Should I give up?


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Dana Finch of the UK wrote, “I have been painting for years. I now have to work at a fulltime non-art job but I still consider myself first and foremost a painter, and spend most weekends, evenings, holidays, etc., doing it.


“The wave”
oil painting
by Dana Finch

I studied at art school and have a degree in art. Despite my dedication I am getting nowhere trying to interest a small provincial gallery, let alone a London one. I do sell a few things, mainly through friends, but not in a consistent way. Am I really a bad painter and should I give up? What do you advise? I know you are not an agony aunt for painters, but my problems may resonate with other struggling painters.”

Thanks, Dana. Agony uncle I’m not — mostly I can be found chugging up my own mountains. But when it comes to my fellow-travellers, I try to be a positive guy. And while brazen approval and blind encouragement are often as effective as any crit, there are some practical concerns that artists need to think about. Thanks also for mentioning “other struggling painters.” My groaning inbox tells me your plight is currently quite universal.


“The orchard”
oil painting
by Dana Finch

Your work has a fine sense of feeling and atmosphere — rain, fog, etc., and a simple, understated honesty. But is this enough? Is there enough to really carry a viewer away? Is there possibly a sense in the minds of many potential collectors that they could have done one of these themselves? As I see it, and there will be many who will disagree, this sort of work is really a bit too facile and too easy to do.


“Heaven is missing an angel”
oil painting
by Dana Finch

While there are exceptions to this, the hard, cold facts tell us that only a few top workers are truly thriving. The competition is tough. To the admirable virtues of feeling and atmosphere, one needs to leverage skill, craft and a degree of hard-won cleverness that the average person on the street cannot easily attain. When you add a personal style that distinguishes you from the others, opportunistic gallerists are more likely to check you out.

I’ve never advised anyone to give up. It’s not in my DNA. But I’ve suggested that some need to re-examine directions and invest in a new and rigorous program of private study and daily labour. This may sound cruel and simplistic, but to get a decent ride on the train of joy, many artists need to spend more time shovelling coal.


“Remote hills”
oil painting
by Dana Finch

Best regards,


PS: “Never, ever, ever give up.” (Charles Schulz)

Esoterica: Perhaps a lot of Western Art has tipped too far toward our personal demands for private joy. Further, many artists are trying to combine casual pleasantries with secure cash flows. It’s nice work if you can get it, but it may just be mastery that gives the truest joy. “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” (Pearl S. Buck)


Dana Finch’s paintings


“The snow road”
oil painting


“Blue forest”
oil painting


“Pale hills”
oil painting


oil painting







Art for a song
by Artoni


“The Look of Love”
oil painting, 56 x 42 inches
by Artoni

This pursuit is a life long journey with potholes, dirt roads and also some smooth sailing too. I would suggest that you figure out a way to add something that is uniquely from your world, from your mind and heart. What that is, for you I cannot say, but ask your higher self the question and for guidance and then listen; tune your consciousness so that you will be able to recognize it when it comes to you.

Every painting or work of art that you do does not always have to look like it belongs to a series.

Step out of your comfort zone; try painting a song by one of your favorite recording artists. That’s right — a song. Do a visual composition of it. How about creating a piece of art about what love feels like? That will make you think, feel, and open up even more.

There are 2 comments for Art for a song by Artoni

From: Anonymous — Aug 27, 2009

Love this work. This is what painting feeling is all about. Could have been titled ” The Look of Seduction “

From: Jim van Geet — Aug 27, 2009

p.s. also wanted to comment on the colour harmony/balance which is an essential part of this ” feeling ” painting.


Art is in your blood
by Hans Mertens, The Netherlands


“Lady in the garden”
watercolour painting
by Hans Mertens

I’ve read your article about Dana Finch. Perhaps my story is interesting for her. I draw and paint since I can remember and I am 53 years old now. For more than 30 years, I did jobs other people wouldn’t even consider. But I never quit drawing and painting. From 1987 till 1991 I followed my art education and in 1991 I graduated because I wanted to develop myself more I took 5 years of lessons, besides another unpleasant job at that time. Now, from 2006 till now I teach art to adults for a living. I sold works in the USA, exhibited in Italy three times and created a website for artists all over the world. I just never gave up. I think when you are a real artist “it’s in your blood” and it becomes a (positive) addiction for the rest of your life.

There is 1 comment for Art is in your blood by Hans Mertens

From: sila Collins-Walden — Aug 28, 2009

I agree with Hans, never give up! It’s a struggle sometimes but you have to go on and achieve your goal in life. I did; at the grand age of 33 years I I gave up my well paid job and embarked on an art course graduating after 4years. Now I work as an artist.It’s about marketing yourself and “putting” yourself about… go for it! Sila


Failing is not a disgrace
by Jesse Silver, Burbank, CA, USA


“RT 16”
photographic abstraction
by Jesse Silver

Making a career as a painter is pretty much a crapshoot. If you believe in what you’re doing, then go at it without restraint and don’t give up. One gallery is not the world. The hard truth is that artists need to spend as much time in promotion as in creation. Get out there and hustle! I’ve made my living as a painter for over 30 years, by making a decision to find a commercial avenue for my painting. I love what I do and I make sure that others know about me. There are many options for a career in the arts, of which the “fine art” path is but one. So don’t limit yourself. The other point is to be ruthless in the pursuit of excellence. Anything less and you’ll be spinning your wheels and in the marketplace you will be road kill.

Do not fall in love with your work. It’s fine to take pleasure in something that visually sings. But then it’s time to move on and develop further. If you’re not throwing a new creative challenge at yourself, you will become a bore. Those aren’t laurels you’re resting on, they’re poison oak. From time to time, try something wildly different than what you’re doing. Failing is not a disgrace.

There is 1 comment for Failing is not a disgrace by Jesse Silver

From: Angela Finney — Sep 02, 2009

I think all of us who are trying to market our work and not yet finding the degree of success we hope for become disheartened at times. Your article is to the point, yet encouraging. Thank you.


Giving up is fun to do
by Katherine Lakeman, Calgary, AB, Canada


original painting
by Katherine Lakeman

Just to let you know the other side of the coin; that giving up can be pleasant, and freeing. I gave up my art making almost 4 years ago, and told everyone that I had “quit.” Many of my clients and friends were shocked and disappointed, and said things like, “you might just be taking a sabbatical” or things like that, but I was adamant that I had totally “quit.”

After 3 years, I started to feel like I wanted to paint again, and did one or two pieces sporadically for fun. Now I know that I can, and will return to art when, and if, I want to. It’s not black and white, and there’s no need for a contract. It all depends on me, and what I want to do at the time. And whether I have something new to say in my 24 year career of art making.

So, don’t despair about the prospect; it might be a good thing to let it go, and do something completely different for a time. Then, if and when you come back to it, you will be recharged, and you will have something new to add. I learned to dance Argentine tango in the 3 years I was away from art, and learned how to communicate through movement and music. It has made me more whole, and has helped me to trust my intuition, not just in the dance, but in making art.

There are 2 comments for Giving up is fun to do by Katherine Lakeman

From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Aug 28, 2009

This is a fantastic piece of art, and I want to see more.And you appear to have lots to say with your art.I pray you find your way back to doing it again

From: Vivian Anderson — Sep 16, 2009

Robert must think all I do is wait for my twice-weekly newsletter and let rip, but I do other things, promise. Just want to say it’s wonderful to have stopped painting and what a joy to know someone else has admitted to it too, and the joy of finding other outlets, enjoyments.There might come a time when I’ve something else to say, but it’s best not to plod aimlessly…now I’m back at the piano. Cheers from Australia, Vivian Anderson


Formulaic paintings
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada


“True North Strong 1”
original painting
by John Ferrie

Goodness, yet another artist waiting patiently in the queue line to sign their contract of fame and fortune. They are usually wondering why they haven’t been signed by a big gallery, why their work isn’t selling at a national or international level. These types are usually more angry than frustrated. Their friends get government grants and write ups in major art magazines. This artist needs to go sell real estate if they are looking for fame and fortune! I remember an old Drag Queen named Pepper L’Abeigia once saying “If you shoot an arrow in the sky and it goes far, then honey, good for you!”

Artists usually start out with two of nothing. We just have this voice that we want to express. Whenever I look at someone’s work, I always wonder what they are trying to communicate to me. When I look at this woman’s paintings I see a series of foggy paintings with a subtle sense of colour. What I also see is some formulaic paintings that are riddled with drips and some sloppy brush strokes that I find little to revere. Artists need to always work beyond what they already know…this is the sign of true creativity. I know that being an artist is what defines me. I also know that the bulk of the greatest work of my life is still ahead of me. I can always be better. And I know that my Magnum Opus is not going to happen until I am in my 80’s! Then again, that is just me…and I am not rich and famous!

There are 10 comments for Formulaic paintings by John Ferrie

From: Dana Finch — Aug 27, 2009

Fame and fortune are the last things I want. Nor am I angry, at all! Really I wanted some feedback, which I have had, both good and bad, and I am happy to receive both. Thank you for your perspective.

From: Stef — Aug 28, 2009

There is a lot of generalising going on about people in that first paragraph. It seems to me that Dana is just seeking some feedback.

How can you tell see is waiting patiently in any ‘queue’ or whether she is ahgry?

How do you know whether or when you will paint your Magnum Opus?

From: Anonymous — Aug 28, 2009

What is it with this ‘type’ stuff? Making all these assumptions about people you don’t even know? Not on, Mr Ferrie. Then you go on to call Ms Finch’s work ‘formulaic’ — the words pot and kettle come to mind. From what I can see, you’ll be lucky to have a magnum opus at all.

From: Krista — Aug 28, 2009

I think Dana’s work is fantastic. I love the drips and the brushwork you disregard as ‘sloppy’. Her moody palette is stunning in my eyes. I thought that Dana was merely voicing a feeling that I’m sure most of us as artists have felt from time to time. Please continue with your work Dana!

From: Ron Ruble — Aug 28, 2009

I think Dana is looking for some constructive critisismhere, not necessarily encouragement. These paintings, though somewhat pleasant, seem incomplete and surfacy. The background texture is dominent and takes away from the simplicity of the imagery. The impact is missing and lost. I like her thought and direction but she is not pulling it off. They appear as sketches, but weak ones at that. I do think you are onto something, however, so by no means quit. Look at some oil sketches by Inness and Corot. They give you less, but just enough to make it work. What you are looking for, in my opinion, is within your reach. Go Girl!!!

From: vic — Aug 31, 2009

so many experts

From: John Ferrie — Sep 01, 2009

To the anonymous writer who tried to hurl an insult at me by saying I don’t have a chance at a Magnum Opus. You can go fall on your little pointed head. There is a line up of people who have told me I couldn’t make it, they said I wouldn’t go anywhere. Well, being an artist has come to define me. It has taken me around the world and I have discovered not only my voice, but my armour as well. I have resolved myself that 95% of the population, won’t like my work. So, go to the back of the line, your spineless nay sayer. The fact that you write a comment like that and cannot even sign your name tells me you are nothing more than a DIME STORE PUNK!

From: Chris Everest — Sep 11, 2009

These kinds of confrontation are very rare on Robert’s watch. The fundamental psychology of this artistic community is soundly based in support and nurturing. I am a hobby artist who probably will not be donating my lifework to the National Gallery but do also feel defensive on behalf of anybody who is offered such criticism as Mr Ferrie seems to relish distributing. Irrespective of intention or motivation there is no reason to make assumptions about Dana or her work without more evidence. I like her work but I accept that this is a personal judgement and as such should not be taken as the word of an expert. If you are making a value judgement on the record Mr Ferrie then you are stating that your opinion is definitive. Perhaps this might be why you feel it has been necessary to develop your “armour”. I have no armour, neither I suspect do many of the letter-readers and writers in this community. I value this community and I defend the freedom to create ANY art which brings enjoyment to ANYBODY ANYWHERE. Mr Ferrie, I suspect you are in a minority when it comes to your view of what constitutes “constructive criticism”

From: Vivian Anderson — Sep 15, 2009

You’ve got the wrong impression of Mr. Ferrie. No sooner did I read his comments to Dana, and his offer to “tweak” her work, than I realized he’s a truely kind, forthright member of “our” community. It isn’t wrong for him to be opinionated, and what he said was just not what the “community” wanted to hear (head in sand syndrome). He took the time and trouble to look at my work too and send me an email with his “opinion”, which I will always value…he was friendly, encouraging, and didn’t just say what I wanted to hear. He responded because I thanked him for bothering to offer Dana a “tweak”, and didn’t imagine he’d take the time to look at my work too. We all should remember Robert’s open policy towards people’s right to their opinions, and not get hyped up about possibly very good criticism..that’s why we write in…to receive feedback..but we must accept the fair and harsh. I defend Mr. Ferrie’s right to care enough to respond, whether I agree with his thoughts or not.

From: Ping — Jun 25, 2010

Got to agree with you Vivian on this one. I have always said “don’t openly critique a fellow artist’s work unless they ask your opinion”. And Dana did ask. And RON RUBBLE! Love your honesty and completely agree with your constructive comments. This type of critique with references to other artists work is just the right sort of advice for an artist hoping to improve.


Disappointments are part of the experience
by Frank Gordon, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire, England


“Sun and breeze following rain, Feizor”
oil painting
by Frank Gordon

It all depends why you’re painting. You seem to be concentrating on being a successful painter in the sense of commercial success, recognition, showing in London galleries etc. Is that what it’s about? I’ve been painting all my life (I’m 65) and only in the last ten years or so (since moving to the Yorkshire Dales) has my work sold consistently; even now, many others are far more successful from a financial point of view. But the selling is the icing on the cake. It’s the making of the work that matters; an experience is incomplete — life is incomplete, in fact — unless and until I’ve done something with it in the form of a drawing or a painting. This is what gives life its meaning as far as I’m concerned; with luck, someone else will get meaning and joy from what I do and that is wonderful and makes up for the thousands of disappointments along the way. And that’s the other point: being an artist is inherently frustrating in the sense that you always fall short of your ambitions.

There are 2 comments for Disappointments are part of the experience by Frank Gordon

From: Dana Finch — Aug 27, 2009

Finding a gallery is not so much about commercial success or recognition, it is about seeing my work on walls where others can see it too, and receiving a moderate income which would enable me to keep doing it. Of course I won’t give up, even when my flat is full to the ceiling with unsold work!

From: Lorraine Khachatourians — Aug 28, 2009

Frank, I love the name of your village. I had to google it just to be sure. It looks a lovely place in the hills. To live in such a happy sounding place!


Time and style
by Adrienne Godbout, Grande-Digue, NB, Canada


“Champ jaune”
original painting
by Adrienne Godbout

“…to get a decent ride on the train of joy, many artists need to spend more time shovelling coal.” I feel like I’ve been shovelling coal for years and just now, after 25 years of painting, not painting, moving around, retiring at 32, going to the country to live a better “non-corporate” life and painting more. Just now at 42, do I feel like I’m on the train of joy — finally. It took a long time and the subject matter has changed and the mediums too and finally, now, it’s working.

I make and sell between 50 and 60 originals a year and I know that if I made more, I could sell more. Represented in just one gallery, I also run a framing shop and we manufacture artist canvases that we supply to stores too. I have a small gallery with my work in my boutique. I participate in a few group exhibits each year (juried) and have a few solo exhibits as well.

So this brings me to my question. I have this different style and the more I develop it, the more people recognize my work now. I always get the same question — what IS that? What is the style? And I have no idea what to answer — I just paint. I’m attracted to design and order and lines and movement and I just do it. It just happened, over some years, there was a progression and now my paintings look like this. I don’t know how to explain it.

There are 3 comments for Time and style by Adrienne Godbout

From: Bill — Aug 26, 2009

Your style is semi-abstract and at 42 you are an extremly successful artist — way up there above the average. Congratulations!

From: Suzette Fram — Aug 28, 2009

Adrienne, I love your ‘champ jaune’. Felicitations, you have developed a wonderful personal style.

From: Colin McCabe — Aug 28, 2009

You must be the lady at Bourgeois Frames, my favorite source of frames.


The 20-year plan
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland


“Baking day at Rhynie”
watercolour painting
by Caroline Simmill

‘Never give up’ in the words of Winston Churchill are very important words that motivate and keep a body and soul together. It is hard these days to be an artist. I think there are many more artists around than there used to be, it is certainly the case in the Highlands of Scotland. When I first started out as an artist selling to galleries there were very few indeed. Many people took early retirement in the good days when money was freely spent with no worries to the future. But the recession does seem to be sending many artists back into the work force as the buyers are being very careful with their spending these days.

I would say keep painting and keep looking at ways to market your artwork, maybe Dana needs to set up her own art exhibitions. If she is selling to friends then this means her work is admired. The British are lovers of simple watercolour paintings so the simplicity may not be the problem. It could just be that the galleries are looking to sell something different or they know their buyers only want a particular style. I think you have to work hard full time at your craft for a good ten years and then you see a big improvement, then work another ten and you begin to really learn and see how to paint and this joy is often bought by others.


Where are the art police?
by David Reeves, Quispamsis, NB, Canada


“Stratified #2”
acrylic painting, 20 x 30 inches
by David Reeves

I enjoyed viewing Dana Finch’s paintings and your response to her story. Your assessment is, I believe quite accurate — especially regarding adding a personal style. Seeing her work, I do hope that she does not give up the fight. In the past five years around my area of the Maritimes, everybody and their uncle seems to be out there calling themselves artists, and unfortunately, the quality of the work shouts — where are the art police? I assume this is a function of the wave of retirements from other professions coupled with the poor economy. Prices are generally low, but frequently so is quality.

This volume of paintings for sale of course makes it all the more difficult for an artist trying to establish themselves. Painters’ enquiries concerning representation must inundate the few galleries we have and so perhaps good artists do not get the dues they deserve. As usual, looking back at art history amplifies your major point — all well-known artists have their own individual way of expressing their subject matter — this is what eventually gets attention.

There is 1 comment for Where are the art police? by David Reeves

From: cigal — Aug 29, 2009

Hi David, your painting Stratified #2 is absolutely ‘strong’ in terms of composition, color, technic and choice of subject …WOW! I’d love to see more such paintings :-)


The virtue of difficulty
by Karl Leitzel, Spring Mills, PA, USA


“Cape May Sunrise with Gull”
oil painting, 14 x 18 inches
by Karl Leitzel

Having looked at Dana’s paintings, I find them fascinating, well-painted, and the kind of work I would enjoy looking at over and over, and at the same time I see Robert’s point. When we as painters are at a place in our career path where most of our sales are to fairly “regular” people rather than astute and experienced art collectors, the factor of “How do you do that?” instead of “Even I could probably paint that” is a big part of selling work. Sometimes my favorite pieces in my own work are the most subtle, simple ones, but the ones that attract the most oohs and aahs and sell the quickest are those that are more technically demanding and seem very difficult to do. We as artists know that lots of detail and complex composition and subject matter are not necessarily the hardest thing to pull off (although it does usually require more time at the easel), but most regular folks are not artists themselves or serious students of art. That being said, I could easily see Dana’s work, in a large enough size format, hanging on a corporate office wall, so perhaps it’s a matter of connecting with the right potential clients.

There is 1 comment for The virtue of difficulty by Karl Leitzel

From: Carol Morrison — Aug 28, 2009

I have found exactly the same thing. I feel that my best paintings are my expressionistic plein-air studies (one was shown in a recent click-back), but buyers seem to prefer my larger, more detailed studio works. One gallery owner told me that most buyers have little art knowledge and buy on impulse only, and another owner from Calgary stated that an important part of his job was educating his clients. Maybe we need more gallery owners like this!


Why do you paint?
by Jay Stevens, Long Beach, CA, USA

“Should you give up?” depends entirely on why you paint. I discovered oil painting after I retired after a successful and fulfilling career as a University professor. I took classes in both painting and drawing. The second painting class — Intermediate Painting — the instructor introduced us to non-objective art.

So for the most part I would describe myself an intuitive painter who mostly creates non-objective paintings. Most of the people who see my paintings tell me they like representational art much more than what I do. I’ve come to expect that reaction. Should I give up? Not on your life! I paint because I love the creative experience. I don’t have as a goal selling my work. I don’t care if people buy it or not. What I care about is exhibiting it. I’ve found a few local, non-profit art organizations that hold competitions in which artists submit an application to exhibit in a particular show. So far three of my paintings have been accepted in juried exhibitions; additionally, about ten paintings were exhibited as a one person show in a state Senator’s office (not a U.S. Senator) for the better part of two months. I feel very successful, but I would continue to do this even if no one wanted to see my work. I paint for me! It makes me terribly happy!

Usually, in this country at least, galleries are in business to make money. It may well be that your work is not commercially saleable. The first time I heard those words I was terribly upset and disappointed. But I finally realized that I was not painting for commercial success. If you are, you will in all probability be disappointed, and maybe you should give up. There are a lot better artists than you or me who are successful in a commercial venue. Is that why you paint?



Warmth of Gray
original painting, 36 x 36 inches
Laura Harris, BC, Canada


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 Elihu Edelson of Tyler, TX, USA who wrote, “At best Dana Finch’s work reminds me somewhat of A.P. Ryder’s. At worst, the paint trickles get to be a bit much. Whether or not to give up is a matter of motivation. If one feels the urge to paint, go ahead and paint whenever possible, no matter what the market may be, but it’s a good idea to seek knowledgeable criticism.”

And also Jennie McBride of Grant, AL, USA who wrote, “You might want to have Peanuts give credit to FDR, however, for the quote, ‘Never, ever, ever give up.’ No. Wait. It was Churchill!”

And also Deb Droog of Forest, VA, USA who wrote, “Wonderful advice to this painter! Kudos to you for pointing out the benefits of study and alternate styles. Today we see too many “painters” dribbling paint to soothe their inner quest when they should be working.”

And also Robert Dwight who wrote, “One of my favorite quotes, which I still remember from when I wrote a report in grade school, was from Louis Pasteur: ‘Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.’ ”


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Should I give up?



From: Vivian A Anderson — Aug 24, 2009

Thank you Robert and Dana. I too have faced the grim reality that my work doesn’t rank with the “excellent”, and your advice to go back to basics, train again, or re-direct, is what appears the only solution. It’s very sad to be rejected, unloved…one’s artwork is the mirror of one’s soul. I realize I’ve been painted too much soul, and thus making viewers uncomfortable…most folk want excellent work but not depression status…..that’s for the galleries who trade on that side of things. I am so thankful I’ve stopped painting…it looks like I’ve nothing further to say, even though I “see” a lot….I know my work doesn’t cut it commercially, and I’m tired of the disappointments. I’m used to knowing now that being accepted for the work I’ve done is not enough and it’s not hurting any more. Thanks always for your newsletter, Robert. Good luck, Dana and others who struggle . Don’t give up, but raise your game.

From: Richard Smith — Aug 24, 2009

Sorry Robert but I don’t agree about the facile part. (I also don’t agree your paintings lack chi, I’ve seen them up close and they have lots of energy) anyway, I think there are buyers out there for the work, it’s in its own class and should sell. But my advice would be to get someone to help with marketing and sales, someone who knows what they’re doing. We’re our own worst critics and apt to be timid when we should be out there selling, selling, selling. It’s not a sin. Best of luck.

From: I give won’t accept my comment — Aug 24, 2009

I’m somewhat fortunate in that I paint primarily for my own enjoyment rather than with a view to selling paintings. At the same time, though, I’ve almost given it up on a number of occasions when I’ve asked myself, “Be honest, would anyone else even want one of these pictures in their home or office, let alone pay for one?”

It’s a hard thing for an artist to admit that some work is substandard; I think it’s natural for many artists to hope someone else will find some subtle brilliance in a work that is primarily sludge.

Robert was being very kind in suggesting that many viewers will think “I could paint that”; he could have just as easily expressed the thought as, “If you were around in the 50’s and 60’s when the Ab Ex folks were getting away with tossing paint, you might have found a ready market.” There’s still a market for non-objective stuff, but artists whose goal is commercial acceptance have to at some point recognize that if their work is not clearly exceptional the choice might come down to changing to suit the market. Which means, at the low end of the market: realism, faux impressionism, and florals, florals, florals.

From: Ron Unruh — Aug 24, 2009

Robert, I read your answer as an honest appraisal of a style and subject matter in light of its marketability potential and if the shovelling coal comment was advice for Dana to be dogged in showing the art and contacting galleries then I would agree.

From: Debbie Field — Aug 25, 2009

Hi Dana

It is always a bit difficult to appraise work from the computer but I think that your work has, as Robert says, a great sense of honest feeling (not that I am a judge!!!) – but more than that it seems to me that you have a beautiful ethereal style. I suspect that if you try not to be SO fussed about what others are expecting from your work, and simply take the time, and love for it that you have, and allow yourself to really dive deeply into your own way of expressing, through paint, you will automatically achieve that extra level of depth. This true love of one’s own work and the joy it gives you becomes it’s own reward – and sometimes this unconditional approach it the very, intangible ingredient that spaeks to the viewer and turns them into buyers. I say the only thing you should give up is the time and creative energy wasted in trying to paint what will sell. I wish you all the best. XX

From: Mara Thomas — Aug 25, 2009

Personally I love Ancient and Circular Track. I think too much emphasis is put on realism and too little on emotion. Art is all about emotion! I think if you offered your work to the right modern art gallery with a confident attitude it could be accepted. To be honest I don’t think the drippy style is good with your work but the misty textured landscapes are amazing. I also think they would have more impact in a large format. I don’t know what size the originals are but they’d be wonderful big, big, big! Keep it up!

From: Jen Bennett — Aug 25, 2009

I think your paintings are beautiful, and all previous advice and or criticism is null. People have no money to buy real art at this time and let’s face the fact that none of us will be the next genius Picasso I have a degree in fine art and understand how it began, grew, and still exists. We just have to do what we do the best way we know how. Your paintings are good wether they sell. So are mine, I just can’t let the buyers or sellers of “art” judge me and my work. Don’t give up. That circle painting is really fabulous, you should know.

From: Faith — Aug 25, 2009

Although feelings are important, in the end it isn’t the feelings of the artist that count, but the feelings (if any) an artwork invokes in the viewer. It is of no consequence whether the artist is feeling happy or rejected, is working out depression or anger, has indigestion, constipation or a broken foot!

The whole point is that an artwork must find one person who wants it or, in the case of more recognized artists, museums and galleries willing to display and promote the artist and his work. A tall order!

The idea that all acknowledged artists have painted masterworks at all times is a delusion! In fact, I am certain that most of the artists whose smallest scribble or outpouring is rediscovered somewhere, collected and declared priceless after they have departed this world would turn in their graves!

No doubt that fads and fashions are to blame or at least responsible for trends. The artist wishing to become known (and rich) searches for innovation rather than harking back on what has already been done. A few names come to mind, such as Francis Bacon, Tracy Emin, Anthony Gormley.

Maybe the trick is really not connected to the quality of work but to the excellent salesmanship of the acteurs!

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Aug 25, 2009

Van Gogh’s paintings would have all gone into the trash except for his brother’s widow’s marketing. To sell takes marketing, for the most part.

Dana, have you considered going online? I googled your name, and only found one ‘Dana Finch’, in an auction last year.

From: Laurie — Aug 25, 2009


The organic ethereal feel to Ancient Track and Circular track are beautiful. I love your style. The other pieces have the same feel but the drippings are distracting. I know how tempting it is as I love drippings in certain art and have done my own. I have noticed a lot of work these last years using drippings but they are usually shown in public galleries and don’t sell well commercially. I am of two minds regarding being faithful to the artist in oneself and having fun and total enjoyment from the work…There are few people who can sell that way, most times it is hard work and slogging to sell. One has to appeal to the market to make money and perhaps paint from the heart once and a while to juice up.

I can see great potential in your work. Don’t stop!!! Redirect. And wait out the bad economy.

From: Greta — Aug 25, 2009

I am delighted by your work. It does have its own style and identity. If you don’t sell as you’d like to now, be one who waits patiently. I am not 76 and never will be a distinguished painter. And the great refuge and solace I find it my painting now is my lifeline to the outside world and my own inner realitites, my spiritual and immediate presense in the NOW.

Do continue, as a way of self expression and to follow the creative drive within. If it is still there. Do it. Without hestiation of any thought of regrets. It is all worth it as this is what we can give back for the gift of life given us; our own sense of the creative. I couldn’t live without this now.

From: Brenda Behr — Aug 25, 2009
From: Darla — Aug 25, 2009

That’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it? We spend so much effort on our art, and it is not usually appreciated in a commercial market. I don’t know the answer to this — do we regard art as a pastime for those who are inclined to do it, with little regard for making a living? Do we scratch and claw for any sales at all?

There has to be a way to incorporate art as a meaningful part of life, but the days of the WPA, when artists as a group were valued for their contribution, are long gone. Perhaps the value of art lies in learning to see the world (and ourselves) more fully, and trying to show that view to others. What do you think?

From: Sandy Wells — Aug 25, 2009

I have to say, Dana, that Vincent VanGogh sold one painting in his lifetime. Do you base your success as a painter on sales? Or do you base it on the acquisition of the innermost self on the canvas? The love of painting, and the love of selling are two concurrent travelers, and sometimes we are left with one companion. “You must paint, even if the voices in your head tell you that you cannot”, Vincent VanGogh wrote in his journal of madness, vowing to paint one painting for every voice that told him he was a worthless painter… hence the world has, due only to his stubborn tenancity… the ‘Starry Night’. You must believe Dana, for the belief in oneself is all we ever truly have in this world, especially in the tender, fragile, delicate world that exists in the heart of an artist. For you, and all artists are prophets of the human mind and soul, and are charged with unraveling the mysteries of mankind. Art styles are subjective, and your style is not the reason you face grim sales. Grim sales are finicky and subjected to generational forces of influence. Dana, if you are a painter, then continue to paint… for no other can paint what you can. Sandy

From: Maria Guzman — Aug 25, 2009
From: Patsy — Aug 25, 2009

Although you don’t say in what part of the British Isles you live, I would think quite far south – Devon, Cornwall? Your paintings are so evocative of the ancient mysteries of that part of England – they are beautiful. I particularly loved what I have dubbed The Mystic Circle (it puts me in mind of the raths that litter Ireland), as well as the Ancient Track – I have walked the Ridgeway and other paths of pre-history, so strongly identify with your inspiration. And at the end of a wet and soggy summer in Northern Ireland, I had to smile at your England Midsummer.

You mention a small provincial gallery that isn’t interested – have you approached any in the areas featured in your paintings? And get a website! Just don’t give up – paint for yourself, love what you do, and if you sell, you sell, if you don’t, you don’t. You can always donate some to hospices, for example; in return ask that they display a card with your name and contact details – sometimes a market can be found in the most unlikely places.

From: Dwight Williams, Idaho — Aug 25, 2009

Though I live in the Inter-mountain west of the U.S., Many times I have been to the various parts of Britain that Dana is painting. They certainly state the mood of those places. Maybe the only thing they lack is a slight move within this mood toward something that helps state the place better. The viewer, whether client or gallery owner, wants to have just a little more something “recognizable” to which they can relate.

From: northern painter — Aug 25, 2009

It’ simple, do you paint because you have too? Because if the answer is yes than there is no question about whether or not you should give up

From: Linda, Oregon — Aug 25, 2009

Well I am such a novice that to me your work is truly beautiful, and if I could create such works, I’d be proud! Of course the thing about art that keeps us all at it beyond expression is that it is a never-ending challenge. Always more to learn.

I’d try to show my work in different venues, eventually you’ll connect with buyers who feel like I do about your paintings.

From: Gavin Calf — Aug 25, 2009

Hi there Dana,

I hope you get this as you have a long list above. I clicked on Jeffrey Hessing and read some of his blog. This gentleman knows a lot about being an artist, for sure.

From: David, NC USA — Aug 25, 2009

Dana, To me your work is bleak, depressing even. Is that what you wish to convey? Perhaps gloom doesn’t sell as there’s so much of it around. I know there are many dark painters who will take issue with my criticism … so be it. But consider Robert Genn and his ongoing success. Does he paint fullness, or emptiness? Does he paint the ugliness in nature or the beauty? Painters who are stuck on one channel might consider changing to get better results. You can always go back to what doesn’t work later!

From: Dana Finch — Aug 25, 2009

I have been amazed and humbled by all the constructive comments I have received both personally and on this site – they have kept me busy all day reading and thinking and looking at the other artists who have sent me links to their own work. A huge thank you for all the support – and no, there is no way I can really give up but it is good to have such positive feedback to keep me going in difficult times!

From: Krista — Aug 25, 2009

I think they’re beautiful Dana. Especially ‘England Midsummer’. Please don’t give up.

From: Gary Holland — Aug 25, 2009

Dana, In short, I think you simply need to learn marketing. Don’t give up. I love your work. Your work is plenty strong, but it isn’t necessarily meeting the goals of the collectors. I can discuss that in a longer letter that I’ll post later. My best to you. Gary

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Aug 25, 2009

Dearest Dana-

Of course you won’t give up…being a true artist is ingrained in your being:) It is ok, however, to take a breather once in a while…lighten up on yourself. When I do this I find that I come back to the work stronger and more determined to succeed and more often that not, do my best and most successful work…maybe this would work for you. As the saying goes…”less is more.”

Several years ago, during one of these “sabbaticals”, I asked myself a very hard question…”am I painting what I want to paint or am I painting what I think would sell?” (I was painting what I thought would sell and it wasn’t selling!) When I began the process of painting what I wanted to paint (odd as they were) the works began to sell. The technique was the same, but now they had heart and soul (and humor, in my case.)

Your ethic is strong…don’t give up.

From: — Aug 25, 2009

I like your work. It has great mood. Maybe your price is too high. Even if you have to give them to friends and admirers do so to get them out and seen and your name known. Try some regional juried shows, which if you get in, add to your exposure and resume, and if you don’t are a business expense for taxes and a nice donation to some struggling gallery. Good luck and keep painting and if you take a lesson or two don’t give up your soul. Galleries often don’t want unknowns so get known even if you have to give a private opening at your home for friends and hopefully their friends. Ask the local galleries if they do juried shows. If not convince them they are a great fund raiser and people like to see new artists, and for buying prices are more affordable. Maybe take a self marketing course.

Good Luck

Gay Tracy

From: Niranjan Mhamane — Aug 25, 2009

I certainly agree with what Robert has adviced.

But another thing I observed is even good quality artworks don’t get market or galleries so easily! It’s feels very strange at times! There are always two struggles going on: developing as an artist and living as an artist.

Good Luck for your journey.

Niranjan Mhamane

From: Lori — Aug 25, 2009

I think you are very talented, but agree, you may need to work on marketing a bit. Maybe sell prints, cards, etc. in addition to originals? And definitely get a web site. Can’t say I agree with the other comment about your work being depressing. For starters, work doesn’t always have to be cheerful for it to be loved and appreciated. And I also feel like your work has more of an ethereal quality to it vs. being depressing. To each his own I guess. Artwork is subjective, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so keep working and spreading the word wherever you can. Good luck.

From: Lynn Decent — Aug 25, 2009

Regarding the artist who wanted to give up painting because his painting would not sell in a gallery…and your answer was to critique his paintings to suggest that they were “not enough” makes no sense. If his question was should I give up trying to sell my paintings that would be different…but the act of expressing by way of paint for a man who loves to paint is like telling an out of work storyteller that he should stop speaking. :)

From: Mary M Hart — Aug 25, 2009

Amazing Dana Finch! Love the England Midsummer piece so much. Drew my eyes into it like a magnet on a table full of metal shavings.

Thanks for sharing it with us!

From: Margo Buccini — Aug 25, 2009

I absolutely love the work by Dana Finch. It has a raw honesty and feeling, reminding one of the works by Mark Rothko. There is a lot of painterly energy. Yes, you are truly a painter. Good luck,

From: Kathryn Wiley — Aug 25, 2009

I feel for you, Dana. I’ve been where you are, it’s very tough getting recognition, and your paintings are wonderfully atmospheric. It seems as though you are painting the air. One thought for your consideration – have you tried it without the drips? I kind of like them, but I think they do put off some people.

Good luck, and as Winston Churchill said, never never never give up.

From: Susan Lehman, Banon, OR — Aug 25, 2009
From: Connie Nicholson — Aug 25, 2009

Hi Dana, I believe there is art for everyone, that’s the beauty of it. Everyone will never agree on everything. As long as we are painting what makes us happy, why would we want to give up? Because hoards of people are not buying our work? I don’t think so. Best wishes to you.

From: Connie Nicholson — Aug 25, 2009

P. S. I love your England Midsummer piece, because of the way you used the color. That is my draw. : )

From: Amada Escosteguy Brown — Aug 25, 2009

Give up? NO. However, if one wants to sell, one has to talk to the buyer… not only express oneself. “The Wave” was the only one that spoke to me, but because of a very sad, depressing experience. I would like to “look” at it in a Museum, but not at home… I would not buy… It is awsome, scary…as when nature turns into a destroying fury! As if you were facing sudden death…

From: Janet Sellers — Aug 25, 2009

Wow. I once heard an art instructor at Art Center ask a student, “…where’s the torque? There’s no torque”. I mused over that, and now I go back to that phrase when my work is “good” but not over the top. Over the top sells… good is just fun to look at and we move on to the next view/amusement.

I have a friend who sells many of her bird paintings because… they sell. Her favorite works to do are quite different, but she knows what sells for her, so.. she sells that.

From: Barb — Aug 25, 2009

Hi Dana,

I agree with the comment by David. For me, your paintings evoke feeling of depression, despair and at the most confusion. I think that this is not what you aim to express, so my advise would be to go back to your room and totally reinvent yourself. If you are up to that challenge, don’t give up, but it will take time and effort for sure.

Best wishes!


From: Dave — Aug 25, 2009

I can totally identify with Dana’s frustration, however, my situation is somewhat different. I work a full time job as well, as I can’t make any money at painting. Galleries don’t seem to be interested in my work, so I am relegated to selling via shows, co-op galleries, and through my website. I also struggle with the question, ‘is my work just not that good?’ I work hard at it. Along with working a 40 to 50 hour workweek, I try to squeeze in 12 or 13 hours of painting. One difference between Dana and I is, Dana at least has a background in art education, as I only started painting 9 years ago, and, except for a couple of workshops and reading countless art books, am self taught. For her, it must be even more disconcerting, as she has devoted a big part of her life to art. I have come to the realization that it’s my fault I started so late (I’m 52), so I will just continue to work a full time job, and hone my craft, so that when I retire, I can devote my time to marketing my work. I do sell 10 to 12 pieces a year, but I’m pretty prolific, so I’m running out of space for unsold pieces in my garage studio!! Ha! Ha! Hang in there, Dana…our time will come!

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Aug 25, 2009

It seems that it is hard to understand that art has to be in some way extraordinary to make it to the collectors. Perhaps emerging artists get confused seeing lot of bad art that can be found in some galleries – which is a fact hard to be denied. There are probably circumstances that allow bad art to rise to the top, so that’s what gets in a way of clarity. Does the artist want to rise by the quality of work or to find a way to get substandard art to hang next to other substandard art? I think that is a valid question which reflects the reality. That is also a very important question early in the career and not answering that for oneself, one can really mess it up. Your letter assumes that the artist is focused on the quality of her work, and that’s how I understood it as well. However, if the artists was focused on finding buyers for the art, the way it is, which is also a valid question, the answer should be very different.

Getting out there too soon, with substandard art, could lead to making bad mistakes and finding yourself in a wonderful, but unaffordable place. When that happens there are only two ways out of the situation – work like mad and improve quality of work as much as humanly possible since you are on a borrowed time, or quit and perhaps start all over again once you heal the wounds. Neither path is easy and there may be more than one innocent victim along the way whichever you choose – so a good advice for emerging artists, in my opinion, would be to think out your art career well in advance and be sure of your goals. I can say for myself that I would have appreciated understanding this better at the time when I was just learning about the art scene which I found confusing with the mix of those different and contrasting “forces”.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any path will do”.

From: Gretchen Markle — Aug 25, 2009

You were so right when you said that many would disagree with you when you said that Dana Finch’s sort of work is realy a bit too facile and too easy to do. With all respect, have you ever tried to do that sort of work? In my experience, simple, elegant, and atmospheric is much harder than straight representational. You’re most likely right, however, in the public’s preference for the easily recognizable landscape such as yours.

To Dana, I can only say this: If you are meant to be an artist, you will continue to paint because you absolutely have to. Your expectations of critical and financial success may change, but you will never stop mucking about with paint. And if it brings you joy and satisfaction, isn’t that enough?

From: Sharon Wright — Aug 25, 2009

Thank you for a very timely post, with the thought of giving up very much on my mind at the moment. No sales means no more materials, which means scrubbing around making the best of what I have. But the main thing I have concluded, in the last eighteen months, is that USP, or a unique style, is not something that can be engineered. Those artists with their unique vision have always had it. Technical stuff can be learned, sure, but not style. I paint how I paint, try as I might to do otherwise, and produce endless mundane images that no-one wants. I could no more stop painting than breathing, but my expectations of earning a living are now zero.

From: Roz North — Aug 25, 2009

I think Dana’s paintings will appeal to a specific audience, and not everyone will “get it”. Galleries try to appeal to a public which often doesn’t know what they like. Some people will be afraid of this style. If selling is how you define yourself as an artist, there are lots of ways to sell besides galleries. Instead of painting on the weekends, set up at an art fair. You can find out a lot about your art by the people who come by to look. There are many books on selling art without a gallery. I sell my work through a yearly studio tour in my village where about 35 other artists participate. If there’s not one in your area, start one. If you are truly an artist, as you say, you won’t be able to just give up. Keep working and try new things. Have fun. Take classes and be inspired by other artists. Art is its own reward.

From: Carol Lyons — Aug 25, 2009

In my 40- year art career the response experiences range from the enthusiastic major museums, corporations and private acquisitions to “wallpaper reception”, what I call complete disregard. And that’s about the same artworks!.

As Churchill said, “Never, never quit”, and he was a proficient watercolorist.

Robert I disagree with you when you say,”Too facile and too easy to do” Not necessarily so .Taste differs and there’s no accounting for gut feeling.

I like Dana’s paintings. For me “England Midsummer” has “it”. It has ethereal mood, color, good sky,and I like the dripping effect. Also powerful, for me, is Cornish Silver.

My motto is KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. And you do.

Do more! And take a risk with color.

That’s my 2 cents.

Luck! Hard Work! Risk!

From: Paul DeMarrais — Aug 25, 2009

If you need to ask this question, you have already given up. You need a warrior attitude to persist in our career. Odds are not in your favor. There are thousands coming out of school with art degrees. Many of them are ill trained in the skills they will need. Most will be in the predicament I was years ago. They will have to somehow survive while they get the skills, temperment and work habits necessary to enter the art market. This will likely take years. There are thousands of competent painters already in the marketplace. You need great drive and perserverance…..and talent. Talent is hard to pin down, but we know it when we see or hear it. Most with art degrees end up in another career. It’s not the end of the world if that occurs. You also need lots of help from others to pursue an art career and some good luck as well. This artist obviously lacks the bulldog temperment necessary. She is not strong enough nor is her work. No one enjoys critiquing, but this artists work lacks excitement. It’s all kind of blurry like looking out a basement window into a rainstorm. It is not colorful or strong in design or decisive. It doesn’t take any risk and doesn’t demand a second look. There is nothing for a gallery to grab onto either. Galleries want a ‘style’ they can market to their clients. They want a consistent level of performance. Galleries seek a product they can sell. They don’t care about the artists line of bull or why the artist paints etc. THat is not to say they don’t really care about art of artists. It’s just that they have other needs. The artist needs to satisfy those needs as well as their artistic needs. The whole deal is not for the faint of heart. I agree with you. I would never advise giving up, or would I sugar coat the harsh realities. It’s not my or your decision to make. Each of us must look in the mirror and face the facts and be honest with ourselves on where we stand.

From: Nancy Bell Scott — Aug 25, 2009

Having looked at the few pieces by Dana Finch that you put up on your site, I couldn’t disagree with you more on your opinion of them. Unlike many (very many) landscapes done by more traditional painters, which can get really tiresome, Finch’s works dare to be different, they exhibit some unusual texture, they show imagination, and they encourage imagination in the viewer — neither “facile” nor “easy to do” as you claim. Does everyone’s work have to look like they went to the same art school and stuck with the same methods they learned there? No thank you.

From: Barbara Meikle — Aug 25, 2009

I live and paint in New Mexico, another place of recognizable landscapes, and my first thought at looking at these paintings was–not enough. The emotion behind them feels heavy to me, not light and etheral as I imagine (and have seen myself) the mists of England to be, and the application simplistic, not layered and delicate and fiery all at once, as the landscape can be. But then, I’m a very emotional painter and that’s my perspective. If you want to paint, paint. If you want to paint AND sell, you must stand out, even if it is only in your own mind. Push some edges out, pull others back, make your misty paintings THE misty-est imagineable — you’ve got to explore constantly to the edge of your creativity every day, and get up the next morning and do it again.

From a practical point, if you want to sell your work, the presentation must be excellent — professional photos, digital and printed material, and you must talk to the right people at the galleries, the directors or owners, at the proper time in the season, when they are reviewing work. If you really want to understand how/why/what sells, get a job in a gallery and learn — I know so many artists who got their start working in a gallery they liked and ended up showing there. It all depends on how much you want it!

From: Teresa Hitch — Aug 25, 2009

Its all about being in the right place at the right time! Here’s a few suggestions of a novel idea that might just work in the deepest bowels of the oil patch, and in other areas where money replaces culture.

From: Ann Wheatcroft — Aug 25, 2009

I recently went through a post show depression. I was dismayed that even painters with vastly more skill and technique than I have, were not selling anything. I wondered if it was all worth it? I love the struggle, the learning, the tiny steps up in my craft, but was it hopeless? Would I never sell any work? Then after a few days I realized I really had no choice, I paint ; and if they stack up under the bed, so be it. The journey is the prize.

From: Elizabeth Court — Aug 25, 2009

I think we all wonder this at times especially if our work does not sell. However, I ask the question who do I do the work for? I think I do the painting for my own satisfaction although I am often not satisfied with it and then I try again. Sometimes I take a step forward and lots of steps backwards and I am always trying to express myself in a way that is meaningful to me. Other people do wonderful paintings which I can enjoy and I know I will never be a great painter like Picasso but there is something there that always makes me want to try again to express the world as I see it even if it is not the greatest painting and hope someone will see and enjoy it. So I think as long as you have something you want to express go on painting and who knows where it will take you. We can not all be great but we can go on achieving.

From: Loraine Wellman — Aug 25, 2009

The question of “quitting” doesn’t occur to many of us “struggling artists”. I paint because I have to. I am driven to create art even though I have not (yet) become a great success. In Trek, the UBC alumni magazine, an article about Gordon Smith, now 90, reports a fan at a gallery asking him, “Are you still painting ?” and his reply “Are you still breathing?” Art is his compulsion too- but like many he isn’t complacent about his work. If Dana wants to keep at it, I suggest continually pushing for improvement. Join- or create- an art club that has monthly demos. Look beyond galleries to Open Studio tours. Donate to charitable causes. I gave a triptych to Richmond Hospital where it brightens a waiting area, made the creator of the subject garden happy an maybe even creates good vibes for me. Join a Life Drawing group to keep up challenges. One group I am in has “show and tell” at the end when seeing other’s work is a real stimulus. From this group, a “Salon” grew. We meet once a month for coffee and dessert, discuss art and art history, critique paintings and create a supportive environment. Reading about an artist for the next Salon helps insight and an appreciation of other’s struggles. Really, there is no question of “quitting”!

From: Jane Schlosberg — Aug 25, 2009

While it is certainly true that it is extremely difficult to go deeper than “facile” when one is not working every day, there are some other truths that also affect “success”:

1. A great many mediocre painters sell quite well. And many extremely good painters have difficulty selling their work. Salesmanship seems to be the necessary talent, rather than artistry! Also, it is necessary to have subject matter that is saleable, no matter what the purists would have us believe.

2. Most of us reach the apex of our talent at some point. What seems like a plateau turns out to be the top of our mountain. After that, repetition of the insights and skills we have developed is all we have left. If an artist is truly obsessed or is selling well, he/she will most likely continue on this flat (or downward) path. If, on the other hand, that striving for new insights is the motivation, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue.

And that’s my “two cents”.

From: Beth Deuble — Aug 25, 2009

Dana –we are all struggling; perhaps you will consider these comments:

I recently read this from Joan Baez:

“In Buddhism there’s no real happiness without the struggle.”

There is more to that quote, but what I have found is that often happiness equates to satisfaction and that relates to how an artist feels about their work. The other part of the equation is how others feel about their work. When moved, people are inclined to want to possess the piece of artwork so they can experience it again and again.

I ask myself, is my work interesting; then, can it hold someones interest so they will want to view it, experience it, and feel it again and again.

Works that can hold someone’s interest can span time, cultures, and points of view.

From: Claudio Ghirardo — Aug 25, 2009

I am not sure if this would be helpful but one thing to maybe consider is taking a year off and spend that time experimenting with either different mediums or techniques. Go outside of your box and see what happens and gage your reaction to what it happening. I read where Canadian artist, now deceased, Betty Goodwin took a year off and started trying new things and it lead her to a new way for her to do her art and Pissaro, one of the impressionists, was playing around with Pointilism at one point (yes I know, bad pun) and when he came back to Impressionism, the experimentation lead him to doing some very innovative pieces later on his life. I have found that going outside of the normal way you do art can lead to a fresh new persceptive for the artist in both a creative and personal way.

From: Tim Tyler — Aug 25, 2009

I thought the work looked a lot like Odd Nurdstoms(sic) work w/o the figures and vulgarity.

From: Cathy Harville — Aug 25, 2009

I could never give up painting. Not everything I do sees the light of day. Some paintings, sometimes most paintings, become a layer under gesso. Mastery is elusive. And once something is mastered, then, for me, it is time to move on.

I tend to be process-oriented, so by focusing on the process, I can figure things out. Sometimes the finished product is pleasing, sometimes not. But by focusing on the journey, I don’t get freaked out when things are not going well.

Fear of failure is a big deterrent to doing well. Failure is a word I don’t use often. I heard it too much while growing up! Sometimes things just don’t go well, since the universe tends towards chaos. When painting does go well, I make sure I know why. And I practice my craft until it becomes a part of me. Like riding a bike, you always remember how. (Although, every once in a while, when a gem of wisdom comes in, it gets away before I realize it. No matter, it will return!)

I guess it depends why you make art. If I made art for money, I would have quit a long time ago. I make art for a lot of reasons, but money isn’t one of them. Neither is fame. I just love making art. I love color. I love light, and nature, and texture, and the juiciness of it all. Art is luscious!

From: Jamie Lavin — Aug 25, 2009

To quote the song, “things are tough all over!”

Your work is great! I have seen works that are of a similar flavor; here in the US, there is a very successful artist in print, as well as her originals that made quite a living selling soft watercolour works of mountain haze, skies just after a rain, etc. I can’t think of her name just know, but she was in my folks gallery for several years, and went national during her time with us. We sold a lot of her prints, a few originals. Believe me, Knsas City is not an art town. Dean Mitchell just got through blasting us for that very reason- he moved to Florida and said he does quite well there. You can throw your sticks and stones better after you’ve made it like he has! At 5 to 10 thousand per watercolour, and up to 25K on other media, he can afford to slap an entire City, I guess.

For what it’s worth, I do two different styles of work. I do these really wild abstracts, and then I do the representational stuff. You might try to do two “lines” as I have. One is my sure bet, the abstracts. In Chicago, Lincoln, Nebraska, Kansas City, Austin, Texas. I sell at the art fairs. I tried to be in Galleries also, kept my street prices the same as the galleries, and that works OK until our economy tanks! There is a trade rag called “Artist Advocate” here in the East, and I just took out an ad for the four times it’s published- I’ll let you know how it works out.

I think also, your problem is you paint for a USA audience, and you live in a sweet little place in England! I don’t know how tough it is to get things over here, but I would try them for you here in our artspace ( ) when we have our annual landscape show. We usually have about 300 people come to our openings and usually, even in these times, do about $4K per show. We could present you in a quality light, and who knows?

Don’t give up trying- I just don’t think God gives out talent like yours with no reason; I also think you have to do what you must to make a living. Winston Churchill, one of my heroes, also said, “Never, ever, ever, give up”!

From: Sandra Bos — Aug 25, 2009

I really loved this letter, I loved your kind and wonderful advise that you gave Dana. I have worked hard toward excellent’s, but sometimes, in this day in age, I feel it’s just plain old fashion to try for excellent.?

But when all is said, I still ask myself, at the end of the day;”Did you do the best that you can, with what you know today?”, and if the answer, from my heart is “yes”, then, I have to except that truth.

I feel painting is a way of looking for the truth with-in myself, and that the canvas has a way of showing that truth, because we always end up ‘painting ourselves’.

In the words of Sergi Bongart, “there is no one just like you, and there never will be anyone just like you, so there’s no reason not to be original”

From: Michael — Aug 25, 2009

I share many of the same frustrations as one of your most recent writers:

“Dana Finch of the UK wrote: “I have been painting for years. I now have to work at a fulltime non-art job but I still consider myself first and foremost a painter, and spend most weekends, evenings, holidays, etc., doing it……”

I also have been painting for years and years, ever since childhood. I have always been drawn to surrealism as I have always felt art should convey some kind of a message or create a feeling. That feeling could be anything from calming, puzzling, intriguing or exciting to the viewer.

As you often recommend I have tried to develop a unique style and for some years have blended western art with surrealism. To the surrealist my work may often appear bland, not nearly as shocking as “mainstream” surrealists, sometimes simply whimsical. To the western art enthusiast my work is perhaps too “over the top”. I do not attempt realism to any extent because I have never considered myself good enough to do so. (one reason I stay away from portraits).

From: Tiit Raid — Aug 25, 2009

I’m not sure how to approach writing you about the work of Dana Finch. I should perhaps be writing her personally, even then my comments would be based on five small images on a monitor screen. But, I’ve seen enough images in the form of slides and on the inter-net and in 36 years of teaching art to have a grasp of what the basics of a painting are like. If you wish to send the following on to Dana feel free to do so.

I seems to me that the main problem with Dana’s work is not so much the subject matter as it is the way she has painted it, and then, the confining nature of her compositions.

Her strength seems to be color and her ability to give her paintings a sense of atmosphere and mystery. But, the manner in which she applies the paint gets in the way of wanting to view the image further. In other words, I see the medium and how it is applied before I see the image. In “England mid-summer” and “Cornish Silver” I see the runny paint before I see the subject. In all great representational painting, regardless of how thick the paint, you always see image before the technique.

Look at the work of J. M. W. Turner, you see image before you see the manner in which the paint is applied. Or, the paintings of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, where the brush-stroke is very evident, you also see the image first and technique second.

The other problem I see in Dana’s work is the composition. The image is cramped into a very confining space. There is no room for it to ‘breath’. Perhaps there is a conceptual reason for an expansive image being shown in a narrow space, but it feels restricted.

It seems that Dana’s passion for painting is well in place. Her work shows a nice sense for color, and has an interesting mystery in it that could be elevated by what is suggested above.

From: Andrea Loeppky — Aug 25, 2009

In response to Dana Finch’s work, you wrote “When you add a personal style that distinguishes you from the others, opportunistic gallerists are more likely to check you out.” Your comment resonated with me because I have been hesitant about approaching galleries because of the issue of my personal style. I equally enjoy painting impressionistic landscapes and abstracts. While there is a certain continuity between my landscapes, I am all over the map when it come to my abstract work because it happens completely spontaneously, so the output always seems to be different. I have been quite successful in selling both styles but in terms of promoting myself in higher caliber juried exhibitions and galleries, I am not sure which style to showcase or whether to offer up both.

From: Marjorie Tressler — Aug 25, 2009

I have heard from a friend of mine, we have entirely different styles, mine classical realism , and hers the more modern form that was studied in the 50’s and 60’s.She wants me to go more her way , for commercial reasons. While I am happy with my work and have studied with very notable artists for over 30 years (Ann Schuler from the Schuler School of fine arts) to name one. I still have evolved from very loose impressionism ( like Ann) to where I am today. My work is not selling right now but has. I have even had a one woman museum show as well for my portraiture. I have had all the usual notoriety here in the tri-state area, even so I get the same stale snobbery that “BIG” galleries give out , why , because I haven’t an art degree to wave around. So my point is , Dana has the degree and I don’t but have the studies with “THE IT” artists plus we have the talent and we are still in the same boat. There has to be more to this. Maybe more stimulus for the artists!!!!! (HEY Washington!!!) YO. And then again, maybe we need to sell our own work, and cut out the galleries, I do better then they do anyway —  By the way , we have a co-op gallery ( no commissions) run by the artists here in Hagerstown ,MD, called the Mansion House Gallery set in the Hagerstown city park ( with a lake containing swans no less!!), this is next to the Museum that is Nationally accredited. We also have an arts district that the city is sponsoring as well as sponsoring the artists at the city owned park where our gallery is located — something to think about artists

From: Russ Hogger — Aug 25, 2009

Hi Dana, There’s not much I can add to what’s been said already. Most of it is very good advice. All I can say is keep on painting Dana Finch originals and you will succeed.

From: Mary Susan Vaughn — Aug 25, 2009

Oh boy, this story could not have come at a better time as I too am struggling with my own capabilities as an artist. I have not yet reached that level of satisfaction with my own work to say that I have arrived, and I suspect I never will. Realism or Impressionism? Still life or landscapes? Portraits or just the hint of people in my paintings? Barns or Boats? Give up or keep chuggin’ along and learning, learning, learning? I’ve chosen to keep learning and keep hoping that I will sell “more” of my work – “more” being the operative word here as I “do” sell my work, but sparingly. Then again, even in this tough economy my work sells now and then and that comforts me.

Dana – NEVER give up. Art is in your soul. It is how you express yourself. When I am feeling low, I remember that Monet, Degas, VanGogh, and many, many other artists for lifetimes before us struggled, and at times walked away. I believe that when we struggle, we are growing as an artist. We are learning. We are facing the struggle head on and not afraid of “change.” That is the true struggle that artists face – is change – change of palette, change of underpainting style, change of brushstroke, change of thickness of paint, change of style from beginning to finished painting.

I do a lot of reading and comparing. I compare the palettes of many of my favorite living artists like Kevin MacPherson, Karin Wells, and Richard Schmid, to my own and then I might improvise on what I learn from them. I try to ask “Why” do they use this color or that color, or this technique or that technique. They have honed their skills and yet, although I know that I have not yet arrived at that comfortable place in my painting where it feels like a big comfy easy chair, I have not given up. To give up is to cop out. It is the easy way out. Just remember – nothing that was ever worthwhile in life has ever come easily. We must work at it, we must learn, we must read, we must take the criticism constructively.

Maybe your work is not the right fit for that particular gallery, and it certainly is not the only gallery in the world. We’ve all been declined by a gallery or two or three in our careers. Let the rejection make you stronger. Prove them wrong by getting back in the saddle. Try something new. Try to learn a new medium or a new technique. Learn to paint in realism or impressionism. Paint something entirely different if for no other reason than to experience it, then let those lessons appeal to your style of painting and expression. Always strive for the best you can be, Dana.

Now, I am going to take my own advice. And, as Robert pointed out in Esoterica with his quote from Pearl S. Buck:

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” (Pearl S. Buck)

But the path to excellence requires that we cross many mountains, a few valleys, and never quite “arrive” at our destination as we continually strive to be more excellent.

From: Laura — Aug 25, 2009
From: Virginia Wieringa — Aug 25, 2009

What an excellent response to Dana’s question! One suggestion I have is to look at images of the pieces you’ve sold and see if there’s a common thread. What is it about those pieces that struck a chord with your viewers? lf acceptance of your work is your goal, that could give you an answer. In my humble opinion, Dana’s skies are really lovely and complex. My guess is that Ancient Track, Bodmin is sold and the very drippy ones are not.

From: Hans Werner — Aug 25, 2009

The best advise I can give is to throw yourself into life drawing classes, you can never do enough of that, simple charcoal drawing on large sheets of butter paper , concentrate on poses from 5 to 30 minutes in a weekly discipline, then after six months , start using your paints to do the same thing…. you will be amazed, and so will be your galleries.!!

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Aug 25, 2009

Just go ahead and trigger my ticked-off button! How many times did I used to ehar “Oh, I could do that!” when I showed at fairs! Grrrr — problem was, I never had the nerve to say, “If you could do it, why don’t you! Then maybe you’d be a bit more gracious to the ones who actually have taken the time and put in the effort.” Grrrr.

I like Dana’s work. Judging by the drips, they don’t look very big, which might make one assume they were easy to do — glob on some paint and smoosh it around and let it drip. I’ve seen bigger pieces like this that seemed like more work — we sometimes judge by how long it took, how much effort it takes. It’s the master’s dilemma — people don’t seem to know that it’s not how long a piece took, but the fact that we have developed our skills in order to work bold and fast, with a facile hand–it looks simple even though it ain’t!

From: Catherine Stock — Aug 25, 2009

Yes and No. Why are you painting? Nothing worth doing is done without effort. The only reason to give up is if you are doing it for the money, and you are not making any. Even Maurice Sendak, the brilliant illustrator, set designer and artist, cherished the struggle. Ease=facility=facile rubbish. Until one finds Qi of course and brilliance just flows outta one…

From: Eveleen Power — Aug 25, 2009

In reference to the letter from Dana Finch of the UK whether she should give up painting, seemingly getting nowhere, I empathise totally with her. The amount of times I wonder to myself why am i doing this? Despite that I still end up painting and the space and peace I get from it helps and then the reward is sometimes a sale even though I would much rather it was more often. Paint for you, paint what you are passionate about. Think of van gough and how many paintings he sold in his lifetime. ….!

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Aug 25, 2009

Do we paint for profit or monetary gain or it is because it is an expression of our aspirations and an outlet our for longings .It is a talent that we have been blessed to possess and a part of our identity .It may be also a means of expressing our appreciation of the world around us. It may be a means of sharing with other people our vision of a better world or to feel satisfaction in accomplishing something beautiful that may inspire other people to look at their world in a different way,that inspite of dire conditions a person maybe in; there is always hope.It would be good to be able to generate some funds from our work but it is from creating something beautiful is very satisfying.Thanks very much for the newsletter.

From: Brad Michael Moore — Aug 25, 2009

When it comes to this question – each artist must choose for themselves. However, if you plan on arting for life – no matter if you have a glowing following or not – should quitting a natural course of self-expression even be considered? Some artists, I liken to gardeners – your work is a labor of love which, everyday of the season, finds its needs. Every effort offers a new life to be considered. If you see life and art this way – there is no reason to set tourniquet upon your arms…

From: Airynaa Tannberg — Aug 25, 2009

Dana Finch of UK has definitely created an emotional response in her paintings which can elicit the viewer’s attention. However, as a buying public I am not sure if I would purchase a piece of her art as the paintings gave me a very heavy emotional feeling of sadness, and I would want something on my wall to uplift the soul.

From: gail caduff-nash — Aug 25, 2009

this is a good one.

i appreciate how you basically said that paint drips do not a painting make.

but i’ve been asking myself that question also lately because i’m been remiss in actually producing art.

so i asked a local online artists’ group to offer their opinion, good or bad, and i got a lot of good replies with thoughtful suggestions.

From: Joan Desmond — Aug 25, 2009

“Give up” implies that you are striving toward something. From your letter that “something” seems to be recognition and sales.

What is not mentioned specifically is whether painting feeds something inside of you/whether it feeds your soul. Your statement “I still consider myself first and foremost a painter, and spend most weekends, evenings, holidays, etc., doing it” tells me, and should tell you, a lot.

What is it that you want to say in your work? and do you feel you are you doing that?

From: Denise — Aug 25, 2009

Many people ask me if I paint, I always say no, but the truth is, I knew I was a mediocre painter, and there are enough out there without me adding to the fray. I like to be really good at the things I do, and painting just wasn’t my forte. I accepted that and didn’t shed any tears, and moved on. I’m not suggesting anyone do that, that’s just my story.

From: Carole — Aug 25, 2009

Dear Dana,

What fabulous feedback, everyone! All artist might have raised the same question at some point, once, twice, or a hundred times during a lifetime. Others have answered wisely:

Nike says, it all comes down to: Just do it. I’d add ‘More and Better’, as soon as possible. Being open to more IS better!!

I love the poem of Rumi’s that frees the judgmental time-lines and confines: ”There’s a field beyond right and wrong. Come, join me there.”

And finally, Mother Teresa was quoted to say something like ”In the end, it was all between you and God, anyway”. Happy painting!

From: Yvon Bouchard — Aug 25, 2009

Dana, it’s hard. I hold a job with lawyers and try to keep up with my painting and life in general. I never quit though. Once I was determined I would do nothing but what I wanted. I was asked, in order to be accepted, to do a landscape – not my style. I almost actually said “I don’t do landscapes.” I thought instead that I needed to try. I did and the change is what changed my luck. I was accepted in a gallery and I was happier than I ever was. Then life hit and I had to care for my parents. No time to paint. Still, I did, a little bit. Now I work with lawyers again and am still settling the estate yet I paint. My time is limited but it is my love for what is inside that does not allow me to stop. I must move again, therefore, I am also writing. Art ain’t easy but it’s heaven and I believe that.

Do not stop and never give up.


From: Judy Gilmer — Aug 25, 2009

Dear Dana

Frankly, I love your “After the Rain”….keep painting! Do it for the journey, not the destination!!

From: Susan Abbott — Aug 26, 2009
From: Lynne saintonge — Aug 26, 2009

I particularly like ‘The Wave’ and ‘England Midsummer’. These are beautiful, painterly, and lyrical works. I know you will continue painting! In this case I think some of Robert’s comments were facile. There is a market for your style of work. In my experience it is definitely finding the market which can be difficult. Being in the right place(s) at the right time(s) is a challenge.

From: Phyllis Stone — Aug 26, 2009

I understand your feelings, Dana. I enjoyed your paintings. But it’s a strange thing — sometimes what you do just doesn’t seem to resonate with other people. My suggestion is to stop worrying about selling for a while (if you can afford to do it) and just let yourself go with any kind of experimentation that is interesting to you at the moment. I have painted for over 20 years and nothing seemed to “catch”. Then I discovered how to do expressionistic figures and “bingo” — all of a sudden I was doing something completely different , and I believe it is pretty much my very own style. Figures were the LAST thing I thought I would ever do, but I have won three prizes on them in the past year. And I always remember what a teacher said to me many years ago — “Think about what you are adding to the culture.” I see so much work which is well done, but unless the artist has brought something new and personal to it , I always feel I have seen it over and over. Keep on plugging and something good is bound to happen !

From: Sue Rochford — Aug 26, 2009

I am always amazed when I attend workshops at how quickly some people will give up on a technique if they are not excellent at it either straight away or in a short while. Are they kidding? A friend of mine sat down at the piano and tried to play twice and said if he couldn’t play like Beethoven he wasn’t going to bother. Thinking about how long Da Vinci and Michelangelo among others worked on their art – entire lifetimes and every day, what do some people expect? The masters were just that – masters! Mastery is a lifelong task. When I first started on this art journey I met a man who asked me how long I had been working at it. I told him a couple of years and he said, “Just wait till you’ve been at it for over twenty years then you’ll be part way there”. I felt humbled. Amazingly, its been that long now for me and yes, I’m still only part way there but oh what a wonderful trip to be on. I think that if you have to ask if you should give up, you probably should. Does my bottom look big in these pants? It probably does.

From: Marilyn Bonnett — Aug 26, 2009

Dana do not give up. You seems to be in that category of art that is close to abstract, but has enough subject in it to be representational. New York, or a different market perhaps. I think it is polished, and inviting.

From: Jennifer Young — Aug 26, 2009

You wrote: “Is there possibly a sense in the minds of many potential collectors that they could have done one of these themselves?”

I usually enjoy your letters, even if I don’t always agree with your opinions. But wow, this is a little harsh, don’t you think? And not particularly warranted in my opinion. Maybe you feel your advice is solid, but to me it rings a little hollow (and dare I say, ‘facile’) without a bit of additional guidance as to what areas specifically you find lacking or in need of strengthening. Perhaps you don’t feel it your place to play art coach, but you took on the question (and, might I add, published it widely, along with the images.)

From: Alan Soffer — Aug 26, 2009

I empathize with Dana’s dilemma, as do most artists in today’s market, and that includes artists who have arrived. Personally, her work resonates with me and my abstract predilections. There are always discrepancies between authentic art and sales. So, perhaps Dana can work on several directions at once. Could be these is a clientele for work of this order that is more colorful, more textured, more boldly contrasting, more whatever, and yet still authentically her. Yes, don’t give up, you have a fan in me, though, sadly, I’m not buying.

From: Rick Rotante — Aug 26, 2009

For years my situation was reversed. I kept a full time job to see me thru the non-sale times.

This is not to say I didn’t spend every other hour honing my craft in the studio. Since the economy took a nose dive, I currently work longer and harder at painting now that I don’t have a job of any kind.

On the bright side my work has gotten much better and I have been presented with the opportunity to teach painting again. With the added time I now work on larger pieces as well as those that take one or two sittings and put my work in more shows.

More to the point, with money being very tight, artists need to take a hard second look at their work. Too many are painting to make a quick buck and not painting for the long haul. There is too much “sameness” in subject matter. If you are to separate yourself from the pack your work has got to show uniqueness and quality. It has to show an excellence that others don’t.

If you’re painting only on weekends for the local bake sale don’t worry about it. But, if you still aspire to greatness, great work takes an enormous amount of time, work and dedication. And even then you need the Gods to touch you on the shoulder. Don’t think shabby work will get by these days. Buyers want value for their money. Many can’t tell you what that value is, but they can recognize it when they see it and are willing to pay for it.

From: Rodney Cobb — Aug 26, 2009

Just read your “newsletter” about the artist who was considering giving up and I have two comments and an important question.

First, it is a good response on your part especially ala “shoveling coal;” second, it is not possible to give up when you have to pursue your art to breathe. So the finding the right shovel is key.

And toward that end, that is, in seeking to find the “ideal” daily practice, do you have any suggestions for fertile sources? Similarly, do you know anyone who aspires to teach an ideal daily practice? Of course, the “ideal daily practice” depends one’s type of art, to some degree, and more specifically, to one’s weaknesses and strengths, Yet, I suspect there are some wise practices, that is, some answers beyond “it depends.”

I ask this question, not out of mere curiosity, but because I do practice drawing and painting on a daily basis and have been for over a year now. The answer to this question is fleeting in spite of my searching and many classes that are typically a week’s cloud of kudos and other comments, but very little to use on a daily basis. Obviously, the race to improve one’s art has obvious time limits, thus, I seek the best daily practices.

Any leads would be greatly appreciated.

From: Mick — Aug 26, 2009

When I was young I wanted very much to be an astrophysicist. When it came time to begin working in that direction I realized I was a very mediocre mathematician. In time, I found that my interests lacked focus, and that I was happiest as a generalist. Not everyone is cut out to be an astrophysicist. I still enjoy reading about the work of others, as I always have.

I also paint, coming to it in mid-life. I have some very important weaknesses which I work to address, and with more focus than I was able to bring to science. However, I have limitations and the marketplace is not infinitely capacious. As long as my enthusiasm for commercial success or notoriety doesn’t outstrip my enthusiasm for the work and the field, I’m going to be just fine, sell well or not.

Artists need to realize earlier that you might build it, and they might not come. It’s really just play anyway, isn’t it? Very, very special play. We can learn from the poets. At best there is little reward for contemporary poets, but they love poetry, and they love writing, and don’t seem inclined to stop, despite the paucity of their market. That’s absolutely wonderful!

From: Dave C — Aug 26, 2009

I think what it comes down to is, why do you paint? There are a handful of reasons why an artist would pick up a brush, but there is only one reason that will keep them coming back again and again and that is the sheer joy of painting (sorry Bob Ross, had to say it).

Some will paint for no other reason than they are good at it and they make a living doing it. But, if the times get lean and people stop buying, this artist will find something else to do.

Some will paint because they enjoy getting the accolades from those around them, but after a while, the applause fades and they are left with nothing but a pretty picture on a canvas.

They may sell a few pieces here and there, mostly to family and friends, but to sell something to a stranger, based solely on the ability of the piece to grab someone’s attention is something quite foreign to them.

Being a painter is the same as with any other artist. If you are just in it for the glory and the money, you won’t go very far. How far would Yo Yo Ma have gotten as a cellist if he only cared about the money he gets paid? Because you can hear his soul in almost every note he plays, he has become one of the premier cellists of our time and some would say of all time.

You need to paint for the absolute love of painting because this is what will carry you through the tough times, be they economic tough times or times of tough criticism.

A widely told story of Pierre-Auguste Renoir says that one day, as he toiled at his canvas, his teacher stopped by his easel, looked at Renoir’s work and commented that apparently he was dabbling in paint merely to amuse himself. Renoir replied that when it ceased to amuse him that he would stop painting. He painted up until the day he died, even when his hands and body had turned against him, making painting a painful experience. I guess it never ceased to amuse him.

Like Robert, I would never tell someone to give up as an artist. Coming to the conclusion that you need to quit on your art is something that needs to be answered from within, not without. If you pick up a brush and think that there are hundreds of things you rather be doing, you would have your answer. However, if you are doing any one of a hundred different things, but the only thing you can think of is picking up your brush then you will also know.

From: Mars — Aug 26, 2009

RE- Dana Finch-paintings. She asks — should I quit? — I often ask myself the same question — but I lumber on & on!!Never give up! but- here it comes — I looked at every one of your painitings -again & again — the first thought came to mind — why didn’t she finish them? There seems to be a beginning & an end — but inbetween — leaves us hanging!!! What exactly is she trying 2 say? It’s not realizem nor abstract –somewhere in between. Coloring is good — but always look for the end!!!!

From: George Prisbe — Aug 27, 2009

“Facile and too easy to do?” Since when – in the history of contemporary art – is ease of execution a criteria for quality or value? I certainly understand the lure and appeal of work ethic and good training. My own work is very involved and technically sound, but that does not keep me from appreciating work such as Dana Finch’s wonderfully subjective and powerfully psychological work.

That old and tired cliche of “I could do that” should always be answered with, “Yes, but from where will you get your ideas and inspiration?”

Art is and always will be more than product. The insights of process should never be undervalued. In my opinion Mr. Finch has this in spades.

Additionally, why would you, Mr. Genn not encourage anyone and everyone to remain dedicated to creative endeavors? How different would our world be if each and every human being on this planet took the time to dedicate themselves to creativity?

Furthermore, why is it so necessary to sell one’s work? Isn’t the mere act of creating where the true value of art resides? Just because work does not sell, does not mean that it lacks value.

And, is it not entirely probable that Mr. Finch has simply not found the gallery for him? Surely, they exist.

I think your response to Mr. Finch is more than a bit pompous. I frequently groan at your insensitivity to struggling artists everywhere, with your constant gloating of what your paintings sell for, your comfortable existence, and your seemingly constant traveling. These things are much like salt in the wound for those of us struggling to carve out a living.

I am now – and often – tempted to unsubscribe to your newsletter, but reading your comments serve to reinforce my own attitudes and philosophy about art and art making.

From: Arnold — Aug 27, 2009

Genn’s on the right track here Mr Prisbe. Is it not fair to locate Mr (Ms?) Finch’s problem within his (her) work? Are we beyond improving our work? Do you think Genn would have served him (her) better by telling him (her) to just find a suitable gallery like many other writers are doing? With regard to selling in galleries, she asked for one, even a small provincial one. The world is full of substandard work, Mr Prisbe. Mr Genn, while granting Mr (Ms) Finch considerable virtues, is only trying to raise those standards. Do you lend your expertise to the world of art so generously? Perhaps you are so jealous of the success of others that you are unable to do so.

From: john ferrie — Aug 27, 2009

show me more of your work Dana.

maybe I can help tweak your work to a new level.


From: Stef — Aug 28, 2009

Dana I hope you benefit from some of the ‘gems’ offered, and can above put aside the ‘dross’ and have the wisdom to discern which is which and most of all enjoy the journey.

PS to George To that old tired cliche ‘I could do that’ I feel inclined to add ‘well why don’t you then?’

From: Karen R. Phinney — Aug 28, 2009

Interesting what a series of responses this has generated. Obviously this is a big issue in the art world. The talk of technical skill, in Dana’s work, vs. to me, the emotionality of the work, is very germane. I think about Jackson Pollock, who is considered one of America’s most famous and gifted artists, and he didn’t have technical skill, could hardly draw! He did his drip paintings and was the first to do so, so carved a niche in that area………similarly to Mark Rothko with his solid areas of colour. Not merely technical skill, surely, but originality. However, doubt they’d do well here [in my city], if they started out! I think that there are many grey areas in the decision for quality of art. There’s stuff out there on raw canvas, squiggles and so on, and people ooh and aahh over them. I go to the graduating class shows of our own art school here in Halifax, and am frequently bemused. Not technical skill, but finding some new and different way to put paint or whatever on a surface seems to be important. So, why the criticism over Dana’s “technique”? There’s mood there and feeling……….. Just my opinion, of course!!

From: Caroline Trippe — Aug 28, 2009

While some of the harsher comments about your painting may hold kernels of truth, it seems to me that you haven’t really gotten an actual critique yet — just encouragements, a couple of swats, and a number of generalities. Of course, it isn’t easy to solve an issue like yours in a single posting, nor truly judge a painting from online images. But on my morning walk I was thinking a lot about your paintings and the comments they generated, and I felt I just had to put in a few words of my own. My impression of the thumbnails of your paintings was that they were indeed lovely and atmospheric — even Turneresque — but when I looked more closely, I felt that they could have benefited from a stronger sense of structure/weight/mass, and the addition of some “particularities.” (e.g., detail). (This is what the word “facile,” or “formulaic” conveys–the lack of particularity and solidity). Of course try painting a landscape without using a formula of some kind! So I’d like to take one painting, “The Snow Road,” which really attracted me — there is nothing wrong with your sense of composition or your sense of color — and tell you how, to my eye, it could be strengthened. As it is now, it’s like a sketch — something you could build on further. Free brushwork (the much-vaunted “painterliness”) is a good thing , but brushwork, no matter how “bravura”, should always define something rather than exist for its own sake. The same goes for drips; do they read as part of the composition –something that belongs there — or an external and rather self-conscious application that announces, “this is not a landscape, this is a PAINTING.” The snow road could be more defined —  those tracks/ruts — are they made by a vehicle? a human or animal? are they just wind drifts? __and the mountain, although it’s in the distance, could do with a bit more “internal” definition. Mountains are rocks; they are like bodies — they have “bony landmarks.” If they are covered with trees, the trees conform to the shape from which they spring. (Look at the way artists like Georgia O’Keefe or the Swiss Fernand Hodler painted mountains, for instance). In other words, there are suggestions of strong forms in your painting of ; could you find a way to make that snow, and the ridges in the mountains, more tactile? I am sure that you could. The colors of the sky are very moody and expressionistic, and I would not change those; but think about those clouds: what kind of clouds are they — cirrus, stratus? Cirrus clouds tend to be wispy, but even they have definite shapes, and can be used to great effect to convey a sense of space and distance. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with painting from photographs, normemory/imagination — but even dreams have details and particularities. I do not think you are far from being able to get where you’d like to be, and your work is already better than a lot I have seen. I’m a 63-year-old painter, and I know that being an artist is a constant struggle against ones own limitations. Forget about painting a song, though. Sometimes it’s not a matter of going outside the box, but going deeper INTO it. :) If you love the landscape, stay with that; just get to know it as well as you can.

But then, everybody’s a critic, right? What I absolutely don’t like is criticism that merely hurts someone without the aim of guiding them towards a solution of some sort. So the advice to “go big or go home” strikes me, I must say, as not only rather mean-spirited, but uninformed. Some of the greatest paintings ever made are very, very small. I spent 32 years in an art history department, and I’ll defy anyone to insist that size alone has anything to do with quality. It doesn’t. Good painting depends not on size but on vision and observation. In fact, if you are working large now, you might try testing the power of small to work out new approaches, then translate that back into the large scale pieces later on. It’s been done before!

From: Michael Epp — Aug 28, 2009

Dana, I like your paintings. Others have said, and I agree, that your works would be very effective at the right scale. I also find the background texture distracting. I find your subject matter brushwork, and use of colour very good — I definitely think you have talent and something of value to contribute to the world, and you should keep at it.

From: Caroline Trippe — Aug 28, 2009

Apologies, Dana — in my first Aug. 28 comment above I mentioned the Swiss painter Hodler, but mis-typed his name; it’s “Ferdinand,” not Fernand — as you may very well know. I was just thinking of artists who painted rather expressionistic mountain scenes. And when I speak of detail I’m not suggesting you become a “realist,” but that you can always look at how other artists have blended observation and interior vision to good effect. I know you won’t give up — not after ALL these comments!

From: L.Lemay — Aug 28, 2009

I agree with Robert’s suggestion to go back to basics. What I do when I fall in love with a technique at the expense of the subject is to get out of my box and jump into others. EX: bought books on Icon paintings techniques, their history, etc. and followed instructions, not to become a master, but to actually do something that has no connection to what I used to paint. explored encaustic painting. Spontaneous high speed collages large pieces of cardboard. When I get back to canvas on easel I am a different person. These sidetrips can last a year. I love your colours.

From: Julia — Aug 28, 2009


I find something unique in the orchard image, but the others simply don’t stand out to me. While I hesitate to use the term “formulaic” as others have done, I’m tempted to say that the drippy brushstrokes and soft-focus subtle colors ARE a kind of formula for many modern artists. In many works I’ve seen, it’s almost an apology for painting with a degree of realism. I can’t say what your motivations for that approach are, but it strikes me as the efforts of a landscapist-at-heart to keep and hold the attention of modern critics and art-judging professionals (including gallery owners) who might adhere to the fashionable idea that a anything that is “merely” lovely and technically well-done is passe. Sloppiness and certain types of abstraction are a kind of compromise, one that I have always perceived as being aimed squarely at the pockets of modern-minded collectors. At worst, it seems calculated. At best, it seems … safe.

From: Julie Ford Oliver — Aug 28, 2009

After reading all of the letters with great interest, enjoyment and appreciation, it brings back to me, quite forcibly, the old adage…Taste is subjective. How true. There is not one correct answer to Dana’s question. Take your pick, Diana…which answers resonated best for you?

From: Denise Aumick — Aug 29, 2009

Someone in this long string touched on the subject of art and importance of the connection it produces in a viewer. I like to look at art that is skillfully and technically over the top evaluating how the artist achieved this or that image. The art that I love and remember are pieces that I connect with emotionally. Unless an artist is producing pieces from their sub consciousness, heart, soul, whatever you want to call this drive to create…it must be questioned whether it is art at all. The best of all worlds is when an artist produces work from their inner self with skillful precision and it creates a connection with a well heeled viewer. Sweet perfection and a very, very tall order.

From: Leona — Aug 30, 2009

Dana – I think you’re very brave to put your work up on the board for public input. Here’s the thing – you need more complexity in your compositions – (are you working in a very small format??) Working larger will allow you to triangulate your composition – perhaps one focal point being strongest, with another two points of interest to lead the eye around the support. I love your obvious joy in the materiality of the paint. On a side note, I’ve realized I can only afford to work outside my studio two days a week if I’m going to make any serious progress, and really work through ideas. You have to give yourself allow yourself room to paint complete failures, and still produce enough work to complete a series. Yep, it’s a tough go. One last thing – if one was to produce based on top selling art, I suppose we’d all be painting like Thomas Kinkade.

From: Ron Sanders — Sep 02, 2009

First, I want you to know that I think your landscapes are really wonderful and do, in fact, have a wonderful sense of place and time of day. My comments were directed at the fact that it appears that you want to paint in a traditional, representational manner. You don’t seem to be intentionally playing with abstraction, posterization or graphic representation, hyper-realism, etc. Therefore, in keeping with a traditional approach, the only thing that I saw in (some of) your work that disturbed me was too many hard edges, especially in some of the distant tree lines. But, in looking back over your work on Genn’s site, I also saw some pieces where it appeared that you did soften edges. And all your work showed evidence of an understanding of aerial perspective which created some nice atomosphere. My advice was therefore aimed at your apparent artistic direction and how manipulation of those elements related to focal point can create a greater sense of emotion or mood.

Here are some other ideas…

Paul Strisik, in some of his books, talks about capturing the emotional truth of a place, not just its literal truth.

Feel free to redesign the elements of a landscape to create a stronger composition, even if it varies from the literal truth of the place.

Ask yourself why you were drawn to that scene to paint it…what caught your attention? Was it the pattern of values? The colors? The atmosphere? Some detail?

Focus on that element that drew your attention. If it was the effect of heavy atmosphere, then stress the atmosphere over the details. If it was the complex intertwining of branches of a tree, how can you clarify that element of detail and subordinate all else by contrast?

For those of us who paint realistically, the criticism can sometimes be that we are engaged in “mere rendering,” a thoughtless copying of nature. (I was once accused of that myself on Genn’s site) The more advanced representational painters seem all to focus on the abstract ideas of composition and design, color, value, and texture that underlie and strengthen their well rendered images.

If you are a literal/analytical minded person, then you can study many of these ideas from a technical perspective, as a scientist would, and still see benefits to your art. Sometimes painters like us need to understand the “why” and “how” before integration can take hold. It’s just the way our brains are wired.

From: Deb Droog — Jan 07, 2010
From: Miriam, Rotorua NZ — Feb 18, 2010

What exactly would you be giving up ? Painting ? Selling ? Being recognized ? Becoming famous ? Continuing to learn, experiment ? Being part of a specific community ? Getting people to encourage you ? Just plain having fun ? I feel it is different things for different artists, and it is useful to be clear about one’s own motivation(s) and then ask oneself the questions that are relevant to that motivation … and alongside all those who say “never quit” etc, I’d say, it is fine for you to give yourself permission to quit; you’d be in good company – afterall, Marcel Duchamp preferred chess !! As someone famous once said : if you are not having fun you’re not doing it right !! i’d say, perhaps if you are not having fun you are not doing the right thing for you.

From: Brian, Upstate NY — Aug 04, 2010

I would say that if you are creating for a living and not making a living than it would be a problem. BUT if you are creating for yourself and sales is secondary and a bonus when they occur, then why quit? Why not just take the disappointment and own it? Use it as motivation to crank out work, maybe it is work that you will ultimately gesso over but you will have worked through the slump.

Or if you are more interested in making a living but your work does not lend itself to a steady income and you are not attached to your subject matters and the work, move towards graphic design and visual communications.

IMHO, I think you ought to take a deep breath, heat up that cup of tea and pour yourself into your chosen mediums and maybe a couple you aren’t used to.

From: — Aug 16, 2010

quite extraordinary video! I think you are on to something! I am…I have a gallery and would love some of your work!!!!!!

From: Jim Demello — Feb 28, 2011

So, what happened to Dana?

From: KELLY LEICHERT — Mar 02, 2011

A side note, I really enjoy seeing a painting in person as it is not

an image of a painting and not affected by the quality of the photo. On one occation someone liked my photo of a work moreso than the piece itself.

The scale and size of the work along with the texture and the way a work reflects the light is, for me, is necessary to any experience of viewing a painting. If one would like a critique of their work or

is finding sales difficult, it may be a factor that the work is not

being looked at and the image of the work is being judged. Perhaps with so much television, photography, movies etc. people may need some encouragement to see the value of a painting as an aethetic experience rather than another image. With this idea even those of us who are not the highest quality painters can offer something to others for which they may enjoy as an alternative for their eyes, mind and soul to the other dominant forms of visual expression today. The painting advantage is it is

static and hand made – which offers the opportunity for rest and

imperfection for anyone who is willing to sit quietly with it. That

is a “selling point” for most any painting of reasonable quality.

So now I will step off my pulpit to stop and be refreshed and enlivened by looking at a painting.

From: KELLY LEICHERT — Mar 02, 2011

Should have proof read my comments. Sorry for the mistakes in

the writing. Cheers!

From: Kelly Leichert — Mar 11, 2011

A repost –

I really enjoy seeing a painting in person as it is not an image of a painting whose judgement may be affected by the quality and scale of a photograph. On one occation, someone enjoyed the photo of my painting more than the piece itself.

The size, scale and texture of the work along with the way it reflects the light is, for me, essential to any assessment of a painting.To critique or purchase a work based solely on a photo of a painting (especially oil) misses the essential purpose of painting which is based on direct and personal reaction to the materials and their organization (my opinion).

With the mass of digital and moving images through television, movies and the internet people may need encouragement to see that painting is different in that it is a direct, aesthetic experience rather than a secondary image. With this idea, even a moderately skilled painting can offer an alternative for the eyes as well as the mind and soul of the viewer which has a vastly different result internally than the dominant forms of visual expression.

Painting’s advantages are that it is static and hand-made. For me, this offers an opportunity to see something at rest and imperfect. Many people express their lives are busy, exhausting and demanding. Most any painting, if you sit quietly with it, will provide an brief antidote for these ills.

If one has difficulty selling or finding one’s place in the art world perhaps it is because art was never meant to be a business or to be experienced impersonally through another medium.

This may have been a bit of a sermon but painting has enriched my life based on the opinion I have expressed here.

Thanks for the open forum.



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