Dear Artist,

One of the essential principles of creativity is MAD. It’s also known as OTD, but they amount to the same thing. MAD stands for “Make A Delivery,” OTD for “Out The Door.” These concepts resonate with the idea, long since proven effective, that writers write, painters paint and tortillistas make tortillas. It also says that if you want to be an apple vendor you better have apples in your apple cart. The idea goes beyond commercial considerations. Even poor Cezanne, with all his neuroses, thought a little bit better of himself when, finally at age 55, the Paris dealer Vollard saw fit to give him his first one man show.


“The Bathers”
oil on canvas,1898–1905
210.5 cm × 250.8 cm
by Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906)

A kind of karma takes place when a work of art goes out the door. Even as a gift to a friend or for charitable purposes, finding a home outside the workshop or studio completes the circle. The artist can rationalize that while the work is still his or her very own, it has a more illustrious future on someone else’s wall. It marches out to create good will, win friends, influence people. When a work hangs in a gallery or some other space, even a virtual space, it begins its true life. At least it’s on its way from orphanhood to finding a home and a family. We artists have to realize that our work is our principle currency, a source of joy, and the bringer of a lot of the good in our lives.

Making a delivery has the effect of clearing the mind as well as the studio. Then there’s something about the void that needs to be filled. It seems to me that art is about new beginnings and new challenges.


“Bathers #4”
oil on canvas,1906
by Paul Cezanne

Even sending off a batch of slides or photos to a dealer is cathartic. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it gives a similar release.

Best regards,


PS: “When one door closes, another opens.” (Fernando de Rojas, 1465-1538)

Esoterica: Some stress managers for the studio are RPS, OSPZ and MAD. “Relaxed Pressure Scheduling” (RPS) is a laid back, self-generated plan where work-pressure is gently moved from external demand to internal government. “Off-Station Play Zones” (OSPZ, Say, “I’m going for some osspeezee.”) means outside-the-studio activities, including non-creative hobbies, social and physical interests. MAD is the simple and basic solution for the stress caused by the drooling wolf at the door: “Make A Delivery.”

“With an apple I will astonish Paris.” (Paul Cezanne)

This letter was originally published as “OTD MAD” on January 14, 2000. Also included is an excerpt from the letter “Understanding studio stress” published on May 21, 2004.



  1. This idea is also expressed in Robert’s book – Painters Keys and is one of the most useful ideas I have ever read about being an artist. Painting is indeed a cycle that truly has its completion when a painting finds a new home. Thank you for reprinting this letter.

  2. I agree with this for a couple reasons, the main one being our connection as discussed by Philip Frey and Fairfield Porter. I suggest this to my collectors and viewers. As artists, we’re taking them on a journey. Of course, they’re adding to it through their perceptions, so that journey (or thought) is actually growing. You can visualize it as energy started by you, growing larger as you do your work, infusing it with more thought, energy, love, frustration, whatever goes on when you’re working. When completed, you have infused your work with so much emotion and hopefully at completion, the strongest is love and satisfaction at a job well done. That energetic journey continues with the viewer/collector. What journey do you want to take them on?

      • How true…! To me too, my works are my daughters, that’s why I don’t allow any one to make any changes on my canvass, I take that as molestation. When my paintings hang on the walls they deserve, I feel my daughter is married and gone to the home of her desire.

  3. Too many older paintings hanging around my studio leads to PEOF… Physical Evidence Of Failure. It feels so good to get them in the car, carton or plastic and get them somewhere! Our job is just to paint, we often need help finding homes for our pieces.

  4. Sue - Painting retired on

    Please help me find the letter which talked about a creative person’s need for privacy; the quiet, meditative time alone just “doing “nothing”. Thought I had it bookmarked for sharing at association meeting; I think it was within the last two months.

    So happy to see the continuation of Robert’s letters, and all the comments from both newer and established readers. You are my top “art place” to read for inspiration!

    • Hi Sue,
      If it’s a recent letter you’re thinking of, perhaps it’s this one: http://painterskeys.com/the-art-of-slow/
      To browse for other letters on this topic, you can try the “search” box near the top, left hand corner of every page of this website. Type in keyword(s) to bring up a page of related letters .
      You can also go to the Letters page: http://painterskeys.com/category/letters/ and browse by image and blurb.
      Lastly, a complete Letter index is on the right sidebar — if you prefer to browse letters by date and/or title.
      I hope this is helpful, thank you for reading and sharing.

  5. Perfect timing, Sara! Thanks for reposting Robert’s brilliant manifestio. I never read this one, but boy, it’s just what i need now as i sift thru my psyche for a New Year’s studio resolution. Eurka! I hereby resolve to go MAD this year ;-)

  6. Busily finishing new work right this minute! Hanging my 9th One-Man Exhibit on Friday @ St. Marks Coffeehouse in Denver Colorado: 2019 East 17th Ave. From January 16 through February 29 2016. Best (not)Gallery hours ever: 6:30 AM to Midnight- 7 days a week- with a guaranteed stream of visitors. Reception: Friday evening January 22. Less-than-perfect time of the year for Art Sales- but I’ve got a bunch of small pieces! Wish me luck! (whatever) Pray for me!!! (like that will help) Been cranking for the last 4 months. Plan on taking a couple of days off- afterword. Don’t call.

  7. Sara, As usual the words of your father and you keep hitting all the right places. The joy in working and completing pieces becomes a daily triumph after a walk in freezing cold, clear air. New year, new energy and new beginnings, but I never stop painting.

  8. Does anyone else have trouble letting go of paintings–even old ones? Though, it is nice to think of them giving joy to others. I just had one of my paintings end up in a courtroom hung next to the jury box!

  9. Paintings do have a life of their own. Glad to know from many of the comments that I’m not alone in terms of processing the dilemma of marketing myself and artwork. My Dad was a painter and tried to sway me from becoming anything but an artist for the same reasons mentioned here. He would say, it’s easy to create a painting, but hard to sell. So don’t rely on it! I decided to take Dad’s advice and teach art for a living and sell enough to support my art habit. Success! Yes, I’d like to see more pieces go out the door but I don’t do all the usual marketing legwork to create a sale. My friends seem to be interested and that’s what I hope for, To complete the circle of a painting’s life one must purge occasionally, give away sometimes and sell the rest. Hmmm, could be referred to POGASSTR

    • Ironically, I read this post after coming home from shipping a painting to an upcoming exhibit at the Arts Club of Washington, which had invited me to be a participating artist. I am quite happy with the work, and was feeling a bit of separation anxiety, so Robert’s words were exactly what I needed to hear, at exactly the right moment.

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