Dear Artist,

When I was a five-year-old girl growing up in Canada, I remember opening the basement door of our 1959 split-level ranch house to tiptoe barefoot through the rain puddles to my dad’s studio. Inside was a world creatively ordered for one — an intimate deluge of feathers, beach stones, vintage English car parts, every size of nail, frame, canvas and brush and hundreds of partly squeezed tubes of paint. A giant, north-facing picture window was all that separated this universe from the nests of herons and eagles.

The Plow, The Perch, The Cross acrylic on canvas 60 x 150 inches by Sara Genn

The Plow, The Perch, The Cross, 2019
acrylic on canvas
60 x 150 inches
by Sara Genn

Half a lifetime later, California has dropped her own hints about how to be a painter. Her southern sky, mostly cloudless, bounces colour like an infinite reflector dome during the day and winks pinholes after dark when the moon climbs up and cranks her blaring spotlight. Fluttering with hummingbirds and Monarchs and ribboned with jet streams, California suggests a new exercise in a new visual language. “Our task is not so much discovery as re-discovery,” wrote Chinese writer and translator Lin Yutang.

This glass-walled house, not so different from the one I grew up in, was designed by an architect who specialized in 1950s affordable tract homes. His ethos was to bring the outdoor environment into interior living spaces with breezeways, clerestory windows and shady, covered patios — a dream spot for painting. Fifty-nine years after its construction, I’m here pouring colour into 12-ounce, toothy, cotton duck. Depending on the time of day, I move a 7-foot canvas to the opposite side of the house, chasing ambient and reflected light like a mountain painter who stalks shadow patterns creeping across a glacier. Now, instead of the old nightlights of lower Manhattan, the sunlight invites an unapologetic clarity. I wonder what my totems signify: a longing to materialize and honour a purpose-built environment and perhaps a chance to try for visual excitement without violence or conquest — to clobber only with immersion. “The work of the eyes is done,” wrote Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus in Letters to a Young Poet. “Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”

The Fold, The Bridge, The Grip, 2019 acrylic on canvas 60 x 222 inches by Sara Genn

The Fold, The Bridge, The Grip, 2019
acrylic on canvas
72 x 186 inches
by Sara Genn



PS: “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country. (Anaïs Nin)

Esoterica: Here, the activity of painting has had the chance to grow and occupy all the space and energy that surviving in New York City used to command. This extravagant single focus has also sparked a kind of monastic, spiritual simplicity. “The function of art is to renew our perception,” wrote Anaïs Nin. “What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.”

Enjoy The Silence, 2019 acrylic on canvas 72 x 108 inches by Sara Genn

Enjoy The Silence, 2019
acrylic on canvas
72 x 108 inches
by Sara Genn

Sara Genn: New Alphabet opens this coming Thursday, September 12th, 2019 at Dimmitt Contemporary Art, 3637 West Alabama Street, Houston. If you’re in the neighbourhood, I would love to see you there. 

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.

“I bring you with reverent hands / The books of my numberless dreams.” (William Butler Yeats)






  1. If you will excuse an old guy (ninth decade), the shapes on the first paintings look like closeups of a certain body area. That’s fine for me (no! no! guys, I’m talking the BACK side). And, ENJOY THE SILENCE painting speaks to what my wife and I were just saying last evening. The world has way too much commotion. Good for you!

  2. I don’t understand your paintings, so I’m curious what they mean to you. Minimalism? Zen? Computer made? Where is the human element?

    • The “human element” is what is touched upon in the quote by by Anais Nin:
      these are the response of Sara to her world/life/being.
      These are uniquely hers.
      The feeling of expanse/ unrestrained space can also be considered the Human Element : you may be wanting to feel.
      I love the feeling even these photos reflect – the openness, contemplation of words to imagery.
      I, myself an artist, understand these images created by Sara.
      i am not this artist, so if she could tell you her response, may be different than i write here.

  3. David Gellatly on

    I see a brain at work in these paintings, but not a hand, nor a heart. Perhaps emblematic of this age, the screen age, the human element is missing. Perhaps a sign of the AI age to come?

  4. Flavia A Rousu on

    In your works above, I see the silent strength of Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations art: T-reliefs in sunsets and seas!

  5. I “get” your new work which came out of your evolution. I could not have guessed this direction. Good for you.
    Beth Mahy

  6. Seeing your journey in visual beauty as well as in words is inspiring . I just had studio lights installed in my new studio space in my new home on Pender Island. I don’t know what these changes will bring but I take courage from your journey.

  7. Dear Sara,

    So, besides taking on your dad’s duties
    you also are a poetess judging by what
    I just read of your philosophy.

    I tried to talk Robert into computer
    graphic arts but he didn’t flinch from
    longhand painting.

    As for me, I still pixelate my art to
    infinity. Besides, I am now completing
    my 10 thousands artwork and if I don’t

    stop with such fixation I’ll top 100, 000
    before I am 80. I’m going for the world
    record to be the least known artist with

    the moistest (sic) of artworks
    Wanna race?
    … lol and … lol and … lol

  8. Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet. “Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”

    I don’t know about you folks but there are no images *imprisoned* within me. That door is wide open and they just keep rising to the surface screaming to get out. I get them out as fast as I can- which isn’t very fast at all and I’m working all the time.
    Good luck on your opening today- Sara!

Leave A Reply

Featured Workshop

IGNITE Your Creativity
October 3, 2019 to October 6, 2019

Stede-Barber_IgniteSept 4

For artists of every level who want more from their art.
Practice creative habits from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
Explore your creative voice, colors, materials & symbols.
Access the wisdom of your creativity on a Soul Art Journey.
Gain confidence and trust in your unique expression.
Art washes from your soul the dust of everyday life.  – Picasso
Held near Santa Fe, New Mexico at the beautiful Pecos Benedictine Monastery.  Price includes workshop, private ensuite room, art supplies, and meals.
Stede Barber is a gifted artist, educator, and certified Soul Art guide with a Doctorate in “Art as an Expression of My Soul.”

For further information and to register: 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.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.