You are living in an unreal world

Dear Artist, Yesterday, I received an angry email from a New Jersey painter who wants to remain anonymous: “All this talk about joy, magic and inspiration is not worth a damn if no one is buying,” he wrote. “Two of my galleries have closed their doors, my main guy is getting mighty slow to pay, my Giclee printer is selling off his equipment, grants are impossible and my bills are building. You, Robert, are living in an unreal world.” Thanks, Anonymous. Our world is having its pants pulled down by Western debt. The art business, and most other businesses for that matter, are paying a price. Some countries are more depressed than others. Also, different cities are differently affected. Artists flourish when economies flourish. Art success is in the mood of the general population. When families once again spend money on cars, vacations and hockey games, there will be money again for art. Further, the art market parallels the housing market, and we know what’s going on there. Right now, tug captains and captains of industry are in for higher taxation and lower benefits. This is not so hot for art. This is not good news for creative folks who need to pay their bills. Right now there’s a natural extinction of less effective galleries. The Giclee print business is fading under the hot sun of overcapacity. Visual arts grants are now seen as unwarranted and unsustainable welfare going to flamboyant noise rather than quiet talent. Our world is changing. Today we are witnessing a mega-shift of wealth from West to East. In a way, things are now actually getting back to normal. Universal democratization and social redistribution are at our studio thresholds. We in the West were just lucky for awhile. It was just a dream. We are now beginning a life in the real world. The sky is falling. The end is nigh. It’s time to be spiritual again. Best regards, Robert PS: “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” (Buddha) Esoterica: Now for the good news: Hammered down by last year’s experience in real estate and stocks, some end-time investors are turning to the art market. Like the current passion for gold and other durables, some collectibles are actually experiencing a boom. Handmade is a valuable concept. Craft is in style. Local is great. Artists of quality have little to fear. As our little world grinds to its untimely end, our daily joy will pervade, and with the benefit of DNA and our unique and personal touches, no Chinese factory artists can help themselves to our last laughs.   The idealistic view by Robert Megerle, San Antonio, TX, USA   In Egypt the land is replenished each year with the rains from afar. This too is happening to the Western hemisphere. Artists have flourished in their art sales because the art sells. “Art for art’s sake” is a statement that many do not understand. As soon as an artist decides to make art to pay the bills, the art becomes, “Art for income’s sake.” Artists tend to change their art to meet the needs and wants of others and therefore contaminate their (artist’s) vision in order to create something that sells. Artists need to stop and think whether your art is something that sells because you paint what you want others to see, or do you paint what others are willing to buy? As an artist you should paint your vision, and if I like your vision or share it, I’ll buy it. There are 5 comments for The idealistic view by Robert Megerle
From: Anonymous — Feb 22, 2010

My sentiments exactly, paint what you love and for the love of it, selling is just the gravy. Heidi

From: Jennifer Woodburn — Feb 23, 2010

Yes – but if you love to paint, and you don’t mind painting what sells, what is the harm in that? You are still pursuing what you love!

From: Tatjana — Feb 23, 2010

Since I have been reading these letters I learned that it all boils down to what kind of artist one decides to be. Some paint what they love and if that happens to sell well, they can live from it. If it doesn’t happen to sell well, they take a day job. Some on the other hand produce what sells and enjoy something else as a hobby. The hardest break have those who are unsuccessfully trying to chase what sells – that’s tough, so they can use good wishes and advice. It takes all kinds!

From: Anonymous — Feb 28, 2010

I wonder how much art that artist BUYS. If he doesn’t sometimes buy art he loves why does he expect everyone else to go buy his art, and in this economic climate? If he is so bitter it may even show in his current work. I am sorry for his “main guy” and his printer, but he just seems mad at everyone. (re “Living in an Unreal World” Feb 19)

From: Anonymous — Mar 16, 2010

Re: Anonymous Feb 28: Even if the artist buys a million dollars worth of others’ art, it wouldn’t change the fact that others aren’t buying much of HIS art, because of the recession. You misinterpreted what he wrote, by claiming that he ‘seems mad at everyone’. He made a legitimate point, which you missed and twisted. His point was that because of the poor state of the art market, Robert’s sunny optimism was inappropriate.

  Gallery thrives by offering more by Phil Dynan, Corning, CA, USA  

“Question 30: Is There A God?”
acrylic painting
by Phil Dynan

Our gallery is doing fine, and our artists still sell work, but we do not have any false or grandiose expectations. We do what we do because we love art (we are both working artists, as well as unpaid gallery directors). We have the first and only Art Gallery in this rural county. Because art sales only account for 25% of our business, we also offer other services. Art Supplies have been the best extra. Because of incredibly high unemployment in our area (maybe 40-50% in this county) we have many non-artist people buying art supplies. They are not going to exhibit, they just want something expressive and meaningful to do with their time. They often end up buying from us a few giclée prints of their very personal drawings and paintings — to give to their relatives. It is a win-win situation. They also come to our Saturday “open session” lessons and love the social and art atmosphere so much it is hard to get them out the door at closing time. (Red Bluff Galleries, Corning, CA, USA) There are 4 comments for Gallery thrives by offering more by Phil Dynan
From: Virginia Wieringa — Feb 23, 2010

What a lovely painting. I think the answer to Question 30 is: yes.

From: Anonymous — Feb 23, 2010

I agree! There certainly is a God … He is the Greatest Artist of us all! Just look at His ‘handiwork’ …

From: Dana Whitney (Steiner) — Feb 23, 2010

I must look up Corning, CA and put it on my list. What a lovely “mission” you’ve given yourself in your business. As Tom Leherer used to sing… you’re “doing well by doing good.” Continued success.

From: BB Freeman — Feb 24, 2010

It’s been a long time since I lived in Corning– but glad to hear there is now an art gallery .

  The weeding out of artists by Jane Freeman, Bemidji, MN, USA  

“Monday’s wash”
original painting
by Jane Freeman

In some areas of the country there are actually very few practicing artists left! They have had to go to work to support themselves or family… some have gone back to school to get the skills they need to get a job. It has been a very sad movement to see with some very talented artists. I am in one of those areas where little sells and if it does sell it is the price tag that dictates the purchase. Cheap. But through this I am focusing on my painting and how to improve it and perhaps add new techniques to it. I might even use this time to begin to go in new directions entirely. Always a realistic still life painter, I am now dreaming of large sky paintings… something I have dreamed of a long time but was too busy to pursue. Now I think is the time for us to dream new dreams, move out into uncharted waters and stay positive. Hard to do of course if you must pay the bills and feed a family. The weeding out is happening. There will be fewer artists. Those of us who remain need to pick up our game and be the best we can be. I love my life and am so grateful I can continue it… but for many it is not so and for them I have great sadness because our art defines us as who we are. Many will lose their identity. There are 3 comments for The weeding out of artists by Jane Freeman
From: Libby D — Feb 23, 2010

You say “They have had to go to work…” Doesn’t that imply that what they were doing, i.e.painting/art, wasn’t working?

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Feb 23, 2010

I understood what Jane meant without having to twist words to do it. “Going to work” = getting a job with someone else telling you what hours to work and doing something probably not art-related. The kind of jobs that suck out energy and creativity, simply so that you can put food on the table and pay bills. I am, I suppose, somewhat lucky. Illness imposed both early retirement and a major life-style change on me years ago. So I picked up my first passion again, making art. Oh, yes, it is work, and mightily frustrating at times, especially since I do rely on sales to at least keep me in art supplies. I am used to poverty, and to making do. But now even making do is becoming a challenge. At least now I am not alone! But I will not ever lose my identity as an artist, even if I end up scrounging used plywood and housepaint!

From: Anonymous — Feb 23, 2010

It’s pretty arrogant to assume that non-art jobs are necessarily ‘the kind of jobs that suck out energy and creativity’. I love my non-art job! Also, I identify as an artist even though I *choose* not to sell my paintings. One is not solely defined by what one does for a living.

  Recession an opportunity to build inventory by Jim Lorriman, Shelburne, ON, Canada  

“The Source”
by Jim Lorriman

Obviously, your angry emailer is working without a recession plan as are, sadly, many of the artists in my neck of the woods. I have always thought that we are the last to get aboard the gravy train and the first off so our window of opportunity is the smallest. The recession is, possibly, a once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure that we get on that train earlier and get off later. I am a craftsman and as such cannot make “prints” of my pieces. Each is “one off” and they tend to be made in a linear fashion. In other words, one at a time. Here is how I am dealing with the “gift” that I have been given. First, I have the opportunity to build my inventory. My recession plan has two parts to it. I will continue to make my high end pieces and stockpile them for a better time. I am developing a line of jewelry that is both practical and inexpensive (less that $100). This is starting to provide cash flow for now and should see me nicely through the downturn. The key is that you never get the time back. We need to use this period as a time of growth; to prepare for a future where there is once again a demand for what we do. If we find ourselves unprepared for the better times ahead, we will have only ourselves to blame. When the recession is over and, I suspect, that it will be 5 to 7 years from now, I will have a depth of inventory that I have never had before. I will be prepared for a market that will be increasing in its demand for my work. I will never be behind the 8 ball again! There are 6 comments for Recession an opportunity to build inventory by Jim Lorriman
From: Debra — Feb 23, 2010

“We never get the time back…” so very true. I, too, just go to my room and work and the inventory builds. When approached my a gallery for a show last summer, I had more than enough work to chose from-what a great feeling!

From: sharon cory — Feb 23, 2010

I agree completely. I’m reworking some canvasses that never struck me as just right. I’m cutting up leftover roll ends of watercolour paper and doing up some ink sketches (the ink bottles have been sitting there for about 3 years). I’m rematting and reframing, using up materials that again have been sitting waiting. This is a great time for rebirth and I can feel the stirrings of new ideas and growth.

From: suzanne — Feb 23, 2010

the best comment i have heard in a loooong time … kudos to you !!

From: Ron — Feb 23, 2010

Really great idea,you Canadians seem to have great ideas(just look at Robert) and you can really curl good too..

From: Tom Lockhart — Feb 24, 2010

It’s certainly a time for reflection. When times were much more lucrative, I bought lots of art supplies and frames ahead. Now, I’m glad I did. My dad always said, “Invest in yourself first, it will pay off down the road”. I am using things now that are taking me out of my comfort zone. It’s also very challenging painting to already existing frames in my inventory but I am using materials and supplies I already having saving money.

From: J.McDowell ..creston bc — Feb 24, 2010

It,s because we make such good wine and beer ,Ron

  Choosing our own joys and sorrows by Dennis Marshall, Paterson, NJ, USA   Eventually the stormy seas will calm and art will sell. After every storm one usually assesses the damage and this storm is no different. Quality will sell, art that connects to the heart and spirit will sell. Some aspects of the art business will change due to this economic storm or the technology that will create changes on the playing field. I understand that one has to take charge and be pro-active in terms of business. Yet it is during these storms that one can paint and keep moving forward while waiting for the sun to shine again. I do not believe that the sky is falling. What does concern me though is the vitriol that is out there that passes for public discourse. Many in the public arena play to fear not hope offering the false gods of supposed righteous indignation instead of working to solve problems. As Kahil Gibran stated, “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” There is 1 comment for Choosing our own joys and sorrows by Dennis Marshall
From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Feb 23, 2010

Thanks for the reminder, Jim and Dennis. I am using this lull to explore and experiment (and thanks to Robert for some ideas on how to go about that with joy and abandonment). Not only am I having fun, I’ve found myself venturing into areas of myself I’d not been aware of, and developing a series of paintings that feel more mine than what I’d been doing. Who knows where I’ll go from here?

  Having a rough time? Come to Iraq by Skip Rohde, Asheville, NC, USA  

“Waiting at the Airport, Baghdad”
graphite on paper
by Skip Rohde

We’re not living in an “unreal” world, we’re living in a changing world, one in which individual professional artists are being squeezed. If you’re very good and very, very, very fortunate, you can paint what you love and make a living at it. Otherwise, you have to adapt somehow. Some try to figure out what’s selling and then do more like that. (I see some of those works even in the big-name elite galleries in New York!) Other people do something else for their financial support and save their passion for their art. I am temporarily following that latter approach, having come to Iraq for many reasons, not all of them financial. But soon I’ll be able to return home and resume painting pictures that nobody will buy. I can’t wait! But if your New Jersey painter needs a reality check, I humbly submit that he come to some place like Iraq, with no economy to speak of, and talk with Iraqi artists who are still marching to their own drums and trying to get by. Artistic talent and the ability to make a living at it are not necessarily related. There are 2 comments for Having a rough time? Come to Iraq by Skip Rohde
From: Jonas — Feb 23, 2010

Tell us more about Iraqi’ artist “marching to their own drums” and making ends meet.

From: Steve Randall — Feb 23, 2010

Yes. You can find inspiration in the shooting gallery. I did- in Vietnam in 1968- and would do it again in a heartbeat. There are more of us. We should all go for our ‘reality’ checks.

  Things could be worse by Cathie Harrison, Roswell, GA, USA  

“Dusk Approaching”
original painting
by Cathie Harrison

One thing the East has over the West is patience. Our lust for instant gratification doesn’t always serve us well when it comes to art. (Giclees come to mind.) I expect there is already in development a Kindle type device for art. I know there’s an app for that on i-phone, but soon maybe someone will pay a dime to be the first to see the fresh wet canvases. Who knows where this will lead? Meanwhile the good old sage advice you give so often is the very best thing to do while we wait patiently… go to your room and paint and be joyful! No one is really too interested in buying things from angry people. Things could be worse… we could own a Toyota dealership. There are 2 comments for Things could be worse by Cathie Harrison
From: linda mallery — Feb 23, 2010

Very lovely, peaceful and cool.

From: edie pfeifer — Feb 25, 2010

love the last line, good sense of humor. Reminds me of the man who was down and out, he heard a voice that said “cheer up, things could be worse” So, he cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!

  Does joy sell? by Andrew Purchin, Santa Cruz, CA, USA  

“Davenport Storm”
original painting
by Andrew Purchin

In these times of economic uncertainty, I paint in part to remind myself that joy is an infinite resource. This is a reality for those of us who can embrace it. I also paint what I see and what I feel — I find myself learning all about storms and uncertainty. I focus on the movement of it all — so many temporary beauties — it’s endless. Yes, Anon has a very good point about these are very hard times with galleries closing and it is hard to sell art. I’m aware of conflict, anxiety and uncertainty. I choose to anchor myself to the known — the sun rises and sets and change is a constant in nature. Does joy sell? Well if I am happy and work hard sourcing beauty, it certainly increases the odds. There is 1 comment for Does joy sell? by Andrew Purchin
From: Jonas — Feb 23, 2010

Nice painting. To me it depicts the storms we are now entering.

  Start creating your world by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA  

“Pine Tree and Waterfall”
ink painting
by Lisa Chakrabarti

Anonymous needs to get his/her house in order. Frankly, so do we all. We were living in an unreal world: grants and other similar luxuries do not materialize out of thin air. These sorts of entitlements are ruses and have finally reached critical mass when the piggy-bank, i.e. taxpayers, suddenly can’t pay for them. This IS a re-distribution of wealth, and it stinks big time: people deserve to keep what they earn — or most of it, but that is not what has been going on. And our individual pie-slices are going to be down a few crumbs if things don’t turn around. You, me, WE will have to deal with this. I hate to use clichés, but, sorry, Anonymous: “No one promised you a rose garden.” If you really consider yourself an artist, then start creating your world.         Giving is the new getting by Toni Ciserella, Marysvale, UT, USA   That poor New Jersey painter has been living on borrowed time. The world is changing and for some that change is going to hurt — especially if they have put their faith (money, energies) into ‘the system’ and followed ‘the formula to success.’ For those who have viewed things from a larger perspective and have recognized the need to stay true to themselves, tune out and turn off the mass media hysterics and hype and embrace the humanitarian good will that permeates right here in your own neighborhood. It’s Karma time and those who followed the masses and supposed ‘experts’ will be frightened and angry when it no longer works. Those who dabbled on the edges and those who went their own way, will surely not be as devastated as the ones who blindly followed. Giving is the new getting, and if you had previously spent your time taking, then you are way behind and need to do some hard work to catch up. Those who have some wisdom under their belt will be just fine and possibly it will be their time to reap. I love change. It’s a new world and a new adventure. How could that be anything but good? It puts us all on the same playing field if we only just go with the flow. Good luck. There are 3 comments for Giving is the new getting by Toni Ciserella
From: sharon cory — Feb 23, 2010

Brilliant Toni. I’m with you.

From: Darla — Feb 24, 2010

Toni, I agree with you that giving, and being able to give, is the truest form of wealth. But how can we all be on the same playing field? The gulf between rich and poor, once bridged by the middle class, is cracking and widening. We’re not even in the same stadium.

From: Toni — Feb 26, 2010

I agree Darla, that the gap between the rich and poor is astronomical. I was speaking in terms of which way the art market will go, since no one can can count on what worked before will work in the future. That would suggest we are all in the same boat.

  Therapist in need of therapy by David Lacey, Centreville, NS, Canada  

“Bar Fly”
original painting
by David Lacey

Wow, today’s message from above was painful. I am sorry you feel so depressed about the future. Actually I feel there are some signs of a strengthening art market. As you say some less stellar galleries are fading but the robust ones are doing okay and getting better, from what I hear and experienced. Buck up amigo! All will cycle around and flourish again. I remember in the ’80s all the artists I know thought it was the end. It wasn’t and it isn’t this time. I just look at it as time to paint my very best works because nothing else will do. Thanks for your constant therapy sessions. Nobody believes that therapists don’t need therapy too. There is 1 comment for Therapist in need of therapy by David Lacey
From: linda mallery — Feb 23, 2010

Wow, this just lights up! Awesome jewel tones. Well done.

  The crash a welcome gift by Heather Haynes, Australia   I have been doing extremely well with my art in the last 6 years. I am in my late 30’s, actually just hanging on to the 3 for a few more months. The last 2 years have been such a blessing. My Agent had to stop buying my work with a halt. Thank goodness, I was burning out anyway. I went to Africa as a volunteer and was able with this slow down to produce the most important work of my life. If things hadn’t crashed it would have made it hard to follow this creative lead. I wasn’t pulling in the money I had been so we (my husband and I) brainstormed about the future. We had always wanted to travel with the kids but hard to leave a painting career that is building and building. Well thank god for the slowdown because we are now traveling for 5 months in Australia and New Zealand. We also had dreamed of moving permanently to the cottage on the lake, but thought this would be when the kids head off to University, they are only 8 and 12 so we had some waiting to do. Well thank god for the crash in the markets because we sold our house in Sept. which gave us money to travel for the winter (we had to after all the cottage isn’t winterized yet). We will head home in the Spring and start building studios for my musician husband and myself, winterizing the cottage to make it a home. Perception is everything. Living uniquely, the glass is half full, actually it is overflowing. I have never wanted to be a slave to my art and art sales. This can kill the creativity and the flow… The crash has been the most welcome gift. I have heard many stories of people coming back down to earth finding peace with her. I just wanted you to know I’m out here living the dream loving to paint, showing up. There are 2 comments for The crash a welcome gift by Heather Haynes
From: Anonymous — Feb 23, 2010

Hi Heather! Nice to hear your voice from ‘down under.’ I think you have the right attitude…you will surely be re-energized upon your return to Canada; and we can all look forward to enjoying your future work that will surely come out of it down the road. have a great time over there. -Sally Chupick, Kingston

From: Anonymous — Feb 24, 2010

This agent seems like our own homegrown modification of an art factory. Maybe that is the model for the future art market. Thoughts?

  [fbcomments url=””]    woa  

Ode to Joy

oil painting 35 x 40 inches by Valentine Ioppe, Russia

  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 Joanna Clark of Columbia, MD, USA, who wrote, “We are awakening from a dream of superiority into the reality that we are all in this together: men women, animals, plants, air and water, artists and industrialists, tug captains and sheep herders, East and West, Democrat and Republican.” And also Michele Caplan who wrote, “I am a jewelry designer and aspiring artist. I hang out in the diamond district in NY, not always a very artistic venue, but a leading economic indicator. My sales are up, as are my subcontractors. Hopefully this is a sign that better times are coming.” And also Joy Engelman of Australia, who wrote, “Stop worrying and just get out there, paint like there’s no tomorrow and keep on talking to people, keep having shows, keep slogging away – it’s all character building after all!” And also Doris Daigle of New Brunswick, Canada, who wrote, “We’ve been blowing up the balloon so large that it has to burst some time, right?” And also Michael Parsons of South Africa, who wrote, “Never blame the economy for bad sales. It’s the easy way out. Paint a better picture!”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for You are living in an unreal world

From: Brigitte Nowak — Feb 18, 2010

Anon. is right The satisfactions that artists get from external supports and extrinsic rewards may currently be few and far between. So this may be the time for Anon. to look inside himself. Why does he paint? Is it just to pay the bills? If so, it may be a good time to investigate another line of work, anyway. Since the paintings aren’t moving as quickly as in the past, this may be a good time to regroup, ask if style, subject matter or technique needs to be spruced up. When paintings are moving out of galleries at a fair clip, it may be tempting to cut corners or become complacent. Perhaps this is a good time for Anon. to confirm that the quality of his work is as solid as it can be. Does his work continue to be exciting and original in concept? Is his technique as strong as possible? Maybe the solution is as simple as seeking out new venues, such as outdoor shows, restaurants, churches and libraries. It doesn’t sound as if Anon. is excited by the pure joy of painting. If his art is not giving him joy, how can he expect it to bring joy to others? Yes, art is driven by sound economies. But there will always be people with money and the will to spend it on the things they love and want. It is the artist’s calling to create works of truth and beauty, to express joy and sorrow, to bring clarity, perception and originality to the canvas. Perhaps if Anon. tried harder to do that, his sales might become “unreal”.

From: Ron Unruh — Feb 18, 2010

Well, following Robert’s comments I came online to say that we will have to paint for the shear joy of painting. And we may need to derive pleasure from other aspects of our art activity. I had opportunity to speak to a room of art lovers at Surrey Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago. I simply told my story of art in my life and displayed 18 paintings and had a very enjoyable time interacting with new acquaintances in the art community. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a call for a commissioned painting recently and a sale of another painting from my website. The sales may be sporadic and lean but I think painting, read painting, fall to sleep at nights with paintings on my mind. Brigitte might be right that in such a down market an assessment of motivation and painting quality are wise actions but wow was she bold to do her analysis of and recommendations to ‘anonymous.’ More power to both of you.

From: Eric — Feb 18, 2010

It’s a shame when anyone equates commercial success with satisfaction in the creative process. If money is a primary concern, I agree that looking objectively at what you’re creating, how you’re presenting it, and how you’re pricing it will go a long way to determining whether you are, in fact, contributing to the perceived downturn in your market. Less expensive versions of your original work – small prints, calendars, cards, etc. – can help fill the revenue gaps while also augmenting demand and recognition. It looks like it will be a while before the western economies rebound, but if all you plan to do is fret and moan until the turnaround you’ll likely miss many excellent opportunities. Good luck to you.

From: odette nicholson — Feb 18, 2010

Aren’t artist supposed to welcome change and growth, in fact, seek it out? The world is no more chaotic than at any other time in history, there is just movement as usual – but too much media fed panic, so just stop watching the news and get on with things! I recently lost my personal (non-art related) business and my day job, not to economic meltdown, ironically, due to the upswing in market values where I live (speculators in real estate) property flipping, huge rent increases a situation that makes it very hard for any business with a lease to survive – no doubt the galleries as R says have a natural thinning out process just as all businesses do. I spent a month wallowing in magical thinking – if I’d only been paying more attention to what my landlord was up to, if I’d only been able to find another location, if this, if that, if things had turned out differently…blah blah blah then snapped out of it when I realized that well, things would indeed now be different! I am lucky to have my art to fall back on! My art for the past 25 years has not been a source of ‘real’ income, thus now that I no longer have a job (which was the second family income), I can stay home and paint again for the same reason I always paint – because I want to (for a little while until the next day job anyway). There is an upside to everything, if you look hard enough and are willing to play the cards you are dealt.

From: Julie Thompson — Feb 18, 2010

Now might be a great time for Anon to look at other avenues for marketing his work. Yes, gallery sales are slow. I haven’t had a gallery sale in over a year that I did not personally steer to the gallery. But business for me has never been better. Explore your avenues.

From: John Ferrie — Feb 18, 2010

Dear Robert, It is this type of artist who really should hang up their easel and go sell real estate. This type of artist, who always claims to have done nothing wrong, is mad at the world for the economy tanking. NEWSFLASH, Art is a luxury item there SpitFire, and it’s the LAST thing people buy. The first thing to go when there is any sign of economic down fall is the purchase of art. Yet, here is another artist who has pinned all of his hopes on a gallery for their fame and fortune. The economy has been at it’s worst in 25 years and with this mushrooming complex bankrupt ladened days, he should have seen this coming. At the end of the day, artists need to push through with their work, no matter what! Dial up the quality make smaller exquisite and affordable pieces and bring people back to their work. And if nobody buys, they need to continue. Meanwhile, collect bottles, do telemarketing or get a paper route. A gallery closing it’s doors is not the end of the world. But one less artist not working because it’s not selling is just pathetic! Always, John Ferrie PS, and I WISH People would have the decency to sign their name to these rants. I received two stellar pieces of sage advice from two anonymous nay sayers on your blog the other day.

From: Susan Holland — Feb 19, 2010

Artists suffering from the economic downturn and galleries suffering the same fate as other businesses dependent on the availability of customers with “mad money” to spend on stuff other than food, shelter, and clothing, are just experiencing first-hand what the rest of the developed world is being doused with; i.e., the reality of what life is like for the larger portion of the world. Robert is right that we in the privileged segment of world population have been living in the dream world of privilege. Artists would be edified to look at the art that has come out of the poorest of circumstances through the ages (look at the Lasceaux caves, for instance, or at the richness of our treasured African, Chinese, Peruvian, Alaskan, Russian, icons and illuminations made by monks, and even the art coming out of some prisons in the USA! Primitives and slaves and the least of the least in the way of material wealth have given us some of the most colorful and spiritual art in history. It was not for retail purposes they made it. It was the issue of the heart and the product of the spirit. That’s often what ends up selling for high prices at Christie’s in the boom times.

From: Meltemi/TheMeltemi aka Phil Kendall — Feb 19, 2010

Now is the time to mop-up those bargain buys of art materials. Now is the time to take solitude in the Studio. now is the time to paint reflectively. now is the time to paint variants on each artwork. now is the time to just get on with it and build-up your available stock of your finest artworks. Alternatively finally be the full-time artist AND open/take-over your OWN art gallery. Robert give the visually impaired a break your simple maths anti-spammers…characters are appalling

From: cora — Feb 19, 2010

We have been living in an unreal world for so long. I would be happy if people bought my paintings at what they value them at. I tells me some thing. There are exorbitant prices on some of those pieces out there. We pay millions for athletes who are only good because of the illegal steroids they take. What ever happened to the simple way of life. It has changed and if we want to survive we do what everyone who experienced adversity. We sit back ponder, plan, never stop dreaming. Maybe it is time for a little change of heart and love the work not the monetary gains. If you love the work and continue, when bad times equal out you still will have a body of work that is ready for the market. You may have to bite the bullet and take on a part time job to sustain yourself, just never stop dreaming. That’s what started most of us down the creative path. Right now I am working on art dolls and finding a little change is an inspiration.

From: Cooper — Feb 19, 2010

Hi Robert, “The Giclee print business is fading under the hot sun of overcapacity. ” I for one, say yay! What better way is there to illustrate the American syndrome of “I want it all and I want it now” than the giclee? Everybody talks about going back to a simpler time, painting for painting’s sake — I think that includes real versus copy. And by the way, how hard was it to predict way back in the beginning, that the giclee was going to screw up the art market?! Later, Cooper

From: JMull — Feb 19, 2010

I can’t help feel the letter and your click-back are more about the dividing line between the optimist and the pessimist. Yes, times are tough, but even when they were great (they may never be again in the west), people still suffered, still lost homes, businesses failed, etc. It depends on what you focus on and how you approach tough times. Maybe Anon needs to take a part-time job, reduce prices, whatever…but they certainly need to get out of that mind-frame… solutions don’t come when you focus on the negative. btw, my attitude; the glass is half-full of water and half full of air…

From: Darla — Feb 19, 2010

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time — for me, art’s not a viable way to make a living, but it seems so self-indulgent and almost pointless to do it only for myself. I want other people to see it and see their responses; I don’t want to just stick it in a closet. Art’s not complete without an audience. If a painting sits in the dark and no one sees it, is it art? Does it matter? With all that, galleries seem like a dead end, too. Non-artists think of painting as being something magical, and it is. People need magic now more than ever. How can we get artists together with audiences in this or any other economy? Lessons? “Art leagues” with teams, competitions and playoffs? Shows that combine art with some other, more active form of entertainment? Niche marketing? Raffles? What do you think?

From: Alan Soffer — Feb 19, 2010

Yes, Humpy Dumpty is broken for now. Personally, 4 of my best galleries closed, which represented a lot of time developing proposals and relationships. Worse yet, many of the remaining ones are on the ropes. So, when a new gallery is interested in you, should you have a little trepidation that maybe they will fold, not return artwork, not pay commissions. I think about that. I am part of an exceptional group that has not been able to get a venue for our show, “Beyond Abstraction.” We can’t find non-profits who can sponsor us due to the financial crisis. My personal situation is OK, in that I have sufficient funds to sustain our family. I think any artist who supports himself on sale of artwork alone must consider a ‘day job’ for now and possibly the future. The good side for me is to rethink what makes art so alluring in the first place, which is the challenge of discovery and the pleasure of experimentation. I am looking at being more risk-taking, the way I started out, before galleries were in the mix. If we can do that, you and I may just be able to climb to new heights.

From: Kate Wickham — Feb 19, 2010

We opened our gallery February 21, 2009. Your anonymous writer would have considered this folly or stupidity. I thought as a new gallery in Arlington TX (not Dallas or Fort Worth) that I would have to start with 2nd tier artists and gradually work up to the best artists. Because of the recession I have been able to attract and exhibit top caliber artists. Sales are not as brisk as we would like, but the gallery is establishing a quality reputation in our community. Prosperity is daily evident. This week I taped an interview about the gallery to be shown multiple times on Time Warner local TV program “On Exhibit”, Alyson Stanfield featured a piece of my art on her blog, the Texas Photographic Society forwarded my last newsletter to their email list, and we’re hosting a reception tonight for peace groups to welcome John Kinyon to Arlington and celebrate the 3 day workshop he’s facilitating on advanced Nonviolent Communication.

From: Raney Rogers — Feb 19, 2010

Robert, I think your response to anonymous from New Jersey is a very good one. It IS time to turn to our spirituality as that is the only thing that really matters anyway, no matter what your avocation. Perhaps now more than ever, those whose passion is not the “arts”, but money, will be led to other avenues of existence. That is a big part of the problem anyway. If you are born to create art, that is simply what you should do, and the spiritual part is the part that keeps you focused, not the renumeration. In a spiritual world, it is amazing how things that need to be tended to in the physical world can be accomplished in ways that are indeed “magical”. I will take the magic and live on the edge like I have for the last 30 years, for the sake of my art.

From: Shale — Feb 19, 2010

Cora, the way I see it we pay millions to the extraordinary talented and hard working athletes. Most of us would never be able to do one percent of physical exertion they do on daily bases. They take drugs to take it even a step further — to be the starts who sell sport to the public. What they do is illegal, they sacrifice their reputation, health and even life by doing that. Some say that is despicable, but that’s what masses want to see and pay millions to see it. I still remember Ben Johnson and Marion Jones but I don’t remember many of those who did not make that extra step. That’s the reality and people choose not to see the part of it that is not plausible. There would be no money flowing into sports if it wasn’t for those that take drugs, damage their health, but attract the masses and their dollars. There would be no sport facilities, programs for children and communities — it’s all a part of the same game — some parts of it are dirty, some are noble, but all are necessary.

From: Bella — Feb 19, 2010

I just had a wild thought. If our system is falling apart as unsustainable, maybe we should try to learn something from the countries who have been prospering in this new age? For the artists who were living in the giclee market – how about putting together an art factory?

From: Jackie Knott — Feb 19, 2010

I know people who have lost their homes, had their car repossessed, lost their business, lost jobs, lost medical insurance, and became seriously ill. And you’re annoyed they can’t buy your artwork? It’s the times, friend. It appears you have been associated with the wrong galleries. You can do two things: use this time as a sabbatical away from art and get temporary employment of any kind, from sacking groceries to handyman. Many of us had to in the 80s. And it has little to do with your work. Next, whatever marketing you have employed in the past, stop and explore other avenues. To quote a rodeo announcer after a struggling cowboy blew his calf roping event, “He needs to change horses, change saddles, get another rope, and change his underwear if that helps.” In other words, start over. Georgia O’Keefe did and it took her from bland to greatness. And the most important point that should be made, we live in a glut art market. A quality artist will rise to the top and can weather a down economy, but the art market will always suffer. Me, I published a book ( It beats cleaning houses, but I would do so again if need be. Whatever it takes ….. and that needs to be done with a positive attitude.

From: James McDowell Creston B.C, — Feb 19, 2010

Right On Jackie, I wish i was that articulate….Perhaps i,d have been a writer instead of a painter

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Feb 19, 2010

My solution/plan of action for 2010 (and possibly beyond) was to change my format a bit (downsize to smaller canvas,) look to other sources of art revenue (more teaching, less exhibiting, for the time being) and really hunker down (spiritually, emotionally, and technically) and work on quality pieces for the next two years (or more) so that when change happens, I will be ready. I agree, too many people have lost too much, however, being the creative people that we are we need to figure out how to survive as artists…and complaining is definitely not productive…nor proactive. We are a smart tribe and we will figure it out.

From: Theresa Bayer — Feb 19, 2010

I love my “unreal world” I live in, because it’s exactly the one you mention in the Esoterica. The world where daily joy pervades, individualism rules because nobody can paint just like me and I can’t paint just like them — which is a really good thing for individual artists, and to no benefit for art factories. I love my unreal world, because I get to invent it as I go. I get to portray things that don’t exist, and never will exist except for in my paintings. Let’s hear it for that unreal world that artists invent. Where would the real world be without us?

From: Dwight Miller — Feb 19, 2010

You have tapped into what should become a long discourse, one in which I feel minimally qualified to participate, that I deeply hope others with more insight into the possibilities than I will add what they know and feel. But maybe this reaches beyond the Robert Genn Twice Weekly Newsletter and its mission. Except for this: I would like to know far more about what you think the place of art — and artists — to be in the state of our health, as individuals and as nations. You have raised key issues, prime reasons why we — again, as individuals and as nations — should reach deep into ourselves for a greater validity. Boone

From: Flora Hutterer — Feb 19, 2010

You exhibit insight into the movement of wealth from West to East. However, this shift in prosperity not only flows in an easterly direction, but south as well. Many components, such as population, education, job opportunities, democracy, ideology, are of vital importance to improve the position of individuals, companies and countries. As conditions improve for people, they will have the time and means to purchase art and create culture. A current article in the latest edition of the publication “Foreign Affairs” might interest you, as it provides information on the changing economies of this world. Living in an unreal world can only happen if you can change as the world changes. Then it becomes real. Thank you for your excellent and informative letters.

From: Ann Hardy — Feb 19, 2010

You are my kind of critter. I am behind you echoing “Amen” to every syLABle that comes out of your mouth. Thanks for you and your bravery. Hold your ground, kid! We are pretty spoiled and feel like life “owes us”.

From: Helena Tiainen — Feb 19, 2010

There is probably not one single person on this planet who has not been somehow effected by the current financial shift. Here again, like in any challenging situation, we seem to be asked to look for what is really important to us in life. Those of us who have to make art, will keep on making art. Those who have been making art for money, may or may not continue depending on individual needs. Again, what is real? One person’s life experience differs from that of another even under same circumstances. Those who look at life through rosey glasses will always perceive pinker tones than those whose glass is most of the time half empty. Maybe the challenge here is to see how one can alter their own perceptions and see the opportunity in what may seem like a failure. I know this is easier said than done and I raise my half glass to those who are able to see the light in the darkness. Cheers, Robert! What is called for now is innovative optimism. After all, how many of us like to stay in the gloom and doom for very long? As long as we are on this planet we need to muster the strength to carry on. Maybe this is a good time to take a look at our muse and see what they have to say? Berkeley, CA, USA

From: Funtwo two — Feb 19, 2010

Things are better up in Canada where banks are slightly better regulated. But when one big house in the global village is on fire, there are going to be others who get burned as well.

From: Stede Barber — Feb 19, 2010

I’m glad to hear someone willing to name some of the current challenges many of us are facing, though I simply accept these things, and continue to work. You touched me with your phrase, “Quiet talent.” I and my work are more on the quiet side…people often say they feel peaceful when looking at my paintings. I am most happy when outdoors in nature, and when painting or drawing. I feel one of the greatest gifts of being an artist is the amazing experience of creating. There is such a beautiful intelligence present. But it is a quiet thing, and I need to give myself quiet to be in tune with it. I wish us all well; in my view, as artists we are keeping alive a valuable and precious aspect of life on this earth…but no one said it was going to be easy…just extraordinarily worthwhile.

From: Terry Gilecki — Feb 19, 2010

I agree with a lot you have to say… now is the time to maybe re-invent ourselves a bit and practice some frugility, even if we are sustainable as artists at the moment. The world is always changing and things eventually do go full circle (even if we don’t remember, or care to remember). Creating art is a fantastic privilege that requires constant investment to flourish, whether you are a beginner or well established, it’s all relative. Art is one of those less essential professions that will always survive, but is extremely sensitive to these changes. I’ve been around just long enough to realize my income is one of the first to suffer when times get tough, and one of the last to prosper when the tables turn. For me, and most I am sure…becoming an artist required sacrifice, surviving as an artist may require more. The lessons and skills some of us learned as “Starving Artists” will probably come in handy again, and if learned well, and with a good dose of the passion we had then, we should get by again. It comes down to the survival of the fittest, or simply how much you are willing to suffer for your art. Good art is of value and will always be a good investment. Times like this raise the bar. We have all become at least a little complacent while times were good, I for one will be taking more time to practice my jumping.

From: Walter Crew — Feb 19, 2010

I can’t relate to ‘artists’ and ‘professional artists’ who are all about selling art and just making money – I love the freedom that now I have without needing the approval and validation of having to please others just to try and make money . Of course I hope others will like what I produce but in the end – its about my own satisfaction – and its my own journey to enjoy .

From: Jennifer Murray — Feb 19, 2010

“You are living in an unreal world” was such a timely and beautiful email. Thank you for taking the time to emphasize our quite steady work, to accept change and to focus on the day to day. I love your additions to my inbox!

From: Tom Dickson — Feb 19, 2010

“We are witnessing a mega-shift of wealth from West to East. In a way, things are now actually getting back to normal.” Ahhh …… no…… witnessing, like art, requires a sensitive, unprejudiced, not easily fooled eye. Artists have that eye for painting and should be respected for the mastery of their discipline but when it comes to geo-politics most don’t seem disposed to apply that same precious gift of creative imagination and reason to what is admittedly, an intricate puzzle. Universal democratization is not just around the corner. There has been, during our entire lives, a mega-shift of wealth from peon to emperor, right under our very noses. “Who invested? Who controls? Who gains?” — these are ultimately, at this point in time, far more important questions than “what constitutes that particular tint or shade?” or “how can I arrange it so little ‘ol me can become famous?” I wish it were enough in my lifetime to be a visual artist alone but civilization is on the line and it’s way over due that those of us who can, should put their thinking caps on. Let’s (we being artists with the supposed gift of superior insight) try to steer people back in the direction of something remotely resembling “normal.” Mexico

From: LeeAnn Brook — Feb 19, 2010

In response to the anonymous person who wrote to you about how everything is dismal, all I can say, is “dismal is, as dismal does”. His attitude will clearly cross over to any potential buyers — no need to blame struggling galleries or giclee vendors. My personal experience, is that people love to hear your excitement about your work, your positive outlook, as especially these days, people want something of comfort. I continually engage in this type of conversation with all around me, and with what seems like osmosis, people continue to buy — regardless of any over-publicized “hard times”. Granted, times are tough, but our job as artists, is to take the viewer’s imagination away to another place, where they can get immense pleasure from our art. Thank you for providing such a wonderful, thought-provoking letter. I always pass it on to all of my students. Nevada City, CA

From: Susan von Borstel — Feb 19, 2010

I am a full time artist and have been reading your newsletter for years. I had my best sales ever in the last quarter and have been very fortunate painting in oil on natural stone. Your last email sounded like it’s all over. If we’re past a tipping point that may be so. But there is a new form of clean, safe energy that is not only abundant and cheap but burns up all the nuclear waste we have on the planet, desalinates ocean water and can make transportation clean and cheap. It is proliferation resistant and can’t melt down due to it’s chemical properties. It sounds too good to be true but it is not only available, it’s being built in India, China, France, Korea and others. It’s the Integral Fast Reactor. Our government is working behind the scenes to bring this about in the US. It was invented at the Argonne National Lab in Idaho over 30 years and ended abruptly in1994 due to antinuclear pressure on President Clinton. It was ready to build but the scientists were given a gag order not to discuss it. I am an assistant to the president of an international think tank of scientists who are spreading the word on the IFR. I am the webmaster to their website, Some are quite famous like James Hansen, Al Gore’s mentor. Several are Canadian. We need to visually educate the public into some new concepts and let the world know about something the oil and coal companies abhor, 4th generation nuclear energy, the only ready to go baseline clean energy source available now. Wind and solar can never be enough. I have many art project ideas to involve people. A massive art project could make it to the New York Times and change people’s thinking to that of hope and involvement. Pie in the sky? Nope. Is anyone interested? Davis CA

From: Carol Rosenberg — Feb 19, 2010

I would prefer to think of an artist as a person who continues to create art or a person who refines his craftsmanship skills. A true artist must hear that little voice within that tells him that he must continue creating or improving his craftsmanship and he responds. He does not give up. He is not dependent on the reaction of the public to purchase his work. He continues because he is an artist. Sanibel, Florida

From: Gentlehawk — Feb 19, 2010

Cheers, Robert! you’re right….it’s time for a spiritual awakening…..time for us to realize we’re spiritual “Beeings” having a physical experience…….to realize that we’re here to “enjoy” the Game! You are a Master….Namaste!

From: Paul deMarrais — Feb 20, 2010

Why is it that we often lash out at each other when times are tough? The other guy always has it made or has some unfair advantages etc. Sour grapes. Most of us have done it at one point or another , but all it does is further weaken our spirit. It only increases fear, the antithesis of faith. Spirituality comes about when we relinquish our control and admit that we need some spiritual help to make it through the hurdles of life. Our personal strength, willpower, wealth or ingenuity aren’t enough. This sort of thinking is a curse to many in our modern day society. ‘Of course, I can handle it.I’ll just have to do a better job of being in charge” is what we say. ‘ I’t will HAVE to go my way’. Of course, it doesn’t have to go our way and we are not in control. No one has to buy art, give us money to help us pay our bills. I think many in the U.S.A are hitting that wall where their ideas about being in control are being confronted by the ‘reality’ of the contrary position. It’s the same dilemma in painting that artists struggle with. How do you deal with your lack of control? Do you acknowledge it, fight it bitterly, lash out at the world, or do you humble yourself, embrace your weakness and let it go? I see the great painters are able to let go of that need to be in control. Letting go of control enables the intangibles like creative flow and inspiration to flourish. A small seed of faith will take root both in painting and in life. Many don’t realize that their life and their painting are intertwined. Problems in one become problems in the other. I remember one family trip we took. Our ancient jalopy was barely going as we approached a toll booth near a long tunnel. The guy at the toll booth looked at our car and yelled to my dad, ‘ say a prayer, buddy!” I now realize that was good advice. My dad smiled. He always drove terrible run down cars, cars with bad tires and doors that wouldn’t shut or open. He never worried and was never fearful. He’d been through World War Two and the great depression. He had faith he would make it through.

From: Marlowe Goring — Feb 20, 2010

In a downturn economy there are a few things gallery’s can do to make it through these times. First and foremost you have to talk to the artists that you carry and see if there is going to be a little more flexibility in pricing. Not coming down in price but not going up in price either. You have to let the buyer know that they are actually saving money and not paying 10% more as they would had we not had the downturn. Seasoned artists will appreciate in value so point this fact out. Gallery owners can also offer better prices in framing for the pieces that they are selling. There is no need in these times to make full margin on framing when the artists are not making full margin on their work. You have to remember if there is no artist, there is no framing. Smaller pieces is another way to keep your clients buying. There is always room for one or two smaller works, kind of like penny shares if you will, in your clients collection. Giclees, in my opinion, are a waste of time. It just brings back memories of the limited edition craze of the 80″s where VERY FEW ever turned out to be good investments. This is also a good time to expand. It is a buyers market out there and there are great deals to be had. Art will always come back and you have time now to hone your skills, not only as gallery owners, but as artists as well. Qualicum Frameworks Gallery.

From: Susan Elcox — Feb 20, 2010

My suggestion is that we should continue to dream (is that not where art comes from anyway?) but compliment that with a heavy dose of reality. Times WILL turn in our favor again eventually. Together as artists, let us make sure it does.

From: Stacy Hurt — Feb 20, 2010

I do understand where New Jersey is coming from and you make a sound argument as well for what the economy currently is. I can only speak for myself and say that while sales may be slow; I’m still thrilled to have a tiny room where I can go and still practice my craft until such time as sales pick up. And in THAT area; where I can escape the real world is where I certainly experience the joy, magic & inspiration of doing what I love. I didn’t become an artist to make money; I became an artist because I had no other choice. And it’s not easy trying to work a demanding full time job; be a single parent; run a household; and find time to make art; think again! I don’t consider the joy, magic & inspiration of my work gone simply because no one is buying it I would consider it gone if I didn’t even make the attempt each day to revisit my creativity.

From: Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR — Feb 20, 2010

I felt that your response to “You are living in an unreal world” was quite unsympathetic and reflected an “I’ve got mine” attitude and arrogance on your part. When somebody is hurting and in pain, you don’t respond with facts, figures and dumbass opinions. You start by telling him/her how sorry you are this is happening, that it’s not his fault, that millions are suffering like him, that you know it is no consolation to know that so many are suffering, but we just have to find a way to adjust and carry on until things get better. In other words, if you have no real helpful suggestions, you comfort the person. Although it presently appears to be an American pastime, you don’t kick him when he’s down. Enough of the shifting of wealth from the west to the east crap. What a crock.

From: Walter Baumann — Feb 20, 2010

Allen R. Kates–next time you’re getting your cheap stuff in Wal-Mart, you might keep your last two sentences in mind.

From: Knucklehead — Feb 20, 2010

I’m going to my room now to live purely, be quiet, and not eat.

From: Silken — Feb 20, 2010

No, no, you have to moon us all from behind the clouds. No hurry, just if you find the energy.

From: Don Getz, AWS — Feb 20, 2010

That New Jersey guy is experiencing the ‘real world.’ True artists buckle down and work their way through the hard times.

From: Jo-Ann Krestan — Feb 20, 2010

I have a vision of women who choose to be the subjects of their own lives, and men whose belief in “power to” is greater than their need for “power over”. I work to create and sustain passionate connection, to myself, to others, and to the gift of this earth.

From: Felicia McFall — Feb 20, 2010

I have been secretly enjoying your emails. Do not be discouraged by the occasional curmudgeon. Thank you for the beautiful Buddha quote.

From: Dawn Lundquist — Feb 20, 2010

Of course it isn’t just about money; it’s about joy. If I paint for money, I produce some throw away art; that’s always a lesson relearned. It’s a great discipline to be out in nature and paint every day, it’s my relaxation , pastime and living.

From: Philip Mix — Feb 20, 2010

Contrary to what you say, Robert, I think it is often the galleries with a passion for great art that have the hardest time surviving. I think this economy tends to dumb down the buying public. The more astute are just that, and they are bidding their time with their wallets close to their sides. Meanwhile I paint on , but not with much self delusion.

From: Terry Mason — Feb 20, 2010

It may well have been an unrealistic bubble of joy we were in. But it is truly a loss and a hardship when we lose good artists to bad times.

From: Georgeana Ireland — Feb 20, 2010

I have had not one sale in my New Jersey Galleries in a year. Perhaps that is a very hard hit state.

From: Phyllis Unterschuetz — Feb 20, 2010

I just want to thank you for your tactful, skillful, insightful response to your angry reader. I love your letters in general, but this one was particularly useful for me. You provided a powerful example of how to deal with accusations: resist the temptation to let yourself be hooked by the anger, uncover and validate any truth contained in the criticism, and then direct the critic to the heart of the issue. Well done! I will be blogging about your letter in the near future.

From: E. Stentaford — Feb 20, 2010

” …. We are now beginning a life in the real world. The sky is falling. The end is nigh. It’s time to be spiritual again….”; “Further, the art market parallels the housing market.” If all of the previous is true, then you should come to Newfoundland,Canada for relief, where the housing market is booming and the arts community is as vibrant and flourishing as ever!

From: Jackie Knott — Feb 21, 2010
From: Marianne Richardson — Feb 21, 2010

I am sorry that the artist took out his phlegm on you….. thanks for continued inspiration in the midst of the gloom and doom.

From: Tom Lockhart — Feb 21, 2010

First off, I didn’t get that this artist was angry!?! He was sounding more frustrated and concerned about his livelyhood. Likewise, as it was with my letter of last year, I think Robert has created a bit of sensationalism. He maybe overly stating things just to the benefit of this page of comments. People, please remember that if you’ve become accustomed to earning a living, (especially relying on sales from your galleries), it becomes disconcerting. Yes, things are changing, art is down extremely, it is a luxury. Will it continue to exist? It remains to be seen. Many schools have dropped art from their curriculum for computer work etc. etc. Artwork is no longer as important as it was. Everything is electronic and instant. So we need to re-address what we should do with art. Galleries and artists have all gotten greedy. We have seen, never before in our history, such record breaking prices made by living artists. Art has gotten to be very expensive and everyone wants on the band wagon. Why do we create art? For Ourselves? Do we create for the sheer joy? Or for the chance to be seen and eventually sell our creation. If you are fortunate enough to just create for yourself, (Maybe you are independently wealthy and you can just create for the heck of it). But if you are working and hoping down the road, someone will find your work and someone will show interest, “do you just give it to them”? Of course not. You will sell it, and almost all of you would. It eventually becomes a goal for many of us to experience the joy of making a living with our craft. As for the West’s shift to the East, that maybe so, while most of the Western economy afforded people to buy artwork for the pleasure of owning an original piece, I don’t see much of that mentality coming from of the East. Most of them came to America or even Canada to enjoy the freedom to create what they wanted. And they didn’t come here to create for the sheer joy of it. However, we probably need to concentrate on a more global economy now anyway. That will take some serious thinking. Especially now that the dollar has declined, artwork sent to galleries in England and Europe might be a bargain price. This will force many artists to become better and possibly more creative. It will force us to reach out of our comfort zone as well. That is hard and very difficult. There are hundreds, if not thousands that rely upon artists: Suppliers, framers, distributors, galleries, fund raising events, museums, etc. So some of you can create for the joy of it, MORE POWER to YOU!!. Many create for the opportunity to sell. Even Robert, who has words of wisdom for all of us, he hopes for sales in his galleries. Art became a function when man started drawing on cave walls. It was some man’s creative spirit. Even Michaelangelo and Rembrandt didn’t create for the joy of it, they needed food on the table. Therefore they earned a living. Artist’s survived during world wars and The Great Depression. We will survive these times now. How? by pulling together and helping our fellow artist out, instead of being critical and making pathetic comments.

From: Christine Debrosky — Feb 21, 2010

Yes, we are in a VERY difficult time now… many artists have become very creative in marketing, and selling…small works, crafted items, prints, etc. This is all quite valid, and helps keep many afloat. One good thing about these tough times is that a lot of the nonsensical, or just plain crappy art is falling by the wayside. However, at the present time, one thing I’m doing is working on larger, more complex pieces… mediating in the work as it were; using this “down time” to explore themes more fully, and deeply. I do believe that things will turn around; well crafted, and thoughtfully executed work will always be appreciated.

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Feb 22, 2010

I think you had the right retort to whomever it was, there may be a lesson in it for her/him. I decided at the beginning of this year that I would decrease my production for all the reasons you mentioned, I already have a studio full of work labeled ‘I don;t know if I’ll ever get this sold’ by circumstance not content. I’ve seen artist at traffic lights peddling artwork and any number of flea markets, maybe he needs to change his venue for a season?

From: Leslie Hoops-Wallace — Feb 22, 2010

I agree with you Robert, money is not reliable, and people are turning to art, and those who can afford, will buy the high end stuff, as well as upcoming artists who show collectibility. This market will weed the fat from the lean. It is true that art is not at the top of your list when you need to pay the bills, and put food on the table. Until things turn around, it will be hard for artists starting out!

From: Kate Jackson — Feb 22, 2010

BRILLIANT response Robert!!! THANK YOU! During this time of seeming economic downturn, I am breaking out into a new season of new work, new venues and new audiences. It is AWESOME! I think there IS a season for all things, and if we can ride the tide, go with the flow and other such pepper uppers, we will indeed SHINE, Buddha, SHINE! Merced, CA

From: ScissorBill — Feb 22, 2010

It’s your DNA that makes DFA (Damned Fine Art)

From: Beth Deuble — Feb 22, 2010

Dear Anonymous: Indeed, it is pretty ugly these days – for everyone, not just artists. I propose that artists band together in their respective communities and create their own galleries. The old galleries are too elitist in most cases and driven by profit over aesthetics. That model is just plain worn out. It is exclusive over being inclusive. There is simply not enough wall space to go around. Actually, this sort of thing is already happening. I just read an article in the recent Art Calendar about galleries in Portland, OR. One of the gallery owners stated that when she moved to Portland she was “shocked by the level of support amongst artists…. there is not a competitiveness that I have seen in other big cities.” And this comment from another gallery owner: “In Portland there is a diverse range of professional interests – from studio assistants to artists with very active, international careers. The art community here enjoys working with each other.” There’s more, but you get the idea — we as artists must create community. The exciting art centers are far from New York and Los Angeles. They are Scottsdale, AZ., Santa Fe, NM., Jackson Hole, WY., and Portland, OR. We must engage each other through art groups, art walks, virtual galleries, etc. That’s what it takes – to not be so me-oriented and realize that as artists we must remake the market by helping each other. For myself, I keep creating no matter that I have never sold a thing — mainly because I do not market myself much. I am transitioning from owning a small business to being an income producing artist. Friends like my work. Some love my work. I want to transition to making some income from my art, but my other obligations overwhelm my time and energy at this time. I have an elderly parent, my small business, my home and family. No matter — it’ll happen, I’ll make it because I know people like my work and when they begin making more money they will buy my work. That’s the magic — my attitude. I do disagree with one statement by Robert: artists flourish when economies flourish. Not so. When Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel he was under extreme financial constraints as the Pope, his benefactor, was engaged in waging war. During the Great Depression in the 1930s here in the United States we had the WPA program and alot of very good work came from artists involved in that program. In fact, alot of very good and creative work came from that period and set the stage for Abstract Expressionism that exploded in the 40s and 50s. Many artists flourish when their basic needs are taken care of so they are free to create. That’s not an opinion. Abraham Maslow posited that we all can become self-actualized when are needs are met. I encourage any artist to read more about Maslow and the path to self-actualization. In the meanwhile, we need to reach out to other artists as Robert does and share our experiences, resources and sense of purpose. We cannot live in a vacuum. We must commiserate and collaborate and communicate. San Diego

From: Bev Connor — Feb 22, 2010

Kates and Lochart got me laughing out loud – talking about living in an unreal world!

From: Steve Koch — Feb 22, 2010

follow your passion and the spark that is within you, do your best…the money is secondary….people were made for uniqueness…go for it….

From: Kerry Fleetwood — Feb 22, 2010

If Anonymous is a true artist, he should be creative enough to realize he must be flexible, adaptable, intuitive, seeking different problem-solving strategies. If his art is alive, it and he should be evolving all the time and up to the challenge of survival.

From: Rick Woods — Feb 22, 2010

I’ve joined the ranks of daily painters. I think small is the way to go. Pick and image, compose it, get it down, get it done, get it signed. No agonizing over the finishing touches. I’ll take commissions. I’ll do illustration (gasp!) I’ll do graphic design, crafts, cartoons. So I started last December, and I have a stack of 31 small gems I’ll trade trade for a reasonable number of simoleans. The sky’s not falling. Not right now anyway. Sparks, NV

From: Susan Tschantz — Feb 22, 2010

The art buyer has become more thoughtful. In many parts of the country, he or she has always been very thoughtful. Art sales have always been slow in the “fly over” states. But it is there. Yes, you might have to work less, and find a job to go with it. This is nothing new. But it is also the opportunity to become more selective in what you do. Concentrate your work, distill it until it is the best you can do.

From: Jamila — Feb 22, 2010


From: Tom Lockhart — Feb 22, 2010

Hey Bev, Gp smoke a joint you need Help!!!

From: Melody Cleary — Feb 22, 2010

I am inspired by Robert’s article and also the commenters. This is a good time to improve and study….stop being deflated by sales and enjoy the process. I was pleased at the comment about my town, Portland OR. We do have a good community of artists here. I have been profit motivated since my sales took off in ’08…then ’09 has been disappointing to say the least, but as I have shown, I have gained contacts and with those, more opportunities to show. This will pay off for me in the future. I joined a daily painters group online…to keep me motivated & it increased links to my website by the hundreds. I hope for better days. I savor occasional sales now.

From: Catherine Gutsche — Feb 23, 2010

Why on earth was Mr. McMurray ever doing taxes? He should have been painting!

From: Caroline Simmill — Feb 23, 2010

It is true that sales have slowed up compared to a few years ago. A few galleries have closed but not many here in the Highlands of Scotland. I would say there seems to be many more artists about than there used to be which could mean there is more competition for gallery space and sales. The important thing is not to get discouraged and to work quietly to produce the best work you can. Put out only a few of your best works and just work towards future exhibitions in the years ahead. I have returned to tutoring art and my giclee sales are still good so these are my bread and butter money. I would say don’t be disillusioned but enjoy creating artworks. Life is too short for fears about a painter’s life being a good life or not.

From: isabel Benson — Feb 23, 2010

All very interesting but could you tell me just HOW does one live in an unreal world??? always thought that if I know I’m alive I’m real and so is the world I’m in. How do I get to this unreal one and is it whatever I want it to be? Just in case I ever feel like giving up would like some directions.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 24, 2010

Dear Robert – Anon has a valid point. Can’t dispute it. But I can say that artists have to be about their business anyway. This is the problem with those who paint for the money. In lean times without sales, they think they should grouse and stamp their feet and yell at the top of their lungs as if anyone is listening. I was once told ” no one is guaranteed tomorrow.” It seems to fit here. Anon, welcome back to reality, now get down to work and increase your skill level, make better art, rethink all your old work. This is a good time for artists to take a long hard look at what we do and realize in actuality you can’t quantify art and money. I understand that 1% of all artists make any real money at this. I’ve sold one work this past year but have produced over fifty new works. I’ve gone back and taken a long look at my work to see where and how I can improve it. Galleries are closing their doors? Do outdoor shows, fairs. Find new ways to get your work out. Donate, give demonstrations. Open your studio to tours once a month. Give your time and effort to retirement homes. They love to see an artist work. Teach but keep your eye on the prize. Enjoy the fact that when all is falling apart around you, you can go into your space and paint.

From: Bev — Feb 25, 2010

Those who understand the shift towards the east, and are making Asia their market for selling high quality fine art, are doing very well these days. NA is torn between globalization and localization. This conflict of interests prevents many from seeing clearly where the economy is moving and from choosing the path that will work for them. What we wish is not always a practical or even possible option. Most people are focused on their wishes and fears, not on the facts, even in this age when information is so easily accessible on the internet. Keep up with the financial data and learn to understand them – or get a professional advice.

From: Charles Coughlan — Feb 28, 2010

If you equate “spiritual” with “organizing” then I might become spiritual again! When someone robs you blind, beats you with a police billy club and then urinates on you, I fail to see where getting “spiritual again” will delay a repeat performance in any measurable sense. Cheers, Uncle Wiggly


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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