An art of its own

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Sherrill Miller of San Anselmo, California wrote, “The artist and teacher Van Waldron has passed away. Over the years I’ve gathered a few quotes from him. As I frequent your Resource of Art Quotations for quotes to give my students, I thought you might like to add some of Van’s.” Thanks, Sherrill. I’m sorry to hear of Van’s passing. Receiving original quotes from firsthand sources like you is what makes our quote site the most popular on the Internet. I once had a copy of Van’s self-published book “Floral Painting,” but I loaned it to a floral friend and now I can’t remember who. (If you’re reading this, it will be okay to send it back now.) Van Waldron was a wealth of clear thinking as well as brilliant painting. In the ebb and flow of floral popularity, Van’s work stood out for freshness and sensitivity. A student at the Bongart School and a graduate of the Art Institute of California, his lush colours pushed hard to canvas edges while floral arrays were often held with alluring darks. Petals and leaves were generally accomplished in a single gesture. “Try to paint with larger and fewer strokes,” he told his students. Many artists look at the painting of florals as a redundant art. The rationale of these artists is that it’s impossible to do better than nature herself. Actual flower arrangements in all their fleeting fragility might be the preferable art. On the other hand, flowers are perhaps the handiest guide and model to the use of bright colours, subtlety of colour control, varietal design motifs, elegance, light and shadow, reflected light, translucency and nature’s beguiling gradations. As varied as snowflakes and as available as the turn of the seasons, they are there for the picking. Flowers are an education in a vase. Van understood both the limits and the potential of floral painting. The knowledge the genre provides can be used for painterly joy in other genres. Above all, Van thought the painting of florals generated thoughtfulness and sensitivity, and was key to bringing out an artist’s best. “Sensitivity to touch,” said Van, “is one of the key distinctions between an artist and a person who is just using paint.” Best regards, Robert PS: “Try to finish your painting while you are still excited about it. Spend too much time, you lose interest and the picture begins to fall apart.” (Van Waldron) Esoterica: Van understood the fugitive nature of life. Floral art “freezes” the miracle of spring for the long months of winter. And yet this art cannot be the same as nature itself–it has to be its own thing; its own art. Those floral painters who would undertake to paint well begin a love affair with the fragility of life. “We only get one chance to listen to the wind,” said Van, “and when it is gone, it will not be back.”   The Russian style by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“The White Vase”
oil painting
by Rick Rotante

I never had the pleasure or privilege of knowing Van Waldren. It is a great loss to Art when any artist passes and especially one of such influence and talent. I was made aware of Sergei Bongart when I painted at the Art Institute of California and have met many of those who knew and studied under Sergei. One can see the influences in Waldren’s work and can learn much from studying them. There is in his work the same vibrance and fire attributed to the Russian style. Artists like Bongart, Fechin and Waldren have influenced the styles of many painters working today in Southern California. Their impact gave me the stimulus to adopt similar techniques in my own work and it is satisfying to know there are many painters who will carry on his words and traditions. There are 3 comments for The Russian style by Rick Rotante
From: Betty Newcomer — Nov 27, 2012

Rick, I love all of your work. I worry that my paintings seem dark to me, but then when I see yours, I think they look like the Old Masters. Beautiful work!!

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 27, 2012

Betty- you are sweet to say so. Your comments are very much appreciated.

From: John Seamens — Dec 01, 2012

Your work has such boldness and clarity. I look forward to your letters just to see what you are doing next. You inspire me to improve. Thank you. John

  The possibilities of flowers by Adrienne Moore, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Adrienne Moore

I have often used flowers as a source of inspiration for my paintings as it is hard to find a subject so readily available at all times of the year. However I do not recommend painting the flowers by literally copying each flower. I would rather allow the sensual nature of the flowers to empower the artist to guide and try to convey them so it allows the viewer to experience the freshness and fragrance of newly picked sweet peas. There is uniqueness in every flower, every bouquet. In the dead of winter it is always possible to find flowers that challenge the artist to find a way to paint with empathy. I’ve heard remarks from fellow artists who maintain that they do not like flower paintings. I agree that a lot of flower paintings look alike but if the idea is taken one step further to move into more abstracted form then the possibilities are endless. A visit to Costa Rica gave me so much pleasure to recreate the colour and intricate forms that I saw there. I find it difficult to believe that if the nay-sayers have not explored what flowers offer, and that some people can really believe that flowers make boring paintings. There are 2 comments for The possibilities of flowers by Adrienne Moore
From: Karen — Nov 27, 2012

Beautiful painting of flowers! I agree with you about painting them, too!

From: Helena Tiainen — Nov 28, 2012

  The music of floral painting by Fran Gibson, Havertown, PA, USA  

“Pier at St Andrews”
oil painting
by Fran Gibson

Like anything alive, flowers are an opportunity to feel the energy of life and express a point of view. I wish people who look at paintings could understand that paintings are similar to musical scores in that there is surface tension and transitions, reference and extension of an idea, an aesthetic that connotes feelings and temperature, love and sorrow, changes and nothingness, and so on. Generally, I paint bouquets and individual flowers until they die. If I have not resolved the picture, I sometimes get new flowers and take to painting and rebuilding the energy and place with the idea that I am not painting botanicals, but a piece of instrumentation and discovery.   The endurance of florals by Janet Summers-Tembeli, Samos, Greece  

“Amaryllis Garden”
oil painting
by Janet Summers-Tembeli

Floral painting to me is like portrait painting only the subject is vibrant and alive with colors I normally wouldn’t have a chance to paint with. Nature, whether landscape, human, or a humble rose is always inspiring. The forms, details, patterns, unusual color combinations and composition of floral paintings require all the observation and skills of the best artist. Flowers have taught me more about color than any other source as all colors are derived from nature and colors seen in nature in their natural light are so pure. I have been seduced by many flowers to paint their portraits; their sensual forms and colors continue to amaze and inspire me. In the 21st century we need more beauty. It’s to be found in flowers, sea shells, feathers, seed pods, pebbles and all the realm of nature. Floral painting is timeless and will always endure.

There are 3 comments for The endurance of florals by Janet Summers-Tembeli
From: Catherine McLay — Nov 27, 2012

A very lovely painting of amaryllis (amaryllises?)growing on location. You have captured their colours and vitality so well!

From: Helena Tiainen — Nov 28, 2012

I like your beautiful painting.

From: Janet Summers Greece — Nov 30, 2012

Thank you! I’ve managed to aquire quite a collection of Amaryllis over my years living in Greece, they are to me very regal blooms.

  Open up your eyes by Ronald Fritts, Cochise, AZ, USA  

“Rhythm of Nature #211”
acrylic painting
by Ronald Fritts

Every human effort entails and should require a conscious effort to be creative. Everyone, not just obvious achievers, should be applauded for creative efforts. I am attempting to bridge the gap between the artist in general and invention and creativity specifically. Basically everyone has a vital urge and an innate right to creativity throughout life. It is referred to as the ‘creative impulse. Open up your eyes. They are the windows to creative survival and existence. They are the tools by which we open horizons to discovery and find new relationships in the world. Technology must not rule or encumber our visual survival in the 21st century. Our eyes are the mirrors of our soul. When we act creatively, we not only have the power to change the world, but also have the grace to add quality to life. How to see effectively should be an aid in the survival of man. How to see effectively may become the necessary force behind everyone in the computer age. Our eyes are a source of pleasure; however they also hold the seeds that fertilize our minds. There are 2 comments for Open up your eyes by Ronald Fritts
From: Angela Treat Lyon — Nov 26, 2012

I just really LOVE your painting – it’s so whimsical and full of light!

From: Helena Tiainen — Nov 28, 2012

You concentrating so much on seeing with the eyes made me want to share something that I learned recently. Visually impaired people can learn to “see” with their ears and sense of smell. I know someone who can name a CD she owns by rattling the box and sometimes smelling the inner sleeve. She is incredibly accurate. She “sees” with her other senses.

  Problems with copy-cats by Harry Lock, Hillcrest, South Africa   I am the Editor of the South African Artist Magazine. In recent times there have been several instances of artists — some full-time professionals — making use of reference material which is clearly not their own, and frankly an infringement of copyright. Some examples are: A painting entered for our magazine’s cover competition that was a copy of a photograph published in National Geographic, showing an old man holding a violin. This work was disqualified from the competition but was offered for sale on a recent exhibition. A well known South African artist who is known for his paintings of musicians has copied a scene from the motion picture ‘Ray’ showing a young Ray Charles at a piano with an old man. A painting of Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl was entered into a charity exhibition, as was a copy of a Hazel Soan watercolour, straight from one of her books. Both of these works were offered for sale. There is currently a short film — an advertisement encouraging people to be entrepreneurial — which is regularly shown on television here, which follows an ‘artist’ who sells his paintings at a local street market earning enough money to make a living. His paintings are all portraits of famous people, among them Che Guevara, Bob Marley, and Nelson Mandela, all copied from well known portrait photographs of these people. I don’t want to discuss the issue of copyright, but rather artists, amateur and professional, who seem to think this is acceptable. It is a problem here in South Africa, and was wondering if this also occurs on your side of the world. My friend, John Smith, a professional artist and teacher, suggests it might have its roots in how painting is taught by private teachers. Invariably they have a pile of books, calendars, and prints in their classroom and students are encouraged to find a picture they like, and make a painting of it. This, he says, instills the sense that there is nothing wrong with copying. What’s your take on this? (RG note) Thanks, Harry. Up here in the Great White North we have a rule: “Copy all you want while learning, but don’t sell your copies or try in any way to pass them off as your own.” Even in pleasant Canada where fairness and justice are our main religions, this rule is frequently busted. In theory, had Andy Warhol worked in Canada, many of his prints and paintings (for example, those based on photos of Marilyn Monroe which he did not take nor get permission to use) would not have been acceptable for church-basement art shows. For those who may be interested, The South African Artist Magazine is at There is 1 comment for Problems with copy-cats by Harry Lock
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Nov 27, 2012

This is such a sad thing to hear. As a private teacher, I try to discourage students from painting from copyrighted material. I have had one or two insist because their aging mother wants a painting of a place they frequented during their life and have a photo from a magazine. This painting is not sold, but given as a gift to the mother. They must then paint the next painting from life or their own photo. I must say, that all the “private” teachers I know follow these same rules … no copyrighted material and have stated such in the description of their classes.

  Art scam alert by Maria Oppenheim, Wiesbaden, Germany  

acrylic painting
by Maria Oppenheim

As an enthusiastic reader of your letter I thought I could mention the recent trick used by art scammers to cheat artists by nurturing hopes of selling their works. We all love to sell and tend to get impressed by someone wanting to buy. It started out for me by a friendly sounding email. The person picked 5 paintings from my website and told me he had purchased furniture in Berlin which he was planning to ship to his home. He would send the shipper to my studio to pack up the paintings and I was to pay him out of the excess money he would send me per cheque. I didn’t react but then I received a cheque for 10.000 Euros from the UK. It didn’t have his name on it but that wasn’t the worst. I asked my bank and they said they wouldn’t cash cheques because the sender could take it back and then I would have paid the shipper and be rid of my money and my work. So I wrote him a friendly note saying I could only accept payment by PayPal and never heard from him again. Today I received another poorly-written email with the same kind of inquiry. Good Afternoon, I am so please to be writing you to know more about your artwork because my friend Linda Hansfom as told me that your work of art is one of a kind, i will be pleased if you can send me images and prices of some of your new work or have me directed to the link on your website where i can have those artwork viewed. Regards Frederick Maybe you could spread a word of warning to those of us who tend to trust too much or ignore risks. We need vigilance when on the Internet. There are 8 comments for Art scam alert by Maria Oppenheim
From: carol — Nov 26, 2012

My late sister almost fell for a scam similar to yours…. she was so excited that someone wanted to buy her work… but she didn’t fall in the trap!!!!

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Nov 26, 2012
From: Janet Summers — Nov 26, 2012

I’ve been sent these e-mails also. Some are more clever than others. I told the person that the check needed 9 working days to clear the bank, and he kept calling almost daily to find out if his check had cleared, when it didn’t he sent me another. I knew it was a scam but decided to let them pay the long distance calls, my only revenge!

From: Sarah — Nov 27, 2012

Since I don’t have a website, I was puzzled to receive a letter similar to the above for the first time yesterday. Perhaps someone just looked in art league membership lists. Scary!

From: allan dunfield — Nov 27, 2012

i also recently recieved a similar email regarding my work and prices . i thanked them for their interest ,and replied saying i would get one of the galleries that handles my work to follow up . and i cc. the gallery the inquiry to them .

From: Anonymous — Nov 27, 2012

These are so common now as to be fodder for jokes. If you offer your work on ebay, etsy, international “community” art websites, etc., you have given your email contact to the world – this is the inherent downside to the magnificence of the Internet.

From: Helen Opie — Nov 27, 2012

I had a rash of these enquiries a few years ago, and decided to have some fun stringing one of them along. In the end, she was 1) mother of a 6-month-old 2) kept from getting out because of an additional newborn baby 3) in hospital threatening to miscarry, and 4) newly pregnant and ordered to bed. The writer/”mother” was unaware that babies have a nine-month gestation and that some people remember what they have read before. I say I only take Western Union money orders.

From: Jim Oberst — Nov 28, 2012

These scams are very old now. I sell a lot of my work on the internet. But when these folks hear that I only accept PayPal, they disappear immediately.

  When it’s gone by Biba J Reid, York, England  

original painting
by Biba J Reid

In today’s letter there was a quote: “We only get one chance to listen to the wind,” said Van, “and when it is gone, it will not be back.” attributed to Van Waldron. I believe this actually originated in the song When it’s Gone performed by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band / John Denver, and composed by: Don Schlitz and Jimmie Fadden. (RG note) Thanks, Biba. Yes, it does appear that Van adapted the lyrics to his own philosophy. While quotes in our Resource of Art Quotations are not always sourced, we do appreciate when readers help us out. Your correction will be entered. There are 5 comments for When it’s gone by Biba J Reid
From: Elihu Edelson — Nov 26, 2012

“The wind blows where it will and you hear its sound, but no one knows where it came from or where it’s going.” –Jesus Reincarnation was a universal belief in Judaism then and for some time later.

From: Elihu Edelson — Nov 26, 2012

Jesus was referring to one’s spirit.

From: B. Wright — Nov 27, 2012

…..”So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (remainder of the verse quoted above); this has NOTHING to do with ‘reincarnation’!

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Nov 29, 2012

Hmmm… I was going to comment on this exact quote a few days ago- and am glad I waited. We only get one chance to listen to the wind? And when it’s gone it will not be back? No- that wind won’t- but guess what? The wind is such a constant here on Earth that right around the corner another wind is brewing and guess what? You couldn’t escape it if you tried. And the wind is all connected everywhere. So why worry about missing any particular wind? Really. Sorry… Wind? Spirit? Reincarnation? I’m so glad I’ve been re-informed…

From: Ben Eli — Nov 29, 2012

Some of those ethereal quotes…rolling my eyes… I love flowers and floral paintings can be very cool if the same idea isn’t repeated again and again, like that blue vase…


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for An art of its own

From: Ruth Harris — Nov 23, 2012
From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Nov 23, 2012

What is it with people and books? I have never loaned someone a book and got it back! I remember once summoning up the nerve to finally ask for a book to be returned (after about a year) and the person had the nerve to say they weren’t finished with it! Never did see it again and ended up re-buying it when I saw it on a clearance table. I hope the guilty party has an attack of conscience and gives back your floral painting book!

From: Nancy Teague — Nov 23, 2012

RE: loaning books. Alas, in the past, I too have ‘lost’ books by loaning. Upon a few losses I decided to scribble down pertinent info on a scrap paper kept on my bookcase – date of loan, name of book, lendee, and contact info. I let them know of my records and how I value my resources. After about a month with no return I contact them to get my book back. Depending on the situation there may be an extension but they sure know I value my book collection. Have never had an offense arise out of this system. All are happy!

From: Verna Code — Nov 23, 2012
From: Cheena Kaul — Nov 23, 2012
From: Raymond Tony Hawkins — Nov 23, 2012

Flowers are my favorite study.

From: Debra Bryant — Nov 23, 2012
From: Moncy Barbour — Nov 23, 2012

This artist also had a way with words!

From: Elle Fagan — Nov 23, 2012
From: Marleen Bodden — Nov 23, 2012
From: Lida VanBers — Nov 23, 2012

Anybody who says flowers are a redundant art,should visit other artist, Whatever your subject is and you put your feelings in it is art to me.

We artist are so quick with negative comments,it is so easy. We as artists should be more forgiving towards each other.
From: Carole Mayne — Nov 23, 2012
From: Esther Woods — Nov 23, 2012

If you go with the ideal that florals arent valid because the real thing can not be” bested “in a mere painting , you could be missing the whole point of ART. If that were true ,why do any art at all. Whats popular or trendy doesnt interest me but what moves me or invokes a feeling ,does.

From: Aloke Chakraborty — Nov 24, 2012

It requires huge effort to change from thorns into flowers.

From: Jack Grewal — Nov 24, 2012

Virtually everything in the plant kingdom uses some sort of flower as part of its reproductive process. These feminine terminals and their often internal male counterparts attract insects, birds and animals as an adjunct to fertility and continuation of species. Color, texture, odor, intrigue and mystery are part of the magic. For eons, flowers have been symbols of love and renewal. To avoid their brilliant energy is to be dull indeed.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Nov 24, 2012

I am one of those who like painting flowers and I hope to paint them as beautiful as they are in nature.While it is true that we cannot do better than nature does but each flower have unique characteristic apart from another and to capture the essence of that one flower some how give us sense of joy .I never tire of looking at them and what better way to brighten the day in the bleak winter than to see those floral work of art. Toronto,Ontario

From: Jamillah Ausby — Nov 24, 2012

So sorry to hear about the passing of the floral artist Van Waldron. I did not know of him or of his work. As a child i started painting flowers, my parents grew roses in our back yard, later my art went into figures, abstract and sculpture. May he rest in peace. Love, Jamillah

From: Luc Poitras — Nov 24, 2012

The subject, or the motif, like an arrangement of flowers, may be the source of inspiration for a painting. But, to me, painting is about painting. That’s where the fun is.

From: Stefano Mallardi — Nov 25, 2012

I fiori sono sogni colorati da offrire allo sguardo del cielo …

“The flowers are colorful dreams to offer the look of the sky …”
From: Norton Welles — Nov 25, 2012

Flowers are a form of and make up a lot of what we have come to call “still life.” A still life with flowers makes it not so still and a fleeting, fragile contrast to the pots, pans, vases, jars and the other traditional man-made objects that go into still life paintings.

From: Sheldon Wenzel — Nov 25, 2012

You have to remember that when floral paintings were most popular flowers could only be bought in season–so a floral painting would be cheery in winter indeed. Nowadays flowers are grown year round in greenhouses and also daily flown to northern cities from the tropics. Perhaps this is why some people these days think floral paintings are a “redundant” art.

From: Angie Villegas Estrella — Nov 25, 2012

Agree! That’s why I shall never stop painting flowers!

From: Jackie Knott — Nov 26, 2012

The traditional gift of Valentine’s Day in the US is roses, roses, and more roses. Most are grown and imported from South America to have an abundant supply for February 14th. When I worked for a commercial carrier we had one massive snow storm that shut down quite a few airports from the Great Lakes to the Northeast. We were stuck with thousands of roses that were going to die in the cargo bays of several jets. One employee suggested they give the roses to all those stranded at O’Hare in Chicago. As they walked throughout the terminals handing out roses grumbling passengers miraculously decided it wasn’t so bad to sleep on the floor for three days.

The beauty and sentiment of flowers has to lift anyone’s spirits. It is preferable to experience them by smell and touch, but gazing on a painting of flowers is a wonderful substitute.
From: Sue Hill — Nov 27, 2012

I look forward to each and every newsletter and always take time to check out the current clickbacks.

I have art classes for mentally and physically challenged adults. I find that they are inspired when the class includes displays of art and the life story of the artist. Thank you for your research. You Are Awesome.
From: Rick Rotante — Nov 27, 2012

To Harry Lock – South Africa

The entire process of making art has come under suspicion. Why do artists work to produce art using traditional methods, vise-a-vie- authentically, mechanically by hand, without aids, while posers produce work for the trash heap? I believe the reason is the same – recognition and respect. If you produce real art the old fashioned way, one hope’s to gain the respect of society and of course their peers. Many, many would-be artists don’t have the skill, the training or know-how to pull off a work of art, so they resort to trickery or fakery to get a result. They may even fool most of the judges some of the time, but making ‘real’ art results in producing a body of work, an inventory. It is not easy to keep producing work year after year if you are producing fakes or using gimmicks. You would have to either get bored or begin to lose interest. Also the fear of being found out, over time, must become overwhelming. I can’t imagine having to explain my process to others not the least of which other artists; especially if you begin to gain notoriety. The pressure of being found a fake would be enormous after a while and cause one to either stop altogether or devote themselves to learn the art process after much study Over time, the fakers will tire or worse be found out and will be weeded out while real artists will prevail. We should be diligent in judging art for galleries and shows, but the fakers will sneak through, once or even twice. In the end they will not prevail over the long haul. I think we should be judging artists after considering a body of work and not one piece placed into a show or gallery. When you look at fifteen or a hundred pieces, the proof will be in the pudding and all will know if this person deserves to be called ‘artist’.
From: Kathryn Ikeda — Nov 27, 2012

I am so sad. I had planned to paint flowers with Van Waldron for years and never quite got around to it. Carpe Diem…….. before it is to late.

From: Jim Archer — Nov 28, 2012

Re Nancy Teague comment of Nov 23/2012.I had minister who had a vast library of his own. You want to borrow a book? great! He took a card very much the same as Nancy’s. BUT he had the recipient sign for the book./

From: Christie — Nov 29, 2012

Re, lending books – how about asking for a deposit – wouldn’t that make a point!

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mixed media collage 10 x 16 inches by Diane Fine, Toronto, ON, Canada

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Marise Morais who joined the increasing number of readers who write to us in their own language. Marise wrote, “Te curto muito pintar flores, elas são lindas, perfeitas, e com cores exuberantes!” “I really enjoy painting flowers, they are beautiful, perfect, and with exuberant colors!” And also Graciela Haydee Bustamente who wrote, “Estoy totalmente de acuerdo contigo, a través de de ellas, podemos expresear la percepcion, con todos los matices que las mismas nos brindan. No es fácil pintar una flor, debemos realizar una evaluacion muy detallada de la imagen.” “I totally agree with you, through them, we can express our perception, with all the nuances that they offer us. It is not easy to paint a flower; before starting we need to make a very detailed assessment of the image.” (RG note) Thanks, Graciela and Marise — and everyone who writes, sometimes regularly, in a language other than English. Just as painting and other arts are universal languages, we are a truly international Brotherhood and Sisterhood.