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Robert Genn: A Fully Lived Life

161Robert Genn died this week.
Bob was a painter who wrote his story big.
A West Coast guy who started small ending with a huge impact around the world.

A teacher who evoked an era and gave pragmatic and forthright guidance.
And a father who included and elevated his children on his own journey.
First, Superb Painter:
A Robert Genn is a prize. My friends Pam and Al have one of the absolute best – a pair of hikers overlook a mountain tarn on the way back from Lake MacArthur [Lake O’Hara area]. The water just starting to take on the alpenglow of evening up there. Rings absolutely true. A glorious distillation of essence.
Robert was a relentless Western Canada traveller and iconic recorder of our wilderness. It took on refinement under his hand.
Smart Calgary friends who collected even when poor knew about Robert and bought early. Canada House in Banff and White Rock Gallery were among many premiere dealers championing him.

Big Impact:
Almost 30 years ago, Robert discovered the Internet. He started a twice weekly letter talking frankly to artists about dimensions of the life. From hints on composition, to blunt guidance about pricing, to characters encountered along the way, to musings about the natural world or the world of art, Robert’s were emails that delighted the mind and turned the head. He talked about his beginnings – renting a small apartment out of school and holing up in there for 6 months straight “Until I became a painter!” “I’m laptopping you from….” heralded another thoughtful tome.
Old fashioned, straight forward, no strings attached giving. No commercial motive behind every move which makes me flinch every time I sense it coming – as it so often does these days, with every “favour” cloaking an expected return payment.

Impact? His letter now has 2 million subscribers worldwide.
Pragmatic Teacher:
“Bob” – as he insisted in classes – in his trademark green shorts roaming a gaggle of tyro painters strung along the Beach at Hollyhock. A word here, a stroke there, a remonstrance [“not there! There!” with a stabbing hand], an encouragement. He demonstrated generously from the specially rigged lawn chair/ easel that was his “office” [“I’ll move this rock over here because it’s not , uh, convenient.”] as his acolytes gathered to watch his confident hand bring a “Genn” to life before our eyes.
I was privileged to be there, to learn such gems as “a blue glaze for the background, yellow for the foreground.” that just made your painting pop. He interrupted me attempting a lily in the garden: “Mind?”, grasped my brush and with a few deft strokes made clear what the backdrop of my subject was intended to look like. Needless to say, that piece will have exalted status!
Including Father:
Genn’s family all ended up in artistic pursuits. Son is in media. And Sara has emerged as a artist to be reckoned with enjoying a lively career in New York. She appeared at his side as he and she taught as equals. He brought her on painting trips – memorably on the MacKenzie recently – and in this way was able to be in her company in later life. And confer a blessing on her career without diminishing her unique contribution.
So here was a man who gave his all to art, art fanciers and artists, and the artistic life. A joyous energetic appreciative and relentlessly contributing presence who gave fully and, in return, enjoyed a life to emulate.

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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