The 4-Hour Workweek

Dear Artist, I recently sold a big painting to a stockbroker. Out of the blue a guy phoned and said he’d always wanted one. He said he would like to pay about $60,000 and asked me to choose a recent favourite and personally deliver it. Riding the elevator to the 17th floor with an unwrapped painting, I was sizing up the modest miracle I had anguished over for almost a week. A flicker of guilt danced across the tiny screen of my mind, but not for long. My new collector was over-the-top pleased with his painting, and showed me to a richly panelled boardroom where he and his secretary helped me hang it. He told me he had just put together a big IPO, “flipped it around,” and had taken home “a million bucks” for his trouble. “So no problem,” he said, handing me a cheque. Descending by the stairs for the benefit of exercise and mental sorbet, I was thinking what a nice guy was my new friend. I was also getting an idea what this “Occupy Wall Street” thing is all about. The currently popular book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss tells us we should actually work a lot less and a lot smarter. Curious as to how Tim’s ideas might apply, I took the book to bed with me. DEAL is one of his acronyms: D is for Definition. Define what you want. I had to agree with this one — too many of us are on the up and down escalators wondering what to do with ourselves. E is for Elimination. Eliminate all the junk in your life. Less TV, e-mail, telephone, Web surfing — in other words, don’t waste your time with stuff that won’t get you anywhere. Hmm. A is for Automation. Tim wants us to outsource grunt work to a VA (Virtual Assistant) in India or someplace. (“No no, Akbar, I wanted a little more blue in that sky.”) Tim also tells us to automate the money-making process so you have a lot of easily-won income — sort of like flipping a big IPO quickly by phone, I figured, except those guys do go to work early. L is for Liberation. Don’t show up at the office. Take lots of mini vacations. Jog. Lift weights. Tag sharks for fun. Do wild and wonderful things to cleanse your brain. Oh yeah? What about me? I like to show up to work in my studio. Early, too. Regular, like. It’s the funnest place. I go there for weeks at a time. Don’t you? Best regards, Robert PS: “For all their bitching about what’s holding them back, most people have a lot of trouble coming up with the defined dreams they’re being held from.” (Timothy Ferriss) Esoterica: Like the guy who keeps repeating his old jokes, Tim recommends changing your friends. “You are the average of the five people you associate with most,” he says, “Do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.” Right now I’m thinking stockbrokers know something I don’t. I’d tell you more about this but right now I have to go out and join the protest.   Moral dilemma by Scott Kahn, NY, USA  

“Berkshire Nightscape”
oil painting, 36 x 40 inches
by Scott Kahn

I recently sold a group of paintings to a wealthy collector. As an artist I felt a tinge of remorse. I don’t approve of what Wall Street and the wealthy have done to this country, but they are the very ones buying my paintings. Of course I need the money and I certainly wouldn’t turn down the sale but it does present a moral dilemma.         There are 2 comments for Moral dilemma by Scott Kahn
From: Anonymous — Oct 18, 2011

Mr. Kahn, I love your work.

From: Sheila Minifie — Oct 18, 2011

I love it too! I share your concerns in some ways, the Uk is having a hard time too because of bankers etc, but isn’t it just too easy to judge people who belong to a certain sect? There’s huge prejudice here about people who are middle or upper class – the rich or aristocratic who are often assumed to be without integrity, brains, heart etc. Sure, those arenas have those people within it and I wouldn’t like to say what percentage there is, but that view doesn’t allow for individuals – there are great human qualities within tribes of people that live high on the hog just as those who are struggling (like myself). I have had experience of both.

  The artist as activist by Jean McLaren, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada  

“Journal Book #1”
acrylic painting, 8 x 6 inches
by Jean McLaren

I so loved your latest letter. First I thought, what were you coming to? And then when you said you would join the protest, I said, “Yay,” as that is what I am going to do tomorrow. I am going to Victoria, B.C. to join the Occupation protest! Besides being an artist I am also an activist. Even if I don’t sell many paintings right now, the work keeps me happy and so of course does being an activist. I do mainly acrylic abstracts but I also sneak in some things that might inspire others.         A glib book by Kate Lehman Landishaw, USA  

original drawing
by Kate Lehman Landishaw

Tim recommends changing your friends. “You are the average of the five people you associate with most,” he says, “Do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends.” This is very oversimplified, to say the least — he assumes the people with whom one associates most often are one’s friends! Or perhaps he’s just had poor luck with friendships. Or maybe he’s just attracted people as money-driven as himself? Although that seems to be what he prefers — hmmm. I’ve noticed that a way to make some quick bucks is to write an easy-reading, somewhat glib if not caustic book that tells people how to make quick bucks, though I wonder if the author gives them to his friends. I don’t have time for that sort of thing. I’m too busy enjoying my deep, abiding, long-term, richly rewarding friends. They don’t make money for me, but one sent me an emerald necklace a couple weeks ago, some surround me with excellent art, some make dining more pleasurable, most make me laugh, and all encourage my work. Don’t know quite how an IPO tops that. Robert — I’ll see you at “The Occupation.” There is 1 comment for A glib book by Kate Lehman Landishaw
From: Phil in Lanzarote — Oct 18, 2011

I love this take on true friends. They enrich your life … not necessarily make you richer.

  Level playing field for all by Linda Karp, Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico   Well, clearly that book about working less and smarter was written for an audience already blessed with options. I think about all the people out of work, of poor and hungry children in the US, of single parents out of work, who either never had or never will have those options due to all the “isms” out and about in the world, and those who suffer the consequences of corporate greed and dishonesty (see “housing market/mortgage scams”). So let’s think about creating a level playing field for all workers in the world and then talk about working less and smarter. I know too many people who are dying, some literally, to work. Period. Not less or smarter. Just a job with pay so they can eat and feed their families. And live indoors with roofs over their heads.   What a week this has been by Elizabeth Bazzell, Christiana, TN, USA   I love your emails! I want to be YOU! I am a baby, pleased that you have come into my email, and your words are much appreciated and savored. I have been painting for most of my life — just now, in my 42nd year, have I had the courage to share it with someone other than my husband or mother… and the work is actually selling. I agreed to consign at a very small local shop for a 60/40 split, and in only one week I have sold 10 paintings (I get the 60 — they get the 40). I do not know how to price them (so I just let them do that — and they want to make money, too. For now, I really just want to get my name out there. WOW, what a week it has been. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with those of us out here in the email world. I am thankful to learn from you! There are 2 comments for What a week this has been by Elizabeth Bazzell
From: Virginia Wieringa — Oct 18, 2011

Make sure you’re keeping track of the images you’re selling! Take good photos and keep good records! Congrats!

From: Jean McDavitt — Oct 19, 2011

Don’t just keep a written record. Take photos. I once sold a painting to a ‘friend’, moved to another city, and some time later saw a photo of MY PAINTING in an exhibition with one minor alteration and his name.

  The art of losing friends by John Carson, Dover, UK   Defining objectives is a great exercise brilliantly defined — and mostly ignored — by Stanislavski for actors, for instance. It also is, or was, ‘step one’ as defined in the Army manual. ‘Step two’ requires you to define the means whereby you achieve that objective. At which point, of course, you frequently find that you have to redefine step one: fun nonetheless. As for eliminating time wasters, I know that, having ruthlessly walked away from two thirds of my disorganized friends, the gospel according to Ferriss will spread accordingly and I will then find that my remaining friends have walked away from me. Studio here I come.   Gifts to the needy by Mary Walberg, Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico   I am glad for your sale, but on the other hand this story somewhat saddens me. I hope this client also donated $60,000 (or more) to help feed starving people, or made a donation to the Salvation Army, Red Cross, World Vision, etc. That would really be something to get “over the top” excited about. Something to think about, don’t you think? At the end of our lives we will be judged not by the diplomas hanging on our walls, how much money we made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by — I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in. So out of your $60,000.00 how much did you donate? Just asking. (RG note) Thanks, Mary. Nothing. But in the last calendar year I gave away 60 prints and originals for various fundraisers across the country and in other spots as well — hospitals, disabled people, the blind, children’s charities, etc. So far this year my assistant tells me I am up to 35 charitable gifts, and the giving season is just beginning. It’s a great way for artists to serve.   Toward a better system by Beverly Theriault, Plano, TX, USA  

“High Desert Spring”
acrylic painting, 36 x 18 inches
by Beverly Theriault

Thank you so much for mentioning the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ folks in your current letter. These people and all of us who support them are standing up against the abuses of Wall Street. With the advent of Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s, businesses in the United States began moving away from the business model which stressed steady long term growth achieved by loyalty to producing quality products for their customers and sharing of the profits with the workers who were actually producing the wealth toward the current business model which stresses short term profits at the expense of quality products and fairness to the workers. I would also like to thank you for the mentoring day you donated to the attendees of the FCA workshop on Gabriola Island in September. I feel very fortunate to have been able to show you some examples of my work. I value your critique and will continue to work toward producing more professional work. There are 2 comments for Toward a better system by Beverly Theriault
From: Cindy — Oct 19, 2011

You’re blaming Ronald Reagan….seriously?!?

From: Rebecca Good — Oct 20, 2011

Of course Ronald Reagan! This downward spiral has it’s roots deep in his administration. Union busting, the “trickle down ” theory I could go on… Wall street types don’t generally understand the artistic mindset. They think we’re fools for valuing creating something over the mere pursuit of more money. Making some money is nice, but not the reason we get up in the morning!

  Can we take this rally seriously? by Stewart Turcotte, Kelowna, BC, Canada  

“John’s Sentinels, Coming Home”
acrylic painting, 36 x 36 inches
by Stewart Turcotte

So everybody wants to Occupy Wall Street or Robson Street or my street… They say they are taking their inspiration from the Arab Spring. They have scheduled a protest when they don’t even know what they are protesting. They are actually canvassing the public via social media to see what they should protest. It’s really hard to take this kind of rally seriously. They say they are opposed to having to accept lower wages. Well, we have all felt the bite of this recession. Welcome to the real world. I own a business and have had fewer paying customers, so in effect I have had to accept a smaller income and I can’t complain to anybody. And these protesters are upset that those at the top still can have their caviar and crème cheese. Again, welcome to the real world. Even if Bill Gates lost fifty billion he would still have five billion. People will have different financial abilities forever. And remember, our banks and stock markets, although big business, have a right to make a profit — that is what the world is all about. And they don’t have some of the illegal tendencies that those in other parts of the world do. If they don’t make a profit, they will lay off thousands of workers and some of them may be those who are protesting in the rallies. I protested a war when I was young, I protested nuclear bomb testing, I protested something that harmed the environment but I always knew what I was protesting. There are 7 comments for Can we take this rally seriously? by Stewart Turcotte
From: Bev — Oct 17, 2011

Finally, an intelligent person with common sense. I was waiting for you.

From: Bobbo Goldberg — Oct 17, 2011
From: judy — Oct 17, 2011
From: Anonymous — Oct 17, 2011
From: V. Bridges Hoyt — Oct 18, 2011

Amen … Stewart Turcotte. I totally understand your point. Texas. USA.

From: Ronald Ruble — Oct 18, 2011

It would seem to me that the protesters are standing in the wrong place, all the while making their dirt for someone else to clean up. They should take their dirty underwear to Washington and get to the source of the problem, not protest the result of it. If they are brilliant enough to know the problem, then they should know where to resolve it. When problems of the magnitude that we are facing today are disected, more times than not you will find that they originated in Washington to buy a vote or two. If Washington is not on their agenda, then they and us would be best served to go home and use some indoor plumbing like showers and toilets, and their mommies washing machine. Who are these people who want everything for nothing, and feel they should share in other peoples risk/reward. Certainly there are nasties on Wall Street, but there are more of them in Washington under the title of “elected officials”. They are yours and in too many instances you should be ashamed by not making a more intelligent vote. You ask for it, you got it. Leave the business man alone and be more attuned to lash out at the people who never took a risk, but continue to feed from the public trough. If you have talent, put your energy where it works as you are blessed. Go paint! and enjoy your time on this earth.

From: judy — Oct 20, 2011

“Who are these people who want everything for nothing, and feel they should share in other peoples risk/reward.” Man, where did THAT come from? “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants” ~ Sir Isaac Newton 1643-1727. None of us have done it all on our own. We all get help, one way or another.

  Ferriss DEAL not ideal by Bruce Barlow, Swanzery, NJ, USA   With all due respect, Tim Ferriss is talking to a vastly different audience who, secretly, profoundly dislike what they do every day, while thinking that the only reward — and the only scorecard — is the size of the salary or the value of the stock options. They may dream of being artists, or musicians, or hitch-hiking through Europe, but feel that they are trapped. It’s life defined by economics, and we can see how well that’s working. Ferriss is trying to break the link between time spent and an economic yardstick, but he hasn’t quite become explicitly conscious of that in a deep way. “DEAL” isn’t a bad start, but he needs some genuine Zen to inform it. Or something that more directly addresses our spirit. When he does, he’ll realize that not all of DEAL applies to his passions — the things he really cares about that take up his time beyond 4 hours a week — and what does apply will allow him to accomplish more than he thought possible. Not bad. I can learn from that. I did 100-hour workweeks on an assignment in Germany where I knew practically no one, and didn’t speak the language, and which was really hard. DEAL wasn’t an option. Since humans rarely remember pain, I have to remind myself what a horrible experience it was, because memory, thankfully, doesn’t serve. Jeanne Thieme and Gill Truslow, two fine artists and wonderful people, sent me to your Twice-Weekly Letter. We usually pass around emails discussing it, and how it affects our art and, in my case at least, how I teach photography. You always make us think deeply. I can’t imagine a higher compliment.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The 4-Hour Workweek

From: Carole Mayne — Oct 13, 2011

I’m guessing you’ll be getting about 20, 347 requests for that guys name who has millions to spend! But, really, folks, ”Luck is the residue of hard work!” and Robert, you have put in the time! Congratulations!

From: daniela — Oct 13, 2011

Good for you, Robert for making such a good sale. But, other than that, well, silly me, here I was thinking life was all about something deeper than outsourcing grunt work to a VA (Virtual Assistant) in India or someplace who gets paid nix, sells his daughters because he can’t afford a dowry…etc…etc.

From: Susan Holland — Oct 14, 2011

Kudos for the good sale… but you are making my muse envious. She’ll quiet down, I guess, and we can get back to work doing our due diligence. Congratulations, Robert.

From: austere — Oct 14, 2011

Congratulations. We have a saying in my part of the world– when the Goddess of Wealth comes to bless you, don’t go to wash your face. On behalf of the grunt workers association we’re raising our prices twenty fold. Effective immediately. :)

From: Bianka Guna — Oct 14, 2011
From: DEL — Oct 14, 2011

Hear Hear! Bianka. I too was struck by this point. Artists give their work away all the time to good causes i.e. flood relief for Irene, struggling arts organizations, trades for work. Seems an exchange of this considerable size (who among us couldn’t use that sort of cash?) would be used to reduce first debts to our own budget but more importantly our own debt to society for being lucky enough to benefit from Wall Streets business practices. Robert, do the Buffet thing and help out some folks around you, but don’t tell them where it came from. Don’t take credit and don’t tell your readership. Artists should be the good conscience of society and remind us of our better side and what to strive for in our short sojourn here.

From: Marilyn Kousoulas — Oct 14, 2011

Congratulations, Robert! Your time and effort, called ‘work ethic,’ paid off. Some people make a living investing in the stock market. This time, the investor was willing to purchase one of your wonderful pieces. If that is not ‘sharing with the public, the Arts,’ then I don’t know what else it is called. The Investor just made another investment. I’m only jealous because I don’t spend my time figuring out stocks and all of that mumbo jumbo. If I had the smarts to do it, I would. Don’t be fooled by Buffets of this world. They have their money hidden to prevent taxes. The reported income is what they feel would be their “fair share.” Most Investors are like Artists. They donate part of their wind-fall money to their communities to make a better place to live (write-offs). Artists do the same, donate to worthy causes to help others (write-offs). If I had the kind of money that some Investors/Business people had, I would rather give back to my communty rather than line the pockets of Federal Government for them to vacation in far off islands/countries. Most of the protesters on Wall Street don’t know what they are protesting. My adice to you: Stay home and paint. You will be much further ahead.

From: Simar Nagal — Oct 14, 2011

It has been written, when you start to see work as play, as giving yourself to the world, as being an agent of change, you finally shatter the perception of work as a burden. Possibly “The 4 Hour Work Week” is more a catalyst to wake people into reality of their surroundings — [is that really true, did you walk up the stairs, with your painting for 60,000. and walk out with cheque in hand. Amazing – nice.]

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Oct 14, 2011

That does it. I’m going to the beach today, taking along my “digital sketchbook”.

From: Timothy M. — Oct 14, 2011

How about getting paid just to exist — “The Zero Hour Work Week” Amazon Books —

From: Laurel McBrine — Oct 14, 2011

I read the 4-hour workweek awhile back but it kind of goes against the whole 10,000 hour theory of hard work rather than talent being the key to success. Don’t see how it can really apply to painters. And here I am wasting time on the internet. Sigh.

From: Diane Overmyer — Oct 14, 2011

I think working only 4 hours a week would be a sure path to an early grave, or at least to bad health issues such as Alzheimer’s. I have told my students that creating art can help to prevent dementia, after all isn’t the brain a muscle and as the saying goes: Use it or lose it. Michelangelo lived until he was 88 and worked until his dying day, I hope that can be the case with me.

From: Janet Trotter — Oct 14, 2011

This collector was educated and smart enough to flip an IPO and buy good art. I would imagine both talents come from study and hard work, so would not agree with the “Occupy Wall Street” mentality.

From: Elizabeth Broussard — Oct 14, 2011

Great letter, especially this paragraph: “E is for Elimination. Eliminate all the junk in your life. Less TV, e-mail, telephone, Web surfing–in other words, don’t waste your time with stuff that won’t get you anywhere. Hmm.” But, don’t eliminate Robert’s letters!

From: Ron Unruh — Oct 14, 2011

I’m not certain whether you are telling Ferriss’ story about a $60,000 sale or your own, and if it’s yours, congrats! If it’s Ferriss’ then I say congrats, because he is a supremely good self promoter. He sells everything. Googling his name is like locating Ferriss’ Resources on anything you can possibly want from minimalist methods for rapid body transformation, i.e. the Four Hour Body to the Four Hour Work Week that you mentioned. I think I will enjoy my life and my art far more when I follow your example and spend hours in my studio rather than e-directing an overseas artisan to do my work. Cruise ships are full of these pieces and uninformed tourists shell out thousands for them — free glass of wine tho.

From: gail harper,NY — Oct 14, 2011

I always knew you were really smart and talented Mr Genn and witty todays letter adds genius to those observations

From: Susan Flaig — Oct 14, 2011

Congratulations on the sale and thank you for sharing Robert. The 5 people I associate with most due to circumstances beyond my control….(unless I was a ruthless bitch and ditched them all) are my husband (non-artist overworked,A type whom I love) my daughter (young struggling single parent), my grand daughter (16 months and the most upbeat upwardly mobile of all!) and my 86 year old father who is intellectually far beyond me and my dog who I classify as a person because she is my constant companion. She shows a patience and a tenacity that my best friend whom I get to see infrequently does not possess when dealing with my mercurial personality. What a mix for success?……off to my studio….thinking about elimination and lifting weights…. By the way if we artists did not have the rich to buy our work where would we be? Everybody can be bought for a price when it comes down to money. All life is compromise and idealism is wonderful but reality is different and ruthless speculation with no regard for others is unforgivable.

From: David Kelavey — Oct 14, 2011
From: Rene — Oct 14, 2011
From: Vincent Roche — Oct 14, 2011

I visualize our senses and sensations falling in line with one other, forming a grid or foundation of some kind — for a greater good. Giving each of us the tools we need for learning and playing, we’re working it out getting better at everything — this increases our capacity for empathy and love. We are those same children so long ago who sat up on our mothers laps; 4-Hour Day appears to be a tap on discovering yourself and learning to live your own life — we are all walking the same path in and out of here. You become your own ladder of success — no one gets hurt. … honouring those who have suffered greatly and strive to overcome obstacles of unusual proportions — The truth is for everyone — do not get lost in the crowd, we are aloud to shine.

From: Patricia Stockdill — Oct 14, 2011

Robert, why would you be marching with Wall Street protesters when your best clients and best friends are the wealthy IPO guys and the top stock brokers? A mixed message.

From: Sharon Guy — Oct 14, 2011

The market value of an artwork is whatever someone is willing to pay for it! No reason for discomfort there. Putting together a big IPO and selling it probably involves a large amount of knowledge, skill and time. There is nothing wrong with getting very rich from honest, ethical work that adds value to our society and does not depend on fraudulent manipulation of the financial system, or exploiting the workers, consumers, or polluting the environment. Unfortunately, unbridled greed, corruption, abusive political power, and arrogance is what we’ve seen from some the “1%” in the past decade or two, and it is destroying our middle class. The financial transgressions of corporate financiers resulted in great harm to many artists. More and more of the little, ordinary people have had it and we aren’t going to take it anymore. Thank you for wondering about what “Occupy Wall Street” is about. I hope you will attend with an open mind in order to meet people and find out more. Please bring your sense of ethics, ideals, wisdom, and concern for the future of our society. Creative artists have a lot to offer to the conversations and visions of the “99%.”

From: Anon — Oct 14, 2011

I think that the letter is a very clear message that it is the time to raise above our individual needs that have been so easily manipulated by the big shakers, and to grasp the big picture.

From: Jan Oxendale — Oct 14, 2011

Wow, there are protests going on against the excesses in Wall Street up in Canada too? Finally! Americans are upset enough to fight back. Could it be reminiscent of the protests of the 60s – early 80s? It might get interesting. I should go join them!

From: Claudia Roulier — Oct 14, 2011

I’m with you on this one Robert, I’m doing exactly what I want the way I want!

From: Ileana Lavender — Oct 14, 2011

Your letters are my mental dessert. I save them up on my BB, when I have time I can taste every bite. I’m a middle school art teacher, needless to say the mental stimulation from your letters is a welcome treat!

From: Paul deMarrais — Oct 14, 2011

Your letter should make us artists aware that there is money out there. Plenty of money. It is easy to look at your own paltry balance sheet and to listen the barrage of negativity in the press and imagine there is a hundred dollars left in town to be divided up among 5,000 people. There are plenty of folks with money to spend. Your guy just made a million so for him sixty thousand was no big deal. It’s all a matter of zeroes. Some folks have a lot more zeroes tacked on to their income and savings. It is our job to find that fellows like your new well heeled collector friend. That is the trick that eludes the vast majority of artists. We need access. Access to money often means access to the opportunity to make more money. In our society there are all sorts of legal ways of what in politics is termed influence peddling. This is how many people are cashing in. It’s also called ‘affiliate marketing. This is how the income streams flow into the accounts on the web. If I’m a Realtor and my buyer has poor credit, I refer him to the credit repair service in town and get a kickback. If he needs a mortgage, I send him to the mortgage company and get another kickback. I’m making all sorts of easy referrals and taking in lots of free cash for sending customers to affiliates. I heard an economist lately saying that the problem is the economy is that their aren’t enough customers and sales. People are making big money giving companies access to customers. Facebook is a prime example. Wall Street is nothing more than a system to make big money. Brokers make big cash when the market is down and when it is up. It’s a cash cow that most of us have no access to. That’s why people are mad. Wall Streets’ decisions affect us in a huge way, but we are excluded from the bonanza.

From: Marilyn White — Oct 14, 2011

Heartiest congratulations, Robert, on that kind of a sale in these parlous times. You are an example for us all, and this kind of a sale is cause for celebration in the art world. Your books have attained biblical status with me – they keep me motivated and thinking, as I strive to do my thing with paint among the other activities that engage my time.

From: Peggy Small — Oct 14, 2011

I do hope you don’t mean that last statement!

From: Leslie Bishop — Oct 14, 2011

The money is not the issue for me. But I think the buyer’s way of choosing art is repulsive. The real joy in appreciating art is in discovering a tangible work that touches your soul. You may relish a particular artists’s style reputation, personality, marketability, etc., but how can you buy a piece that will really reflect your personal discernments and appreciations without seeing it first? Obviously, Robert, you’re taste in art is trustworthy. But what is the buyer’s taste? Is he seeing future value in dollars? Is he even engaged in the process of appreciating the painting? Does it matter?

From: Meg Wolfe — Oct 15, 2011

My customer base is the slightly upper middle class and they have taken a real hit in this economy. So, yeah, I’m speaking out for and joining up with the protesters. But I’m also doing it for those with no options left, as a result of unregulated corporate greed and the horrible unemployment/underemployment situation.

From: Sandra Howard — Oct 15, 2011

It is a dilemma isn’t it. I once was in a business which I never charged enough for. Now I live modestly in retirement but could have lived higher on the hog if I had charged what my competition used to charge. I sleep fine these days.

From: Polly Stark — Oct 15, 2011

Enjoyed reading the concept of DEAL! Now I too am off to my studio! Thanks!!!

From: Akke Stretch — Oct 15, 2011

I appreciate all you had to say but am somewhat disconcerted by the ‘you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with’ (sic). Yikes. I will have to think that one through. Sincerely, Akke Stretch (such an artful name don’t you think)

From: H Margret — Oct 15, 2011

I don’t think the master painters–Klee & Rembrandt & Matisse come to mind–had definitions for what they wanted to do. When you read their writings, they usually discussed motive more than goals. But of course, us modern artists obsess over goals and definitions. Maybe that’s one reason why there is so little originality.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Oct 15, 2011

Hmmm, from what I have seen in the corporate world, one of the recipes for success is to climb over many dead bodies and then write a bestseller about the view from the top. As George Carlin put it – it’s a club and we ain’t in it.

From: Kathy Forer — Oct 15, 2011

An apt quote: “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” (David Brin)

From: Piet Pompies — Oct 15, 2011

I have been a follower of your letter and absolutely live for the days when I receive it in my inbox – such insight and wisdom. Thank you for sharing it all!

From: Ronda Fear-Fulkerson — Oct 16, 2011

I’m more than a little confused by your last newsletter. You chose to sign off saying you were off to join the protest against Wall Street. After re-reading your letter a couple more times (just in case I missed something), I can only hope you meant that as tongue-in-cheek. For you had just finished telling us how you personally benefited from someone who was lucky enough and bold enough to make a nice profit on a business deal. That person, whom you now refer to as your new friend, then took the opportunity to share his earnings with you in the form of $60,000 for one painting. That, my dear, is the essence of “spreading the wealth” and I do hope you and your readers are clever enough to realize that. For I would give my eye teeth to be able to sell one painting for a price that is currently twice my annual salary.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 16, 2011

Hey- Ronda- Robert’s sale price was 5 times my annual salary- at least! I don’t actually make enough to live on. I keep having to find help- periodically.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 16, 2011

I have one other question relating back to being undiscovered… Who- exactly- is it- we’re supposed to be discovered by? Is there only one supreme discoverer- and are we all supposed to be discovered by the same whatever?

From: Jackie Knott — Oct 17, 2011

The Wall Street protests are not about anyone making an honest profit in their endeavors: it is about being given ridiculous compensation on the shoulders of others’ labor while they struggle for bare subsistence. This commission didn’t “cost” anyone anything except Robert’s accumulated lifetime vision and expertise. His work is worth whatever a patron feels it is and his reputation can command. No, the protests are about corporate greed that literally came close to bringing the US economy to its knees … and then they got bonuses for doing so. These protests are about wage earners so desperate they will labor for less than a living wage, no insurance, a crippling workload, and a corporate culture that will chew them up and spew them out if they don’t produce, because there are twenty more in line for the same job. Individually produced art isn’t even close and hat’s off to anyone, including Robert, who has worked hard enough to garner such a price at this stage of his career.

From: Purcell — Oct 17, 2011

Robert got his fair price, but he is aware that his income this time came from a source that shouldn’t be. What’s not to understand there? Sounds crystal clear to me. Every one would make that sale, and hopefully most would, as Robert, wish that the buying power get’s more equally distributted. At least that the people who actually do the work get some of that “wealth spread”.

From: Ann — Oct 17, 2011

The only options for the un-anointed masses are to be poor and free, or be corporate slaves rewarded by an all-inclusive vacation and shopping at Costco. Artists often chose to be poor and free. There are no other options for masses. The elite can do better, but that’s a very small number of people. Kudos for those who achieved that with hard work and quality.

From: Chris Hansen — Oct 17, 2011

The broker worked hard to get where he is and to stay there. There are probably few more demanding lines of work. He chose to work with money. Our esteemed Genn chose to work with paint. Not all things are equal, including careers. The broker turned around and supported an artist; something we artists are always preaching about. I’m sure Genn spent some of his earnings and so on. Thank you for your consideration of this point of view.

From: Herb Tracy — Oct 17, 2011

Trickle down economics does trickle down–slowly

From: Bertha — Oct 17, 2011

Work with paint makes the world a better place. Working with stocks at the level criticized by the protesters destroys the economy for the benefit of the few. This kind of a broker works hard for a few years after which he is a rich man. The people who lost their jobs and savings are a byproduct of his work.

From: Tom Lockhart — Oct 17, 2011

10 years ago there were many more Wall Street stock brokers and other successful professionals buying alot more art than they are today. So many artists were able to make a decent living due to the previous economic situation. You were certainly the beneficiary of wealthy client. Good for you Robert, take it while you can. We all could use more collectors of the likes you just made.

From: Gill Truslow — Oct 17, 2011

As far as the DEAL is concerned, I have a good handle on “D”, struggle with “E” by getting caught up with things like this and other technological innovations that eat away at my time, can’t relate to “A”, but find “L” to be a big part of my life, whether it be time in my studio, talking to other artists, taking time for exercise, or looking for beauty when I am away from my studio. Thank you, Robert for the time you take to share your thoughts. They certainly do resonate for many of us and provide valuable insights.

From: Jimelle — Oct 18, 2011

Robert, I think it’s wonderful that you were able to have such an amazing experience, and I hope you refuse to feel guilty about this sale. Enjoy your life, enjoy the money, and smile when you think about it. You’re story will pass down through your family and become the stuff of legend. “Remember that time when….” As for the OWS gang, I’ve read a partial list of their requests and find them baffling – a living wage whether working or not? Free, uh, everything? How would corporations pay those of us working to supply the free everything if they don’t get to charge for their services and products? Or if all of their profits went to the huge tax debt that would ensue? I’m baffled. It seems as though nobody wants to start at the bottom and work their way up, anymore. I’d be willing to bet that you and your $60,000 buyer both had some lean years before the money started coming in, and paid your dues, as they used to say. Why does the OWS gang think it’s so much more special than the rest of us? Thanks for this story, and go buy something cool:) I would!

From: American dreamer — Oct 18, 2011

Great sale Robert. Take the money and now go out and protest that mean guy who is sharing his wealth with you.

From: rena williams — Oct 18, 2011
From: Andrea — Oct 18, 2011

For a lot of people, there is no ‘work your way up’ anymore. That’s part of what they’re protesting. The bankers who crashed the economy by committing mortgage fraud and other forms of questionable investing strategies never got punished for their crimes. They got bailed out with billions of taxpayer money, and those same bankers got huge bonuses for crashing the economy for everyone else. Meanwhile, the average working person in trouble did not get bailed out, and while they struggle to find a job, or pay their underwater mortgage, banks and corporations are just sitting on tons of cash. No one is giving the average person a bailout, but these people are also now facing cuts to the social programs that were designed to help them survive until they can find jobs. Do a little research beyond the corporate owned news outlets, and you’ll find that there is plenty to get angry about.

From: Baylis Harding — Oct 18, 2011

So Stewart, Ronald and a few more of you…you are saying you are ok with the fact that the law protects CEOs who get millions in bonuses while workers in their companies get massively laid off? You say it’s ok that factories get closed while the cushioned executives move on to the next cushy job with millions in sign up bonuses? Wow! You use a bullying language, but I think you should start to get concerned because too many people nowadays see through that kind of attitude. Power balance can slide from the money power to the power of the masses very rapidly – you just need a critical mass of impoverished intelligence, unemployed youth and laid off workers… you know, the people who have nothing to lose. Does that ring a bell? Thank you to the OWS protesters for bringing issues up while there is time to make changes peacefully. They are not perfectly organized, but that’s a good thing – by the time they are it may be too late for talks.

From: Delilah — Oct 18, 2011

Robert, I read this a few days ago while traveling and I finally got the time to put my nickel into the pot. Why would you only do what you love for four hours?

From: Judi Morrogh Axthelm — Oct 24, 2011

There seems to be a conflict between accepting the client for your painting and at the same time protesting his existence? Why question what others choose to do with the money they have made. He did after all choose to surround himself with your beautiful painting. Perhaps this is his connection to your world. Wealth does not come easily for all and is usually the result of hard work. That wealth has supported the arts for thousands of years. I do not understand the need to protest.

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oil painting, 6 x 6 inches by Christine Holzschuh, Mendon, VT, USA

  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 Madeleine Kelly of Ridley Park, PA, USA, who wrote, “Funny how most artists are ready to rally for with the “occupy wall street” crowd or are ready to “share the wealth.” And yet you directly benefited from someone’s successful investing, one of the rich fat cats. Capitalism trickles down. Besides if we share the wealth, who is going to pay for a $60,000 painting… or a $3,000 one?” And also Bill Hodgson of London, ON, Canada, who wrote, “You better watch out your new friend doesn’t decide to flip that painting around. It’s worth more if the artist is dead. Nothing personal, it’s just business.” And also Melanie Peter of Gainesville, FL, USA, who sent us this quote by Fran Lebowitz: “I always say to people, ‘No one earns $100 million. You steal $100 million.’ People earn $10 an hour. People earn $40,000 a year. ‘Earn’ means work. Okay? It doesn’t mean steal, which with these vast amounts of money, of course you steal them.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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