagery benign by association. While strong biases can make for compelling art, we have to keep in mind that some artists want to change. As a therapy, CBM is less time-consuming than talk therapy and less invasive than drugs. Best of all, an artist who employs CBM is more likely to understand and retain her free will. Best regards, Robert PS: “CBM helps people take a step, before they have time to consciously think, ‘Should I take a drink?'” (University of Amsterdam experimental psychologist Reinout W. Wiers) Esoterica: Among my immediate acquaintances are artists who are fixated on dolls, cars, arachnids, girls, boys, flowers, horses and Martians. Goodness knows I’m fixated on trees and rocks myself. The idea is to live our passions well and to explore their potential. But when change and evolution are in the air or there’s a need for a dumping of unpleasant baggage, new association is a valid ploy. These artists need a strong, self-managed program to overcome what has become an addiction.   Good wishes for Laura by Teresa Chow, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Teresa Chow

Laura’s situation is heartbreaking. I cannot imagine what she had gone through in life but I sincerely hope that she would eventually be healed. We are all mortals of various species and kinds. Some mortals are abusive and find joy and happiness in hurting others. The abused sometimes grow up to be the abuser in order to show the abuser that he/she is now stronger and more powerful than the abuser. By finding a victim to abuse, he/she finds a comfort zone. It’s a vicious cycle but best left alone for the professionals to deal with. Others are never able to bounce back and drift away. It’s sickening to lose a precious life like this. May Laura find comfort and peace and live her spiritual and creative life to the fullest. There are 2 comments for Good wishes for Laura by Teresa Chow
From: Anonymous — Mar 25, 2011

Who can know when one is eventually healed. I did note that Robert said that Laura seemed gentle, happy, thankful and optimistic. Maybe she has already found comfort and peace and is living her creative life to the fullest!

From: Dottie Dracos — Mar 25, 2011

Oh, my! I love your painting. I’ve driven across this vast country more times than I like to think about, and I’ve seen this scene multiple times along the way. You’ve really captured the intensity of the light contrasts and the excitement and even a bit of apprehension at what is likely to come next.

  A necessary obsession by Basil Pessin  

digital painting
by Basil Pessin

For some, an obsession is the rock upon which they stand. Remove it and there is nothing but an abyss below. If obsession does not hurt anyone and in fact contributes to a unique style, as many artists are aware of, why remove it? Rather than arm chair psychology, why don’t you offer to help her improve the quality of her art which is your area of expertise and what she is looking for? To tell her to have her head examined, I would think, is not the best approach! Look at your own art and tell me honestly that it is not obsessional. When was the last time someone told you to see a psychologist to improve your art? There is 1 comment for A necessary obsession by Basil Pessin
From: Sharon Cory — Mar 25, 2011

Laura herself felt stuck and wanted to move on. This was good advice that could gently nudge her in a new direction without forcing her off the rock.

  Proactive instead of reactive by Kelly Borsheim, Firenze, Italy  

“La Pausa”
pastel painting
by Kelly Borsheim

The idea that came to mind when I read the description of this therapy method is that it could totally backfire and have horrible consequences. To show images of expressions of disgust and disapproval with images depicting positive ideas might just train someone to misread another’s body language in real life. We do that enough as is, but to teach a wounded or healing soul that a real expression of disapproval actually means something positive could have disastrous results, setting up for future hurts. While each person is different, I would think that it might be healthier to create a totally new fixation based on a totally new experience or idea. Instead of re-associating memories, why not create something new and born of love? Instead of using concepts of safety and strength, maybe she could focus on different concepts, such as joy or playfulness. Proactive instead of reactive.   A survivor to respect by Mary Jane Q Cross, Newport, NH, USA  

“Gently Letting Go”
oil painting
by Mary Jane Q Cross

Powerful women painters who survive trauma emotionally can be reminded of Artemisia Gentileschi, woman painter 1593-1651. Mistreated similarly to Laura and then again publicly in a trial, her personal response (or revenge) lives on in her stunning and memorable success as a woman painter bucking the “old boy” system of her day. Subjects that she is known for are Judith beheading Holofernes, Judith and her Maidservant, and Susannah and the Elders. I understand the models, in some cases, resemble the people who abused her and the ladies in control were powerful or women of heroic proportions. Her public did not let her forget and as she subsequently painted some of these scenes or themes over and over, it made her quite financially self-supporting. It seems her subject resonated? She may have really enjoyed the print process that we have available to us today, but it may not have been as therapeutic. Your lovely petite optimistic happy woman, artist in her 40’s, seems looking for a smoother painting voice to say what is therapeutic and perhaps move on. Perhaps God gives us this mechanism when there is no apparent justice. I think the fixation therapy is trying to circumvent dealing with the helplessness women may feel at this lack of justice. I am impressed with this woman’s coping skills. If she is optimistic and happy, I suspect she is a survivor to respect. There are 2 comments for A survivor to respect by Mary Jane Q Cross
From: Anonymous — Mar 25, 2011

Your optimism and joy are apparent in your painting. It’s a joy to behold.

From: John P — Mar 26, 2011

It is a wonderful painting. You have a rare gift for capturing mood and expression.

  Where’s the problem? by Haim Mizrahi, East Hampton, NY, USA  

“Glow in the dark”
mixed media
by Haim Mizrahi

Why is there a problem with Laura’s conduct and why do you choose to write about it? Laura should be encouraged to continue to create regardless of what the subject matter is because the creative engagement itself provides the strength to make sense of a threatening reality, of memories that are imprinted like a tattoo on our foreheads. My childhood was full of misfortunate factors but I don’t believe I need to seek the advice of the so-called professional mind readers. Who has this kind of money anyway at $200 a session? The real problem is when an individual cannot find a medium through which one can elevate life’s sensations to their rightful height and from which life’s celebration is constant. Leave Laura alone, she is doing just fine. Encourage her to continue and do more of the same and the rest will be addressed by Mother Nature. There is 1 comment for Where’s the problem? by Haim Mizrahi
From: Sarag — Mar 27, 2011

If you read Mr. Genn’s letter you will see that it was Laura herself who feels “stuck” and “wants to move on”. Your cranky letter suggests that perhaps it’s you who hasn’t moved on.

  Life, Loss, and Healing Workshop by Anna Hogbin, Martinsburg, WV, USA   I am a professional counselor, retired, and would like to share a resource that is excellent for Laura. Laura can get the highest professional, healing help by attending a Life, Loss, and Healing Workshop led by the staff of the former Elisabeth Kuebler Center. Elizabeth has passed on, but was/is recognized as ‘the’ international expert on loss and grief. Her work started as she stood in the German death camps after WWII and felt the souls that had not passed. She was a medical doctor and her books have been groundbreaking. The website for the workshop is The cost is only $495 and includes tuition, room and board. It is located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. It will set her free – it did me and hundreds of others! (RG note) Thanks, Anna. For those who may be interested in getting information about this workshop, please call Nancy Mullins in Kansas City, KS, USA at 413-268-7342.   Emotional Freedom Techniques by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“Summer Colors”
pastel painting
by Paul DeMarrais

Every painting is an outward expression of our inner landscape. Our inner landscape mirrors our mental health. If our mental health is good, our art can reflect joy, love and ultimately the freedom of our potential. Obsessions are manifestation of mental health problems, where we are ‘stuck’ in a rut of our past experience and cannot move forward. Instead of experiencing freedom, we are like a junkyard dog tied to a post with a short chain. Our potential is imprisoned in a cell of our own making. From your description, I am not a fan of CBM. It sounds like psychiatry in general which seems to me to be like a drip of water poured into a vast desert. Laura knows where her problems lie. Even if we are lucky enough to find the exact problem, how to we go about fixing it? How do we effect change? I am a new devotee of EFT ( Emotional Freedom Techniques) which is a simple process where a person taps on the acupuncture points or ‘meridians’ of the body while verbally speaking about the problem or trauma in question. As wacky as it sounds, it seems to be effective in removing painful energy blockages which we store in the body. EFT has been found to be very effective in treating both victims of sexual abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. It has helped me and I believe it would help ‘Laura’ move on and paint images of hope rather than continued images that salve her pain. There is 1 comment for Emotional Freedom Techniques by Paul deMarrais
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Mar 28, 2011

Hi Paul- Though a bit late getting this- and I hate to break it to you all as nobody else has even suggested this- one of the easiest ways to do self-healing work is to get a Tarot Deck and start using it on yourself. What a Tarot Deck is- is a language of symbols- a language anyone can learn to understand. When one does a reading for the self- the layout becomes a mirror one can look at the self in. If one uses the tool regularly they can then see what in their life is being brought to the surface- and self-healing- can often spontaneously manifest. There are so many amazing tools on the market right now that anybody can find one that seems to speak to them personally. I’ve been using the tool for more than 25 years and it is just remarkable. What I did though- is I first assimilated one deck- and then when I knew the symbol system pretty well- I bought and assimilated another. And then another. And then another… and then I saw that what I WAS- was everything in the deck and then everything in all of them. It’s actually pretty easy to deal with even the most difficult lifetime issues this way. I had an ugly childhood- as so many of us did- and I moved beyond it decades ago.

  Saving grace by Gordon Soaring Hawk, Hildale, UT, USA   Although your focus in this website may be from a painterly approach, it does also touch others. I am one of them and this last entry struck a chord within me. I too, survived horrendous physical and sexual abuse that most people cannot comprehend would be survivable; yet I did, and am striving to find a balance in my life. I have known what it is like to be homeless, I have known poverty, and I have experienced the loss of an adult child through suicide. My saving grace has been that despite the circumstances of my life, I have always been drawn to the fine arts and sought solace and expression through art. Unfortunately, I am one of those who, like Salieri, were condemned to only have talent sufficient to appreciate art in its many forms. I do not draw well and though I have sold a few sculptures and love the feel of clay or the sense of creating something as a print, I have had to accept the fact that the various media of the fine arts elude me as a means of expression. As a Native American, I have maintained an avid interest in the various skills and life-ways that were once common to my people. I have taught workshops in which people craft things with their hands — artifacts and tools that were once primary occupations of all of our ancestors. Perhaps it is not art per se; however, people can express themselves to create something from their heart, with their hands. And they can feel safe to do so, even if their expression may seem to falter. There is 1 comment for Saving grace by Gordon Soaring Hawk
From: Karen R. Phinney — Mar 25, 2011

Bless you, Gordon. You have found an outlet and form of expression that has freed you. And having talent to appreciate art is no small thing. It sounds however as though you are successful at your own creating and I wish you well with it!

  Drawing our way out of anxiety by Suzanne Tesh, Swansboro, NC, USA   Rather than addiction, consider whether obsession might not be a better choice of word. Addiction is usually associated with physical substances and addictive behavior, like sexual addiction, is associated with serious social pathology, except for accepted legal substances like tobacco. Sounds to me like the story you are telling is more a repetitive soothing behavior that in this artist’s case is entirely functional — it is helping her! So the issue is more that the soothing exercise is more of an obsession and if it works, I think that is fine. Maybe she needs to paint hundreds or thousands of Amazons before a new scene can form in her mind’s eye. Maybe she needs to draw and paint them in new settings and use the paintings to tell stories. Maybe she needs to imagine she has become the Amazon and what that Amazon would want to draw and paint. In addition to the therapeutic technique you describe, I would direct her to an experienced art therapist, who could guide her through different exercises that could help her to complete the story through her artwork and make it possible to get beyond the loop. Drawing the beginning and end of the story cartoon-style, or drawing daily Amazon mandalas or whatever — I am not such a therapist but it’s very clear to me that many uses may be made of our inner inclination or need to create a certain kind of imagery. And that we can draw our way out of our anxieties and heal ourselves with our art. Drawing is one of the most powerful forms of meditation I can imagine. Is it art or is it art therapy? Does it matter? There is 1 comment for Drawing our way out of anxiety by Suzanne Tesh
From: Miriam Ruberl, Rotorua NZ — Mar 24, 2011

Hi Robert, much as I anticipate your letters with relish, your responses to Laura left me baffled – I get it that it came from her expressed desire to paint something else other than thick-necked women etc … well many artists have found a recurring theme / shape etc, eg. Botero, Picasso, and got themselves a name via their repetitions; they also took charge of their own work and processes, and only made public those aspects of their lives that it was advantageous for them to do so about … being a victim of any sort can be an inspiration or an excuse; it is also the only route to “survivor” and eventually “thriver.” The choice of when we adopt these labels is ours, regardless of whether we are artists or not.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Dealing with fixations

From: SITTINGBYTHERIVER — Mar 21, 2011

When i was in kindergarten, I had a friend who drew horses. she was very good at it. That was the only thing she ever drew. When i was in art school, there was a student who drew only rats. she was very good at it. so interesting………….

From: Wendie — Mar 22, 2011
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Mar 22, 2011

art is therapy is art is therapy is art is therapy is art is therapy is art is therapy is art is therapy is art is therapy is art is art is therapy…ad infinitum… I am looking for a car that has room for that bumper sticker.

From: Mary Elspeth Smith — Mar 22, 2011

I’m fixated on color, rich, bright, and omnipresent. My parents were very strict fundamentalists, and I had the most monochromatic, homogenous, and insular upbringing imaginable. When I hit eighteen I left the church and took up living (and art). On the rare ocassions when I can bring myself to visit my folks, I’m tut-tutted and tsk-tsked almost to madness. That I make a living (of sorts) from artistic endeavors is, to them, emblematic of my failure as a daughter. Yet I really believe that much of what I do, I do in wanton reaction, which I whole heartedly embrace, and much of which I have come to love. The artistic uses of color are certainly a primary (no pun) example.

From: Randy Kellogg — Mar 22, 2011

Laura needs to re-commit to a program of growth and creative development. Her fixation is keeping her back and probably keeping her work amateur. It is a common phenomenon, maybe the most common phenomenon, in degree, that holds artists from becoming their greater selves. Our fixations can be wonderful and give us comfort. But they can also defeat us.

From: L. Pearson — Mar 22, 2011

Trauma of any sort can have lasting effects. In some cases they are in the forefront of the mind always and never go away. At other times they are buried deep within where they rattle around doing damage to the soul. Anything that helps the person to understand the nature and full power of the trauma is valuable. Good, trusted and confiding friends are one of them.

From: Hong Jie Ma — Mar 22, 2011

Stewart Cubley’s customers are in therapy.

From: John Ferrie — Mar 22, 2011

Hey Robert, ok, it is one thing to be expressive. The best thing about this artist is the work comes along, it gets done. There are a lot of artists out there who cannot get past the anxiety of getting work started, let alone finishing it. But the key to true creativity is to work beyond what you already know. Having that anxiety and ‘pause to wonder’ if a piece works and what is being communicated is true, is the passion all artists should be striving for. John Ferrie

From: Darla — Mar 22, 2011

Laura paints strong, dominant women because she needs to. Instead of getting her to paint something else entirely, why not use the fixation to teach her different painting techniques, incorporate different settings, add more elements to the painting, etc.? Youngsters with autism (and others, for that matter) often fixate on a single subject or interest. The fixation can be used as a conduit to teach skills in an effective way. Laura will probably not want to stop painting those strong women. Why should she? Our childhoods shape us, and sometimes it’s better to accept the way you are and think about how you can best use your own characteristics instead of always thinking you should be different.

From: Shari L. Erickson — Mar 22, 2011

Another therapy that may be helpful is Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) It is used for PTSD, OCD, phobias and also as a very powerful visualization tool by athletes and artists. I had two sessions of it with a therapist to overcome some out of proportion fear acquired during an episode involving my horse and some firecrackers. Not only was it successful, but an interesting side effect was a dramatic lessening of my fear of heights as well! I have suggested it to friends with very serious issues, abuse, panic attacks, etc., and they have found much, sometimes total, relief. I now use a self applied version of EMDR to help me with my artwork.

From: Jackie Knott — Mar 22, 2011

Fixation is one thing and inspiration is quite another. But using one’s art to work through trauma is a whole different issue. Why do you think there is such a discipline as art therapy? It is especially helpful to children of abuse. I would urge “Laura” to pursue that aspect of her art. She may be unconsciously trying to leave these images because she is in some measure in recovery. Laura, please don’t let the means (your art) of resolving your childhood trauma escape you. For the rest of us fixation may simply be painting what we enjoy, or what sells. I have one artist friend who is so weary of painting Texas Bluebonnet paintings she could scream. But that is what her gallery wants. Fixation? No, pure economics. Sometimes we paint something just because we like it … no deeper reason than that.

From: Teresa Hitch — Mar 22, 2011

This is a tough subject that needs to be more out in the open, and you have risen to the challenge. It is contributions as yours that offer hope to those who have suffered, and have been misunderstood, and too often maligned. Compassion and understanding go far in the healing process. Well done!

From: Paula Timpson — Mar 22, 2011

What we lean toward, leads to fulfillment within~ The eye, shiny ,full of hope travels to the hand ,creating freedom, passion & purity of heart!

From: Shelley Ross — Mar 22, 2011
From: Roslyn Levin — Mar 22, 2011

Can you pass on to Laura that Emotional Freedom technique would probably be invaluable to her. This is a simple method of tapping on acupressure points in a particular order while talking about whatever one is fixated on or afraid of (there are other ways of using this methodology and this is just one of them). It separates the emotional attachments to a memory from the memory itself. I have used this very successfully with clients I have had who were mentally, physically or sexually abused as children. I do not know where Laura lives of course but there are EFT therapists all over the world now. In Toronto a friend of mine, Crystal Hawk, teaches EFT and is also a therapist. She does some work over the phone for her clients.

From: Elizabeth Pudsey — Mar 22, 2011

I was an Art instructor for over 25 years, a few years with young people, then adults. Many times, I watch people “find their voice” become more confident in themselves. Giving them the permission, and the knowledge to express their feelings, on paper and canvas, was one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Better still is to see many of them, or receive letters, note or e-mails hearing of their successes, not only in painting but in life. To express our self, is natural, we only have to look at young pre-school children. Creating Art in what ever form,we chose, is Gods gift to us…..we see that every day all over the world. Colour, shapes, line formed in or on clay, glass, fabric, paper, canvas, wood even in the sand. If it helps to ease the past or create the future, explore it, embrace it .

From: Peter Daniels — Mar 22, 2011

I spent ten years teaching art therpy to convicts at Matsqui Institution. We found SHRINKING the issues the best to help people feel CLEAN about themselves! Personally I had my faith in Christ help me as HE washed my feet through meditation. Great souls like Bhudda and Christ know meditation as a form of healing! I know many people are not of my faith, but when a soul asks help, there is no karma attached to it, so I can then help. Otherwise if they don´t request help, karma is attached and the soul who rushes out to help suffers the bad idea! In this case we can bless Laura´s condition and our meditation or prayer is the GOOD WILL which helps her!

From: Hugo — Mar 22, 2011

Sad that we have to (or want to) think in terms of “overcoming” our addictions/experiences. They give us much: when in the throes of addiction those afflicted struggle to assert themselves as unique. Yet the very process of struggling affects our art in a truly unique way. Both, those affected and those living and dealing with those affected, tend to exhibit remarkably similar effects. And for both the true path out is to make the emotional investment required. CBM sounds to me like another easier, softer university “discovery”. Why do the 10,000 hours to get good at something work? Because in those hours are plenty of opportunities to experience pain, to make us ready to try something else. Why do we think there should be an easier way when dealing with our very makeup, the experiences that had part in shaping us. I would say; Let’s encourage each other to make the real effort required to make the changes we want in our lifes. That work will be emotional, sometimes gutwrenching, and the results will have been earned. A maybe interesting observation. I started painting with total abstracts, not sure what I needed to express. Then I developed landscapes, then wildlife. After a long while I started to include people. I spent 40 years of my life telling anyone who was interested, that I liked machines better than people. When I opened up about my art with people, interestigly the people in my art became more detailed. A couple years later I noticed myself sketching faces. Lo and behold, today I like talking to people! It took some painwork and some forgiveness, but my life is infinitely better for it! And hey, I learned to pay attention to important little things, like your messages.

From: A. Mascelli — Mar 22, 2011

You’ve said it before. Most of what ails us and holds us back can be fixed by ourselves.

From: Darla — Mar 23, 2011

Robert and others — There are so many programs that purport to “fix us” and each and every one of them claim to be the only road to salvation. I’ve encountered so many of these, mostly expensive, lengthy processes that, when they don’t live up to their hype, end up blaming the seeker for not trying hard enough or being committed enough. Then there is one more “failure” to add to the pile. We all have problems, and some of them are bad enough to dominate our lives. The road you take depends on where you are starting from and where you want to end up. Some of those programs work for some people. I don’t know of anything that will work for everybody, and that includes religion, psychological therapy, and medications. Like it or not, we each have to walk our own road; no one else can do it.

From: Dennis Alter — Mar 23, 2011

I read with great interest and enthusiasm your informed and insightful missives about art and Art. I really don’t know how to respond when you write about Psychiatry. I want to believe, but how can any of us know the truth(s) about art (which, arguably you do) and all of our neuroses and psychoses (which, arguably you don’t). Am I assuming too much…or too little?

From: Herbert Pryke — Mar 23, 2011
From: Anonymous — Mar 24, 2011

If only your mother had been well, she would have known what to do, but she wasn’t and neither were they, so its up to you. Keep painting those women, and listen to quieter self, the one that remained silent and strong, the one that survived long enough into adulthood — I believe the two are one. The love you have naturally is helping you break free of the cycle — I imagine like this — you’re sometimes scared of life- of living, and its difficult to make strides and feel normal — what is normal anyways?? You may feel like someone is watching you, and its not a nice feeling, you don’t want people to notice you — it makes you feel like they’re in control, that they are better off than you. You may at times be triggered and its difficult to explain, you feel thoughts deeply at times. Friends/family misunderstand and you don’t blame them because who could really understand any of this. You don’t want to die this way and you don’t want to give into this so you keep reaching and knocking and its working — good job!! STAND YOUR GROUND Laura’s of the world, be aware — use your extra heightened senses to motivate your abilities. I am so sorry that we have to go through this type of management. If only…if only they saw how gentle you were and loving, they would have known to protect you rather than harm you. I want to let you in on a secret — you’re not alone and yes, you are loved ~ there is no reason to be ashamed — you must tell yourself even if you don’t believe it, you owe yourself that much for what you’ve endured.

From: W. MacGlashan — Mar 24, 2011

The process of healing certainly involves emotions, negative and positive. Part of recovering those emotions and reconnecting them through proper channels — is to recognize emotions are energy, they replay life — shine a light so to speak. They tell us some truth about how we felt and how we are feeling and what we might feel. Along with recovering our emotions we gain access to visual. Good, bad and the ugly. The negative to something has the ability to leads us to a positive . With every bad memory we gain access to a good one. We have had to learn to be connected within situation to gain a visual per se, on the subject at hand — usually involving ourselves as a viewer looking into and at a piece of art work and as a piece of art work being looked at by a viewer. It‘s recognizing and stopping and taking note: Note to self — It’s ok to look, it’s ok to remember and it‘s ok to talk about things — life has no limits. One has to be committed to a better way, wanting the self to be immerse in a baptism of unconditional love — “A person who can open their heart to an enemy can save the world.” -unknown

From: Rena — Mar 25, 2011

“Obsession is just a put-down word used by people who can’t concentrate on anything for longer than 10 minutes.” -unknown

From: Dan Spahn — Mar 25, 2011

Looks like nothing changes. Russian figurative art where the people are either melancholy or devoid of emotion.

From: scharolette chappell — Mar 25, 2011

You are way too cool Robert. Walmart, ha ha, so abstraction and art are beginning to add up? At least in Scottsdale Arizona? Too funny! Point being stay yourself, be steady in your work, take hold the helm, wait, you are before your time at times. love schar

From: “Laura” — Mar 25, 2011

Thank you for all the caring and concerned comments regarding “Laura”. Rest assured I will not stop painting my Strong Women. I have no choice “they come through me”. This last year has been very healing for me as I have found the wounds that my mind has hidden for many years. Being raised by trained professionals has given me the tools to heal the found wounds, true healing is inevitable. I have a couch and a very special friend who have known me forever helping me through this. I am actually feeling very strong and empowered by the healing process. It saddens me that abuse and torture of children is so rampant. I want to publicly say thank you to Bob Genn for touching on a very difficult subject. For all of those who have dealt with abuse and torture remember it is not your fault. Seek help and do not be ashamed. Your inner child will guide you through, but first don’t be afraid to reach out. My strong women will be stronger and always dominate my choice of subjects after all, are they my alter ego? However it is with great delight that I am exploring other subjects. I am having fun, feel I am thriving, look forward to tackling whatever a new day has to offer. And I thank my family of fellow Painters Keys followers for their advice and concerns.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 25, 2011

You can see CBM in many artists particularly Egon Sheile, Francis Bacon and Vincent Van Gogh and Gustave Klimt to name just a few. There are many more. They are definitely working out some repressed or observed psychosis in their art. It has been said, and history bears truth to it, some of the most provocative works comes from artists like these. This type of (artist) person is compelled to express their need to understand themselves. Unfortunately many live horrible lives and never succeed in coming to grips with their psyche if the psychosis is too deeply imbedded. I happen to fall into the relatively well adjusted side so I lean toward painting the one mystery that never ceases to intrigue me- the human form and women in particular. I’ve understood for some time now that my painting women is due to some deep seeded need to find my relationship to the opposite sex.

From: jcb — Mar 25, 2011

After reading Robert’s letters and most of the responses, I understand my problem – well, one of them at least. So, no more rocks and roots, no more barns, no more interiors, and no more conventional portraits and figure studes. From now on it’s tough-looking, thick-necked women in tight skirts and high-heeled jackboots. Thank you Robert, I feel better already!

From: Darla — Mar 26, 2011

To Dan Spahn — Russian art is devoid of emotion or melancholy? I don’t find it so at all. If anything it tends to be romanticized. The brilliant colors and strong value range make this a whole other branch of expressionism, and it’s inspiring.

From: Enrique Ruiz — Mar 27, 2011

I don’t see the difference between an addiction and an obsession, except that the former might be more hurtful than the latter. But in my opinion anything that keeps you “stuck” is bad. People, and artists particularly, need to constantly move on. It should be our “compulsion” to move on. That’s a better word.

From: anonymous — Apr 02, 2011

I am celebrating Laura. She is the strong woman she has been painting all this time. Thank you, Laura, for posting your own sense of what this is all about. While almost everyone else has been trying to interpret your question in terms of their own uncertainties or fears (a pretty normal human response, actually), you stayed clear on what your specific need at this moment in time is. I am happy for you. I also am grateful to you. I understand something now about myself that was not quite so clear until you posted, and gave me a way to define it clearly to myself. This is not about “fixing”. It is, perhaps, about healing. Most of all, it is about being. Though I’ve been here before, I’ll leave this post anonymous, for personal reasons.

From: Jane W. — Apr 03, 2011

I so identified with Laura. You could have been writing about me, Robert, and for that I thank you. There is no other like this site on the internet.

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The Farm II

oil painting, 11 x 14 inches by Lue Svendson, Lafayette, LA, USA

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