Words of wisdom

Discuss all topics related to sketching

Words of wisdom

Postby Rebecca » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:43 am

Greetings fellow sketchers,
This list for painting students made me think of many discussions I've read in this forum. I'm pasting it here because it is possible that one day the online article <http://www.asllinea.org/the-painters-primer-a-survival-kit/> might disappear. The advise is for traditional painters, but I think many of these ideas could inspire dedicated sketchers, too.

Advice for Artists
The Painter’s Primer, A survival kit, By Irwin Greenberg, November 21, 2013


Irwin Greenberg circulated this primer to his students at the High School of Art & Design and the Art Students League of New York. He died, age 87, in 2009.

Like a lot of realist painters, I started teaching as a way to stabilize my income. I was amazed to discover that it would be one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Somehow, everything I have learned in my life found a place in the studio classroom. Teaching also forced me to objectify my thoughts and make them comprehensible to my students. But the greatest reward, by far, was getting to know that special kind of person, the art student. His hunger to learn and commitment to what Robert Henri called the “art spirit” has been a never-ending inspiration to me. I am sure I got the larger share in the exchange.

1. Paint every day.

2. Paint until you feel physical strain. Take a break and then paint some more.

3. Suggest.

4. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters.

5. Buy the best materials you can afford.

6. Let your enthusiasm show.

7. Find a way to support yourself.

8. Be your own toughest critic.

9. Develop a sense of humor about yourself.

10. Develop the habit of work. Start early every day. When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water.

11. Don’t settle for yourself at a mediocre level.

12. Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by failure. Rembrandt had failures. Success grows from failure.

13. Be a brother (or sister) to all struggling artists.

14. Keep it simple.

15. Know your art equipment and take care of it.

16. Have a set of materials ready wherever you go.

17. Always be on time for work, class, and appointments.

18. Meet deadlines. Be better than your word.

19. Find a mate who is really a mate.

20. Don’t be envious of anyone who is more talented than you. Be the best you can be.

21. Prizes are nice, but the real competition is with yesterday’s performance.

22. Give yourself room to fail and fight like hell to achieve.

23. Go to sleep thinking about what you’re going to do first thing tomorrow.

24. Analyze the work of great painters. Study how they emphasize and subordinate.

25. Find out the fewest material things you need to live.

26. Remember: Michelangelo was once a helpless baby. Great works are the result of heroic struggle.

27. There are no worthwhile tricks in art; find the answer.

28. Throw yourself into each painting heart and soul.

29. Commit yourself to a life in art.

30. No struggle, no progress.

31. Do rather than don’t.

32. Don’t say “I haven’t the time.” You have as much time everyday as the great masters.

33. Read. Be conversant with the great ideas.

34. No matter what you do for a living, nurture your art.

35. Ask. Be hungry to learn.

36. You are always the student in a one-person art school. You are also the teacher of that class.

37. Find the artists who are on your wavelength and constantly increase that list.

38. Take pride in your work.

39. Take pride in yourself.

40. No one is a better authority on your feelings than you are.

41. When painting, always keep in mind what your picture is about.

42. Be organized.

43. When you’re in trouble, study the lives of those who’ve done great things.

44. “Poor me” is no help at all.

45. Look for what you can learn from the great painters, not what’s wrong with them.

46. Look. Really look.

47. Overcome errors in observing by exaggerating the opposite.

48. Critics are painters who flunked out.

49. Stay away from put-down artists.

50. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, do a self-portrait.

51. Never say “I can’t.” It closes the door to potential development.

52. Be ingenious. Howard Pyle got his start in illustration by illustrating his own stories.

53. All doors open to a hard push.

54. If art is hard, it’s because you’re struggling to go beyond what you know you can do.

55. Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.

56. There is art in any endeavor done well.

57. If you’ve been able to put a personal response into your work, others will feel it and they will be your audience.

58. Money is O.K., but it isn’t what life is about.

59. Spend less than you earn.

60. Be modest; be self-critical, but aim for the highest.
The Painter's Primer
PHOTO: Stephanie Cassidy

61. Don’t hoard your knowledge, share it.

62. Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is.

63. Inspiration doesn’t come when you are idle. It comes when you have steeped yourself in work.

64. Habit is more powerful than will. If you get in the habit of painting every day, nothing will keep you from painting.

65. There are three ways to learn art: Study life, people, and nature. Study the great painters. Paint.

66. Remember, Rembrandt wasn’t perfect. He had to fight mediocrity.

67. Don’t call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. “Artist” is a title of great weight.

68. Be humble; learn from everybody.

69. Paintings that you work hardest at are the ones you learn the most from, and are often your favorites.

70. Read values relatively. Find the lightest light and compare all other light values to it. Do the same with the darks.

71. Grit and guts are the magic ingredients to your success.

72. Let your picture welcome the viewer.

73. Add new painters to your list of favorites all the time.

74. Study artists who are dealing with the same problems that you’re trying to solve.

75. Have a positive mindset when showing your work to galleries.

76. Don’t look for gimmicks to give your work style. You might be stuck with them for life. Or, worse yet, you might have to change your “style” every few years.

77. If what you have to say is from your deepest feelings, you’ll find an audience that responds.

78. Try to end a day’s work on a picture knowing how to proceed the next day.

79. Don’t envy others’ success. Be generous-spirited and congratulate whole-heartedly.

80. Your own standards have to be higher and more scrupulous than those of critics.

81. Howard Pyle said, “Throw your heart into a picture and jump in after it.”

82. Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.

83. Rembrandt was always clear about what is most important in a picture.

84. If, after study, the work of an artist remains obscure, the fault may not be yours.

85. Critics don’t matter. Who cares about Michelangelo’s critics?

86. Structure your day so you have time for painting, reading, exercising and resting.

87. Aim high, beyond your capacity.

88. Try not to finish too fast.

89. Take the theory of the “last inch” that holds as you approach the end of a painting, you must gather all your resources for the finish.

90. Build your painting solidly, working from big planes to small.

91. See the planes of light as shapes, the planes of shadows as shapes. Squint your eyes and find the big, fluent shapes.

92. Notice how, in a portrait, Rembrandt reduces the modeling of clothes to the essentials, emphasizing the head and the hands.

93. For all his artistic skill, what’s most important about Rembrandt is his deep compassion.

94. To emphasize something means that the other parts of a picture must be muted.

95. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look before starting.

96. When composing a picture, do many thumbnails, rejecting the obvious ones.

97. Study how Rembrandt creates flow of tone.

98. If you teach, teach the individual. Find out when he or she is having trouble and help at that point.

99. Painting is a practical art, using real materials—paints, brushes, canvas, and paper. Part of the practicality of it is earning a living in art.

100. Finally, don’t be an art snob. Most painters I know teach, do illustrations, or work in an art-related field. Survival is the game.
Rebecca
User avatar
Rebecca
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 735
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:54 am
Location: USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby mdmattin » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:16 am

Thanks, Rebecca! A lot to digest there.
67. Don’t call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. “Artist” is a title of great weight.

I've been struggling all this time to come out and forthrightly call myself an artist, instead of mumbling something self-deprecating!
95. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look before starting.

I like to do that for indoor life drawing as well - to figure out what the main idea is and have a strategy to express it, instead of just copying.
When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water.

Curiously specific - is that because eating dulls the senses? I generally like to munch on a granola bar or something, especially when painting outside.
Matthew
User avatar
mdmattin
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 962
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:04 am
Location: Western Massachusetts, USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Rebecca » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:31 am

mdmattin wrote:
67. Don’t call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. “Artist” is a title of great weight.

I've been struggling all this time to come out and forthrightly call myself an artist, instead of mumbling something self-deprecating!
95. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look before starting.

I like to do that for indoor life drawing as well - to figure out what the main idea is and have a strategy to express it, instead of just copying.
When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water.

Curiously specific - is that because eating dulls the senses? I generally like to munch on a granola bar or something, especially when painting outside.
Matthew

You picked out some of the ones I thought were, um, unexpected. But I do remember arguing with some people here about their "artist" status. Or was it "art" status? Some didn't want to consider themselves artists or makers of real art here. I thought they were being awfully hard on themselves. And Greenberg's preference for water over food breaks... I wonder if this was about finding that food is a distraction?
Last edited by Rebecca on Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rebecca
User avatar
Rebecca
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 735
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:54 am
Location: USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Andre Jute » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:34 pm

When I see a net-handle like ArtistJoe@... or AuthorMary@ I want to ask them, "How many shows have you had with leading galleries, how many books have you published with reputable publishers?" I've worked in the fine and applied arts all my life and I have yet to hear an artist with achievements* say, even when questioned, "I am an artist." He says, when pushed, that he's a painter or a watercolorist or a portraitist, or a writer (never, ever, "I'm an author" -- it is a solecism and the mark of a wannabe.)

I know a genuine artist, a man who has devoted his life to perfecting a single task. His name is Henk Kluver. He painted the gold coastlines on my bike. For his ninetieth birthday Volkswagen declared Meester Kluver the master artisan of Europe, and made him a gift of a van:
http://coolmainpress.com/ajwriting/cycl ... olkswagen/
I don't for a minute believe that this humble man of very great gifts and depth of experience introduces himself as "**Meester Kluver", even ironically, or says, "I'm an artist."

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with Irwin Greenberg. I always have. So did my teachers and no doubt their teachers. Some kinds of wisdom are universal and timeless. Thank you very much for bringing his list here, Rebecca.

Mind you, there is one bit of advice he gives that works for painters, but that I'm not so sure of it for writers. A painter can sit on his hands and use his eyes, and he's working. A writer who sits with his feet up looking out of the window isn't working, he's lazily drifting: my advice to young writers is, the minute they sit down at their desks to put their hands on the keyboard and type "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" repeatedly until their minds clear, inspiration strikes almost unheralded, and they just carry on writing their story. Sketching en plein air is the visual way of forcing the same process of looking and painting. Matthew mentions life classes: those time-limited warm-up sketches are the line and shade version of the quick brown fox.

* Plural. An artist hasn't had one show, or published one book, he's done it over and over and over again.

** Dutch for Master or Maestro or Meister.
User avatar
Andre Jute
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 4:15 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Rebecca » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:57 pm

Maybe I come from an aberrant family, or maybe I found that the only way to convey my honest intent is to say, "I am an artist." Even though this might seem strange, I boldly said it ever since I was 5 years old. It never made sense that these earnest words could repel -- but they have repelled, apparently due to a cultural admonition that no one drummed into me early enough to shut me down. Nowadays, when people ask what I do, I supply the [I guess forbidden] answer, and then if they have a smart phone, I show them. That reverses any suspicion the declaration generated, but I guess it doesn't lighten the spirit of things, either. I don't care.

I am happy to say I am an artist. I imagine a doctor is happy to say he or she is a doctor. Elaboration can follow the general title. I believe the same should be true of any earnest pursuit: "I am a (choose): doctor, physicist, philosopher, pilot, mother, father, athlete, diver, dancer, captain, astronaut, mathematician, builder, engineer," and the list is endless.

These are job titles I've had: Portrait Artist, Technical Artist, Graphic Artist, Fine Artist, Airbrush Artist. What do all of these titles have in common? What single word covers the gamut? Do any of the other words in the list explain the set? Why is one of the words -- the most inclusive and explanatory word -- a turnoff if it is uttered by the owner of the title in order to explain their life's devotion? What other honest profession carries social handcuffs like this? Is there one? Why is identifying as an artist so loaded?

Are people conflating Artist with World's Greatest Artist or Great Master? Is that what's going on?

--
Rebecca
User avatar
Rebecca
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 735
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:54 am
Location: USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby mdmattin » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:54 am

Interesting - I too first took on the A-word at age 5. I discovered a mania for drawing, and the adults started calling me an artist (among other names). It was simply an attribute, like being left-handed (which also inexplicably freaks some people out). It didn't imply mastery or superior status, although it did confer a certain specialness.
Later on I would hear people speak disparagingly of "artistes," implying effete and pretentious, and later still I got to see plenty of actual effete and pretentious artistes in real life. Not wanting to present myself as potentially E & P I would hide my scarlet A under a bushel until I had developed enough trust with a person or group to give them a peek.
I think, in the U.S, at least, it is a problematic word for a number of reasons, but not especially for the one that Greenberg posits, that one is claiming an undeserved title. I think it's more to do with Puritanism - that one is "getting money for nothing" - and fear of being hoodwinked by poseurs - which are both understandable concerns. The high art world is pretty mystifying and hostile to the average person - hell, it's mystifying and hostile to me - so people's defenses may go up when one announces that one is an "artist."
That's why I said I had been struggling to get myself to say it - not because I want to don false laurels, but because I don't want to be defined by other people's fears.
Matthew
User avatar
mdmattin
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 962
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:04 am
Location: Western Massachusetts, USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Rebecca » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:47 am

mdmattin wrote:...I had been struggling to get myself to say it - not because I want to don false laurels, but because I don't want to be defined by other people's fears.
Matthew

It's all very, I don't know, discouraging. Not you. The fearful people.
Rebecca
User avatar
Rebecca
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 735
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:54 am
Location: USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Andre Jute » Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:50 pm

mdmattin wrote:The high art world is pretty mystifying and hostile to the average person - hell, it's mystifying and hostile to me - so people's defenses may go up when one announces that one is an "artist."


Tom Wolfe is pretty illuminating (and amusing) on what is basically a game of publicity; the believers claim superiority over outsiders/unbelievers/deniers, as in a religion or a belief in global warming. See Wolfe's The Painted Word which explains perfectly how Jackson Pollock became, well, I don't to be rude, whatever he became.
User avatar
Andre Jute
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 4:15 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby RajeshS » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:55 pm

Rebecca - thank you so much!

This is so inspiring. This is not only "Art" related - there are some life lessons there!

Question: Please help me in understanding this:
47. Overcome errors in observing by exaggerating the opposite

These the ones - I've to really imbibe and implement:

24. Analyze the work of great painters. Study how they emphasize and subordinate
90. Build your painting solidly, working from big planes to small.
91. See the planes of light as shapes, the planes of shadows as shapes. Squint your eyes and find the big, fluent shapes.
94. To emphasize something means that the other parts of a picture must be muted.

For me - 25, 62, 67 and 85 are lessons of life in general.

Rajesh
User avatar
RajeshS
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 1686
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:37 pm
Location: India

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Rebecca » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:23 pm

RajeshS wrote:Question: Please help me in understanding this:
47. Overcome errors in observing by exaggerating the opposite

Here's an example from figure drawing. It's very common that beginners exaggerate contour curves. If the student applies simplified straight lines in place of curves, this might sensitize them to amplitudes and skews in curves. Bracketing two extremes like this helps find the truth within.
Another example: Some artists paint with an extended palette (they use many variations of similar colors in one painting). If this causes muddy mixtures and surprise color inconsistencies under different lighting, they should try painting with an absolute minimum of colors. Then add a pigment if needed.
Rebecca
User avatar
Rebecca
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 735
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:54 am
Location: USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Russ » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:57 pm

There's so much wisdom packed in there, that I have to read a few a day and let them sink in!
User avatar
Russ
Custodian
 
Posts: 1853
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2005 2:01 am
Location: Tokyo

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby RajeshS » Thu Nov 23, 2017 4:35 pm

Rebecca wrote:Here's an example from figure drawing....
Another example: Some artists paint with an extended palette ....


Thanks Rebecca. I don't understand why the 2nd example sank right in - but I am still unable to understand the 1st.

And now that you say it - I just realized that I do indeed tend to exagerate exactly like you said!! So say I learn something new - like eyelashes tend to be irregular -or- that hair looks better if drawn as "shapes" or "clumps" and not individual strands....right away - I focus hard and exagerate it in my next sketch!

So there's something there - I just need to figure out your advice and see what it does

Thanks again

Rajesh
User avatar
RajeshS
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 1686
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:37 pm
Location: India

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby Rebecca » Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:39 pm

RajeshS wrote:I don't understand why the 2nd example sank right in - but I am still unable to understand the 1st.
And now that you say it - I just realized that I do indeed tend to exagerate exactly like you said!! So say I learn something new - like eyelashes tend to be irregular -or- that hair looks better if drawn as "shapes" or "clumps" and not individual strands....right away - I focus hard and exagerate it in my next sketch!
So there's something there - I just need to figure out your advice and see what it does...

Hi Rajesh,
The problem with #47 is, the person who makes the recurring error may not recognize the error in some important way. That could be why it recurs. Even if they do #8, or #28, or #46, they still may not see the problem, and certainly would not think to exaggerate in an opposite direction. Opposite to what? This is when a trusted advisor can explain the issues and suggest solutions with #47.
Rebecca
User avatar
Rebecca
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 735
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 3:54 am
Location: USA

Re: Words of wisdom

Postby RajeshS » Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:10 am

Rebecca wrote:Even if they do #8, or #28, or #46, they still may not see the problem.


:) And when I saw #8 and #28 - I thought to myself - that I think I do this so that is good :)

Rebecca wrote:....This is when a trusted advisor can explain the issues and suggest solutions with #47.


I think, this is exactly where "self-learnt" people hit a dead-end. You are right - reading books, studying artist's work - can't get you this element.

I had taken 2 water color instructor week-end courses from a very well renowned artist - but that was a class of 20-30. I think someday I need to find time and really work one a more one-to-one basis with a good instructor.

Of course this forum has also been a teacher so many times.

thanks, Rajesh
User avatar
RajeshS
one of the regulars
 
Posts: 1686
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:37 pm
Location: India


Return to Sketch Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest