A Mistress


Dear Artist,

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, on his deathbed in 1875, said, “I hope with all my heart there will be painting in heaven.” Today in this medieval town of Carcassonne (Aude, France) I’m wondering if there’s to be painting in the lower end also. Admirers may give praise, captains of industry may even make exchange for one’s efforts, but the results to the artist frequently fall short of promise.

In my merely honest moments I admit to a love-hate relationship with my fickle mistress. One minute she’s smooth and full of joy and I’m having my way. The next she’s cranky and obstinate, unwilling and unbending. What is it that makes her thus?

The counsellor says it has to do with me. It is seldom, if ever, her, he says. I’m sure he’s right. To our tryst I bring impatience, laziness, carelessness; compounded by eagerness, speed, or expectation. She is benign. I bring also my inadequacy, inability, thoughtlessness. She is serene. Right now I’m trying to get the last of a winter sun shining through the Western gate. I’m dealing with that aura of gold that surrounds objects in against-the-light. It’s a mix of observation and knowing what pigments can do. I want my work to be true and at the same time fresh and simple, clear and clean, stamped with my own personal stamp. I want to leave my mark on her. I overwork. I cover up. She is remarkably patient.

“Who can know this great Goddess?” asked Beethoven. Like life itself, she’s a mystery; no one can know all of her. But she’s just enough of a tease to keep getting the attention.


by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

Best regards,


PS: “When I die and go to heaven, I want to spend the first million years painting — so I can get to the bottom of the subject.” (Winston Churchill)

Esoterica: Carcassonne is one of the precious walled cities of Europe. Dating back to Roman times, it’s a living museum of siege machinery, turrets, church architecture, medieval quaintness. The action of light on monumental form makes this sort of place a joy, a frustration, and a private education.


by Michael Aronoff, Saltspring Island, BC, Canada

You are enjoying your marriage to the feminine principle. To me ‘mastery’ is a masculine principal. The feminine counterpart is ‘mystery.’ They are both master and mistress of the same house. They have their own ‘mind/heart.’ Sometimes ‘she’ calls us from our serious focus and trips us when we persist. I use those days to go with her. It makes her happy and I get a day off to ‘play.’


Making love
by Jack Davis, Wales

There is no better way to describe the act of making art than through its similarities to making love. When you start to love what you have underway then your love grows even more intense. You begin to treat the work like the living breathing beautiful thing that it is. You take care and you take your time. Nothing can stop you, however, from trying the artistic equivalent of the Kama Sutra.


Turn up the heat
by Jane Capellaro, Taconic, CT, USA

I would love to have eternity to try to get that golden light just right. Right now I’d just like to have a little more heat in my attic. I feel like a reptile, very slow to get started as the little heater starts to warm my space up there under my plastic tent but if I really get going I forget about the chill.


Mistress problems
by John Sherlock, New York

Here are two valuable quotes from The Resource of Art Quotations: “Art is an absolute mistress; she will not be coquetted with or slighted; she requires the most entire self-devotion, and she repays with grand triumphs.” (Charlotte Saunders Cushman) “Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

(RG note) John is one of the associate editors of The Resource of Art Quotations — which now has 2247 entries.


Heavenly speculation
by Bev Willis, Fresno, CA, USA

About heaven — the question comes to mind — if everything is really pleasant about painting and you do it all well and it makes you so happy, do you think you will actually enjoy it that way? What will urge you to paint on and on if you have beautiful paintings that do not frustrate you because they are as you wish right from the beginning. Wouldn’t it be something to never hear a discouraging word and always have the paintings be pleasing to you and others? Or would it? Only God knows. Only God could make a heaven that He knows we would be happy in. Glad I don’t have to figure it out!


Dull without her
by Emily Johnston

I know many of us completely understand the tantalizing grasp of the muse. It is worth all efforts to reap her rewards. Through the frustration and endless searching I know that she will alight again and see me thru till her next inspiration. She will also wait for me as I tangle with life’s obstacles and greet me upon my return. We are born to be her servants and bring forth her joy… a constant in the long run… I think any life-long painter can vouch for her. Life without her would be very dull.


The Goddess’s Keys
by Monika El-Seroui, Austria

The Goddess holds the key, however the true artistry searcher will have to find the keyhole in order to be able to keep the Goddess of artistry with him. Oh yes I know this Goddess is unpredictable. One time she is generous in opening the horn of colors — and the next time I am feeling I’ve been cheated all around! There is also the thirst for being with her. And the aura of light when she enters. Oh and not to forget… I could be totally wrong when speaking of her as a Goddess… it could also be some of those little gods playing chess while deciding to grant the horn of the beauty of colors to someone very special… who knows? I thank whatever source it might be for the happiness which I am receiving… the happiness which only the exploration into artistry is able to grant!


Factoids for the art soul
by Ron Ukrainetz, Montana, USA

As a professional artist, I rely upon income generated from shows, gallery sales, and teaching workshops, and I can identify with your pleasure. During the past 16 years of my professional career, many artists, buyers and friends have offered advice. If you don’t mind, I would like to share several of these ‘factoids for the art soul’ with your readers.
1. “A critic never fights the battle; they just go around shooting the wounded” (Tyne Daly)
2. “The poor buy either clothes that wear out or art that lasts forever.” (Neal Patterson)
3. “Fine art doesn’t have to match your sofa.” (unknown)
4. “Dead art sells better, and I’m not feeling well.” (me).


Artist degrees
by Sandy Triolo, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

I am lucky in that my character contains enough single mindedness, desire, stubbornness and clarity (among other things) to keep pushing. I have not however been up against such a formidable challenge before as making art — and I have some experience with challenge! This certainly is a life-long pursuit and can’t be taken as anything less. I recently read Art & Fear and have been relieved to realize how universal the challenge and experience is. I fell victim to the loss of vision and excess doubt 18 years ago. My purpose now is not to be a victim again. I intend to continue to scheme a way to return to school full time and continue to take classes either way until I a) firm up my work habits, and b) firm up my voice/vision. I’ve given myself a 10 year plan, so when I get discouraged I remind myself that I’ve only just begun this challenge. I love a challenge. A question for you, initially, clearly, the work speaks for itself, but it seems that to be taken seriously you need the B.F.A., M.F.A, etc. Do you think an artist without those gets any real attention?

(RG note) I think you might try self-annointment. Here’s an observation: Many degree holding artists don’t make it. School somehow neutralizes some people. Perhaps schools confuse with the daunting number of pigeonholes. Give consideration to going to your room for ten years. I’ve noticed in this environment artists often push themselves to the limits of their skills and then some. In the old days it was called character. I think it still is.


by Daniel Toublanc, France

The signed works J.B.COROT are semi-industrial paintings, with the mode, worked out for the halls of stations, the breweries, the public buildings, and the dining rooms of the solid citizen class of half of XIXème century. Exposure J.B.COROT in PARIS a few times ago shows with the obviousness the deplorable technique of various anonymous workmen who touched and touched again these works. In addition the topics of these fabrics are of a sorrowful poverty. With regard to your letters in general, I do not understand them very much. It is perhaps my ignorance as regards art and my ignorance of the English language or well then it is which I am in total disagreement on all the commonplaces and the prejudices which are exposed there. I regret much if you are annoyed or worried and I am sorry, for I admire much paintings of the truths great painters like RENOIR and MANET for example, of the same country and about of the same time. I like also much the paintings of your wife.

(RG note) The above letter is of Mr. Toublanc’s translation. I’m sure he meant he admired the paintings of my daughter, Sara Genn.


You may be interested to know that artists from 74 countries have visited these sites since June 1, 2000.

That includes Ron Willson, now living in Czechoslovakia, who writes, “I call her ‘Mistress Quickly’ because I like her fast and loose.”

And peter jackman (small letters his) who asks, “Is there a possibility that you may be pressing your metaphors into greater service than is appropriate knowing their capacity to flag and fail?”



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