In 1969, Phil and Ann Yandle were visiting my studio. Phil was the president of the local historical society, and both of them had a keen interest in West Coast Native culture. They spotted a recent and largish painting of a mutual friend, Chief Henry Dawson of the Kwakiutl village of Kingcome Inlet. The Yandles wanted the painting, but it was beyond their means. “Take it,” I told them, “on indefinite loan, no charge,” and they did.
The painting was given pride of place in the Yandles’ hallway. Every time we visited they reminded me that the Chief was still mine. When Phil passed away, Ann told me she needed to keep the painting “on the same terms.” Last year when Ann passed away her executor phoned and told me he had my painting in his basement and asked me to come and pick it up.
Yesterday, finally getting around to it, I had a surprise. Another painting was on the back.
Painted in 1964, the back painting was an attempted depiction of my grandfather Reginald Genn’s gold mining operation in the Klondike in 1898. Done from photographs, I had boldly painted “R. Genn” on the sluice. The oil, though a bit jumpy, turned out to be not bad for the time. Better, I think, than the one of the Chief. What really got me was the recollected reason I had for disregarding it.
In 1964 I was coming to the realization that painting was not only the most engaging thing I could do with my life, it was also going to become a gold mine. With Salvador Dali’s remark, “I am not an artist, I am a manufacturer of wealth,” always at hand, I was a hard worker and was seeing nuggets coming out the end of my creative sluice. At the same time, I had the idea that a painter needs to do what he loves and somehow the money will follow. My gold-mining painting, as it turned out, was in conflict with my youthful idealism. Phil and Ann never did say anything about it. Maybe they forgot the ghost of Bob’s entrepreneurial spirit was back there.
My grandfather never did find much gold in the Klondike. Within a year he was back in Victoria, B.C., starting a new business that was more to his liking. “All that glitters is not gold,” he used to say.
PS: “Money can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, encourage unethical behavior, foster short-term thinking, and become addictive.” (Daniel H. Pink)
Esoterica: Dan Pink’s excellent new book, Drive, has some valuable observations about motivation and creativity. It seems money is the lesser of motivators in comparison to feelings of autonomy, a sense of mastery, and the performance of meaningful work. In one psychologist’s study, for example, people offered a financial incentive for a job well done actually did poorly compared to those where no money was involved. The lure of reward narrowed focus and clouded thinking. More money — less creativity.
Reworking older efforts
by B.J. Adams, Washington, DC, USA
I love the story about discovering one of your old works and the history involved. It is amazing to me to find some of my old work in whatever state it may show up in. Recently I found a drawing I had created when I was a teenager (I wish I had dated everything). Even though it is over 50 years old I quite liked it, I decided to render it in color and my current medium of thread on fabric. The two are identical in size so make an unusual pair.
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Giving the angel away
by Sharon Gray
Your comments about permanently loaning a painting encouraged me to listen to that strong inner voice. “Give the angel painting to your cousin Richard.” I’ve tried to bargain, saying, “But I haven’t even seen it hanging on my wall yet.” Even my framer said, “He must need it.” Indeed he does. Over a year ago Richard was in a very serious plane wreck, was in a coma for months, and just recently was able to swallow and eat again. Many miracles later, he still needs twenty-four hour care. “Ok, Still Small Voice, I’m willing to give it to him, but couldn’t it just be a copy?” Guess the answer is no, because on Sunday, to help celebrate Richard’s birthday, I will be giving him the angel oil painting entitled, Angel Watchin’ Over You.
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Planning for an artist’s estate
by oliver, TX, USA
Creating wealth of joy for you to share, for others to be inspired by and make wonderful living spaces for generations and maybe make a buck or two for you and your heirs. A great accomplishment. I hope you place this post with the dual-sided painting, what a nice provenance. I hope you have kept your copyrights and paintings (works) in order. All mid career artists or better should do so. Remember copyrights last a long time after an artist’s death.
I was thumbing through an old American Art Review August 2004 and was struck the other day by page 49 – an advertisement for a Merton Clivette (1868-1931) painting Raging Sea offered from the ESTATE of Merton Clivette. So in 2004 almost 75 years after death the artist’s estate was still managing his affairs and “career.” One of the interesting annual magazine articles is the revenue earned by the estates of various people, especially artists and musicians.
We all know of Vincent Van Gogh’s sales in his lifetime and what he has become after death. I hope his friends and family did what he would have wished. Sometimes, I think artists may have wished some portion of their estates at some point to have worked for or helped the next generation of artists, certain museums, etc, and without proper planning these things get lost. I spent some time last year on such planning.
Production affected by sales
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA
For years I was conflicted on the topic of painting for the love of art — or painting for the need for money. This past year I was able to move over into the public domain of selling to them directly on a steady basis. What I’ve found is that I am able to pretty much paint what I’ve been painting and sales seem to boost your confidence and inspires you to paint more. It is when the sales stop that you question what you’re painting and slows down your production. It is also true that you have to create what will sell in the venue that you are in. Which may limit in the product that you produce for that venue. This is not to say that you can’t still paint those other paintings that you have that inner passion to get out onto canvas. I do both.
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Art based in imagination
by Arthur Yeghiayan, Tehran, Iran
Man is the king of creatures. He is the only creature who can completely change his life style, and continue his life with a new essence. He likes beauty, so he tends to get it. I was born in 1977 into a family who likes art. My strong imagination has grown up from childhood. My teachers were encouraging me. I like ART, as you see in my name, ARThur. I create very attractive statues from metals. I collect useless parts and combine them together to make something new out of them, a statue, a new meaning. One day they call me Lawrence of Arabia, and the next day I am Columbus of the Seas. I think “Artist” is a person who imagines things quite different.
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by Mark Sharp, Invermere, BC, Canada
A couple of years ago I was standing around in front of my work at a group artist exhibition. A lady came up to me all enthused and said “Mark, I wanted to ask you, “What does it feel like for you when someone loves one of your paintings and then buys it?” I had to think for a minute. Do I give the spiritual fluffy artsy answer or the truth?
So I said, “Is your Husband a hunter?” “No” she said, “why?” I said, “Well I’m not a hunter either but I can imagine what a hunter feels after days of hunting and he finally gets his animal.” “What’s that?” she asked. “Success and the thought of good food,” I replied.
I guess I should have gone for the artsy answer as the enthused look on her face turned to disgust and she promptly left my area. Money sure helps.
(RG note) Thanks, Mark. A lot of folks wrote about just giving my painting away like that. I should have mentioned that the Yandles had previously purchased several of my smaller paintings from my galleries, and Phil had engaged me for years to do the covers of the Historical News. They were frequent guests on our boat. In other words, they were old friends. It was good will that founded our friendship, and it was in good will that it ended. They are both sadly missed. Never underestimate the value of good will.
The value of failures and wrong decisions
by Mark Busacca, San Francisco, CA, USA
The following was sent to me by Tim Fraser:
I’ve often viewed being an artist to being somewhat like fishing. You throw your line into the lake, and through trial and error you find the right part of the lake for your type of lure. I’ve seen many artists walk up to the lake, put their line in an area that doesn’t work for them, stay there until they are so frustrated that they give up and walk away convinced that they can’t do it.
If you’ve taken a realistic look at the art world, your own skills, and you truly believe in what you are doing, then I feel that you’ll also have the heart and determination to find ways around such barriers. It’s the level of determination (which often requires making sacrifices in your daily life) that will often play a big factor.
Also, after you have success, you’re still going to continue to have your share of failures and wrong decisions, but you accept them, learn from them, and continue on. Scientists in a lab will say that each failure helps guide you toward figuring out what it is that you need to be working on.
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The power of passion
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Along with my many catch phrases, I think my mantra is “Do what you love, the money will follow.” I have said this message of wisdom to many many young people and said it to a number of people when they are stuck at the fork in the road of life and wondering what to do. It seems to me that so few people really have a passion for life anymore. When they lose the job they never really liked or ended a relationship they never really loved, they never seem to realize it is not the loss, but the lack of passion. My life is all about a journey. And while the bully who tormented me in Junior High school suddenly wants to be my Facebook pal (I still don’t know what to do), I know that what defines me is being an artist and doing so with passion.
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Happiness erases solitude
by Cathie Harrison, Roswell, GA, USA
Today I set up to paint, invited three artist friends to join me as a new year’s resolution to fight the isolation that is an ever present challenge. One accepted, one was not sure and one didn’t respond. At the appointed hour I forged ahead. An hour and a half into the session no one showed or called. I began to feel more and more “isolated” but the good part is my painting didn’t suffer from all the negative thoughts I was experiencing. As the day wore on I knew to stop at the point where I didn’t know quite what to do next. I decided the prescription for the sense of isolation that was still nagging me was to pick up The Twice-Weekly Letters book. I knew it would make me feel “connected.” I turned to a letter close to the date of January 20 and there on page 239 was “How to be happy…” It turned my mind in a completely new direction and helped me see the wisdom of “getting happy is still something we have to do on our own,” and that “Happiness is a busy solitude.” Thank you a thousand times over for creating a meaningful connection that encourages, supports, educates and embraces all of us on this magnificent journey of painting.
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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 Skip Van Lenten who wrote, “No wonder I get so much satisfaction out of painting, I’m not making any money at all!”
And also Elizabeth Line who wrote, “I love the story. Not sure I agree with the Pink quote completely. I am usually coming up with very creative ways to make money. I turn it into a game rather than a chore. It can be a blast, seeing unusual ways to get it, spend it and keep it.”
And also Barbara Coffey-Jones who wrote, “Money is a false god. Its blessings are only temporary and can be taken away by The Money Masters. Truth is eternal and it sets you free. When an artist is true to himself he can create his best work.”
And also Elihu Edelson of Tyler, TX, USA, who wrote, “I think both sides of your painting are equally good. (I was an art critic for a number of years.)”
Enjoy the past comments below for Gold mine…