I have been a long-time fan of "Painter's Keys" Robert Genn's website, and receiving his Twice-Weekly Newsletter. I save the posts that particularly speak to me so that I can refer to them on occasion.
Because it is International Friendship Day, the subject of "friends" has been on my mind. As I reread the following post, I wanted to share it. I hope it will speak to you. I would love to hear your thoughts.
I'm posting this with permission:
On Thursday morning I was at my easel when a courier appeared at the door. He was delivering an envelope from a friend, a local lawyer of my acquaintance. The letter stated that in 1974 I had brought some of my work to his office, and a recent bookeeping search revealed he had never paid me for them. Lorne's note was filled with contrition and guilt. "How much do I owe you?" he asked. "Do I owe you a ton for arrears? Do I pay you the current market value? What about the money you would have earned on the money you should have had for the paintings?" As I was contemplating these thoughts a $10,000 "down-payment" cheque fluttered from the envelope.
Thinking back those thirty-odd years, I vaguely recalled the delivery. More recently I had noticed two paintings in his office when I'd been getting his help in transferring some property. I had thought nothing of the earlier transaction, took it for granted that he owned the paintings, and only noted their need for cleaning.
Over the phone, Lorne and I had a good laugh. I put his mind at ease by disclosing my own sloppy billing and sieve-like mind. Carol Ann and I looked over our ancient records and came up with nada. A subsequent visit to Lorne's office found four, not two paintings. I measured them, determined their probable cost when new, ran them by my current price list, cut that in half, and he cut me a cheque. I'm now in the process of cleaning and reframing them for free.
As I was removing three decades of lawyer-office-cigar from the surfaces, I was thinking of Samuel Johnson's remark, "We need to keep our friendships in constant repair." Deeper than this, I thought, there's a sort of Karma and integrity that mystically guides the creative life. You might say it's one of our unexpected blessings. Every one of us has such a story. People respect artists and look out for them. The surprising and singular finding of my lifetime has been the value of friends and the sense of trust that builds between them. This includes not only collectors, but fellow artists, dealers, agents and curious observers. Sometimes I think friendships are even more important than the art. "Life is human relationships," said the wise man from the East. By sharing our creative magic with others we reap the magic of their friendship.
PS: "Friendship multiplies blessings and minimizes misfortunes;
it is a unique remedy against adversity and it soothes the soul."
Esoterica: That's not to say humour and passive amusement do not play a part in friendships. Among artists and their patrons I notice a mild form of banter. Perhaps it's some sort of jealousy that lies beneath both surfaces--something to do with the fragility of the human condition and the fickle mystery of art. George Bernard Shaw wrote a note to Winston Churchill: "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play;
bring a friend... if you have one." To which Churchill replied, "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one."
(c) Copyright 2008 Robert Genn. Used with permission
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