Hothouse effect


Dear Artist,

There’s something to be said for families and extended families who live and work together in a creative hothouse. Think of Robert and Clara Schumann — they took in a boarder, Johannes Brahms, who managed to fall in love with Clara. She had eight kids and still had time to produce twenty compositions. The boys did quite a bit of work as well. Under one roof they made beautiful music. And then there are William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy up there in the Lake District writing poetry together among the daffodils.

The Last of the Mohicans (endpaper), 1919 by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

The Last of the Mohicans (endpaper for The Last of the Mohicans), 1919
by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

Dynasties such as the Wyeths spawned a passion and commitment that might not have been sustainable with only one hand clapping. Nothing beats the kind of joy artists can have when they work together for a mutual or parallel goal. Sometimes there’s a division of labour as in many of our tandem subscribers. Others seem to flourish in loving competition tempered with mutual respect. Clubs and associations can give the hothouse effect, but we still go home to our private and often lonely rooms. In great workshops artists in a state of familial togetherness, eat, sleep and live for a finite time in a world of art. These workshops give a mind-bending high. There’s a rededication of energy that comes from new information, demonstrated techniques, and concentrated excitement. Mild rivalry forces growth. The learned skill of sharing is key to the hothouse environment. While private struggle has its place as well, here are some ways to heat up your hothouse:

Untitled (Country Gentleman cover), 1917 oil oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches by N.C. Wyeth

Untitled (Country Gentleman cover), 1917
oil oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
by N.C. Wyeth

Be a doer, not a speaker.
Be on somebody else’s team.
Smile when you see the spark.
Welcome others to your space.
Smell the daffodils, together.
Bless courage, originality and spunk.
Ease the way for others to help you.
Allow your passions to be contagious.
Sandwich criticism between layers of praise.
Pay attention to the kids; yours and those of others.
Give confidence — it’s the greatest gift you can give.

Best regards,


Indian Brave Fishing, 1923 oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches by N.C. Wyeth

Indian Brave Fishing, 1923
oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
by N.C. Wyeth

PS: “It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.” (Montaigne)

“Without him I would have given up.” (Pierre Auguste Renoir on Monet)

“I now realize how intensely I’ve been living through my family.” (N. C. Wyeth)

Esoterica: N. C. and Carolyn Wyeth settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in 1907, where they built a house and studio. Together, N.C. and Carolyn raised five children, including Henriette, Carolyn and Andrew, who became artists and Ann, a musician and Nathaniel, a mechanical engineer. Henriette married artist Peter Hurd and Ann married artist John McCoy. Ann and John’s daughter, Ann, married artist George A. Weymouth. Andrew and Betsy Wyeth’s son, Jamie, is an artist, too.

This letter was originally published as “Hothouse effect” on July 2, 2002.

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

The N. C. Wyeth Family: Nathaniel, Henrietta, Ann (on her mother's lap), Carolyn, and N. C. Wyeth with Andrew.

The N. C. Wyeth Family: Nathaniel, Henrietta, Ann (on her mother Carolyn’s lap), Carolyn, and N. C. Wyeth with Andrew.


“I wish to lead a life free from care, and I see that I shall be unhappy if I cannot always work at my art.” (Clara Schumann)

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart…” (William Wordsworth)





  1. Thank you. Your posts always give me a little something extra to think about. I’m so happy to have discovered you.

  2. I love this post. I have been blessed to often work alongside my brother,, Terrell Lester, a world renowned landscape photographer. We understand the need for independence with the balance of support and companionship while working on the road from the convenience of our camper. What a blessing to have a family member who truly understands the idiosyncratic nature of the artist.

  3. Great post. I paint and sculpt and teach art. I live with a composer and musician. I keep art supplies accessible and available so our tween children will pick up a brush and paint. And they do. We comment on the beauty that surrounds us everywhere and bring awareness and presence to our living moments. We lovingly inspire each other to creative pursuits.

  4. Thank you Sara an excellent post. I always enjoyed your Dads letters, his talent and his courage. I am pleased to have his wonderful talent of writing shared through your own wonderful artistic talents. Your family too is leaving a wonderful legacy of art!

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Featured Workshop

“THE MAGIC OF PAINTING FROM LIFE” with Sheree Jones at Casa Buena Art Retreat, Mexico
November 20, 2019 to November 27, 2019

Spanish Casita

Join Canadian artist Sheree Jones as she shares her passion for painting “from life” at this idyllic coastal retreat.

This workshop is designed for experienced beginner & intermediate oil (and acrylic) painters.
The small group size guarantees plenty of one on one instruction.
While you’re busy creating art, your friendly hosts at Casa Buena will be working hard, ensuring that your stay is a memorable one.
Outstanding food, accommodations, and field trips will satisfy your desire for both comfort and adventure. Non painting partners welcome.

For more information visit:
or contact Sheree: Over the Farm #2
original pastel 15 x 15 inches

Featured Artist

Mary’s interest in pastel painting began during her years at Whitworth College in Spokane, WA where she majored in art and elementary education. Though she has worked in watercolor and oil as well as calligraphy, her interest has consistently turned primarily to pastel because of the medium’s potential for glowing, vibrant color and the harmony achieved in bringing together lights and shadows.


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