Dear Artist,

Did you ever have a feeling that today was an “extra day,” one that you could pretty well lay back in and do what you felt like? Today’s one of those.


“The Seine at Asnieres” (The Skiff) 1879
oil on canvas, 92 x 71 cm
by Pierre Auguste Renoir

We’re hanging at anchor in a sunny cove in one of the Mackenzie tributaries. I’m in the forward painting station while Sara sits in the stern passing her sketches from knee to knee, putting her brush here and there. Out of the leisurely holiday feeling I’ve decided to squeeze out and work today with the equivalent of Renoir’s palette. Here, in this unnamed puddle where the immanence of winter shows in the longer hair of the beaver, we’re also, almost unbelievably, in touch. Some generous artists have seen fit to drop us emails of encouragement or advice. A note written by Philip J. Carroll electrifies this holiday: “The freedom is in the paint; one must become the paint, so to speak, feeling it flow through the end of the brush. It’s all about the paint and how one manipulates it.” Yes — it’s not about subject matter. The subject matter is really just the excuse to squeeze out. Thanks Phil. What a miracle.

oil on canvas 1910
by Pierre Auguste Renoir

“Holiday” is also a term used to describe those little areas in paintings where strokes are missed, or minor surprise accidents happen. This holiday is full of holidays. I have the persistent feeling that for artists, every day ought to be a holiday.

Best regards,


PS: “No one expects the days to be gods.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Leisure and the cultivation of human capacities are inextricably interdependent.”(Margaret Mead)


“View of Venice, Fog”
oil on canvas, 1881
by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Esoterica: In 1879 Renoir scrawled his paint-list in one of his notebooks: Blanc d’Argent, Jaune de Chrome, Jaune de Naples, Ocre Jaune, Terre de Sienne Naturelle, Vermilion, Laque de Garance, Vert Veronese, Vert Emeraude, Bleu de Cobalt, Bleu Outremer. The first is the French term for flake white; Laque de Garance is rose madder. The rest are pretty easy to figure out.

This letter was originally published as “Holiday” on August 25, 2000.



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The Harvard Cafe by Alexandr Fayvisovich, New York City, NY, USA

The Harvard Cafe

oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches
by Alexandr Fayvisovich, New York City, NY, USA


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