It was roughly two years ago that I sent an email to an artist by the name of Robert Genn. I had become familiar with Genn’s work through his iconic paintings of the Canadian landscape, his involvement in the Federation of Canadian Artists and his famous ‘Twice Weekly Letters’ published on his ‘Painter’s Keys’ website, which is somewhat of a bible to artists worldwide looking for advice on how to make it out there in the Art World.
The reason for the email was to ask about the possibility of joining, what had become an annual trip, his helicopter plein air painting excursion to a place called the ‘Bugaboos’ in the Alberta Rocky Mountains. At the time, I was looking to experience something new and to take a break from the studio and painting from my travel reference photos. Back to nature, freehand and freestyle. While not a landscape painter, I was looking to push myself out of my comfort zone with a group of like minded artists.
I recall the day clearly as I was running on the treadmill and my phone began to ring, I jumped from the treadmill and ran down the hall to a phone lit up with the name ‘R GENN’ flashing brightly. At first I did not connect the dots as to who the person was calling, a friendly voice asked for Brandy and said, ‘Bob Genn’ calling. I was surprised and happy to hear the voice and thankful I had jumped off the treadmill and reached the phone in time.
We chatted at length, we talked about the trip, his experiences and pushing boundaries. He said to me, “I know your work, you are a very good painter”, I thought, what a kind artist and full of stories and great advice. At the time I had just received news that I would be travelling to Calgary to paint on site at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. I told Bob that I would try and make both work, but in the end I could not and I had to forgo the Bugaboos trip and instead enjoyed a few emails back and fourth. Then, as it happens for all of us, I got busy with my work and lost touch.
That same year I was pleasantly surprised to see my work sharing the pages of Galleries West Magazine, as our work ran next to one another. Made me smile.
Earlier this year I heard news that Robert Genn was diagnosed with terminal cancer and on Tuesday, May 27th he passed away peacefully surrounded by family. I was so saddened to hear the news and how quickly things came to pass. If I were to only have one word to describe Robert Genn it would be, inspired. He lived life to the fullest, shared his knowledge and championed others in any way he was able. I wish I had gotten to know him better, but am thankful for that phone conversation on that Spring day in 2012. You will be missed Bob, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy the legacy of art you left behind.