About a year ago my daughter, Sara, insisted that I install a water cooler in my studio. She has one in hers. She’s the pure pure type who believes in fruit blenders and doesn’t eat anything with eyelashes. It’s her opinion that we all need to run more water through our kidneys and in so doing improve the lives of our livers.
I have a ready cup at my unit. No one gathers around to swap studio stories because there’s not enough of us to make it any fun. I have nearby a volume of “The Resource of Art Quotations.” (The full printout is six volumes.) With every cup of “Canadian Springs” I get to ingest a quote. When I’ve read my quote I get to tick it off. These days I’m ticking my way through “Activity.” For example I just ticked: “In art, the genuine creator is not just a gifted being, but a person who has succeeded in arranging a complex of activities of which the work is the outcome.” (Henri Matisse)
You can see why I’m never going stop writing these letters. Rumors of me running out of things to write about are greatly exaggerated. This thing has legs. I don’t know whether it’s the water or the thoughts that are doing the most good. Perhaps it’s the combination of wetness and companionship. It’s like having a new friend every hour, someone to have a wee drink with, someone who’s not going to foul you up, someone who leaves you with something to contemplate. It’s definitely motivational. Imagine hanging out with Monet, Picasso, Voltaire, Shaw, Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keeffe or Virginia Woolf at the water cooler. Regularly. One goes back to the easel refreshed and empowered with a new nugget of knowledge or opinion that sometimes sustains right through to the next. It may be addictive. It certainly keeps me coming back for more. And anyway, it’s damned smart for the liver. Artists need smart livers, I’m told.
Esoterica: “The Resource of Art Quotations” is totally the volunteer work of subscribers to this letter. It’s the largest collection of art quotes in the world — and getting larger all the time. If you print it out it will drink up most of your ink. Our statistics tell us it’s one of the most valuable destinations for artists on the net. It’s at http://www.art-quotes.com/
The following are selected correspondence arising from the above and other letters. Thanks for writing.
Thirst for creativity
by Kendra Smith, Fernie, B.C., Canada
And not only is it smart for your liver, but it is a fabulous exercise for your mind. And as you once said, the more you paint, the more there IS to paint. The same must be true for your letters. The more you write, the more there IS to write. Creative overload results in an overload of creativity. It is very inspiring. I will drink a glass of water and start painting.
Water… never touch the stuff
by Sue and Bill Crerar
One of our favorite stories concerns Kathleen who is 94. At the family dinner table, the grandchildren, in their 30s, have the inevitable Evian bottles in front of them. Kathleen makes no comment until she is offered one. “No thank you, I never drink water, never have and it’s too late to start now!” This is a lady who only gave up her golf and membership in the Beach Grove Golf Club at 93! Like most of her era, she drinks tea.
Water removes stuckness
by Bobbie Stasey
I, too, refill my glass and chuggle it down as a healthy, inspiring break. Of course what also happens on the “drink for a healthy liver” is evacuation for healthy kidneys and bladder. All that activity provides relief I didn’t even know I needed. And much stuckness has been moved by moving the water through the body.
by Dee Poisson, Alberta, Canada
In my current studio I have “Carpe diem” (Seize the day) painted on the walls, it is my favorite reminder. I was considering adding other favorite quotes to my walls (in between paintings) in my next studio. There are many among your lists of quotations that also apply to me. I like to put reminders up that immediately deal with my weaknesses. “Carpe diem” addresses my tendencies to procrastinate. A day in my life can easily slip by without my conscious effort to grab onto something. I am trying to be more disciplined. Don’t get me wrong, I do allow myself time to daydream, but I strive to control my allotted time for this and not let it get away on me; I sometimes need the painted reminders to bring me back from wherever I am.
(RG note) The index for the “Resource of Art Quotations” is at http://www.art-quotes.com/. The list of authors is at http://www.art-quotes.com/artquotes_authors.php?let=A. You may find that you have been quoted.
Quotations for dinner
by Chris Rose, Quadra Island, BC, Canada
I always was intimidated by the extraordinary knowledge you exhibited in your quotes of the various artists. Now I feel much better and not totally incompetent or plain stupid. Your admission reminds me of my childhood. My parents used to read one of the great writers or famous persons of the past or present. They would make sure to direct the conversation to these statues of mankind. Guests who came for dinner would be regaled with lofty quotes. I always thought it was a little pretentious. Your more self-serving reasons are preferable.
Not very useful
by Kelly Briner
I’m not sure I find the competence/incompetence split to be that useful when it comes to Art. This line of thinking necessitates a standard against which to measure competence and such standards have an unavoidable drift towards the quantifiable: He must be a virtuoso because he plays so fast. She must be a stained glass master because her works are made from so many teeny tiny pieces. They have to be the best painters because their paintings sell for so much wampum. Is one flower more “competent” than another blossom?
(RG note) Competence is a useful measure in surgery, accountancy, photography, archery and thievery to name a few. Is creativity to be spared quantifiable comparison?
Notes on criticism
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia
Irrespective of a kind of fine art, more often, there are two components at the present work of art: it touches soul of the spectator and is executed with good professional skill of the artist. In other words, there are two competence sources — head and hands of the artist. Often, without second the first — is impossible, sometimes — vice versa. When we create artwork, we think of it how it will live and to work. For what and as it will be — it is necessary to expect. What will do this artwork? Criticism here is necessary. For this purpose, we use four types art critics:
INTERNAL CRITIC. The own conscience, honesty and consciousness of the artist — art critic, without which artist can not live. This internal critic already can criticize products, which still are not created by the artist.
SPECTATORS AND COLLECTORS OF ART. The pure sincere collectors of the artist, they help the artist to live and to create — they speak the truth.
OBJECTIVE ANALYSTS OF ART. The objective professionals, they simply work in this field, trying fairly and equally to note advantages and lacks.
INTERESTED ART CRITICS. These are the insincere people, often, working in art business.
They protect a group of artists from the competitors and embellish advantages of art works of the own circle of the artists. Their interest depends on money. They may give other artists the insincere, wrong advice purposely.
Death of a painting
by Russell W. McCrackin, Corvallis, OR, USA
Too many times I have slaved over a “Dead Painting” for days, only to finally realize it is not only dead, but beginning to decay and smell bad. Ahh, but then comes the one time that there is a resurrection, and the painting goes happily to a gallery. Joy! Then on to the next Dead Painting, and then to the burn pile.
(RG note) Terminating the life of a painting is one of the truly creative acts. Recommended methods are slashing, burning, stomping and shooting. Often an agonizing and prolonged death is justified and appropriate, such as under the car to catch the drips.
by Judith Maxwell
Your letter of July 9th ended with an Esoterica and Joe tearing up Whatman W/C paper — shudder! Where does Joe buy it? I’ve been searching all over N. America and can’t find it. Do I have to go back to Europe to purchase some?
(RG note) You can order Whatman in 100 and 200 lb for delivery by post from Ken Bromley in the UK firstname.lastname@example.org They also offer a starter pack with a variety of papers for testing: Bockingford NOT & Rough, Fabriano Artistico HP, NOT & Rough, Saunders Waterford NOT & Rough, Whatman NOT & Rough and Arches Aquarelle NOT & Rough. The sheets are labeled to show the type of each paper. http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/mopaper.htm
Marketing vs. Painting
by Joseph Bush, Seaside, Oregon, USA
I’m a “serious” watercolorist who is struggling with Marketing vs. Painting. I used to be in many galleries on the Oregon/Wash/Calif. Coast but now I am down to four. I am finding some sales and joy through a 10′ tent in Saturday and Sunday markets here on the northern Oregon Coast. I am however discouraged by complexities of marketing, as it takes a LOT out of me. I find that it is hard to get back to doing what I do best, Paint. Any suggestions?
(RG note) If you get joy and sales in a ten-foot tent, then go for it. For many artists, marketing stuff at shows, fairs and tourist destinations is a fate worse than death. It’s a hard thing to face but it is a possibility that your quality may have fallen off. Artists often find that their work and representation improve when they concentrate on the work and not on the tenting. Most would agree that being simply free to be an artist and live in the creative mode is the ideal. The only time you want to have a tent is if you really really like to meet people.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 100 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2002.
This includes Pam Wong who notes, “The coffee cup or water glass beside your palette is always at risk of a stray brush and a mental lapse!”
And Paula Timpson who writes, “Artists need to grow together, hang out and give feedback and share time in silence creating. The way to truth is through others and the Self. We learn who we are by being alone and with other artists too!”
And Karen Law who sends the following:
Life seems a canvas of struggle and strife,
Questions without answers controlling your life:
But the sun always rises from the dark of the night
So, with a brush in my hand I’ll paint you a canvas of light.