Talk to me

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Edward Vincent of Sydney, Australia wrote, “You often mention ‘contemplating’ a work in progress. I’ve found discussing a painting issue ‘out loud’ in private to be productive. Thoughts alone seem to be much easier to muddle up and lose track of than audible words. What do you think of this idea?”

“St Martins in the Field”
original painting
by Edward Vincent

Thanks, Ed. Brilliant. Now that you’ve let Joey out of the front pocket, I’ll fess up — I’ve been doing it myself for years. Oh, I’ve been caught a few times by people who walked into the studio without knocking. What’s really embarrassing is when the painting is doing the talking — often in a high, squeaky, wounded sort of voice. Long ago, Robert Henri noted, “There’s no art without contemplation.” I first grabbed that quote when I was in high school. My earliest contemplations were mere pauses while I gave my work a “second opinion.” In those days I used to make written notes before I went back in. Later, I found my short-term memory to be good enough. Properly matured, the contemplation process is a combination of cruising for major errors, picking up specific minor but fixable boo-boos, and re-asking “what could be?” Out loud, the conversation can go something like this: Artist: “You’re boring me.” Painting: “I’m sorry.” Artist: “You’re too fiddly.” Painting: “You could solidify me here with a dash of colour.” Artist: “Good idea. Also, that little thing is not standing in front of that other thing.” Painting: “That should be no trouble to fix.” Artist: “But you still look jumpy and out of whack.” Painting: “See what I’m like in black and white.” Artist: “And now you’re lacking in warmth and colour surprise.” Painting: “What about giving me a swipe of really orange sunset behind everything?” Artist: “Okay. I’ll do it.” Painting: “I love it when you are so positive and just sock it to me.”

“Nude Maya”
original painting
by Edward Vincent

You can see by this sample that it’s largely a matter of letting the painting tell you what it needs. While it’s all about surrendering to the work itself, it’s also the quality of the dialogue in front of it. Well-chosen words sop up the follies of defeat and error. As the lady said, “How do I know what I think until I hear what I say.” Sometimes it’s a loud and raucous shout. Sometimes it’s a barely-audible whisper. Best regards, Robert PS: “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.” (Meister Johann Eckhart) Esoterica: A verbal studio is more likely to be an active studio. I’ve noticed the better paintings, nearing the finish line, can receive an enthusiastically blurted “yes!” For the most part this unexpected outburst happens when the design is crisp, there’s some sort of drama, and abstract elements give the work more interest than the thing it’s meant to depict. “Please, please, take pity on me and desert me now,” says the painting. “Where’s another blank canvas?” asks the artist.   A fascinating journey by Noel Ashton, Cape Town, South Africa  

acrylic painting
by Noel Ashton

I don’t have discussions with my work. This probably has something to do with the continuous background music which sets up creative ambiance. I do find it incredibly important not to discuss the work in progress or concept before I am done — to discuss it seems to diminish the creative energy/force so crucial to the success of a piece. At present I am just over half way through a creative journey, 52 Artworks — A Year in Nature, where I am posting a new artwork each week for a year and blogging about it, with art/environmental thoughts around each piece. I’m finding this a fascinating journey and am amazed at the learning process along the way. There is 1 comment for A fascinating journey by Noel Ashton
From: Jim Oberst — Dec 30, 2011

Noel, the work shown on your blog is terrific.

  Silence before diving in by Diane Overmyer, Goshen, IN, USA  

“Summit Chapel Sunrise”
original painting
by Diane Overmyer

Audible conversations or silent thoughts… I don’t think it really matters. What matters is taking time to think, to listen, to really consider what we, as artists, want to say in each painting. Too many times we find ourselves working away, without really stepping back and simply contemplating, without asking, ‘What am I doing and why am I doing it?’ We rush through the process without letting the painting lead us in our decisions. I, myself, find this to be particularly true when I’m outside. I’m in such a hurry to capture the light that I neglect to take those critical steps. I have found with plein air work, that it really pays to take at least 3 or 4 minutes and sit in silence, just observing my subject before diving in. During that time different senses besides my sense of sight will often be affected by the scene before me… a particular sound, smell or even something like the temperature of the air will often come into focus and that in turn will affect the work’s direction.   Ask your painting by Bill Skuce, Sooke, BC, Canada  

“In Pinto’s workshop”
oil painting
by Bill Skuce

Many times during James Pinto’s month-long painting workshop the summer of 1980 in San Miguel de Allende,did we hear him say emphatically, “Talk to your painting… ask it what it needs!” This was a totally new concept to me back then. Many times since, while standing at my easel, I have heard my mind echoing Pinto, in his endearing Czechoslovakian accent, virtually shouting in the midst of a large class, “Ask your painting, ‘What the hell do you need?’ Then listen to what it tells you!” I received much encouragement from Pinto, who was then in his 70’s, but these words were the most memorable, and perhaps the most useful.   Listening to the painting by Bonnie Mandoe, Las Cruces, NM, USA  

“Legend of the Los Padre Mine”
original painting
by Bonnie Mandoe

Of course we dialogue with our work! A painting is conversation we have with ourselves. It’s one part of me talking with another part. The original idea or impulse to create the work was the seed. Subsequent responses are what move the conversation along (grow it). A relationship is developing. Like all meaningful relationships, it has its own life course. It evolves as a result of the conversation. Painting isn’t “just like life,” it is life. What’s better about a painting is that you can give it birth without a social security number, leave it alone without charges of neglect, and kill it without a prison sentence. This is not, however, to say that conscience isn’t involved. It must be. As the painting develops a life and begins to speak more, demand more, and offer more, the listening aspect of our dialogue becomes increasingly crucial. Because, at a certain moment, the painting will shout, or whisper, “Leave me alone,” and we must hear, and agree, and give up our active role in the conversation and let the painting speak for itself. Individuation at its finest!   The keys to originality by Alex Nodopaka, Lake Forest, CA, USA  

“Sleeping prophets”
by Alex Nodopaka

I have issues with contemplating my own art with anyone but myself during its process of execution. It’s OK for me to have self-doubts but however creative and positive another’s feedback, it interferes with my narcissism. Art, to me, is not a democratic process unless it is a commissioned piece requiring another’s fulfillment. To me, an artwork is like a poem, a personal experience, therefore extremely subjective. And because of the latter, one’s contemplation of one’s own will not notice the blind spot. And it is the blind spot that makes the art original. Committee contemplation produces committee results. It is like a furnishings designer’s magazine producing a generic condition. There’s always something sterile about it without the originality of personal quirky imperfections. There are 2 comments for The keys to originality by Alex Nodopaka
From: Odette Venuti — Dec 29, 2011

Well said. ‘…art… not a democratic process…’ Too true.

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Dec 30, 2011

Agree with you whole heartedly Alex

  Avoiding Mickey Mouse by Jenny Groat, Lagunitas, CA, USA  

oil painting, 48 x 36 inches
by Jenny Groat

Yes! I talk to “myself and my paintings” all the time. And they do talk back. My most frequently noticed danger is one in which I turn away in disgust, saying, “Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse… etc., etc.” This means I’ve made a move or two that has made everything sticky sweet, often pastels, like a Disney fantasy. This has to be destroyed ruthlessly! The painting seems really relieved when I blast it free! This often means “ruining” my favorite (so far) part of the work. But the last painting I did just took over the conversation. It seemed to grab the brush and just went for it. When I finished it was luscious. I was totally bewildered, and said out loud… “Hey, what just happened here?” Totally bewildered. I don’t know whether this will happen again, but it happened this time, and it claimed the name, Calypso.   Talking to the animals by Kim Werfel, Pittsboro, NC, USA  

pastel painting
by Kim Werfel

As I paint lots of pet portraits, wildlife and animals in general, I talk to them often while I’m painting. Until I read this article… I wouldn’t have admitted that! Sometimes I’m asked to paint a pet that has just passed, and I never got the chance to meet. I ask lots of questions about their personality, favorite treats, toys, personality quirks. This somehow helps me with decisions of color intensity, mood, backgrounds, etc. I’ll speak to the work in progress saying, “Winnie, are you here yet? Where are you? And somewhere during the painting process I swear I’ll know when I’ve caught the animal’s spirit. It’s like they’re waiting to be brought back to their owner… it’s what I try to do. Maybe I’m already in the ranks of the artistically insane, but I’m happy. There are 2 comments for Talking to the animals by Kim Werfel
From: Louise Francke — Dec 30, 2011

Yes, i too speak to the deceased animals I paint. Trying to touch and capture their spirit. Most go to a waiting home and are hung in a place of honor. Is it a reminder of how human they were? Keep speaking to them, they seem to be visiting.

From: Kim Werfel — Jan 02, 2012

Thanks Louise. Yes, they do go to a waiting home’s place of honor. I think they want to remember the beautiful connection. They may die physically, but the relationship can go on forever. :)

  Letters for the New Year by Linda Kathleen Simons, Vancouver, BC, Canada   I’m sitting in the Denver Airport and I wanted to send you a short note to thank you for your letter of incredible insights, encouragement and valuable advice throughout this year. Your letter does make a difference in our lives and I thought I needed to tell you – you have picked me up when I was discouraged, helped me to work through a particularly difficult piece and made me realize that “the fire that burns within” (completely unrelated to last night’s chili) is hard work, lonely at times and the most wonderful pursuit I could ever imagine. I have been taking a course at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, B. C., in their Continuing Studies Program. Your Letter is so important to me that I often read it in Class when it pertains to the subject matter we are studying. Thank you for caring for all of us and making a difference in our lives. I wish you and your Dear Ones a very Happy New Year and a 2012 full of Blessings, good health and great art. (RG note) Thanks, Linda. And thanks to everyone who wrote with similar appreciation and wishes for the New Year. My intuition tells me something great is about to happen.   Dialogue, not monologue by Ken Paul, Eugene, OR, USA  

“Room with A View”
mixed media
by Ken Paul

I’ve been an artist who has mumbled to himself for many years while wrestling with a new opus. I was quite self-conscious about this initially, but it turned into a regular feature of my process. It was only in later years that I more fully appreciated what this was really all about. Most denizens of Western culture probably think of art-making as a monologue — a one-way flow of creative energy from the artist in an inspired moment. Once begun, the work is imagined to take form by way of the maker’s talent, insight, imagination, skill, inspiration — even “genius” in special cases. Such a view probably stems mostly from looking at finished works without the benefit of having much first-hand experience of its particular process. When I was teaching in a college studio arts program, one of our graduate students remarked that she experienced creativity as a dialogue rather than a monologue. This nailed it for me: the agency which I was really talking to — rather than just “me” — was the “muse” — the “other” — the embodiment of that aspect of the work which seems to have a life of its own. I fully agree that there’s an element of surrender involved here. Many readers will remember the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his “dummy” Charlie McCarthy. Daughter Candice Bergen tells of entering his room unannounced, to find him talking to Charlie. She listened quietly for a couple of minutes before Edgar noticed her presence. He said, “Oh, you caught us! I actually talk with Charlie in private all the time — he is one of the wisest people I ever met!”   Pimping the gender by Richard F Barber, Watford, Hertfordshire, UK  

“MacDonalds pour le dejeuner sur l’herbe”
original painting
by Richard F Barber

Just recently I read a blog about the suffering of the female artist. The blog seemed to be transfixed on female suffering in art. As an artist I’m well aware of the sufferings that some artists have gone through by being persecuted by various governments around the world for their art, be it visual or the written word. In the World of art we are lead to believe that each artist is equal as regards race, creed and gender. But when you look deeper into this, it’s untrue. For some years now there has been a firm wedge driven into that belief — a wedge that has gone unnoticed by the artist. It has been driven home by the very people that we accept as friends of the artist, people that we deal with for our livelihood! — organizers and galleries — the wedge being sexism. In the modern world that we live in, there has been an ongoing fight to create equality for both men and women. Irrespective of creed or race, people around the world are dying in the fight to reach this goal. Some are the young men and women in uniform who are equipped with weapons and tools to fight this battle against repression; others are just the ordinary men and women on the street, but all these people have one aim: to free the world of injustice, seeking equality and freedom. In art we are lead to believe that all are equal by merit of what we produce. So why is there a need for galleries and organizers to blatantly pimp the gender of the artist by putting on exhibitions and shows for a single sex? If we are equal, then does it matter if you are male, female or transsexual? Why the need for sexism? Surely the artist is to be judged by the merit of his or her work, not gender. Apart from the artist’s name on the work of art and seeing the artist create the said piece, you would not know the artist’s gender, as it has been proved by women that have worked using a man’s name to hide their identity. Try starting an exhibition with “Men’s Art,” a Juried Exhibition for Men only, juried by men. Then see the outcry by women calling it sexist. It could never happen. As an artist I appreciate both male or females artworks. I’m also a great lover of the female in art. Having said that I also believe in a level playing field for both male and female. So should we allow organizers and galleries to use sexual gender as a showcase for art? Have artists lost their self-respect as well as their conscience? There are 4 comments for Pimping the gender by Richard F Barber
From: Louise Francke — Dec 30, 2011

Ah, the gender issue. During my troubled days, people thought a man created the evocative works. Art works should stand on their own without attributions or names. It is the idea to which the attention should be directed and not the artist’s gender. Let the art work speak without labels.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Dec 30, 2011

This is a complaint against curators and gallery directors. For centuries, in the Western world, the art displayed was that of men. Women with wonderful first names: Hildegard, Sohonisba, Artemisia, Lavinia, Rosalba and many more painted and painted well. With better (or more) communication, the world changed. Women artists gained the ability to participate in the art world. The exploration of visual beauty is now the province of all. Curators are politicians disguised as intellectuals. Their attention seemed have shifted from aesthetics to social engineering. Their shows illustrate social theories with art that fits into their current scheme. As usual, art flies out the window.

From: Shari L. Erickson — Dec 31, 2011

As artists, we have total control over this issue: gender, race, age biased art associations and shows would cease to exist if we, as a whole, choose not to participate.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Dec 31, 2011

Try being male and working for 30+ years in a medium everyone ASSUMES is female. The gender issue will never die until all women become gender-neutral. While there are a lot of men in the world who can’t let their gender go- in the arts most men do not hold onto their gender as the only thing going on. We evolved. But my experience working in FIBER has been a regular confrontation with womern who think I’ve somehow usurped their territory. Frankly- I’m sick of it. So I tell them to their faces. Women don’t like it- not one little bit!


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Talk to me

From: Susan — Dec 27, 2011

Cecelia Jurgens, I believe your painting sure spoke to you. This is a lovely painting so fresh, the colors are so nice.I really like this.

From: Dorothy Gardiner — Dec 27, 2011

I thought everyone conversed with their paintings! Why just this morning (a beautiful golden sky to earth event in fl.) I walked past my painting-all puffed out & proud of itself, says ” look at me!” all I can respond is, “WOW!” Now isn’t that the perfect way to wake up?

From: jim moyer — Dec 27, 2011

Robert My approach of talking to the painting is not so expressive. I ask, (not sure who, me or the painting). My comments are; are my lines melodic, are you clonning anywhere, are their any tangents, do I have more than 4 value scales of light, mid light, dark and mid dark, and am i between the 3-4 to 7-8 values, does my focal point land within a golden mean with contrast. All this before I start thinking about the color. Isn’t this exciting

From: Claire Remsberg — Dec 27, 2011
From: Marilyn — Dec 27, 2011

I think “Ralph’s Place” is very well accomplished. The colors are very rich. Actually, I always say that bright or eye catching colors/hues are ‘delicious.’ I don’t talk with my paintings but I do think a lot while trying to discover what would look a little nicer or what I should remove or add. My husband is my critic. He always tells me if the painting “talks or does not talk to him.” If my work does not talk to him, I’m back to work again with brush, colors and thoughts.

From: Trish McF — Dec 27, 2011

I talk myself through situations when I’m driving. My husband says it’s the only time he knows what I’m thinking.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Dec 28, 2011

I have talked to my paintings for years too. “Hello there, You have a bad spot there! Just sit there and dry while I work on your sister.” I have talked to my friends paintings too. One was suffering from neglect and had slipped in its frame. I felt sorry for it and could hear it calling out to me so I took it home and reframed it for her. The painting was relieved and much happier. Paintings come alive at some point, personalities, each one different. I guess that is why I want to talk to them.

From: Bob Ragland — Dec 28, 2011

I really liked the conversation between you and the painting. I converse with my work often , in my head.

From: Bob Ragland — Dec 28, 2011

How about some talk about money and how artists feel about it. I know how it feels to have some dough as an artist. I keep cash on hand to deflect rejection. When I read the interviews with visual artists, this seldom comes up.

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 28, 2011

Oh, my paintings talk to me all right … but they are not near as gentlemanly. It’s more like, “You’re an idiot. Can’t you see that?!” The dialogue is more an argument with myself.

From: Nicole Lavoie — Dec 28, 2011

This is such a great idea. I have the habit of only thinking in front of my painting and I feel like I have to be the one to answer while this talking out loud gives the painting the chance to answer.

From: Karen Gillis Taylor — Dec 28, 2011

I love that you have given us permission as solitary painters to speak out loud as we paint and feel a great need to comment on our painting’s progress. Having a pet has always been a great excuse to talk things over in the studio. “What do you think, Mimi?” (the cat). Secondly, we can simply talk to ourselves, pretending our closest friend (my sister artist) is here, and make abbreviated comments so as not to feel totally loony. My final method is simply to talk to God and confide in him, as I believe he is always listening and caring. That one is the most special and fruitful. After all, he gave me this talent in the first place, and created this beautiful world that I love to paint.

From: John — Dec 28, 2011

Whenever I want to engage in an intelligent conversation with a true peer I do talk to myself.

From: Cyril Satorsky — Dec 28, 2011

I’ve recently begun taking digital pics of my work as I go along at every change of colour or form or whatever. In the past I’ve often had regrets that I couldn’t go back and see an earlier stage of a picture that I’m working on because I’ve made changes and it got painted over. It’s interesting and instructive to be able to see where you’ve been as a clue to where your heading. It’s something one can’t do in one’s head – I have been taught (as I imagine many artists have) some hard useful no “crap” lessons by my own work.

From: Dava Dahlgran — Dec 28, 2011

This is a process I seem to naturally think of as “negotiating” with my artwork. I came to call it this because I realized that it did me no good to only talk to the art, I had to take into consideration that sometimes I would not get my way – and that was a good thing. The art sometimes has better ideas.

From: Lois Wooldridge — Dec 28, 2011

I not so much talk to the painting, but to the muse behind it. I ask questions, show gratitude, give the muse a choice of solutions, etc. Once I said out loud, “Who painted this? I showed the art to my husband, and he agreed — it looked nothing like my style. It sold quickly, but this never happened again.

From: Pauline — Dec 28, 2011

I confess, I have been saying – “What if…?” What if I put in another tree here or What if I move you over here? Many times the paintings says. “I have been waiting for you to see that!” Just took three paintings from the stack and said you need some light, why didn’t you tell me? So glad I am not alone in doing this.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 28, 2011

I’ve always felt painting was a collaborative process. Not between artists but between artist and the painting in process. I’ve told others that a painting has a mind of it’s own regardless of my trying to steer it into the direction I want. I generally end up with a compromise. Most of my mumbling is done under my breath; I don’t want someone walking into my studio while I rant at the my painting. There is already enough belief artists are crazy. The problem lies in the fact that we don’t listen to our work. I truly believe talking to a work is done by most artists. As everyone who paints knows, a work goes through an “ugly” stage. This is when most conversation takes place in my studio. The questions come fast here. “Why aren’t you working??” “I will start over if this continues!” “I should have thought this out more…”

From: Nancy D. Jackson — Dec 28, 2011

I let the painting talk to me all the time. I was painting sheep — abstract and one of the younger ones wanted red hair. No surprise as she was a teenager.

From: Carol Nelson — Dec 28, 2011

I had an unhappy painting. It said it was too bold, too jarring, not cohesive. I said OK, I’ll make you more analogous. Painting and painter are both happy.

From: Ratindra Das — Dec 28, 2011

I do talk to my painting. I was told by one of my instructor, “Listen to the paper “. I paint in watercolor. It’s better than any outside critique.

From: Pat Merriman — Dec 28, 2011

As a long retired Gestalt therapist, one always has the “other” talk back (or literally act out the “other” position). Now I must go and ask that sycamore tree why she wanted to be painted smack dab in the middle and why, when I as an artist loving sycamores, am having so much trouble with what should have been so simple…thanks “Dr. Genn”.

From: Zan Barrage — Dec 28, 2011

Lately I have taken to removing the term “Plein Air” from my vocabulary. It may sound elitist, but everybody and their grandmother is now a plein air artist! I still pray at the alter of outdoor painting, but I wonder if this fad will fade someday and outdoor will be just another means to an end: A good painting.

From: Julianne Biehl — Dec 28, 2011

Willem deKooning who was a master at action painting once called the interaction with your work in progress “a conversation with your painting”. To me the physical interaction with the work is part of the process of creation. We can talk with our brain and our body at the same time.

From: Jaci Evans — Dec 28, 2011

I have been making art dolls for years and have always talked to them like they were my children. They answer me with approval or disapproval or suggestions for what they would like me to do next. I have recently started painting and love it! I hadn’t thought about talking to my paintings like I do the dolls, but I can imagine how this will help, especially when I get down to the finishing touches and am not sure if it is time to stop or to add something here or change something there. Can’t wait to see how a heart to heart conversation will guide these decisions.

From: Dave C. — Dec 29, 2011

Most of my conversations with my paintings devolve into arguments. Something along the lines of, “you’re not really going to use that color, are you?”

From: Adam Faltesque — Dec 29, 2011

Yesterday a smart-aleck painting spoke to me. Smirking, it said, Don’t give up yer day job, bozo. I immediately took the picture home and scraped it off. Now theres a picture of a late model auto sitting under the street light outside my house. The barely recognizable figure inside the vehicle image seems to be smoking a cigaret. I think I’m in trouble. Uh oh, there’s a knock on my picture of the front door!

From: Patricia MacDonald — Dec 29, 2011

I am not sure when or how I first began to listen to my paintings, but it has been a long time. I don’t think I realized exactly what I was doing however, until I introduced the concept to others. I taught high school art for many years and had the good fortune to teach many creative and dedicated students. At some point in every painting project they would each ask me ‘what should I do next’. Rather than give any specific answer (and probably to give myself some time to figure out what exactly I was going to say) I always suggested that we hang up the work, stand back from it, and take a few minutes to just look at it quietly (which is an eternity for a teenager). In those moments of contemplation their paintings did, in fact, speak, and the student usually heard it! Then with conviction and a sense of empowerment they generally knew what they had to do next. And I usually concurred. The rest of the students in the class often listened discreetly to these individual student-teacher discussions, but they too were learning the technique of seeing and listening. Over time most of my students became adept in modeling this behaviour and engaged in the act of contemplation individually and in small student groups. Eventually I was only called in when the painting spoke an unknown language. Learning, for me has always been a two way street, and it was in those classes. As a full-time painter now, I am much more aware of the internal on-going dialogue with a painting as it progresses — but I have to say that I haven’t tried conversing ‘out loud’. I will give it a try and see if the audible conversation has a different affect on my work.

From: Theresa Grillo — Dec 29, 2011

Talk to the painting! I like this! It sure beats cursing as you scrape the whole thing off.

From: John — Dec 29, 2011

Robert,my usual response to those who question my self-talk (out loud and overheard by them but not fully comprehended) is that only through self talk is one guaranteed an intelligent conversation.

From: Karen Bottorff — Dec 29, 2011

Dear Robert, I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year, and to thank you for being a guiding light to me this past year. You have helped motivate me and your wise words have brought me back to my easel after a long break.

From: Nadi Spencer — Dec 29, 2011

GENN, feed, paint, paint, email, bookkeeping, sell, research, visiting, paint, paint, paint, feed, paint, paint, TV, GENN. Thanks for the WONDERFUL book- can’t believe I’ve missed this.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Dec 30, 2011

I can’t thank you enough, Robert, for these letters. I read them early in the morning with my coffee and sometimes can imagine all of us readers sitting in a coffee house having a discussion, laughing sometimes, other times serious. You bring artists around the world together over our favorite subject – art.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Dec 30, 2011

I like the line about talking to yourself, “You meet a better class of people that way!”

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Dec 31, 2011

You people who talk to your paintings in progress must all be nuts. Some of us work not with a mutable medium like paint- but with something that already has structure that we are manipulating. In my case- stacks of fabric- but my friend Lydia works with stacks of wood. I had to ask her this question recently: Lydia- do your materials TALK TO YOU? She did say yes. And our processes were very similar. I am always working on many things- but some things will sit around for a long time waiting- and all of a sudden I’ll get a hit where a particular stack will speak with a particular idea and a relevant design and I’ll be off on a new piece or series because all will be talking at once and all the parts will fall into place. Also- I work in stages and often- after the first stage of construction is finished- and the actual visual piece is built- I’ll set it aside for a while before moving into the next faze of construction/completion- because I’m waiting for it to speak to me about HOW to finish it. I usually don’t move to finish UNTIL the piece has told me what to do. I always just thought of this process as normal.

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Jan 02, 2012

It’s phase, not faze.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jan 02, 2012

Dear Patsy- Is that it? You’re going to correct my spelling? Like I’m the only male on here who’s ever mispelled a word? Does it make you feel superior? I looked at the word- tried to spell it another way that I knew wasn’t correct- and since for some reason there’s no spellcheck on here that I’ve figured out- even though there used to be- could be my system- I left it the way it is. I’m sooooooo sorry I mispelled a word. It was late. I was tired. And in a hurry to go catch a bus home- because the computer I’m using- because my art does not support a computer AT MY HOME/STUDIO- is at a friend’s house. Try again.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jan 02, 2012

Oh look- I misspelled misspelled. I think.

From: Ella Steinfurth-Hagen — Jan 03, 2012

As I passed the drying rack I heard a smarmy, “…sorry excuse for a paint slinger!” No one’s fessing up, but I suspect it was a landscape of one of the Great Lakes. Some of the edges need to be softened. Why don’t any of them ever want to cuddle?

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Jan 07, 2012

Dear Bruce, As a proofreader, the smallest of errors leap off the page and smack me between the eyes. You annoy me so much with your unnecessarily ill-mannered, sexist comments I couldn’t resist, this time, having a quick sharp dig at you. I don’t care if you’re male, female, both, or neither. Your gender issues are your problem, not mine or anyone else’s. Please get over yourself. Apologies to the rest of you for this spat – I shall ignore his comments from now on.

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Ralph’s place

acrylic painting, 30 x 42 inches by Cecelia Jurgens, SK, 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 Shirley Erskine of Oakville, ON, Canada, who wrote, “And here, after all the years of self-conversation, I thought that I was really just ‘losing it’! The dialogue was not as one-sided as I had led myself to believe. Thank you for clearing that up for me. Happy New Year!”    

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