A morning walk

Dear Artist, Even though we are back on Standard time, the mornings are still dark. I enter the studio at six, open the email and give yesterday’s paintings the casual glance that tells what the previous evening could not. Stepping out into the mist with Dorothy, we catch sight of hurrying raccoons — two adults and two young-of-the-year — silhouetted for a moment by the last electric light before the forest. Fog is snagged like Halloween on the high cedars and firs, their tops disappearing above. Below, the familiar path winds darkly through the cathedral, the forest floor musky as truffles and wet with dew and the eyes of autumn spiders. A Winter wren notes her privacy from a snowberry bush. Somewhere up ahead a Barred owl calls and a nearer one, perhaps an errant mate, calls back, overlapping in a higher, more ladylike return. Then I’m wondering if it’s the female owl whose voice is deeper. This morning we have no flashlight or camera or brush — it’s a time of thought and feeling, a time for the day’s plans to unfurl. Dorothy runs doggedly off leash, her map of odours confirmed by her superior nose — she needs no light to travel. Perhaps this will be the best of her day. Maybe mine, too. It seems our brains don’t do their best when pressed into service or called upon to produce. Walking, resting, even lathering shampoo are apparently the better times for thinking, especially thinking ahead. Recent research confirms that the best thinking happens when we’re mildly engaged in something else. Something pleasant, routine, distracting. In the institution of the time-honoured walk, the best ideas are issued in the second half. Feet wander. The mind does, too. We return via the busy roadway where commuters are now releasing themselves to the far away city. Their hands are on Starbucks, their ears on traffic reports or the hands-free for their stockbrokers. As dawn truly breaks, engines hum their thinking mantras toward the highways of commerce. Dorothy and I are dawdling. According to top psychologists, as well as Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost and William Wordsworth, taking time for a walk figures things out and adds joy and efficiency to the day ahead. Best regards, Robert PS: “Spontaneous, wandering thought is now viewed by brain scientists as a critical aspect of healthy functioning.” (Mark Fenske, co-author of The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success) Esoterica: Back in the studio, coffee in hand and Dorothy dealing with her daily prosciutto, the studio computer is anxiously blinking. “How do you varnish acrylics?” “Which black is best — Carbon, Ivory or Mars?” “Should I try to get another source of income?” “How do you prime Mahogany?” “Should I go to art school?” “How do you approach dealers?” “How do I get inspired?” “How do I get ideas?”   Inspiration arrives ‘picking stalls’ by Lanie Frick, Licking MO, USA  

“Hay Season”
original painting
by Lanie Frick

The more I get out and ride my horse the more productive I am. There’s a nice flow of ideas after a good ride. Best though are the ideas and inspiration that happen while picking stalls, a part of regular horse care and maintenance. For those unfamiliar with “picking stalls” it is the manual process of sifting out horse manure from stall shavings using a special pitchfork called an apple picker. The waste is then pitched into a wheelbarrow to be rolled out and dumped on the compost pile. Other horse owners have experienced this phenomenon and we have often wondered why this task yields such positive results. Maybe the research you mentioned has discovered the answer. Or maybe it has something to do with getting the manure out making room for new. There are 2 comments for Inspiration arrives ‘picking stalls’ by Lanie Frick
From: Michael Jorden — Nov 23, 2010

Lanie, one of our educated neighbors refers to this twice daily process as equine fecal manipulation. I agree it’s therapeutic.

From: Anonymous — Feb 06, 2011

I too have used the meditative moments in mucking! What’s helping most recently (as I have been painting ’til the wee hours) is wandering under the night sky out to the paddock areas and letting my horse Dollar ground me with his warmth steadiness smell and energy. I don’t even have to give him a treat, he seems content to give while I take, then we share…

  Capturing the opportunity by Majda Zorko, Slovenia  

by Majda Zorko

I am doing the same thing on the other side of the world — Slovenia! As well, I’m printing your walking letter out and pasting it in my sketchbook. Regarding entering the studio, here is a thought from Philip Guston that I find inspiring: “I go to the studio everyday because one day I may go and the Angel will be there. What if I don’t go and the Angel comes?” Listening to Leonard Cohen who recently held a concert here, adds to the atmosphere, too. There is 1 comment for Capturing the opportunity by Majda Zorko
From: patti cliffton — Nov 23, 2010

I love your comment – so inspirational, and your painting is so beautiful a simple and heartfelt statement that to me says fall is leaving and winter is coming.

  The wellsprings of creativity by Teresa Chow, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

watercolour painting
by Teresa Chow

Your description of your morning calmness has a Zen quality to it. It’s serene and blissful until the world wakes up and get on with the daily car commute and humdrum for the day. Nothing wrong with that; it’s what drives the economy and boy do we need a recovery. You’re letting your mind wander with no specific agenda or deadlines; not too many people can enjoy this luxury. Recently, I told my artist friends that I have not picked up a brush or paint for almost 2 months. Their mouths dropped and they were shocked. Consider time is a luxury commodity that one cannot buy or trade. I work full time and have a household to keep. By 10:00 pm I’m so done. When my painting juice is flowing, I paint overnight and watch the stars changing over the sky and then by 5:00 am, dawn awakens with distant twitting sound of a young bird calling for breakfast. One of my friends mentioned an interesting aspect “When you’re stressed and you have so many other things happening, you cannot switch off your brain and become calm and collected. Creativity requires your brain to switch off and concentrate on what’s in front of you — a blank canvas. He is absolutely right!!! Your article reflects that you have the time and your mind is relaxed. Creativity is a combination of inspiration and skills but, more importantly, a relaxed atmosphere and a wandering mind. There are 2 comments for The wellsprings of creativity by Teresa Chow
From: edie pfeifer — Nov 23, 2010

personally, I find that nothing calms me quicker than time in the studio with my hands in the clay.

From: Mariane — Nov 25, 2010

Lucky you, Edie! I have to admit I am more on Teresas side of things – somehow having a zillon things I “have” to or really do have to do I get so filled with anxiety about external pressure that it is impossible for me to do substantial work as I feel guilty. I know, I know, it is irrational… Talking in Steven Pressfields terms (The War of Art, for you who do not knot it) it is The Big Resistance kicking in… Normally I try to “doodle” myself around it, priming canvas, doodeling along on inexpensive materials etc until this Demon/Left brainside/whatever is bored enough to let me be… Stress is a terrible thing!

  Early morning walk sets the tone for the day by Adrienne Moore, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Finn Slough”
mixed media
by Adrienne Moore

Dog owners who are passionate about their pets and their painting enjoy a privilege. Perhaps it is because we have an obligation to get out there and walk. In my area it is a beach near my studio and as the day unfolds my imagination is switching to high gear as I observe the antics of Chewbie, my dog playing with the many distractions thrown up by nature. Multiple images unfold. A seal scanning the water sends him swimming madly off in any direction to locate this unusual creature. The driftwood smells, new tracks on the sand absorbs him for a moment, perhaps the scent of a raccoon or a wandering skunk. Chewbie will identify it his way sniffing and engaging his interest. However, the salmon run had him totally enthralled and a trifle puzzled as he attempted to locate the migrating salmon appearing and disappearing without reason. On the walk to enjoy to meet up and talk to other likely souls running their own dog show on the beach and no matter what the elements may bring, the early morning walk sets the tone for the day in the studio. There is 1 comment for Early morning walk sets the tone for the day by Adrienne Moore
From: Rae Smith — Nov 23, 2010

Finn Slough is quite a unique place , i try to go there whenever I go out to the west coast , I have painted it once and have plans for more paintings this winter , great to see your painting.

  The morning after by Andrew Sookrah, Toronto, ON, Canada  

oil painting
by Andrew Sookrah

Your comment, “and give yesterday’s paintings the casual glance that tells what the previous evening could not” certainly rang true. I paint in the Third Floor Painting Sessions at the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto, Ontario and the work I do there on that day is usually best reviewed the next day when the thoughts which drove decisions on that day have drained from my mind. I can see with some clarity decisions taken that are either celebrated or need to be adjusted (never regretted). There is 1 comment for The morning after by Andrew Sookrah
From: Susan Avishai, Toronto — Nov 23, 2010

This is a special painting. Love the composition, the skin, the hair, the light…

  Getting back in the groove by Richard Mason, Howell, NJ, USA  

acrylic painting
by Richard Mason

Survival of the fittest got me thinking about why I was having trouble getting back in the groove after a recent surgery. Guess I’m mutating; I keep thinking of different ways to put something in my work that I haven’t found or created yet. I’m tired of ho humming and being content with the same old thing. You expressed so well how our world works concerning art. I too enjoy a morning walk but mine is with a feline named Trouble. He lives up to his name, constantly trying to save the seed supply in the feeder but unfortunately for him his leash won’t let him reach and the birds are safe and the sunflower seed gets consumed. It is a time to think and enjoy random thoughts.   Beauty of being in the moment by Kristine Fretheim, Maple Grove, MN, USA  

“Say A Word Of Truth”
watercolour painting, 16 x 20 inches
by Kristine Fretheim

What about the morning walk of a city artist making her way to the warehouse studio? If only we all could tune in to each moment, no matter where we are, and experience the wondrous beauty that’s right here. Even if it’s spit on the sidewalk and navigating sparkling shards of glass from a broken beer bottle.       There are 2 comments for Beauty of being in the moment by Kristine Fretheim
From: Jo Vander Woude — Nov 23, 2010

Watercolor is a tough medium…you’ve done a beautiful job!

From: Glenda Denny — Nov 23, 2010

Absolutely beautiful! I can just hear the silence and feel the warmth of the sun while this content cat soaks in this peaceful moment! Lovely colors…and shading…

  Walking the ditches by Barbara Clark, Corrales, NM, USA  

“Promise of the Day”
original painting
by Barbara Clark

Walter, my 13-year-old Border Collie mix, and I walk the ditches every morning rain or shine. But it’s usually “shine” as we can boast about 356 days a year of sunshine. We live in Corrales, New Mexico which is about 20 miles from the Sandia Mountain range and we get to watch the sun peek up over the mountains while we walk the irrigation ditches. These sets of ditches are the lifeblood of the area, having provided water to the farmers for several hundred years. We often see raccoons, hawks, muskrats, gopher holes (never see the gophers), and coyotes on these ditches lined with stately, gnarly and beautiful cottonwood trees and horse farms. And although we are in the desert, it does get chilly here. I think this morning was in the range of 26 degrees which means a coat and hat for me, a built in fur coat for Walter. I watch the seasons change via the different plants, birds, flowers and tree foliage, along with the sky, sun and the smells, then I go to work. It’s my fiftieth year as a full time artist. There is 1 comment for Walking the ditches by Barbara Clark
From: Judy Gosz, Bowler, WI — Nov 22, 2010

Barbara, Your colors are luscious and glowing just right for that beginning of the day freshness! Love the faces smiling up at the sky and the new day ahead. Marvelous!

  The beautiful Pacific North West by Vicki Gorman, Gladstone, OR, USA  

“By Any Other Name”
watercolour painting
by Vicki Gorman

Like you, I am blessed to live in the beautiful Pacific North West and from your word picture I could see and almost smell the loveliness of our beautiful forests. I’m about to grab my husband by the hand and go for a walk in this lovely morning! I’ve been painting for a little over three years and recently won an award in the fall show at the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s convention.     There are 7 comments for The beautiful Pacific North West by Vicki Gorman
From: linda mallery — Nov 22, 2010

Your roses take my breath away! I think I should put my brushes away.

From: Brenda — Nov 23, 2010

Much success with your art! Beautiful painting!

From: Cheryl — Nov 23, 2010

I’m truly inspired! Those of us who watch instead of practicing must take note! Obviously you have much talent, but … if you had not developed it, it would have been wasted. Thanks for sharing this.

From: Jan — Nov 23, 2010

I can’t imagine a more perfect painting of roses! Spectacular, Vicki!

From: W. Coffey — Nov 23, 2010

Holy cow!!!! or…roses!! Your work is just beautiful and perfect. You surely should have won the prize, hands down. I love watercolor and you have certianly mastered what I wish I could do. Looking forward to more of your wonderful talent.

From: Barbara Sturgill — Nov 23, 2010

Roses are so elegant. Your use of color, shade, and highlights are remarkabley beautiful. You know your subject!Thank you for sharing!I must start buying myself beautiful roses so I can pracitice! YES!

From: Sarah — Nov 25, 2010

Your roses are exquisite — thank you for sharing.

  Nature is the ultimate artist by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“Blue & Blue”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

A walk is a great start to the day. I used to be a cat lover but I’ve gone over to the dogs. My wife and I like to take our three dogs out to an adjoining pasture for short but inspiring journeys. I get a contact high watching the unabashed joy and enthusiasm our boys display. They are totally immersed in the moment, at one with their animal natures with their keen noses pressed to the ground. For smart creatures we humans can be really dumb. We’ve lost our connection to nature to commune instead with the false gods of Verizon and AT&T and with all the mindless and trivial gizmos of technology. Our hunting nature usually ends up at a drive through window. Nature has so much to teach. I remember reading at how the Wright brothers spent hours observing vultures in their quest for unlocking the mysteries of flight. I love watching them myself as they swirl high above me riding the invisible columns of warm air. Late fall is one of my favorite times of year. Butterflies enjoy their final moments of sun-fueled freedom. Dried wildflowers give off a soft muted palette of pinks, browns and lavenders. Curled white branches of Sycamores shimmer in the low sunlight. Nature is the ultimate artist and expression of our spirituality.   Morning blessing by Barrett Edwards, Naples, FL, USA  

“Marsh moonrise”
oil painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Barrett Edwards

I woke, sat at my computer with my morning steamy cup, and there was your letter. So beautifully written I immediately read it twice and then yet again. I wanted to breathe in the tranquility of your words, walk with my ears tuned to the wren’s call, feel the mist on my cheeks, and gather myself for a perfect day of painting. As the caregiver for my parents, and one who perpetually over-commits, I know I am blessed to be able to spend most of my days pushing oils into patterns that feed my soul. And now, as I step into another whirlwind, I have your lovely words as sanctuary. Now let’s go paint something wonderful. There are 3 comments for Morning blessing by Barrett Edwards
From: Norma Hoyle — Nov 22, 2010

LOVE your painting Barrett… it really speaks to me. :-)

From: Anonymous — Nov 22, 2010

I agree with Norma, this is a wonderful painting.

From: Pen, CA, USA — Nov 23, 2010

I really love your tonalism w/great composition. I wonder why I love tonal paintings so much when my own paintings tend to be color strong? I don’t understand this about myself – maybe someday.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for A morning walk

From: Richard Smith — Nov 18, 2010

Quite some time ago someone justified a behavior of mine that I thought was a time waster. It’s called creative procrastination. Like the morning walk you just let your mind wander. You don’t try to have brilliant ideas or earth shaking thoughts, you just let go. You’re not meditating or problem solving, you don’t spend a lot of time on it but it, instead you just see what comes up. Sometimes a great notion, sometimes not.

From: Jean Burman — Nov 18, 2010

Hi Robert I so get this… and you are so right. Walking driving showering truly are the holy grail of creative thought. I’ve sometimes thought that one of those underwater slates would be a good idea for capturing capricious ideas in the shower… and a friend assures me that he’s found a way to pen chapter notes while driving four abreast on the freeway… although I haven’t mastered the technique as yet! But wouldn’t it be good if we got that idea when we were in front of a blank sheet instead of behind the wheel? Or as in your case… wandering the woods… although I dare say you could carve your notes on a tree trunk and that tree would be revered by tourists in years to come knowing the late great Robert Genn was here! Thanks for another great post! Jean www.jeanburman.com

From: Rene Wojcik — Nov 19, 2010

It seems to me that those of us who spend much of our time creating art also spend a great deal of time just wandering in our thoughts. Some, like you Robert, wander in the forest, others along the ocean or a lake. Being alone is what being an artist is all about. Today, wandering in solitude is a luxury. Enjoy it while you can.

From: Robert Sesco — Nov 19, 2010

Robert, I suppose I should not be surprised that an artist can WRITE artistically as well as paint. Your use of metaphor and imagery color your recollections for us wonderfully. Not that everything needs to be confirmed by Science, but the ‘stroll’ has so many advantages beyond aimlessness: science concludes that walking is one of the top exercises for humans because it can increase our respiration for longer periods without the impact on our skeletons. What Science has always failed to confirm are the intangibles, such as the benefit of walking for our souls, for fresh air, for our contact with natural surroundings, for the health of our minds. Some of us have faith in things for which there are no ‘scientific methods’. I meditate, albeit irregularly, but through experience I ‘know’ that answers to my internal questions or predicaments arise naturally afterward during long walks. When I don’t meditate, a creeping feeling of what I can only describe as ‘futility’ crowds my peace of mind, my joie d’ vivre, as it were. In my experience there is great value in BOTH clearing the mind of thoughts for long periods of time, AND allowing the mind to wander afterward. I have been taught that prior to any creative endeavor, one should always clear the mind of scattered thought for a period of time to allow the power of our creative minds to manifest. Sitting quietly with mental discipline for a period of time, followed by work or a long walk, can yield a wonderful efficiency and joy for the artist.

From: Darla — Nov 19, 2010

Robert — Your wonderfully written letter makes me think of the way I often felt, back in rural New York State growing up. Is this the real difference between artists and other people? I was always dismayed that people would so eagerly destroy a magnificent forest glade and leave cut up trees and oil rig trash, destroying the irreplaceable for the sake of money which is soon spent. There was never anyone that I could talk to about this — they would have thought I was crazy for sure. Money, after all, is the human holy grail. Or perhaps the people who see the worth in natural things that make their own way just don’t talk about it because society doesn’t value those incredible things at all.

From: Jan Woodford — Nov 19, 2010

Several things came to mind as I read this letter. 1. You describe, verbally, as beautifully as you do with paint. Your description made me want to go walking in the dark with my dog. 2. Your letter made me think of “A Walk at Dusk”, by Casper David Friedrich, which I did a paper on in college. It had a similar feeling to it. 3. I relate to your thought that the best thinking is when you are doing something else. When straightening the house, driving, walking, my mind wanders, explores possibilities, solves problem. This was a lovely, moving letter, and I will save it and read it again. Thanks.

From: Thomas Paquette — Nov 19, 2010

Robert – Thank the stars you finally took a break in your twice-weekly letters to take a morning walk away from it all! I don’t know how you manage to stay so consistently inspired with your words, but we are all happy you do. On the other hand it was a relief to read of your taking a kind of a break from the blinkering email questions that must deluge your internet connection. We are after all flesh and bone and neurons. Thomas

From: Jackie Knott — Nov 19, 2010

I have never subscribed to the idea every waking hour must be productive. Whether walking, sitting on my back deck enjoying the view, watching the deer, or a drive in the hills, it allows the mind to actively rest – a necessity. Exercise is definitely beneficial and yes, I do come back from walks energized and problems seem easier solved … lots of research to support that. Remember dayplanners? Do people still use those things? Every fifteen minutes of a person’s day was programmed, supposedly to make one more productive. I’ve never seen such stressed out people who employ a similar device. The ones who really bewilder me are young people (and a few older ones) who waste a fine walk with Ipods in their ears. Music can be soothing, or stimulating, or can leave one too preoccupied to think. The whole point is to think.

From: Ron Unruh — Nov 19, 2010

I observe that other writers today feel as I do, that you produced a work of art for us with words and it was a delight to read it.

From: Ken Burke — Nov 19, 2010

Thank you for today’s letter. For a brief, blissful moment I was there with you. The gentle wetness of the morning air, the layered smells of the woods, the thousand gentle sounds. While I am already embroiled in today’s challenges, your letter reminds me of all that lives within me – the smell of pines on the Maine coast, the quiet hush of pine needles on the forest floor, the endless possibilities to create, to share, to touch others. To you, and to everyone here in our far-flung community, thank you. I’m so tickled to be part of this, and to find like souls on an early fall morning.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Nov 19, 2010

Life is experience. Our achievements are merely by-products of our individual response to it. Robert, you know how to live.

From: Linda Powers — Nov 19, 2010

Reading your beautiful description of your morning walk, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be an artist, and to belong to a group who are able to make these special connections to life. It is this sensitivity to a world of imagination, a special joy in something larger than ourselves that gives us inspiration and, for me, keeps life worth living.

From: Peggy Ramsey — Nov 19, 2010

I must reiterate what Ron Unruh wrote; it was indeed a delight to read, and will be a delight to read again and again. Thank you.

From: Peggy Ramsey — Nov 19, 2010

“A morning walk” is indeed a work of art, Robert; to be read often, to feed the soul. Thank you!

From: Kathleen Bezy — Nov 19, 2010

Sipping my morning cup of wood smoke Chinese tea, I read your letter…..deleted other trivia, and am heading for the planned walk. Thanks for clarifying what I almost knew about walks. Your letters lift me up a lot and keep me focused on the simple.

From: David Lussier — Nov 19, 2010

If I could actually ‘DO’ all the things my brain comes up with during my morning shower, I’d be amazing! On some days by the time I’m rinsing my hair, I’ve painted or repainted several paintings in my head and thought of a zillion ways to change the world.

From: Joseph Jahn — Nov 19, 2010

“We return via the busy roadway where commuters are now releasing themselves to the far away city.” Bless their little hearts. Ah, what joy it is to work for yourself, and double joy to do so as a painter :-)

From: Kris Preslan — Nov 19, 2010

Does your sweet canine really get prosciutto snacks? Can I come and live with you?

From: Joan Stapleton — Nov 19, 2010

You are so lucky to lead such a tranquil? life. We also had an Airedale named Jessie many years ago. Dorothy looks like her cousin.

From: Kathryn Ragan — Nov 19, 2010

It is SO true about the best and most intriguing ideas coming to you out of who-knows-where while you are contentedly and mildly mentally engaged elsewhere.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Nov 19, 2010

Following your morning walk in my mind let my imagination see a panoramic view of the forest. I am imagining it on a large canvas how beautiful indeed. It reminds me of the epic poem “Evangeline” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow specially the opening lines; “This the forest Primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with with moss, and garments green, Indistinct in the twilight”…. ….. How could we capture that beauty in canvas ? It would be a challenge indeed for an amateur like me specially when I have not been in a forest or the woods for a long time.

From: Lisa Harlow — Nov 19, 2010

This is so true – a walk can really clear the mind. I find inspiration on my walks, sometimes during my daydreams and also those ah ha moments that wake you up in the middle of the night.

From: Sharon Knettell — Nov 19, 2010

In the Fall I watch leaf races across ponds as intently as men watch sports. There are no clear winners but a lot of drama- will the leaf sink, get caught in a huddle of its fallen comrades or sail on victoriously to the other side? I get caught up these tableaus that present themselves on every walk. Some are simple and some are so extraordinarily beautiful that they can turn even a depressed trudge into something joyful. They have even helped me paint a picture.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Nov 19, 2010

Your letter this morning was as evocative as your paintings: I could almost smell the forest and feel the dampness of the fog! And in the midst of all the beauty you shared with us was the slightest reference to your work ethic (“I enter the studio at six”) and the reason for your success – nicely done. I don’t have a Dorothy, but I have a Maggie and a Lily, who demand an early start to the day, keep me on my toes and provide me with some thinking time. I too, use our morning walks (and sometimes our summer evening paddles) to resolve problems in my paintings, clear the fog from new ideas, work out compositions, think about colour… Then it’s chores and correspondence, then painting time. The trick is balance: time for revelation, inspiration and reflection, combined with a strong work ethic and the visceral, emotional and intellectual need to paint.

From: Monique Verdier — Nov 19, 2010

My footsteps in my walking trail done in pure encaustic. My heart expanded with a felt sense of the grandeur of your experience. I live in Hudson, QC ‘once-upon-a-time’ countryside; my walking environment is different from yours but effective if I ‘tune-out’ highway noises.

From: Joan (MacGillivray) Thompson — Nov 19, 2010

I was scrolling through the additional info in your latest newsletter and ran across a landscape by Becky Joy, of Phoenix. I think she was my art student here years ago and wanted to congratulate her; it was beautiful.

From: Kat Corrigan — Nov 19, 2010

The non-verbal mind of an animal helps us think more freely as well, I believe. The meditation of watching a dog be a dog, my favorite way to think-not-think.

From: Nancy Ness — Nov 19, 2010

Do you ever feel the artwork has become like an addiction? I love painting but find it hard to relax and not work on art marketing, painting or reading about painting. It’s like being driven to produce and get to that next level. This is not about being competitive as I’ve always been a team player that’s only competitive with myself. I’m also finding jealousy with other artists a problem. It’s much like my design career, your everybody’s friend until you are promoted or succeed. How do you counter jealousy other than burying any success or achievement or staying away from acquaintances? This one is a common problem for all kinds of situations not just artists.

From: Nancy Falconer — Nov 19, 2010

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon here in the Dordogne, France, but I feel relaxed and ‘cleared’ by it all. The dark of early morning, the wispy fog (I can relate to that — there’s a lot of it here), the wet forest floor alive with birds and spiders and the occasional four footed creature (not including the dog). My senses — all of them — were brought into the moment and calmed.

From: Jan Ross — Nov 19, 2010

Combining the freeing of ideas along with the issue addressed in a recent letter regarding procrastination, now has created a conflict….will I have more ideas the longer I stroll, lather up, or blow the leaves off the driveway, or simply loose precious time at the drawing board? Sounds like a ‘Catch 22’ to me.

From: Louise Francke — Nov 19, 2010

I swim laps to sort out my day, ideas, endeavors, etc. Along with walking it is the great mind release with exercise for the body to help us accomplish those ideas.

From: Helen Tilston — Nov 19, 2010

I have just returned from a walk on beautiful Indian Rocks Beach, Florida where curlews and egrets shuffled along. Dolphins, pelicans and children bathed in the same waters. A lone fisherman waist deep in the waters of the gulf flexed his muscles and played with his catch, luring it along then dragging it forward then relaxing his muscles and allowing his catch to rest, till his biceps curled again. Back in my studio I am filled with energy and I shall try apply what I saw, play like children, work like the fisherman and be alert and enthusiastic as Dorothy.

From: Jo Vander Woude — Nov 19, 2010

My spirit was refreshed and I gave an audible sigh just reading about your morning stroll. The importance of this type of activity seems to be overlooked by our busy society. Many will say, “I don’t have time” while the reality of the matter is time could not be put to a better use. Activities such as these certainly get the creative juices flowing. Thanks Robert for painting a word picture of these “morning moments” you and Dorothy share; may we all remember to include similar times in our lives.

From: Diane Voyentzie — Nov 19, 2010
From: Andrea Pottyondy Stoffer — Nov 19, 2010

I also go on a dog walk early every morning. Angel loves it and it makes me mindful of my surroundings and helps me prepare for the day whether in studio or amongst the masses. Art makes us human….. enjoy my website: www.artarage.com

From: Paula Timpson — Nov 19, 2010

a walk leads to the way the truth and the life, the Light of inspirations, deep within!- Amen

From: Bill Skrips — Nov 19, 2010

Although I find dogs to be most distracting and not much help in solving artwork-related problems, I thank you for introducing me to Dorothy, the artists’ dog. My two dogs, Rhonda and Delilah, kept me company in the studio through thick and thin. Now that they are gone (old age), I seek replacements, but almost feel a need to interview each and every possible adoptee for his or her feelings on accompanying a creative type. Wow-what a concept-can you imagine a doggo that gave you a nip each and every time he or she felt you were going in the wrong direction with your current art project?

From: Lin Manlow — Nov 19, 2010

I woke at 4 AM this morning thinking of what gift I can give each of my sisters. Our limit is $5. My mind is working overtime & I decided to send them each ten tiny boxes with a hand written note in each one. My first idea was to tell them to be thankful for one thing they had received that day. I come to my computer and the first email I receive is yours, technically from a stranger. I just wanted you to know that I am thankful for receiving these well written tidbits.

From: Carlos Ygoa — Nov 19, 2010

I am a painter living and working in the province of Madrid in Spain. I live near the hills in the northwest section of the province, and like you, I enjoy walks with Sammy, my golden retriever. I have had to take a, uh, what is it they call it…a “normal job” recently on account of the times not being too auspicious for the arts these past couple of years. I had reached a point where I had tried just about everything to continue to make a living from my art as I had done all my life up to this point. The situation wasn´t sustainable anymore, and of course, I owed it to my family. Time to park the painting thing for a while. So, now I have this day job which has turned me into someone I don´t recognize and every so often I have to stop to try and convince myself that this is just a temporary “reinvention” of myself. I am very grateful for this job, especially when unemployment has become such a scourge these days. Thank God I still have time to go for my walks with Sammy in the hills on some mornings, and, as you mentioned, this is the time I do my best thinking. The area we usually frequent has rabbit and wild boar–Sammy tries in vain to run after the first; thankfully we don´t encounter the second too much. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how your letter today has made me feel that I am still, and will always be part of this collective we all feel proud to belong to.

From: Jack Adams — Nov 19, 2010

“A day spent wasting time that is enjoyed, is not wasted.” John Lennon

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Nov 19, 2010

On days that ideas grab me and take me through their gestation and fetal evolution inside of me, my house becomes the cleanest imaginable – I do all the dishes, wash the floors, vacuum, dust, make the bed, tidy piles, do the bathroom, the yard – I used to call it stalling, but finally figured out it was a cleaning-meditation-pre-birth state. Walking on the beach and allowing my head to just zone out as I watch the light on the waves or colors move around me is another aspect of that. On the flip side, when it’s time for the whatever-it-is to emerge, it’s a good thing everything is snappy-clean, because I let it all go during the birth process of the art!

From: TeresaMaria Widawski — Nov 19, 2010

I could ‘see’ that fog snagged in the trees.

From: Patti Mollica — Nov 19, 2010

“How do you varnish acrylics?” “Which black is best — Carbon, Ivory or Mars?” These answers are on on the Golden Paints website. I just finished the “Working Artist Program” course and all the tech info is here: http://www.goldenpaints.com/

From: Glenna Sobol — Nov 20, 2010

The day was gray until I opened your email, now I feel the cold around my ankles and even like the sensation you spoke of about the dark and no flashlight, ” finding my way”, is how I would describe it. Now I have a sense of today being one with lots to see and find under the bushes and over the trees, thanks so much for sharing your morning walk.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 21, 2010

I feel this email to be more personal than past ones. More pensive and reflective. I almost feel you are talking directly to me alone though I know this is also reaching thousands of other subscribers. This email is another side of you rarely seen when your busy answers questions on art, theory and such. I feel I’m getting a glimpse beneath the public Robert and I am relaxed and humbled somehow.. I know this is mostly in my head but I feel this way tonight as I read this. Oddly, your email has put me at peace with myself for some reason unknown to me. No hype, no hyperbole or bravado. Since I’m experiencing and underlying connection with this, I wanted to respond in kind. No questions, no inquiries. Just one on one chat. I often sit in my studio and stare and think on the works in progress as well as the finished ones that surround me. I leave my work where I can see it and become reacquainted with it for a few days. This is the time I decide whether they need more work or not. I use this time to reflect on my objectives. Decide if I accomplished this or that with this last piece. It’s been said artworks are like children. This may be so for I always feel a deep connection with what I produce. Some come easy while some are unruly and resistant and need more nurturing, more direction. A stronger hand if you will. I’m sure you’ve found some work create themselves. They take on a direction all their own. My job at this point is to follow where it leads in the hopes of new discovery. We are blessed to have this ability. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I dread the day I cannot hold a brush an longer. rickrotante@aol.com

From: Clarinel — Nov 21, 2010

You are so polite. In this world of self promotion and bookselling, you could just advise these inquiring minds who ask all these questions to buy your book of all the letters. I’ve been enjoying your generosity and prime tips for years and copying the letters for students who needed an extra nudge in a certain direction. Years worth of copies with passages highlighted were saved in a ring binder. Then you compiled your book. Thanks. You answer and encourage to the maximum. And besides that, since I bought the book, I now have an empty notebook.

From: Adam Humphries — Nov 22, 2010

Everyone who aspires to a life in art needs to read Robert’s letters.

From: De-De Holmes — Nov 22, 2010

And the broad input of all the other artists coming from so many directions is so terribly valuable.

From: Celeste Varley — Nov 22, 2010

This may be your best piece yet, Robert — a work of art in itself and its meaning.

From: Shirley Fachilla — Nov 23, 2010

This is a post to treasure. Thank you, Robert.

From: Loretta Puckrin — Nov 23, 2010

Your ‘morning walk’ concept is of great value for everyone – not just artists. In today’s world, especially with business owners, it is difficult to get them to understand the benefit of that ‘morning walk’ which can be anything non-competitive. They feel that if they are not producing every minute of the day then they are wasting time. Many of them couldn’t waste time even if it was booked on their schedule. In producing a magazine directed at business owners (for 18 years) we found that the people who were doing best with their businesses took the time for themselves to be quiet and reflective – a time of not thinking of anything specific. They credited their insights to ideas which cropped up during those quiet times. Maybe we have become too goal oriented. Just as in art there should be times of exploration and play with no judgment at the end – so too with life there should be fun times that are not dictated by family or group obligations.

From: Carol Campbell — Nov 23, 2010

Thank you so much for this Robert. Your letter reminded me how frantic and frenzied I have allowed my life to become. I live in Jamaica, for God’s sake, and haven’t been to a beach in a year! Time for a morning walk…

From: John Burk — Nov 23, 2010

Your verbal wanderings are a treat. There is much to be had by being outside, whether producing or not, but always studying

From: Peter Brown — Nov 23, 2010

You drew a lovely picture of your morning walk. You could have been a writer. And, it is always good to think about thinking. I worry about people, and most especially about my high school students who walk around texting and jabbering into the cell phones, as they walk the halls, and walk into the walls. I was trying to show my art classes, the wonderful documentary about Andy Goldsworthy, “Time and Tides.” All over the room the tell-tale blue glow of the cell phone was evident under the tables. Personally, when I was a commuter, I got my best ideas driving to and from work. I bought one of those little recording machines, so I could capture them. Then, too, my dreams have always been a powerful source of painting material. A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about Gothic cathedrals. I woke up with a very vivid memory of a dream, in which, I had visited what I have begun to call, “The Cathedral of the Tree-Huggers.” This was a Gothic cathedral in which all of the stained glass windows were image of trees. Without the skills of stained glass making, I started painting the motif. This grew into a series. And when it comes to beginning artists, I would recommend “stealing” ideas. I discovered Paul Klee when I was 15. That guy seemed to have great ideas every day. He had ideas about color combinations and texture. I began to call Klee, “my art father that’s arts in heaven.” Lastly, I can recommend serendipity, as a source for inspiration. I prefer to paint on wood, or something like wood. Oft times, a piece of wood has suggested, my composition. Sometime a frame suggests the painting. The important thing, that you suggest, is that we should think, all the time. After all, painting is a high level intellectual pursuit. It is much more than craft

From: Vic Lau — Nov 24, 2010

To have everyone’s input is such a treat.

From: Lorion Korkosz — Nov 25, 2010

For 3 years, I have been volunteering in a nursing home, giving the residents the opportunity to paint in watercolors. I have noticed the same situation as in the kindergarten: initially, most were shy about putting brush to paper for fear of making a “mistake.” So I got them to “paint” with plain water and we dropped color into that. Now that that hurdle was overcome, our artists can’t wait for me to set up their work stations so they can get going. As one gentleman said, “I know I’m terrible, but I have so much fun here.” We have an annual “Artists-in-Residence” show which always impresses family and friends. The child is always in us.

From: Geraldene Ford — Nov 25, 2010

Thank you for the poetry of walking through what must be a glorious Canadian forest close-by with Dorothy. I always enjoy your thoughts, but felt calmed and privileged to read these elegant, human reflections.

From: Melanie Castelanova — Dec 03, 2010

I can’t do early. It must be a metabolic thing. I’m never ready to make marks until 9:30 or 10:00 AM. In the studio I usually stay until 5 PM, grabbing lunch on the run. In the field I take food and drink with me and usually only beat the sunset by an hour. (Then I spend 30 minutes in cleanup, which chore I abhor.) This seems perfectly natural to me, as does my preperation of a slow mocha java while reading the morning paper.

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acrylic painting 42 x 42 inches by Marie Martin, Fountain Valley, CA, USA

  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, 2013. That includes Paul Corby of Toronto, ON, Canada, who wrote, “Kenneth Clark liked to quote, ‘It is solved by walking’ a Quaker proverb.” And also Abe Ghee who wrote, “Everything good happens on a walk. ‘She was wrapped up and sold coming back from an old fashioned walk.’ (Irving Berlin)”    

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