Spin cycle


Dear Artist,

Subscribers often email me the reasons why they don’t go to work. One should not work for money, they say, or for relatives, intellectuals, selves, instructors, men, dealers, patrons, governments, customers, the masses, or religious organizations. The variety boggles. Every day I spin this sort of information in my ever-boggled brain.


“The Infinite World of the Unpredictability of Dreams” 2017
acrylic and mixed media on canvas
4.4 x 1.5 metres 174 x 60 inches
by Aelita Andre (b.2007)
Australian abstract artist, age 10

This inbox also fills with comparisons of fine art to other art forms — particularly film, literature and music. Film, they say, has now become work that is fit only for a committee. In film, apparently, no one knows what’s going on any more. Also, because of the expense of filmmaking, the team must regularly fall back on the conventional wisdom. Risk-taking is difficult when confined to formula. “Independent artists” are now possible only in the independent arts, except for the very few.


“World of the Unknown” 2016
acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches
by Aelita Andre

Literature, with its linear, editable quality, gets off better. Many artists see writing as a lofty, complementary activity that enriches their art. Every day now, thousands of visual artists invade the blogosphere. On another level, living inside a developing novel or poem is seen as a nice way to go. Then there’s the satisfaction of seeing one’s thoughts and characters between their own covers.


“The Ghost of the Infinite Cosmos” 2015
acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 inches
by Aelita Andre

Music is attractive with its time-bound measures, immediacy and lovely potential for sharing. Love in a song can be carried by iPod or satellite or whistled between subway turnstiles. How fine to be Christina Aguilera or Cole Porter or Johann Sebastian Bach. Also, music composed in academia needs to be intellectual and new — parallelling much of the visual art made in academia. The foundations of harmony, melody and rhythm are there to be tested and often rejected. Disgruntlement is rife. Disciplines that once stole hearts have become fields of cynicism. A recent email told me that there was “nothing new to be written in music, so why bother?”

So why do we work? The spin tells me that it’s our human longing for immortality. It’s love that we require. And many artists wish to be loved immortally. Our quest for love has its vernacular in our quest for fame. Love is why we work and sing and write and dance and quilt and point cameras and make all the things that we do.


“The Land of the Dinosaurs in the Rainbow Rivers
of Space” 2014 Soundpainting
acrylic, violin & bow on canvas
60 x 84 inches (four panels)
by Aelita Andre

Best regards,


PS: “I saw you there one wonderful day
You took my heart and threw it away
That’s why I ask the Lord in Heaven above
What is this thing called Love?” (Cole Porter)

Esoterica: In the music department at S. University I attended the world premiere of “Spin Cycle” by Gerald Mub. Mub’s 20-minute piece consisted mostly of layered and long-held bass-fiddle bowings that lingered until their vibrations ran down to a murmur. Occasional high screeches from detuned violas and violins gave a Paleolithic counterpoint, like Tyrannosaurus Rex calling in the distance. A generous outbreak of applause greeted the final bars. Mub’s mother, who happened to be sitting next to me and with whom I struck up an acquaintance, told me that he had done better work in “Foundation.” I told her that I thought her son’s piece was “remarkable.”

This letter was originally published as “Spin cycle” on April 28, 2006.

Aelita Andre in 2013 painting Blue Ocean of the Rainbow Butterflies and Sparkling River


Download the new audio book, The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

In the arts, as in life, everything is possible provided it is based on love. (Marc Chagall)



  1. The reward of art is not fame or success but intoxication: that
    is why so many bad artists are unable to give it up.

    — Cyril Connolly in “The Unquiet Grave”

  2. It occurred to me one day that when I passed away the only people who would remember me being on this earth were my family members and some friends. Then it occurred to me that I was an artist who painted paintings and that I would be remembered by the people who had my paintings in their home or office. I felt much better then. Yes, I suppose that I, too, have that ” human longing for immortality”.


    • Kenneth Kant on

      Fay, You are very correct, I feel. I had very similar thoughts just yesterday wondering if it is really worth the effort, but remembering that family and a few others have my work as a remembrance of me after I am gone.

  3. Such an intriguing question! Why do artists continue to create? Why can’t we stop? I’m working on my 7th novel. It’s about two diametrically opposed artists…one a landscape painter and the other a conceptual artist. It has a beginning, middle and end [but with much editing ahead] I ask myself that question. For me, it is all of the above and also the need to explore me and the “universe” as far and wide as I can. Do I find answers? Not really but perhaps the further questions are the answers.

  4. What a great question to ponder….Is it immortality, fame, recognition, ???
    I do think it is a bit of all that. But there is a spiritual element that keeps me coming back to the easel. It is that strange connection when you are in this timeless, zone of visual conversation and problem solving. Where do those concepts, solutions, new bends in the road come from?
    But to be regarded as an aid in someone’s peace of mind and held in fine favor is pretty intoxicating.

  5. I think humans have an innate creative drive. It manifest itself in many ways. For visual artist there is a drive to see our inspirations on paper, canvas, film, clay, metal and other visual media. Parallel to the this creative impulse there is a desire for significance. Seeking significance influences all sorts of choices we make. It drives fashion, choice of cars, where we live and so on. For instance, I see this drive for significance in teenage (and older) guys in the way they adorn an otherwise nice looking car with custom wheels, spoilers, stripes, flames and other accessories. Their way of making their car their statement. Body inking and piercing is another example of seeking significance. Even though we are all unique, some are driven to exaggerate their uniqueness.

  6. For me it’s a passion. Especially the weekly drawing and painting the model with our group of artists. You can almost touch the energy in the room. I also love to teach watercolour and demonstrate the techniques. This makes me very happy when a pure beginner in my class can pick up the brush and imitate what I have just shown. Of course I love to paint and get possitive inputs from the viewers. What I do not appreciate is a comment like “I love the frame”!!! I suppose there are good and bad moments in all proffesions…I often ask myself as a trained dress designer why I chose to become an artist and teacher… too late now to do anything about it….I followed my passion and was lucky enough to be able to do this.

  7. Aelita Andre ‘abstract artist’ aged 10 should read, 10 year old girl who also plays around with paint and has a good sales pitch. ‘The ghost of the infinite cosmos’, come on!

    I’m so glad I pulled out of the art world when I did. I realised, as a mature, veteran artist who has put in the 10,000 hours and worked with passion for little recognition, that I was competing with the likes of pretentious pre-teens and anyone who had done a few art therapy sessions. These ‘artists’ can even sell well because of a largely ignorant public who’ll now accept anything as ‘art’. Suzi Gablik wrote that when ‘everything is art, nothing is art’.

    This example of Aelita Andre illustrates this point perfectly.

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