The guru syndrome


Dear Artist,

Over the past week a few artists have written asking what I meant by “the guru syndrome.” It’s my own term to describe people (like me) who get a kick out of trying to help others. In a broader sense, folks with the guru syndrome range from spiritual pundits, quasi-religious figures, to charismatic whiz-bangs like Tony Robbins. Some have degrees in psychology and others are self-anointed.

The art game is loaded with them. They range from coaches, mentors, teachers, workshoppers and professional art-workers who just want to share their experience for whatever it’s worth. Books, TV, seminars and the Internet are some of the traditional guru vehicles. Some gurus, I’m sorry to say, are pretty much charlatans, or at least amateurs themselves, who provide glib, lightweight solutions to their insecure and vulnerable disciples.

That being said, the great principle of growth and improvement is the helping reach of others. This sort of brotherly love and sharing is hard-wired in the human soul, and some of us have it in spades. To become one of these gurus, one needs only to have the perceived imprimatur of authority. The main job of nascent artists is to determine who the truly authoritative ones are. In the jungle of human engagement, glitz and appearance often trump content. Further, and unfortunately, many seekers just feel secure in environments of mediocrity.

Glitz often includes the speedy solutions of attitudinal devices. Woo-woo is okay, but in our game, practical, hard-won and personally interpreted processes are key. Beware of the art-guru who goes not there.

I was rereading the guruship of Charles Reid’s Painting What You (Want to) See. I wondered about the motivation of this remarkable painter. He takes you into the very recesses of his painting mind. Talking about lightening darks with colours other than white, allowing areas to accept the temperature of adjacent areas, carrying compositions with clear local colours and interactive patterns — this is inspiration that one might not get from someone strutting across a stage or sitting cross-legged by a Nepalese cave. But it is an example of the guru syndrome of the highest order — sharing without expectation and giving the details of a personal process and how to interact with your own work at hand. ‘Scuse me, but some painters ought to have tattoos made of Charles’s stuff.

Best regards,


PS: “Wonderful things can happen if you put your brush down and let your painting be your teacher.” (Charles Reid)

Esoterica: How to handle gurus? Be promiscuous. Don’t sign up for anything long term. Learn and move on. In the old days recognized masters fingered talented folks and worked with them, often without charge. Some students became apprentices and were kicked out when they didn’t perform. This tradition has all but died out. Nowadays, gurus are in the guru business for profit. Many of the best ones are right under your nose in books. With books you can edit your gurus, allow them to pontificate on your own schedule, and dump them when you outgrow them.


Not a guru
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA


“Do your homework”
by Peter Brown

I teach art in a public high school. I am no guru. I am a journey-man. I teach art tricks. Perspective. Sketching. A light touch. Proportions. The basic shapes and forms. In this effort, I see children grow. I see remarkable things. Remarkable things happen every day. My work is simple. I make art accessible to all comers. They prove themselves in my class. I believe that art is a human right. Art is a human thing. Art is something that human beings have done before agriculture. It is basic.



There is 1 comment for Not a guru by Peter Brown

From: June Szueber — Oct 14, 2008

Bravo Peter you have it right in my opinion. I have taught art in public, and private schools and privately for many many yrs. high school jr high, elementary and owned Creative Artists in Anaheim(20yrs)I am 83 and retired from teaching 2 yrs ago. You and I thoroughly agree about how art should be taught. Yessy, com — June Szueber FineArtStudioOnline.Com — June Szueber — June Szueber


Teachers have guru syndrome?
by Anne Kullaf


“On broadway”
oil painting
by Anne Kullaf

I enjoy your letters very much! I was a little bit confused by your article on guru syndrome, so I thought I would share my reaction to it since I began teaching 2 years ago.

Here is the part of your article that confuses me — are you saying that anyone who chooses to teach does so because they have guru syndrome? I don’t think you are, but I wanted to make sure I read things correctly. I have to teach — I don’t earn enough from painting sales to support myself and my family, I don’t think there are many artists these days that do. But I don’t mind because I love teaching and I try to give as much as I can to my students in terms of practical advice and knowledge, plus a good dose of encouragement. I start each new class series by telling my new students that I am not a “how to” instructor–I can’t teach you how to paint, I can only give you tools and concepts for you to use and interpret in your own work. So tell me, do you think I have guru syndrome? I hope not, because to me guru syndrome sounds like it is a self-serving phenomenon reserved for snake oil salesmen!

There is 1 comment for Teachers have guru syndrome? by Anne Kullaf

From: Anne Kullaf — Oct 14, 2008

I just want to add that I think it’s important for students to constantly ask themselves “what am I getting out of this course?” “am I learning and growing?” I always encourage my students to study with several different instructors and to try and glean something useful from each class. As for finding a good teacher, here is what I would recommend:

— sample several instructors’ classes at a local museum or art center, learn about their credentials: where do they exhibit their work? what professional organizations do they belong to?

— be wary of anyone who pressures you into any type of long term or high-priced commitment to study with them exclusively

— also be wary of anyone who makes you feel like “you can’t do this without me”–developing your own style is something only you can do for yourself

— stay away from anything that is too formulaic in approach, as someone else said there are no quick fixes to building your skills, study and understand the basics and then PRACTICE!

— study with someone who encourages questions and isn’t threatened by a student who challenges something they say — I learn something new about my own approach in every class as a result of the questions I’m asked by students


No easy answer
by Linda Anderson Stewart, AB, Canada


original painting
by Linda Anderson Stewart

Thanks for this letter Robert… it is soooo overdue that folks begin to realize there is no easy answer or “fix” for the tough patches in life… including learning to paint well. It is just plain hard work and self-discipline.

There are so many wannabe authorities around who haven’t put in the time it takes to earn their stripes, so one needs to be careful about choosing a credible mentor who will be generous and self-aware enough to know if they are truly good teacher material (ergo the saying, those who can’t do, teach). It also takes a thoughtful creative person to glean the messages in what “gurus” have to offer… smoke and mirrors can so often be mistaken for “mysterious truths.”


All artists are gurus
by Brigitte Nowak, Toronto, ON, Canada

I’m not sure why you’ve separated the role of the guru, or shaman, from that of the artist: in my interpretation of their vocation, they are linked, and that it is natural for gurus to be artists and vice versa. True artists (of whatever stripe) interpret their life, experience, joy, pain and sorrow through the medium of their art in order to reach out to others and share the wisdom that they have discovered: which is what the most useful of gurus do as well.

Though much art is “glib and lightweight,” the best of it illuminates the world, examines our role in it, and attempts to bring meaning and coherence to our experience of it. Whether it is sharing a useful technique, interpreting the majesty of nature, experiencing an emotion through an actor’s eyes, being moved by a haunting melody, the role of artists, shamans and gurus is to share their gifts and perceptions.


Teaching for discovery
by Linda Walker, Bemidji, MN, USA


“Opal’s Gold”
oil painting
by Linda Walker

My workshops are taught not only to give information and inspiration to the artists taking them but for me to find out what I know and augment that with new information. I have never taught a workshop during which I didn’t find that I knew more than I thought, someone always comes up with a question that I hadn’t prepared for and I find the answer is there within me, and there is also always something that comes up that makes me go into research mode. I actually learn as much from those students that are beginners or enjoy remaining amateur as from those that are turning out professional quality work, perhaps because they are not as fearful of asking a ‘stupid question.’ The classes are filled with fun and camaraderie and although I could make more money with larger classes I keep a limit on the number of students so I can give more personal attention to each. I become more versed and so a better teacher and painter with each class or artist I teach. And so I guess I am often guilty of ‘sharing with expectation,’ that being my own education and evolution.


Finding the good teachers
by Jeffrey Hessing, Nice, France


“Rolling hills”
original painting, 64 x 51 inches
by Jeffrey Hessing

There is no scarcity of painting teachers. Certainly some better than others. It is essential to master the basics of techniques so that the painting will be solid and last for hundreds of years without cracking, yellowing, discoloring. When one has learned technique and learned to draw then paint skillfully, let’s say that takes ten to twenty years on the average, then what? How do you go further? What do you want to say or express with these skills. What makes a work of art great?

Do many teachers or “gurus” ever get to the heart of the matter? Does anyone dare to talk about the spiritual side of art? Is that too “wow-woo” for our art academies and Universities? Aren’t we missing the most important thing? The ‘SOUL’ of painting. There are good teachers and bad, good gurus and bad. Same for doctors, lawyers, plumbers, car mechanics. In fact, only ten percent of people practicing any profession are really good. It is up to us to find them.


Cherish the Art Spirit
by Dyan Law, Pipersville, PA, USA


Dyan Law

When a new art student of mine claims, “I could not have done this painting without your help!” I simply tell them to read and “cherish” Robert Henri’s book, The Art Spirit. I’m quite certain that after reading this marvel of profound insight and information, his “words” will truly change the way they experience art forever! My dear friend gave this special book to me while I was undergoing difficult breast cancer treatments nine years ago and was too ill at the time to paint. I underlined hundreds of sentences and have found it to be of greater help and enlightenment than any other book or “art guru” that entered in and out of my art education and one of the best “cure-alls” I’ve ever received. I continue to read many books by the best, but have referred most to my “bible” by Henri.

I recommend that this book be read in short intervals and repeated again at least once so as not to miss the “spirit written between the lines.”


The Internet as teacher
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA


“F15A Fighter”
original painting
by Brad Greek

The Internet, for me, is probably the greatest vehicle that I’ve found to learn from. By responding to art-related forums, newsletters and just talking to other artists around the world has helped me to understand the business that we are in better. Not just the business of making money from our art, but the business of being an artist. I’ve noticed a few points over the past couple years that I’ve learned by staying involved. One, my views have changed as I learn more, giving me a broader base on different topics, growth. Two, as an artist, we seem to try everything that comes down the pike, to see if it works for us. And three, by sharing these experiences with each other, helps us to better understand where we came from, are now, and where we are headed. Otherwise we just stay in our own little world of stagnant thoughts. We are all in this boat together.

A couple rules I try to live by are: Learn something new every day, and if someone takes the time to teach you something, take the time to learn it. Whether you use what you’ve learned or not is up to the individual, but you will have that knowledge either way. I guess I’m an amateur guru in training.


Guru in the pecking order
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA

Like in every industry there is a pecking order in gurus and a farm system like baseball and hockey. You work your way up the ladder if that is your goal. I am polishing up my guru skills, teaching small local workshops. It is fun and challenging and there seems to be many venues if one is willing to do the work. I am willing and able. For my reasonable daily fee, I am a great bargain for a beginning pastel artist. They get the benefit of my thirty years of tinkering and studying other gurus and masters. They get much individualized attention that they would likely not get from a high level expensive guru. I do not hoard my knowledge and I give it all I have. My ego is in check. I laugh at myself at every opportunity. I tell my students they are getting opinions by the trainload and are free to analyze, apply or discard them. In this arena, it is all about performance and that is the way it should be. I don’t possess a “big name’ so am judged on my ability and effort and rewarded with future workshops if my effort is deemed more than satisfactory. Charles Reid is certainly a wonderful guru and I borrow from what I have learned from him as well as what I have gleened from other of the great gurus. In an art world of egomaniacs, charlatans, liars and con artists, I can hold my head and my ethics high. I provide a good service for a good price!


No dependency please
by Marion Barnett, UK

This gave me a bit of a poke in the ribs. Along with a colleague, I’ve just published a book for textile artists on using Lutradur. And another two are in development, one on another non woven fabric, another on removing the practical and emotional blocks we put up between ourselves and our creativity. That one draws on my experience as a Self Development specialist and artist. And I’ve run several online groups for many years, to encourage growth and change in textile artists. Am I a guru? Err… not in my own head. In my own head, I’m a constantly changing and developing artist, sharing some of what I know for free, and some of it for (a very modest) gain. I may be a guru in your head, or my students’ heads, but I’m not in my own, and if I ever I get to that point, I hope to goodness someone will take me gently aside and wake me up! When I work with people, I want to encourage them to believe that they have all the answers inside them already, and can learn to draw them out for themselves. Gurus, methinks, create a culture of dependency that is positively harmful to everyone, and stifles creativity.

There is 1 comment for No dependency please by Marion Barnett

From: Anne Kullaf — Oct 14, 2008

This is exactly what I was trying to say in my comment above, but you did a far better job of it!


Music gurus
by Ruth Phillips, Bedoin, France

I have always felt privileged to be in a profession — music — where the concept of a guru still exists. At least it used to. One thing I have loved about my training, and it is similar to the apprentice of old, is that we ‘lose’ our ‘selves’ in our teacher; we give our ‘selves’ entirely into their care and wisdom and thus, by losing the self we find something deeper that connects us to the spirit of humanity. We rise, in love, with our teacher. We become liberated, through the discipline of practice, from the shackles of the ego, and that way we have a chance to touch the music at its deepest place. It is, I believe, a spiritual training and in this way, like all of them (including the church) it can, when it is not based upon love, be a hotbed for abuse.

Music is not about expressing our own personality. Or it wasn’t. Nowadays, with the ego, sex and beauty pageant that is the current music scene, I think we may be losing the plot. Sadly.


Wilson Hurley
by David Schwindt, Tucson, AZ, USA


“Hurley snow squalls”
original painting
by David Schwindt

At the same time Charles Reid was teaching us in watercolor workshops, another fine painter influenced me, turning my head toward the sciences. Wilson Hurley painted the western landscape with an unmatched passion and shared his knowledge with any one who asked for it. The catalogue from his first major show at The National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City in 1977 referenced articles from Scientific American magazine and I went to the library to research them. No one I had met (or read about) studied the whys of art more thoroughly than Wilson Hurley or shared it so willingly, never asking anything in return. During my first critique with him in 1975, he said that he felt it was his duty to pass on the knowledge that was given to him so freely by other artists from his earliest days in New Mexico to the present. When he was fourteen (in 1938) he studied with John Young-Hunter and Theodore Van Soelen, and painted in the field with Jozeph Bakos, well known Sante Fe artists from the early decades of the twentieth century. Wilson opened his doors not only to me but to every serious artist that requested an audience. He shared his knowledge with local civic groups as well, as I discovered when he presented an easel-sized value scale during his workshop at the Scottsdale Artist’s School in 1987.

Much has been written about him and by him in local publications and magazines and three major catalogues with soft covers, but a major hardcover book has yet to be published. One can read about his painting techniques in two publications: American Artist, May 1986, Wilson Hurley’s Color Theory and Practice by Calvin J. Goodman, and Masters of Western Art by Mary Carroll Nelson, Watson-Guptill Publications 1982.

Images of his work can be seen in his catalogues: Wilson Hurley: An Exhibition of Oil Paintings, 1977, Lowell Press; and Wilson Hurley, A Retrospective Exhibition, 1985, The Albuquerque Museum and Buffalo Bill Historical Center; Wilson Hurley’s Campaign: Painting the Murals for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, 2005, The University of Oklahoma. This catalogue also exhibits one of the best examples of his working methods.

Wilson Hurley passed away August 29, 2008

There is 1 comment for Wilson Hurley by David Schwindt

From: Mary Sheehan Winn — Oct 14, 2008

Charles Reid is one of my painting ‘guru’s’ and I’m pleased that he’s highlighted here. Proficient in both watercolor and oil, he really knows how to lay it down in a painterly fashion. He’s unmatched, if you ask me.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The guru syndrome



From: Rick Rotante — Oct 09, 2008

I’ve studied with three painters in my life and read many “how to” books. Two of these painters are considered “gurus”. by some.

From one I learned about paint, mixing, color. The other I learned about expression, design, concepts and ideas. And the Third is myself, being the most influential of all. The first two gave me the tools, I am the one who teachers myself the most every day. I consider we are all self taught or we should be once we accomplish the basics.

p.s. I’m not sure the new “mathguard” system is working any better. It won’t take my addition. I still have to re-enter things two or three times.

From: Hasit Seth — Oct 09, 2008

It’s been a few months since I got to know Charles Reid’s work and teachings. Just like his direct painting method, his teaching is also directly talks to a student’s mind. I am just writing to say thank you Charles, you are simply fabulous. Best wishes from India.

From: Gabriel sos limbe — Oct 10, 2008

Guru?…This is a word I use to get a meaning as days go..

From: Sidney Chambers — Oct 10, 2008

My mentor was Graham Sutherland, he helped me a great deal when I was young. He noticed that I was using very cheap materials and not getting what I wanted from them, so he gave me a credit note of £50 to Robersons, his art supplier in London. £50 was a lot of money in 1969. He died in 1980 aged 76, he was a wonderful man and a great artist.

From: Faith — Oct 10, 2008

When I was young (a long time ago), I was often treated to phrases like “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” How much truth there is in that adage I only realized much later. Whatever one is trying to master, it is useful if the teacher, tutor, guru knows the ropes and can also prove it, not just by flourishing a paintbrush (or other piece of equipment), but by structuring the demonstration or workshop, by astutely recognizing what is needed at that time and then providing it. Most experiences I have had involved the “guru” doing his own thing, repeating a routine, regardless of its appropriateness. And of course, people who came because they admire, respect and even love that “guru”, swallow it all, however sham it is.

There are, for example, myriads of phoney voice teachers, one or two of whom I experienced at first hand as a student I later tried to rehabilitate victims of bad teaching in my own guise as a teacher.

The problem is that people don’t ask (themselves) enough, or maybe just not the right questions! Just because someone is up there claiming to be an expert, it doesn’t mean he is an expert. So much “artistic” work is purely intuitive. A lot of teaching is based on final stages of a long process of development. But the student doesn’t need the tricks of the trade anything like as much as he needs the basic skills, the chance to develop.

I suppose it’s symptomatic of today’s culture that learning has to go at the rate of knots, like the hamburger machine at a fast food emporium.

When I was still singing, I did performances with a small city opera conducted by a guy who was actually the head of music in that area, but whose whole “knowledge” of conducting was based on a workshop he had once done with Herbert von Karajan. His conducting was absolutely catastrophic. He hadn’t even learnt that a conductor leads rather than follows the orchestra.

That opens up another problem. The “guru” is not responsible for the students. Each student is responsible for himself. As Rick Rotante points out, it’s the autodidactic learning that really counts!

In voice, the results of bad teaching are often physical ruin. At least that doesn’t happen in painting!

In music, if you want to improve your own skills, you listen to those of the masters; if you are a writer, you read; if you are a painter, you can do worse than look at great paintings. There are plenty of them out there!

From: Virginia Gardner — Oct 10, 2008

Of course, the internet has encouraged the proliferation of gurus. The latest group are those who wish to coach “creativity”. I joined one of these groups, not for the coach, but because periodically, when floundering about in the studio, I’ll participate in a group project and it helps me screw my head back on straight. I like your form of guru-ship, because you tend to provide fodder for further thought.

From: Gian-Carlo Santopadre — Oct 10, 2008

Ive worked in nearly every capacity as an artist since my early teens and that’s all I do. great thought and .letter about gurus which I consicer myself to be Ive ambeled into many worlds, from painting to carpentry.Im a versatile artist. what I’ve done..mens and womens fashion ill.paste-ups, water and oil gilcing, portrait work, wax modeling, and I work in pastels, watercolor, oils, gouach and egg tempera

From: Chris Bolmeier — Oct 10, 2008

My “art book closet” is crammed to the rafters with a various assortment of art books and magazines. I have a book by Charles Reid that I constantly refer to when the going gets tough. His simplicity and brilliance are naturally stunning to say the least and I never tire of his beautifully honest work. My favorite book by Charles Reid is “Flower Painting in Oil”, first published in 1976. Many of the illustrated paintings in the book are black and white, to see the value of color. The book includes of black and white photo of Charles as a handsome young man of about 25? standing in a very rugged “paint chipping off the walls”, studio barn. He is proudly hanging on to the side of a 5′ x5′ (oh so beautiful) painting, with a brush in the other hand resting on his hip. Thank you Charles Reid for the inspiration and hope you have given so many artists. I love your work and aspire to create as you do, with my own artistic voice in a subtle brilliant manner. God willing, I still have many years to get there, but I’m never satisfied. Isn’t that the point?

From: Janet Sellers — Oct 10, 2008

Wow. When I started reading this one, I began to wonder if I were one of the “gurus” and if that would be good or bad. I do advise art committees, artists and students. I write about art, artists and the art market every month for our community here in Colorado. But I think the guru thing is clear: nonsense and mediocrity reveal themselves at some point. The sad part is that sometimes the flash and glitz catch the attention of the would-be art practitioner just as advertisements catch the “novelty brain” for the short term. Most likely those with a long term interest in art will continue to seek long term, and grow in discernment as well. Then again, some seekers just like that seeking practice as amusement. They are the window shoppers of the art world… and yet, the combined experiences should provide some discernment for them, too. It is just soooo much faster to “see” well when exposed to creative and masterful minds in art.

From: Joyce Goden — Oct 11, 2008
From: Russ Hogger — Oct 12, 2008
From: Anne Copeland — Oct 12, 2008
From: Norman Ridenour — Oct 13, 2008

GURU OR MENTOR????? To me guru has the smell of short cut, not doing the homework, not going through the process, cutting corners. You were leading to these terms but were too polite.

Having been, in, apart of, around any number of professions from art, to business, to academia, to the military I am convinced that having a mentor is nearly essential. By mentor I mean; positive critic, door opener, guide, teacher and general sponsor. Many years ago I read a review in one of the top American art magazines that a young artist, I believe the name was Marsten, had a show at a big New York gallery and the magazine was giving him pages of review. A few months later, reading in another magazine, I learned that this artist was the new companion of Robert Raushenberg. When I was in graduate school everyone knew which senior professors were good at helping their students find jobs and which were not. In Robert Hughes’ biography of Goya he has the young painter avering, “I will do it on my own.” To which the listener replies, “No one does it on their own.”

To me, one to the great pluses of professional study (graduate school/art school) is building the connections and developing a mentor-protege relationship. The people at the top of any profession are flooded with, in input, options, candidates and other choices, it is the mentor who “knows someone” who can access the person at the top, be it; galley owner, CEO, admiral or professor. Of course it is the protege’s responsibility to ensure that he has the goods to perform once the door is opened.

From: Terry Mason — Oct 13, 2008

You said: “The main job of nascent artists is to determine who the truly authoritative ones are.” I disagree. The main job of the nascent artist is to paint.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 13, 2008

Guru was originally a Hindu word meaning “teacher and guide”. How long ago did this term assume the assumption of all-knowingness? Did we create this expectation ourselves, looking for someone to show us THE way? Don’t we all have many teachers and guides? Ultimately the journey is ours, but I am happy to have people I can turn to to show me their own journeys. I stumble less on my own because of them.

From: Frankye Oliver — Oct 13, 2008

After reading your letters for several years, this is my first time to write. I had just returned from a Charles Reid workshop when I opened your letter about “The Guru Syndrome”.

When I explained to my husband why I really needed to go to this workshop, I referred to Charles as “The Godfather of Watercolor”. Guru is an acceptable substitute for godfather.

I’ll never forget this workshop and the Reid “experience”, I just hope it is not my last! If it is my last, I’ll have his books to read and reread and remember.

From: Erika Nelson — Oct 13, 2008
From: Robert Goldberg — Oct 14, 2008

Guru – a word that conjures up New Age, although the word is very old-age, indeed, from the Sanskrit “bringer of light to darkness.” Here’s another word, and I’ll tie them together: Placebo. The placebo effect is well known in medical studies. A clinically useless treatment is found to work about a third of the time, even more in some cases like thyroid function. So here’s the question. Say I go to a healer, shaman, doctor, art teacher, you choose. The practitioner knows quite well that the placebo effect is in operation. I have a 30 per cent chance of being cured if I only believe. Should I be told, “this is a placebo?” That is honest, but destroys the effect. Most of what we perceive in the world is a reflection of our inner state. No right, no wrong, just a reflection of those (immense!) parts of ourselves about which we know nothing. The guru harnesses that power. A good one harnesses it for the student’s growth. A bad one turns it to his or her own advantage. There are many forms of Yoga besides Hatha, which is what we think of here in the West. One is Bhakti, or the yoga of love of the guru. Ram Dass practices this path. By loving the guru, the self expands beyond its normal limits, and great growth can be achieved. The song, “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line” hints at this. Love will drive us to greater and greater accomplishment. Bhakti uses this great power to instill devotion to practice — doesn’t Robert do the same thing with discipline and practice? Let’s not allow “guru” to become pejorative, or to suggest self-aggrandizement, though it certainly can. Let’s not let love of the guru be associated with weakness of mind or spirit. Sometimes, it’s the placebo that cures all ills, and the magic is within the student. Any guru worth his salt knows that.

From: Mary Hogan — Oct 15, 2008

I began getting your letters because of one of my favorite “gurus” – Tony Van Hasselt. I look forward to your letters – thank you. I am 82 years old and have been an art teacher for most of my life – every thing from elementary through graduate school. You don’t get rich teaching moneywise but you do get rich in pure joy when a student who came to you with what I call the “can’t draw a straight line” syndrome, produces something THEY are delighted with. After I retired in 1989 I reversed the process and traveled the world taking watercolor workshops with many instructors both good & not so good. The best were those who gave good critiques and helped me develop my own style (Tony is a good example). The not so good were those who wanted us to use THEIR style. I have always believed in the old Chinese saying “The teacher opens the door. You must enter by yourself.” Now I live in a retirement community and teach watercolor to people of my generation many of whom longed to make art but life interfered. The pleasure of watching them blossom is mine. I have the good luck to live in a community rich with artists of all kinds. Watercolor lends itself to helping people understand the elements of color & composition which in turn helps my students appreciate what is all around them both in art & in nature.

From: Joan Polishook — Oct 15, 2008

I guess I am a kind of guru, for I too have reached out to share my love of art and my expertise as a trained and accomplished artist with others. The FREE program for plein air painters that I started more than 11 years ago is still going strong and growing in number of particiapnts from year to year. We are out in the beautiful Pocono Mountain areas once a week from May through October to commune with nature while recording our impressions of the landscape in a variety of style and mediums. I am constantly rewarded by the accomplishments of each artist, whether a beginner or professional whose creativeness has been energized and supported by my leadership. Pike County, PA





Unexpected Landing

oil painting
by Theresa Beckemeyer, Colorado, USA


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 Sara Genn of New York, NY, USA who wrote, “You can’t teach writing, you can only expose students to great work and hope that it inspires them.”

And also Suzanne Geller who wrote, “You are so right about Charles Reid. I have taken many workshops with Charles (whenever I could afford them). Do you know what this dear man did? I recently lost ALL my brushes — mostly sable and Kolinskys, collected carefully over many years. He heard about it through mutual friends and sent me six of his wonderful Kolinskys — used it is true — with even some teeth marks on the handles. Perhaps some magic will rub off. He is very special, as a painter and a human being.”




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