How Those That Did it Did it,
And How You Can do it too!
So begineth Thy Journey
"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:
How sad. A life well wasted.
WHAT IS IT THAT
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.
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
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.
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
“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.”
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.
JEAN BAPTISTE CAMILLE COROT 1796 -
“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.
JEAN BAPTISTE CAMILLE COROT 1796 -
“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.”
“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!”
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.”
GIOVANNI PAOLO LOMAZZO 1538 - 1600
On the Art of Painting A definition of
“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.”
VINCENT VAN GOGH 1853-1890
“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.”
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.
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