My Blog List

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Time's Up!

Time's Up!
STOP! Wherever you are, time's up.

I subscribe to Robert Genn's Newsletter. Today's article on "The 37 Club" is worth sharing; it was inspirational to this incessently pokey painter:

The "37 Club"

August 20, 2013
Dear Linda,
As occasional workshop givers, my daughter Sara and I find there are a
few artists we can't help. Some of these folks may be accomplished
professionals with developed careers, but most are in some way simply
There's a wide range of reasons for blockage. One of the most frequent
is the buildup of bad habits in basic techniques learned in lesser
workshops or from hit-and-miss self-teaching. Another source of blockage
is what we call "Educosis," that is, too much theoretical knowledge with
very little actual easel-time. These folks often hate what they do and
abandon early. Still others have issues of self-esteem, self-loathing,
imposter syndrome and guilt. The list goes on.
Trying to work around these blockages is difficult. If you praise the
work of someone with self-esteem issues, for example, they're not liable
to believe you, and dealing psychologically with these folks is more
than humble workshop-givers can muster. That's why we go for practical
ploys that might bypass the blockages.
One of our favourite devices is an old hourglass--for some reason ours
times out at 37 minutes. Way out of some people's comfort zone, the
instrument produces some surprisingly high-quality exercises. At our
recent workshop at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, B.C., participant Jane
Appleby found herself making a remarkable 10 paintings a day, each one
often better than the previous. We called it "The Strange Case of Jane
Appleby." She also demonstrated the ability to do a painting in 37
strokes, winning her full membership in the "37 Club." "When you work
like this," says Jane, "You don't have the time to spoil things by
messing around with your strokes." We've put two of Jane's pumpkins at
the top of the current clickback.
Speed, it seems, short-circuits the right brain to the painter's hand.
By not passing through the theoretical shoulds, coulds, and woulds of
the left brain, the results are more likely to be "artistic."
For homework, we suggest our workshoppers, no matter what their
personal styles, hang out with the "37 Club" every morning for a month
and do a quickie 8" x 10" or 11" x 14". After all, some folks do yoga,
or meditate, or they worship at the altar of Facebook. We can pretty
well guarantee that the first few exercises will be disappointing, but
many blockages will eventually fall away like blue jeans on a nudist
beach. The big payoff is to be happier in your work. Artists of the
world arise, you have nothing to lose but your jeans.
Being mostly self taught in art techniques, but highly educated in art history, Robert's newsletter hit home. In spite of being self confident, proud of my accomplishments and free of guilt, I am incredibly slow, a perfectionist who gets hung up on details and inevitably discouraged. It's time I gave that up.  So I took Robert's advice and stopped when forty minutes were up.  I know he said thirty seven, but I have no digital clock in  my studio, so I rounded up. Working faster, thoughtlessly, often produces better paintings than the ones we labor over intensively.  This example isn't one of them.  Hopefully with time, I will discover what is absolutely necessary to get down first instead of painting instinctively. I was also a bit distracted watching the clock.  A stop watch may be necessary?


  1. Interesting Genn newsletter and his 37 club is also backed up by Peggy Kroll Roberts who 5 years ago was giving her workshop participants a similar time slot and limited brush stroke exercises. Carol Marine Has a similar exercise with an even shorter time frame, but repeated four times.. I am sure many others instructors do too. I will look forward to seeing if you keep with it and if you do what the results will be. (I used a kitchen timer.) I have confidence in your commitment and hope your scheduled surgery does not sidetrack your progress.

    1. I'll try the thirty seven strokes today. I read that post when I went to check out his URL; 37 brush strokes maybe more significant than the timing? It may get the student to see what is important to conveying the image and t his lessen the tendency to be too fussy? Indeed, I think so. Of course all these exercises serve student s of gestural painting, not traditionalists. I do appreciate the gestural style. But I really admire the traditionalists. Patience is not one of my virtues--or, when you think about it, modern society's.

      I probably will be off for a couple of weeks as I learn to navigate the new and improved me, but I have graphite and water markers located close to the couch and a stubborn determination to get past this quickly, albeit impatience.

  2. Hi Linda,
    If you did this in forty minutes, I can only say, "Bravo Linda!" I'd be quite happy with it, myself. The problem arises when I ask it finished? Could it be better. Invariably, the answer is "yes", and away I go. I sometimes think too much emphasis is placed on speed rather than quality. I understand the goal of the time trials is overall improvement, but from what I see in the blog-o-sphere, many advocates never do anything but "quick studies". I'm wondering, where's the beef? Show me how all those quick studies has helped you create a gallery-quality painting. Show me something larger than an 8x10.
    Struggle and even a little agony come with the territory in my book and I wouldn't have it any other way. My paintings are a lot like a battlefield and to many folks who know me, all of those marks identify my work. Those many marks tell them a human being did this painting. The build-up of paint on the canvas is my trademark and I'm okay with that. Thank goodness we live in a time when no one gets stomped for trying! :)
    So, studies and sketches, with, or without the clock, are an important tool. I appreciate this and even try to practice the technique myself on occasion. I'll wrap this up by saying I subscribe to his news letters, too and have great respect for his artistic longevity and success. And I was, in no way aiming any of what I just wrote at you! :) Ta-Da-a-a!
    Have a wonderful tomorrow, Linda.

    1. You do give me a chuckle. I too wonder where's the fire? These types of exercises are interesting to me only because I do think they get you to see the essentials. Do I think this quicky is finished? NO! Of course it needs work. I like to battle it out too. The battle is what adds depth to the portrait, the landscape whatever. Wham bam thank you mame, was never acceptable to me. :-)) (Genn wouldn't be upset. We're talking about him). I am going to try the 37 brushstrokes exercise. It's easier to do. The timing exercise really takes more time: the prep time you spend considering what colors go on the palette? That takes me 37 minutes right off.

  3. That's an interesting article, Linda. I wonder how that translates to watercolor, because going back in again and again ruines the painting anyway. But since I can only produce overworked paintings lately (that I don't show on my blog ;) by the way ) I'll try working with a timer.

    1. I thought so too. While I subscribe to Genn's newsletter, I don't read it as often as I should perhaps. If I ever have a block, this is a good way to get rid of it. But the exercise is basically advocating quick sketches. Fine paintings take time and effort--just like everything else.

  4. Very interesting. I too subscribe to Robert Genn but I did not go do this '37 club' thing. I'm with you Linda that in the first place the 37 strokes makes you look and find the essentials, trains the eye, and would be more beneficial than speed. Secondly, quality over quantity is always best, which is why I gave up on the dailies. I agree with Gary too....if you did that in 40 minutes you should be very proud of yourself.

    1. Not so proud. You know damn well, I'll be going back into that painting. I'd hate it to be found on my shelves after I've stepped out. It needs work.

  5. Excellent color of flesh and hair. Congratulations Linda.
    Hugs from Barcelona

    1. Not too bad for fast. Not her coloration though. Thanks Blanco. The exercise was an eyeopener. Hugs back from Bloomfield Hills.