How Those That Did it Did it,



And How You Can do it too!




So begineth Thy Journey






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Picasso's Confession


"When I was young, like all the young, art, great art, was my religion; but with the years, I came to see that art, as it was understood until 1800; was henceforth finished, on its last legs, doomed, and that so called artistic activity with all its abundance is only the many formed manifestation of its agony. Men are detached from and more and more disinterested in painting, sculpture and poetry; appearances to the contrary, men today have put their hearts into everything else; the machine, scientific discoveries, wealth, the domination of natural forces and immense territories. We no longer feel art as a vital need, as a spiritual necessity, as was the case in centuries past.


Many of us continue to be artists and to be occupied with art for reasons which have little in common with true art, but rather through a spirit of imitation, through nostalgia for tradition, through mere inertia, through love of ostentation, of prodigality, of intellectual curiosity, through fashion or through calculation. They live still through force of habit and snobbery in a recent past, but the great majority in all places no longer have any sincere passion for art, which they consider at most as a diversion, a hobby and a decoration. Little by little, new generations with a predilection for mechanics and sports, more sincere, more cynical and brutal, will leave art to the museums and libraries as an incomprehensible and useless relic of the past.


From the moment that art is no longer the sustenance that nourishes the best, the artist may exteriorize his talent in all sorts of experiments with new formulas, in endless caprices and fancy, in all the expedients of intellectual charlatanism. In the arts, people no longer seek consolation, nor exaltation. But the refined, the rich, the indolent, distillers of quintessence seek the new, the unusual, the original, the extravagant, the shocking. And I, since cubism and beyond, I have satisfied these gentlemen and these critics with all the various whims which have entered my head, and the less they understood them, the more they admired. By amusing myself at these games, at all these tomfooleries, at all these brain-busters, riddles and arabesques, I became famous quite rapidly. And celebrity means for a painter: sales increment, money, wealth.


Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich. But when completely alone with myself, I haven't the nerve to consider myself an artist in the great and ancient sense of the word. There have been great painters like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his time. This is a bitter confession, mine, more painful indeed than it may seem, but it has the merit of being sincere."


PABLO PICASSO (FROM: ORIGIN 12, January 1964 Cid Corman, Editor Kyoto, Japan.; cited by Artcompasas Amsterdam: GOTOBUTTON BM_1_ )




How sad. A life well wasted.












ALFRED SISLEY 1839 - 1899


An impressionist’s view


“Every picture shows a spot with which he artist himself has fallen in love. It is in this - among other things –that the unsurpassed charm of Corot and Jongkind consists.”





This question has been asked a lot, and unfortunately those who tend to answer it are moronic yahoos who really know little or nothing about what they are talking about. If you seriously want to know what it is that makes someone who draws or paints, ‘an artist’ compared to others who draw or paint, you need to ask an artist.


What separates ‘artists’ out from others who do the same thing is not how good an artist is doing what he is doing, but how he approaches his subject in the first place, what compels him to tackle that subject, and what it is he intends to achieve from doing what he is doing. An artist and another person whose skills may far exceed that of the artist can look at the exact same subject and see entirely different things, and in the result you can tell; in the artist’s work there is life; in the other person’s work, there is a copy. Yes, the copy may be exceptional, but there is something missing …


The reason why life resides in the work of the artist is because the artist was not just painting the subject that lay in front of him, he actually created something other than the subject that lay in front of him; he wasn’t just looking at something, he was experiencing something.


In the work of the painting done by the other person nothing has been created; it was all copied, robotic, and the person doing the painting may as well not have even been there.




MAX LIEBERMANN 1847 - 1935


“It is an uncontested and incontestable axiom of aesthetics that every form, every line, every stroke, must be preceded by an idea; otherwise, though the form may be correct and calligraphically fine, it is not recognizable as artistic, for artistic form is living form, engendered by a creative spirit.


It is clear that this form is the basis of all pictorial art. But it is much more; it is also its end and it culmination. Without it – to name specific painters – the pictures of titian and Tintoretto, Ruben and Rembrandt, Goya and Manet would only be Persian carpets. They would be living pictures, but not pictures that live. Because they would have no souls.”





What is it that makes the ‘artist’






Artists rarely select their subject; their subject selects them.


This may sound odd but it is true. There is something in that subject that stops the person dead in their tracks and compels them to pay attention. There is no reasoning to it, you can’t analyze it, it just is, and they know it.

(I was once asked why I paint what I paint. It was an interesting question because frankly, I had never thought of it, so I had to stop and think. The answer was obvious; it is fun. The subject is irrelevant, which is why to an artist a pile of garbage or dog puke can be fascinating …)






ROBERT HENRI 1865 - 1929


“I love the tools made for the mechanics. I stop at the window of hardware stores. If I could only find an excuse to buy many ore of them than I have already bought on the mere pretense that I might have a use for them! They are so beautiful, so simple and plain and straight to their meaning. There is no ‘art’ about them, they have not been made beautiful, they are beautiful.”






But what is this ‘it’ that pulls at


 them …?



All people have the urge to create, and life sucks mightily when this urge is ignored, mightily, mightily sucketh it.


There is one thing about creating work in whatever media it may be, and that is probably the underlying the reason why you do anything creative, mainly that it pulls you to it, you are compelled in some way to respond to it, to paint it, to write about it, sing or dance about it, build it …


And what it is that compels you is how it makes you feel, how it pulls out of you your own passion. In any subject you chose, there is something that pulled you towards it, it made you feel a certain way.


This is what makes the artist different from others whose skills may equal or exceed that of the artist’s; this is why the artist does what he does, why he selects this particular subject over that one and why he does it this particular way.



ROBERT HENRI 1865 - 1929


Art is the attainment of a state of feeling


“The object of painting a picture is not to make a picture – however unreasonable this may sound. The picture, if a picture results, is a by-product and maybe useful, valuable, interesting as a sign of what has passed. The object, which is back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence. In such moments activity is inevitable, and whether this activity is with brush, pen, chisel, or tongue, its result is but a by-product of the state, a trace, the footprints of the state.


These results, however crude, become dear to the artist who made them because they are records of states of being which he has enjoyed and which he would regain. They are likewise interesting to others because they are to some extent readable and reveal the possibilities of greater existence.”




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What make a truly great artist?




Great artists exhibit a sense of freedom that is hard for others to really understand, although even the lowest of us have the same freedom; the great artist is less restricted in his way of experiencing things, and it’s this experience that compels them to act.




Eugene Delacroix 1796-1863


Extracts from his Journal


Art is not imitation  


“The closer the imitation the colder it is, and that is the truth.”





 Nearly all artists when they paint, paint to some extent what is in front of them, perhaps focusing on that particular part of the subject that attracted them in the first place. We all do this, its fun, nothing wrong with that.






“Never lose sight of that first impression by which you were moved”.

France ca. 1850





But the really great artists go further. What they paint is not just the subject in front of them; what they paint is the feeling that attracted them to it in the first place. It is the feeling they are trying to get down on the canvas. They are not painting the subject; they are using the subject to paint a painting.





JAMES WHISTLER 1834 - 1903


“As music is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry of sight, and the subject-matter has nothing to do with the harmony of sound or of colour.”






As artist you are experiencing something, so, paint that, the experience, paint how this subject makes you feel. There is no greater joy for an artist, not really.


In the subject there may be a specific part of the subject that pulls at you, causes you to ‘be’ in some way, well, that is what you work on, that is what you try to ‘capture’. As to the rest of the subject, you put in only that which forwards that feeling, and ignore the rest. Well, maybe not ignore, but just fill it in so that it works with your feeling and doesn’t subtract from it. Any part of the subject that doesn’t add to the experience, you change it so it does, or reduce it so it doesn’t get in the way.







“Be guided by feeling alone … Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for a conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. Reality is one part of art; feeling completes it …Before any site and any object, abandon yourself to your first impression. If you have really been touched, you will convey to others the sincerity of your emotion.   


                                                                                       France, ca. 1856”




So what you are painting, what you are trying to ‘capture’, is how the subject makes you feel.


To do this is to be a great artist. That is the difference.




VINCENT VAN GOGH 1853 - 1890


“So I am always between two currents of thought, first the material difficulties, turning round and round and round to make a living; and second, the study of color. I am always in hope of making a discovery there, to express the love of two lovers by a marriage of two complementary colours, their mingling and their opposition, the mysterious vibrations of kindred tones. To express a thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a somber background.”





PICASSO 1881 –1973


“It is my misfortune - and probably my delight - to use things as my passions tell me. What a miserable fate for a painter who adores blondes to have to stop himself putting them into a picture because they don’t go with the basket of fruit!”




HENRI-MATISSE 1869 – 1954


“I cannot copy nature in a servile way, I must interpret nature and submit it to the spirit of the picture –when I have found the relationship of all the tones the result must be a living harmony of tones, a harmony nut unlike that of a musical composition …”


“To paint an autumn landscape I will not try to remember what colours suit this season, I will only be inspired by the sensation that the season gives me; the icy clearness of the sour blue sky will express the season just as well as the tonalities of the leaves. My sensation itself may vary, the autumn may be soft and warm like a protracted summer or quite cool with a cold sky and lemon yellow trees that give a chilly impression and announce winter.”




ROBERT HENRI 1865 - 1929


“Because we are saturated with life, because we are human, our strongest motive is life, humanity; and the stronger the motive back of a line the stronger, and therefore the more beautiful, the line will be.


Critics have written that Renoir was not interested in the people he painted, was only interested in colour and form, that the ‘who’ or ‘what’ of the model was totally negligible to him. Yet one has only to look at those little children he painted, the one bending over his writing, the two little girls at the piano, to cite instances; and it will be apparent that Renoir had not only a great interest in human character, in human feeling, but had also a great love for the people he painted.


He needed new inventions in technique, in colour and form to express what he felt about life. His feeling was so great that his search was directed, and the result is as we have seen- great rhythms in form and colour.”






On the Art of Painting A definition of painting


“Painting is an art which, with proportionate lines and lifelike colours, and by observing perspective light, so imitates the appearance of corporeal things as to represent upon flat surfaces not only the thickness and roundness of bodies, but their motions, and even shows visibly to our eyes many feelings and emotions of the mind.”






“Is it not emotion, the sincerity of one’s feeling for nature, that draws us, and if the emotions are sometimes so strong that one works without knowing one works, when sometimes the strokes come with a sequence and a coherence like words in a speech or a letter, then one must remember that it has not always been so, and that in the time to come there will again be heavy days, empty of inspiration.


So one must strike while the iron is hot, and put the forged bars on one side.” 

                                                                                          -Arles, 1888




Realize that all that was said above about ‘creating’ or ‘feeling’ or ‘passion’ is not something that can be taught, you cannot teach someone to be creative, or to find beauty. Fortunately, you’ll never need to do so as everybody already has all that, it comes into the world with them and evolves just as they do. What you can do, and it is a wonderful thing to do, is to help them overcome those barriers which hinder them in expressing that creativity, and thus help them open the door to all that joy.


We all have this creative urge, this passion, none are without it. The problem many face is expressing it, barriers. If the barriers can be reduced or undone, then this creativity will just flow, you couldn’t stop it if you wanted to.


In this field, drawing and painting, the barriers are the inability to draw, the inability to create a sense of three dimensions using tones and shading, the inability to figure out how to get the colour you want and not get mud, and so forth. And as life would have it, all these barriers can be overcome, very, very easily, and once done, a whole new avenue of life and joy will open up to you.


I know you want to get right at it but there are a few concepts you need to become familiar with to help you get it. I wish there was a pill you could take but there isn’t, you have to study and work at it, and you will achieve your goal, so be patient with me and pay attention to what is being said, you won’t regret it.







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