Talkers and doers

Dear Artist, When I was a poverty stricken student at Art Center School in Los Angeles I was frequently called in to see Karla Martell, the registrar. Tardy payment of fees was one of the reasons for my summoning, but more than once she spoke of my failure as a student and as a human being. “Looking over the reports from your instructors,” she said, “they are pretty well consistent in saying that you talk a good job and do a poor one.” Shocked as I was at the time, I decided on a vow of silence and to henceforth “understate and over-prove.” Overnight I became the “Silent Sam” of the classroom. Karla’s warning was an epiphany. I turned a new leaf. More and more in later years I’ve come to realize that shutting up is not only cathartic, it’s a positive technique for quality control and improvement. Folks who know me well often remark on my reluctance to talk about my own work and my habit of dragging on about the work of others. Here’s why: When you talk, you gradually lose your need to do. Each word is a brick removed from the wall of your desire. When you tell someone, you let the wolverine out of the oil drum and spoil the excitement of the final unveiling. Your creativity is like a dam where the floodgates must be opened only at your choosing. A crack will leak the power that lies within. Silence focuses your eyes on your process. When you do not surround or precede your effort with your own verbiage, meaning and purpose are more likely to come out of the end of your brush. Literary considerations (the red barn and the golden sunset), the bane of visual workers, are kept in a holding cell until court can be held. We all know of people who constantly talk about how they are going to do this and that. While it’s upsetting to them, it’s often worthwhile to let them know the reason they are not doing it is because they are talking about doing it. No matter how you encourage talkers to get on with it, it’s been my observation that talkers generally keep on talking and are most highly realized when they are in groups, conferences, classrooms, lectures and social events. Doers generally have their workplace already set up, are naturally drawn to their tools, and are comfortable not saying much about what they’re up to. Some of us have to learn that. Best regards, Robert PS: “Silence is a source of great strength.” (Lao Tzu) “Drink at the source and speak no word.” (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev) “Learn silence. With the quiet serenity of a meditative mind, listen, absorb, transcribe, and transform.” (Pythagoras) “A closed mouth gathers no foot.” (Frank Tyger) Esoterica: The Zen-like trance of silent working precludes overly-optimistic planning and poor-me whining. Yes, you can pipe music into your head — but be yourself mute. “Remain quiet,” says Paramanhansa Yogananda. “Don’t feel you have to talk all the time. Go within and you will see the loveliness behind all beauty.”   Sensitive muse by Catherine Stock, France  

watercolour painting
by Catherine Stock

The muse on my shoulder is very sensitive and does not abide claptrap of any kind. If I am conscious for an instant of potential financial gain or critical acclaim, or otherwise abuse her presence by talking glibly, she abandons me. This has happened many, many times. Only when I am totally immersed in and absorbed in work, even a very simple sketch, does she allow something magical to happen and I become aware of a faint heartbeat and gentle breath emanating from my brush. There are 2 comments for Sensitive muse by Catherine Stock
From: Laurell — Apr 03, 2012

I see that you are magical with both word and brush! Nice!

From: Susan A Warner — Apr 03, 2012

Sensitive muse is so simple and so beautifully written. Worth reading twice or more to enjoy!

  Talking to clarify plans by Skip Rohde, Asheville, NC, USA  

“The Soccer Game”
oil painting
by Skip Rohde

I agree with the idea that people often talk way too much and perform way too little. As Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” If you’re talking, you’re not doing. But I think there is another side of the story. Sometimes it’s helpful to spell out what it is you want to do, or what you intend to do. Putting your plans into words to somebody else can do two things for you. One, it helps clarify what you want to do. When you talk with somebody else about your desires, their questions and comments can help steer you toward a better solution. Two, putting your plans into words can commit you to them. You’ve said you’re going to do it, now you have to produce. Of course, that only works if you’re the type of person who is interested in living up to your words. There are 2 comments for Talking to clarify plans by Skip Rohde
From: Sharon Cory — Apr 03, 2012

Good comment and wonderful painting.

From: Helen Opie — Apr 03, 2012

I agree, there are two types of talking – and they sound very different so can be distinguished; the useless one if all about “I’m going to…” with many a repetition and never a “progress report”; the other one is more dialogue, searching as you say, and helps us get from one stepping stone to the next until we have Crossed the River of Challenge. AND I agree that one must be immersed in the carrying-out of ideas, not the talking about them or anticipating rewards. I love Catherine Stock’s description of this phenomenon!

  Walk the Walk by Nyla Witmore, Boulder, CO, USA  

“Flatirons side view from Sanitas Trailhead”
oil painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Nyla Witmore

I agree with your conclusions about “talking vs. doing.” There might be another deeper, embedded message here as well… I recall artist friends who would “set up” the studio or lay out paints, only to spend the next few hours doing everything but painting (i.e. getting a second or third cup of coffee… sharpening pencils… re-arranging book cases…) In other words, they were avoiding painting, avoiding the doing aspect, just as your article suggested. When any of us is tempted to talk instead of do, we can ask the deeper question — “What do I fear?” Success? Too much success? Or is it more likely the looming aspect of failure? Being honest about what keeps us talking instead of doing, seems to be the first step. To your credit, Robert, you got out of your own way and just buckled down. You experienced your “moment of truth” with that critic’s comment. Ah, that there might be more moments of truth, even hitting a “bottom” rather than continue a “treading water” stance. I suspect your letter on this topic might make enough readers experience the knife-blade nudging to “Walk the Walk.” There is 1 comment for Walk the Walk by Nyla Witmore
From: Anonymous — Apr 03, 2012

Wonderful sketch!

  Falling silent out of doors by Darrell Baschak, Manitou Beach, SK, Canada  

“Morning shadows”
original painting
by Darrell Baschak

I have been spending a great deal of time this winter and spring painting Plein Air pieces so the “Being Silent” aspect figures prominently, as anyone who paints out of doors knows. I find that even the chattering brain shuts down after awhile when it realizes it’s not getting anywhere with me! I cherish the time spent painting in this manner, especially this spring as all the birds come back and the earth wakes up, there is so much to experience in silent wonder. I have an iPod that I am hesitant to use because it interferes with this way of being. The Canadian painter, Tom Thomson, was one who followed this path and his beautiful plein air pieces speak of his connection to natural surroundings. One can imagine him silently standing before a regal pine and rendering it in glorious paint and strokes as only he could, becoming one with his subject. The ultimate in knowing where the two become one. There are 2 comments for Falling silent out of doors by Darrell Baschak
From: Pamela Sweet — Apr 03, 2012

Your painting has luscious color, sensitivity, and design.

From: Darrell Baschak — Apr 03, 2012

Thank you Pamela.

  Creativity needs words by Aleta Karstad, Bishops Mills, ON, Canada  

“Deep river spring melt”
oil painting
by Aleta Karstad

Your thesis that artists who talk about what they want to do reduce their productivity by doing so doesn’t corroborate my experience at all. I find that talking about what I would like to do often helps me to develop it in my mind, and whips up my enthusiasm and determination. Most of my successful paintings and projects have begun with talking about the ideas with my husband, and then these developing ideas have become established as actual projects as I went on to tell other people what I’d planned to do! If they tried to discourage me, or didn’t seem to understand, I further explained the idea and that helped to justify it to myself, and increased my resolve. My sister and I e-mail back and forth about our painting ideas, inspiring and encouraging each other. I am a verbal and literary person, and part of my creativity happens in words. My paintings and journals go hand in hand. You can see this in my blog.   Writing works it out by Luann Udell, Keene, NH, USA  

by Luann Udell

Talking about our plans tricks our mind into believing we’re actually doing something about them. Sharing our projects with an audience gives us the buzz we would get from presenting the finished product. We float on admiration and applause, until the time for results actually arrives — and we’re open-mouthed and shamefaced, left in the dust. Me? I’m 50/50 — 50% introvert and 50% introvert. So how do I handle my talkiness? I write about my thoughts and ideas, in a work journal, working out the fears and objections on paper first. I focus on creating work that pleases only me, trusting my process and focus on enchanting myself first. And a few healthy deadlines works wonders, too! There are 2 comments for Writing works it out by Luann Udell
From: Jo Dalgety — Apr 03, 2012

I love that sculpture.

From: Sheila Minifie — Apr 03, 2012

Me too!

  Talkers seem to thrive by Sandra Sibley, Columbus, NC, USA   Several people in my weekly art class at our local community college are quite talented and work diligently on their paintings with gentle guidance from our instructor. We all socialize to some degree and encourage each other, but there are definitely some “talkers” in the group. I haven’t figured out if it affects their art. I know from years in the workplace and having the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment administered a number of times that some people draw their energy from solitary activities (introvert) and some draw it from being with other people (extrovert). I always assumed that artists are introverts, but some of the accomplished artists I’ve met and worked with are really quite social and seem to thrive on teaching workshops and classes, definitely extroverted activities. I wonder if “talkers” process by talking it out — to themselves and/or others. I also wonder if it’s a reflection of insecurity in their art. As for myself, I’m definitely an extrovert, which is why I like my weekly art class, but I do believe that I paint better when I let my painting do the talking and I simply listen and act accordingly. There is 1 comment for Talkers seem to thrive by Sandra Sibley
From: Mona Stratos — Apr 03, 2012

I was wondering the same thing. Most artist friends are introverts but there is that thinking and judging function that would make the difference in execution. I used to talk more when I knew less just trying to sort out the feelings. Such drive and angst and no where to go. Doing and doing more paves the road.

  Preliminary sketches — a way out of doing by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA  

“Bali, Deep Valley Near Ubud”
acrylic painting
by Tiit Raid

In the past I’ve ‘talked’ myself out of doing a series of paintings by revealing my intent to do so. Or, I’ve not followed-up on something because I’ve told ‘the world’ about it, creating the illusion that I do it, or have done it. Then, there is also the possibility that you can draw or preliminary-sketch your way out of doing a series of paintings. In graduate school I did quite a bit of ‘doodling’ in hopes of finding something interesting to paint. I was doing abstract paintings then, and one day came up with a simple way of breaking up the flat surface that caused it to appear anything but flat. Excited by the possibilities I did two small paintings to check it out, to which my major professor suggested I do 25 more. Instead of putting paint to canvas I took out my large sketchbook and filled three pages with small drawings using various colored felt tip pens — there were maybe 25-30 compositions per page. I did one larger painting based on one of those drawings, but, it seemed like I had been-there-and-done-that. I guess, having seen the possibilities in the sketchbook, why go on? I didn’t do another, and went on to something else. I still have the sketchbook, and over the years I’ve looked through it thinking that I missed an opportunity of possibly doing something more original and interesting. But, there it is, and things have turned out just fine. There are 3 comments for Preliminary sketches – a way out of doing by Tiit Raid
From: Sherry P. — Apr 03, 2012

What an amazing painting. As we detail and try to move away from detailing, it comes right back at those of us who love it. It is obvious that you love what you do. Great job. I love to see acrylics used this way.

From: Lisa — Apr 03, 2012

I’ve done the same thing and have had the exact same feelings, so in spite of what “traditional” training may be for the practice of sketching out ideas first, I no longer do it. Countless ideas seem to be unnecessary to paint once the idea has flowed through my pen to least for my soul.

From: Jackie Knott — Apr 03, 2012

Ditto; once I explore a subject in a sketch or oil study I lose interest in it. I know artists who painstakingly work through their ideas with a sketch or oil study until their final painting is their second, third, and sometimes their fourth effort. By then I’m bored with it and want to move on. I do thumbnails but then spend a great of time on my “study,” which is a detailed drawing directly on the canvas – then I’m ready to apply paint.

  From speechless to talking about it by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA  

“Soaring Dreams”
acrylic painting
by Nina Allen Freeman

A normally quiet person, a listener in social situations and not usually talkative, I have the opposite problem. When I am planning to do something new, I usually try to keep it to myself and not talk about it until I am sure about all my plans, because I have the fear that talking will ruin them. If I continue with my planning, working quietly then talk about it at the right time, then it will all work out. I am a little superstitious about this. In social situations, people like to ask me questions about my work and what my plans are. I like to have something interesting to say, and these people might come to my next opening. So I have learned to be chatty about my work to a certain extent. I have noticed that if it is not a group of artists, though, their eyes get glazed over in 2 seconds. One of the most difficult things to learn is how to talk about your own work and explain it to viewers in a coherent way. When I was just starting out, someone asking me what my inspiration for a painting was would leave me speechless. With some practice and thought ahead of time, I can now talk about my paintings without too much trouble. I have trained myself to overcome the natural inclination to be overly quiet, otherwise I would have to close myself in a dark studio somewhere and never see people. There is 1 comment for From speechless to talking about it by Nina Allen Freeman
From: Ron Ruble — Apr 03, 2012

I went to your website and your new abstracts are really loosening you up. You have a nack. They are very good. I really like that direction. Keep it up!

  Talking it up to make it happen by Terry Mason, Sarasota, FL, USA   When you talk about our own work, silence is best I agree. Every moment away from the easel is one less moment spent getting better. No matter what stage of painting one is at there is always “getting better.” Painting groups are wonderful for safe painting, those informal critiques that reveal just what you needed, and finding new spots to paint. They are not so great when you get constantly interrupted at your easel. Both can happen, it’s true. Our group is trying to get a “May I approach?” type of thing going so that a flow is not interrupted. If it becomes the norm to say back… “not now” or “will get to you in a bit” then no one’s feelings are hurt and everyone pretty much learns individual respect in a painting group. Painting time just begins to stay a lot quieter. It’s interesting. There is some time when talk is absolutely needed. If you live on either coast you will notice that although people often buy representational painting, painting that is shown in galleries is often more of the contemporary sort. Representational art is having a renaissance of sorts these years and wants a bigger spot at the table. It’s a pretty just desire since the work is there to back it up. And that is one type of situation where actually talk is needed. Because you don’t move a community to be more receptive to arts or a type of art unless you work for it. These things don’t “just happen.” They happen because artists make them happen. They get shows. They advertise them heavily. They prove they can draw a crowd. They keep showing. They form art organizations. They run plein air groups and paint-outs. They sell stuff. That actually takes talk to get done. And nothing ever happened…. not Impressionism nor Pop Art without someone talking it up, making it happen, and getting it done. Sometimes talk serves that quiet artist pretty well.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Talkers and doers

From: John Ferrie — Mar 29, 2012

Dear Robert, While we all wish we could be these Zen masters and wish everyone Kum-ba-ya and go forth and multiply their works in silence, this is not the reality. I have just come off my most successful show of my career. Anyone who knows me, will say I am not shy. To many, I am an absurd man who has not followed the conventional path my family would have wanted for me. Instead, I have sacrificed my life to being a painter. I could not find a gallery that would carry my work. Through necessity, did my own marketing, promotions, press releases and general drum pounding. I knew I had a voice to my work, but nobody was going to know this unless I followed through with talking about it. People are savvy buyers these days and left to their own devices will not buy anything. You have to sell the works. Now, I also sell like I don’t need the money. But Ill sell you one secret, I DO need the money. When talking about my work, it’s not like you explain what it means or what people should understand. But to tell them about your motivation, why some parts are bursting with colour and what I was experiencing when those colourful parts happen is exactly what clients want to hear. We have all sat there listening to some artist hack go on and on about the concept behind their works when the execution is less than desirable. But when you have the heads nodding and people respond my parting with their hard earned money, the circle of why we are artists becomes complete. Yes, the work should speak for itself and we should all be doing good quality work…but at the end of the day, you have to sell your work to see it on the walls of someone home other than your own. John Ferrie

From: Erin — Mar 29, 2012

I used to think that talking about what I planned to create was a good way to make sure I didn’t find too many ways to “not make art” like not enough time, too sunny, too cloudy, you know how it goes. But what I found was that talking about what I was going to paint didn’t hold me accountable to actually make it, because people love to talk about making art and how I’m going to make art and what ideas I have to make art…and then more talking, less creating! Now, I jot down the notes for what I’d like to create. Then I make it. Or not. But I don’t talk/blog about it until after I’ve made it. Funnily enough, I end up creating a lot more than I used to.

From: Rene W. — Mar 30, 2012

For the most part, artists are introverts. With that said, they don’t spend much time talking about their work but just do the work. Then there are the extroverts who feel that their work is not complete without expressing verbally how they were able to attain their mastery of the medium. Self expression can help promote your work but I don’t think you should be boorish doing it.

From: Brenda Hofreiter — Mar 30, 2012

I am so grateful that you wrote about this since, I have found the same thing to be true, both for myself and for other artists I know. The talkers never seem to do and the doers never seem to talk. I actually feel squeamish when I talk about a work in progress or about to be birthed at the easel. I’ve learned to listen to my gut and be silent and it has worked out beautifully. I do create more now that I’m not talking about it and the work proceeds in a wordless way toward it’s completion. It is what it is at the end of the day and my work gradually becomes more of what I would desire it to be as silent easel time passes. In the end, it is authentically mine and I learn from the art itself what direction to move toward in future works. Each work lending itself to the next in a ribbon of experience. Brenda

From: terri — Mar 30, 2012

Profound and I would say one could apply this idea to all aspects of work or worship. Monks have been doing it for hundreds of years if not a couple of thousand. When one does this then you are free of dialog and excuses. You become open to truth,creation, and love.

From: Philip Koch — Mar 30, 2012

Robert this is my favorite of all the posts you’ve written, hitting a big nail squarely on its head. Good for you!

From: Susan Avishai — Mar 30, 2012

Robert and John–you’re talking about different things and are both right. There’s the talking before the painting is done, and the talking (it up) after it’s completed. I so agree that putting burgeoning ideas for visual work into language isn’t a good idea. A writer I knew once suggested I write a paragraph or page about the painting I was about to embark on to clarify my thoughts. Much as I love to write, it was a disaster. Not only did writing dilute the energy, but I was talking in a foreign language–words rather than images. I found I had to let the canvas tell me how to proceed slowly rather than have an agenda in advance of the process. Afterwards is a completely different story. That’s when you must be the talky sales(wo)man. Wish, like so many artists, I were better at it! ps–after Robert published my comment in the clickback last week re having your own website, the hits on mine spiked up more than tenfold! Sure are a lot of people reading The Painter’s Keys!

From: gail harper — Mar 30, 2012


From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 30, 2012

Thank you for discussing this issue… and I do believe it is an issue with some artists. I am an extrovert and put myself and thoughts out there for all to see. I was one of those that talks and tells my plans. Sometimes those plans happen and sometimes another opportunity jumps in front of it and it gets pushed further into the future. I have had artist friends actually jump on what I had planned and do it first. That makes me not do it because it will no longer be original and it will be perceived as my copying that artist. And, it has the effect of taking the “wind out of the sails” so to speak! This is something we need to be aware of happening. It could be a new slight change in style, it could be a marketing idea, any number of things. So, I am trying to keep my own counsel more and just do the work. Thanks for putting this in print, and reinforcing my resolve!

From: Sandy — Mar 30, 2012

This creates an ‘ah ha’ moment for me. I get these often during Bible study…and it is just as profound now as I read this. You have nailed it, Robert, and your comments have produced clarity; I find that in the past I have spoken (with enthusiasm) of a painting I’m ready to begin or have already begun, when those I’m talking to jump in and offer, with absolute certainty, that I must do this or that, or it needs more of something. Those comments can throw doubt on the rest of the work…those words keep creeping up…and I can lose my own enthusiasm. So I have begun to keep it to myself. This letter confirms that that is a good way to go. Too bad in a way, because people really do love to jump in and hash it out…with much gusto.

From: Suzette Fram — Mar 30, 2012

Profound observation today, Robert. Some people spend a lot of time thinking about, and talking about, what they’re going to do. Not so much time actually doing it. For some, it’s more about the thinking and the talking, than it is about the doing. I guess they’re dreamers, living in the ‘wishing world’, not the actual one. So the lesson here is, stop thinking (and talking) your grandiose plans, just get down to it and start, and actually do something.

From: Sandra — Mar 30, 2012

I remember when I was a kid that there was a neighbor who would do “coffee break” rounds all day, visiting all the neighbors and talking how busy she was and all that she has to do today. Everyone could hardy wait for her to leave so that we could carry on with our work, while she would move to the next victim. In those old days children could learn many good lessons by just observing our community. One learned about the talkers and doers real quick. Too bad that nowadays children spend most of their time being driven in cars from one event to another, without cohesion of a unified community.

From: Jennifer Kane — Mar 30, 2012

Although I respect the ideals you shared in this letter about quietly getting down to work, it seems in some way to devalue the extrovert. Being one myself, the social stuff is what makes me get out of bed in the morning, and charges my batteries to do good work. I think it might be a matter of balancing the two.

From: Kerry Snider — Mar 30, 2012

Talking about doing my art, blah, blah, feels like I’ve as good as done it. It lets out the excitement and motivation like a leaky balloon. Procrastinators are easily spotted and are not taken seriously. When the painting is in the process the wonderful inner spirit of the painting carries you on to the ta da finish and is immensely fulfilling but is it is diffused along the way. The finish of the painting is deflated.

From: Jacqui Chapman — Mar 30, 2012

I’m saying nothing.

From: Susan-Rose Slatkoff — Mar 30, 2012

It’s an unnecessary and spurious dichotomy. Some become arid when they expose too much, others, I being one, become energized. I started writing a novel in December 2010, talk about it to anyone who will listen, and am addicted to writing. I write at least seven hours a day. I am now on my third revision, which will be complete in a month. Yakking certainly hasn’t slowed me down. Get ready to read “THE CROWS ARE WATCHING.”

From: Casey Craig — Mar 30, 2012

So true! I would elaborate, but I am going to shut up and get to work.

From: Daniela — Mar 30, 2012

Good for you for saying this, Robert! I know this from my own experience, and, the more I shut up and work, the more I attract people who want to TALK ABOUT the art they are going to do. I continue to discover new ducking techniques, otherwise I would just be exhausted by all my energy being sucked out of me.

From: Violetta — Mar 30, 2012

Extroverts need everyone else’s attention and energy – run!

From: Sarah Wood — Mar 30, 2012

It is so much easier to talk about what you want to do, are going to do, plan to do–than to actually do it. The words one speaks are ephemeral, and don’t sit in plain view for all to judge. As a perfectionist, I found it very difficult to take up the brush, then see what the unskilled hand and mind delivered. Before actually beginning the journey of painting I bought books, brushes, paints and easels, terribly afraid to begin. Perhaps my journey is life’s big joke, because I didn’t begin until I was in my mid-sixties. It is thanks to your “twice-weekly letters” and other artists that I find the journey mostly pleasurable and rewarding.

From: Jonathan Wiltshire — Mar 30, 2012

Along with my painting I also serve at our retreat (based on Christian Mysticism) by giving occasional Sunday talks. Your bi-weekly missives not only feed my artistic zeal but often supply me with delightful and thought provoking quotes. And sometimes I share your thoughts with my wife that she may better understand the curious ways of one possessed by the artist-complex. Yours is a great service.

From: Nina Meledandri — Mar 30, 2012

I find this particularly relevant during this era of social media, it has taken me many years to realize that exposing my process might not be the best thing for its development. I still make the same type of blog posts as I used to, but they are private; a virtual journal to complement my physical ones. What I take away from this letter is perhaps the need to go one step further: a little more internal contemplation, a little less external anticipation might be more fruitful.

From: Carole Mayne — Mar 30, 2012

Yesterday I heard…”To move forward, be still”. I love the synchronicity that often happens with your musings and my life. The radio is ON! We’re listening!

From: Sharon Knettell — Mar 30, 2012

I do not like to talk about my work to people as I agree with you that it dilutes the process. Actually I feel rather silly telling people that I am in fact an artist. There is the usual round of questions about the work, what kind is it, do you have a gallery- no (always embarrassing) .I find describing my work difficult. I became an artist to describe my life and I find words cannot compete. That said, I suffer from procrastination and laziness. I pay a model quite dearly to show up and I have to paint- like it or not. Figurative painting can be very difficult and I find there are times I am frustrated by my clumsiness. However- today she had an emergency and could not come. I now find myself dragging about. This letter is a good kick in the butt! The background does need a lot of work!

From: Andrew Bray — Mar 30, 2012
From: Patty O’Kane — Mar 30, 2012

With my studio being a more public than private I am struggling with trying to create an area defined as mine and mine alone. My most recent work is something I am not just taking pleasure in, but something that is drawing a fair amount of attention. This attention is premature. When I have work that I am not ready to share, that I AM being quiet about, it’s the onlookers that can’t be quiet. Too many questions, too anxious to try what I am still perfecting..Thus the premature end of mystique.

From: Susannah Vandyke — Mar 30, 2012
From: Susan Hotard — Mar 30, 2012

” Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:28 NIV

From: Anna Lambrecht — Mar 30, 2012

This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. I am a vocal processor. I talk about everything, I like feedback and opinions and I often regret opening my trap. You are absolutely right about looking within, I am constantly working on being more self-referral.

From: Chris Ellis — Mar 30, 2012

We have a proverb here in Africa, “Talking about pumpkins, does not make them grow.”

From: Susan Easton Burns — Mar 30, 2012

The registrar that criticized your work and gossiped about you with others is also wasting a lot of precious energy that could be used in nurturing something…..anything. I have to look at the time I have used in gossip or criticism that was hurtful. All gossip is hurtful. The only criticism that is helpful is when whatever is being criticized, can be changed in 10 minutes. Thanks for your heartfelt letters. I have met several experienced artists that barely talk. No wonder.

From: Paula Timpson — Mar 30, 2012

Painters paint and Writers write Silence is strength and Pure Love~! Amen~…..

From: Kirsten Barton — Mar 30, 2012

Seems like as good a time as any to quote King Solomon: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) I could say more, but perhaps I shall practice what I preach, for once.

From: Valerie Norberry VanOrden — Mar 30, 2012
From: Kathryn Townsend — Mar 30, 2012
From: Bev Koldon — Mar 30, 2012

This letter really made me aware of myself. I think you have been watching me!!

From: Kay Christopher — Mar 30, 2012
From: K. Ann Price — Mar 31, 2012

“Silent Sam” as in the statue..or as in Ramirez, from the movie? lol

From: Brant Abinosa — Mar 31, 2012

I just love your weekly letters, this one especially. It strikes close to home. Not only am I a poverty stricken art student but I always seem to talk a great deal more than I’m actually doing. This email allows me to examine that in a different way. Thank you for that!

From: Robin d’Arcy Shillcock — Mar 31, 2012

Truly and beautifully “spoken” ! I hang on to every word and sentence, and say ‘Yea, yep, true, yes, yeh, aye, sí, sî et mais oui, c’est comme ça ! And have nothing more to add. Thank you for all the thoughtful provocations. Groningen, Netherlands

From: Donna Chameleon Stafford — Mar 31, 2012

I’ve noticed this phenomena repeatedly occurring in my life , and know that if i REALLY want to do something i’d better keep my mouth shut … or else ! moreover , if i want something to happen that is in the control of “others” , then i’d better not even think about it !

From: Ann Price — Mar 31, 2012
From: Elizabeth Gaye MacDonald — Mar 31, 2012

Robert, your letter is the best! Thanks for the excellent advice.

From: Ros Dyson — Mar 31, 2012

I just wanted to thank you for this post. It really struck home with me. And I guess it also applies to writing – talking and writing about what you are going to do can make the doing itself irrelevant. So enough writing! Cumbria, UK

From: Dieter Hansen — Mar 31, 2012

I was hauled into the principal’s office two weeks ago for talking too much in class. Thanks for this.

From: cathy — Mar 31, 2012

I have always known that talking about an idea can ruin it completely. I have upset people by refusing to discuss my work. But where you can really fall in a hole is if you wish to apply for a grant.. you must be able to discuss in excruciating extent your ideas and hopes for your work. This is why people who get grants may be very good talkers and less good artists. But many grant recipients are not in it to become better artists, but rather to further their careers. And when you can’t paint, or sculpt, then you become perfect as a grant recipient, from what i see.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Apr 01, 2012
From: Warren Criswell — Apr 01, 2012

I found out a long time ago that if I talk about a painting before starting on it, I usually never start on it. It’s like the creative head of steam that builds up in my head when the image comes to me escapes through my mouth. An image expressed in words my be a poem, but most likely it will never be a painting. So now I don’t talk about it until I’m too far into it to back out. And even then it’s a good idea to keep quiet about it, especially after it’s finished. If a work of art has any power for a viewer it’s because it’s tapping into his or her own experiences and feelings, and the artist’s yammerings about it can break that connection.

From: Tom Bailey — Apr 01, 2012

Robert- I’ll add my drop of (heartfelt) praise into the vast ocean of awe that others have already expressed. Maybe some day I can even share more of your art philosophies over a dram (or several) of single malt with you in person. Hell, I can dream, right? Thanks again for your constant inspiration and reality-checks.

From: Doug Mays — Apr 02, 2012

The only voice anyone needs to hear is the one coming from the painting.

From: Dottie Dracos — Apr 02, 2012

John Ferrie, first of all, you sound like one great, fun person! I wish I had your nerve, drive, and at least some of your sales abilities. I also wish you would consider giving workshops/seminars/webinars on promoting one’s artwork.

From: Beth Winfield — Apr 02, 2012

I’m going to post this note on my wall so I stop talking about it and do it. Sometimes I feel I have to talk about it because I can’t get to my painting so talking seems to be the next best thing. I have a family with one of three children left at home and often have to postpone my painting to do things for them. It makes my skin hurt when I cannot paint. I want to create so many paintings and do so much it’s like bubbling over. But, with your note I’m going to try to keep it all to myself and when my brush does hit the canvas, it will be interesting to see if anything different emerges. Thank you for this new curve in the development in my creative thought process.

From: Nicola Young — Apr 02, 2012

This one really hit home, and helped to explain why I have often found that if something really mattered to me, I was better to keep it to myself. It has often seemed that the great inspirations I have exposed too soon were never created. Now I have a reason why.

From: Alex Nodopaka — Apr 02, 2012

Now you’re talking! I agree that your catharsis was really a bliss in disguise. Can you imagine you’d be an unproductive artist full of hot airs… lol. That is one of the many problems critics are subjected, verbal upmanship? I mean the contorted descriptions of artists’ styles & techniques & the jibberishesque turn of sentences are prize-winners of their own. I don’t know of a single critic in the history of art that is also a known artist. I better go back to doing.

From: Claire Davis — Apr 02, 2012

Thank You! I am in need to these words. A friend pointed to a very small placard for sale at the Mississippi State Craft Museum,saying, ” Claire, This is for you.”. Never allow your ability to annoy exceed your value as entertainment. I send to you my appreciation for your own art and for your value as teacher!

From: Gail Sawatzky — Apr 02, 2012

I saw the Norman Rockwell exhibit for the first time this weekend and was amazed by his work. I also enjoyed your 24 tips for artists that you shared at the jurors lecture Robert. As always your words of wisdom were so appreciated and inspirational. It was a pleasure to meet you.

From: Kitty — Apr 03, 2012

As I look back on my own painting , and writing experience I see the truth in all of these quotes. OK.Ok I am do……………….shhhhhh

From: Mary — Apr 03, 2012

Talking and not doing is different from a judicious bit of sharing with another artist, which can fuel enthusiasm and help actually get things done. To an extent, when telling another artist what I envision doing, I’m making a verbal contract with myself, with my friend as witness. So it helps with commitment.

From: Janet Sellers — Apr 03, 2012

Well, I have often said, “if the mouth is moving, the brush is not”. That said, the only place I could paint and talk was in East L.A. at Self Help Graphics and Art, where the vibe was casual and the art is always lively. Never could tolerate anybody talking at golf, either.

From: Rick Rotante — Apr 04, 2012

Inside every talker is a person in fear; someone not wanting to start for fear of failure.You can’t tell a talker to stop talking and just do it because they are too busy talking. Their mind is filled with rebuttal. Talking is the foil for procrastination. There are several reasons for talking about doing things – your either afraid of it, don’t know what to do or you are really not interested in doing it. It’s easier to fail than succeed. When you expect little of youself, you get–very little. If we consider the fact of wanting to take a leap of faith into work, all talking stops and is replaced by action; a person bent on getting it done. They wait for no one and the air is filled with silent energy. They dig in while their brain is on fire with inspiration and purpose. Even if one stops working it should be followed with “thinking” not talking. Talking dissipates energy, like a tire losing air.

From: Kay Garrity — Apr 23, 2012

I’m so glad to finally see it in writing. I have often felt this, thought this but never put it down or into action. I am a “talker” and a “helper” and a class clown at times, but I have found that I do best when i am quiet, and I more often complete my projects when it is just “mine”. Thank you for bringing this home to me.

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040312_robert-genn Nancy O’Toole workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Night stroll

acrylic painting, 20 x 24 inches by Christa Krisman, Revelstoke, BC, 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 David Chapman of Burlington, ON, Canada, who wrote, “Somewhere in my pysche I have sensed these things in an unformed and incoherent manner. You have brought them to the light and expressed them with eloquence and grace. May you live 150 years and enjoy all the Scotch your heart desires.” And also Robert Erskine of Middlesex, UK, who wrote, “Henry Moore states, “Talking about one’s work releases the energy and tension to do and make.” This is true and indeed the best talker is the one who listens and is usually the one who provides the most intelligent of observation, too.” And also Tracy Wall of Denver, CO, USA, who wrote, “Reminds me of a quote from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, ‘There is an inverse proportion between how much something is on your mind and how much it’s getting done.’ ” And also Phil Lachapelle of Camino, CA, USA, who wrote, “My training at Art Center changed my life regarding my vision of what “hard work” really is all about. My four years at Providence College never taught me how to do an “all nighter” to make that crit the next morning at 9:00 a.m. sharp.” And also Melanie Frey of Scottsdale, AZ, USA, who wrote, ” ‘Better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.’ (English proverb) Not sure whose quote it is but I like it!”