Why I’m Doing 120 Paintings

I receive an email letter twice a week from artist Robert Glenn, who shares his thoughts about art, artists, painting, mental processes (and we artists seem to have our share of mental hang-ups), and other interesting topics.  This recent post is a different take on why it is valuable to do lots of paintings.  I hope you enjoy reading it.  If you’d like to receive his newsletter, it is free and easy to sign up at his website, listed at the bottom of the post.

Two artists

November 2, 2012

Because this is a bit personal, I’m not using their real names. They’re both about 40 years old.

 “Jack” got a BFA and then an MFA from a Midwestern University. He’s visited many of the major contemporary art museums and follows the work of several “important” contemporary painters. He’s written articles on Philip Guston and others. He subscribes to several art magazines and is “the most knowledgeable art-guy in any discussion.” After university he worked for a while in a commercial art gallery. He sometimes writes me long, well-informed letters. He’s painted eleven large paintings (two unfinished) since leaving school. He’s not represented by any gallery. He thinks you need to move to New York and “get lucky” with a dealer who “really represents you.”

 “Jill” took two years of art school and then quit. She pays little attention to other artists. She subscribes to no art magazines but has taken several workshops. Her hobbies include bowling and travelling. At one time she also worked in a commercial art gallery. On two or three occasions she’s written to me. She’s painted “approximately two thousand paintings” since leaving school. She’s represented by four commercial galleries in four, well-separated mid-sized cities.

 There’s a great story in David Bayles and Ted Orland’s Art and Fear. Here it is: 

 “The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work in the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B” and so on. Those being graded on “quality,” however, needed to produce only one pot–albeit a perfect one–to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busy turning out piles of work–and learning from their mistakes–the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

 Best regards,


 PS: “Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work.” (David Bayles and Ted Orland)

 Esoterica: Both subscribers Jack and Jill are thoughtful and enthusiastic artists. Art is central to their lives. And while success and “being able to function as a full time artist” may not be important to some of us, their current situations are quite different. Jack rents an apartment and makes $2150 per month (plus tips and benefits) as an airport porter. Jill works daily in her converted garage in a home she now owns. These days she’s averaging $18,000 per month. She has “no benefits.”

To subscribe to the Twice-Weekly Letter,  go to The Painter’s Keys .  

To see this post in full, go to Two Artists.

3 thoughts on “Why I’m Doing 120 Paintings

  1. Incredible. This relates to all of life. All. Practice does make perfect. Thanks so much. Am forwarding this to my artist daughter who works in a car dealership. Ha. She does keep working and turing it out, but often needs just this type of encouragement. Me too! 🙂

    • It was an encouragement to me, too! Many thanks, Robert Glenn! I’d like to see some of your daughter’s work. Does she have any posted on the web? Do you have some at your home you could share? Did you teach art as a home school subject?

      • Ha! With our daughter, we had to make sure she did all her other work! Art just was how she breathed. When she was only 4 she could be completely contained with a shoebox full of broken, naked crayons and a pad of paper with printing only on one side. 🙂
        I did teach from a small textbook written by Bruce McIntyer, who used to work for Disney. It’s just line art, but big on perspective, which kids can learn if someone will teach it. That was far beyond her, though, and she even helped me teach it. I’ll email you a photo of her delivering a workshop on drawing a horse. She’s done that one over and over.
        Yes, I do have some of her work, here, and now, actually know how to photograph it! 😉 Will try. She posts and sells on DA, but I don’t know her handle there. (I have the real thing, after all.) Will see if I can find any of her old business cards lying around her. She moved, recently, about 6 hours away, and we’re still accustoming ourselves to that.
        She does mostly commissions, as it is hard to sell popular stuff because it is popular and there is so much of it out there. She’s had 4 shows and sold, maybe $200. Did win a blue ribbon and people’s choice at a local popular art contest/exhibition.

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