Studio definitions


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, after some friends had left my studio, I realized that I’d been bumbling around and lacing the atmosphere with some odd words and phrases. While gathering up the empty glasses, I also reminded myself that, as individualists, we all have the right to “name and claim” our own terms. Here, in an attempt at clarity — for you five treasured friends — are some definitions:


“Sunset, Long Island” 1939
oil on canvasboard, 25.4 x 35.6 cm (10 x 14 in)
by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986)

Strip-Mining — Methodical search into personal reference for new material and new directions.

Glancing — To see enough of another’s work to sufficiently prime the pump — without corrupting principles.

Early squeeze — The simple act of squeezing out paint as a method of prompting creative action.

Scumbling — Dragging a brush-load of light (often bright) colour over uninteresting areas.

Nuancing — Modifying elements from prior works in order to extract further interest.

Biggerization — Repeating satisfactory smaller works in larger proportions.


“Black Place I” 1945
oil on canvas
by Georgia O’Keeffe

Terminal-Spotism — Final canvassing of a work in order to spot minor opportunities.

Smoke and mirrors — The full variety of methods used to assess work-in-progress — including the mirror.

Self-immolation — Brutal, self-actualized, critical evaluation.

Blind hubris — A pervasive and often chronic, ego-based stubbornness that strikes artists of all ages.

Co-dependency — Mutual approval and help systems that may or may not enhance mediocrity.

Personal foolism — Falling into the trap of “good enough is good enough.”

Strategic recyclism — The act of moving work from place to place (or gallery to gallery) in order to refresh it.

Banishing — Physical disappearance of inadequate work in order to clear the air for better work to proceed.

Re-virginization — Shipment of finished work from studio area in order to renew vision.

Re-humanification — Inviting friends into the studio in a spirit of sharing and reaffirmation of our brotherhood and sisterhood.


“Black Place Green” 1949
oil on canvas, 94.6 x 117.5 cm
by Georgia O’Keeffe

Best regards,


PS: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’” (Lewis Carroll) “Words are pegs to hang ideas on.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

Esoterica: We are all islands. While we may reach out to one another, and for a time, connect, we must, in the end, be ourselves. “The simple fact of yourself… there it is… just you… no excitement about it… a very simple fact… the only thing you have… keep it as clear as you can.” (Georgia O’Keeffe)

This letter was originally published as “Studio definitions” on September 27, 2003.


Sara Genn: New Paintings runs until November 2, 2018 at Voltz Clarke Gallery, 141 East 62nd Street, New York City. If you’re in the neighbourhood, we would love to see you there.

“predicament, n. The wage of consistency.” (Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary)



  1. I quite like this, although ‘biggerization’ sounds a bit like what I might call a ‘Trumpism’. His English is so…bad.
    Meanwhile, under the banner of ‘name and claim’, am I alone in being totally fed-up with the Media’s constant use of ‘iconic’ and ‘epic’ to describe things when they are not. There is no such thing as an ‘epic goal’ in a hockey game. Right?

  2. I especially like the “terminal spotism” refererance to “minor opportunities “. So nice to realize there’s another way to reference an area that needs improvement.

  3. John Francis…. grin…. no, you are not alone; completely agree, absolutely, totally and utterly! What is hockey? Puzzled.

    Love the “Early Squeeze” definition, can feel the anticipation/adrenaline with the twist of the cap.

  4. My ongoing practice is the nuancing one. I must have the first prize for taking framed works apart because I see something that should be changed. I should not frame them in the first place until I am quite satisfied with the painting.

  5. Barbara Belyea on

    All great terms! My favorite is “self-immolation,” especially if the offering is burnt or otherwise destroyed; it takes more courage than “revirginization.” RV usually involves payment and passing the problem along to the buyer. It makes “art” into craft and trade, which are good in themselves as far as they go. Immolation makes space for the phoenix to rise and gives real art a chance.

  6. Smoke and Mirrors might include putting a frame on a work in progress, even on the easel.
    It changes its environment for me. Also, I had the opportunity to see the show in New York. The intention of the process comes across best in person. Nice work, Sara. Thanks

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August 17, 2019 to August 25, 2019


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Sharon Rusch Shaver’s salvation
mixed media
60 x 122 cm

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Monique Jarry is a Canadian and a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montreal.


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