Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.

Archive for February, 2011

Wonderful Artists’ Quotes

Here are some amazing quotes by even more amazing artists. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

My candle burns at both ends; / It will not last the night; / But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends – / It gives a lovely light. (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Always lines, never forms! But where do they find these lines in Nature! For my part I see only forms that are lit up and forms that are not. There is only light and shadow. (Francisco de Goya)

You have the sky overhead giving one light; then the reflected light from whatever reflects; then the direct light of the sun; so that, in the blending and suffusing of these several luminations, there is no such thing as a line to be seen anywhere. (Winslow Homer)

Paint your picture by means of the lights. Lights define texture and color – shadows define form. (Howard Pyle)

The picture must radiate light, the bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside. (Egon Schiele)

Available light is any damn light that is available! (W. Eugene Smith)

There was never a night that could defeat sunrise. (unknown)

A gray day provides the best light. (Leonardo da Vinci)

The vivacity and brightness of colors in a landscape will never bear any comparison with a landscape in nature when it is illumined by the sun, unless the painting is placed in such a position that it will receive the same light from the sun as does the landscape. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Light first, value second, color third. (Linda Walker)

As light fades and the shadows deepen, all petty and exacting details vanish, everything trivial disappears, and I see things as they are in great strong masses: the buttons are lost, but the sitter remains; the sitter is lost, but the shadow remains; the shadow is lost, but the picture remains. And that, night cannot efface from the painter’s imagination. (James Abbot McNeill Whistler)

I have had three masters, Nature, Velasquez, and Rembrandt. (Francisco de Goya)

It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion. (Andrew Wyeth)

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. (Andrew Wyeth)

My aim is not to exhibit craft, but rather to submerge it, and make it rightfully the handmaiden of beauty, power and emotional content. (Andrew Wyeth)

-The Helga Pictures
My struggle is to preserve that abstract flash – like something you caught out of the corner of your eye, but in the picture you can look at it directly. (Andrew Wyeth)

If you clean it up, get analytical, all the subtle joy and emotion you felt in the first place goes flying out the window. (Andrew Wyeth)

If you paint a man leaning over, your own back must ache. (N. C. Wyeth)

Paint should not be applied thick. It should be like a breath on the surface of a pane of glass. (James Abbot McNeill Whistler)

Throw your heart into the picture and then jump in after it. (Howard Pyle)

I criticise these compositions by analysis but an illustration cannot be made that way – it must be made by inspiration. (Howard Pyle)

Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it. (Howard Pyle)

Your subjects have had a history – try to reveal it in your picture. (Howard Pyle)

Paint ideas, paint thought. (Howard Pyle)

Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems. (Winslow Homer)

I prefer every time a picture composed and painted outdoors. The thing is done without your knowing it. (Winslow Homer)

Hardening of the categories causes art disease. (W. Eugene Smith)

Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors. (W. Eugene Smith)

If I can get them to think, get them to feel, get them to see, then I’ve done about all that I can as a teacher. (W. Eugene Smith)

How do you paint yellow wheat against a yellow sky? You paint it jet black. (Ben Shahn)

Paint what you are, paint what you believe, paint what you feel. (Ben Shahn)

Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can’t do it. I just can’t do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy. (Rembrandt)

Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God. (Rembrandt)

Without atmosphere a painting is nothing. (Rembrandt)

You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh. (John Singer Sargent)

To work is to pray. (John Singer Sargent)

-on painting a watercolour…
Make the best of an emergency. (John Singer Sargent)

I was hard at work beneath the cliff… In short, absorbed as I was, I didn’t see a huge wave coming; it threw me against the cliff and I was tossed about… My immediate thought was that I was done for… the palette which I had kept a grip on had been knocked over my face and my beard was covered in blue, yellow etc…. the worst of it was that I lost my painting which was very soon broken up… everything was torn to shreds by the sea… (Claude Monet)

I’m not performing miracles, I’m using up and wasting a lot of paint… (Claude Monet)

I’m in a foul mood as I’m making stupid mistakes… This morning I lost beyond repair a painting with which I had been happy, having done about twenty sessions on it; it had to be thoroughly scraped away… what a rage I was in! (Claude Monet)

I would like to paint the way a bird sings. (Claude Monet)

I think only of my painting, and if I were to drop it, I think I’d go crazy. (Claude Monet)

Happy are the young people who believe that it is easy. (Claude Monet)

When you go out to paint try to forget what object you have before you – a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it emerges as your own naive impression of the scene before you. (Claude Monet)

What is it that’s taken hold of me, for me to carry on like this in relentless pursuit of something beyond my powers? (Claude Monet)

Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see; not the object isolated as in a test tube, but the object enveloped in sunlight and atmosphere, with the blue dome of Heaven reflected in the shadows. (Claude Monet)

-in the floating studio…
Today I drifted with Camille on the Seine at Argenteuil. The views materialized and dissolved and I was as contented as a cow in her stall. (Claude Monet)

Critic asks: “And what, sir, is the subject matter of that painting?” – “The subject matter, my dear good fellow, is the light.” (Claude Monet)

As for myself, I met with as much success as I could ever have wanted. In other words, I was enthusiastically run-down by every critic of the period. (Claude Monet)

-at Giverny, January 15, 1915…
I sometimes feel ashamed that I am devoting myself to artistic pursuits while so many of our people are suffering and dying for us. It’s true that fretting never did any good. (Claude Monet)

I began to understand my sensations, to know what I wanted, at around the age of forty – but only vaguely. At fifty, that is in 1880, I formulated the idea of unity, without being able to render it. At sixty, I am beginning to see the possibility of rendering it. (Camille Pissarro)

Paint the essential character of things. (Camille Pissarro)

Painting, art in general, enchants me. It is my life. What else matters? When you put all your soul into a work, all that is noble in you, you cannot fail to find a kindred soul who understands you, and you do not need a host of such spirits. Is not that all an artist should wish for? (Camille Pissarro)

It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character. (Camille Pissarro)

I sometimes have a horrible fear of turning up a canvas of mine. I’m always afraid of finding a monster in place of the precious jewels I thought I had put there! (Camille Pissarro)

Work at the same time on sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis… Don’t be afraid of putting on colour… Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression. (Camille Pissarro)

Cover the canvas at the first go, then work at it until you see nothing more to add. (Camille Pissarro)

It is the brushwork of the right value and color which should produce the drawing. (Camille Pissarro)

God takes care of imbeciles, little children and artists. (Camille Pissarro)

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. (Camille Pissarro)

The motif must always be set down in a simple way, easily grasped and understood by the beholder. By the elimination of superfluous detail, the spectator should be led along the road that the artist indicates to him, and from the first be made to notice what the artist has felt. (Alfred Sisley)

Winter… that feeling of quiet and all nature is hushed to silence. (John H. Twachtman)

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Spontaneous Painting Video Online

A small plug for a video of a spontaneous oil painting demonstration I did at The Art Department (TAD) this last summer after the Illustration Academy. It’s of a doughboy (big surprise! 🙂 I was in World War One painting mode for my show in Belgium/Paris. ) and I just dove in without a drawing and let the painting sort of go where it wanted to.

Here’s a quote from the Concept Art site:

“Calling The Shots:
Spontaneous Painting with George Pratt

In this download, watch renowned graphic novelist George Pratt paint a WWI soldier at the first ever TAD workshop in Kansas City, MO.

In order to keep the entire painting process alive and invigorated, George begins without a thumbnail or a toned canvas. With nothing fixed, this puts him directly in the driver’s seat as he works. At the same time he is also listening to the painting, and at one point even comments that his favorite parts of a painting are often accidents. This push and pull is a unique part of George’s style, and he generously shares the decades of experience that inform his decisions.

As this video was recorded in classroom setting, George also responds to the questions of the students around him, providing the viewer with an added level of insight. If you’ve never seen a George Pratt demo you’ll definitely want to pick this up. If you have, then you already know you want to pick this one up.”

h.264 70 minutes 1280×720


shopping cart:


The painting gets very far for a one-sitting demonstration, as you can see in the shot above. The soldier is to be tearing barbed wire off of his body, and when I get the piece back I’ll add that and finish the thing.

Anyway, I hope it helps sort of take the fear and mystery out of oil painting for some.


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Reading List

Haven’t posted a reading list in quite awhile and thought I’d remedy that situation right now.

I’m a voracious reader. I read every chance I get. It’s the greatest gift that my parents gave me. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of books. I love the written word. I love the journeys that books take me on, how they remind me that I’m not alone, that others have been here long before me and they’ve left breadcrumbs of wisdom for me to savor. How could one ever be lost?

I don’t care how tired I am, how worn out, late at night, I have to read. The problem is that once I get into a book I find it hard to stop! I can be woken up by the words and the waking dream that writing evokes.

I usually have several books I’m reading at a given moment, switching from book to book as the spirit sees fit. Then there are piles waiting in the wings on my bedside table, or sitting in the queue on my iPad. I flit from fiction to autobiography to non-fiction to biography to history to pulp, etc. I love it all. And I’m enjoying transferring that love to my children, who both love books as well.

Right now I’m almost done with “The Tell-Tale Brain” by V. S. Ramachandran, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

“A physician (like Oliver Sacks, a neurologist) as well as a researcher, Ramachandran uses his neurology patients’ predicaments to inspire inquiries into how we see and know, the origins of language, the mental basis of civilization, how we conceive of and assess art, and how the self is constructed. Always careful to point out when he is speculating rather than announcing research findings, he is also prompt to emphasize why his speculations, or theories, are not just of the armchair variety but can be put to the test because of what neuroscience has already discovered about the active structures of the human brain.” (Booklist )

There’s a lot of food for thought in this book, and I’ve learned so much about how we see, how the mind processes visual information. A very engaging read!

Another (actually two by the same author): “The Element” and “Out of Our Minds” by Ken Robinson. Ever since Sir Ken Robinson spoke at the Ringling Commencement a couple of years ago I’ve been an avid follower of his ideas on how the educational system is basically broken and his ideas on how to fix it. You can see and hear him speak online through the TED talks on You Tube easily enough. He’s a delightfully open, honest and earnest speaker that is able to deliver some serious information about education in a humorous way. His books, so far (I’ve not finished them yet) are great reads and almost capture his speaking voice. They delve much deeper into the causes of the breakdown of education, and what his ideas are for fixing it all. Worth a read.

“A breakthrough book about talent, passion, and achievement from one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and self-fulfillment.

“The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the Element and those that stifle that possibility. Drawing on the stories of a wide range of people, including Paul McCartney, Matt Groening, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Bart Conner, he shows that age and occupation are no barrier and that this is the essential strategy for transform ing education, business, and communities in the twenty-first century.” Amazon

Next: “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: “In 2010, about six hundred thousand Americans, and more than 7 million humans around the world, will die of cancer.” With this sobering statistic, physician and researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee begins his comprehensive and eloquent “biography” of one of the most virulent diseases of our time. An exhaustive account of cancer’s origins, The Emperor of All Maladies illustrates how modern treatments–multi-pronged chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, as well as preventative care–came into existence thanks to a century’s worth of research, trials, and small, essential breakthroughs around the globe. While The Emperor of All Maladies is rich with the science and history behind the fight against cancer, it is also a meditation on illness, medical ethics, and the complex, intertwining lives of doctors and patients. Mukherjee’s profound compassion–for cancer patients, their families, as well as the oncologists who, all too often, can offer little hope–makes this book a very human history of an elusive and complicated disease.” –Lynette Mong

I’ve not gotten too deeply into this yet, but what I’ve read is incredibly interesting and hard to put down.

Next: “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams” by Michael Pollan. I’m actually re-reading this now. I bought the book when it was originally released in 1997 and absolutely loved it. Michael Pollan decides to build his own small writing studio on his property in and his attention to detail and care in getting it right are a joy to read. It’s a wonderful book on really thinking about how a structure should fit the land and the person who will use it. This book makes one want to care more about one’s craft.

“An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body, and the human spirit.”
-Francine du Plessix Gray

“Michael Pollan’s unmatched ability to draw lines of connection between our everyday experiences- whether eating, gardening, or building-and the natural world has been the basis for the popular success of his many works of nonfiction, including the genre-defining bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. With this updated edition of his earlier book A Place of My Own, readers can revisit the inspired, intelligent, and often hilarious story of Pollan’s realization of a room of his own-a small, wooden hut, his “shelter for daydreams”-built with his admittedly unhandy hands. Inspired by both Thoreau and Mr. Blandings, A Place of My Own not only works to convey the history and meaning of all human building, it also marks the connections between our bodies, our minds, and the natural world.” Amazon

Next: “The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans” by Mark Jacobson.

From Booklist
“The origins of this story go back to Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp, where Isle Koch, the sadistic wife of the commandant, developed a liking for things (gloves, lampshades) made out of human skin. Flash forward to the present: the author receives a strange artifact in the mail from a friend: a lampshade that appears to be made from human skin. This fascinating and frequently unsettling book chronicles Jacobson’s quest to find a proper home for the lampshade and, if possible, to find out exactly where it came from. The book also explores the history of torture by flaying (the gods of Greek mythology did it; so did Ed Gein, the American serial killer of the 1950s), and the impact of the Nuremburg trials. Journalist Jacobson avoids sensationalizing this inherently sensational story, taking a reportorial approach to the material. A chilling reminder that the aftereffects of World War II and the Holocaust continue to be felt, even in the most unlikely of ways.” –David Pitt

Next: “Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea” by Mark Kurlansky. I’ve read Kurlansky’s other books and have loved them all (“Salt”, “Cod”). This book is an incredibly engaging read about how religions have been hijacked and used for power, how nonviolence is different than pacifism, and why nonviolence is feared by those in positions of power.

“In this timely, highly original, and controversial narrative, New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. Nonviolence can and should be a technique for overcoming social injustice and ending wars, he asserts, which is why it is the preferred method of those who speak truth to power.

“Nonviolence is a sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Kurlansky also brings into focus just why nonviolence is a “dangerous” idea, and asks such provocative questions as: Is there such a thing as a “just war”? Could nonviolence have worked against even the most evil regimes in history?

“Kurlansky draws from history twenty-five provocative lessons on the subject that we can use to effect change today. He shows how, time and again, violence is used to suppress nonviolence and its practitioners–Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for example; that the stated deterrence value of standing national armies and huge weapons arsenals is, at best, negligible; and, encouragingly, that much of the hard work necessary to begin a movement to end war is already complete. It simply needs to be embraced and accelerated.

“Engaging, scholarly, and brilliantly reasoned, Nonviolence is a work that compels readers to look at history in an entirely new way. This is not just a manifesto for our times but a trailblazing book whose time has come.” Amazon

Next: “Autobiography of Mark Twain” by Mark Twain. I’m a Twain fanatic and will pick up just about anything on him or by him. I love his voice, his honesty, his unpretentiousness and humor. He reminds me of my grandfather on my father’s side, who, incidentally, adored Twain as well. But the voice I hear when I read Twain is my grandfather’s and it’s a great place to be.

Next: “Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years” by Russ Baker.

This book was an eye-opener and has an incredible amount of food for thought. If you’re a Republican then this will probably make your head explode. But I did find it a fascinating read.

“In an era dominated by corporate journalism and an ideological right-wing media, Russ Baker’s work stands out for its fierce independence, fact-based reporting, and concern for what matters most to our democracy…A lot of us look to Russ to tell us what we didn’t know.” —Bill Moyers, author and host, Bill Moyers’ Journal (PBS)

“Russ Baker has the three most important attributes of any great investigative reporter: He is skeptical, he is fearless, and he is indefatigable. Whenever he examines anything—including the most allegedly well-covered topics—he breaks important new ground.” —David Margolick, author and contributing editor, Vanity Fair

“Shocking in its disclosures, elegantly crafted, and faultlessly measured in its judgments.”—Roger Morris, author of “Richard Milhous Nixon and Partners in Power”

“How did the deeply flawed George W. Bush ascend to the highest office in the nation, what forces abetted his rise, and — perhaps most important — have those forces really been vanquished by Obama’s election? Award-winning investigative journalist Russ Baker gives us the answers in ‘Family of Secrets’, a compelling and startling new take on the Bush dynasty and the shadowy elite that has quietly steered the American republic for the past half century and more. Baker shows how this network of figures in intelligence, the military, oil, and finance enabled — and in turn benefited handsomely from — the Bushes’ perch at the highest levels of government. As Baker reveals, this deeply entrenched elite remains in power regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.
‘Family of Secrets’ offers countless disclosures that challenge the conventional accounts of such central events as the JFK assassination and Watergate. It includes an inside account of George W.’s cynical religious conversion and the untold real background to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. Baker’s narrative is gripping, sobering, and deeply sourced. It will change the way we understand not just the Bush years, but a half century of postwar history—and the present.” Amazon

Then there’s my just plain fun stuff to read pile:

My mother’s been nudging me to read author Vince Flynn’s series of books about his character Mitch Rapp, and I decided to take the plunge with the newest one “American Assassin”, which is really his sort of origin story. So far I’m enjoying it. Pulp stuff, but fun with lots of action.

I just finished reading one of the latest Charles Todd thrillers, “A Lonely Death.” This is a series about Inspector Ruttledge of Scotland Yard, just after the First World War. Ruttledge was a Captain in the British Army who was forced to execute a Scottish soldier under his command in the last days of the war. In returning to his previous post as an inspector he finds that he’s haunted by the man who now inhabits his mind. These books are well written, thoughtful and emotional mysteries. I’ve enjoyed them all.

I also just finished reading the new Elmore Leonard novel, “Djibouti”. As usual, fun stuff. His dialogue is always fantastic. He’s able to capture the true cadence of the way people speak. It’s like being a fly on the wall. I love the way he writes! Lean and mean. You can’t go wrong picking up anything he’s written.

Here’s a quick list off the top of my head of authors that I love, in no particular order:

John D. MacDonald
Derek Raymond
Rex Stout
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Roald Dahl
Ray Bradbury
Stephen King
Charles Beaumont
Jack Finney
James Thurber
James Lee Burke
Jim Thompson
Charles Willeford
Richard Matheson
John Scalzi
Arthur Conan Doyle
Lester Dent
Robert E. Howard
Sheridan LeFanu
Sir Richard Francis Burton
Frank Herbert
Lewis Shiner
Joe R. Lansdale
Boston Teran
Kurt Vonnegut
Michael Crichton
Jack London
Rudyard Kipling
Lawrence Block
Lynn MacDonald
Barbara Tuchman
Mary Stewart
Jayne Anne Phillips
Rick Bragg
Cornell Woolrich
T. R. Pearson
Donald Westlake
Richard Stark
James Dickey
Eric Hansen
Rory Nugent
Tim Cahill
Redmond O’Hanlon
David Sedaris
Jacques Cousteau
Eddy L. Harris
Ernest J. Gaines
Richard Wright
John Irving
Cormac McCarthy
Larry Niven
Jerry Pournelle
Isaac Asimov
Arthur C. Clarke
John Gardner
His “On Becoming a Novelist” is a must read!
Switch the words artist for novelist and it
fits perfectly.
Stieg Larsson
J. D. Salinger
Breece D’J Pancake

And on and on and on and…
I’ll add to this later. 🙂

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