The private lives of keeners


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Sara McManigle of Luverne, ND, asked, “How does an artist maintain the energy levels, motivation, and passion to realize her dreams? As hard as I try, I still get bogged down by others’ condescension, the financial aspects, and time management. How do you keep the fire burning when you’re so fizzled out?”

Thanks, Sara. Artists need to be self-sustaining, private, “follow-your-bliss” islands unto themselves. Self-directed and independent, they make their own fizz. But artists need to realize that there are more than a few ways to become enthusiastic and motivated. One size does not fit all. Not surprisingly, artists with obsessive-compulsive tendencies and an addiction to work appear to be the keeners.

One way to understand motivation is to look at the symbols represented by the things we do. A passion for kayaking, for example, might represent a desire for freedom or escape. That of dancing, for romance and love. Among other things, painting can represent a desire to re-order the universe or simply to fill the beauty gap. Nothing wrong with those. These passions, whether intrinsic or learned, are integral parts of our natures and need to be honoured. When we begin to understand our symbols, we can get on with the more mechanistic of the ploys — head down, focus, shutout or postponement of impedimenta, pump priming, multitasking and the wisdom of time-management.

Furthermore, amateurs have a wisdom that professionals know not of. One can learn from amateurs. Successful self-motivators at any level are able to regularly return to their beginner-minds and rekindle earlier enthusiasms. Never underestimate your inner kid.

Artists also need to be aware of their personal blockers — people, places and things — and be prepared to substitute positive over negative. Without trashing the wonderful mothers of our world, a frequently reported situation is the demanding, impossible-to-please mother who derails daughters and sons. Oh yeah, dads can do it to you too. Critical, failed, or bitter themselves, they are the kernel of a rolling, generational snowball that is difficult to stop. Stealthily and unwittingly a keen edge becomes dull and jaded. Artists so afflicted need to give thought to re-sharpening with alternate role models.

Best regards,


PS: “If you can give your child only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.” (Bruce Barton)

Esoterica: From my perspective, every situation, every human being, is unique. While the loving input of true friends is certainly valuable, more than anything, each artist needs to work out private ploys that beat back the unique bugaboos. I appreciate this is not always easy, as circumstances can run powerful interference. But if I didn’t know it can be done, is being done, and will be done, I wouldn’t be tapping on this laptop. The word is “character.” Character is built, not granted.


Tom Thomson paintings


“Autumn Birches”
field sketch 8 x 10 inches


“Storm Clouds”
field sketch 8 x 10 inches


“April in Algonquin” field sketch 8 x 10 inches


“Decorative Landscape, Birches”
oil painting 76×72 cm
— studio work derived from a field sketch.














Breathe in the joy
by Gwen Fox, Colorado Springs, CO, USA


original painting
by Gwen Fox

Oh, how we all know of the condescension of others… those patronizing attitudes that take us back to the playground in grade school. It is this shift in energy that moves us from a place of confidence to a place of insecurity. Not a fun place to be. Surrounding ourselves with those who support and believe in our visual viewpoint is crucial for an artist. We put our art out for others to see like laundry on the line. We expose ourselves to the core. It takes great courage to be an artist. Remember, when people are condescending to others they are merely showing that insecure part of themselves they wish to hide. So many artists forget the beginners mind philosophy. This is all-important for artists as this allows ideas to percolate without judgment of what is right or wrong. This allows us to paint from knowledge while presenting a fresh perspective on a subject or technique. Each day in the life of an artist is new and exciting. Breathe in the love of life, the knowledge that today you have the freedom to paint and create… breathe in the joy of being an artist.

There are 3 comments for Breathe in the joy by Gwen Fox

From: Amy Evans — Apr 28, 2009

Being around positive people has definitely helped my art. Your words are so wise!

From: Kit — Apr 28, 2009

I love the way you have designed the space, the drama the strong lights and darks give and of course the subject. Just a very appealing painting. I wondered if it is a mixed media piece, with perhaps some collage elements. Kit

From: gwen — Apr 29, 2009

Thanks Kit…it is acrylic and collage. A fun painting to do.


Creativity begets creativity
by Sandra Bos, Cookeville, TN, USA


“Earth vessels”
original painting
by Sandra Bos

I used to have tons of this stuff, enthusiasm, but I now have to work harder to try and keep the magic happening. I was told by my teacher not to judge while in the process of creating, and to remember the ‘genie in the bottle’ seems to click in if we can remember to love what we do and to trust the process. Creativity begets Creativity. Thinking about painting is a lot harder than actually doing it, but when I freeze up and worry too much, I forget that and have to go back to the drawing board and pull myself up, brush myself off, and start all over again. But then, I really don’t have any other options, since I love to paint and create. It’s what I do, and my feet never hit the floor in the morning when I don’t think about it and, most days (Robert’s advice), I’m “squeezing out” before my coffee gets cold.

There are 2 comments for Creativity begets creativity by Sandra Bos

From: Dena — Apr 28, 2009

Very lovely and very good advice. Thank you.

From: Robin Hall — Apr 28, 2009

Sandra, I love this painting.


Paint well and often
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Farm trees”
acrylic painting, 20 x 24 inches
by Linda Blondheim

I had an epiphany a few years ago as a professional artist. I woke up one day and realized that none of the trappings of being an important artist mattered any more. The one-upmanship, the jockeying for position, the resume building, making sure I was in the right gallery, were all so unnecessary to my success. All I really had to do was paint as well and as much as I could. That’s really all I ever wanted to do anyway. I have survived in this economy because I avoid the negativity and the politics of art and my passion for my work is ever stronger as a result.

There are 5 comments for Paint well and often by Linda Blondheim

From: Mary Bullock — Apr 28, 2009

Wow, you really hit the nail on the head! You have your priorities in the right order. Love the painting.

From: Jan Blencowe — Apr 28, 2009

Your successful career and generous spirit have shown this to be so true. Forget all the negative stuff, rejoice in the doing and in the end you’re better off for it.

From: Pat Wulfson — Apr 29, 2009

Real artists deliver. You delivered. Kudos!

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Apr 29, 2009

BEAUTIFUL! I have watched so many of my artist friends struggle with the need for approval from others…changing their techniques or mediums because “someone” told them to, when (like Dorothy,) they always had the “ruby slippers” with them. Be yourself, paint your heart out, and wait for the opportunities that will come.

From: Anonymous — Apr 29, 2009

That is all true and Linda is a wonderful artist, but it’s also true that she got her epiphany after she already got fairly known. If you are new and nobody has ever seen your work, however good, you do have to find a way to get visibility as a part of your career. Once you have some of that going, you can kick back and enjoy being a true artist the way Linda does. Nobody can get away just with honey, there is a bitter part to swallow as well.


Plugging along for joy
by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA


“My Glass Table”
watercolour painting, 30 x 22 inches
by Nina Allen Freeman

I don’t know of any other profession where friends and family feel as free to tell you how to do your job as they do to an artist. It is very difficult to continue working on the route you know is the way you should go when people are telling you, “Why do you do this; you are not making any money?” or “You should paint beach scenes, they are selling.” I have simply continued to plug along trying to be the best that I am able to be and knowing that people will buy good art regardless of the subject. I know I am right about this, even though they buy bad art too. I also have remained active in local art organizations and close to artist friends. These relationships are invaluable help to maintain my focus. Whenever I am down or discouraged I call or go by the studio of a friend and enjoy a spirited conversation about art and I am again enthusiastic about working.

Right now, my focus is distracted by a garage that needs cleaning out and a yard that needs attention, but I am determined to be in the studio this morning.

There are 3 comments for Plugging along for joy by Nina Allen Freeman

From: Ken Flitton — Apr 28, 2009

Beautiful painting

From: Jan Blencowe — Apr 28, 2009

“I don’t know any other profession where friends and family feel as free to tell you how to do your job as they do to an artist.” Not to mention strangers who come along when you’re outside painting.

It really is hard to be an artist, thank goodness the joy is so powerful and rewarding or many of us would have given up long ago!

From: Andra Dunn — Apr 28, 2009

Your use of rich colors, the texture contrasts, and that wonderful balance… I am right there…really enjoying your flowers and their surroundings!

very nice painting!


Dealing with resistance
by Dennis Marshall, Paterson, NJ, USA


a book by Steven Pressfield

I have found that I am the one that blocks myself from painting. Robert Pressfield in his book, The War of Art — Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles points out that the secret that writers know is that writing isn’t the hard part, it is sitting down to write. He points out that what prevents writers from working is called Resistance. I am learning what my Resistance is and while it is difficult to overcome I will try to do so. The only way to paint is to paint. Everything else is secondary. I know that the business fairy will not sprinkle magic dust and then I will have a gallery and sales. Yet while painting artists have to literally close out the “noise” that surrounds them. Audrey Flack in her book Art and Soul has a wonderful quote on page 15 from a talk with Philip Guston. It is titled Studio Ghosts- “When you’re in the studio, there are a lot of people in there with you. Your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics… and, one by one if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you are really painting YOU walk out. I paint mostly landscapes and if I were to keep dwelling on the very serious environmental problems I may never pick up a paint brush. Hopefully one of these days while I am painting in the studio I will walk out.

There are 3 comments for Dealing with resistance by Dennis Marshall

From: Carol Nelson — Apr 28, 2009

I love that quote from ART & SOUL. I never thought about Studio Ghosts, but it is a fascinating concept. It’s some where along the line that we are the sum of all our experiences and/or we all take our baggage with us wherever we go.

As an artist, I think there is a point, after many miles on the brush have passed, where we develop enough confidence in ourselves and our art that the ghosts stay outside the door, but the Muse remains.

From: Suzette Fram — Apr 28, 2009

Thank you for this: “writing isn’t the hard part, it is sitting down to write”. I have always known this but never quite so succinctly. This applies to everything we do; it’s not the doing that’s hard, it’s getting started. Thanks for reminding us of this.

From: Cara Lawson-Ball — Apr 30, 2009


Summoning the greats of the past
by Ron Elstad, Anaheim, CA, USA


“A beautiful place of old”
original painting
by Ron Elstad

The one constant that helps me most, and always has, is by visually drawing off the energy from the images and live art of the work produced by the master painters of the past, yes, the dead guys. The ones who invented the wheel… so to speak. These are the artists I highly admire. I’m continually viewing and studying their works, whether in a gallery, museum, video or book. For some reason this creates a profound amount of energy for me. It gives me the need and power to imagine myself creating similar paintings of this quality. So much so, that when I set down in front of my easel, without thinking, I begin to paint. I feel this energy flow from my soul directly to the canvas. This helps me to bring about that proverbial, in the groove, moment. This may sound a bit farfetched, but for me it is an actual phenomenon. However, for one to possibly ever experience this one has to already possess an innate need and love to paint, to live and breathe it. This one way I speak of only helps by bringing out and igniting the dormant presents already existing within.

There are 3 comments for Summoning the greats of the past by Ron Elstad

From: Jeanette R. — Apr 29, 2009

I understand your viewpoint completely. For many years I worked as a financial analyst during the day and an artist at night. At my “day job,” I always kept a calendar or day planner in my office filled with beautiful pictures. Whenever the pressures of the job got to me, I would take 5 minutes out to stop and thumb through the pictures, absorbing their beauty and energy. That was enough to give me the courage to keep going.

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Apr 29, 2009

…and that is why we must keep being artists (so that others may have inspiration a hundred years from now.) Can you imagine if we all just gave up? What would the world be like without art? Using the artists of the past for inspiration and adding your own unique methods = “your style,” and because you are painting RIGHT NOW, others will paint later! :)

From: Gwen Fox — Apr 29, 2009

Love the mystery of your painting. The colors are great ….makes one want to be there in that boat reflecting on life.


Being stubborn and driven
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA


“Autumn lane”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

Some people are not cut out to be artists as others are not cut out to be actors, mothers or hair stylists. Each of us has unique gifts and a ‘highest level’ area where perhaps our gifts can find their best nesting place. Motivations start at a young age. Perhaps it is our parents or peers that reward us with praise and start the first spark of the passion needed to excel. Passion is a complicated business that is difficult to achieve and maintain. There are legions of enemies that seek to squelch passion and many are very effective. Parents, friends, hormones, families, spouses can be passion robbers. Artists need to stand vigilant to guard their passions and motivations. In the end, successful artists are very stubborn, driven individuals. Their art becomes enmeshed in their personal fabric. They NEED to do art. It fulfills, enriches, motivates, satisfies. If you need to ask about how to go about having the passion to create, you are not likely to follow this field long. You will never find answers from others that will make you jump out of a plane, or invent something or paint a stack of paintings. You are alone. You must be your own psychiatrist, counselor and personal trainer. It’s up to you!

There is 1 comment for Being stubborn and driven by Paul deMarrais

From: Jeanette R. — Apr 29, 2009

Well said!!


The subtle pressure of shows
by Edward Abela, Markham, ON, Canada


“Algonquin canoe”
acrylic painting, 20 x 30 inches
by Edward Abela

A practical way to remain motivated is always having a number of shows planned ahead. This gives you a target and an incentive to work towards. Preferably at least one ‘one-man’ show each year at a venue where you are obliged to show some new work each time.



There is 1 comment for The subtle pressure of shows by Edward Abela

From: Carol Nelson — Apr 28, 2009


Adverse times inspire
by Suzanne Partridge, UK


oil painting
by Suzanne Partridge

I try to accept whatever I do. I have to realize that what I do is always the best I could have done. Any dissatisfaction I feel with a piece of work is transferred to the next painting, where it will get dealt with, other problems will then arise, ready for the next painting, and so it goes. I love and hate what I do in equal measure. When galleries, or competitions, say no, this gives me the impetus I need to carry on. I work to please myself. I motivate myself because I need to see new things, and to be surprised by what I do. This is the worst year I have known since I graduated in 1998. Galleries are closing and I don’t, as yet, have an exhibition lined up for next year. This hasn’t stopped me. I have to find new ways of expressing my need to be an artist.

There is 1 comment for Adverse times inspire by Suzanne Partridge

From: Liz Schamehorn, Canada — Apr 28, 2009

WOW! What a beautiful painting!


Finding your fizz
by Mark Sharp, Invermere, BC, Canada


“Magical Sky”
acrylic painting
by Mark Sharp

Paint a picture in the Dark.
Paint a picture in a mirror.
Paint a picture with your finger.
Paint a picture upside down.
Paint a picture with a brush too big.
Paint a picture eating wasabi. Make it quick!
Paint a picture where you would have never.
Hope you find your Fizz!

There is 1 comment for Finding your fizz by Mark Sharp

From: Carol Nelson — Apr 28, 2009

LOL. I must try the wasabi technique. Good advice, Mark.


Avoiding the abyss
by Trish Booth, Cordova, NM, USA


“La Escalera de Los Ánimas”
original painting
by Trish Booth

An hour a day in your studio or your journal. The world and its chores will take over if you let them. Carve out a certain space, a certain time for you. Make it a habit. It will grow to become part of your routine and it will grow beyond that as a matter of course and you and your work will grow with it. Plant the seed you need and water it every day.

If it means your kids take one less lesson, fine. They have a lifetime of lessons ahead and probably really need some time to just play. You MUST take care of your needs in order to take good care of theirs. Neglecting yourself for others, even your children, will only create a downward, resentful, spiral. Don’t fall into that abyss. Shine.

There are 2 comments for Avoiding the abyss by Trish Booth

From: Linda Bishop — Apr 28, 2009

Nicely said….I will print this out and hang it in my studio to remind me

From: Janet Hopkins — May 02, 2009

A welcome reminder of how we must push back against the constant pull of everyday life or else lose what is most meaningful to ourselves.


Permission to fail
by Marleen Goff, Sacramento, CA, USA

As a psychotherapist, in practice for over 25 years and now an artist, in spirit, for forever, I couldn’t have given more wise, sacred or practical advice than you gave in your letter to those of us who “aspire.” It is truly refreshing to read your words of simple recipe and know that, somewhere out there, teachers, advisors and mentors are telling us the very best stuff with which to “be.” Being is not an easy practice and leads us to the most profound discoveries of “us” than we can imagine. I would add to this formula, give yourself permission to “fail.” For whatever this means to each of us, individually, this is an important part of the process. And, as I have recently discovered, art, like therapy and life, is a process! So, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”


Mirror, heroes and twins
by Judith Madsen


watercolour painting, 15 x 11 inches
by Judith Madsen

I just bought Anne Paris’ book Standing at Water’s Edge. She is a clinical psychologist (25 years) who specializes in helping artists and other creative people reach their potential. Rather than presenting the creation of art as a lonely, solitary endeavour, she shows how the relationships with others are actually crucial to creativity. She reveals a unique model of “mirrors, heroes, and twins” to explore the key relationships that support creativity. Exactly as you said in your letter in the last paragraph — we must learn to substitute positive over negative. Your letters to artists accomplish the role of all three above, mirror, heroes and twins…

Thank you for your passion for philosophy and because you are an artist — sharing this with your fellow artists with your special use of the English language (clarity, conciseness, kernels, brevity, humour, subtlety, motivation, challenges) which is another gift you have.

There is 1 comment for Mirror, heroes and twins by Judith Madsen

From: Gwen Fox — Apr 29, 2009

Judith….love the painting. Is that your dog? Also thanks for the name of the book…it sounds interesting.





3D digital painting
by Balazs Papay, Budapest, Hungary


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 Marie Lyon of Summerside, PEI, Canada, who wrote, “May I suggest The Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. It’s about the hidden benefits of disorders and their value to brain-storming, lateral thinking, etc., all beneficial to a creative artist.”

And also Cyndie Katz of Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, who wrote, “The best advice I ever had was to buy Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Through her exercises, I (and thousands of other artists) learned to put the proper emphasis on my art and my own creative visions. I really don’t think I’d have the discipline or confidence I have today without having used her book.

And also Janee Ward of Crosby, TX, USA, who wrote, “When I read your subject I immediately thought it was about Irish keening — the sad lamentations or ullaloo at the wake or funeral. Keening is performed by Keeners, women who are trained in this art. Sadly, this ancient practice is dying out. I didn’t see the connection to art right away but knowing you I figured there would be one. Then I read on and realized that it had nothing to do with a high pitched wailing.”

And also Kim Rushing of Seattle, WA, USA, who wrote, “Every moment moves me toward having no moments left, and full of emotion and ideas to express; it’s off to art class I go!”

And also Susan Knight Smith of Powder Springs, GA, USA, who wrote, “My energy comes from my desire to create an alternate role model for my relationship with my mother. I am obsessed with creating lovely images of mothers nurturing and babies and the mother/ baby connection.”

And also Andrew Bray who wrote, “Alternate role model? You. I don’t know how you regularly write such well-articulated, no-nonsense, yet inspirational letters. Thank-you.”


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The private lives of keeners



From: Vivian Anderson — Apr 23, 2009

Dear Sara, Please listen to the master to whom you wrote, Put aside outside influences, listen to your inner self, and return to wide-eyed optimism. It works. And good luck, Vivian Anderson

From: kiku — Apr 24, 2009

Hello Mr Genn. Hope all’s Ok. Many thanks for the clickbacks which I find very informative. I look forward to them on Tuesday and Friday mornings as the brighten up my rather dull day, which consists of sitting in front of a computer for 9+ hours, Mon to Fridays.

My question is this. I paint in watercolors and recently sold a painting at a show. Nothing much, but the buyer saw something in it that moved both him and his wife. I felt happy at the fact that it meant more to them than just a another decoration on their walls at home. At least my emotions while painting it got an extra reward.

Because of lack of studio space (my “studio” is the kitchen table top), I have worked all my adult life in watercolors. Recently a friend of mine offered to share some studio space with me, so I thought of working in oils for a change, something I wanted to do for a long time.

My question is this: I am tempted to do another painting of the watercolor I sold, this time in oils. Would I be in anyway cheating on the buyer if I did? I would like to do it just the same as the watercolor as far as composition and color scheme are concerned.

I have considered changing things around but I would lose the impact of the painting if I did and I don’t want that to happen.

Many thanks and regards


From: Kathleen — Apr 24, 2009

Share your impulse with your buyer…they will be flattered that you liked your own work (now theirs) well enough to interpret it in a different way. Your new work will not be a copy…it will be a study of the original. You may find that moving from watercolor to oil changes your focus enough to create an entirely new tangent for you to investigate. Remember, you are a watercolorist -you’ve learned to love those tangents! If Monet didn’t worry about using a subject twice neither should you! Good luck to you with your new studio.

From: Dwight Williams — Apr 24, 2009

Realizing that not everyone is alike, I find “giving” my skills away can be a great push. Just yesterday I demonstrated some of what I have been doing for years to a high school class that was beginning a watercolor section in their art class.

Leading workshops and just answering questions about what I do seems to be enjoyable to me and helps me move along myself.

My wife laughs about all of the “free” lessons I have given.

Some people may need to be alone to work, but for me, in the words of a former student, “Dwight could paint in a traffic jam.”

Try giving away what you know. I might help move you on too.

From: PeggySu — Apr 24, 2009
From: Opie — Apr 24, 2009

Kiku: Good luck with your oils. However, if you ever lose that shared artist’s space and return to your kitchen table, you might consider trying oil pastels as a way to expand your media. OP’s, the story goes, were developed by Sennellier for Picasso. However, until recently they were relegated to children, or student use. Now there are a number of artist quality OP’s being sold in an extensive range of colors. Many talent artists are currently pushing the previous limits of technique, and the tradition is still being forged. OP’s are portable, relatively clean, and absolutely dustless. OP is a good alternative for the facility deprived.

From: Marilee — Apr 24, 2009

I totally understand where Sara is coming from. While raising my 3 children and a demanding husband, I was very frustrated and still am at the interruptions in working on my art. I took a forging class a while ago trying to complete my BFA and the project had to have meaning to you. Immediately I thought of a bird flying against the wind. I wrote this poem about it and about me:

Flight of Reality

I am a wife and a mother

Life is not simple

Goals are made

They are not easily met

When the creative juices are flowing

Something always comes up as a strong wind to make a barrier

Time passes and it takes more time to get the momentum going again

It may be days – weeks- months

Starting over

Somtimes I wish for the freedom that a bird has

Flying on its way despite the wind.

It is difficult to try to tell others that your art is work and you need time to do it. Most of the time they do not consider it important and do not understand how important it is to you. They do not understand the passion that is within us.

From: Sara — Apr 24, 2009

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I almost didn’t send the email, but am glad that it might be helping others too. I’ll definitely have to try your suggestions and do some reading.

Between email, facebook, and here, it’s really been an eye-opener to realize how many supportive people there are who will take time out of THEIR busy schedules to send a note to a fellow artist who’s struggling.

A heartfelt thank you to Robert Genn for replying and to everyone who’s posted.

:-) Sara

From: Liz Reday — Apr 24, 2009

I am the wife of a busy man and mother of a child with autism. When he was two I had him in a sling while doing monotypes on my etching press. I have always painted/made artwork at least 8 hours every day. My husband knew that was how I was before he married me. You just have to do it and be obstinate.

From: R M Swanson — Apr 26, 2009

Maybe the age of running off to expensive psychologists is over. It seems some of us may have had the knowledge to self-cure within ourselves all along. And with the additional balm of daily creative practice, with its liberating sense of real struggle, we are now free to build as we see fit.

From: Gregg H — Apr 26, 2009

Hi Sara,

I have been doing the part time artist thing for many years. I have had many self examinations as to whether or not it is worth it. If I did not believe my art had some quality, and may someday be enjoyed by someone, I would have given up a long time ago.

I am also on a computer 9-10 hours a day. I have two children. When it is late & my kids are in bed I paint for a couple of hours. Some nights I just look & think, sometimes I only break out a few colors and address a very small area.

It is tough to keep motivated. All I can say is treat it like interactive fun. Do not worry if your efforts of the night have helped or not helped the painting itself. Experiment. Make the experience as fun as possible. Produce the best work you can, even if it takes more time. Be imaginative. If you have a passion in your heart to make art, then just make the time & have as much fun as possible.

My job (retouching & color correction ) is mostly boring. It is challenging to solve painting problems. It makes me feel like I am doing what I should, and someday, if the right person understands my personal vision & voice, and I finally am able to do it full time, I will be a very happy man.

In the meantime, I will just do my best to learn with each painting and take it for what it is. A great alternative to laying in an easy chair & watching reality tv.

Hang in there. You are an artist! Persevere! Love what you do. A gift is meant to be used.

Warmest regards,

Gregg H

From: Jimmie Anne — Apr 26, 2009

Hi Kiku, I just had to say why do you feel that you have to have a studio to do oils in? I just completed an oil painting at my kitchen table using a table top easel. When I do a large painting I use a studio easel that can be folded when not in use and a wood tv tray to place my painting supplies on, and I do most of the painting in my kitchen or in a corner of my den (and my house is very small!!!!). I am also a sculptor doing life size portrait figures and I do most of them in one corner of my den. I have even had students come to take a private lesson in oils in my kitchen with no problems at all. And yes, I have a husband too. He learned a long time ago that I produce artwork when ever and where ever I am using all types of mediums, so he got used to it. Don’t be intimidated into believing that you must have a special place to work in oils. You can do them anywhere you do watercolors. Would I love to have a wonder studio space? YES, but at the time that is not possible but I don’t let that stop me.

I hope you will go ahead and plow right on in and do that painting you sold in oils. You will get a different result with the oils, but I think you will enjoy working with them.

Best Wishes,

Jimmie Anne

From: Rick Rotante — Apr 27, 2009

One point made by Robert was parents who “derail”. This is an issue that I’ve had to overcome and still struggle with. As a child I exhibited art ability plus musical ability. My parents were immigrants and knew the benefits of hard work and a good education. Art and music weren’t high on the money making list but they put me in art school and taught me the guitar anyway. After years in theater, music (played drums professionally) and art, all of which I excelled; while making little money; throughout my life I could never shake the feeling that while my parents supported me, they subtly exuded the feeling that I should get a good job and settle down. Whenever I did something artsy, they approved but there was this underlying feeling from them that I was wasting my time. As much as I love them, they didn’t understand the artist in their midst. After all I wasn’t a doctor, lawyer or scientist.

I know many out there had the same experiences. They inadvertently, build in to me this feeling of being a failure which I first had to recognize and work to overcome.

The second point is a small studio or kitchen studio. I short, the space isn’t important, though it makes you feel better to have a studio space to call you own. It’s the work you produce that is important. For years I worked in a bedroom/spare room/storage room/dining room where I had to put away my toys every time we had guests. As long as I had quiet, and time to work, the space actually –disappears. Even today in my studio, when I work I become oblivious to my surroundings.

From: c.a. stutzman — Apr 27, 2009

How can I be a part of your network? I sold a painting this spring and would like to be within the collaboration of artists online. Can you please give me some tips? Thanks so much!


From: Luann Udell — Apr 28, 2009

I LOVED this article today–great insight! I’m constantly writing articles on why and how artists should put passion into their artist statements. Understanding how our activities and actions symbolize deeper needs and desires leads right into this. I’m going to do a little digging myself today, hoping to recreate a little “fizz”. Er…right after this show, that is.

From: Edith Dora Rey — Apr 28, 2009

“How does an artist maintain the energy levels, motivation, and passion to realize her dreams?” Sara, to keep gung-ho + spirited about my painting I just follow orders. The orders of my eccentric rhymes with witch muse. She is one tough cookie. She gets me out of the house, forcing me to march around in thirty below Montreal winters barking look! Look! LOOK! Feel, think, strip it down. Analyze, categorize, soak it in. She makes me read about science and geography and art, art, art. She makes me read about other artists. How did they do it? What were their palettes. She makes me travel, take endless photographs, workshops with artists who love art, too. She points to the new blossoms one day. Paint, now! They’ll be open tomorrow. The next day, sleeping dog. Hey, he’s not moving. Paint him now, fast. And those flowers you got on Valentines Day, think they’re going to last? Go get ’em. Sometimes she upsets me. This week she’s got me on a totally abstract kick. I haven’t done pure abstracts since my art school days in the 70’s! Why now? I’ve spent so long learning how to paint representationally.

But there you go. That’s what keeps it exciting. My eccentric muse just keeps pushing me to keep it fresh. Keep it close. Keep it honest. But most importantly, what the running shoe people say. Just do it.

From: Claudia Roulier — Apr 28, 2009
From: Muriel Conwell — Apr 28, 2009

As a child I dreamed of being an artist – but it was not possible then growing up In WW11 in England. I married young and ended up married to my husband, and moving to the US – and raising four children. I never quite forgot my early dream and I was always doodling. At 75 I began to take lessons – afraid that I would never be “any good.” Faced with family health problems etc. I have not painted now for several months. But at least I do not think as I once did – that I really didn’t have enough talent to have been “successful.”

I know now that being able to sell paintings was not my goal. It was to learn and enjoy, but it is a solitary pastime, and I don’t mind that. I think of what I have learned and can still learn – of how much I enjoy the beauty of what is around me – beautiful skies here in Arizona – humming birds on a flower by my window. Now I can think of myself as a “keener.” Your messages mean a lot to me.

From: Lois Underwood — Apr 28, 2009

Just want to thank you for your letters which are not only informative, but supportive. It’s great to realize that most artists have similar thoughts and situations with which to deal. As one of my teachers once said, “I can’t not paint”, so we must always try to work out ways to create our art in spite of life’s complexities.

From: Marianna — Apr 28, 2009
From: Eveleen Power — Apr 28, 2009

There is a saying: “Those who keep harping on about their parents’ faults never grow up.” There is a certain stage where you have to let go of your parents and move onwards.

From: Jerry Conrad — Apr 28, 2009

OK, I confess. As a teenager and young to middle aged man I thought energy was a bottomless pit. At the age of 80 I realize that is not really true. I’ve put a lot of thought into this and now realize that, as a performing acting active potter that it is imperative to #1 don’t quit, #2 stay healthy #3 to sort of quote Julia Childs eat what what you want, just use a little common sense #4 give in to your questions and leave no stone unturned to get answers. It doesn’t really matter if you always get an answer as long as you conduct an active intelligent search and don’t let yourself become negative #5 keep in mind that as far as your art is concerned there is only ONE person that really matters – not friends – not family – not customers – it’s YOU. Understand, giving in to those exterior factors sucks HUGE amounts of energy that could be put to better applied to your ART! Well, enough of this old guy wisdom. Stop reading and make some art!

From: Claudio Ghirardo — Apr 28, 2009

One thing I find helps is spending time alone meditating on “why am I doing this?” or “what is my reason for it”. I have found the more time I spend questioning it deeply, answers seem to perculate and go from there. In my case, I have learned I have a real passion and obsession for art, and I do what I need to keep working on it.

From: Peter Daniels — Apr 28, 2009

I am learning that NEGATIVE ENERGY is just energy…when someone else wants to throw that much ENERGY at me (of theirs, be it negative), I can RE-TOOL it into “MINE”, and use it as a LEG UP with POSITIVE RESULTS!…It is after all “ENERGY”…RUN WITH IT, BUT IN YOUR OWN FASHION, which can give us a QUANTUM LEAP!…

From: Isobel McCreight — Apr 28, 2009

As a youngster, I was very busy as my Mother described me. My sister described me as a Hyper kid who drove her slightly Crazy…

So now I look at myself, at 72 and I am still BUSY and enjoy the freedom of a hyper mind.

If an image comes to mind, then I am thinking of one thing only and that is the image on a canvas and how to mix the colours, starting the painting, squeezing the tubes and feeling the thrill of the whole process.

It is almost sad once the painting is finished. Then the whole process starts over again. Can’t sleep, or plan other jobs ….so just give me a few hours and I am so happy. I think that a hyper kid is just a hyper adult not quite grown yet.

From: Ginny Blakeslee Breen — Apr 28, 2009

About ten years ago, I decided to paint every day as a spiritual discipline and I have never been sorry, it has really paid off. I have never regretted a single moment in my sanctuary (studio) at my alter (easel). My art transformed from being a choice into a flaming desire. I am forever grateful.

From: Stefanie Graves — Apr 28, 2009

Another very valuable way, I have found, for keeping my enthusiasm up and my motivation going is to surround myself with fellow artists. I have the great good fortune to live in an artist community (Paducah, KY) and so have a ready-made support group upon whom I can bounce ideas off of, get critiques and inspiration from, share a cup of coffee or a friendly laugh. As you say, our existence demands a good deal of isolation, so having others to help you along the way who share the artist’s ups and downs and dilemmas of this interesting life goes a long way in counteracting the negatives such as low sales, finding a market, or getting through a dry creative spell. If you don’t have the luxury of fellow artists in your neighborhood or area, I would highly suggest finding groups online. There are many sites that host forums and areas to post and share work.

From: GG — Apr 28, 2009

How to keep the artist’s home fires burning?

Volunteer at a grade school, help the art teacher, or be the volunteer art teacher for an interest class or an after school class – some schools have after school hours to keep the children safe until parents can pick them up after work. You can use anything – pencils or crayons or anything you like, playdough, the recipe for Christmas ornaments – make valentines, etc.

Children’s art is so creative and innovative and interesting.

Once I was at work in a law office – a lady lawyer brought her grandson, age 4, to the office. To entertain him, I drew a circle and drew radiating lines (I thought) around the circle, for a drawing that he could finish. He said – why does the sun have hair?

Their comments will add to your enjoyment and delight. You will look at things in a new light.

From: Kate Lackman — Apr 28, 2009

A note to Sara: I have found that the industry of art is really no different than any other when it comes to people. There are those artists that are toxic because they are insecure and want to tear down the confidence of others to raise themselves up. Their insecurities cause them to become haters as Maya Angelou so aptly wrote, “A hater is someone who is jealous and envious and spends all their time trying to make you look small so they can look tall.” Surround your self with other artists that encourage you. They are out there in spades !! Also, this is not a team sport so to speak. Art is more like golf, an individual endeavor that gives one an intense high with accomplishment.

Good luck, Sara. Keep the faith.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Apr 28, 2009

Rick, I always enjoy your comments. Today, your experiences with your parents mirror my own. Many of our parents grew up when the world was in depression and were only afraid for us, wanting us to be secure in a job, I guess. My parents did not understand the drive within me to be creative, and back then I didn’t understand how much it would mean in my life. This is not really a chioce. Being an artist pulls you along one step at a time if you are open to the creative life. Being a success or a failure depends on one’s idea of what that looks like. If you need big houses, shiney cars and lots of money, that is one kind of success. Another is having many good friends, a really good session in the studio and enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day with your beloved.

From: Linda Bishop — Apr 28, 2009

I am an artist as well. I am not a doctor, lawyer,or scientist but when I walk into a “professional’s office”, none of them have empty walls. The world needs art, it is vital for our sanity.

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Apr 28, 2009

You have to believe that what you do matters and then other people will respect your boundaries. If you do not believe in the importance of your work, no one else will either. If you do not carve out the time for what your deepest being needs to create, the demands of children and spouse and others will take precedence. A lesson I am still working on.

From: Lyn Barrett-Cowan — Apr 28, 2009

Thank you Robert for your energy and insight in doing the Twice-Weekly Letter. You are doubly lucky in that you are compelled to write and paint. I enjoy and am motivated by the letters and many times have felt that I have experienced the topic but could not have expressed it in the written form. I just chug along ding my fabric art and am so very happy to have found a medium that I am happy with that uses all the skills I learned as a water colour artist in the past and the energy that the fabric gives me for future works. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do and I’ve never been happier. Thank you for your contribution to my life as an artist. Lyn

From: Haim Mizrahi — Apr 30, 2009

Anticipation and predictability are the enemy of the clean zone that was provided to us at birth. This clean zone is the only point of reference we can use us we try to figure out a way to co-exist with all the pressures of: should or should not, might or might not. The only way to maintain the dignity and integrity of the expected inevitable journey cut out for us in the shape of a creative process, is to hold your breath and listen to the distant echoes filtered through our system. There is a lot to be said about the energy draining factors in our lives but the fact is we are all one half

step away from genius, from ultimate accomplishments, the hell with criticism, the hell with beautiful opinions, the hell with tradition, greatness will not wait forever, do the right thing by asking and answering yourself.

Long live the alternative considerations.



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