The kids are all right


Dear Artist,

A collector of emerging and mid-career art recently told me about the friendships she’s struck up with artists on social media, many of them young. “Before I knew it, we had moved to private messaging and were having meaningful conversations about their work.” She described making contact after being drawn purely to the work online, learning of upcoming projects and then discovering the artist’s in-real-life achievements, afterwards. “This sounds totally natural,” I replied. “You have looked at thousands of works of art in real life and online and have developed your eye to recognize quality and things that interest you. How does it make you feel about galleries?” “They’re still extremely valuable,” she said, “I would not have discovered so many of the artists I adore if not for the support of their dealers. But the connection I feel through these direct relationships has been enriching beyond compare.”

Pantone 1-4, 2018 Coloured pencil by CJ Hendry (b. 1988)

Pantone 1-4, 2018
Coloured pencil
by CJ Hendry (b. 1988)

She wondered if I’d noticed more direct messages since the beginning of the pandemic — more digital connections, with art cravings compelled to be satisfied online. I replied that I had. What I’ve also noticed though, is the expediting of an already buoyant livelihood of emerging and established artists working outside the gallery system — almost solely on social media — some of them masterfully. Instagram has, for the moment at least, democratized a certain part of the art world — recognizing those with a talent for digital marketing, great communicators and whose work lends itself aesthetically to the medium. For my part, while I’m neither young nor old and have been working within a conventional gallery model for almost three decades, the internet has become an expected aspect of studio life. It has also, in my experience, gifted new and meaningful professional relationships, collectors and friends.

Flower, 2018 Coloured pencil by CJ Hendry

Flower, 2018
Coloured pencil
by CJ Hendry

In a press conference after last night’s totally streamed evening sale of Modern and Contemporary art in New York, Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker reported that over a million people watched it online. “As we went into lockdown and put our heads together, little did we know that we could get so many people to be tuning in and get interested in this business,” he said. “We used to be a live theater business, and now we’re a streaming service.”



PS: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.” (Marshall McLuhan)

Chanel Bag, 2018 Coloured pencil by CJ Hendry

Chanel Bag, 2018
Coloured pencil
by CJ Hendry

Esoterica: In Director Jeff Orlowski’s 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma, he reveals that access to the internet on handheld devices beginning in 1996 coincided with millennials entering grade school, producing a generation unable to distinguish between their online social currency and personas and in-real-life experiences. This new paradigm has also created a leading edge of super-savvy young artists not only making, presenting and explaining their work online, but also marketing and building a collectorship digitally and outside conventional curatorial models. By taking on so intimately the business end, their work melds with its marketing and the marketing’s medium — creating what I’ve surmised to be two parallel practices: the art-making and the presentation of that art on the platform. Gone is the old-school slow burn, eclipsed by an urgency and flair required for the now average 10 seconds spent on each post viewed during the typical 53 minutes any one person spends on social media, per day. When scrolling, that’s a lot of flair.

CJ HendryHave you considered a Premium Artist Listing?  With each letter, an artist is featured at the bottom of this page. The Premium Artist Listings are a means of connecting artist subscribers through their work. Proceeds from each listing contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys. 

“The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964)



  1. “The kids are all right”? Is your title intended to say that ‘all the kids are right’? I doubt it. That would be a very sweeping claim to make and, especially these days, extremely difficult to believe. I believe you meant: The kids are alright. Right?
    P.S. ‘The Kids Are Alright’ is actually the title of a very popular song from the 60’s written by Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter of the Who. It’s a song about a musician who doesn’t mind other guys dancing with his girlfriend while he’s onstage performing at a club in London. For some reason, the song title has been often misappropriated, and inaccurately so, ever since. There was even a fairly bad American movie released called The Kids Are All Right…

    • Sara writes beautifully and with such flare and precision that I wonder why you would even question her (correct) use of “all right” or her intention. English is a challenging language with its inconsistent spelling and pronunciation, but until the day “alot” and “alright” evolve like always, already and altogether have, Sara is all right!

  2. As an artist and a teacher, I feel a lot like a cat dropped from a window, twisting and turning to make sure I land on my feet, in this new world of Zoom and hybrid classrooms and presenting art openings virtually. It’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot that’s daunting about all this new technology. And I very much appreciate hearing more about how people are seeking to connect. It has made the walls a little lower, to know you can send an e-mail or a text to someone whose work you appreciate, and that they can (and will) actually respond to you is huge. Recently I’ve had a number of followers send me a brief thank you note, telling me that they read my words every time I post and that they treasure getting the posts and paintings.
    Do what you can to connect to people!

  3. Great observations Sara. I am about 10 years into developing this direct link with art collectors by sharing in process, latest works, shows and my thoughts on social media (usually daily) first as an independent artist and now as an independent artist and small gallery owner representing other artists. However, I am young at heart, and in my curiosity, rather than years lived which have past the 60 mark now. I use three social media platforms extensively and they include FaceBook, Twitter and my least favourite, Instagram. Pinterest is just a personal indulgence rather than a connecting tool. These efforts then all curated in “A Brush with Life” newsletter that comes out every second Friday for serious fans and art collectors (if an email subscriber doesn’t open it after several issues they are unsubscribed). Does it work? Well, you will have to read the latest issue published this morning and linked through my name where the website is requested for my comment. Not to keep you in suspense, the short answer is “yes”.

    I don’t think this is the end of physical gallery viewing and relationships with galleries though. If you think about how you can sometimes buy at retail prices directly from a manufacturer or you can also get the same product from a local retailer who has it on hand because there is a demand, then you can get, I think, an idea about where we are going. Possibly. Galleries are just not going to hold all the keys any longer as the third party between the art collector and access to the art. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a roll for galleries that will be valued by both collectors and artists… it is just going to be different because neither will “need” the gallery in the same way as before social media and online viewing. And this pandemic is making that abundantly clear to all players in the process of art acquisition. Galleries are going to instead provide a “nice to have” service to their art collectors and for their artists. In order to do well, they will need to do an outstanding job for both. The bar has just been raised and the terms of the agreements will change. As an independent artist and small gallery owner who has embraced online and social media connection, this has at least been my experience so far. It has little to do with being young in years but a lot to do with being open to how best to use our digital technologies and still maintaining our rhythms of painting practices and in-person living. It is not usually ever an either/or but rather a both/and. We shall see though, because time is likely the only pudding of proof.

    Have a great day and weekend everyone as I head off for a long hike along trails beside the sea and let my eye rest away from the screen.

  4. I applaud the democratization of opportunity for visual artists ushered in with the rapid advance of technology. At almost 80, I will admit to being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the digital age more than two decades ago. The learning curve was steep indeed but I persisted and with the help of tech-savvy children, I’ve become adept enough to not only get by, but to thrive. I have done quite well combining occasional gallery representation as well as sales from the studio and more recently, a social media presence. Those things, along with a new e- commerce platform for my website, have me hard at work in the studio and very optimistic about the future.

  5. Nice to hear positives about the online world of social media, Heaven knows there is a lot of negative feedback pouring out of those channels in today’s new world of living through a keyboard. I shut down my social media accounts months ago, before the pandemic hit, I closed them down. At first it was because I knew I had to produce some art for an upcoming show in the fall of 2020, no time to flip through the newsfeeds, had to paint, no time to get caught in an opinion frenzy, had to paint. At first, I was worried this would set me back. Back in what way, not sure. But after 15 years of playing the social media game, I had this feeling I was giving up, waving a white flag, retiring, my identity would fizzle into some obscure bluster of dust into the atmosphere. Now, show is over, I could return, but I don’t want to. I do have gallery representation that I paint for, just one. I still go on my computer to look things up, read your newsletters, it all feels much healthier for my mind. I need to take care of my mind, which means taking in what I might enjoy and learn from. I can see how beneficial the internet can be for young artists, all artists actually, if that’s what makes them happy. But I don’t miss social media, not one bit.

  6. So I am hiding…. I stopped writing several months ago and it is increasingly evident my words are important and missed by several. My intention is to begin again in a more organized way and more frequently with little blurbs on Instagram. I really have not engaged well at this level. We’ll see what happens in the future as I re-enter the fray.

  7. Over the years, I decided to write to authors, artists, and others when I was awed by their work. I opened up great communication, learned tremendously, and was able to have an intimate discussion with the person. If not for their email, their work would simply be a picture on a computer page or in a book. Ah, but the dialogue with the artist filled a void that I had starved –rich, intellectual conversations. As a teacher, I would share with my students, “See this book? I wrote to the author and she responded! We had a really cool conversation. See this artist? I wrote to him and he explained his process. He told me to say hi to all of you.” I was very excited when I got a response as we formed a “Cyber friendship.” Writing to new people is a passion of mine. Bless you all.

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No Featured Workshop Over the Farm #2
original pastel 15 x 15 inches

Featured Artist

Mary’s interest in pastel painting began during her years at Whitworth College in Spokane, WA where she majored in art and elementary education. Though she has worked in watercolor and oil as well as calligraphy, her interest has consistently turned primarily to pastel because of the medium’s potential for glowing, vibrant color and the harmony achieved in bringing together lights and shadows.