Dear Artist, Readers may have noticed that I don’t think artists should talk about what they’re going to do, what they’re doing, or, in some cases, what they’ve done. Something about words that eviscerates the will to do things, to derail works in progress, or take the shine off done deals. But now that everyone’s blabbing, tweeting and Facebooking minor and major glories, there’s a new way to deliver your stuff. It’s called humblebragging. This is where you lace your accomplishments with enough humility to get your stuff across and yet soften the blow to others. After all, it’s not nice to let people think your life is better than theirs. “That crummy painting I struggled with and almost threw out got sold to Lindsay Lohan.” You get the idea? “Things are tough in the art business. I’m going plein air in Languedoc tomorrow.” I don’t believe in any of this stuff. The better idea is to just go to Languedoc, do your plein air thing and let them hear about it later, preferably from someone else. Fact is, I’m most concerned what blurting does to art learning and art quality. This is just another reason why I try to talk about you, not me. Oh dear, that sounded a bit like humblebragging. Here’s the rub: If you transpose your doing thing to a talking thing, you might just be changing the dynamics of your doing thing. And if you decide to add a shot of humility, especially false humility, that might just screw things up even further. We are our words. We are what we say. What we speak, we become. We all know of artists who constantly need to verbalize their weaknesses and failures. Is the lousy self-esteem they project because their work is actually lousy, or is their work lousy because they’re always saying how lousy it is? Ralph Waldo Emerson thought verbalizing humility was a naughty thing to do. The Greek lyric poet Pindar took a more balanced approach: “Humble in a humble state and great in greatness.” The Roman philosopher Kjerkius Gennius (36BC), said, “Humilitas profugio est.” “Humility is bunk.”

“Shut up and paint”
Ross Penhall’s Tattoo

Best regards, Robert PS: “The humblebrag is a way to brag while also seeming humble. It’s a subtle brag, a brag with a wink and a nod, the inside joke of bragging.” (Jen Doll, blogger) Esoterica: Full humblebragging baloney often comes with the well regarded institution of the Artist’s Statement: “My folks were very poor. I was born in an old paper bag in the middle of Highway 401.” Truly noble heights are attained when artists write about themselves in the third person: “As a child Joe Bloggs was always interested in mud puddles, hence his current fascination with marine subjects.” “Mary Pinnacle’s father was an undertaker — she grew up surrounded by flowers.” The Canadian painter Ross Penhall is a quiet guy who doesn’t have much to say about his art. A tattoo on his arm reads, “Shut up and paint.”   Today’s market requires shouting by Michael Chesley Johnson, ME, USA / NB, Canada  

“Glorious evening”
oil painting
by Michael Chesley Johnson

Your philosophy makes sense for good economic times, but I have to say that today, when galleries in both the US and Canada are shutting their doors and painters who paint for a living are considering a career move, any humblebragging among professionals is just another form of advertising. If you don’t shout, no one will know you’re there. Unfortunately, this shouting has reached a fever pitch. I don’t like it, either, but what can we do? In desperation we blog, tweet, message and offer sketches for sale on eBay in the hopes we’ll attract the attention of real buyers. “Shut up and paint” doesn’t work today unless you are independently wealthy or have a patron with deep pockets and 10,000 square foot house with empty walls. There are 2 comments for Today’s market requires shouting by Michael Chesley Johnson
From: Anonymous — Sep 04, 2012

I agree with everything Michael says. I agree with you Robert about humblebragging – false modesty is, in fact, rather ridiculous – but if an artist wants to sell their work, they need to find ways to tell the world about it. Perhaps as a painter one needs to be wary of talking about the hows and whys – mostly for fear of boring the socks off the listener – but otherwise, there is no option but to inform the audience that there is work available to be purchased.

From: — Sep 04, 2012

sorry – did not mean to be anonymous, first time I have replied to one of these comments. I have put a web address as my name, in case anyone wants to know who I am and what I do!!!!!!! I would have included a picture but do not know how to do that.

  Plein air saves the day by Margaret Kent, New Ross, Wexford, Ireland  

“Wexford Skyline”
oil painting
by Margaret Kent

Who cares what I am doing or thinking and I certainly do not want to know what others do. Plein air is the answer to so many problems, blocks and so on, out there in God’s garden with my little dog, at one with nature painting for ME. If it is good it is a bonus; if not so what! This summer here in Ireland has been challenging weather-wise. I have been wet so often my poor brain is rusting from the outside in. (That is not humblebragging!!)   There is 1 comment for Plein air saves the day by Margaret Kent
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Sep 04, 2012

Hi Margaret, missed being in Ireland this year. I love your comment “If it is good it is a bonus; if not so what!” I tell everyone this about plein air painting… do it for yourself and to learn. No explanation is needed.

  One on one still the best by Robert Sesco, Charlottesville, VA, USA  

“Flight Plan Of The Soul”
oil painting
by Robert Sesco

With life experience I have come to the understanding that (a) I have limited capacity for understanding, (b) that, although I may have opinions about everything and everyone, I actually know very little, (c) that with every new ‘device’ that kids are carrying these day that offer the wonderful potentials shown on TV advertising, I estimate that the bulk of the use of these devices constitutes a distraction from what is important in life and rarely serves up a fraction of the potential, (d) that the dollar return on time invested in social media is practically nil in my experience, and finally (e) that simple relationships one-on-one with a fellow human remain the most efficient manner to build a following to which to sell your product.   There are 2 comments for One on one still the best by Robert Sesco
From: Peter Eedy — Sep 04, 2012

Well said Robert – I certainly agree with all that!

From: Darrell Baschak — Sep 07, 2012

Bang on Robert, my sentiments as well. Wonderful painting.

  Prize winner afraid to tell by Jo Watts, Smithville, TX, USA  

“West Texas Storm”
watercolour painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Jo Watts

In our county, the newspaper does an annual event called “The Best of….” — I think many communities do this. Anyone can write in their favorites for businesses, doctors, food, etc. Several years ago, to my great surprise, I was voted runner up as best artist, and this year I was awarded first place! The problem is this: If I tell people about it, it does seem like bragging (I’ve told one friend who does not receive the newspaper and my husband has told 2 or 3). If I do not tell people, it looks as if I disdain our community and the people who voted for me. We do have a few more well known artists in our community who seem to wish to have nothing to do. We “lesser” artists do not wish to join that group. I’m actually quite proud of this honor and would like my collectors and friends in the area to know I appreciate their recognition. How can I do that? (RG note) Thanks, Jo. Mentioning it here lets approximately 250,000 readers know what you did. There are 5 comments for Prize winner afraid to tell by Jo Watts
From: Brigitte Nowak — Sep 03, 2012

From the image included on the click back, I can certainly understand why you have received this honour – a beautiful, interesting, technically superb painting. Congratulations, and enjoy your acclaim…artists generally get very little response for our work, so by all means, enjoy it, and share your success with others. You’ve earned it.

From: Anna H. — Sep 03, 2012

You most certainly deserve first place! This is stunningly beautiful!

From: Kay Christopher — Sep 03, 2012

In every other profession it is permissible to let potential customers/clients know about it when you have received an award or any other form of professional recognition. It is something joyous to be celebrated! Why have it be any different in the art world? I definitely do not see it as bragging. Instead you are announcing some wonderful news. And, your painting is very wonderful!!

From: Peter Eedy — Sep 04, 2012

Very nice work, Jo – enjoy your well-deserved award. I have mixed feelings about Robert’s essay about ‘humblebragging’ – at first I agreed, then I remembered that in this world ‘merda taurorum animas conturbit’ when it comes to self-promotion (sorry, I can’t write the impolite translation here!). I like to think that talent and quality will ultimately prevail, but then I picture a certain pickled shark and wonder … Nevertheless, keep up the good work (now that you’ve been ‘busted’ in front of 250,000 readers!)

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Sep 04, 2012

I love this…it is a miracle. Achieving wetness with a dry brush!

  Go forth and communicate by Mary Weatherwax   This is an ironic topic coming from one who has seemed to master the use of words as a communication tool. As you say, talking about doing is not doing and there is a very fine line between doing the talking about your work and bragging. We were raised not to brag on ourselves and our work is us!! Our work should of course be its own greatest communicator and communication. An audience is the wish of an orator in the visual. Affirmation… ahhhh the true desire of every humble artist, bragger or non-bragger. I say go forth and creatively communicate in your choice of voice, word, or visual medium but let that be enough for others to listen to our meaning. There is 1 comment for Go forth and communicate by Mary Weatherwax
From: jackie simmonds — Sep 04, 2012

Very well said Mary. I heartily concur

  Me-centric activity by Louise Murphy, Fredericksburg, Texas, USA   Today, as I read about humblebragging, my thoughts went to how I have done just that and don’t like it. First, it centers on myself, and second, I’m asking for a compliment which I may not deserve. Yuk!! Somehow I thought it would boost my confidence. But yuk again; it’s false compliments and fragile confidence. Proverbs 27:2 states, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” That for me cuts out the humblebragging and puts me back on the path of pursuing my passion to create, learn and becoming more skillful as I put in the hard work. There is 1 comment for Me-centric activity by Louise Murphy
From: Sherry P. — Sep 04, 2012

Very nicely put. I totally agree and know that, for me, the creative process is best held close to the vest. I know who to thank for my accomplishments and it isn’t me.

  Accept people the way they are by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

acrylic painting
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

This bragging/humility thing can cause a lot of confusion. I’ve discovered that it is strongly tied to how a person has been raised, and I dare mention that even the deeply-rooted system of family’s beliefs has something to do with it. At some point in life I got associated with a family that was alarmed by my family’s lack of bragging. They thought something was wrong with us. The feeling was reciprocal. Later we all realized that people just happen to be raised differently. For a bragger, humility sounds suspicious, bland and empty. For a humiliator (hmmm, interesting how that came out), braggers are a bunch of flakes and crazies. But in fact what needs to be done is accept the people the way they are because they are not likely to change, and they just may be your next best friend. There are 3 comments for Accept people the way they are by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Anna H. — Sep 03, 2012

It is true what you say. I have found that some people mistake humility for “putting yourself down” and “not giving yourself enough credit”, when that is far from true, in my case anyway. And I inwardly cringe when I hear people tooting their own horn. So I think a lot of it is definitely how we grew up.

From: Rose — Sep 04, 2012

You are soooo right… I was raised bragging is tacky.It is still part of me…

From: Sylviane — Sep 04, 2012

I totally agree, it depends of your education!

  Recipe for mediocrity by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia  

“Late Rain”
acrylic painting
by Mike Barr

I like it when you talk straight. Most times I enjoy siding up with your comments and feel vindicated in my own thoughts that are similar. I must confess though, this time I was caused to question my own forms of humblebragging and took quite a hiding as I read the letter. So, why do so many artists do it through things like Facebook, blogging and artists’ social sites? My guess is that successful artists have got nothing to prove. They are the followed, not the followers. Artists with any kind of ambition aspire to be even fractionally as successful. If artists of lower station have any kind of step forward, we tend to want to tell the world or at least our circle of friends about it, no matter how small the triumph. It’s a kind of substitute for really making it. It feels like we may be on the way to making it, whatever that maybe. The sad thing is, though, that the world of artists (which includes anyone who picks up a brush or pencil) is full to brimming with the mediocre and worse. Art Societies reward and praise mediocre work; it’s as if there is no such thing now as bad art, just good art! A cursory look at social art sites will tell the story; truly poor art is extolled by fellow artists with the effect that most artists are happy with their mediocrity. Woe betide the critic! I feel sick when an official opener of a community art show states that the standard of work is very high, when the truth is that over 90% of it is drab and unskilled or just plain bad. It’s apparent that in a lot of cases Facebook and blogging about art is about ‘image’ and this can be seen when you look at the avatars of artists. It’s amazing how many of them are glamour shots or show the idyllic view of a plein air painter complete with a Holly-Hobby straw hat and apron. We may not be famous but we can sure look the part. Quite frankly I think most of us couldn’t give two hoots about the ‘successes’ of other artists — we just wish it could have been us! Humblebragging is here to stay and is a true companion of times. Getting rich or famous may be out of most people’s reach but we can all gain some kind of notoriety with the smallest of merit awards. There are 3 comments for Recipe for mediocrity by Mike Barr
From: Jim, van Geet — Sep 04, 2012

Very well put and i completely agree.

From: Michael McDevitt — Sep 04, 2012

Nice composition. The counter-tilt to the umbrella on the foreground figure — along with many other second-read, rhythmic subtleties — makes this a sweet piece. Too bad most of us are so geographically challenged; I would like to see the texture of the original.

From: Liz Reday — Sep 05, 2012

Yet it seems that all these arts consultants and experts tell us artists that we must be “brands”, we’re supposed to blog, facebook, network and self-publicise ourselves to success. Who reads all this stuff? If everybody is self-publicising themselves, where is there space for a real discussion about art? How do you know if someone is genuinely interested, or if they’re simply networking. I love the holly hobby straw hat! It does seem as if there’s a lot of posturing and image posing in the art world, yet the real artists just get on with it.

  Mastering Color by Donna Duffield, Kenora, Ontario, Canada   Please, if I may, I will share a snippet of my experiences with this most appreciated purchase. I have never taken a “formal” art course, but have painting in my essence — a gift from my Mom who passed away 2 years ago. Mom loved to paint but in her later years gave it up as she felt she was never “good enough.” Sadly, she also tossed away all of her efforts save for one unfinished acrylic landscape that now graces the wall of my little reclaimed bedroom/ studio. Color, light, form — all conspired to frustrate and elude Mom. She was so self-deprecating of her efforts that, despite my pleading, she was reticent to share her knowledge with me. “I can’t teach you anything, Kate” (her nickname for me)… “Just do yourself a favour and learn from someone who knows what they’re doing.” During the storm of grief after Mom’s death followed by the death of a dear friend to suicide, the “need” to paint was compelling — almost obsessive… yet I didn’t know where to begin. The lessons, the “secrets” if you will, of her lifetime of the pursuit of art, went with her. Effort after effort ended up in tears of frustration and blobs of muddied indiscernible pigments both on palette and on canvas. Then I read about Richard Robinson’s Mastering Color. I took the plunge and ordered the course. Quite literally the elusive world of painting — color, light, form — began to reveal its myriad of secrets! I delved into the lessons. I learned that I had to put down the brush and step away to catch my breath. “Lavender”… Mom’s favorite color and scent… the color of the last piece of clothing I held of hers before it was relegated to the “Good-Will” pile. Lavender — the color of love. At that moment I knew… I knew… that all would be well. That I would heal, and that I would paint. Thank you Robert, Thank you Richard, Thank you Mom. There are 2 comments for Mastering Color by Donna Duffield
From: Dottie Dracos — Sep 04, 2012

what a beautifully written letter.

From: Sarah — Sep 04, 2012

Your letter is deeply moving. Thank you.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Humblebragging

From: Mike Barr — Aug 30, 2012

Robert, I think most of us will be stung by this letter on humblebragging. In an art world full of the mediocre, we look for an announce the smallest of successes. Social media, blogging, art social sites and art societies seem to not only breed the ordinary but highly regard it!

From: Pamella bf Binder — Aug 30, 2012

Well stated. A lesson I can learn. I’d heard the concept of not talking about work in progress. It makes sense to include works of the past. It’s hard to be humble and talk about all your accomplishments without sounding like a braggard. Realizing what words we speak speak back at us: positive thoughts with positive words are the best way to approach goals you’ve set for yourself.

From: John Ferrie — Aug 30, 2012

Dear Robert, I am trying my level best to keep my eyes rolled into the forward position reading your latest posting. You’re coining of the word “humble bragging” to the rest of us its called “social media”. Robert you have claimed and actually, bragged yourself, that you have a dozen odd galleries that carry your work. You have regular showings, epic sales, an income and a name that carries you all over the world. You would also be one of the last classic artists who are known and make you’re living as an artist in Vancouver. This enables you the time and luxury of creating this “painters key” blog that we are all so dedicated to. The rest of us rely on facebook, twitter, pinterest, flipboard, google plus and just about anything else we can get our hands on that will get someone to give our work a sideways glance. We have also had to painfully watching two of the big gun galleries of Vancouver close their doors in this past year. We watch the galleries who have managed to stay open with a revolving door of artists spinning their artists works on the wall only to be sent out the door when their paintings don’t sell. Every artist I know has been with several galleries and all have the battle scars and nightmare stories to tell. We artist, like myself, who represent themselves and shamelessly do all our own marketing and promotion, are required to speak up of our own works. One day I was sitting at a restaurant in San Francisco beside an elegant and elderly woman who was cracking dirty joke after dirty joke. So, for everyone she told, I had one back for her. Of course hers all seemed to start with a Rabi, a Priest and a goat going into a bar. Turns out this woman was Robert Mondavi’s Wife, the famed winery in Napa Vallery. Three months later she called me and hired me do create a wine label. I have since created three labels for the winery. So, never underestimate the power of a dirty joke. Finally, I would shout from the roof tops if Lindsay Lohan bought one of my pieces. That’s nothing to be humble about! John Ferrie

From: Gloria Jean — Aug 30, 2012

I really liked this post a lot. Especially the guy with the tatto that reads “Shut up and paint.” I have always said I would never get a tatoo, but that one reminder I could do will with seeing every day.

From: Sarah — Aug 31, 2012

I hear you Robert and I somewhat agree. As artists, we or I have been told to use all the latest resources available to us in order to promote our work. I’ve been told a hundred times to have a facebook fan page, have a twitter account, and to put my work on various other sites and talk about my work and my accomplishments. I’ve seen these well-meaning advise givers, almost shudder and look horrified when I’ve told them that I don’t have a twitter account. I always have an uneasy feeling when I get this advice. I have done some of this self promoting -bragging and I’ve cringed ever single time I’ve done it. It’s not me as a person to do this kind of talking about my work or myself, but it’s been suggested to me so many times, that I thought I had to. I hate doing it, absolutely hate it, but I have sold work by doing this and it has helped to let people know that I’m still painting, still getting shows and selling at different galleries. I say this because when I don’t do some social humblebragging, people approach me and ask me if I’m still painting. I don’t have to do much of this anymore because I have gallery representation, so I limit how much of this I do on my own and I try to stay very mindful of my wording.

From: Billy — Aug 31, 2012

Sometimes, alot of times, talking about your accomplishments as an artist can be as awkward and difficult as talking about sex. It can be a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

From: Kathryn — Aug 31, 2012

Sorry Robert, I think you’re off on this one. Some people will think you’re bragging or get offended no matter what. I once commented how much I loved my easel; it held up during a windstorm while I needed to brace my arm to steady it. I thought I was sharing information that could potentially help someone making a purchase.Others commented on how they lightened their supplies. Some wet blanket proceeded to knock down anyone talking about ways that they overcame challenges in plein air. I was inspired by the comments and she viewed it as being competitive and showing one upmanship. Instead of artists being inauthentic by walking on eggshells in order to not offend “the less fortunate,” perhaps these people need to wear sandles rather than expecting the world to be paved in leather. It works both ways. Be tactful, professional and sensitive to a point, otherwise anyone offended needs to take a look at themselves and realize what issue the comment is triggering and how they can improve their situation.

From: Robert Sesco — Aug 31, 2012

Luckily, I am nearing sixty. With life experience I have come to the understanding that (a) I have limited capacity for understanding, (b) that, although I may have opinions about everything and everyone, I actually know very little, (c) that with every new ‘device’ that kids are carrying these day that offer the wonderful potentials shown on TV advertising I estimate that the bulk of the use of these devices constitutes a distraction from what is important in life and rarely serves up a fraction of the potential, (d) that the dollar return on time invested in social media is practically nil in my experience, and finally (d) that simple relationships one-on-one with a fellow human remain the most efficient manner to build a following to which to sell your product. In addition, quantum physics has shown that when we place our attention on a quantum particle it changes its path, rendering prediction rather maddening. Robert’s observations are consistent with quantum physics, in that when we speak about our plans, a work in progress, or what we have done, we subtly change what has been, what is, and what will be. Speaking is a leak of personal power, and I have not mastered it even though I intellectually recognize it as desirable. I don’t have a tattoo, but my adopted philosophy, massaged from Nike, is “Just Paint”. The addendum to this philosophy would be, to LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU PAINT/SCULPT/CREATE by talking not about works planned/in progress/completed but that you create (but then allow them to determine if, in fact, you are an artist). Keep your power for creating, speak only to state your love for your occupation/avocation, pique someone’s curiosity, and your humility coupled with your powerful creations will work wonders. And keep in mind (b) above.

From: Raymond Mosier — Aug 31, 2012

Well said. I think it is a good practice not say what you are going to do or what you think you need to do in every aspect of life. You know and there is no reason you have to share with others unless it involves them or you have been asked.

From: Claire Remsberg — Aug 31, 2012

Bad Humility: “My work sucks.” “I don’t know why I am successful.” – Bad for your own head and appears manipulative. I think this is what Robert is referring to as humblebragging. Good Humility: “I owe my success to my devoted mentor.” “I couldn’t have achieved this without the support of my parents, partner, etc.” “I still have a lot to learn.”, but don’t forget: “I am proud of what I have achieved” – Good to be grateful and remain open to new ideas, yet to enjoy the fruits of your hard work.

From: Jackie Knott — Aug 31, 2012

It depends on what side of the wave an artist is on: if he or she is selling and acclaimed, the artist has the luxury of humility … others can brag on them. However, on the struggling side, the artist who voices well spoken confidence is a necessary part self-promotion. How many dispair of not selling themselves enough? Humility at the low end will never garner interest and if you don’t think your work is good neither will anyone else. Keep your self criticism to yourself. A little humor can temper the most cheeky bragging. I recall my b-i-l, who was a rabid handball player. He was telling my husband about a recent match. “Man, that guy was good! I’ve never seen such a backhand. He fired that ball like a bullet, then he forced me into positions I couldn’t return it. You know, he almost beat me?!” Personality is a factor … some will never brag on themselves. Quietly stating a point of truth isn’t bragging and delivery is everything.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Aug 31, 2012

Yet another example of the left brain betraying the right brain (talk vs action)! Signed, the V.O.E. (Voice of Experience, so to speak)

From: Gavin Logan — Aug 31, 2012

Humblebragging and its cousin Underbragging are the domain of the under-the-radar. Full bragging, generally done by someone else with an interest in stirring controversy, selling magazines or selling the art itself, is usually done for those with incompetent work and little evident talent. The sort of work we see in many of our public museums.

From: Liam Fenwick — Aug 31, 2012

Robert, I can’t believe that you went that whole letter on humblebragging without mentioning the Republican National Convention.

From: Consuelo — Aug 31, 2012

When others do it it’s bragging, when I do it it’s marketing.

From: Moncy Barbour — Aug 31, 2012

Can I talk to myself? lol

From: Susan-Rose Slatkoff — Aug 31, 2012

I have been told that talking about a project is a poor idea — perhaps, for some people. Then there are folks like myself who like to verbalize. The more I discuss, the clearer becomes my vision and excitement. We ought to be leery of any generalizations, don’t you think?

From: Joseph Jahn — Aug 31, 2012

Great advice. Only thing I do is post paintings to deviantART and Flickr. Then when they sell, mark them SOLD. That seems about as far as one should go to say anything. I go by the Hindu idea of *If you tell others your mantra, it loses it’s power*. I actually believe this and keep all ideas/experiments to myself until they materialize. Seems to work.

From: Elizabeth Pudsey — Aug 31, 2012

I agree with your thinking, if I am talking about “what I am going to paint I am not painting” and when I have finished a painting, I move on to the next one. I find talking about it seems unnecessary, the painting (to me) should say it all. If I like it a week from now, I keep it, if not I either paint over it or discard it. Some paintings just roll off the brush, artist and paint lost in the moment.

From: Alexander Petti — Aug 31, 2012

Humblebragging, or a virtual front row seat to inspiration? In today’s age of social media, a lot of people like to see updates of their favourite artists via FB/Flickr postings with photos of their work in progress, share thoughts. Yes, you most definitely risk losing steam and placing chatter over achievement. But for those who like it, it’s an excellent way for people to notice, take interest and follow your art. Imagine if Michelangelo had posted on FB about ANOTHER commission from the Pope, and shown photos of his work in progress. Humblebragging, or a virtual front row to something spectacular? As always, your insightful musings spark thought Robert, a very healthy thing indeed.

From: Doris Patko — Aug 31, 2012

“Shut up and paint” is right up there with “Go to your room” However we still have a twice weekly letter to read!!!!!! Here’s another one—Keep your brushes wet and moving.

From: Mary Gagnon — Aug 31, 2012

I also use few words and subscribe to the thought process of “shut up and do it”. Those who can do and those that are all talk generally are just that, all talk. Same applies to many other areas not just the arts.

From: Kathryn — Aug 31, 2012

Just an FYI to Robert Sesco. Your view of QM is not consistent with what actual physicists say. The view you are speaking about completely unfounded scientifically. I actually asked several physicists about your view. (In a nutshell, there is no true Observer effect. Any interference will do.) I guess we should leave science to the physicists and return to your point A and point B regarding this issue and stick with painting.

From: B. J. Adams — Aug 31, 2012

You are so right about talking. Talking about an idea for a painting. Talking about a whole series with descriptions: I have done both, so much so that my ideas become visual to me. Now that I see them in my mind and have talked about them so much I no longer need to create a hard copy of them. Silence about my work will now become Golden (paint that is).

From: Oksana Simonova — Aug 31, 2012

Thank you very much for the interesting article! I would like to see this – Ross Penhall! What does it write? I would be helped too by such tattoo)) Respectfully Oksana Simonova

From: Pat Stamp — Aug 31, 2012

I know an artist who gives his paintings to famous people when they come to town. He always manages to get a photo of himself giving the painting. He then says he has work in the private collection of…… Some folks believe him. The arts community laughs at him.

From: Tinker Bachant — Aug 31, 2012

Thank you for describing whole lot of people, artists and wannabes. Every time I’m demoing, I hear this at least once during the session.

From: David Westerfield — Aug 31, 2012
From: Jeanie Smith — Aug 31, 2012

I loved this! You have said what I struggle with about having a Facebook page or blog..I don’t have either one, because I don’t know how to do it without humble bragging.. .it’s hard to self-promote and I get tired of seeing those that do it shamelessly.. thanks for your honesty!

From: Anonymous — Aug 31, 2012

I struggle with how to be “real”, and normal, while talking on Facebook like everybody else does. People share their stories, post pictures about what their kids drew, bike rails they build and clean up, photography, and other accomplishments, but it almost seems wrong to post stuff about works in progress or finished art. People post stuff about their work, and what they’ve done, and brag about what deals they found at the store, or a fence they built, or something they knitted, but it seems taboo to post stuff about selling art. I want to true to who I am on Facebook, but agree that I cannot bring myself to type the words about art, or my process of doing art like others do about making it through the day with a new baby, or struggle with their boss, or whatever.

From: Harry Owen — Aug 31, 2012

Note to myself: Shut up and write!

From: Debra Calkins — Aug 31, 2012

I don’t usually talk about my work that I’m currently doing. I am a mixed media artist and also do social commentary installations. The current installation I’m working on is my most ambitious to date. Interestingly enough, I have been talking with people about the subject matter and generally about how the finished product will look. The response has been unexpected. People who in the past, who haven’t really been interested in my art, are talking and have specifically asked me to let me know when it gets installed. I have no intention of talking about my mixed media work, while I’m working on it, but I’m really giving some consideration on discussing future installation projects with people as well. Although I’m not a painter, I have found your letters informative and thought provoking.

From: Linda C. Dumas — Aug 31, 2012

We used to call it brag-complaining: “Oh, it’s such a pain for me to try to find shoes that fit. My feet are just so tiny it’s almost impossible.”

From: Ann Salisbury — Aug 31, 2012

And when you do it on Facebook it’s called Facebragging!

From: Kevin Janice Harwood — Aug 31, 2012

When we talk about something, it seems to drain away the energy of the thing.

From: Marj Vetter — Aug 31, 2012

You are right Robert. If you talk about it, your brain thinks you have done it already!

From: Susan Watson — Aug 31, 2012

Oh Robert…you never cease to make me sit up and take a hard look at myself or to ponder or to laugh out loud. Tonight I laughed out loud. It would be hard to find truer words that yours tonight. Please keep writing. I must share this one on my WALL.

From: Tamara Temple — Aug 31, 2012

Oh, golly, this does make me sad. I like to post up what I’ve just done, because a lot of my friends are interested in seeing it. I also like to journal my thoughts about what I painted or drew, and try to capture the things I did and tried, success and failures. Is it bragging? Maybe? I don’t know — I guess I do like hearing that people like things; but it’s never as valuable as hearing what people don’t like, or things I can improve, or ideas to try, and so on. Otherwise, it’s just me looking at things, and often I just can’t tell…

From: Alan James — Aug 31, 2012
From: Dr. Robert Newport — Sep 01, 2012

In the Jewish discipline of Mussar, Humility, “Anavah” in Hebrew, is the first topic (middah) studied as it is fundamental to a spiritual life. But no wimps! the description goes “No more than my place. No less than my space.” False humility is not acceptable as a disguise for cowardice, or in our field, avoidance of getting to work.

From: Boris L — Sep 01, 2012

When my grandfather arrived in this country all he had was two dollars and a couple of condoms sewed into his underwear. When my grandmother arrived she didn’t have any underwear.

From: Carol Lyons aka GREBLEZNIK Irvington, NY — Sep 01, 2012

This was from the Journal News, (Westchester County, NY) on August 29: Horoscope Gemini (my sign!) “You wouldn’t dare brag about your latest exploits, but if you don’t tell people what you’ve been up to, you’ll miss out on future opportunities. You’ll be powerfully modest as you express the truth about what you do.” In my experience, one of the effective ways to get what I do around in my area is it to put business cards on area bulletin boards. I have made surprising connections that way. When I have told people what I do, the response is the their wife,sister, brother, aunt, etc, does art, too.

From: Janet Summers — Sep 01, 2012

A writer friend once told me he never talks about what he is going to write or about what he is writing as his drive would be talked away. I agree, as creating is a solitary pursuit, or at the least a one on one with the maker of all. Self critique, contemplation of the work in progress require silence. The personal struggle to create is not something that shows lack of confidence or ability nor is it something to brag about, we all go through it and it is part of the creative process. Artists are continually challenging themselves or they should be. The need for constant approval shows lack of confidence, the need to brag is just another way to get approval. The confident artist needs no approval, in fact input from others is unwanted and unsolicited. The bottom line: The work speaks.

From: Ronit Judelman — Sep 01, 2012

Amazing! I love the bottom line: ‘shut up and paint’ – it will adorn my desk from now on!!!

From: Ann Davis — Sep 01, 2012

Robert!!!! I totally lost it at the paper bag!! YES!!!! It’s so true!! And maybe it’s the zeitgeist!! I just rewrote my artist statement for a magazine article…and I’m so tired of the BS in the Goldsmith community, the humblebraggs…you are so right, brilliantly!!! My new statement soon to appear in print: “Ann is a pyrolytic artist who loves to melt things until they look like jewelry. “If it’s a torch I own it, if it melts I’m there,” Ann was infamously quoted as saying. She got her first box of matches when she was 5 and never looked back. She has spent most of her artistic life eluding definition.”

From: Brian Kliewer — Sep 01, 2012

Lindsay Lohan? That “crummy” painting sold to a drunk. Says a lot. :)

From: Suelin Low Chew Tung — Sep 01, 2012

“Shut up and paint.” Love that.

From: Joyce Wycoff — Sep 01, 2012

Women are expert “humble braggers.” After shopping for weeks, spending twice her budget, she wears her new frock to a party , and when someone compliments her, she shrugs and says, “this old thing?””

From: Joseph Melancon — Sep 01, 2012

I can’t talk now…I’m painting.

From: Laura Brydges — Sep 01, 2012
From: ponderers — Sep 01, 2012
From: Bob Ragland — Sep 01, 2012

I figure , if you can do it , it ain’t bragging. At my age, I get to brag about my art career success. I did it all by brain power. My first exhibition was in a church community room. Sold half of thirty works. I am also the original non starving artist, in Denver and proud of it. I coach artists on how to not starve, for no fee. I get to be confident, not bragging so much. I live the art life quite nicely, because, I work at it. ON PURPOSE!!!!!

From: Jenny Baillie — Sep 01, 2012

MR Genn!! whilst your letters could also be labelled ‘baloney’ i hesitate to delete any of them before reading….. and just loved this most recent on “humblebragging’ ….. one of the reasons i felt drawn to painting was that i figured there were already too many words in the world….. (a picture says a thousand……etc) …. anyway i found this post of yours particularly amusing! …..recently i have begun thinking there are too many paintings in the world!!! plus: have been posting my own new paintings on FB this past year or so…. now, that is possibly bragging and not humble?? oh my…… xxxxx

From: Susan A Warner — Sep 02, 2012

I LOVED your paragraph on the illustrious “Artists Statement”. A great laugh for my day!! We are all asked to write one of these at one time or another, and most of us try not to be too pretentious. And followed by the man with the tattoo was just perfect. “Shut up and Paint” will join the sign in my studio space that says: “Always color outside the lines”.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Sep 02, 2012

One day, when I am asked for an “artist’s Statement, I am going to say, “Just look at the damn paintings.”

From: Cissy Gray — Sep 02, 2012

Thank you again Robert for keeping us grounded! Honestly it is such a temptation is this world of technology to succumb to all the instant self promos out there. I shall continue on just painting and being quiet!

From: Freda Gudopp — Sep 02, 2012

I really like <em>Mountain Mist</em> by Julie Houck, thanks for sharing

From: Rena — Sep 04, 2012

my computer: God’s gift to the introvert

From: Katherine Ernst — Sep 04, 2012

Dear Robert, It seems to depend on how one is brought up. I have been caught bragging when thinking I was relating a nice story or just the truth and ended up with a red face. People are only too happy to put you in your place. [ whatever that is? ]Have been mulling over the different approaches to marketing between American and Canadians. If one follows the advice from my American web site, the one is bragging and pushy. There is a difference in cultural attitudes and never the twain shall meet. One of my …in-laws does use the humble bragging all the time and is also adept at back handed compliments. One is left standing with ones mouth open, and unsure.. So! How does one announce a happy occurence in this self marketing mode without hiring someone else to do the bragging for you?? difficult to do strange math test which claimed to be easy.#rd rewrite just to join conversation. How many give up???

From: Rick Rotante — Sep 04, 2012

I feel if your are going to tell me about yourself, its best to just say it straight out and not beat around the bush. This way I can look through you while not listening. Plus no one cares about your problems or plans anyway. They are too busy formulating their response in their heads while you talk. We all want others to know how special we think we are, but it is very bad form to say it ourselves. This is where are art of conversation plays a huge role. Many don’t talk and say little or I should say don’t converse well anymore. This is due partly because of the ‘machines’ that talk for us these days. Texting, though a fast ‘shorthand’, doesn’t allow for a give and take and many times is misleading in intent. Communication has evolved over millennia only to come to this. I have always found it better to ask how others are doing. Many don’t tell you anything, just “oh. you know..” The art of telling others something while evading humblebragging is a lost practice. But enough about me, what do you think of me?

From: Jackie Simmonds — Sep 05, 2012

While I agree with your thoughts about talking down your work without really meaning what you say, your opening sentence worries me. Talking in detail about what you INTEND to do…perhaps that has the potential to be fraught with danger, since intent and execution are often miles apart. I don’t talk much about work in progress, because it is fluid and often changes. I might simply say, if asked what I am up to, something like “I am working on a new piece – it has a way to go yet.” I might say “I am planning to try so and so”. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I might fail…..but nobody is going to judge me harshly for that. I would have no problem admitting failure. I always say that knowing what you never want to do again, is progress! I do occasionally talk about my successes………….if I do not applaud and celebrate my successes, who will? My good friends are delighted to celebrate with me, and are happy for me. You seem to be saying that by talking about your work, you “dilute” your creativity and your successes (take the shine off done deals??? I think not. ). Words, for me, definitely do NOT “eviscerate the will to do things”. I think that once someone starts talking about something, it is a step on the way to DOING it.

From: anonymous — Sep 05, 2012

Call it what you will, what you do is social networking too. I don’t subscribe to your weekly letters but it was brought to my attention that you wrote the 10 commandments of art, and now this…I didn’t know you were God.

From: Joan Schwann — Sep 23, 2012
     Featured Workshop: Lois Dodd and Elizabeth O’Reilly
090412_robert-genn Lois Dodd and Elizabeth O’Reilly workshops Held at Rock Gardens Inn, Sebasco Estates, Maine, USA   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Mountain Mist

oil painting by Julie Houck, HI, 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 Kenneth Logsdon who asked, “Robert, you quoted ‘the Roman philosopher Kjerkius Gennius (36BC).’ Fact or fiction: Is he the brother of Kphonius Gennius?”

(RG note) Fact: Kphonius was Kjerkius’s younger brother who was a Ford dealer in Rome and a close friend of Kierkegaard and Kant. And also Belinda Wilson of Auckland, New Zealand, who wrote, “I like what Golda Meir reportedly said about humility, ‘Humble? No I’ve never been that great.’ ” And also Marianne Champlin of Pauma Valley, CA, USA, who wrote, “This is one of the best! I have had other artists leave me unable to paint for days after their bragging, leaving me to wonder why I ever paint at all.”