To go it alone?

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Candy Crawford Day posted on my Facebook wall, “Is it better for an artist to go it alone or is camaraderie advisable? Lately, I’ve lost a mentor who greatly influenced my work. Other influences don’t seem to have my best interests at heart. At what point, if any, should one break away and stand on her own two feet? And how would you advise one to garner the courage to do so?” Thanks, Candy. Your decision whether or not to go it alone has a lot to do with your temperament. The good news is that the greater Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists works for both the extrovert and the introvert. Regarding influence, anecdotal evidence suggests that those who struggle privately tend to become stronger. Funnily, many artists have a pile of friends who have interests and vocations other than art. For some, there is little or no artistic camaraderie. The best approach is to achieve a balance — work independently and play with others. The good life is both art and people. We artists need to be travellers on paths less travelled. “What is genius but the power of expressing a new individuality?” said Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Iconoclasm and eccentricity may be part of the trip. “Certain defects,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe “are necessary for the existence of individuality.” Apart from hard work, craft, technique and the eager generation of ideas, artists need this independent personality. “If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world,” said Bruce Barton, “it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.” As for the courage to go it alone, you need only look to others who have done it and are thriving. And what about the threadbare spectre of poverty? When the artist trusts her sensibilities, her creativity and her hands, fear is banished. The real fear needs to be for the mediocre life. I know of precious few individualist artists who have one. Best regards, Robert PS: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” (Friedrich Nietzsche) Esoterica: I used to own a few rental properties. The painter Ruby Brown Shand was one of my tenants. As a young woman she had worked briefly as a teacher, only to decide she needed a life in art. Dining alone on wild mushrooms and dandelions, she paid her rent infrequently and indulged an outsized appetite for painting in pastels. She worked daily like a demon possessed. Known for her spontaneity and her flowing white cloaks, she regularly phoned her landlord to drive her out to some picturesque location where she might pay with a song. When she died she left two thousand works to the Lions Club. Though she’s now been gone some twenty years, the Lions and Lionesses are still selling them off for the love of her.   The gift of fellowship by Kathleen Lenshyn, Winnipeg, MB, Canada   For me the question is who will paint with me? Years ago I was taking Chinese Brush Painting lessons from a wonderful lady who had lived in China where her parents were missionaries, which is where she learned her talent. She was a very generous lady and would invite her students into her home on Sunday afternoons to paint. She would never instruct us during these times. We would simply paint and socialize. Often it would be absolutely quiet for most of the afternoon then we would break for tea. I remember those times being very artistically creative for me. I wish I could have that same gift of fellowship now. I found that just being with people in the same room painting quite inspiring. There are 2 comments for The gift of fellowship by Kathleen Lenshyn
From: maritza burgos — Nov 29, 2011

I agree with you kathleen, fellowship can be very inspiring and encouraging, i have been struggling with a creative block of sorts, i have a miriad of images in my mind’s eye, itching to make their way onto a canvas, but find myself procastinating, mulling over medium, technique, etc, simply put , afraid of the blank canvas and my abilities,however humble to just get going and put brush to paper, so i’m contemplating, joining a class so as to have that supportive environment, where you get carried away by the momentum of the group, all those other fellow artists making their mark.Happy painting!!

From: Anonymous — Nov 29, 2011

I live on Gabriola Island, which has the name “Island of the Arts”. Artists are a dime a dozen some sell at very low prices and some really high. Your choice. I belong to a group that meet twice a week to paint together. We are all different and some paint in watercolours and some in acrylic and one or two sometimes use oils. We try only to critique when asked although some hate abstract and just walk by when I am doing that!!! We have mini workshops by our members and weekend workshops by invited artists. Lately we had Janice Robertson who I would recomment as a wonderful teacher. Personlly I like to paint with others sometimes and sometimes I like to paint alone. Jean

  Artists helping artists by Susan Marx, Orange, NJ, USA  

“La Grenouille”
oil paintings, Renoir (left) Monet (Right)

I think it depends on who the mentor/friend is and whether or not you and he or she are on the same artistic path, and if you speak the same artistic language. Think of the friendship of Cezanne and Pissarro and how each caused the other to grow. Think of Renoir and Monet painting together at La Grenouille. Their paintings are very different (because they were different people with different personal ‘handwriting’) but both helped each other in their attempt to try to paint light. Think of all the Impressionists sharing their artistic concerns with one another and learning from one another. Their camaraderie gave them the ability to stand up as a group against the Salon. This happens throughout art history and there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, you have to be strong enough to reject a mentor or friend’s ideas if you want to, or that what the friend/mentor is saying is not correct for you. But conversation between artists can be very helpful. There are 2 comments for Artists helping artists by Susan Marx
From: Anonymous — Nov 29, 2011

I think,what would it be like to pal around with Renoir and Monet??Two of my favorite artists.And to live at that time…

From: Anthony Hollenstein — Nov 30, 2011
  A.R.T.S. Anonymous by Damaris O’Trand, CO, USA   In response to Cindy Crawford Day: If you are still undecided about “going it alone,” you might want to explore a 12 Step Group called A.R.T.S. Anonymous. A.R.T.S. welcomes all kinds of artists, not just painters: musicians, actors, writers, poets, composers (amateurs and professionals). Exposure to the thoughts, passions, ideas, work and challenges facing all artists gives one a sense of the common issues every creative person faces, given the cultural “myths” about art and artists that we are all exposed to. (RG note) Thanks, Damaris. The A.R.T.S. Anonymous website is at   The problem with others by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic  

“Rough edge”
wood sculpture
by Norman Ridenour

Others very often are: a/ anchors, holding you back or down b/ pillows, making it all nice, not what you need c/ a waste of time d/ a misdirection of resources. There are 3 comments for The problem with others by Norman Ridenour
From: Anonymous — Nov 29, 2011

Wow, somebody needs a hug.

From: Darlene Derksen — Nov 29, 2011

Your comments were a little jolting because of their honesty. I prefer honesty so I checked out some of your wood sculptures. They are beautiful. I have been to Prague and it is a “magical” city.

From: Liz Reday — Nov 29, 2011

You are right! Distractions abound, a room full of artists is the worst way to get into your muse, for me anyway. I need the singleminded focus and spend 8-10 hours painting most days when I’m on a roll. The only influences I need are in museums, galleries and looking up new artists online after seeing their work in art magazines. Your work is original and Prague is indeed magical. Too many tourists in August, but must be lovely in Spring and Fall. I’ll be back on my way to Hungary.

  Looking for ‘right hospitality’ by Terrie Christian, Plymouth, MN, USA  

“Flight Fancy”
watercolour painting
by Terrie Christian

A few years ago I had to leave an organization that I had been very involved in because they made rules that were interfering with my creativity. It was a large art organization and I was sad to leave. What I have learned about myself, though, is that I need to be in community with other artists. Fortunately for me, that group was not the only option. Another smaller organization that did not impose rules of how my art should be presented worked much better for me. I also have artist friends that I paint with and there is an art center here that has an open studio where artists paint together. I also was fortunate to be invited into a group that meets once a month for support and critique. I also paint alone, but find that I am happiest when painting with others where each person is doing their own thing. This month, I entered two of my paintings in a show of the organization that I now belong to. A University of Minnesota professor was the jurist and he made up an award for me. “Dares to be Different.” This was very affirming and fun. Whether people like my paintings or not is not my objective. If they do, it is just an extra bonus. I think that Candy will come to know herself and seek what she really needs. We should all give ourselves permission to leave the company of those who bring us down and seek to be with those who practice hospitality. I define hospitality as making room for others to be who they truly are. There are 2 comments for Looking for ‘right hospitality’ by Terrie Christian
From: Sharon Cory — Nov 29, 2011

Love your painting.

From: Lisa Schaus — Dec 08, 2011

Terrie, Thank you for your comment to Candy. I believe as we mature in our work, we also mature in community. I enjoy teaching and watching others work once I am done with my Spiel. Painting alone is as close to God as I get in human form and sometimes communal work upsets my connection or focus. A blending of working alone and sharing with comrade painters should evolve the more you practice your craft Candy. Especially when you fully embrace your own talent and the expressions of others.

  Yes, for the hard core by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“Sara in mink”
oil painting
by Rick Rotante

I don’t think anyone is fully alone anymore. I appreciate and work alone much, but I do venture out from time to time to see how the other half is doing. Working alone is for those artists who have a vision that isn’t compatible with the going trend. They need the solitary time to work without interference or input from others. Outside opinions can cause doubt if one is working on a personal vision. I find most painters not looking for a career venture into painting circles with others and find a good fit. They are happy to work with others and share their experiences. If this is where you want to be, then certainly work in a group. You will find you will be happier with those of a like mind. But don’t expect to create groundbreaking artwork. This type of artwork is generally reserved for the hard core, who are not faint of heart. They are strong willed and secure in their ability.   Not a solo flight
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA  

“Oaks with Blues”
acrylic painting
by Peter Brown

There is a pervasive cultural myth about the lonely, cantankerous artist. The fictional Gully Jimson, portrayed in The Horse’s Mouth, is an iconic example. This whole stereotype has always baffled me because in my experience the majority of artists have always seemed quite gregarious. I’ve read about The Canadian Group of Seven, The Taos Ten and many other gregarious groups. Contemporaneously, we here in Northern California had our Society of Six. Within a few miles of my home, I can show you at least 50 artists’ live/work compounds, usually repurposed industrial buildings, where few non artists are to be found. In contrast, I have yet to see such a living arrangement set up for, say plumbers, or psychiatrists. These art communities make good economic sense. The artists share costly assets like kilns and forklifts. They share technical information. They thrive within a fellowship and a friendly sort of competition. I find nothing terribly compelling about artistic isolation. I’ve never visited one of these art spaces and found the artists in thrall to any sort of art guru, or leader. They are generally quite democratic in operation. Several have an onsite eatery where one can hear lively art talk at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and drink some great coffee. In my 20’s, I lived in a similar situation. I was the only painter, but there was a textile artist, two superb musicians, a writer/poet, and a filmmaker. The highlight of every day was our communal supper, which typically ended up with some live music, or a reading, or a slideshow, or a discussion of the latest film or exhibition. My son spent his first seven or eight years in this environment. I cannot imagine I could ever have provided a richer or more stimulating childhood for the boy. When my kid was about 3 1/2 years old, I took him to a museum opening for a major Diebenkorn retrospective. His stroller was parked in front of an etching; I was talking with someone. An older woman, probably a docent, saw my boy looking at the etching and said something like, “Well, my young man, what do you think of this Diebenkorn?” He was a cute kid, but the woman’s tone of voice was rather condescending, and childlike. I was really proud of my boy when he answered with, “It’s OK, but I think I like his big color paintings a lot more.” It seemed then as if the old docent almost swallowed her false teeth. She looked at me, and I gave her my short answer, “No TV.” But that was just part of the story. The human animal did not evolve on a solo flight. We are social creatures. The rugged individualists could not exist without the village or the clan, which they often scorn. Of whatever age, one’s goal should be to become a sponge. Absorb as much as you can. Cultivate a network of friends of all age groups. You might just learn something. There are 3 comments for Not a solo flight by Peter Brown
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Nov 29, 2011

I like your painting and your letter mentions my two favorite artists, Gully Jimson and Richard Diebenkorn! I might have asked for some sympathy for the “old” docent though. I hope your son is doing well.

From: Darrell Baschak — Nov 29, 2011

Great comments Peter. The story of your boy and the lady is priceless and would make a great cartoon for someone so inclined! Always enjoy your work by the way.

From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Nov 29, 2011

I’m curious to know how this precocious child is doing. He sounds delightful.

  Evaluating method of painting by Barry John Raybould, UK/USA/China/Italy  

“The Vegetable Market, Venice”
oil painting, 9 x 12 inches
by Barry John Raybould

I have for a long time been looking for an objective way to evaluate paintings that I see in museums and a pattern seems to be emerging to me now that is consistent with a great many master paintings. I also use these same criteria for looking at my own work even though it sets the bar rather high. The questions I asked were, “What are the qualities that make a painting a masterpiece and ultimately determine its long-term value? Why are some paintings so much more rewarding to look at than others?” Over the years, as I learned from the teachings and writings of many great artists both past and present, a picture has emerged that now forms the basis of my thinking about painting. Master paintings seem to share two key characteristics. First, they accurately represent a subject and are focused on communicating an idea or emotion. I refer to this aspect of a great painting as the “poetry” of a painting, or the content the artist is trying to convey to viewers. When you look at a master painting, you are moved in some way, and the memory of it stays with you. Master paintings, of course, demonstrate great drawing and color skills, but those expertly handled skills are focused on presenting an idea. The second key characteristic of a master painting is a strong abstract design that is independent of the subject matter. I refer to this as the “music” of the painting, or the sensuous, non-intellectual part. It is created with rhythms and harmonies in shapes, lines, edges, and colors and is analogous to the rhythms in music and the harmonies between individual notes. This aspect of the painting is completely independent of the subject matter. A purely abstract painting has music but little or no poetry. A painting that is merely illustrative has poetry but not music. Great paintings, to my mind, find a place somewhere between these two extremes. Great masterpieces integrate both music and poetry. It is tough to do because the more poetry you put into your work (by making it look like something), the more easy it is to lose the music. Conversely, the more music you put into the painting, the more easy it is to lose the poetry (because as you develop the design, you can easily lose the realism that creates the poetry). As an aside, interesting brushwork creates a different kind of music, music that you can only see close up, and that is why I think this is a key element of a great master. Velasquez and Titian both realized this a long time ago, and set artists down a path that led to master works by great artists such as Sargent and Sorolla. (RG note) Thanks Barry. Barry has applied his theory in a couple of articles for the new Plein Air Magazine. One is on a work of Joachim Sorolla and another on a work of William Ritschel. There are 8 comments for Evaluating method of painting by Barry John Raybould
From: Marney Ward — Nov 28, 2011

Love the painting and the analysis! Art as an integration of poetry and music, fabulous idea. Brings to mind Emily Carr. Thanks for sharing!

From: Sally Chupick — Nov 29, 2011

What a super analogy…the ‘idea’ as poetry and the ‘abstract design’ as music. Thank you Barry for your insightful observations, which completely resonated with me.

From: Nancy Wylie — Nov 29, 2011
From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Nov 29, 2011

Well said, and well done!

From: Mishcka — Nov 30, 2011
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Nov 30, 2011

Dear Barry- thanks- But! Being a fiber artist I’ve been asked if I work in other mediums. Yes and no. I’m a writer and a poet- have been published and won a national award. I’m a music programmer and d.j. and used to play an instrument. I’m a published display designer and still hang gallery shows which I make into art. I used to design and make clothing but rarely do anymore as my love/hate relationship with my sewing machine means I burn out just on making art. And I’m an adept tarot reader- healer and energy channel doing Light Work. My ABSTRACT visual art is filled with both music and poetry. But I have to live/work alone. I listen to music all the time- often working with it programming a new meditation- and have no interest in that bothering anybody. I do not compromise on this. So there is no wife or boyfriend and there are no children. And I like it that way.

From: Barry John Raybould — Dec 02, 2011

Hello Mishcka Thank you for introducing me to the work of Josh Goldberg. His work is truly exceptional. I fully agree with you that his work is full of poetry but I disagree that this is purely abstract work (at least in the way that I look at paintings – others may look at paintings differently). The reason I think his work has such powerful poetry is because the color, shapes, forms and edges are nearly always suggestive of real life. For example “Paschal Smoke” is highly suggestive of fire or molten rock in a volcano. “Almond Rain” is suggestive of an interior scene. Other paintings are less easily recognized but they do all convey elements of reality, of shadows on objects, barely discernible figures and so on. In his paintings, shapes are not just arbitrary shapes but often have form, with light, shade and reflective light planes. More importantly the color relationships between the light and shade planes are based on real life. When a form changes from light to shade the color changes, not only the value, but the hue and saturation changes. For any specific local color and a specific color of light, the relationship of the colors in the light and shade planes are precise. Goldberg’s work often shows those precise color relationships in his abstract forms. His edges too are very suggestive of the edges that are in nature. This is an artist that has a solid knowledge of form, color relationships and shapes in nature. He has clearly studied representational painting in depth, and uses all that knowledge in his paintings. Many highly representational painters do not understand as much about realism as Goldberg. In my way of looking at things, this is not purely abstract work. Yes, it is closer to the abstract end of the abstract/realistic spectrum than impressionism for example. However, it is not as close to the purely abstract pole as it first seems. He is painting nature. It is just that he jumbles nature up into arrangements that don’t let you know exactly what he is painting, and so his paintings leave your imagination to create the scene. It is all this knowledge embedded in his work that gives it poetry. His ability to use suggestion as a technique to allow the viewer to create his own idea of what he is painting is exceptional. If anyone tried to do a painting like Goldberg’s work without having all the fundamental skills, or as I like to call them, building blocks in their painting foundation, they would surely fail. So in summary, I would not classify this painting as purely abstract and this explains why his work conveys poetry as well as music.

From: Carol Santora — Dec 03, 2011

I understand the poetry and music in paintings, the poetry being the communication of an idea (you don’t need ‘realism’ to communicate an idea), and the music is the underlying patterns – abstract if you want to call them that. But I think the poetry includes color, value and line, and music includes brush stroke and textures; and they both overlap with form and shape. And I am sure I am leaving some things out. Old Master painters just didn’t do abstracts. They were too busy copying reality because there were no cameras! Realism has nothing to do with either aspect to me. I don’t think you need realism to have poetry in a painting. You can look at an abstract painting and the memory of it can stay with you just as long. What about Hans Hoffman… the Abstract Expressionists? Good – stimulating – discussion!

  Where to buy art? by Carter Thomas, San Jose, CA, USA   My wife and I would like to purchase more original artwork for our home. We have a budget of say $1,000 to $3,000 per piece. When we visit our local galleries we frequently see pieces priced considerably more than that. We can find giclee prints in that price range but I’m not crazy about buying a copy of a picture at that price. I guess I’m looking for artists that are earlier in their career but they haven’t made it into a gallery yet. When I look on eBay, it is hard find what I’m looking for and I’d like to see the real thing anyway. How can I do a better job of finding what I’m looking for? (RG note) Thanks, Carter. Consider going to the Premium Links on our site. About 260 artists are presented there with eight of their works shown. Many of these artists are in early and mid career, many are not yet represented by galleries. Here are some thoughts before making a selection or contacting Premium Link artists: Besides choosing art that you love and can relate to, use your better taste and filtering mechanisms to try to decide which art might have lasting value. As you have suggested, unless you’re merely interested in decoration, you need to avoid giclees and other reproductions. In my books, originals rule. But you need to ask yourself, “Is this an expensive souvenir or an inexpensive investment?” By inexpensive investment I mean that the work shows signs of having long-lasting life-enhancing appeal. Fact is, quality is always in style. Funnily, a souvenir may be cheap, but it can be more expensive than an inexpensive investment. Every year, more and more art is being sold online. Ten years ago, many of us said it would never happen. Now it’s definitely here to stay. But you need to try to make sure the work is right for you, just as you would if you were buying in a gallery. If the image online is not big enough, ask the artist to send a larger image. Many artists are happy to make direct sales over the Internet, and many are willing to send the actual art on approval. If you’re not sure online, ask to see the real thing in person. There are 3 comments for Where to buy art? by Carter Thomas
From: Jeri Lynn Ing — Nov 29, 2011
From: Lanie Frick — Nov 29, 2011
From: Jim Foreman — Dec 09, 2011

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for To go it alone?

From: Jim Cowan — Nov 24, 2011

Re Candy Crawford Day..I think you pretty much fall into working with the like-minded…or you don’t.Looking for a group is pretty much a waste of time.Kinda like looking for the perfect mate it happens or it doesn’t. Best thing is to carry on doing what you like and keep your eyes open in case life presents something. It usually does but there again……………….

From: Damar Minyak — Nov 25, 2011

Creativity requires spontaneity and individuality. It is not a committee project. I suspect your time spent being mentored has given you some needed help in finding your “toolbag”. Now, it’s time for you to fly, little sparrow. You will find, it’s a whole new exciting, exhilarating, even dangerously provocative, and uplifting world, when you do. Every day can be a new challenge, a new opportunity. Consider Georgia ‘Keeffe, after spending too much time associated with academia, burned all of her paintings and started over with what she wanted to do, rather than what everyone else expected of her. Her example is one of a long list of similar stories in so many fields of human endeavor. Here are some comments I recently wrote to a young musician, who was feeling unappreciated and ignored by the “consumption machine”: Almost all of the painters I admire were ignored or ridiculed by the critics and “schools” of their own periods.  Some of them defeated those roadblocks, and went directly to the public.  Not always easy to do, when a religion or political structure presumes to decide what is and is not acceptable.  (These days, for instance, if you don’t regurgitate the liberal pablum, you will be attacked and labeled with one or more convenient witch hunting terms.)   The internet makes it much easier to do your own marketing, these days.  In fact, the net makes those “go betweens” into the irrelevancies they should always have been. However, you should decide if you want to spend your time creating or marketing your product.  Both take a lot of time, and the usual rule is, not many are good at doing both.  Maybe, find one capable person who believes in you, and let him or her do the selling — if you must insist on selling.  (I don’t particularly care.  I am creating for the people of two generations into the future !) Consider these, as examples.  All of the “corporate music junk” that is selling today will be in tomorrow’s landfills, when the next market project replaces what the mindless consumer puppets swallow, on their daily feeding frenzy.   And some of the most talented and disciplined musicians in the world play for sidewalk tips on street corners and subway platforms, while the corporate monkeys, who can barely scrape together three valid chords get flown in private jets and limos to their next gig.  There, the made for manipulation “fans” pretend they are gaining some modicum of pleasure from the loud, smelly mob that is audience participation. The final insult?  The whole world is experiencing a a new renaissance, in which most people in the United States and many in Europe will never get to share, until it’s old news.  Marketing has replaced talent, and faddism has replaced discernment in the emptied heads of the mass media consumers.  If that’s your target audience, well that’s fine, for some.  But, your product will be part of tomorrow’s landfill, along with yesterday’s forgotten celebrity status. Oh, by the way, all those painters I said I admire, and were ignored in their own time ?   All of the “Temples Of High Culture” (the museums) now want some of their works hanging on their walls.

From: Dwight — Nov 25, 2011

I would very much like to see some representative examples of the art of Damar Minyak who writes just above.

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges — Nov 25, 2011

Creativity needs the company of creativity. An artist alone is an artist struggling, the reclusive artist is usually that because everyone they know are working at a job, but he/she is working at their life, look for those that do the same and share yourself, your logic, your discoveries and only then will you move forward. A true mentor shows you the way forward and then kicks your butt to keep you going in that direction. A true mentor won’t buy into your BS and excuses; they heard them all before out of their own mouth.

From: John Ferrie — Nov 25, 2011

Dear Robert, I have learned everything the hard way. I couldn’t find a gallery to carry my work when I first started out if I sold my soul. I knew I had to have shows and I knew I had to get my work out there. Although I never made the same mistake, the mistakes I made were hard learned. Nothing is the beginning and nothing is the end, but when it looks too good to be true, it probably is. There is a phoney around every corner and in the art world, that seems to double. I had a mentor who steer headed my career. He was a wonderful man who not only cared about me, he believed in me. I would come to him with my latest tangle and he would say to me “Just give me the bullets”. In seconds, he would have me untangled with fresh wind in my sails and a whole new trajectory. Sadly, this sweet gentle man died suddenly of an aneurism. He passed away two weeks before my last exhibition. He was scheduled to speak at my show, do a critique and host a blind question and answer session with me. I was devastated. However, News Flash, non of us are getting out of here alive. Mentors are some special people who come around and we need to recognize them when they appear. Everyone has a life lesson for us. But sometimes the lesson is over. John Ferrie

From: Paula Timpson — Nov 25, 2011

Creativity is about being led, by Spirit, by the One who created us and gave us pure gift to share with others, to help others feel Loved~

From: Jason Leisering — Nov 25, 2011

Teacher teacher, preacher preacher we nova gonna meet cha. Long live the ADVENTURE.

From: Majda Zorko Gasparic — Nov 25, 2011

Many thanks for your last weekly letter-soooo true about lonely travels of us,artistic souls.

From: Linda Blondheim — Nov 25, 2011

I’ve been going it alone for a long time in terms of finding my own muse as a painter. I don’t hang around artists a lot socially. Most of my friends are in other professions. I find this boosts my creative life enormously. I think too many artists spend all of their free time with other artists, going to gallery openings and so forth, a herd mentality. Our professional life must have a great deal of time alone in the studio in front of the easel if we are to discover ourselves as painters.

From: Adriana Rinaldi — Nov 25, 2011
From: Helene Vinet — Nov 25, 2011
From: Carmen Beecher — Nov 25, 2011

For 31 years I “went it alone” because I was working at a government job and knew few artists. I never was a “joiner,” but when I gradually became part of a group of eight women painters we now call Pieces of 8, my work grew, my productivity grew, and my joy in the whole process grew. As a side benefit, these are a wonderful group of women who provide moral support in every way, including Life. It has made all the difference to me, and I highly recommend it.

From: Anne Kullaf — Nov 25, 2011

Painting is not a team sport!

From: David Garcia — Nov 25, 2011

On this Thanksgiving weekend I am very thankful and grateful to your twice-weekly letter.Thank you and may you continue on for many years to come.

From: Gail Shepley — Nov 25, 2011

A nice sentiment, however, there are many historical artists who didn’t like people at all.

From: Peter Alan Cummings — Nov 25, 2011

And painting is not the only art form. Thanks for the timely, it’s OK message.

From: Bob Ragland — Nov 25, 2011

I have had a decent working class art career working alone. In my early artlife, I made a decision to not take workshops etc. I did go out to see what was going on in the artworld. I still do, not alot but often. I do have phone buddies, they are artists. Being an independent artist has its advantages. I do it now and I have a good artlife.I sell my own work, I do my own outreach to make sales. I live frugally on purpose, this allows me to go it alone.

From: Bob Ragland — Nov 25, 2011

Had to add another thing. I called one of my first mentors today. Ned Edmund Jacob. He taught me by example, how to have an art life on one’s own. Ned is an artist’s artist, independent as they come. He winters in Florida and the rest of the year in Maine. Ned is a great example of going it alone.

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Nov 26, 2011

Life is a juggling act; balance is crucial. Freedom to choose our own priorities as we go along is vitally important; letting others have too much sway in that decision-making is antithetical to the artistic temperament. Enjoy life, every facet of it.

From: Liz Ruest — Nov 27, 2011

I think there is tremendous creative energy in bouncing feedback off others. Even if I disagree with what I hear back, it helps me solidify my point of view and often pinpoints what is troubling me about a piece. I agree that the majority of my work is done in solitude, but I encourage you, Candy, to keep an eye out for opportunities for creative exchange in the future. It probably won’t look the same as your mentorship — maybe an equal footing, or you as the mentor? — but it’s definitely worthwhile.

From: Gail Mazer — Nov 27, 2011

I have never had anyone to paint with other than in college and there, of course, you are on a project, not necessarily painting from your own heart. I would enjoy painting with others, if only because it gets lonely painting alone.

From: Jacquelyn — Nov 27, 2011

Like baby birds, we have to leave the nest where we think we are safe in order to learn how to use our own wings to fly…and risk that we can do it.

From: Ryan FitzGerald — Nov 27, 2011

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne

From: Jackie Knott — Nov 27, 2011

Young artists tend to go through periods where we must be students and sit at the master’s feet soaking up what we can (and it may not be a professor). We eventually mature/learn/expand beyond what the mentor teaches and the student feels the need to take that which was given and interpret it in his or her own individual way — graduation, if you will. My mentors were mostly historical and I really have not had that close personal influence either in college or later (other than artists I admired at workshops). Whereas I enjoy the occasional camaraderie of other artists, it is rare; they would be friends regardless of a shared interest. Making art is a singular pursuit. All the friendships in the world won’t make us better artists without lone study and individual problem solving. If one needs consolation about the relative dearth in the art market, conversation about increasing our marketability might be worthwhile. However, be careful of negative influences. You may be sapping your own energy for someone else’s benefit. It appears to me if an artist is questioning the need to go it alone the obvious answer is, she is ready to do so. If later one feels the need to step back and gather a group of artist friends around for support, that is easy enough to do. Explore both. Nothing is set in stone and our art and development should stay in a continuous state of growth and flux. Never underestimate the value of personal, individual breakthroughs. No one ever became great by following the pack.

From: Camille Day (aka Candy Crawford Day) — Nov 27, 2011

I would like to thank all of you who have shared your insights to my query about “going it alone”. I assure you that I consider every post valuable and I appreciate every comment… has been both interesting and inspiring…and I hope it has been for some of you as well. Thank you, Robert, for responding to my question and for the ripple effect it has generated in so many good ways.

From: Monica — Nov 27, 2011

Robert, Do you have any examples of Ruby Brown Shand’s work? When I googled her name, only your letter and a federal government website in French came up. The federal website would not allow me to access anything. I was locked out. I’m curious to see what Ms. Shand’s work was like. Thank you.

From: Ryoko Miller — Nov 28, 2011

I enjoy your articles every time, but sometimes your messages come just on time. Things we artists think about, but can’t communicate with others. I live in Mt. Pleasant, SC near Charleston, SC. We have many artists like you described. I wonder where I can fit with them, especially I am a Japanese and feel not fit anywhere personally. Next year, I am planning to go to Italy for art classes or workshop for a couple of months. This idea came to me one day and it is becoming my mission. I am going alone and your article felt so good.

From: Warren Stenberg — Nov 28, 2011
From: Betsy Curran — Nov 28, 2011

It took me years to realize that a lot of people don’t see clouds (unless they are worried about rain) or look at the leaves moving on the trees, reflections in water, flowers in the breeze. These are the things that make me smile – and long to paint them.

From: Ellen Stone Pickelny — Nov 28, 2011

Everyone needs something different to survive, and many get what they need to thrive. I’m ecstatic to have a devoted and engaging spouse, who also knows how to keep my worst tendencies under control. I don’t need the guys at the bar. A Nascar party. Or a cocktail crowd. And, of the milieu from which I emerged, there was no sign of an artistically involved person, anywhere. I am so incredibly lucky to have my significant other, that, there’s no way I can take full responsibility for whatever I do, including the art I make.

From: Jim Springett — Nov 28, 2011

I think each artist has a tendency to work with other artists and mentors, and then as they grow their needs become different. I have worked with several different artists, and I have learned a lot, some advice was helpful other advice was not. This is a good article to share with other artists, and at this point in my career, I’m not studying other artists too much and working on my own more, that is a good thing. I find my best work is when i work and struggle through painting problems, not by asking for another artist’s view, they do not know what we see and what we are trying to do. Thank you for your story. Jim Springett-wildlife painter

From: Michael Fuerst — Nov 29, 2011

I often do not consider a piece finished until it has been critiqued by other artists–and I have contemplated all and acted on some of their suggestions

From: Jack Richardson — Nov 29, 2011

Inviting fellow artists into my studio/gallery has been a great way to share our common interest in painting, or pastelling, or drawing. As a landscape painter/gallery owner, the commitment to both can be perplexing. The choice was obvious, to set up still-life in the studio and paint while watching the gallery. On Friday afternoons several friends come by and we paint together. It is not a tea-party but serious work and can go on for weeks with the same set-up. My piece “Still life with Deborah” won best in show at our local Art League last week. Another benefit of still-life is that it doesn’t change so there is real possibility of seeing all possibilities in the subject. There is lively banter about what we are all doing and growth through quiet joint participation. See my site at

From: Elaine Munro — Nov 29, 2011

For me, to work alone is my cherished time! I need quietness in order to produce a decent piece of art. When attending a workshop there are all kinds of interruptions that can be distracting, but it is also stimulating to see how others work, like sitting on a park bench watching people. But quality time alone is very important, and therefore to ‘go it alone’ is the number one key to success, because it means taking control of ones place in life! Speaking of going it alone, I just opened a little ‘gallery’ to show my works which I think are fairly good paintings and the thrill is also quite stimulating!

From: Barbara J Carter — Nov 29, 2011

To Carter Thomas: You live in an area rich in numerous affordable art-buying opportunities. They are outdoor weekend art festivals. I come up and do one in Woodside every Labor Day weekend (Kings Mountain Art Fair) but there are scads of others throughout the year. Re: going it alone. I’m definitely a loner when it comes to painting. I find it distracting to have others around when I’m working. Socializing is great and I like to see my artist friends now and then, but the real work gets done solo.

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Notre Dame Bay Fjords

oil painting, 30 x 40 inches by Aleksandr Fayvisovich, New York, NY, USA


“Lisa II”
pastel painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Candy Crawford Day

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 Candy Crawford Day of Ellijay, GA, USA who wrote, “Thank you, Robert, for these responses to my query. I tentatively put it on your Wall… and then took it off, so I was surprised to see it referenced. And what you wrote was just what I needed to hear — and something I already instinctively knew — but your words are positive reinforcement.”        

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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