Low Priority


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Teresa Fletcher wrote, “Your letter is the most informative, interesting, provocative, educational email I get. I can hardly wait for Tuesday and Friday mornings. The first thing I do when I get up is check the email — then I get to work. I noticed the last couple of emails contain the line ‘this message is low priority.’ After I picked myself up off the floor from rolling with laughter, I wiped the tears from my eyes and thought ‘Low priority indeed, if you only knew.’ ”

Thanks, Teresa. “Low priority” is put there from time to time to ease email deliveries. It’s better than getting trashed altogether. Some servers, some computers, think my letters are spam. Maybe they know something I don’t. In order to assure a steady flow of the letters, some subscribers have to put them into “friends.”

Up in the office part of this studio Andrew tries every day to make The Painter’s Keys the best and most intelligent art site on the net. Also, our volunteers are constantly enriching the Resource of Art Quotations — it’s still the most frequented spot on TPK. Students, art instructors and creators of all stripes now google into the quotes at the rate of three per second. Every month, more letter-readers go to the clickbacks than the month before — now averaging just under ten thousand a day.

The valuable connections that artists are making by simply being on our Links Pages are really heartwarming. These free links consistently outperform competitors that charge a fee. A year ago, along with our free links, we started a $100 per year illustrated Premium Link service. Many artists find these to be additionally effective. “If they do so well with one illustration,” said Andrew, “think how well they might do with four.” Starting this week, Andrew is upgrading the Premium Links to four illustrations.

I’ve never thought that art was low priority. In the hours between grabbing the granola and setting the burglar alarm it’s the very highest. My original idea with the letters and website was that we might volunteer our ideas, systems, motivators, things and other folks worth knowing. For most of us, marching into that studio every day is voluntary — that’s why this stuff right here ought to be high priority.

Best regards,


PS: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ( Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Esoterica: Today Andrew has prepared all of the 2004 letters into a free, print-friendly version. Any time you feel like it you can print them all out at one go. One letter to a page, plus an index. You need 112 pieces of paper in your printer and you need to go to the 2004 Letter Collection. You can print out other years as well from the Letters Archives. A nice gift-book for a computer-challenged friend.


Relative priorities of life
by Sandra Chantry

Low priority/high priority is surely defined by the circumstances that surround you at any given time (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). If you have all you need to sustain life, then art or self-actualization of any kind becomes higher on your list of priorities. If, as over 5 million people are today, you are struggling to come to terms with the events of the last 6 days then art will inevitably be lower. My nephew who lives in Sri Lanka had a lucky escape on Boxing Day and is currently working with his neighbours who have lost everything. For the time being his priorities have changed vastly. In normal times his art is photographing the ancient cities and buildings of Asia; currently it is building shelters for those who have none.


Value of intention
by Roberta Needles, Chelan, WA, USA

Finally my computer is fixed. I like the New Year’s resolution idea. I make some and I keep some. I especially like Susan Sontag’s input. I wrote some of her ideas down. And you are also a high priority for me. Trying to get something accomplished is always a task. In my orchestra we sometimes remind each other: “Let’s not try, let’s intend to do it.” Play the music. Stop the war. Write the book. Paint the picture. What ever is in front of you. We need to sometimes stop practicing and intend to do it. So our December concert went very well with that in mind. Now on to Prokofiev. Easy to say and hard to do. I look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays as well.


Email freedom
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia

The internet in Russia becomes worse with each day — now many attempts to have ISP response, long hanging-on to connect, stupor at connection, multiple attempts to reach web sites, long waiting to upload files to web site (one by one). Also, without any reason they increase price of phone, electricity and create non-logical censorship against sincere people. Some religions also are limiting factors for email freedom. So some pictures, for example any degree of nude models, if these are arisen one time might cause filtering RG clickbacks and all of Painter’s Keys might be not accessible in some countries.


Why spam?
by Norah Bolton, Toronto, ON, Canada

I can offer a response to why systems think your email is spam (my own filters do and I carefully retrieve your emails from a bulk folder each time). It is simply because you are sending so many. There are software database systems that allow you to avoid this. One example is Goldmine, which is actually a sales management system. The same message can be sent to a filtered list, but each outgoing item is a separate transmittal sent to only one person.

(Andrew Niculescu note) Thanks, Norah. We are constantly improving our letter distribution process so they stay in our subscribers’ inboxes and on the ISP’s white lists. Goldmine is a powerful sales content management tool and not a bad piece of software, but it doesn’t really address the issue of spam in any significant way. I believe that for successful, legitimate mass-mailing a combination of tools and up to date knowledge is a good start.


Dolls on-line
by Connie Turner, Chicago, IL, USA

I wanted you to know that your letter is now reaching my on-line group of doll-making artists. One of your recent letters was quoted in its entirety, and discussed on-line by the group. We are not much respected in the art world, because we make dolls out of cloth, but if you happen to visit Doll Street I think you might be surprised at the artistry and craft of our group.

(Andrew Niculescu note) Thanks, Connie. Robert’s twice-weekly letter is intermittently (and sometimes steadily) picked up by more than five hundred on-line groups. These range from large lists of over a thousand to small groups of a dozen or so.


Just press print
by Laura Wambsgans, Santa Clarita, CA, USA


“Treble Tangle”
marble, 26 x 16 x 14 inches
by Laura Wambsgans

I’m in awe of your generous gift in allowing artists to print out a hard copy of all the 2004 letters. Somehow you manage to speak to my weaknesses, strengths, longings and problems in your letters each week. There isn’t really any way to thank you other than to pass along your name and web site to other artists. Still, that isn’t a proper thank-you for all of the help and support you have given me. I had thought of you as my art angel, until I mentioned you to Kelly Borsheim in Marble, Colorado last summer and she told me that you are a friendly and very real person. After that your letters became even more powerful. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge with all of us, especially me.

(Andrew Niculescu note) Thanks, Laura. And thanks to everyone who wrote with similar sentiments. It’s easy to print out all of 2004. Just go here and press “print.”


Studio exchange
by Wendy D., Vancouver, BC, Canada


photo – stylings series
by Wendy D.

I do have to admit that I don’t read all of your letters right away. Sometimes they will sit for a month then I will read it and wonder why I didn’t before. I’m planning a trip this fall to Germany (friend to visit) Switzerland (another friend) then Italy. I am a photographer and have never been off this continent. I am planning to go alone so I can take my time through museums and galleries. I’m wondering if anyone might like to do a studio exchange with me. I live in a studio/work-space called the ARC which has woodworking facilities, kilns for potters, and a full B&W dark room.


One word” resolutions
by Betty Senger, Auburn, AL, USA

Folk singer Christine Kane of Asheville, NC sent me the following: “I hope that you have avoided making any self-degrading New Year’s resolutions. A few years back I stopped doing the whole resolution/goal thing, and I started picking a single word for the year. One year my word was “generosity,” and it slowly got me into new habits, like leaving a big tip for the housekeeping person in each and every hotel room before I stumbled out with all my luggage… or paying the toll of the person behind me (even though for some reason, I always felt like a complete idiot doing that!). The year I picked “gratitude,” I began to notice how each day was stuffed full with little gifts, from the feeling of Atticus’s limp little paw when he’s sleeping, to the gate agent at Delta Airlines giving me a window seat in an empty row when I wasn’t feeling well. Try it! Pick a New Year’s word! We’ll make a whole new fad…

This weekend I holed up at home, wrote a bunch, and watched Lord of the Rings. Gandalf puts it perfectly when Frodo is wishing that the ring had never come into his possession. He says, “So do I. And so do all who live to see such times. But that’s not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”


Charitable idea
by Kerry Garvey


“Waters Edge”
oil on canvas, 40 x 24 inches
by Kerry Garvey

I’ve installed an auction website on my server where you can add items for auction, 100% of the proceeds go to the charity of yours or the buyer’s choice. The buyer pays for shipping. It is set up so the buyer can buy locally to minimize shipping. You can set reserved bids and opening bids. Buyers make payment via money orders payable to the charity of their choice, which are mailed to me, and when I hand the money order over to the bank to deposit in the charities account the seller and buyer are notified to arrange shipping collect to the buyer.

(Andrew Niculescu note) Thanks, Kerry. Kerry Garvey’s charitable idea is at Art of Compassion.


Getting an “Andrew”
by Mark A. Brennan, Westville, NS, Canada


“October Trail”
oil on masonite, 8 x 10 inches
by Mark A. Brennan

We hear a lot about Andrew, who truly sounds like part of the backbone of The Painter’s Keys. We artists all need someone like Andrew, people who believe in what we are trying to say to the world and want to see us progress toward achieving those goals we set for both art and life. But what makes an ‘Andrew’? Is Andrew also a source of inspiration, is he encouraging when things are doubtful, does he sing our praises when there are ears to listen and does he keep us in check when the ego drifts a little?

My own ‘Andrew’ is actually ‘Fred.’ The friend who is there always to help out, to lift my spirits, to sing my praise. Sometimes I am baffled as to how someone can be so unselfish. However, through my own frail vision of constantly expanding life experiences, I am slowly learning that there is nothing more true and honest than giving back to others. So this goes out to all the Andrews and Freds out there, for without the experience of true friendship perhaps we would have given up years ago.

(RG note) Computer wizard Andrew Niculescu, 25, immigrated to Canada from Romania when he was 15. If it wasn’t for his capabilities, this puppy wouldn’t fly. Yes, it’s pretty valuable to have an Andrew. It’s pretty hard to find someone as smart and dedicated — and who still suspects I know what I’m doing.


Not in gear yet
by Ardythe Campbell, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Well, here we are, five days into January and I haven’t picked up a brush since the middle of November before which time I painted feverishly to prepare for a solo exhibition at our local library as well as multi-Christmas shows at various other galleries. The farthest I have gotten since is to research a new technique I want to try soon — if I can get my creative self in gear. When I am busily involved with daily routines I often think I can hardly wait to get the mundane daily tasks finished so I can get into the studio to paint, but then, guess what? The desire goes right down the drain with the dishwater. Now what exactly is that all about and please tell me it happens to you too.

(RG note) Your “art priority” may be too low. Please take a look at these previous letters and responses where we attempted to deal with this unpleasant occurrence:
The mystery of motivation,
What steals my power?
and more.


Tsunami report
by Ifthikar Cader, Sri Lanka


“Sad Farewell”
original painting
by Ifthikar Cader

My family and I are safe but devastated by the terrible tragedy that struck on Boxing Day. The tragedy affected nearly all coastal towns throughout the southern and eastern belt of our island. The destruction and devastation wrought by the Tsunamis was horrendous with children, women and the aged of the poorest of the poor the unfortunate victims. We grieve for them and have tried to reach out to them in their hour of need. Whilst humanitarian aid is pouring in and help is at hand at last only time can heal the emotional wounds and sufferings of the survivors. As artists I wondered if there is something more we can do collectively to help victims in all affected countries.

There have been several heartbreaking accounts of deaths of friends, loved ones and of 30,000 others; of near miraculous escapes, of courage and self-sacrifice and the extraordinary charity of peoples from all walks of life across borders of class, creed, race and religion. It takes a crisis to unite people which call is readily embraced by ordinary simple folk who, left to themselves have lived and still live together in peace and amity.

(RG note) Thanks, Ifthikar. During the past week many artists have told us of the contributions they are making. Some have earmarked art sales or percentages of art sales. A list of addresses of organizations we are using can be found here.





Skating Downtown

original painting
by Sylvio Gagnon, Ottawa, ON, Canada


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, 2004.

That includes Andy Buck who wrote, “Who are you? Some time ago I started getting your emails. I do enjoy them, but have no memory of subscribing.”




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