Friday, October 15, 2010

Overwhelmed by images

Overwhelmed by images

October 15, 2010

Dear Sherrie,

Yesterday, Nancy Bell Scott of Old Orchard Beach, Maine wrote, "Lately my brain has been overwhelmed by the many thousands (millions?) of images online. An evening can be spent wandering around cyberspace and enjoying it immensely. But very often, the next morning, entering my studio, I'm utterly paralyzed. My husband has noticed what online exposure does to me, and he thinks it's making me nuts. He's a very perceptive, creative person. I'd love to hear your own (and others') thoughts on this and what to do about it."

FYI, we've put some of Nancy's paintings at the top of the current clickback.

Thanks, Nancy. It's all about procrastination. Hanging out at a cabaret or hanging on to a computer, artists will do anything to avoid going to their room and going to work. Fear of failure and fear of success are just two of the issues that lead to escapism. With the quality and variety on the Internet, today's painters face a hazard like never before.

Net Junkies are the new alcoholics. Artists who allow the Internet to take them where it will, throw in the towel of creative individualism. Too much non-directed exposure to the work of others humbles, discourages, and sullies our own best efforts. The result, if you stay at it long enough, can be rudderless dilettantism. But there's help. It's called NJA.

Net Junkies Anonymous knows that artists procrastinate in the name of research. They get hooked. The solution is to make research a process-driven activity. It starts with the easel station. Attend to your easel before you go near your machine. As you think of your needs, put notes beside your easel. Let your work tell you what you need to study. When the time is appropriate, take your list to the machine. Be efficient and cagey. The Internet is a great slave but also a cunning master. You have to go there on your own terms.

Straight out of AA, here are a few steps to recovery:

Make an inventory of time spent at your various stations.
Admit that you may be doing harm to yourself.
Carry your spiritual awakening to other Net Junkies.
Use the greater power of art itself to restore your sanity.

Best regards,


"What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret." (John Kander and Fred Ebb, from Cabaret)

Esoterica: One warm Thursday evening last August, my neighbor George held a party at his house because his Facebook friends had reached 10,000. Only a few actual people were there; the rest, I think, were virtual. For a while we looked at fractals online and drank lemonade. George has a couple of nice Rottweilers, Sally and Betty, with whom I like to chat, but that night I had to get back to the studio computer to see if my Twice-Weekly Letter went out okay.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Robert Genn on "The Timid Test System"

The Timid Test System

Dear Sherrie,

We've talked a few times about audacity, which is a totally good thing unless you don't know what you're doing. Think of a surgeon giving someone an artificial hip with a load of audacity and no knowledge. It smarts, and besides, it causes you to walk funny. And then there's the system of "commit and correct," which is golden when you have something to commit to. Now here's another: TTS--the "Timid Test System."

When you're sitting back with a glass, looking at a work in progress, you're asking, "What could be?" With time and a curious mind, a few ideas pop up. This is when you need to go up to the canvas and lightly touch in your possible maneuvers. Having put something in, however meekly, gives an idea of just how great something might be later. Toward the final stage of the painting, you can put it in with audacity.

The "What could be?" question is a personal one. What you ask is your own business and the follow-up is in your own sweet time. It's your ability to make choices that leads to effective, professional and unique work. It goes like this: "In that area, in that place, I wonder what it would look like......

if that light over there really dazzled?
if there were an extreme gradation?
if darks were really punched in?
if that colour were rethought and sophisticated?
if that colour were intensified or changed?
if curves took precedent over straights?
if this were made to line up with that?
if there were a further element of depth added?
if that place could be better formed?

A few years ago, just below the parking lot at Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies, I was painting and scratching my head. A couple in a Lincoln with Utah plates pulled up, and, after watching me from the car for a few minutes, got out and came closer. "Very much in the style of Robert Genn. Did you know him?" said the man. I told him I did a bit and that I thought Robert was probably still alive. I asked the couple if they thought my style might be a little more timid than Robert's. "Yes," he said, "yours is really nice, really good, but he had a lot of verve and energy in his, don't you think?" I told them that like Robert I often put my verve and energy in later on. The couple watched me for a minute or so, then wandered down the beach. "Keep at it," said the woman as they left.

Best regards,


PS: "Start with a whisk and end with a broom." (John Singer Sargent)

Esoterica: Creativity means thinking on your feet, making adjustments and sorties as you go along, advancing commitment as well as erasure. Unless you express your wishes, however modestly or timidly, you may never know your power. Your general overall theme may be audacious, even simply audacious, but it is the final, well-planned flourishes that will help your work to fly.