Listen to your letters


Dear Artist,

Leading up to 2013, Dad had been working on a passion project called, “The Audio Letters.” Inspired by the knowledge that easel work goes well with listening to things, he decided to have some fun and join the ear waves. The first attempts involved my big brother Dave, a musician, composer and record producer, who set up a fancy rig with a mic and headphones in Dad’s studio, near the easel, in an area informally known as the “contemplation zone.” This would allow Dad to take passes at recording without needing to put his brush down.


Dave Genn
Sharon Steele photo

Soon, Dave checked in on the progress: “Too laborious, too much lip smacking, too much fogeyism,” Dad reported. The project stalled. In Fall 2013, Dad was given the devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with his doctor’s words: “Perhaps a year.” Along with organizing his archive, writing and continuing to paint, the audio letters idea still quietly percolated in the rig. Dave moved the project to his own studio in Vancouver — and took the mic. By the time the first chemo treatments had begun, Dave’s first few letters were in the can and ready for listening. We slid the big, padded headphones over Dad’s ears and watched his eyes drift into wonder, then mist. “He was hearing his own words, read by his own son and set to his favourite music,” remembers Dave. “He had always dreamed of releasing downloadable audiobooks of his writing, but at the time I was producing these recordings solely and exclusively for him.”


Young Dave at the Yamaha D80 console organ

Dave set out to record a few dozen, but how to choose from more than a decade’s worth of material? “I started with his most recent letter and proceeded backward chronologically, reading each one carefully. When I happened upon one that I felt would lend itself to the format I would begin recording, often reading through each paragraph as many as a dozen times in an attempt to get the nuance right,” he says. “Generally, the criteria I used in picking which letters to record were based on whether I felt there was a visual element that transported me to a specific place that I could imagine, or if there were autobiographical elements that provided little windows into Dad’s nature and experience. I tended to shy away from letters that were overly technical, attracted instead to those that spoke of the muse, or explorations into the mystery and magic of creativity. Most important, I tried to choose letters that I found inspiring in regard to my own creative life, and that Dad would enjoy.”

Dave’s 50 Audio Letters, recorded between 2013 and 2016, are now ready to share. The Letters, Vol. 1 and 2 are available in digital format and can be downloaded here. We sincerely hope you’ll find them beneficial.


Dave at Canada House Gallery, Banff AB 2014
Doug Springer photo



PS: “Art is a form of love. Art is the ultimate gift. Art heals life.” (Robert Genn)

Esoterica: “After Dad’s passing in May, 2014 it took me over a year before I was able to pick up the project again. I was raw, and I felt that my grieving process would not allow for me to continue reading through hundreds of his letters and speaking his beautiful words aloud. However, when I did finally feel strong enough to resume I was overwhelmed by the catharsis it provided me. Dad shared his knowledge and insight so selflessly, so generously, and to complete his vision of audio recordings of his letters has been an absolute honour. For me, the reading of these letters has truly been a labour of love, just as it was for Dad to write them.” (Dave Genn)

robert-dave_webDownload the new audio book, The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

With many thanks for your friendship and our best wishes for the holidays.



  1. Such a joy, such a joy! The heavens are applauding your family. Blessings and Christmas love to you all. I have your dad’s book, and can imagine the audio book is going to be a big sensation. Thank you both for your awesomeness to create love on every level.

  2. jacqueline snitkin on

    I couldn’t say it better,Carole. your words express my thoughts exactly. I so treasure these letters and now the audio from the same family. A perfect gift in the spirit of the season. thank you,Dave.

  3. What a gift you have given the world, and your father! You and your brother have taken your dad’s gift of art and wisdom, which he shared so generously, added your own talents and wisdom, and taken it all to the next level. I am grateful, and amazed, and inspired. Sarah and Dave, by sharing this with your dad when he still had time to experience it, you gave the best love, and the ultimate gift. He sae his worked shared at a greater level. And he saw his legacy in YOU, his children, who now create rheir own unique legacy. From thise of us who benefit greatly from all these gifts shared, THANK YOU. You challenge is to do the same, with our own talents, and in our own way.

  4. Your Dad had a wonderful gift to leave his family and friends. It is a privilege to be able to learn more about him. You must miss him so much and he would be so proud of what you and Dave have achieved

  5. I’ve just given myself a Christmas present! Safely installed on my computer, I look forward to listening to each of these letters–paintbrush in hand. No one has influenced my approach to painting more than your dad, Sara, and I’m so pleased to have these audio-letters to remind me. Thank you Dave, for your loving contribution to your dad’s legacy and generosity.

  6. Amazing!!!
    The Blessings from your incredibly talented and generous family continue!!
    Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

  7. So unexpected to read this on this day, the birthday of my late father. He would have turned 99 today. He too was an artist…a singer and the gift he left my sisters and me were recordings of him singing. The earliest recording, a 78 record dating back to 1939 and the most recent from the late 1980’s. The record has been re-recorded with electronically cleaned up. My oldest daughter walked down the aisle at her wedding with the recording playing. And recently my niece and her husband danced to it at their wedding.
    What a blessing it is for you to have your father’s words to listen to and share.

  8. Polonca Kocjančič, Slovenia on

    Congratulations! It’s so amazing that you have converted a series of Robert’s letters to audio. A great tribute, and also something wonderful for the visually impaired.

    In the past few months I’ve been working with the elderly, and I find it so cool when people get the feeling they can still give something to their daughters, sons and (great)grandchildren that visit them in the retirement home. Perhaps it’s only a few lines written by hand, plus their signature. Or a drawing that they have struggled to make in their best morning hours. It may seem useless, but I am sure that someday, someone will appreciate their efforts and thoughts. In the end, my opinion is that relations go beyond our physical existence.

  9. Dear Sara and Dave,
    I am deeply moved by this letter. Thank you for passing on your fathers works. I felt honoured and very very fortunate that I was able to take classes with him at Hollyhock. Keep up the fabulous work that you do!
    Diana Childs

  10. Just today, before reading your latest letter, I was reviewing quotes I have collected for this or that reason. Reading this week’s letter I was caused to re-call & read this portion of my collection. Unfortunately I did not have the good sense to record the author. My sincere apologies.

  11. Sending wishes for holiday blessings to you and your family. This letter inspired me to pause and reflect on the times “mystery and magic” along with , the whisper of the muse were found in your letters. The magic continues on . Thank you.

  12. Esperança de Spot on

    Thank you Sarah for touching me so deeply through this letter. Beautiful work of love to your Dad from you and your brother. Can’t wait to listen to it. Merry Christmas!

  13. Shellee Cunnington on

    Thank you Sara, Dave and Robert,

    Sending you bright wishes that all of the magic and joys of this Season be yours!

    This is an amazing gift you are sharing, I am inspired by you all.
    In appreciation,

  14. Marie Adamcryck on

    How utterly moving this is. Am grateful to be able to ‘hear’ the love. I too am battling the big “C” and know how art heals.

  15. I really appreciate these gems in my mailbox a couple of times a week. They keep me connected to art when life is currently pulling in other directions.
    Wishing you the joys of the season
    In appreciation

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I’m a contemporary painter who loves to travel the world over finding pictures to paint, and capture on photo…check out my website and travel with me on my blog “The Traveling Artist Blog.”