Transartistic meditation


Dear Artist,

I’ll have to explain myself. Many years ago I took a course in Transcendental Meditation (TM), and since then I’ve painted a few paintings (FP). The idea of combining the two has been sitting cross-legged between my ears ever since.

One of my early problems with TM was forgetting my mantra. Sorry to say I often had to phone my guru Ralph. One day I decided to customize what Ralph taught so it was more “me.” It seemed that any mantra worked as long as it had lots of “m’s” in it. About the same time, I was discovering that humming while painting seemed to help. Humming is loaded with “m’s”.

Studies of “flow” and “the zone” have been done using all stripes of artists. This is where the artist gets into a relaxed, intuitive state somewhere deep down in the lizard brain and the good stuff rains down like ripe pomegranates. Tired of rotten apples, I was curious about these concepts as well.

So here’s what I figure you have to do. Try to set aside several hours in a quiet, restful and uncluttered environment. You don’t have to sit on the floor. Squeeze out the sacred colours in advance so you can get right into the mind-set. Relax. Get centered. Think pleasant thoughts. Size up the job. Get started. The idea is to start seeing and feeling your work not as a product of effort but as an exercise in languid play. The brush slows down and feelings of contentment pervade. You need to trust your instincts and allow the automatic stuff to happen. Feel like a deep-forest green? Dip into it.

TM claims twenty minutes twice a day gets you “a silent reservoir of energy, creativity and intelligence.” If you do what I suggest you’ll also dip into that reservoir. Part of TM involves attention to your breathing. In my system, you pay attention to your brush. Follow its movement from palette to canvas and back again. Be mesmerized by the energy emanating from its tip. Let your brush put down those strokes directly and then watch it leave those strokes alone.

Feelings of discontent and misery float away. Time flies. Things go best if you have a fair amount of technique under your belt. Memories and motifs simply reconstruct, purify and manifest themselves. A blithe, spiritual confidence penetrates the artist’s soul and all becomes right with the world. Like a lot of TM, the system is really quite practical.

Best regards,


PS: “See the job. Do the job. Stay out of misery.” (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)

Esoterica: One of my main problems has been my inability to levitate. I was never able to actually lift myself off and float around in front of my easel. Maybe it has something to do with the technical demands of art. But I think I know what those born-again meditators are talking about. When you finally get into the zone and accomplish something above average, it feels like levitation.


Stressed out by music
by Maggie Sloan, CA, USA


“Flute player study”
watercolour painting
by Maggie Sloan

I have discovered that I work best in complete silence. The other night I was in a watercolour class where they were playing loud, fast music (good music, I might add), and I found that I could not paint at all. The music filled that floaty part of my brain where I normally find images, and I felt like I could not hear the paint, or the way it spoke to the water and paper. Instead of finishing the evening feeling relaxed and tired, I went home feeling stressed and exhausted.



There are 11 comments for Stressed out by music by Maggie Sloan

From: Marsha Elliott — Jun 30, 2009

Like you, Maggie, I enjoy peace & quiet. Upon occasion, I turn on some soft music, but generally not. In this noisy world we live in, I think the vast majority are afraid of silence or to be alone with their own thoughts.

From: Ralph — Jun 30, 2009
From: Lanie — Jun 30, 2009
From: Jr Von — Jun 30, 2009

I had to smile when I read your letter, This also is the way I like to create work, in silence, I found this out about myself many years ago.

I was playing chess with a friend of mine, he liked loud music, he beat me in every game until I asked him to turn the music off.

I checked-mated him in 3 moves in that game and always beat him when silence was on my side.

As far as my Art work goes I always seem to be able to think and feel things better when there’s no interruptions of the music sort.

From: Marsha Elliott — Jun 30, 2009
From: Bern — Jun 30, 2009

Some years ago I found out that I didn’t sleep as well if I watched TV — which I don’t do at all now — or read action fiction before bed. Then I realized that my favorite musics — classical, jazz, and roots — had the same effect. I believe that I’m too active a listener, too engaged. So, I quit reading anything but poetry — almost always Chinese poetry in translation — and I listen to very little music, and sleep more soundly. As a result, I quit having music when I read — which probably never made sense — and when I paint. The one thing I do while listening to music is drive. Knowing what I know, if I was a cop, I’d pull myself over.

From: Marko Madrazo — Jun 30, 2009

If you choose the sound you like, whether it is quietness or music, it will help you relax and paint and feel better. I use music to set my mood in anything I do.

From: Catherine Robertson — Jun 30, 2009

Sometimes, when I really need a soft, quiet peace for painting, I put on one or two of my “Birdsong” CD’s. These are played quietly and I can immerse both into the painting-mode and the meadows and fields as well. In one way, it’s like painting outdoors in solitude but for the birdsong. Otherwise, I play classical music or hymns quietly. They are good too but the birds seem more soothing.

From: Len — Jun 30, 2009

Two things I love, painting and music, especially together. If I have a clear understanding of what I want to achieve with my painting then music enhances the overall creative experience. If I am stretching into new territory where I am trying to learn a new technique — then I will forgo the music until I can find my artistic sea legs as it were. I can relate to Maggie Sloan who said when she was in an art class with music, she felt stressed. I experienced the same thing because I felt the music got in the way of my learning time and left me feeling a bit cheated and frustrated.

From: John Obafemi — Jul 01, 2009

There is definitely a relationship between painting and music. Music does not display any known and recognizable forms. Music does however enliven the soul to a multitude of feelings and experiences through sound. I think the creation of a work of art need not be rooted in listening to music, for creating art is a discipline that requires concentration. Listening to music while working helps conjure up those types of feelings which will allow to reach a emotional mind set he or she needs to create or a certain mood they wish to convey in the work.

From: Liz Reday — Jul 05, 2009

Music, especially alt rock, really gets my creative juices flowing. I have my favorite college radio station online playing in my studio and it never fails to start me up and keep me at it for many hours. When I paint outside, I prefer the ambient sounds of life as they happen.


Ten thousand hours
by Mary Mac

I was in Starbucks one day and I saw this man reading The Outcasts. Since I was looking for a good book to read, I asked him what it was about, and he mentioned ten thousand hours. When I was growing up, my parents always said, “If you want to get good at it, you have to practice ten thousand hours.” They often said that when I was working on my piano, guitar or violin. Since my parents never paid for art lessons, they never said that for visual arts.

There is 1 comment for Ten thousand hours by Mary Mac

From: Eleanor Blair — Jun 29, 2009


Re-centering with yoga
by Cathy Harville, Gambrills, MD, USA


“Saving the Dunes”
acrylic painting,24 x 30 inches
by Cathy Harville

I recently took up yoga, a very easy version, as a gentle way to unblock my energy, and loosen up. The gentle and restorative positions and breathing have made a tremendous difference in my work. I am more relaxed, and don’t get the tight shoulders from leaning over my easel. My body feels more open. The alternate nostril breathing has an amazing way of re-centering me, and my brain. I find I can paint for long periods of time, focusing on the process, rather than the finished product. I allow the painting to become itself, rather than forcing it to become what I may have envisioned.

There is 1 comment for Re-centering with yoga by Cathy Harville

From: Lanie — Jun 30, 2009

I know when I’m getting tense because my toes start to clinch. Deep breathing really works to get rid of it. If that doesn’t work I take a short break and bounce on my exercise ball.


The zone — a real place
by Gena Lacoste, Medicine Hat, AB, Canada


“Pantaloons and petticoats”
watercolour painting
by Gena Lacoste

I teach workshops and I like to talk to my students about “the zone.” It’s a real place and it’s real important! If you’re going to do truly inspired work, you need to get there as often and as quickly as possible. I do about an hour of Yoga every morning. That way, my mind is already centered and my body is not whining and griping because it’s stiff or sore somewhere. Instrumental music (words pull you out of the zone) is a must. Pick what works for you. I used to have trouble getting into the zone because my left brain thinks it’s an artist too, but a few minutes of totally focused contour drawing sends it scuttling and I go sailing off into The Zone. What a sublime and wondrous place to be. Total contentment is the hallmark, and time collapses. When I’m done I emerge as if from a coma, and have no idea how the painting got painted, but there it is before me! As I continue to paint over the years, it’s easier and easier to access this place, and I can drop in and out of it as needed, but it truly is best if you have a whole day stretching ahead of you with nothing on the schedule BUT your painting. Sigh. Truly, Bliss is the best word to describe it and it’s probably the best reward of all for persisting in being an artist.

There are 13 comments for The zone — a real place by Gena Lacoste

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 29, 2009

Well you’re going to have to forgive me- but WORDS pull YOU out of the zone. And your anti-words based perception that wordless music is the only kind of music that will help facilitate you getting into the zone is pure hogwash- and it really annoys me when I hear it. Take your yoga and- you know what you can do with it. I program music WITH WORDS (frankly- because there are so many artists speaking from a profoundly metaphysical place these days) for meditation and dance. The words- all carefully structured to tell a story from the beginning to the end of what is now an 80 minute program can take you places wordless music simply can not. And believe me- bliss is very present.

From: R Joe H — Jun 29, 2009

My, my, J. Bruce, take it easy! Gena is only one person expressing her one opinion (with which I agree, by the by), but you attack her as tho she were the Ruler of the Universe demanding your ideas’ extinctions! Why so defensive?

From: Patrick — Jun 29, 2009

Bruce you sound a tad “testy.” Just like the picture at the very bottom of this clickback, your brain must be on fire. Let the lady have her opinion, with which I completely agree. To you I say: speak the word, be the word, stuff the word!

From: Kathy — Jun 30, 2009

Gena- I love the chickens.

From: Virginia Wieringa — Jun 30, 2009

I agree with you, Gena. A day with nothing but painting on the schedule is pure bliss!

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 30, 2009

Patrick- Me? Testy? The only problem with the picture down below is that in my reality the FIRE is coming up straight out of the Earth and passing all the way up through me from below my feet. It isn’t just my brain that is on fire- it is my whole body- and my whole being! I do a lot of movement meditation- not just sitting meditation- and the yoga pose in the picture isn’t comfortable for me and never has been. But it is a common perception that that is how you SIT so you can meditate- just as it is a common perception that instrumental music is the ONLY kind of music you can get into a meditative state- or THE ZONE- with. I’ve run into this belief structure before- and as I stated earlier- it is hogwash. But Gena Lacoste makes it clear (her opinion) that WORDS PULL YOU OUT OF THE ZONE. They do no such thing. Some of our brains work just as well if not better with words. Her WAY- is not THE ONLY WAY- though it is one taught by yoga practitioners and massage therapists. But that’s all it is. And since I’ve run into it in my everyday life and it has gotten in the way of friends being open to what I do with music- when it presents like this- as THE ONLY WAY- I get testy. Of course- I like my ‘testy’ self- and have no problem with it expressing its opinion.

From: Anonymous — Jun 30, 2009

It’s fun to get some “testy” comments now and then. Hahaha…it was amusing to read all the above. I do believe that words can pull you out of the zone and would never play music with vocalists while painting. I am afraid that in a poll, ole J. Bruce would lose. But not a loss he would much care about I am sure. :-) I love when people mention the music they groove to, by the way, and I often go and listen to snippets of them on Barnes and Noble’s CD site. Let’s hear it for wonderful music.

From: Judy — Jun 30, 2009

Dogs at a fire hydrant. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

I, too, love the chickens. ;)

From: Suzette Fram — Jun 30, 2009

Personally, I like to listen to the ‘oldies’, music from the 50’s and 60’s. I often find myself humming, singing, and yes, even dancing a little, while painting. It’s great. My point is: Different Strokes for Different Folks. So relax already, just find what works for you and enjoy!!

From: Juan — Jul 01, 2009

Isn’t it about time Robert that you limited participation by J. Bruce Wilcox……over the past years most of his comments have been angry diatribes lashing out at anyone who dares to provide a comment different from his perspective and lifestyle…..Pleaseeeee, Wilcox get a life and keep your creative muse happy – or perhaps that’s it, you have to be an angry person who feeds off others to create.

From: Darla — Jul 01, 2009

Bruce, I know exactly what she means when she says that words pull you out of the zone. My husband is addicted to news radio and old radio shows, which I positively can’t stand for more than 40 minutes at a time! They make it impossible for me to concentrate. It seems to have the opposite effect on him — he’d like it on 24 hours a day, even when he’s sleeping! Our solution is wireless headphones. It’s just my opinion, but I think that women tend to be taught to listen more closely to the spoken word, and men are taught more to think of what they will say.

From: Mary Carnahan — Jul 01, 2009

There are a lot of ways to be right – vive la difference…. I think intent, practice, and the personally developed ability to find meditative or zone states make the difference. Sometimes I listen to two opposing pieces of music (like, Philip Glass + powwow drumming – this combination drives everyone else I know crazy) at once because it puts my mind in a very different trance space it wouldn’t otherwise go to. And I have meditation cds with verbal meditations and manage to meditate to them. I also do yoga and love silence. For me the ideal painting environment depends on the day.

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Jul 02, 2009

Each to their own. If I’m listening to music while creating art, I prefer instrumental rather than music with lyrics (unless the lyrics are in a language I don’t speak). I want my concentration and focus to be on my artwork, not listening to the lyrics of a song. I don’t do yoga and I don’t meditate … but I do go into the zone, it’s like daydreaming. But …. each to their own.


Humming while into painting
by Annika Farmer, Mentor, OH, USA


“Look out below”
watercolour painting
by Annika Farmer

Great suggestion, to slow down and get more centered, before we start that new project.

Years ago, I also did the transcendental meditation but, as schedules and life in general changed, that part of my daily routine went away. But I never forgot my mantra; in fact, I even catch myself sort of humming it when I really get into my painting, especially my abstract work. Also, your suggestion to meditate before we start would most likely make the whole process more clear, and relaxing. In fact, I am sure it would for me, if I was working on a commission or realistic work, because that can often be stressful.

There is 1 comment for Humming while into painting by Annika Farmer

From: Judy C. — Jun 30, 2009

I love the title of your painting, Look Out Below, and the gargoyles


Colour theory — walking proof
by Dyan Law, Pipersville, PA, USA


graphite and white pastel
painting by Dyan Law

After several hours of painting late into the morning, I arose from “the zone” and walked across my yard returning home from my studio. Suddenly I saw colours as I had never seen them before. I seemed to be witnessing numerous psychedelic auras being emitted from the trees, grass — even my own hands! No, it wasn’t paint, nor some eclipse, nor was I drinking or drugging! Even the local colours were more vivid and clear. I thought to myself, “I must be totally exhausted or I’m dreaming.” And I was living the dream in technicolour, no less! I’ve meditated for many years yet never had I experienced such splendor. If one stares at a vivid red or green mark for a long period of time we can actually see that colour and shape elsewhere; a simple colour theory. After spending concentrated time with my multicoloured brushes and canvas, I’m walking proof that this colour theory works in “real-painting time!” I’m quite certain I’m not the only artist out there who has witnessed this phenomenon. Perhaps, after long hours of applying those “sacred colours,” we actually BECOME our very own painting!

There is 1 comment for Colour theory — walking proof by Dyan Law

From: Anonymous — Jun 30, 2009

After painting for several hours, I came home and I turned on the Boob tube -and all the colors on the monitor were flat, unsaturated bland. It took about 20 minutes for my brain to re adjust to the limited spectrum of didi stuff. The colors around me – called reality – were not affected at all. There is a lesson learned in this…


Use all the senses
by Linda Blazonis, Lisbon, ME, USA


“Wild flower”
original painting
by Linda Blazonis

One of the great things about plein air painting is the spiritual meditation before and during the session: arrive at destination, hopefully weather precludes rain; set up to paint; sit and imbibe the gifts of all senses, bring them to the highest point of life: look and see, see again, and look at the sky for sure. Enjoy the light and nuances of colour, while using your ears to hear the good earth’s sounds, and feel those blades of grass beneath you. If you are at seaside, be sure to smell the salty sea in all its mellowness. Use all the senses. Breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe in your surroundings. When calm and saturated with the true reality of your “spot,” then begin to put pencil to paper and brush to canvas. It is a spiritual experience of the finest kind.


Painting is meditating
by Alan Feltus, Assisi, Italy


oil painting, 32 x 40 inches
by Alan Feltus

I have long believed that painting is meditation. I never wanted to take time to sit still and attempt to eliminate every passing thought from my mind in meditation — there are already too few hours in a day to do the things I do. I spend hours and hours sitting alone in my studio, painting. What happens between eye, mind and hand in the act of painting has to be at least as productive as sitting motionless with not a thought in one’s mind. Much of the time, when painting, my brush is on automatic in some way. But what I see as I paint also directs what is kept and what is changed. And things move along. Maybe all of us who create something from nothing in our work are meditating all we need and those whose work is not making paintings or composing music or writing poems and novels actually need to do something programmed to be able to balance things within.

There is 1 comment for Painting is meditating by Alan Feltus

From: Liz Reday — Jul 05, 2009

Your painting is breathtakingly stunning: skill, grace and unsettling psychological interplay between the two figures. Funny how what you just wrote mirrors my thoughts exactly, only you said them better. I have often felt that meditating and painting are similar states of mind when practiced every day. Bravo!


The crystal mandala
by Rita Bairstow

Many years ago I took courses in psychic and spiritual awareness, and one of the more advanced classes involved pretty much what you’ve written about. We were to meditate and focus on our own personal mandala, then draw and colour it, using pencil crayons. As I’m one of those people who insist I can’t draw, I was surprised when I ended up with a quite presentable crystal. This was a surprise to our leader for a different reason as she explained that mandalas usually appear in the form of a circle or circles, and mine was quite different from everyone else’s in the class. What was fascinating about it, and what made me want to share the story, is that I had borrowed a friend’s crystal to hold a couple of times during previous meditations, and when she saw the mandala I’d drawn, that friend exclaimed that it was exactly the crystal she’d wanted to draw but was disappointed because she hadn’t been able to picture it, so I gave her the drawing.


Visualization exercise
by Alfred Muma


stained glass painting
by Alfred Muma

One step farther in the process of meditating, visualization on a blank white screen in your mind’s eye is also a good exercise. Visualize something really good that you want or desire (need) because it too really works. I don’t know how but it does. Hold the picture of your need for as long as you can. A few minutes every day will make your life much different. It could be the desire for world peace (ok that might be stretching it but it will help your own environment), finding a great art consultant, the means to overcome a challenge… anything. It really helps with the creative process because it is part of that process.



Personally trained teacher
by Marney Ward, Victoria, BC, Canada


“Essence of Rose”
original painting
by Marney Ward

Well, I am an artist who was trained personally by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-seventies, to be a teacher of transcendental meditation. If you learned TM in Victoria or Vancouver in the mid-seventies, Robert, I could even have been your teacher, as I have instructed over 200 people to meditate. TM is a technique to take you, with relative ease, to a level of the mind we call transcendence, a level characterized by bliss, silent awareness and physical stillness. The breath slows down automatically; there is no focus on breathing, though that may be a part of other forms of meditation. The whole body metabolism slows down while the consciousness, though still, awakens to a heightened level of awareness. You don’t need a technique like TM to get to transcendental consciousness; it’s a natural state of mind we all have within us and we can get there spontaneously or via other techniques, though TM seems one of the simplest and most efficient techniques around. Once your brain has learned how, it becomes easier to dip into this level when doing enjoyable and settling activities, like painting. Some people are aware of this state in the moments just before they fall asleep. Many artists I know have told me that when they paint, they sometimes spontaneously reach a level where time seems to stand still, their awareness of colour, value and balance is heightened, their thinking becomes more spontaneously creative or intuitive, and there is an overall feeling of pleasure and contentment. This means they are functioning in a more refined level of consciousness, close to or actually in the state we call transcendental consciousness. Sometimes they say it’s as if the painting was painting itself and they were just watching it all happen.


Living creatively
by Pamela Ellis, Mission, BC, Canada


original painting
by Pamela Ellis

This is the painting I know. In fact this is the only way that I will paint, draw… create. However I don’t specifically associate it with TM. It is simply a spiritual exercise that connects me with the source of creation. I can honestly say in doing this, the image that is produced does come from my hand but it does not come from “me.” After a few years of playing with this method, honing the process, I decided to teach it to others and have been doing so for a few years now. I am happy to say that it has connected well with all who have participated to this point. My workshop is called “The Art of Spiritual Painting” and can be found by visiting ( . I also use the techniques extensively in my creativity coaching practice, passing them on to my clients so that they may apply them in other forms of creative expression; music, writing, quilting, gardening, cooking — LIVING CREATIVELY. One thing that I have discovered through this journey is although it can be helpful to have some technical knowledge in your creative pursuit of choice, it is most definitely not necessary in the least. In fact, I have found that those who have no prior painting experience have been far more open to the process and have produced some amazing, spine-tingling works of art.

The most wonderful thing that I’ve discovered through this style of painting is that if done on a regular basis it absolutely and effectively plunges you deeply into the pure joy of the PROCESS rather than focusing strictly on PRODUCT which often can create paralyzing blocks. It also produces a feeling of connectedness that brings you fully into the present moment. The memory of this feeling can then be transferred into other areas of your life, opening the doors to the creative Spirit in everything that you do. What it boils down to for me is this: Our life is our greatest creation… our most amazing work of art… so why not do all that you can to make IT a masterpiece.

There is 1 comment for Living creatively by Pamela Ellis

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 01, 2009

Pamela, God love you, YES!

We can meditate until we keel over and apply any form of spiritual belief, but neither will make a competent artist. It takes years in front of an easel, it takes intense study, experimentation, hours in galleries observing, and more than anything, simple work.

Had your students done what you have over the years, they would be teaching the class.

“Make me an artist in one weekend seminar.” We all know that will not happen. Too many beginning artists seek a shortcut through the work of a teacher. No artist can possibly impart their accumulated knowledge in a few classes. Don’t try. Give what you can.

Go ahead and take their money and don’t blink. They are paying for your knowledge, and haven’t you spent your lifetime accumulating that? It has value.

I have had to give a gentle lecture as part of my instruction: “You need to study value, you need to study composition, you need to do figure drawing, pay attention to form, etc.”

What you described is why I quit doing portrait seminars. It is physically and emotionally draining.




On Fire

original painting
by Allan O’Marra, ON, 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 Eleanor Blair of Gainesville, Florida, USA, who wrote, “I’ve come up with a silent variation of a verbal meditation mantra. As I slowly breathe in and out, I visualize the colors in sequence as they move around the color wheel. So, breath in (see yellow in my mind’s eye), breath out, breath in (see yellow orange), breath out, breath in (see orange)…. well, you get the picture. After a few trips around the color wheel, my crisis du jour has faded away.”

And also Rosanne Licciardi of Raleigh, NC, USA, who wrote, “I was inducted in the ’70s into transcendental meditation where each of us was given our own private mantra. You know what I found out years later? We are all given the same mantra.”

And also Angela Treat Lyon of Hawaii, USA, who wrote, “I can see them now, all kindsa TA-Mers writing and saying, ‘O Great Guru of Painting, I wanna come live at your Artshram and bow at the foot of your easel!’ ”



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Transartistic meditation



From: Dee Poisson — Jun 25, 2009

Robert, if I had to wait until my environment was uncluttered, I would never paint.

From: BlueBerry Pick’n — Jun 25, 2009
From: Ted Duncan — Jun 26, 2009


From: Ned — Jun 26, 2009

A hybrid of zen meditiation that I’ve practiced for a dozen years or more has changed me to the point that I’m able to focus sufficiently to paint. It allows me to be where I am, doing what I’m doing, and not have my mind wandering in unproductive territories. This is good stuff, and any of it that can be applied directly into the art process will, in my opinion, pay dividends. (On the other hand, the practice also allows me to have an opinion, but not be particularly invested in it qua opinion. The thing I know is that it has worked for me.)

From: Darla — Jun 26, 2009

The only way I’ve ever gotten into “the zone” is through a lot of drudgery and persistence long after I’d rather stop. Your way sounds a lot more pleasant. However, the best sketches and ideas come when I’m not trying to think of anything in particular. Then I have to do a lot of work and make a lot of mistakes to make them into paintings.

From: Peggy — Jun 26, 2009
From: Mark Brueggeman — Jun 26, 2009

The world is too much with me late and soon…I used to easily enter a state of flow while working, immersed in the colors, movement, seeing, and time would pass unnoticed. I admit this happened in the chaos of an unruly studio, but was where I wanted to get myself. Over the years I have found that I can watch and see students in my classes lose themselves into the work and it is amazing to see the pace of the progress they make in their work.

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 26, 2009

My comfort in painting has come from finally developing enough discipline to work at it regularly. Being a natural procrastinator you have no idea how managing that flaw has brought me rest. As I have aged (sixty) I made up my mind the only way I was going to produce was to keep something on my easel (or two) at all times. Usually not all day, but at least several hours. I allow myself a few days leisure between paintings but return to work before I get distracted. I’m simply happier when I’m producing.

And let’s face it, if we wait on inspiration to pick up a brush we’d never get anything done. Disciplined work is the only thing that produces, whether it is art or daily exercise.

I zone out when the work is going particularly well, when what I am trying to achieve begins to take form. Sometimes I have the radio on in the background but I usually work in complete silence. Sound can be comforting to some but is distracting to me. The only music is the quiet tapping of my brush mixing paint on my palette or drawing the brush across the canvas. I apply another sense to the work – sound. My mind is free to concentrate on the painting. The important thing is to find what works for us as individuals.

From: Gail Harper — Jun 26, 2009

…..for me I KISS…and thoroughly enjoy the process which instantly… well at least 5 or 10 minutes in… takes me to that blessed island of “the meditation of painting”…..guess its the MANY years of working at it.

From: Win Dinn, Painted Turtle Gallery — Jun 26, 2009

Bob, I think you are somewhat confused on levitation – it is the VIEWER, not the artist who levitates. The artist is just the brush held in the hand of the Universe!! Happy painting….

From: John F. Johnson, Roseville, CA — Jun 26, 2009

For TM, the month you were born in determined your mantra — I was born in January so mine was “Iam”. I have found that power naps offer similar benefits. Like Popeye, “I am, what I am.”

From: Russ Hogger — Jun 27, 2009
From: Chris Pool — Jun 29, 2009

Having visited over 50 gurus in about 18 trips to India I can assure you that none of the good ones, and maybe none of the ones I met, ever gave a rats ass about levitation. The primary issue was whether proximity to their person could energetically benefit me in such a way that I could truly see the unity of all. In that state of oneness there is no higher or lower, no interest in powers. However, as the state of consciousness comes back closer to the norm, such things become more interesting. And some great art can be made. Once the state of consciousness descends back closer to the level of the physical a grittier experience, like watching movies and eating gets more interesting.

From: Janet Toney — Jun 29, 2009

Being an artist does include lots of dreaming, thinking, meditating, and being in love with art and in love with making art. If not true, the art might just as well be machine made, because it will be cold,sterile, and not unique. The subject doesn’t have to be extraordinary. It does have to mean something to the artist! For whatever reason, it has to capture the imagination.

I’m always attracted to color first, the variations in the color made

by light and dark next and then the balance of the lights, darks,

lines and shapes. I like things made of smaller things – it’s from my childhood, watching my mother make quilt after quilt!

So, I have emotional reactions to the colors, and to images made

up of lots of small shapes and colors. If I am unable to paint for some reason, I think about painting and what to try next! If I never picked up a paint brush again in my life, I would dream about painting and making art. Again, as ever, enjoyed your newsletter!

From: Carl Richards — Jun 29, 2009

Thank you so much for this letter. You are speaking my language! I’ve been doing this for years and can testify that it works, at least for me. Work done by this method is nearly always successful and I am often surprised by what appears on the canvas. Frequently it seems as though it is not I who is doing the painting, but some other, higher force, while I merely hold the brush. Done this way creative work is never a chore but always an adventure in discovery.

An artist friend signed me up for these letters and I absolutely love them. Keep them coming!

From: Kristina Zallinger — Jun 29, 2009

The letter on TM was very exhilarating! I find your philosophies regarding painting helpful, especially for the Abstract Expressionistic approach I take with my work! Finding an uncluttered room, however, may be difficult! I am a collector of fintiklushki (Polish for “stuff”)! Also my apartment has multitudes of paintings leaning against the walls! To clear it all would mean to show, sell or move!

From: Helena Tiainen — Jun 29, 2009

I think you got the point. You do not have to follow in anyone else’s footsteps when it comes to practicing anything, including meditation. Learning how someone else does it gives you an experience of the results you might be after and a method or methods of getting there.You can then take what you have learned and custom make it for yourself. I think I remember reading somewhere that ideally your life becomes a meditation and you no longer have to take the special time to sit in silence. I say do whatever works for you. Everything in life can be taken on as a creative project. Isn’t this what truly makes life an interesting journey? We are all here to make our own trails to the mountain top. Some of us follow a path already paved while others explore paths yet to be discovered. Viva la creativity!

From: Lucy Schappy — Jun 29, 2009

this is all you have to do… sounds easy eh???

…is this a joke?


From: Suzanne Bowles — Jun 29, 2009

Just wanted to let you know that I love your Twice-Weekly Letters (TWL). They are so helpful and diverse. I thought today’s on Transartistic Meditation was especially great. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us. By the way – good luck on the levitation.

From: Gary Irish — Jun 29, 2009
From: Tom Johnsen — Jun 29, 2009

You’ve out done yourself, Robert. Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. I’m sending it to all my friends. After reading it aloud to myself at 3 am, I have seen the light, well, the porch light. It beats all. I’ve tried everything from reading Kafka while sitting in the middle of the street in the dead of night, to squeezing my eyeballs for inspiration. I, too, have never experience direct levitation, but I’m getting there, as Mose Allison sings.

I have enjoyed your missives for years. You’re my favorite Canadian. I can say that with ease. I have been with the Corner Gallery in Ukiah for two years and have now become Professional, with a check newly deposited for $12.75. But I haven’t actually promoted my work. Perhaps its that deep interior monologue: “no one wants to hear about it.”

I am kept alive by unrequited love no one has any idea about, not even the beloved. It’s really a Charlie Brown affair. Lunch on the bench, wistful, shoulder slumped, deeply spiritual sighs…we should all be so lucky.

From: Liz Reday — Jun 29, 2009

I’m getting ready to go to India. I have always wanted to go, and since my mother is in her final months of virulent cancer that has been claiming her, bit by bit, cell by cell, for almost two years. My sisters and I are under lots of pressure with repeat hospitalizations and doctors swearing the end is nigh for all this time. They don’t know my mother, she does not go gently into the night; good bad or ugly, she rages against the light. Her feelings about benign entities, powers greater than oneself, freeing herself from the karma of the wheel or just plain TM have fallen on deaf ears.

My painting has slowed and I need to tap into the well of creation, the zone, the flow. This is the right time to go and recharge and get madly in love with color again. Ashes in the Ganges, a look up at the Himalayas, a visit to the holy city of Benares (Varanasi), a trip thru the backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat. I didn’t realize how much spirituality related to creativity, and how grief can derail the most dedicated painter. I’ll send missives from the road.

Spiritually questing the muse, I’ll settle for cowpatties and color,

From: Lisa Schaus — Jun 29, 2009

You are so appreciated in the Portland Plein Air arena and beyond…………….I have considerable years in the field of of transcendental approach to creative process. I am now smiling because I see a full circle of marketing “lalafoofoo”. The basic pleasures of painting have not changed for thousands of years. We are simply overwhelmed currently by a plethora of egotistical-somewhat-educated-sudo-intellectuals who seem to think that what they “see” is “new” in the world of laying down a dollop of pigment. Now-now we know this is a smile. The timeless pleasure of laying color to a two-dimensional surface is a given.

A delightful detail of Einstein’s theories of quantum leaps………….painting is a yes, when understood as a communal expression of the Infinite!

From: Carl Purcell — Jun 29, 2009

Years ago I met a man who taught TM. I felt that this was something that would benefit me in art, so I took a mini course from him. As I practiced the methods of getting into the meditative state in which all of the daily “noise” slipped away and the quiet non-verbal zone surrounded me, I realized that I was in a very familiar place. I had been there many times while drawing. Drawing, the kind of drawing process that becomes a deep search for the visual relationships and thus non-verbal, ushers me into that state. The quiet descends, the awareness of time disappears, the “oneness” with the subject surrounds me, and my ability to think rational thoughts, speak and be conscious of anything else evaporates. I exit my visual cocoon after 20-30 minutes relaxed and happy. The whole process is exactly like TM only a drawing now exists that records the moment.

Thus drawing not only helps us re-discover the world, it helps us discover ourselves. Drawing in this way is also a great method for overcoming those blocks we experience in painting. Drawing stirs my passion for painting.

From: Terry Gay Puckett — Jun 29, 2009

I don’t usually send fan mail, but I want you to know that I love the information that you send out in your email newsletter, and I thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us.

I teach T’ai Chi Chih, and also meditate. I have recently done several wall pieces of art (enamels on copper) for an upcoming exhibition that are influenced by the thinking processes of meditation and T’ai Chi Chih. There is definitely something to using these methods to create art. It is changing my work, and it was fascinating to see something written about it. I look forward to your emails, because they speak to the creative self and are always refreshing.

From: Mary — Jun 29, 2009

I enjoyed reading it very much. I have enjoyed your work for many years, I lived in Nanaimo and Vancouver years ago and often saw it in the galleries there. I have used the TM technique and now that I am not working so much, am painting more. I enjoy your website and have read many of the letters. You are a very inspiring person and very positive.

From: Helen Opie — Jun 29, 2009

Yes, I hum, too. I understand humming activates/strengthens the link between left and right sides of our brains. Whatever, it is calming and keeps me from getting anxious; then I slip into that zone where no anxiety lies and the paintings that come directly from the Idea Fairy without my interference are always the best of all.

From: Judi Martinez — Jun 29, 2009

I am levitating right now just from the ethereal forces generated by the huge grin on my face ! I don’t know how you manage to do all that you do, but keep up the great work !

From: Pamela Haddock — Jun 29, 2009

I just need to vent.

I taught another class the other day and again I feel like I am taking their money under false pretenses – Not that I did not give them a lot of information, demonstration, one- on-one time, even hand holding, but . . .

I look at where they are starting and I tell them what I think is the most basic of information and from the glazed look on their faces, I realize that I am speaking a foreign language to them.

They don’t draw. They don’t know the first thing about making a

plan. They have not been observing shapes and movement out there in

the world.

They have been listening through a filter of preconception – of prepackaged images and in one short workshop there is no way to penetrate that.

For the most part they have waited too long to undertake the journey

they want to make – that is to attain a confidence and competency.

They have retired and decided to paint as they have always “wanted” to.

I demonstrate how the brush can be held in different ways to make different marks. I talk about color and thinking shape instead of representation, about value and the impact of well placed lights and darks.

They look like a deer in headlights.

They love to watch me demonstrate – vicariously painting the very painting I am rendering – poor as it is in this environment and I shrink inside when they praise it.

I am trying to hurry so they can get to their easels, but when the retreat there and paint, I have to call them back to demonstrate simply mixing colors.

What have they gained?

I ask them to do a preliminary drawing – to include – in a very simple way the dark shapes and light shapes. For them that could be a workshop in itself.

Transfer that to the paper once I have checked their drawing.

Then it begins and I walk from student to student – amazed with frustration churning in my gut – for what I cannot “spock-like” lay hands on them and impart.

What they want from me – I cannot give – 55 years of drawing and painting and seeing the world through my eyes – the excitement of translating like a puzzle the patterns of light and dark, form and shadow, positive and negative spaces.

I leave with their praise – them asking for another session, another time – and I feel embarrassed and a failure.

Maybe one will go home, paint and practice.

I tell them – you are your own best teacher! – spend time looking,

drawing, practice – no time spent with the paint and paper is wasted.

You WILL learn something – if only what NOT to do.

The demon on my shoulder wants to shout – “Why is art the one thing everyone thinks they should be able to do without any effort – any time spent practicing and mental activity. When you take a trip you get your map or set your GPS – you make a plan – you pack and get an

itinerary. You think I have spent all this time with these materials

mindlessly! That no effort was spent – look at my crooked arthritic little finger – the miles of paper it has traversed!”

“When can we get you back?” they ask.

Oh my. You cost me the days after the workshop in anguish for what

I can not give you.

They have paid me their money for what? Greed says, “good thing

they do not require a money back guarantee?” Shame on me.

At critique I try to point out the small successful spots of their painting. They, like beaming school children will take it home to put it in some mat and frame and some unfortunate relative will have it thrust with pride upon them, and I will be blamed for their effort.

“What did that teacher see that we do not?” the puzzled embarrassed

recipient asks as they put it in the closet. “If this is art –

then . . .”

And the cycle continues. I am helping create the ignorance and

misconceptions I abhor.

I think I will take your advice and learn to meditate.

I have taken on a left-handed experiment that has resulted in some surprising revelations – but that is another letter.

From: Ross Cooper — Jun 29, 2009

I’ve been getting your newsletter for the last few years and they have always been interesting and helpful, but this one today is undoubtedly the best one for me ever! Thank you so much. I call this “the last great high” because I once saw a film of a Japanese potter who was totally absorbed in the pot he was making – beats sex, drugs, rock and roll!

From: Rosanne Licciardi — Jun 29, 2009

I like it – transartistic meditation. I was inducted in the 70s into transcendental meditation where each of us was given our own private mantra. You know what I found out years later? We are all given the same mantra. Paint away :)

From: Sharon Lynn Williams — Jun 29, 2009

For Pamela Haddock: I have never heard this common frustration actually uttered before, let alone in such a poetic way. But take heart because there are a few who will catch the bug and dive in, beginning that long plow through the miles of paper and canvas. I always try to remember while teaching, that the product is not what is important -it is touching people’s lives with the gift of seeing their world through new eyes.

From: Marsha Savage — Jun 30, 2009

Sharon, you are so right — and Pamela you have no way of knowing how wonderfully you have affected these students’ lives! They will look at the world in a totally different way from now on. That is a gift of the highest order.

I have had the same feelings you have expressed — wondering why they keep paying me for weekly classes. I have some students that have been with me for almost ten years. I have a waiting list for my night class. So, I must be doing something right. Those long-time students are also taking workshops from other teachers, but they keep coming back to me for the weekly or twice-monthly class. I keep learning and they know I will be talking to them about what I am learning — therefore passing on that knowledge.

Some will go on to learn more and become quite good artists, some might even be exceptional. Those that do not every quite get it, will appreciate art more, and also the miles of practice they can now see it takes. My “mantra” has been for quite some time, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” The students are beginning to understand.

You can be proud that you are turning on some people to art, whether as an artist or an appreciator of art. Keep teaching!

From: Janet Toney — Jun 30, 2009

TM, I don’t know, but the letter and all the commenters have caused me to levitate – due to amusement, the feeling of comradery and the magic cloak of abundant artsy talk!

P. Haddock, I can relate. It is a mystery why people think they can pick up a brush and become an instant artist. I’m not there yet and I’ve been trying since I was able to hold the brush – I’m 61! Most of them wouldn’t insult people in other occupations in this way. But, for some reason it seems everyone believes themselves capable of being an artist.

I have a friend who thought that about what I do. He attended my art shows and was complimentary, but also kept talking about trying this painting or that himself. After about two years, he came to me and said, “You are an artist.” I was confused and showed it in my face I guess, because he then said, “I thought I could do what you do. But I can’t. I appreciate your art more now.”

Maybe this will happen to your students. They will learn to appreciate art of others much more after trying to make it themselves!

People need to know there is something more to it than slapping paints on paper or canvas! A few people do have previously untapped talent, but many more don’t.

Another passion I have is decorating my home, and arranging things so life is easier, more efficient – get frustrated by being too poor to do what I’d really like but that’s beside the point! Back to my reason for bringing this up – I watch the home decorating TV stations. It makes me so aggravated when they copy art! They have no qualms about this, doing it on TV daily!!! Of course they do the same things about building and home decorating!

OK, thanks all for the conversation, insightful comments and thanks Robert ‘n’ crew for the chance to sound off!

From: Gene Martin — Jun 30, 2009

I will put my money on the 10,000hours. TM, meditation etc is nice but give me a nice day, good light, good companionship and golden silence and I just might show you something.

From: E. Weymouth — Jun 30, 2009

While white noise or music helps many, to me it is distracting while I am painting or drawing. Even talking to my subject during a portrait session can be annoying when I’m trying to consentrate on where the light hits and what tone goes here or there. My 2 cents.

From: David Golightly — Jun 30, 2009

Repeat this mantra with growing speed whenever you feel blocked and I guarantee enlightenment will dawn …

Oh Whaaaaa

Ta Naaaaaa




Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.