Lots of time


Dear Artist,

This morning, Janet Morgan of Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote, “My husband Gregory Frux and I will soon be leaving our jobs to become full-time artists. We’ve been doing some brainstorming. We both have projects and trips in our wish-books. We’ve done residencies and will most likely do more. Have you any thoughts on changing from having very little time to having lots of time for art?”

The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (1836) oil on canvas by Thomas Cole (1801–1848)

The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (1836)
oil on canvas
by Thomas Cole (1801–1848)

Thanks, Janet. What fun that both of you are taking the leap at the same time. People with mutual joys and mutual concerns always have lots to talk about. Like twins you get to read each other’s moods and anxieties — valuable, but at times problematical. We creators are also islands unto ourselves and generally need some degree of independence. “Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” said Kahlil Gibran. Here are a few thoughts:

It’s still worth a try to coordinate your projected work zones and your travel zones. A bicycle-built-for-two is most fun when creative couples cycle in unison. Residencies, often an interference to creative flow, nevertheless open the doors of possibility. As a free unit you can be completely self-governing. Freedom from the eight-hour-grind gives the opportunity for round-the-calendar work and travel. The trip’s the thing. Yesterday, my daughter Sara phoned from Paris. She has temporarily swapped her New York studio for a Parisian one. No money changed hands. She flew on points. “Dad,” she explained on the phone, “You always told me that you can solve your creative problems by taking a trip.” She’s over the moon about the 10th arrondissement, the new studio, the Pleyel Grand, the drapes, the cutlery and Tiki the singing cage-bird that came with the place. Travel reboots.

Distant View of Niagara Falls (1830) oil on canvas by Thomas Cole

Distant View of Niagara Falls (1830)
oil on canvas
by Thomas Cole

With regard to the idea of having lots of time — be warned by British scholar C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Lots-of-time only comes to those who manage it. As John Lithgow pointed out, “Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.” In art, there’s so much stuff, so little time. Whole days can simply evaporate. Time may be a gift, but time’s not infinite at any time. “Time has been transformed,” said Kahlil Gibran, “and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration.”

Best regards,


Prometheus Bound (1847) oil on canvas by Thomas Cole

Prometheus Bound (1847)
oil on canvas
by Thomas Cole

PS: “Love and art do not embrace what is beautiful but what is made beautiful by this embrace.” (Karl Kraus, 1874-1936)

Esoterica: Partners need to be the best of friends. Partners also need to partner with the greater community. Congratulations Greg and Janet. Without your day job you will be better able to embrace the joy. It’s the best. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” (John Burroughs)

This letter was originally published as “Lots of time” on August 9, 2005.

Cole_Thomas_The_Four_Elements_1843-44The 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.

“How I have walked… day after day, and all alone, to see if there was not something among the old things which was new!” (Thomas Cole)



  1. Astrid Davidson on

    I have been retired for 15 years. I often wonder how I ever had time to work since I have never been busier than my retirement.

  2. This last quote by John Burroughs about finding “each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see” rings so loudly in my mind, I feel deep ownership over the words – as if I had just thought them myself! Yesterday, I hiked in a several kilometres, up and down hills on a rugged trail that took me to a grove of arbutus trees beside the sea – so I could plein air paint this magical place. Today will be spent getting an underpainting onto a large canvas while using this painting sketch for reference. After that, there are the usual shares with communities to do on social media. Then I will work on developing the focus for next years work so that a new solo show will be ready to open in my small gallery next summer. My artist’s days are often long – much longer than eight hours. These hours are purposeful, sometimes even driven, and always filled with passion for a vision that is fuelled by a fire from within. Robert’s words about time and his caution guide my day, my week, my month, my year and my life. Now, I am off to get that underpainting done on a 36 x 48 inch canvas! All the best, Terrill :)

  3. Time and energy flow as fast as a river, and both run into bottlenecks. It’s almost ten years since a journalism career evaporated overnight, and the journey as a fine artist reveals new horizons all the time. I have drawn and painted since childhood, but the work enveloping me at this time surprises and delights me. A small nagging voice pops up every once in a while that I should stop painting, but ignoring and overcoming negatives has been the greatest accomplishment I have had in the past decade. Age is just a number, and creative work spreads out for many lifetimes. Your columns, Sara, and your father’s have been a constant beacon in this creative life.

  4. Betsy Evans-Banks on

    I would like to let you know that Brian Banks left this life on June 19, 2019, after a battle with Parkinsons Disease.
    He was comfortable and quiet, having been cared for by the staff at Parker Ridge in Blue Hill, Maine, since October, 2018.
    His wife and two daughters were with him at the end for a week while he let go the bonds of this life. He didn’t
    do any painting during his time at the retirement home. He liked your letter though.

    Yours regretfully,

    • Elizabeth Senger on

      So sorry for your lost! And our loss too. He brought the Bible to today’s world in his paintings and drawings. It must have been hard for him when he could paint no longer due to his Parkinson’s.
      My sister Kathy passed away from the same disease just 2 months ago. She was a quilter like me. She lived in the Blue Ridge mountains where she got inspiration for her quilts.
      Peace to you and Brian.❤

    • Judy Parker (nee Le Prevost) on

      Dear Betsy, so very sorry that Brian has died – glad only that you and he had good times and were meant for each other. My sister Kate died last year too, 9 October at home in Townsville Australia. I’ve written an obit for the MHOSA newsletter when it finally comes out. We live in the land of farewells now. I hope you can find comfort in your girls and your art. Much love, Judy

  5. Deb hitsman on

    I’m so sorry to hear of Brian’s passing. I have such good memories of our time spent at your home in Tucson. I had an electronics meltdown and lost all contact information. I’ve been looking for you online and ran across this. Such sad news. Please call me.

    Love to you,
    Deb (your carving friend)

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https://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Quiet-Morning-1994-34x30-wpcf_260x300.jpgQuiet Morning, 1994
Acrylic on canvas
34 x 30 inches
Robert Genn (1936-2014)

Featured Artist

Robert’s technique includes a tradition of strong design with patterns of color and form, with a pervasive sense of personal style. Grand themes are transposed onto small panels and larger canvases in a manner similar to members of the Group of Seven. Most of Robert’s work is in acrylic. He has also done considerable work in oils, watercolour, and silk screen printing.


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