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Canadian Artist Robert Genn Robert Genn
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I can't see myself stopping what I'm doing now. Golf and bridge are not my game."
Robert Genn

Canadian Painter - Robert Genn Artist Probe - Interview with an artist

Robert Genn - Contemporary Canadian Landscape artist

Robert Genn - September 2003

+1 ::: How did you first become an artist and why do you continue to be one now?
I became aware of art when I was about four. My mother and father encouraged me, featured me. All through school and high school I was the "best" artist. Then I went to Art Center School in Los Angeles, California, and I soon realized I was the "worst" artist in my class. I had to buckle down to get good. When I did that I got hooked. I fell in love with art. I've been in love ever since.
+2 ::: Could you tell me more about your art.
I paint lots of different subjects. I have "periods." Right now I'm painting patterny subjects-mountain backdrops, wood patterns, complex weavings of foliage. I try to paint in a broad stroke, keep it simple, and right now I'm looking for the "big picture"-even though I'm hung up on 11" x 14"s.
+3 ::: How important is it for you to know your subject? You seem to paint a lot in the landscape, how does this influence the finished painting?
Subject matter is a jumping-off point. Basically it's possible to make art out of anything. I follow my nose until I lose interest in a subject-then I move on. In a way I like the physical painting as object, as treasure. With subject matter such as landscape I like my surfaces to be decorative, shiny, well designed, compositionally sound and with an off-beat colour spin. I'm a bit "style driven" rather than "idea driven" these days.

+4 ::: I'm a subscriber to your twice weekly letter (Painters Keys*). Could you share some more about how it came about and why you do it?
Friendship means a lot-but a lot of us don't have the time. Playing guru is a tricky business. I realized that I had an ability to inspire and help other artists without influencing their style or hurting their own personal integrity. The most valuable thing an artist possesses is his or her personal integrity. I like to protect that in others. I don't do much workshopping. It interferes with my work. So the letter is my way of making a contribution.

The letter came about in response to the book I had written: "The Painter's Keys."* When you see a book like that between its covers you immediately realize there were some things you should have included. I had about twenty emails from artists praising the book. My family and I were in an Internet café in a place called Galaroza in southern Spain and I wrote all these folks a letter-the same letter--only it was group-mailed "Dear Joe, Dear Harry, Dear Mary," etc. Before I had finished my espresso an email came back in that said-"If you're going to send out another letter like that one-send one to so-and-so as well." I thought to myself-"What a medium!" That's how-friend to friend--the letter has grown to what it is now.

We live in extraordinary times. With today's technology I've been able to write and send the letter from above the Arctic Circle using my laptop and a satellite phone. I've sent it from a boat on the Nile River and the Tate Modern in London. More than once I've been tapping away and I realize I have a brush in my mouth. Wherever I am I try to stick to whatever is going on that might be of value and benefit to other creative people. I'm dead against gobbledegook and "artspeak" but sometimes I get ahead of myself and goof up. Then artists delete me.
+5 ::: What artists have influenced you and why?
Gosh, many, many---all. I love all art, all who try. But of course I've got favorites: Singer Sargent, Sorolla, Tom Thomson; some I've known during my life, some I've only wished I'd known. Lawren Harris, Monet, Cezanne, Alma Tadema, Tissot, Georgia O'Keeffe, Robert Lenkiewicz, Richard Schmid. Ones you wouldn't think of too, like Joseph Beuys and Mark Rothko. And friends who struggle nearby. We all stand on one another's shoulders.
Also, it's been important to have a supportive family; my wife Carol and my kids Sara, James and David. They're all in the arts, which adds to the excitement. Sara's a painter*. James is a filmmaker. David's a musician.
+6 ::: What do you do for fun (besides art)?
I collect antique cars, stamps, junk, books, old photos, cameras. I watch birds. I love boats. I have a lovely old 1921 rumrunner launch and other boats for various purposes. And of course travel. Practically all artists love to travel. Grist for the mill.

+7 ::: What inspires you to paint?
I sort of look for things that I can get my brush around. I call it 'inflicting my style.' Having said that, my style is always changing-modifying-and subject matter follows with it-or perhaps vice versa. I work from three basics-paintings that I start on location, paintings I do from reference that I get myself, and paintings that I make up out of my head. It's these third-generation paintings that I think are often my best.

But I think the main thing that inspires is the constant and nagging wish to do better. This is what really keeps an artist going.
+8 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
I have terrific dealers. I leave it to them and let them do their thing. It's like running a mutual fund. Sometimes a dealer will be pulling for you and others will be laying back on the oars. It all works out. It's important for an artist to be free and wealthy enough to be able to do his or her thing. I have an assistant in the studio who shops, banks, keeps the books, does the shipping and all the other things that artists need not be concerned with.

+9 ::: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I can't see myself stopping what I'm doing now. Golf and bridge are not my game. The twice-weekly letter will seriously have more than two million subscribers by then. I hope I can continue to give value to my readers.

+10 ::: Tell me more about your latest series of paintings and where you are going with them.
I'm climbing mountains and finding "alpine meadows." I'm retracing the steps of artists whose works or attitudes I love. Next month I'm going to Morocco to paint in the same place as Winston Churchill. Marrakesh. Then I'm painting in Tunis. Never been there.
+11 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Learn your craft in private with the assistance of books and nature. Learn to trust your instincts. Take the time to get good. Learn to love the process. And never forget that quality is always in style.

Information - related websites

Personal website of Robert Genn

Robert Genn's twice weekly letter, The Painter's Keys :

+4 ::: The Painter's Keys:

+4 ::: The Painter's Keys - Book : - book
::: Sara Genn :


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