back to Marcia's Home Page



In January, 2004, a total stranger emailed a lot of interesting questions, mostly about a goal of painting "memories." Here are excerpts from my replies, over the new few months.

hi, artist friend:

i call this "advice from a failure" because you know and i know i'm not a "success" in the art world, only in my own head (meaning i enjoy my life and my "little" career). i like the term "failed artist;" i love the freedom it gives.

you asked how i think of what to paint.

friend, you have to realize i am OLD. being OLD is like being drunk. the brain is all softened up like a piece of wet dough. things get blurry and self consciousness disappears. there are old thoughts flying around like tattered rags of memories and all i have to do is settle down and imagine something. anything at all can trigger a thought.

i was thinking about painting this morning. so the ideas are flying around in my old head, but you know what gets them on canvas? bravery. i think the most important thing an artist can have maybe is courage. you know. the courage to make a fool of oneself in public.

when i was young, things were much more focused. i was MUCH more self conscious. i CARED (even tho i did not admit it) TERRIBLY what people thought of me and my work.

all that is gone now. time is very short. i have so little left.

what is important is my FAMILY, first and foremost. painting is just for ENJOYMENT and for what i would like to leave on this earth, (as if that mattered, which of course it doesn't)....

so i paint to RELAX. i paint the way somebody else might feel in a hot tub.

i sit on the phone and paint. or i paint w/ my grandson. i did some flowers the other day and my grandson wanted to scribble on them w/ a knife and i let him of course. because i dont really care if he "ruins" it. i thought it was getting a little tight anyway.

you say you do not exhibit your artwork. yeah, that would be a problem for me also, were it not for outdoor art shows. i really NEED them. nothing like a DEADLINE for inspiration. the shows, and my web page. i have met many lovely people on the web and there are two people in wash state who ask me to post my paintings via email DAILY, in any state of completion. i find that a lot of fun since they are very supportive. i need little deadlines like that to keep working. so if i were you i would post stuff every day on my website. it's fun. you just have to pay somebody to show you how to do it. i only needed 90 mins of instruction but that was a long time ago. i have been on line since 91 and i forget when i started my website/home page....

the other thing i do to keep working is i take LESSONS. i will do that until i die, i guess. i am lucky to have a "teacher" who i like a lot. i dont listen to a thing she says, of course. but i go to class to "steal" her energy, and vibes from the other painters, and being very competitive, i try and "show off" so that my stuff looks nice in the "critique" at the end of the class where everybody shows their stuff....

you say you are not happy w/your work.... oh dear. that makes me feel sad for the little person within you. i praise myself at all times, when it comes to working, and i believe most productive artists do that. i praise myself with the same love i would give to my grandson when he paints.

the part of me that paints is about 10 years old. i think i am stuck in 1947, which is when i was 10. certainly my memory paintings seem to come from about that time.... maybe from 1942 to 1947, age 5 to 10 let's say.... I extend this theory to other artists and when i see the time periods they have in their memory creations (take woody allen movies, for example) i imagine that must be about when they were 10 years old.

oh. you want to paint your memories, but dont know how to do that w/o a photograph. ah ha. that's easy. i just THINK very hard. often, i am remembering an old photograph! painting just starts in the MIDDLE, so to speak. i dont know what memory you have in mind, but you START with the image in your head. if it is vague, then sharpen it up! this is all mental, of course. if it is blurred, then forget the edges, just think of the part you know. and start with that.

i must tell you something very important. i notice that your painting, the one i saw on your web page, is VERY BEAUTIFUL and very well done. i hate to tell you this, but remember you do not have to follow my advice. the best artists i think, reject all advice and just listen to themselves. but if i were you, the first thing i would do is FORGET trying to be NICE and FORGET trying to be PRETTY. forget trying to do GOOD work. have you forgotten the JOY of being UGLY? the FREEDOM of doing real crap???????

i did a crosswork puzzle the other week and one of the definitions was "the possession of fools." the answer was "pride." well, i do not expect you to take this advice. nobody wants to do ugly work. except me, haha. i do not always succeed, but i truly feel that doing UGLY work is my most precious freedom!

i can not stress this enough. inside of me, and i believe, inside of us ALL, is a small child with all the answers, holding the brush, waiting to paint.

can you imagine a child with a ball, ready to play? someone starts telling the child how to HOLD the BALL, how to THROW, the ball, no, not this way, making one correction after another. now picture the child just PLAYING with the ball, just having FUN. not thinking of right or wrong. that child might end up being very good at playing ball, but doing it only for the sheer joy of it, not out of obedience to instruction.

where was i.

back to memory painting. you say you dont exhibit anyway.... yeah.

remember stella adler's quote in drama school? AN ACTOR HAS NO SHAME, and she said that in class w/ her skirt held up so her underwear was showing and she stood like that for the next few paragraphs.....

that's another thing. i say BE BRAVE. be brave. the fight for ugliness is a noble one that will give you freedom as a reward. it is very important to be brave, and be willing to sacrifice one's pride, one's decency, one's respect in the community, everything. everything must go. all respectable things.

have you ever noticed how great actors seem to have been operating on the edge, as if they gave ALL for their craft???? they were heros of sorts. sometimes i see a performance and think wow, that person really gave EVERYTHING he/she had.

when it comes to art, well there's alice neel, people like her.... but i wont stop to give examples of people i admire. i was thinking once, that to be great at anything (writing, drama, art) involves the ability to IMAGINE. to step inside the life of another person, to be able to imagine that person. that would include being able to step inside onesself as a child, in memory paintings, or to step inside ones father, ones mother, ones grandparents, to be able to imagine them.

of course, i add, it is ok to LIE. one does not have to be an ACCURATE rememberer. some of the greatest characters -- be it literature or art -- have been fictional. it is odd that i start to paint my mother in bed and it turns out to be me (the painting here is an 18x24 oil that i worked on today), dont bother trying to remember accurately. let your hand do the remembering and let it lie. it's ok to lie.

if the fear to TRY is strong and always stops you, then STOP TRYING. if the door is locked, leave it alone. go thru the window. if painting is stopped, try clay. if clay is stopped, try wet sand and a stick (and take photos of the results). if sand is stopped, try painting with your vegetables. make an arrangment of mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli and creamed spinach. photograph the result. LISTEN to your inner child. if the child is too scared, sneak thru a way that is acceptable.

ah ha. you are afraid the paintings would be TOO SAD for anyone to see? then paint them and photograph them BURNING in your fireplace.

when you do the RIGHT thing, you will feel GREAT ENERGY and INTEREST. if you are sad and stymied, you are knocking at the wrong door. try another door. maybe you will have to make your paintings out of garbage in the back yard.... you will have to THINK very hard about WHAT gets your inner child excited. does he/she want to nail old things on the side of a barn???? does he/she want to hang dead skunk skins from clothes lines? what tiny permission would make him/her happy? what secrets is he/she allowed to reveal?

thanks for your thots about my technique. all i can say is i CHEAT any way i can. i dont even think about it anymore. what i mean is recently i have flipped thru magazines and just paint what occurs to me after looking at something.

Here is an unfinished 11x14 oil painting of a dog walker that I started after looking at a painting by Lyonel Feininger, reproduced here. Mine is very different, but it's a "cheat" in the sense that i got inspired by something outside of myself.

Heck, i can't ALWAYS be thinking "pure" memories of my childhood.

yesterday i was turning my grandson's beginning scrawls into 8x10" abstract oil paintings, and then from that, turning them into turkeys. haha.

thank you SO MUCH for writing. i enjoyed answering very much.

now maybe ill put some of the reply on my website, because you are not the first person who asked me how to loosen up childhood memories and get them onto canvas.


back to Marcia's Home Page





blog BLOG

Artist Books BOOKS


mwdogs DOGS





links LINKS

Linoleum Cuts

mwjewelry JEWELRY

mwleonia LEONIA NJ

Noyes Museum Show 2002 NOYES MUSEUM SHOW 2002




Xmas Letter 2001 STATE OF THE ARTIST 2008