Ultimate creativity


Dear Artist,

We all have a tendency to focus on the daily progress and setbacks of our working lives. The balancing of practical matters and creative joy seem so all-involving that our art can become our main reason for living. Not that there’s much wrong with this — without dedication it’s pretty well impossible to thrive in the game. I’ve spent a bit of time in these letters trying to express the necessity of study, application and hard work. I’ve talked interminably of creative commitment. I’ve also talked about the values of family and significant life-passages. Over the years I’ve shared the death of my parents and other personal happenings, and I thank you for your patience.


original painting
by Kahlil Gibran

Perhaps not often enough have I mentioned the ultimate and rather excellent form of creativity that’s open to most of us. I’m talking about children. None of us asks to be born. We step out innocent to the world’s wiles. We require nurture to approach our potential — to be handled before we can handle. Children are soon enough presented with a puzzling world. “Keep me away,” said Kahlil Gibran, “from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.”

Carol and I have been blessed with three terrific kids. David, our oldest, is a musician and music producer. James, one of our twins, is a film director. Sara, our other twin, is a painter and singer-songwriter. How this den of artistry and application happened we never quite figured out. Believe me, we’re not disappointed there are no lawyers or accountants in our outfit. But I digress.

This morning at 8:21 David and his wife Tamara produced our first grandchild. Everybody’s doing well. The event makes it even more clear, no matter what else might happen during a short stay on the planet, this sort of creation rises above all else in its profundity. This has been a day of wonders. How David was issued with the genes to stand by in green scrubs and cut the umbilical cord we’ll never know. The glow of accomplishment and joy on Tamara’s face as she held the newborn was more beautiful than any painting or sculpture could ever be. Who knows what these perfect little hands will do — and where these tiny feet will take him. Please welcome Beckett David Nathaniel Genn.


by Kahlil Gibran

Best regards,


PS: “Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but are not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Esoterica: Art is life and life is art. Offspring may be the greatest art, but they are also like art. They eventually go into the world and make their own way. They flow from some source that we cannot fully know. Like art they require love and work. David and Tamara will know more of this when they check out of the hospital in a couple of days. “Work is love made visible,” said Kahlil Gibran. What a work has now become visible.


From a childless painter
by Linda Anderson Stewart, AB, Canada


“Break in the Rain”
oil painting
by Linda Anderson Stewart

Congratulations on your grandson’s birth. You are indeed lucky to be blessed with children. For those of us who will never be able to have children it is sometimes difficult to read such a letter… not that we don’t appreciate your reasons for writing it nor understand your joy and wonder in the event. Over the years I have learned to live with the separateness that being childless has inflicted on me… and my husband. They say it’s a couples’ world… I see it as a families’ world. I am fortunate to have a wonderful partner to share my life with so I take comfort in that… and as a painter I am learning to pass on what I have learned and seen to unknown “children” so that need gets filled. I am so grateful for that gift.


Ground to a halt
by Phyllis Behar, Manhattan, NY, USA


“Dawn at Mt. Moran” watercolour painting
by Phyllis Behar

It is so timely for me to hear about children. I have just completed our annual busy, loving, active time with visiting grandchildren. Ten days with two teenagers, then 2 weeks with a 9 and 11 year old. It was fun, exhausting, always interesting and often hilarious. My painting ground to a halt. My artistic life became about cooking, swimming, fireworks, card games and conversation (and hearing a great deal about the new Harry Potter which young Henry completed while with us… all 700 pages). I am assuming, optimist that I am, that all of this loving activity will fuel new paintings now that they have all flown home to Tennessee and California. Unlike others, I cannot multi-task when grand-parenting…


Unconditional love
by Sue Adam, Nelson, BC, Canada

I don’t think of myself as creative, really — I don’t paint, sculpt, throw pots, sing or play an instrument, etc. But I find much of what you discuss still relevant to my daily life. Today in particular. I have a grandson who is nearly 3, and welcomed his little brother less than a month ago. No matter how much you love your children, the flood of unconditional love for your grandchildren will still overwhelm you. It is not tempered by obligation or fear. You have no obligation but to love them.


Special bond
by Phyllis Tarlow, Hartsdale, NY, USA


“Hudson from the Bear Mt. Toll House trail”
oil painting
by Phyllis Tarlow

Yes, children and grandchildren are a wondrous and blessed thing to be lucky enough to have. I’m particularly aware of that at this very moment as I sit in a mid-town New York City hotel with my daughter who is 39 and who came up here for an operation that was performed as an outpatient. She asked me to stay with her the night before and for a few days after until she feels well enough to travel home to Florida. It comes right in the middle of a particularly hectic period of work with commissions due this week and the end of next and a show opening over the weekend. Yet, I feel honored that she still feels that her mother’s love is so reassuring that she asked me to be there for her. It’s a special bond that I cherish.


Offspring in art
by Dorothy Englander, Albany, NY, USA


“Echo III”
oil painting, 24 x 24 inches
by Dorothy Englander

In a way, there is a new offspring in my creating. I have been thinking of your bits of advice so much lately. In a step of growth and change in my twenty-five-plus year ongoing exploration, I am discovering a new direction in my work, one which encompasses parts of other areas where my imagery and methods have ventured, and yet one that is fresh and different in its approach.

In its wonder, life is full of such absurdity, and one way of dealing with it has been to put it into my art. I have a quote on my wall from you that starts, “Put more into it.” Part of it says to add more style, drama, energy, design, elegance, wonkyness, pathos, mood, texture, humour… etc. I have had this thought simmering for years; in fact I have used it in my own classes. Suddenly it has a direct application to my work, and seems to be the key to progress for me. Right off the bat the new work looks too wonky and humourous, but I say “So what!” So is my life, even in adversity!


Legacy of talent
by Peggy Devney, N. Little Rock, AR, USA

Both of my daughters are artists. My daughter with children is a fine artist (non-practicing due to being a new mama) and my youngest daughter just received her MFA from Emerson and is a poet! We too are not a family of doctors or lawyers but both girls went with their passion. It’s a struggle to make a living in the art world. I am proud of my girls and they are both happy – minus the school loans. I am the “late bloomer” creative, artistic and working in non-profit as a special events person. I have recently started painting in oils and have actually had some success with sales. I don’t have an art degree and I am timid about my work. This was your first letter to me and I was thrilled to receive it. I look forward to receiving my book in hopes it will inspire me to continue to grow in my art. Children are always an inspiration and my job allows me to be creative. Our organization has a huge art auction as our special event which raises money for youth and families in Arkansas. I am proud of what we do and, because I can use my art in my work, it makes me happy.


Emotional enlargement
by Nancy Bea Miller, Philadelphia, PA, USA


oil painting, 30 x 24 inches
by Nancy Bea Miller

I have three children myself which I find makes me stand out in my art community where most artists of my acquaintance have chosen to have no children at all. A few have just one. I’ve always wondered if this low birth rate is true for the arts in general, or only the visual arts, and also, why? I suspect that the very dedication/obsession you write about as an important part of having a career in the arts motivates people to cut down on what are seen as extraneous responsibilities and distractions. I respect other people’s choices, and children are indeed a serious responsibility and require a lot of time and attention. However, I personally find that they also “give back” and replenish my creative force enormously. I think I am a better person, a deeper thinker and more caring and sensitive in every way through becoming a mother… and I am humbly grateful for this “emotional enlargement.” Art is, after all, the mirror of one’s soul so I believe becoming a parent has not hurt the quality of my work in the slightest (in fact, quite the reverse), even if it has eaten into my studio time!


Mother and child theme
by Karen Martin Sampson, Sayward, BC, Canada


When I was doing a lot of commercial art I worked extensively for Childbirth Graphics, doing illustrations, including medical, of pregnancy, childbirth, and breast feeding. Several of my pieces were on the covers of their catalogs and I did a few books for them also. Depicting the mother and child subject was extremely gratifying, especially as I am a mother myself (my son nearly 31 now). I still am commissioned to do the mother and child theme for many portraits… capturing the essence of a little one is very challenging and I guess I succeed since children make up the majority of my commissions.


Children keep us grounded
by Mary Susan Vaughn, Weddington , NC, USA


“Center of the Known World”
oil painting, 36 x 24 inches
by Mary Susan Vaughn

I am the mother of 3 daughters (28, 26, and 13) and 1 son (10) and I never quite know what to expect next, but look forward to every minute. We have also been blessed with a grandson whom we have been raising since he was 2 weeks old (a surprise from our 28 yr old daughter) and he is now 7 years old and a joy to behold. I find it amazing how children, without even trying, manage to keep us grounded in our own childhood. Memories abound.





Children are not ours
by Linda Saccoccio, Santa Barbara, CA, USA


“Domains In Relief”
oil painting, 26 x 42 inches
by Linda Saccoccio

How beautiful to enjoy this “Ultimate creativity” in your family. It surely is still nothing less than miraculous to be with my daughters for whom I was a portal for their entering this world. They were instrumental in my own awakening, allowing me to be here more solidly and joyfully. My oldest daughter turns 12 on the 15 of August, and time is so quick as I view this growing gem. I agree totally with Kahlil Gibran that children are not our possessions, and that we are only their loving guides. This gives them the freedom to be who they are and flower confidently. It also gives me the space of breath to be clear and have faith in them without imposing or taking what they do personally. As with paintings we do our best, and when they are out in the world it is out of our hands. Could we do anything creative without essential faith? For me it all takes this leap.


The Beginning
by Linda Kukulski, Nanaimo, BC, Canada

I came across this poem The Beginning by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941, India’s first Nobel laureate), many years ago…


“The beginning”
mixed media painting
by Linda Kukulski

Where have I come from? Where did you pick me up?
The baby asked its mother.
She answered half crying, half laughing.
And clasping the baby to her breast.
You were hidden in my heart, as its desire, my darling
You were in the dolls of my childhood games
And with clay I made the image of my God every morning
I made you and unmade you then
You were enshrined with our household deity, in his worship
I worshiped you, in my hopes and in my loves
In my life and the life of my mother
You have lived in the deathless spirit that rules our home
You have been nursed for ages
And when in girlhood, my heart was opening its petals
You hovered as a fragrance about it
Your tender softness blossomed in my youthful limbs
Like a glow in the sky before the sunrise
Heaven’s first darling, twin born with the morning light
You have floated down the stream of the world’s life
And at last you have landed on my heart
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me
You who belong to all, have become mine
For fear of losing you, I hold you tight to my breast
What magic has snared the world’s treasure in these tender arms of mine.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Ultimate creativity



From: Theresa Bayer — Aug 07, 2007

Congratulations on your new grand baby! and as usual, your letters evoke lots of musings from your artist audience. Fun to think on those things while in the studio.

From: Scharolette — Aug 07, 2007

Yahoo, congrats on the new kid in town! Life is Art! You nurture after the birth, there comes a time of letting go, around the teenage years, they become who they are, (plus a little bit of you and me) we mold our children as best we can, we never really let go fully, they are always ours, …mmm sounds like a painting coming on, All our love to you folks!

From: Linda Bean — Aug 07, 2007

What a lucky little fellow to be born into your family. My husband, George, and I were joined by you and your guests for your “Friday Martini Hour” at Painters Lodge. What a memorable event and conversation! It’s been a very long time since I have met such a generous, loving and open spirit. You and Carol will be (are) wonderful grandparents.

From: Susan Jenkins — Aug 07, 2007

CONGRATULATIONS!! As the mother of 3 talented artists and the grandmother of 5 with one off to art and fashion design school I now have a great grand baby coming and can hardly wait to meet her! I remember the thrill of my first grandchild, what an enrichment they are to our lives! Blessings to you and your family.

From: MCCOTTER ART — Aug 07, 2007

Congratulations Robert on new arrival, I love your news letter, The Art Directory, the lot. To know there are people who feel and think like me. Thanks, June

From: Nancy McGrath — Aug 07, 2007

Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are in for a ride with your grandchild. It makes this part of your life worth living.

From: Sharon L. Blythe, Hope, BC — Aug 09, 2007

Congratulations on your new grandson. I was married at age 16 and had my first child at age 17. By age 25 we had two boys and two girls. I enjoyed most every minute while raising them. They have now given me ten grandchildren, the oldest 23, the youngest 13. Now I have three great grandchildren, the last born on April 22nd of this year. None of my children were planned but that didn’t matter and after all these years it still amazes me that God sends us these tiny miracles. There is nothing quite so wonderful as a tiny hand holding onto a finger as the baby nurses, or when they give you that first toothless smile. My wish is that all of the children in this world could have parents and grand parents who love them as much as I have loved, and been loved in return, by my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

From: Anonymous — Aug 10, 2007

A Gift of life is the best gift in life. Congratulation and Welcome Baby Beckett David Nathaniel Genn! What a memorable and exciting event. I can only imagine how your mind and heart are racing now with Baby Beckett’s face and every single move, expression and noise he makes …Hope, Happiness, and Dreams of Joy and Peace fill our souls with every baby but to be our own is totally the ultimate of life’s joy…I am so happy for you and your family with your little blessing’s arrival. Hold on to those precious moments as much as you can…guard them and protect them from fading away from your memories because whether we like it or not …they grow so fast…we think we will never forget…but we do….hold on and enjoy every single minute of your ride, every minute is so precious and your baby is the most precious of all…capture those moments…those emotions…and Enjoy your master piece.

From: Faith Puleston — Aug 10, 2007

I worked in the theatre for many years. I never thought about having children, but 2 arrived anyway. Many of my colleagues pitied me because I was no longer a “free agent”. Away from the theatre I know quite a few childless people, meaning people who have chosen not to have children. Their arguments are legitimate, I suppose, though I don’t agree with them. They always list the disadvantages of not being able to devote their lives to themselves and their own future glories, while having to bear the worry and care that goes with bringing up children. They never find arguments in favour. Many career-hungry colleagues had abortions. A singer friend had an abortion and never recovered psychologically. The child’s father hadn’t wanted the baby! But he left anyway and she took to drink, called all her voice students “her children” and died eventually of her addiction, having mourned her fatal decision for about 27 years. In the end, it’s the luck of the draw. Many of the female colleagues in the theatre who had remained childless by choice became desperate for a child when it was too late and/or the coveted career took a downward turn. I expect there are parallels everywhere.

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Aug 10, 2007

My 2 “little” boys – now 33 and 35! – are enough to make me proud, but on top of that, one is a natural sculptor and the other a very talented tattoo artist in the SF Bay Area. I never thought the amazing drawings he did in schol would lead to art on skin! It’s an incredible thing to see.

From: Pat Oblak — Aug 10, 2007

Robert, Warmest congratulations to you, Carol and the entire Genn clan! May Beckett be as creative and generous as you who touch so many lives in such a positive way.

From: Maryellen Sakura — Aug 10, 2007

My husband and I are spending a week with our newest grandson and his Mom and Dad. Despite temperatures in the 100’s here in Georgia it has been blissful. Nothing in the world sounds as sublime as a baby’s coo and even cry; nothing as beautiful as those small hands waving in the air. Enjoy your own sublime moments with your family. These are times when all is right with the world.

From: Dorothy Merrill — Aug 10, 2007

Lots of joy and happyness to the Genn family. Your grandson will show you a wonderful time in the years ahead.

From: Jane Brenner — Aug 10, 2007

I’m bothered by not knowing the dimensions of the work you show. The matter of scale is important! In professionally prepared catalogs and books of reproductions, dimensions are given. Perhaps this is a topic you’d like to discuss.

From: Cherine Marie — Aug 10, 2007

Birth, as a fresh drop of paint, the start of a new creation not knowing where it will go for a life of its own knows only itself. And we that are a part of it can only marvel at its true maker. I have two older paintings in progress known as daughter and son, and three small children of wonderment flow from their worlds. I am blessed with true creativity to my world and am so grateful for them all. Family…friends, they are the color to our heart. Robert, may your new baby paint drop bring a rainbow to your palette always!

From: Julie-Anne St-Laurent — Aug 10, 2007

My warmest congratulations to you all for the baby!!! It’s wonderful to see your happiness! Be blessed all of you!

From: Catherine Robertson — Aug 10, 2007

Congratulations Robert on the happy new grandson ! What a blessing and best wishes to all !

From: Retha du Toit — Aug 10, 2007

Congratulations on your new grandchild. Having six already I know each one is special, and yes I am also a grandma who cannot multi-task when grandchildren visit. Love them to come and are also glad to see them leaving – does that sound terrible.

From: Linda Consuelo — Aug 10, 2007

Congrats and welcome to the most joyful time in your life. There is nothing more wonderful than been called “papa, nono, tata, belito, grandpa, etc. They are yours, the fruit of all those moments that sometime we miss with our own, now you will enjoy and love more this second chance than any other time. Please enjoy it to the MAX.

From: M Louise Krabill — Aug 11, 2007

Welcome to the awesome world of grandparenting. Next month we will have 16 of these treasures, ALL ages seven and under! I have a loft in my studio specifically for having paint-overs with them.

From: Jan Field — Aug 12, 2007

Dear Robert Congratulations on the birth of your new grandbaby! May you enjoy the many lovely rewards of Grandparenthood! And….Thank you for continuing your always enjoyable letters. They keep me in touch with the art of my life – such a treat! Best wishes, Jan

From: MaryLou Andrews — Aug 12, 2007

August 4th we welcomed our fourth, but my daughter’s third child, into the world. I know the amazement you must feel as you look at those tiny fingers and toes…wondering what they will do and where they will go. Congratulations! Welcome to a new and wonderful world. Thank you for your “letters.” It is like having an artist and friend walk into my life. I like you being there.

From: Janet Sheen — Aug 12, 2007

He wasn’t my grandson, but he was my husband’s. The first time I laid eyes on our little Hudson lying in an incubator, all 2 pounds of him in sunglasses to shield him from the world I wept. I was to be called ‘Grandma Jan’, but Hudson told the world when he started talking. He’d give me a big grin and call “Hi, Bama”, and my heart has never been the same since.You might say he’s not my grandchild, but I would challenge you! He is! And now you will feel the pleasure of having your heart strings twisted, and it is so lovely. You will never be the same. Congratulations on the birth of Beckett.

From: Tammi Otis — Aug 15, 2007

Congrats on the grand-boy!!!!!! I had children VERY young and was mostly concerned with trying to feed us. As a result, I feel that I missed out on alot of the joy. I always told my girls that I raised my kids and any offspring of theirs would NOT be raised by me! Then my grand-boy was born. I cannot describe the rush of feeling when I saw him born. Everything changed. Now I sacrifice two days a week, 10 hours each, to watch my grandchildren. I cannot imagine my life without them. I feel I have a second chance to do all the things I had no time for when my girls were little. I have a prolific, successful painter friend who sometimes questions my dedication to my art because of the time taken up by kids, hence the dilemma of life vs. art, but the unconditional love I receive fuels me like air and water. I wish for you that same feeling! when I’m feeling like a loser, I just look at them and think, without me, with all my faults, they wouldn’t be here, I am a sucess. My best to you Robert! Tammi

From: Suzette Fram — Aug 16, 2007

Congratulations, Robert, to you and your family. Grandchildren are the ultimate gift; they SO enrich your life. If you are lucky enough to be close and are able to spend lots of time with them, you will develop a relationship with them that will be at times overwhelming, you will love them so much, and they will return that love a thousand fold and completely unconditionally. That has been my experience. Absolutely wonderful. (I miss Tamara on the news, hope she’ll be back eventually.)

From: CDM — Sep 04, 2007

Congratulations on the birth of your grandson, and to your son and daughter-in-law on the birth of their son! There is no greater gift from life than that of giving it! For those of us, though, who were unable to successfully give birth to living children or who chose not to have them, do we miss out on the ‘ultimate creativity’ you speak of? I ask because I do not know and wonder how you and others may view this.







Green Cross

oil painting
by Randy Burns, New York, NY, 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 Julie Roberts who wrote, “How lucky that baby is to be born in this safe and beautiful part of the world. I want my children to become parents just to know how much I really love them!”

And also Meed Barnett who wrote, “Yes, children are the ultimate creative inspiration. I am a fourth-generation artist, but I have produced a self-proclaimed nerd! Chandra just graduated from Caltech. She has a job in LA giving robots their brains!”

And also Shari Jones who wrote, “May I just say, CONGRATULATIONS!” (RG note) Thanks Shari and to everyone who sent love and best wishes regarding newborn baby Beckett. We were overwhelmed. Every single letter is being printed out and permanently bound. Truly a day to remember.




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