Gold mine

Dear Artist, 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.

“Chief Henry Dawson”
oil on canvas on board, removed,
re-stretched and cut down,
30 x 24 inches
by Robert Genn

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.

“Reginald Genn’s Operation in the Klondike, 1898”
oil on board 34 x 40 inches 1964
by Robert Genn

Best regards, Robert 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  

“Tea pot still life”
mixed media
by B.J. Adams

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.   There are 2 comments for Reworking older efforts by B.J. Adams
From: Rose — Jan 26, 2010

Lovely,just lovely…

From: Jen M. — Jan 29, 2010

BJ, I just love that! Well done!

  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. There are 3 comments for Giving the angel away by Sharon Gray
From: Mary Bullock — Jan 26, 2010

God Bless!

From: linda mallery — Jan 26, 2010

Beautiful, I don’t think you will ever regret it.

From: Jen M. — Jan 29, 2010

That is absolutely lovely! I think it’s the right thing. Bless you.

  Planning for an artist’s estate by oliver, TX, USA  

by oliver

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  

“T’was an Enchanted Evening”
acrylic painting
by Brad Greek

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. There is 1 comment for Production affected by sales by Brad Greek
From: Jen M. — Jan 29, 2010

(Beautiful painting, BTW.) I blogged about this very thing last year sometime. You really DO have to keep the conduit open for the deeper voices — the ones that other people might not appreciate. I do mixed media paintings and make crafts. I sell my crafts. I MAY offer prints of my paintings, eventually. They come from very different places in my psyche.

  Art based in imagination by Arthur Yeghiayan, Tehran, Iran  

mixed media
by Arthur Yeghiayan

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.   There are 2 comments for Art based in imagination by Arthur Yeghiayan
From: linda mallery — Jan 26, 2010


From: sharon cory — Jan 30, 2010

Nice to see an artist online from Iran. I love the depth of the culture in your country and regularly check out what’s happening at the Teheran Gallery, along with Iranian films, which are outstanding for their quiet beauty. I love your work… reminds me of Picasso’s Don Quixote.

  Food counts by Mark Sharp, Invermere, BC, Canada  

“Lake Lillian”
original painting by Mark Sharp

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. There is 1 comment for The value of failures and wrong decisions by Mark Busacca
From: Jeffrey J. Boron — Jan 26, 2010

It has often been noted that 90% of the fish can be found in only 10% of any given body of water. But it is always better to be fishin’ than just wishin’! Jeffrey

  The power of passion by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Sunday Sunflowers”
acrylic painting
by John Ferrie

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.   There are 7 comments for The power of passion by John Ferrie
From: don cadoret — Jan 26, 2010

Love the Sunday painting John. Perfect order, balance and electric color. Always enjoy yseeing your work.

From: Lorraine Khachatourians — Jan 26, 2010

Hi John, I always enjoy your comments and seeing your work. Re the facebook friend – I wouldn’t. Some people just like to collect as many names as possible. If fb is just for real friends and fans, it is an enjoyable pastime. Bringing in someone who caused you bad times and memories – life is too short.

From: Delores Hamilton — Jan 26, 2010

Love how the background in “Sunday Sunflowers” illuminates the foreground and conveys heat, the proper environment for growing sunflowers. As for the Friend request on FaceBook, sometimes tormenters mature, feel contrite about past offenses, and offer sincere apologies. It might be worth giving the long-ago bully a chance. If he’s still a bully, you can block him from posting I think (I’m new to FB, so I’m not sure about blocking).

From: anon — Jan 26, 2010

I am ashamed to say that I was guilty of bullying one person when I was a kid. I would never contact that person now because I am hoping that my tormenting has been forgotten and hopefully healed. The only reasons why I think he might want to contact you would be that he never admitted to himself that he was a bully or he still is a bully. If he wants to apologize, he can do it in an email.

From: mary bullock — Jan 26, 2010

John – love your painting. As to the bully – holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Forgive the bully – if he is still a bully, you can always unfriend him.

From: Sue Rowe — Jan 27, 2010

I doubt that tormenting is ever forgotten. But folks sometimes do change or regret past actions. I wish you the best in your Facebook decision.

From: Will Johnston — Jan 29, 2010

Had the choice in re: facebook. Some bullies change, many many just change style. Good luck, but if you don’t need this person, why set yourself up?

  Happiness erases solitude by Cathie Harrison, Roswell, GA, USA  

original painting
by Cathie Harrison

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. There are 2 comments for Happiness erases solitude by Cathie Harrison
From: mary Bullock — Jan 26, 2010

Love your painting!

From: Anonymous — Jan 31, 2010

Could they be secretly jealous, or intimidated by your talent, and afraid to work in your space? You have a nice touch.

  [fbcomments url=””]    woa  

Hope resting

oil painting by Scott Burdick

  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.)”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Gold mine

From: Bob Posliff — Jan 22, 2010

Nothing to do with art, Robert, but to do with grammar. ” All that glitters is not gold.” Not true. Some that glitters is gold. What he meant to say was ” Not all that glitters is gold.” The placement of the word ‘ not ‘ is often incorrect in such statements.

From: Susan Beatty — Jan 22, 2010

Robert, I really like the idea that you lend your painting to someone who couldn’t afford it. How very generous of you! Lesson learned.

From: Dan Cooper — Jan 22, 2010

I’ve had the opposite experience in a way. After completing an involved commission by a client who expected a masterpiece, he asked that I keep the original painting as a long term loan. Citing security and future moves, the client displays a full size print instead. The original hangs in my living room and makes for an interesting tale for visitors.

From: Ben Seymour — Jan 22, 2010

Robert~ You’re right; the gold mine is better.

From: Dwight Williams — Jan 22, 2010

A couple of years ago I was not allowed to try and sell several good paintings at an outdoor festival because they were not matted, much less framed. My family was having a large reunion to celebrate a 70th birthday (not mine, which is long gone) and I decided if they won’t let me sell these paintings I’ll give them away. Some of the paintings, all watercolors, had won prizes in various juried shows. The rest were good work. None were throw-aways. On the evening of the big party I gave away 30 paintings to cousins, nieces and nephews and their spouses and off-spring. Every one was having a really good time. What they didn’t know, and somewhat to my surprise, I was having the best time of the whole crowd. It was way more fun than merely selling. Your point is right on!

From: Jackie Knott — Jan 22, 2010

The gold mine painting not only indicates your future style and technique but is a far better work.

From: Bill — Jan 22, 2010

The head of the figure in the front is way too small. The composition has nice abstract feel to it but I can’t get over the disproportions in human body. The chief is more to my liking, he feels very human and fragile.

From: Birte . — Jan 22, 2010

I love the fact that you lent this work “the chief’ and it came back to you. Great what it says about you, and about the folks that ‘enjoyed and ‘held’ it. I suggest, and you agree by sharing it, that works speak of much more than themselves…

From: Billy Assu — Jan 22, 2010

I knew Henry Dawson of Kingcome village before he died in 1968 and it is a good picture of him. Looks like him. Those people probably liked it because they knew him and it was a true picture of him.

From: Dianne Clowes — Jan 22, 2010

Is THAT why artists have a reputation for being poor? Well, maybe it’s OK if you sell it AFTER you finish painting it for fun! I think you’ve hit on the reason for “formula” artists. Would any of us like to be that guy with the smarmy paintings that all look alike and are always predictable? He’s wealthy though! This is not to be confused with a recognizable, individual style, where each painting is varied and different and fresh.Repetition of the same proven success formula may increase wealth but it sure prevents growth and development. Tough choice perhaps!

From: Kathryn Clark — Jan 24, 2010

What a wonderful story! Friendships and suprises like that are the icing on the cake of life.

From: Ron Unruh — Jan 24, 2010

I quite like both paintings Robert, and you have told us an engaging painting story. Much appreciated by me and such a delightful surprise for you to be reminded of your prior art efforts and your grandfather’s pursuits.

From: Abby Kier — Jan 25, 2010

Gold mine! A metaphor for what art can be for some artists. (Art lover, UK)

From: Robert Head — Jan 25, 2010

All that glitters can also be fool’s gold – fool’s gold being what some folks buy just because of hoopla….I would rather buy well-executed art from an unknown than something someone with a bit of a reputation has churned out just to grease their bank account…just my opinion.

From: Terry Mason — Jan 25, 2010

I completely agree that money as a motivator is not something that will drive one to create their best work. That said, I also was made to think of all the things I have heard about poverty through the years. Being poor builds character is one I have heard over and over. Actually, I don’t think so. Poverty just makes things hard. I would guess the same percentage of poor people who build character of their poverty is the same percentage of people that build character from different adversity who are rich. I don’t think poverty builds character at all. Those who build character from diversity would have done so rich or poor. It is something intrinsic in themselves that takes challenges and turns them from lemons to lemonade. I actually believe that thinking that poverty builds character is a very convenient way of avoiding dealing with the very real issues of have nots. It’s just too painful so we use tired cliches to romanticize the horridness of poverty. And I don’t believe that if you do what you love money will follow. It does for some, not for others. To think that is really not to notice that…for instance…one is far more likely to rise in this career…STILL…if you are male and white. It’s just true. Again, like poverty…it ain’t pretty to look at, but there it is anyway just beyond the cliches. What keeps me going is this. Despite the obvious …if you care to look beyond the entitlement that is yours no matter who you are….people rise. And then….dark skinned, female, gay, over 60, whatever the barrier….you realize that once one of the group with the harder entry makes it…well, then we are all richer for it. One more thing. If just one makes it, the others are never going back into obscurity and wishing. Be prepared to share the pie. Equality…once out of the box…never goes back into the box. Never. It was like my experience of reading “Girl with the Pearl Earring”. Vermeer so missed the point. He should have left her his paints…not a stupid earring.

From: Theresa Bayer — Jan 25, 2010

Big thanks for that wonderful Salvador Dali quote about being a manufacturer of wealth. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Re. today’s letter both the portrait of Chief Henry Dawson and the Klondike mine one are good paintings, but IMO the Klondike one is much stronger.

From: Jackie Smith Bryson City, NC — Jan 25, 2010

Like the paucity of your grandfather’s gold mine, I too have experienced the power of paucity. Lacking any formal painting or drawing instruction, I struck out on my own teaching myself to use oils. I began by painting simple flowers and fruits. From that, I graduated on to landscapes surrounding me here in the Great Smoky Mountains. Still completely self-taught I then moved on to experimenting with the human form. All of my efforts were done without the thought of selling my work but rather just for the pleasure it gave me to create using the brush. I think Mr. Daniel H. Pink said it best, “Money can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, encourage unethical behavior, foster short-term thinking, and become addictive.” I had no money, no art education and no monetary motivation when I painted “Robert Busheyhead”. I painted his portrait just to see if I could. My pleasure was immense.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jan 25, 2010

This is funny, I feel like Mr. Phipps trying to see the hologram – I don’t get it. I don’t see anything in the gold mine painting – what’s there to like? Quite frankly I wouldn’t give it a second look. Why do you think it is a better painting? The way I see it, it’s all wrong. The composition “leaks” at the bottom right, figures don’t seem to add meaning, colors look confused…what am I not getting? I love the chief a lot!

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Jan 26, 2010

I love the story, Robert! I think everything about it tells of the character of your spirit and the people you loaned the painting to. And, I like both paintings. I love being able to give away a painting occasionally, for the right reason of giving it away. The joy of giving is so much more than selling it. Don’t get me wrong, selling feels good too. To receive a painting from the past that you did, and get to really look at it from your more experienced perspective is a gift in my mind also. I can still see your “handwriting” on these paintings. There was love in both of these paintings and it comes through. Thanks for giving us the gift of this story.

From: Sherry Hall Shelton — Jan 26, 2010

In the 1980’s I sold a painting of an underwater scene with a bare breasted mermaid. Nearly twenty years later I went to a client’s home to take photos in preparation for painting the portrait of her two children. While the children were changing clothes I noticed what looked like an unframed canvas leaning against a bookcase and went over for a closer look. I was struck by a familiar scene. It was the same painting of the barebreasted mermaid I’d sold (to someone else) nearly twenty years earlier. I asked the client where she got the painting. She said it came from an estate sale in the area and she mentioned that the artist’s first name and mine were the same. She didn’t know that I had signed it with my former married surname. I was pleasantly ‘shocked’ to cross paths with this piece of artwork once again. She told me she had intended to find this ‘unknown-at-that-time’ artist and commission more art by him/her. We both had a moment of serendipity. She has turned out to be one of my best clients.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 27, 2010

YOU SAVED THE PAINTING ON THE BACK?! Amazing! Years ago when money was tight, I whitewashed the old work on the back then painted a new work on the front. Needless to say I don’t do that anymore. The things we do as new artists is astonishing, isn’t it? If I ever reach enormous fame in art, the conservators are going to have a field day when they X-ray my early works. They will find not one but several previous works underneath. Hey, things were tough in the beginning and I had less sense and money. Well, less sense than money. I feel I’m doing a service by over painting on canvases. I’m keeping people who research these things employed. Right?

From: Carita Gould — Jan 27, 2010

I thought the Gold Mine a much more interesting painting than the Indian portrait. For one thing, it tells a story of your past family history and also was well done. Somehow, you need to display both sides. Thanks for your letters. I just finished a workshop with Arne Westerman. He emphasized the story telling in his paintings.

From: Nizar Epp — Jan 28, 2010

Watercourses, even gold sluices, that flow toward the viewer, perform the psychological service of implying impending abundance.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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