The navigation of wrong turns
by Robert Genn

June 1, 2010 

Dear Rodney,Last week I conducted a short workshop with seven students on an antique boat amid 
spectacular West Coast scenery. Apart from the possible benefit to students, I like 
these encounters because they give me an opportunity to try to understand the 
varieties and machinations of the creative process. 

Even with such a small group, there is a range of expectations and capabilities. 
Some folks are seasoned painters while others are just getting started. Some are 
anxious to learn, even desperate for progress, while others merely want to drop 
their anchors in a comfort zone and have a stimulating holiday. Needless to say, 
some arrive with significant formal art education and are primed with attitude and 
theory. Still others just want to find out how to make a handsome living.

Some students show immediate sensitivity to an environment that may be new to them. 
Some also immediately demonstrate sophisticated colour and sound compositions. One 
might say these are the talented ones, but they are often beginners whose 
sensibilities have not yet been overwritten. Like many instructors, I have often 
toyed with the idea of working with an open minded person who has never picked up a 
brush and turning her into a great painter in short order.

Art is a never-ending maze where wrong turns can hinder for decades. With the 
current democratization and the widespread triumph of individualism, many artists 
simply stay mired. So many choices, so many wrong turns--unless of course you are 
one of those believers who think there is no such thing as a wrong turn. 

At workshops, floating or otherwise, the most progress is made by students who can 
simply see with fresh eyes. They are not so stuck with an inner vision whose planks 
may be riddled with past mistakes. For a few days at least, they are not so in love 
with their own treasured styles. These folks can pump out their gnarly bilges and 
look at things a bit differently. During the encounter they keep busy with a mildly 
competitive abandon. Fast learners, they find overhearing to be as good as hearing. 
Wise students filter what they need from the itinerant instructor, who may himself 
be mired in his own lifetime of wrong turns.

Best regards,


PS: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)

Esoterica: Royally fed and pampered, we worked for three days from before breakfast 
until last light. On the fantail, or by Zodiac to precious islets or quiet coves, 
we painted up a pile of small, mostly unfinished works. Most of us slept well, took 
no naps and simply kept going. We dried our acrylics around the ship's cozy fire. 
There was no end to good cheer and a sense of blessedness. On the last day, after a 
prolonged silence, someone said, "I just love it."