The art of generosity


Dear Artist,

I was in the garage searching for last year’s car antlers when Joe Blodgett pulled into the driveway. “You need to write a letter based on your subscribers,” he said. “They’re a pretty generous bunch.” He was bearing Scotch so I invited him to the studio. “Not just the direct subscribers, but all those thousands of living artists who contribute to the Resource of Art Quotations,” he said, holding a couple of my tumblers up to the light, checking for soap spots.

The Eternal Spring, Unnamed Creek, Lake of the Woods, Ontario, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 inches by Robert Genn (1936-2014)

The Eternal Spring, Unnamed Creek, Lake of the Woods, Ontario, 2011
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 inches
by Robert Genn (1936-2014)

“I’ve been gathering stuff,” he said, fumbling a sheet of foolscap while I dropped the ice. “‘Artists are among the most generous of people. Perhaps inherent in the appreciation of creativity comes a deep, underlying love of humanity and our Earth.’ That was from Kelly Borsheim of Cedar Creek, Texas,” he said. “Good eh? I mean, this stuff is pure genius.” He read from his list:

Mickie Acierno wrote, ‘I’m filled with gratitude for the ability to live the artist’s life. In my studio. Being an artist. Every day.’ And Hap Hagood: ‘Be grateful for the talent you have, the people you’ve met, and the experiences from which you’ve benefited.’ And Jim Rohn: ‘There is no better opportunity to receive more than to be thankful for what you already have.

October, Lunni Island, Lake of the Woods, Ontario Acrylic on canvas 11 x 14 inches by Robert Genn

October, Lunni Island, Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Acrylic on canvas
11 x 14 inches
by Robert Genn

Thanksgiving opens up the windows of opportunity for ideas to flow your way.’ And Linda Saccoccio: ‘How fortunate we are to make our life’s work centred on experiencing life with depth and creating a soulful response to it.’ And Miles Patrick Yohnke: ‘We can’t catch kindness in a net or a gun. When kindness is given to you, it’s by choice. One must adopt an attitude of gratitude.’ And Janet Badger: ‘You only get to keep what you give away.’ And Jane Champagne: ‘Generosity pays off in myriad ways.’ And here’s one of mine that you’ve never paid me for: ‘Those works I’ve most profited by are the ones I’ve given away.’ ”

I told Joe I’d been meaning to straighten up with him. I asked him if he might like a nice pair of used antlers. Darned if he didn’t take them. I gave him a painting, too.

Just a Touch on a Sombre Day, Lake of the Woods, Ontario Acrylic on canvas 11 x 14 inches by Robert Genn

Just a Touch on a Sombre Day, Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Acrylic on canvas
11 x 14 inches
by Robert Genn

Best regards,


PS: “Remember to be kind, thoughtful, grateful and generous.” (Alyson B. Stanfield)

Esoterica: We started talking about how we become what we focus on — what we pay rapt attention to. When we are gracious and open to the miracles of the universe, the dynamics of human intercourse and the service of our art, we are in turn fed. We were fully into the spirit of Christmas. “I’m gonna go for it,” I told Joe. “I’m gonna be a better person.” He gave me the whole list. “Give whatever you’re doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.” (Jim Rohn)

Wishing each and every one of you happy holidays and the very best for 2020. Thank-you for your continued friendship. With gratitude, Sara

dad globe selects 1This letter was originally published as “The art of generosity” on December 24, 2010.

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys. 

“Love is energy of life.” (Robert Browning)





  1. Thank you dear Sara, just what I needed right now. Beautiful and very true. I really enjoyed your Dad’s paintings too. Merry Christmas Sara to you, Peter and your family xxx

  2. Thank you, Sara, what a lovely post! Thank you for the thoughtfulness you pass along to us fellow artists all the time. Merry Christmas! Much happiness in 2020!

  3. Thank you for these essays. I loved your Dad’s writings and I am glad to see you are continuing his tradition of practical and kindly advice. I just saw “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and left with the same feelings your writings give me. A reminder to be kind and generous and stop being so hard on myself.
    Season’s Greetings. Claudia L. in California

    • I share those sentiments having just seen the Mr Rogers film as well — where I was moved to tears!
      Thank you so much for sharing this letter today, Sara, and the gift of these letters throughout the year.
      Your father and Fred Rogers were both outstanding examples of thoughtful, caring men with the spirit of kindness and generosity. Each year I choose a word to guide me through the year — JOY was my word for 2019. Today’s letter has given me several possibilities for 2020: kindness, gratitude, generosity, thoughtful, attention. I still have a week to choose!

  4. Thank you and wishing you and yours joy and love in 2020. I especially love your choice of these paintings of your Dad’s . I now have one of Robert’s paintings in my new home on Pender to inspire me …. and it does inspire me every day. Now I just need to find that Sara Genn painting to join me on my new journey….

  5. Thank you dear Sara for continuing to share your father’s letters. Bless you and your family this season & always.
    This particular one made me smile and gave me a warm feeling about being an artist.

  6. Thank you Sara for your continued gift to us of your and your father’s letters. We do require reminding of all the generous gifts that come our way by simply being granted the ability to make art. You have created a great connection between all the artists who have been touched by your fathers wit and wisdom and your continued care to keep us excited about working. Merry Christmas!
    Susan Truex

  7. Thank you, Sara. Many times thru the years your father`s words rescued me when I couldn’t see the future. Thank you for today’s letter; it means the world to me this Christmas day when all looked so bleak before his sunshine came my way. Merry Christmas, Jean

  8. Artists are definitely generous. I have traded my art with so many artists in the printmaking field over the last 60 years. As a result, I have been able to donate more than 700 works by others to museums and University collections over the years for both educational and simply viewing pleasure. I am able to “pass them forward” knowing that they will be used for many years into the future, long after I am gone, to become inspiring for many other artists and will be enjoyed by countless others. For the pleasure that I have received and the friendships of these generous artists that I have made, there is no instrument to measure the benefits that I have received from this pursuit. It has been a highlight of my life.

  9. Yes, another letter written by Robert reminding us of various nuances entwinded in life. I really love the fact that Robert had a good friend with whom he could share so many philosophical, thoughtful exchanges and that ultimately enlighten us all. And the addition of scotch in the mix of their friendship in smudge free tumblers is delightful. Thank you, Sara, for continuing to share your dad’s letters and yours as well. Best wishes……Suszanne

  10. Sara, I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment before but this subject, generosity, and all the letters from other artists responding to you and your father got to me deeply. Thanks to all of you for refreshing my heart and soul….and keep those letters coming. Happy New Year to all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Joseph Melançon

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