The school of life

Dear Artist, Every year about 900,000 North Americans buy brushes and paints for the first time. Every year, often after a prolonged bout of frustration, about 800,000 folks decide painting is not their thing. These figures are confirmed by the statistics of artists’ colourmen and art materials stores. Apparently, at any given time, three percent of the population is trying to paint. On the surface, painting looks easy, offers mounds of personal satisfaction and has the potential of big bucks. But then again, so does golf. And we all know that golf makes grown men cry. When closely examined, high-aimed painting is difficult, loaded with disappointment and the dubious benefits of poverty. My basic idea is that pretty well all motivated persons can become realized painters. But it’s a tricky, deceptive path with lots of sink-holes. Certain personality types, in my observation, have a better chance than others. To test yourself against my findings, give yourself a score of one to ten on the following twelve items. You don’t have to score well on all. Out of a possible score of 120, if your score is over 70 you’ll be a likely candidate for a life in art. — curious — philosophical — passionate — energetic — obsessive-compulsive — self-motivated, entrepreneurial — loner, non-joiner, outsider — hard worker — patient — exhibitionistic — egoistic — individualistic, resistant to prior programming The personality traits listed above all sidestep the possibilities of innate talent. Curiously, many with loads of talent don’t make it. Talent only completes the equation. While many may have some primal facility in drawing, color or composition, talent may be more the combination of some of those twelve personality traits. In the words of Louis Armstrong, “If ya ain’t got it in ya, ya can’t blow it out.”

Our main job in life is to try to find out what we’re good for. Life is a school. We keep taking tests. If we pass a test, we move on. If we fail a test, sooner or later we are given the test again. Failing or succeeding, wise artists know themselves and quickly move through the tests. In art, it takes a lifetime of moving through the tests. Fact is, they never stop coming. Best regards, Robert PS: “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Esoterica: Many of us are urged in our youth to choose a lifetime field. Recent research following the lives of a wide range of people found that many life directions are cast in bronze by conditions or remarks made back in high school. In a recent Time Magazine article, Annie Murphy Paul noted, “High school is a formative life experience, as social as it is academic, in which students encounter a jostling bazaar of potential identities — from jock to prep to geek [to artist]— and choose, (or are assigned) one that will stay with them for years to come.”   Lack of closure by Gary Simmons, Hot Springs, AK, USA

“The Ridge”
pastel painting
by Gary Simmons

My explanation is that art is a life with a built-in lack of closure. When we open one door we find two more and behind either of them are three more and so on. I think a large part of the thrill and the frustration for us is this never-ending quest to destinies we can’t see or define. A corollary to this is the lack of finite description for what we do. I see our place in the world as a large slot through which we might enter in a number of ways and places rather than as a pigeon hole with very specific dimensions and shapes. As a result, unlike the accountant who knows the exact steps needed to reach his goal, we are self-defined and must discover our own route. This is one of the reasons artists are often late bloomers since they have little help from the culture in reaching these defining moments. Like artists in any other discipline we must work through that period of maturing our craft rather than just coming out of school and hitting the ground running. I have been a professional artist for more than 40 years and still find myself struggling with issues of direction, confidence, and standards in spite of my awareness that these issues come with the job and with the breed. When talking to young artists I try to remember that it was passion that got me though the early stages. There are 2 comments for Lack of closure by Gary Simmons
From: Pat in New Mexico — Jun 28, 2011

Good job. I especially like the way you did the sky. Some folks try to make ‘strokes’ to show smooth areas… sky, still water etc. I try to blend these areas… as I said… good job!!

From: Maritza Bermudez — Jun 29, 2011

I think that 6 out of 10 want to be artists have a built-in “give up” gene. Lucky me, I’ve got a built-in “never give up” one.

  Revved up by daily painting by Carmen Beecher, Satellite Beach, FL, USA   I began my full-time art after retiring, though I have always painted. While many of my friends are relaxing and doing book clubs and going to Europe, I am a daily painter on and that challenge has me really revved up. I am not making a lot of money, and I do ask myself occasionally, “What am I trying to prove?” However, my work improves all the time with all that practice, and you yourself know about the high you get when the painting comes out like you want it. After much self-analysis, I think I am trying to catch-up with what I missed out on by having to work 31 years to survive, instead of doing my art. I’m thankful for the pension I live on, but I paid dearly for it. P.S. I scored over 70 on your test.   A study in tenacity by Sandra Noble Goss, Owen Sound, ON, Canada  

“Beach Memory Blanket”
mixed media
by Sandra Goss

I’m at the Idyllwild Arts Sumer Program in southern California about to teach a one week jewellery course. I agree totally with your comments that it isn’t just talent that one needs to be successful in the arts — and probably in most things. My husband and I are both jewellers/ designers/ makers. This past winter I gave a lecture to the Metal Arts Guild of Canada on our jewellery/metal careers and called it “A Study in Tenacity.” I, too, have seen many talented artists and craftsmen give up along the way and have come to realize that talent isn’t enough. You have to want to do it and want it enough that you will put up with the hard times. Years ago we were partners in a craft gallery called Makers. We were 14 young craftspeople in the early years of our careers and filled with optimism. I remember one conversation where we were all trying to outdo each other in a perverse pride of how little money we made and boasting how many years it had been since we’d paid income tax. One young fabric artist exclaimed that she would LOVE it if she made enough money to pay income tax. She soon went back to school to be a teacher. Of those original 14 young artists, only my husband and I are still making our living at our craft. The attrition rate in the arts is very high.   The incurable artist by Terry Mason, Sarasota, FL, USA   Someone recently asked me to tell them the difference between a hobbyist and an artist. I thought a moment because I know some pretty serious hobbyists. But I guess, for me, the answer had to be pretty personal. The hobbyist, I answered, can paint if they want to and not paint if they don’t want to. The artist has no choice but to paint. Maybe your categories help explain that. All I know is that if a brush doesn’t touch my hand in 48 hours I get a tad twitchy and remote. Said another way… my spouse says that the only thing that will keep me happy if I am not painting is if I am talking about painting. I don’t think being an artist is curable. Not that I have tried to be cured. There is 1 comment for The incurable artist by Terry Mason
From: Penny Collins — Jun 27, 2011
  Motivation and talent by Barbara Lussier, Putnam, CT, USA  

“Evening at Napatree Point”
original painting
by Barbara Lussier

I have always believed in the motivational aspect of success. When I attended Art School, it was suggested I drop out as I did not have the “talent.” Being philosophical, passionate, obsessive-compulsive, self-motivated, entrepreneurial and at times a total loner, I responded that, well, “I was going to do it anyhow,” and I have. Yes, I did drop out of that school and floundered a bit in my youth, but painting has been my life’s work and passion.   There are 10 comments for Motivation and talent by Barbara Lussier
From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Jun 28, 2011

Barbara, all I can say is thank goodness you didn’t listen!

From: Nan Fiegl — Jun 28, 2011

Barbara, how long did it take for you to hit upon the exact perfect spot to place that sun in the sky? Beautiful!

From: Kirk Wassell — Jun 28, 2011

As good as it gets, exquisite…

From: Liz Rogers — Jun 28, 2011

From one loner to another – that’s a place I want to be. Moving!

From: anon — Jun 28, 2011

Teachers said little Tommy Edison was impossible…

From: Ron Wilson — Jun 28, 2011

This painting of the boats is excellent, Barbara – harmony, attractive color, composition, execution – you got it goin’ there!

From: Dorenda — Jun 28, 2011

I went to art school and (in hindsight) wish I HAD dropped out…I spent years un-doing what incompetent teachers “taught” me. You were brave and smart to know that maybe that wasn’t the best path for you :) There are good teachers out there, of course, but there are a definite number of bad ones too. Your work is beautiful and well earned!

From: Peter, Vernon, BC — Jun 28, 2011

Your painting captures a mood that is the ultimate reality. Congratulations.

From: nancy — Jun 28, 2011

love your painting. Not only do I love your subject, but your use of color. As I view the picture I feel an emotional pull . The softness of color is beautiful

From: Anonymous — Jun 28, 2011

Barbara, what a welcome surprise is your painting! It’s the exact same sky I saw last evening, driving home. I pulled over and thought about how to capture the heavy, humid atmosphere hanging over that beautiful sun. Only difference, I’m land-locked and your site was on a shoreline. It’s beautiful. Thank you for having the gumption to follow your dream despite such heartless criticism of a young person. Diane K, Missouri

  The discovery of deep satisfaction by Anitta Trotter, Whitby, ON, Canada   Your letter had me laughing out loud! I was told by two teachers along the way that (1) I had no talent and (2) I should never “waste the time of the art teachers” because I had no talent. Then, three years ago a friend gave me his old chandelier made of Austrian crystal. I began to create works of art out of these in combination with my woodcarving. I discovered that working with beads and wire satisfies many deep needs (light, beauty, ability to shape, design, create, etc.) — altogether a very interesting process. The works that are mulling around in my head are going to blow the minds of the men in my woodcarving guild! At long last you have provided me with confirmation that this is what my life has been leading up to.   Living in instinct by Gary Eddington, Baltimore, MD, USA   I always thought that when I got to art school, then, I would fit in. Well anyone who knows Art College knows there is no place to fit in. Each person is an individual and is seen as such; in fact if you do fit in you are out. I finally did get grades that made my parents proud but I certainly did not fit in. I did, however, know I was in the right place and did not feel outside as in high school. Even in HS I found friends who also were outside-insiders. We were thought of as cool but not centered. Now I am very comfortable with myself and love living in my instinct where I reach for a color and brush, wanting to see a certain image appear and revel in the joy of watching it happen and wondering, “How the heck is that happening?” Artwork is like skiing or motorcycle riding or, more to my liking, skateboarding. We live in our instinct and are happy there. Once one gets over knowing one could lose what is involved, the sky is the limit. That is why it is good to use newsprint paper. Once I realized that I was not using my eraser I switched to ink. Once I realized “mistakes” could be swallowed up by intentional strokes, I never worried about them and learned to make a work of art. It must contain the experience and history of every impulse and decision made through the process. There are 2 comments for Living in instinct by Gary Eddington
From: Enid — Jun 29, 2011

Gary, Your last paragraph has been copied, and ready to clip on the top (or side) of my easel, to be read before, or while I am painting. Thanks so much.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 01, 2011

Perfectly said. I think I’ll follow Enid’s example.

  The innate motivation to create by Lin Stepp, Knoxville, TN, USA  

Dr. Lin Stepp

As I read your letter “The school of life” and the statistics on the personality type that tends to persist and develop as a painter, I couldn’t help thinking that some of the same facts are true about developing successfully in any artistic field. I paint in watercolors and do illustrative art — but my greater artistic focus in these last years has been in creative writing, with three Smokies set books out and several more in the mill with my publishers. I can confirm that the writer’s journey, too, is — as you say — difficult …and “loaded with disappointment and the dubious benefits of poverty.” Statistics suggest that 1-2% of people who write books get published by a recognized national, regional, or small publishing house. Like hopeful artists-to-be, who buy art supplies and take art classes, hopeful writers-to-be buy writing guides, laptops, attend workshops, and begin penning stories, articles, or book chapters… only to also drop out when the personal commitment, persistence, time demands, and work isolation needed to become an author become too challenging. Curious about this, I googled several sites to see how similar the characteristics needed to develop as a good author are to the characteristics needed to develop as a good painter. They were remarkably similar! Sites encouraged traits needed for good writers to include: patience, passion for the work, an active imagination, discipline, ambition, stubbornness, and attention to detail. They also stressed studying the work of others, disciplined work to improve the craft, perseverance, a healthy ego, a thick skin, and the ability to meet deadlines. Many emphasized how the striving writer needs to be able to work alone, with a determined schedule — without ongoing praise or recognition. Writing, like art, is a lonely occupation… and, as you noted, painters — and writers, too, I believe — must be self-motivated entrepreneurs to develop their talents and succeed in the artistic field. On an interesting note, one site added that faith, hope, and gratitude can help the developing writer — and, certainly, these traits cannot hurt an individual in any creative endeavor. Perhaps Albert Einstein had an edge on this topic when he wrote, “True art is characterized by an irrestible urge in the creative artist.” There has to be an innate motivation — coupled with strong purpose and personal discipline — for an artist to develop and persist beyond the “wishing-and-hoping” stage in any creative endeavor. There are 2 comments for The innate motivation to create by Lin Stepp
From: Anonymous — Jun 27, 2011
From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 01, 2011

When some artist acqaintances learned that I had earned my living as a scientist, both using scientific studies in environmental analysis and working with field scientists to design and implement studies and experiments, they assumed it must require a significant change in how I think when I moved back and forth between my profession and my art selves. They were astonished when I said, no, it is exactly the same process. That led to an interesting discussion about the nature both science and art that I also found illuminating. When they began to think about it, all of them could come up with examples of scientists who were also artists. My own observation is that it is not at all uncommon, both among applied scientists like myself, and research and theoretical scientists. And artists themselves bring the same kind of sensibility to what they do. Why else would we create art?


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The school of life

From: Marsha Clements — Jun 23, 2011
From: Al Batross — Jun 23, 2011

Finally a letter that speaks to me. I am slumped, numb from life and feel I have little potential because lets face it, there a moat around me and I can’t seem to get out. Happy people have happy lives, I use to be happy — a few months ago — I was happy, life was good — I had plans and now I paint without seeing/without and make a big mess. oh look at me go on… maybe someone can write and tell me to get my act together…please do, I need to shape up.

From: Al Batross — Jun 23, 2011

Hi Marsha Clemments, we submitted comments at the same time -you popped ahead of me – enjoyed reading what you had to say and thank you for it.

From: Nancy Oppenheimer — Jun 24, 2011
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Jun 24, 2011

The missing quality in the lists: Sensitivity

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Jun 24, 2011

Love it. this letter should be posted in art venues everywhere. I would add (perhaps under the “passionate” heading): the innate capacity to derive a great deal of pleasure from what you see, coupled with the strong desire to share that joy.

From: Kathleen — Jun 24, 2011

Hey Susan – Read number 4 again. :)

From: Suzette Fram — Jun 24, 2011

In art, it takes a lifetime of moving through the tests. Fact is, they never stop coming. To which I would add: So accept that that’s how it is and stop worrying about it or feeling bad about it. Embrace it and move on. Keep looking forward.

From: Geoffrey Blanding — Jun 24, 2011

I took the test and got 38. Thanks.

From: Val Norberry VanOrden — Jun 24, 2011

Bob, you forgot love of beauty, didn’t you?

From: Ed Landuski — Jun 24, 2011

People can love beauty like crazy, but it doesn’t give them the chops to become artists.

From: Barry Forman — Jun 24, 2011
From: Jackie Knott — Jun 24, 2011

Al, your comments leapt out at me … and forum, please humor me to address Al for a moment. There’s obviously something going on in your life that has you down right now. It may be personal, financial, professionally, or all of them … as artists we feel those influences deeply. After all, we are sensitive souls. It is easy for someone flying high to dismiss such concerns but most of us have “been there” at some time in our lives. You don’t need to “shape up” in the larger sense. If this current situation is professionally, deal with those one painting at a time and work through it. If it is personally, time helps ease the pain. One must find oneself – alone. If it is financial, take practical steps to solve it. With all of the former, call on family and friends to help you through the moat. Reflect on the serenity prayer …. know there are some things beyond your control. In among all that, there comes a time in our lives when we acknowledge our life long dreams probably aren’t going to come true. There comes a time when we realize our lofty goals were possibly beyond our grasp. There also comes a time when we are content with “that’s okay.” What DOES matter is a life of influence (on people you may not remember, but they do). A life of relevance. A life of contribution. A life producing art as you were called to … and finally, you will work yourself out of whatever funk you are in right now. You may have some or none of those personality traits but know you weren’t given your art incidentally … hold on to that. Your therapy is your art. Just do it, meditate, paint, one day at a time … and paint.

From: Nathalie Sands — Jun 24, 2011

As Robert has said many times, “You become what you focus on.”

From: Lori Boast — Jun 24, 2011

I scored pretty darn high, and if I had a bit more energy, I could put some ooomph behind the *energetic one! Thanks for this, very affirming. BTW readers, the featured premium artist, Barry J Raybould, is a fantastic teacher with excellent courses on-line.. very well worth the time and money.

From: Marsha Baumert — Jun 24, 2011

How can I send my address to the 800,00 folks who don’t continue to paint. A starving artist who could use all their slightly used paint supplies! One could only hope . . . ;0)

From: Deborah Strong — Jun 24, 2011

As an artist who is struggling to make it as a professional, and with many years of toil and learning behind me, I am often frustrated by the sheer numbers of “artists” out there who are simply people who decided to pick up a brush and, because they managed to paint a tree that looks like a tree, they figure they’re ready to break into the commercial market. Local art fairs are overflowing with such individuals and often, I think, the public is overwhelmed by sheer numbers; the market becomes over-saturated with art of “questionable” standards and it boggles the mind of the average Joe. Unlike any other profession, to be an artist there is no real accreditation process, no scoring system, and no firm standards (unlike golf where you might have the most beautiful swing in the world, but the bottom line is your score). Virtually anybody can claim to be an artist. What does that do for those of us who are truly committed to this vocation? Well I guess it means we just have to buckle down and make sure we get really good at it, that our work shines, and that we’re in it for the long haul, and I guess that’s what we should be doing anyway. It’s not a vocation for the dabbler, the hobbyist or the weekend warrior, it’s for those who can’t imagine doing anything else and are willing to do what it takes.

From: Rosemary Leach — Jun 24, 2011

I can’t imagine any quality more important than TENACITY!!!

From: Fran Steinmark — Jun 24, 2011

I am so grateful for the gift of wisdom in these letters. I read them often, hoping the lessons and advice become an integrated part of me. Regarding the list of personality types: I am having a difficult time with the word “egoist,” although I can well understand how important this trait might be in the art marketplace. When I paint and write, I ask to be guided by my spirit; I pray that my ego not interfere with the process. How can one learn to incorporate these seemingly contradictory qualities?

From: Karen R. Phinney — Jun 24, 2011

I know you are right about the thousands who buy supplies and start trying to paint and become discouraged. I’ve met some, even had some ask me to teach them. And I know how easily discouraged some are. I have also seen people with a tremendous gift for drawing well, not follow up on it, and I felt frustrated that someone who could draw that way wouldn’t actually develop it. I have always been moderately good at drawing but not “brilliant”, so felt that others who were, were wasting that ability if they didn’t develop it. Here in Halifax, there is a huge flowering of artistic talent. I have met so many, usually women over 55, who upon retiring from teaching/nursing/banking, etc., decide to follow up a life long interest in art. They take courses/workshops and then start showing their work at malls and stores and anywhere there is a space that can be used. They join groups and the groups arrange for these shows annually. And then, fundraisers at churches. We have I am sure, more visual artists per square foot than just about anywhere else in the country. They are everywhere! Galleries spring up and then die down, as it is difficult to make a living by selling art unless you are experienced. But it is cyclical. Right now, it is quite a struggle to sell art here. I am a member of an artists’ coop and we have had some vicissitudes and are now coming up the other side of a down turn. And am an artist at a new gallery which is innovative and well done, but it takes time to get established. However, there is an interest here in art, too, in all forms of it, so that is helpful.

From: Joan Menard — Jun 24, 2011

and what happens to all of those discarded art supplies?????

From: Donna Jurovcik — Jun 24, 2011

89score & still ticking….I change from time-to-time & score either go over board or down so low I put the pencils/paper away only to be discovered again & again….must sketch everyday!

From: Judy Sims — Jun 24, 2011

doesn’t it seem as though there should be an excellent pool of discount barely used art supplies readily available at all times???

From: Ashley Silvernell Quick — Jun 24, 2011

Pretty sure I should give myself a 30 in the egotistic department :). Another great article, thank you!

From: Katie Hoffman — Jun 24, 2011

I would add to the twelve traits one to wrap them all up in- tenacity. The stubbornness to keep on making things and showing them off in the face of discouragement, criticism and ridicule is worth bucketfuls of God given talent.

From: Kristen Dukat — Jun 24, 2011

I love this Robert! You just saved my #$%^ as well. I have to give a talk in about 45 minutes to a gallery full of people about my art. I’ve never done it, and was stressed about what to even say. Your post spelled it all out, and they are all getting a “test”…well at least your artist IQ test. Thanks a million! (oh and my score was 131/120)(I got bonus points for individualistic, resistant to prior programming)

From: Daniela Andersen — Jun 24, 2011

This is so interesting, including your statistics…I wonder, when I am in an art shop, where all the art supply buyers go… Music was my first choice but no one heard my desire for lessons at the time, so, art has been with me throughout the school of life, color – endlessly interesting when things have been bleak, all aspects of art – a focus when I have been in despair or angry, art instruction books I have already worked from – friends in times when I have felt predominantly misunderstood and alone. Odd thing this, all this focus has taken me to a place where I have developed something I can do fairly well it seems, according to others…it’s a funny business.

From: Gregory L. Spears — Jun 24, 2011

Just started to paint about 2 years ago. Score of 101. Great quiz, thank you for sharing this information. It helps me to keep moving forward and focus on becoming a better painter.

From: Joyce Barker — Jun 24, 2011

Going through that list takes a lot of thought. I’ve painted for many years and paint because I love the process. I think I might be obsessive when I get started on a painting, for I like to finish it to show. One thing I know is that you never stop learning which takes a lot of patience. Interesting article, thanks Robert

From: Margie Middleton-Hudson — Jun 25, 2011
From: Lori Boast — Jun 25, 2011

I thought about this a lot after my first comment. I had all of these qualities in spades, but still struggled. So I looked at what I know I’m missing and therefore have to work harder at. Being ADD, I have to work at FOCUS. Being perhaps too curious, and always wanting more and better skills, I often won’t/can’t single out one thing and work only at it. I must paint in three mediums, draw as well, and use pastels. So while this works in a way, as all complement each other, it may serve me better to concentrate on one at a time- at least pick a week. So I lack and need to work on decision making and stick-to-it-iveness, or follow-through. Perhaps the ability to self-structure well. Although I do have what I think is missing from the list, and thats perhaps the ability to self-evaluate in as detached a manner as possible. I’m certain there are a lot of other ADD-type artists out there suffering the same. For the digital art person- I’m not sure anyone said digital art isn’t art. It surely is, but because of the arsenal of tools that a digital artist could use, even if you don’t, to alter a photograph, many find classifying the genre difficult. Photography is certainly art as well. I think many people in this forum are painters, pastellists, and drawing artists.. but many, many of the same things apply to digital art. Less digital artists in an art-supply store, I’d think! I bought a photography magazine where the “artist” photographer, had taken a photo, messed around digitally, then printed it on tiles and then played with the emulsions and paints on top of it. Fantastic! and certainly art. I can see where some artists may have an issue with thinking your work is “art” according to what they do. But why would you let that upset you? Every single artist has their own methods, mediums, and outcomes. And opinions..

From: Laury Ravenstein — Jun 27, 2011

Your scoring system is brilliant and simple. It clarified why I made some big decisions in the last two years. I scored lower in the following areas; obsessive-compulsive, loner, egoistic, exhibitionist and got I top marks in philosophical, passionate, energetic, self motivated, individualistic and patient. Total 99 points. I don’t believe I can change myself to be something I am not, but perhaps I can still grow and learn and live my life as best as I can with my personality traits. After 20 years of working in my studio and showing my work at the various art shows and festivals, I have found one theme that has run throughout the whole experience. Art making in my studio is lonely business. Art shows were helpful in relieving the isolation, but it was not sufficient. I had depleted my best ideas, sold my best pieces and had nothing left to fill my heart with inspiration. I made a significant life change. I closed my studio and got a job setting up and running a new art supply store. Every day I meet artists. Some well established and others just beginning. My purpose is to share my passion for art making while helping myself to re- connect with other artists. The some of benefits of my new job has been unexpected bonanza of free paint, an explosion of creative people coming into my life and a challenge from my bosses to learn airbrushing. Most days begin with a hour long art making session before the store opens and I do daily demos in many different mediums. Suddenly, I am hungry for art making again. Over time I hope to re-build my art career in a way that is easier to buffer against the lower scoring areas. In the meantime, I will do my best to help the beginning artists who come to my store to pick a suitable medium and give them the encouragement and instruction they need to start and keep going with art making. It’s all about Karma.

From: kamal gill — Jun 27, 2011

thank u robert for ur weekly letter ….i am learning and getting inspired in art work….ur suggestions are very useful for artists.

From: Cathy Dellinger — Jun 27, 2011

I teach kids that are marginalized within the greater scheme of things. Then, when they have that opportunity to create they often wonder, “Why me??” Here, in a very small town on the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont these kids, who so often say…”Why me?”, painted a series of parking meters which are totally awesome. Still they ask why us, why not the kids at the “Academy” who are taught art. I smile, then corral them back to the project. Why me? I wonder…why me?

From: Katherine L Wright — Jun 27, 2011

Never stops! Especially in the world of moving ahead in art!”

From: Jake Lesbos — Jun 27, 2011

I scored 101, but while I got a ten for egotistical, I think that is the most needed thing to have especially here in new york to get noticed like Basquiat and Andy Warhol, just egotistical based publicity and they will take notice and make headlines.

From: Jason Sperling — Jun 27, 2011

I was born a geek, got identified as a geek in high school, and had geekness thrust upon me in life. It’s not easy being geek.

From: Elaine Trei — Jun 27, 2011
From: Kirk Wassell — Jun 28, 2011
From: Ib — Jun 28, 2011

Marvin, I felt that way when I first met my wife!

From: Nelson Betts — Jun 28, 2011

I got a perfect score which made me smell like a dahlia Which makes me wonder why at art I’m such a failia

From: Andrew W. Scott — Jun 29, 2011
From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 01, 2011

Note that that’s a screening test that only indicates possible “clinical significance”, not an evaluation tool. But there is an important point Andrew is making, which is our tendency to use the clinical term “obsessive/compulsive” to what might better be described as tenacity and perhaps attention to detail. I know people with O/C, and their lives are disrupted and controlled by their disorder. I do not think we are talking about the same thing.

From: Rick Rotante — Jul 12, 2011

“A life in Art”. Even with talent and ability there is always the dubious need of luck with becoming a successful artist. If one wants, one can search the Internet and find literally hundreds of thousands of names of artists you have never heard but who, in their lifetimes, produced beautiful works of art. Yet they will remain unknown for the most part. Talent, whether innate, inherited or bought through education, will not guarantee a successful career as an artist. While the idea of a successful career means many things to different people, what really determines what success is, remains a mystery. Those who have this ability know that being an artist is more a state of mind than a vocation. It isn’t something you do, it’s who you are. I have seen many who draw and paint, create fairly good artwork. But what I also see is they don’t take the time to realize what it will take to continue to do this as a career; what the cost to family, fortunes, and acquaintances this profession will have on their lives. Artists are a bit crazy or at the very least they seem to be. They talk funny. They use words like concept of idea, value scale; color that is warm or cool; liquid mediums. They also see life around them differently; more clearly than most in my opinion. They are able to spend long hours even days hunched over a canvas smearing paint here and there in what sometimes seems aimless abandon. And when they produce a finished work there is virtually no one interested in seeing it save for your mother, sister or aunt who fain interest because they love you not because they understand what you made. Wherever you show your work, it gets criticized for one thing or another; rejected by those who are supposed to be experts, shunned by gallery owners and generally though inconsequential by most of the world. Most of it will adorn your own walls for years. I mean, after all, you’re not curing cancer for heaven’s sake. Yet you continue to paint and after some years your fingers can’t hold the brushes anymore; your skin has become too sensitive to the paint so you have switch mediums; your eyes don’t focus as well; color is harder to distinguish and you find you get tired more quickly these days. Painting out of doors is harder too; lugging all your supplies up hill and down dale to find the perfect spot to paint. You don’t remember being so sensitive to the sun and those pesky bugs are more abundant than you remember. A life in art shouldn’t be something you seek, it’s more a destiny; a circumstance of fate if you will. More often than not, it chooses you, you don’t choose it. You can elect to ignore it or abandon it but when you embrace it, it will be the lover you never fully conquer or win over. With all of the above said, it is a life I would not trade with anyone. For art has given me more joy, taught me so much about myself and has affected so many and brought pleasure to those who appreciate it in ways too numerous to mention.

     Featured Workshop: Quadra Island Paints Out
062811_robert-genn5 Quadra Island Paints Out Workshop   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

La Pieta, Venice

oil painting by Barry John Raybould, Italy

  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 Warren Criswell of AR, USA, who wrote, “Damn! I score 120! The very things that make us artists also make us antisocial pariahs. I love it.” And also Sydney Metrick who wrote, “I got 84, but I coach artists. I don’t paint. Maybe I should put down the phone and pick up a brush.” (RG note) Thanks, Sydney — and all the others who reported their scores. They ranged from a low of 30 to a high of 150. (Some gave themselves extra points for egoism and obsessive-compulsive behavior.)    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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