Summer joy

Dear Artist, Readers might recall that my daughter Sara and I conduct a couple of painting workshops each summer — one at the Cortes Island retreat called Hollyhock, the other heli-painting in the Bugaboo mountains. Last summer at Hollyhock we were accompanied by Dennie and Peter Segnitz, owners of the White Rock Gallery, where both Sara and I are represented. Peter, a videographer, strung us up with remote lapel mikes and over four days we went about our business, only switching off when we needed to sleep. The result is an 18-minute video documentary that gives an excellent insight into the Hollyhock event. The video includes the well-known improvisational singer Rhiannon, the WeB3 trio and their a capella students. Sara and I can’t help but notice the number of professional educators who participate in our workshops. Inga Poslitur, who teaches art at San Jose State University in California (and had her painting chosen for the cover of Hollyhock’s catalogue this year), wrote recently, “I gave my students the exercise you two gave us at Hollyhock — to paint a landscape in 37 strokes or in 37 minutes. The results were mind-blowing! Even the stubbornly uptight students relaxed and painted with broad juicy brushstrokes and color!” For painters whose work is traditionally tight and detailed, the “broad juicy brushstroke” exercise can be a welcome irrigation. On the other hand, we’ve also been known to help loose painters tighten up. With our attitude “We’re all friends here,” we have even more fun and devilish stuff up our sleeves this year. Four days of cross-fertilization, as demonstrated by the buzzing bees in the Hollyhock garden, doesn’t hurt artists one little bit. Both pros and beginners leave with wider vistas and professional advice. We’ve also noticed that hard-working painters, by heightening sensitivity and facility, add professionalism to their work. Melissa Jean of Kenora, Ontario, for example, has since been accepted by several excellent galleries and has launched a promising career. Apart from all the joy that exudes from these events, these are the stories that Sara and I love to hear. Best regards, Robert PS: “Even the simplest little video camera is an astounding tool for journeying through Time. Stories can be coaxed to emerge. It’s magic.” (Peter Segnitz) Esoterica: There are still a few places left at Hollyhock and up in the Bugaboos (August 22 to 26). This year’s theme for both workshops is “From Plein Air to Abstraction.” We love to see people who put their own unique stamp on their lives and their work. We’re presumptuous, but we think we know a bit about this. In the meantime, you might take a look at Peter’s video. To us, the video brought back fond memories of summer joy and truly remarkable new friends.     Different strokes by Janice Kelly, Sydney, Australia   You mentioned doing a painting in 37 strokes, and then again doing a painting in 37 minutes. Do you have a source where I could clue into this concept and give it a shot myself? (RG note) Thanks, Janice. The reason for the 37 minute exercise is because I have an old hour glass that for some reason gives us only 37 minutes. I like the hourglass because people can look at it and see time is running out. I’ve written about this here. I also wrote about a similar timing system, the Pomodoro, here. Doing a painting in only 37 strokes (could be any number-25-100) is a good one too. It forces painters to make their strokes count and to leave them alone after they’ve laid them down.   Discouragement all around by Barbara Simpson, Brockville, ON, Canada  

“Singleton Lake III”
original painting
by Barbara Simpson

I find your letters quite inspiring, and very much so with your mention of Melissa Jean and her triumphant story. I am inspired, but at the same time, longing to receive similar encouragement from my partner and family. They say it’s nice that I’m “doing my art and very nice pictures” but they also say, “You have to get a job.” I’m old enough to make my own decisions but this is disheartening as I’ve always believed in supporting and encouraging, being there for my partner and family regardless of the path they choose to follow. I know that they are probably looking out for me in their own way, saying get security with a job. But I wonder how much they realize that if they were to encourage me in my art, brainstorm with me when I talk about my ideas, etc., etc., that I’d be better for it. This rips my heart apart. I do not know how to approach the subject with any of them any longer. Do you have any words of wisdom for keeping my “ups” up, finding the people I need to help me, and keeping the ‘discouragement’ from my partner and family out of my mind? (RG note) Thanks, Barbara. In studying the lifetime paths, both up and down, of so many over the years, it has struck me that steadiness of character is at or near the most important. For those who would thrive with sincere work, quality is all important, and quality takes time. Success does not listen to the howling of the wolves. Further, success for an artist is not a committee thing. As the video says, it’s a job for rugged individualists. There are 5 comments for Discouragement all around by Barbara Simpson
From: Anonymous — Jun 21, 2013

If you’re looking to make money to live, art comes with few guarantees. Maybe what your family is saying is that you need to make money to support yourself and work on your art on the side. Plenty of people face that reality.

From: Suzette Fram — Jun 21, 2013

Yes, Barbara, one should expect support from one’s family. Except that as an adult, one needs to be self-supporting, financially that is. You cannot expect them to support you financially. Once you are self-supporting, working at a paying job and painting the rest of the time, then yes, you can expect their respect and support of your art. Not until then.

From: Anon — Jun 21, 2013

hmmmm, I think that Barbara has a case here. I have gladly and lovingly supported my partner through years of his education and job search with no income, as well as years of child and house caring. I don’t think that expecting some support in time of my need to establish my art career would be out of line. We are not all in circumstances that allow as to always be financially self sufficient. We have to stop excusing those with “real jobs” and putting down work towards an art career.

From: Bev Beresh — Jun 21, 2013

I have wasted so many opportunities because of “well meaning” advice from others. If you believe in yourself don’t wast your time…go for it We truly do only regret the road not traveled.

From: Anon — Jun 21, 2013

I would expect that if you treat art as your job, set goals, targets, deadlines etc…then you are doing yourself and your family a favor by following your passion, your heart and therefore limiting the all too crippling pain of ‘what if’ or ‘i wish’. Go for it.

  Difficult times by Howard Cowdrick, Sarasota, FL, USA  

“Life in Chaos”
mixed media painting
by Howard Cowdrick

The new treatment for my cancer has severely destabilized my personality and every painting recently is nothing more than crap and I end up destroying them. I am finding it hard to concentrate and have hot flashes and cold flashes that are bordering on the absurd. My doctors keep telling me that this is my life from here on for possibly the next 20 to 30 years. I don’t know where to turn from here. I haven’t produced a decent painting in months, I am frustrated, emotionally a ping pong ball and they still can’t find the cancer, but, won’t stop the therapy. What do I do from here to get my artistic life back on track? Frustration, anger and fear are my constant companions these days. No doctor wants to understand the agony of this life. (RG note) Thanks, Howard. While I can’t comment on the trials and anxiety that must accompany something like cancer, I can mention a useful technique for rebooting better work. After a short holiday of a couple of days away from the easel, you need to accept that your first few paintings might be less than satisfactory. This is when you need to call upon all your reserves and engage extraordinary effort to significantly raise standards on one small painting. It may take a while, and it may take several starts. But this one new work becomes a talisman and a standard-bearer for the next and the next, which generally come a little easier. While often a joy, all art production is at base a battle. For you, the battle has just got a little harder, and you must know that it is possible for you to win that battle. A small masterpiece leads the way. There are 4 comments for Difficult times by Howard Cowdrick
From: Susan Avishai — Jun 21, 2013

I really love the illustrated painting. Maybe this is a time to leave “decent” paintings and focus more on painting the emotional instability and chaos.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 21, 2013

Howard- I’m with Susan here- if you can believe that. But beyond being an artist- I’m also a healer and a shaman. And that means I could have a private conversation with you off site that might be valuable to you in your healing process. But as far as your painting goes- you are changing. So your former expectations of a perfect painting may have to change along with the changes you are experiencing in both body and mind. That won’t make you a bad OR better painter. It will make you a different painter.

From: Anonymous — Jun 21, 2013

Howard, you wrote: “they still can’t find the cancer, but, won’t stop the therapy”. This statement made me cringe. Either you are being used as a guinea pig, your doctor is incompetent, or you don’t understand much at all about what is being done to you or why. . . maybe they are not informing you properly. In ANY case, something is dreadfully wrong with this situation! You certainly need to ask a LOT more questions and keep asking them until they can convince you that you are getting appropriate treatment for a condition you actually have. Think long and hard about keeping your current Dr., doesn’t sound as though you are being “treated” so much as shunted to the sidelines with a shrug. Regarding the quality of your paintings, it will return when your mind is more at peace and you get some momentum going again. Any time away from painting will result in “rust” setting in. Forget making a “decent” painting” and tell yourself you’re just doing sketches. It takes the pressure off and lets you just start to get paint on canvas again. Good luck to you. Stella

From: Norma Ziemek — Jun 25, 2013

Your painting is wonderful. You may like to join the Venice Art Center, Venice Florida. To be a member is an inspiration for many artists from the Sarasota and Venice area who enjoy exhibiting their art. It is an excellent opportunity to socialize, to meet other creative people, some who may have also gone through cancer treatment. take care, Norma, Englewood Florida

  Workshops with other media by Janet Agulnik, Ottawa, ON, Canada  

original painting
by Janet Agulnik

What I saw in the video was fascinating — the location and the work being done was very inspirational. Do you have people working in watercolour at your workshops? This is my medium of choice, and I would love to attend one of your workshops if I could use watercolour. (RG note) Thanks Janet. We have people working in oils, watercolours and acrylics. Both Sara and I have worked in all three media and we feel we can be of use to you. If artists are thinking about either workshop, at Hollyhock or up in the Bugaboos, feel free to give me a call in the studio to discuss your concerns or just to get an idea what you might expect. 604 538 9197 I’m in all week.   Retreat at Shellmouth by Jan Layh, Langenburg, SK, Canada  

“Border Road Layh”
original painting
by Jan Layh

This summer’s retreat — our 17th — will once again host 30 artists. After the first two years we outgrew our farmyard and have moved the location to a beautiful valley just 10 miles to the north of us — a little spot on the Assiniboine River Valley called Shellmouth. We welcome sculptors, musicians, song-writers and writers, mosaic artists and wood carvers. I need not describe the awesomeness of a week-long opportunity to work with creative, talented people. Because our venue cost has risen, the registration has also risen to $170 for the entire week. It is important to me that the retreat be affordable. How is that possible? The artists make the meals — the best idea I have ever had, truly!! We come away inspired, smarter, fuller, and determined to do something with our work. Our modest little retreat has inspired a northern community to begin their own retreat — exactly what should happen!   To print or not to print by Sharon McGauley, ME, USA  

“Gardens of the Gods”
oil painting
by Sharon McGauley

I love the video you posted, I am going to do my best to get to your workshop. I would love to be there. I have a question! Do you answer these? You must get so many! But I would be grateful for your advice. I recently started a painting project where I am selling quite a few paintings online, by auction. It’s going well, I’m having fun and selling most all of them. The bidding has been consistent and sometimes exciting: prices frequently far surpass the starting bid. I am thrilled about this. I post 2 to 4 paintings a week. My question is whether or not to tackle the limited editions print market. On the one hand, of course, it seems like I have a great opportunity to capitalize on all the website traffic I am receiving and the interest in my work. People would be able to buy a print of a painting that they missed out on in auctions. Also, I could sell them in stores for exposure, etc., etc. Lots of possibilities. The plan would be limited edition prints professionally mounted on beautiful bamboo boards, custom made to order, and signed. But I hesitate. I wonder if this will hurt my auctions and diminish interest in my project. It is hard to know: will bidders stop bidding at a certain point if they know the piece will become a print eventually? By offering prints am I removing the excitement and one-of- a-kind, move-it-or- lose-it, auction frenzy that has been so fun? Personally, I know that the original is so much better than a print and should still be generating excitement and competition for it’s ownership. But I’m not sure everyone feels that way and I wonder: will I damage my auction excitement and my relationship with all these interested buyers by offering a secondary, less-costly option for owning? And will people be less interested in originals (or in the project in general) if they know everyone else can buy their painting in print form? I would love to hear your thoughts. I have never stepped into the print world before and it is tempting, with it’s offers of (perhaps) that elusive residual income. But at what expense? There is 1 comment for To print or not to print by Sharon McGauley
From: andre satie — Jun 21, 2013

Sharon, I went to your website, and was stunned. Your work takes my breath away.

  Prices on older paintings by Mairi Budreau, Kamloops, BC, Canada  

“Fish jumped”
original painting
by Mairi Budreau

When your prices go up 10% annually does that apply to work you did five years ago that might not have sold? (RG note) Thanks, Mairi. The price increases are theoretically on all paintings, however long ago painted and owned by whomever at the present time. Thus owners of my paintings, some of which were purchased for peanuts many years ago, are an ever-growing investment. Of course, many other factors are involved that contrive to interfere with this scenario quality concerns about the art itself, the fluctuating popularity of various periods, and the vagaries of auctions and other secondary market venues.     Greatest achievement of mankind by Bob Rennie, White Rock, BC, Canada  

“Girl with Toy Sailboat, Paris”
original painting
by Bob Rennie

With this Hollyhock workshop video I was most impressed with what I consider the greatest achievement of mankind. That is, how well you have raised your family, and it comes out clearly with Sara. I enjoyed the way you looked at her, so lovingly, and with appreciation for how well she turned out. So I compliment you on this wonderful teaching video and an exemplary episode in your life.          

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Summer joy

From: Kay Christopher — Jun 17, 2013

What an absolutely beautiful video. Thank you so much for allowing us to see and feel a bit of what it must have been like to be there. Robert, you are such an amazing gift. And it was lovely to be introduced to Sara via the video. You are both such an inspiration! Thank you!!!

From: Alison Nicholls — Jun 18, 2013

Wonderful, moving video Robert & Sara. Hope to join you one day!

From: Richard Moore — Jun 18, 2013

“Audacity” and “rugged individualism” fostered at a workshop evoke a sense of confidence and play, as does the 37 stroke concept and the 37 minute to paint a painting concept. I can see why these workshops produce results. I’m going to try it myself.

From: Stephen Jenkins — Jun 18, 2013

Excellent video, loved every minute of it. Congratulations, Peter.

From: Margaret McLachlan — Jun 18, 2013

Seeing that video gives me inspiration to get going despite poor health.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Jun 18, 2013

What an idyllic place to paint! It really is a heavenly place surrounded by sights, sounds and the feel of what must have been the “Garden of Eden”. Who could not be inspired to paint, write a poem or compose a song in such a place! Thank you very much for sharing such wonderful video. If I could just be a part of such a spiritual place and group it would certainly be a thrill and inspire me to new heights of painting.

From: Jim Toth — Jun 18, 2013

I just finished viewing your video from Hollyhock showing you and Sara shaping minds. It was great. I found a smile on my face through the whole video. Thank you for sharing. Maybe one year I will be able to sit at your knee and hear your wisdom and humour. Keep up the good work.

From: Brendan Baisley — Jun 18, 2013
From: Reveille Kennedy — Arati Gallery, Colorado Springs — Jun 18, 2013

Very inspiring giving me ideas and thoughts that are as different as your experiences. Thanks!

From: Elisa Choi — Jun 19, 2013

The video is lovely. Inspiring. Could make anyone’s day. Thank you for sharing Robert. You guys are awesome. Wish I could join! Take care

From: Gerri Bradford — Jun 19, 2013

Dear Budd-like Zennist: What a wonderful feel to the video! Thank you. Namaste.

From: Nicholas Wallis (UK) — Jun 19, 2013

The hollyhock video emphasizes you and your daughter’s focus on individualism and total delight in the environment. Thank you for this insight. It is very real. It is also very revealing to know that this sort of thing is going on in this otherwise misguided world.

From: Jason Piggott — Jun 19, 2013

The thing I liked about it was the casual way you people come and go and interact with one another. There is a lesson here in slowing down to smell the daisies. The undulating singers helped too. In this case what looks like a stunning garden is set like a gem in a beautiful unspoiled place.

From: Dexter Kelso — Jun 19, 2013

Even with watching the video I was not only able to pick up the vibrations that were going on but also in snatches and asides I was able to pick up bits of wisdom not heard before. You might guess I saw the video three times.

From: Joanne Oake — Jun 19, 2013

I’m hoping your video stays available forever. It is absolutely delightful. Thank you both so much. My sister sent me your letter. Her daughter, Sarah Gray, had Robert as her art teacher a couple of decades ago. I’ve been enjoying the letter for years, even though I’m not a painter. The pictures of Robert and granddaughter in her high chair, both with their easels made me a fan forever. The video is the impetus to say finally thanks.

From: Reba — Jun 19, 2013

I enjoyed the video and watching the fun all of you were having. Absolutely enchanting!

From: Ginny Blakeslee Breen — Jun 19, 2013

Wow, Wow, and Wow! I’m humbled and changed from this letter and video… thank you!

From: Verna Korkie — Jun 19, 2013

How serendipitous that yesterday as I was working on this painting, your disembodied voice kept calling out the mantra, “Paint juicy, Verna! Paint juicy!!” So I tried to “paint juicy” as per your instruction to me in the Bugaboos. I wonder if I came even close! Should take several years to dry!!

From: Benjamin Salinger — Jun 20, 2013
From: Li Li Chung — Jun 20, 2013

Plein air to abstraction is just what my students need. Just doing thing as they are is no fun and not prosperous for artist.

From: Phoebe Ackley — Jun 20, 2013

What a delight to hear some of my favorite singers, whom I have sung with over the past 10 years!, combined with a glimpse into this Hollyhock workshop — well suffice it to say, I’m sure everyone came away transformed by the power of song, art and nature!

From: — Jun 21, 2013

The garden was so beautiful and how relaxed everyone looked. Was everyone working with the same media?

From: Mary Jean Mailloux — Jun 21, 2013

Very nice to come down to on a Friday morning. What a beautiful setting. I agree with another’s comment regarding the amazing relationship between you and Sara. That too is a great accomplishment.

From: Lyn Brown — Jun 21, 2013

Loved the video. Made me remember the 5 day retreats to Horn Island, off the coast of MS where we enjoyed group painting, pit firing and similar art projects which can be done on an island without any amenities.

From: Ed Prescott — Jun 21, 2013

It seems to me that artists get more fun out of life and are more sensitive to the beauties of our Earth, than any other group I can think of. They may have more trials and tribulations, “trying to get it right” as well, but that also is a positive toward higher self-realization.

From: Norm Carrington — Jun 21, 2013

I absolutely love to paint and to sing, and seeing others painting and singing like that confirms that what I do is worthwhile. Thank you Peter Segnitz for this tribute to art and music.

From: Sarah Hage — Jul 19, 2013
     Featured Workshop: Diane Overmyer 062113_robert-genn7 Diane Overmyer workshops Held in Indiana, USA   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.      woa

Passed over

oil painting, 24 x 30 inches by Michael Fantuz, NL, Canada

  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 Fran Chausse White of Facebook who wrote, “I watched the Hollyhock video this morn with my second cup of coffee. I really wanted to be there. Wonderful video!” And also Janet Odell of Facebook who wrote, “This post is wonderful. I hope you leave the video up as I really want to enjoy it more. You are so blessed to be able to see the beauty in small things. Thanks for the share.” And also Joseph Melancon of Sarasota, FL, USA, who wrote, “This is one of the best art documentaries I have seen. I just loved the whole atmosphere and involvement in such a serene way. Wow!”    

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