Lucky bunch


Dear Artist,

A few months ago a director of the Calgary Symphony Orchestra phoned and asked if I would contribute a painting as the “central piece” in a fundraiser. I don’t live anywhere near the city of Calgary. Even though I was as busy as a one-armed man using dental floss — and expected to be even busier in the fall — I said, “Yes, sure, okay.” For some reason I also offered to include a sunset ride in my antique speedboat.

On Monday, the auctioneer, a man who is also donating his time and talent, phoned to say, “Where’s the painting?” Looking at a blank 24 x 30, I said, “Not quite finished yet.” “Well at least give us the title so we can print it in the program,” he said. I pulled a title out of the atmosphere: “Autumn Pattern.” He took down the particulars and I promised the finished work by air express on Friday (today). “How’s things?” I asked. He told me the entire symphony was locked out or on strike — depending on how you look at it. The orchestra is in the hole by millions and the members want more money and fewer hours. Calgary is bleeding. There’s no music in Calgary. “It’s embarrassing,” said the auctioneer, “especially right now while we are trying to do this.”

I painted Autumn Pattern over the last three days — mostly to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. I took my time, thought it out, put some real care and love into it. As you know, it’s not always easy. I got lucky. The painting is, I think, above average for me — it has some sweep, drama, a bit of counterpoint. Purolator just picked it up. Some Captain of Industry will be the high bidder. Next summer he or she will be my new friend and we’ll pop champagne and have cucumber sandwiches in the boat. In the meantime a small dent will be made in an orchestra’s deficit. I’m thinking that painters are a lucky bunch.


painting by Robert Genn

Best regards,


PS: “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” (G. K. Chesterton)

Esoterica: “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.” (Kahlil Gibran)


The following are selected responses to this and other letters. Thanks for writing.


Just make out a check
by John Adkins, Alabama, USA

I was recently asked to donate some art to the Mountain Valley Arts Council. I considered my options and decided that it might be a good way to contribute to a local charity and to get some exposure with the arts crowd. I picked two framed plein air paintings, an 11 x 14 and a 9 x 12, as I wanted my work to represent my high standards for examples of my work. Since they would be seen by a number of people in our area who might be potential clients, I wanted to put my best foot forward. Imagine my reaction when I found that my art would be auctioned by silent bid — and imagine my horror to find out that my work only raised a total of $78.00 for the arts council. It would have been better if I had just made a check out to the arts council and kept my paintings.


Participating in something worthwhile
by Betty Newcomer, Ohio, USA

I donate a bird painting – Eagles, Swans, etc. — to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary every year, for their fund raising auction. This year I told the director, I may not be able to do this again, as it is so expensive! She said “Betty, you are the ONLY artist doing this, so I can’t blame you!” A week ago, someone called and wondered if I would consent to hanging some of my wildlife art in the new building at Gorman’s Nature Center. They are teaching children about wildlife and respect for Mother Nature so it won’t be a buying public. However, I am content in knowing I am participating in something worthwhile, and would not have been asked if I hadn’t donated those paintings to the sanctuary. I shall donate another painting next year!


Do it for love
by Gwen Pentecost

My own experience with fundraisers hasn’t been so lucky – perhaps because I wasn’t quite as famous, and the pieces were certainly not the “central” piece in a culture-oriented auction (two lessons there!). My pieces were sought after by a few lucky collectors, bid up to half of what I charge on the open market, and they never bought from me directly. And, of course, I got a miniscule tax write-off (cost of materials) to boot. Now I do that for only my favorite charity, the local YMCA. And I do it for love, and am content with that.


NYC fireman charity
by Barbara Kerr, Inverness, Florida, USA

Mary Petricone, owner of Your Arts Desire Gallery in Spring Hill, Florida earned $20,000 for the NYC firemen after the World Trade Center disaster. She quickly put together a silent auction that netted the above monies for the cause. I was proud to be a part of this valiant effort that included donations from James Rosenquist and Tony Caparello. Mary is a little lady with a great big heart.


Artist-run project
by Judy Seyfert

A local artist, Billy O’Donnell has organized Artwork Along the Katy Trail. It’s an old rail line that runs almost the length of Missouri. The railroad ties were torn out and a hiking and biking trail was made. Starting in September and going into October Missouri artists are invited to paint the Katy Trail in all its beauty. A daily log is kept and published on the internet.  (This was the second year) Participation doubled and included college and high school students as well as amateur and professional artists. It managed to unite art groups from all over the state.


In memoriam Bob Ross
by Leni Friedland, Mt. Sinai, N.Y., USA

Fooling around, as I do, I composed a very bright high-key colored mixed media on paper. While I was painting the orange mountains etc., I thought of the painter Bob Ross and I continued to abstract out a river and land masses. I just kept thinking of Bob Ross, therefore I named the painting “Homage to Bob Ross.” At an outdoor show I showed a couple a photo of the painting in my album, since I can’t bring every painting to a show. I mentioned the name of my homage piece. Silence… then “I had a friend Bob Ross who died.” Oooh what do you say except I’m so sorry. Subsequently it was not the same Bob Ross but, this person came back to leave his phone number and came to my studio and bought that piece and another one. Bottom line… I had asked my Mom in heaven to help me sell that day. She told me she was working on it. Do you think she was asking the angels if anyone had a friend that needed artwork and Bob Ross spoke up?


Two per year
by Maureen O’Keefe West, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I laughed out loud at your letter re: “contribution of a painting and a speedboat ride at sunset.” That was hilarious and so true too – I am a painter and I am also from Calgary. That auctioneer is telling the truth – the Symphony is in shambles. However, I did enjoy their free tuxedoed symphonies in the mall while on strike! Thanks, on behalf of Calgarians for donating that painting to a losing cause. I also am asked to contribute a new painting to various charities and I get caught off guard just like you when I forget about it and someone phones and asks, “Where’s the painting?” Now, I will only do 2 freebies a year.


On the road again
by Kim Rody

I packed up my Explorer with 25 paintings, and proceeded to drive myself down to south Florida, where I placed most of the paintings into the ENTHUSIASTIC hands of a yacht broker’s office, a scuba dive shop, and an extremely busy fish market/restaurant. The remaining paintings I smuggled into the Abacos, the Bahamas, on a charter plane, by stretching new virgin canvas over them, and sailing through customs. When I got there I uncovered them and put them in an architect’s office and on the walls of the local coffee shop where every local starts their days. All these paintings are on consignment, of course. Then I spent the next 10 days painting all the blank canvases pinned to plywood. I was alone, so I also read like crazy: Contact by Sagan, Gifts from the Sea, by Lindbergh, The Four Agreements, etc. — also watched videos every night in my beach-side bungalow including Bogart, Kevin Kline, Braveheart, etc.


Heart beginning to soften
by Monique

My heart is beginning to soften around art again, and I believe I will approach it much differently this time. I will honor the gift I have been given, by just doing it, and finding joy in it. I will let the canvasses rest beside me, and continue on my way, because I can’t live without painting, and feel sane and joyful. Where they land doesn’t matter anymore. I will be ahead no matter what, and more connected to who I am in this big universe. It has helped to have people write to me — other artists.


by Irene Brady Thomas

Regarding your recent inquiry into artnet — I am surprised no one has mentioned Through it I have been able to set up a FREE website, very nicely done, easy to use (just fill in the blanks), lots of space, and complete access to my site for changes, anytime. I can send emails and there is a guest book. I use it primarily as a reference tool for anyone interested in seeing my work, but I have had a few inquiries and sold a piece just this week to a fellow who contacted me. I am registered at ‘google” through them. They have a Premier Artist site at $50 per year. But I am completely happy with the free site.


Hunters and ADD
by Bonnie Mincu, New York

As a coach working with ADD clients, I’ve long disliked the “Attention DEFICIT DISORDER” label. Many ADDers would prefer to think of it as “Attention DIFFERENCE.” However, the term was coined by the medical profession, and refers to an actual deficit in the ability to filter for distraction; thus, a deficit in the ability to focus attention.

Is this really a disorder? I guess that depends on the context. There is a theory out there (not able to be validated, but possible), that people with ADD are genetically descended from stone-age hunters, who needed the type of attention mechanism that ADDers have to hunt for their tribe. As agricultural societies became the norm, there was less need for hunter types and more for crop-growers. Those who didn’t have the patience to cultivate crops found themselves at a disadvantage in agrarian communities. Therefore, the hunter genes became the less dominant.

There are some industries that are considered heavily populated with ADDers: notably, the film industry. Conversely, you probably won’t find many ADD accountants. People tend to gravitate where their traits and style serve them well. As for artists, ADD can be a great gift. The challenge for artists with ADD traits would more likely be in the mundane details, the business end, where there is a need to focus on stuff that isn’t creative or interesting to them.

Finally, regarding ADD and artists, I studied painting privately for several years with a painter who is one of the most focused and disciplined individuals I’ve ever met. He most certainly does NOT have ADD. So I’d be the last person to tar all artists with the ADD brush (pun intended!)

(RG note) Further information and responses to my previous letter on Artists and Attention Deficit Disorder are at Bonnie Mincu’s advice for artists with the “difference” are at


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 95 countries worldwide, including Afghanistan, have visited these pages since January 1, 2001.

That includes Alton Rex who says, “Your missives remind me of who and what I am… a songwriter with a passionate heart and a duty to write ’em, sing ’em and put ’em out there to be whatever it is they are. These letters always serve to draw me closer to my muse… that mysterious and magical place from which it all springs.”

And Alisa Miller who says, “It’s a secret jewel.”

And Marcia C, who says, “One of my best pieces was based on L’Arlesienne by Van Gogh while listening to L’Arlesienne by Bizet. In such a manner does sound become visual.”

And Murilo Pereira, from Brazil, who asks our help: “My daughter — she’s sixteen — has to do a paper about contemporary painting. Could you give us some advice? Could you contribute with your international thoughts about the subject? We thank you very much for this.”


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