10 Favorite Quotes About What Art Is

Cupid's Span by Claes Oldenburg (collaboration with van Bruggen)
Cupid’s Span by Claes Oldenburg (collaboration with van Bruggen); located near the bay in San Francisco, California

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.  Aristotle

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. Oscar Wilde

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Portrait of the Artist's Mother
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother by Pablo Picasso

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. Pablo Picasso

Girl Before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso
Girl Before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. Edgar Degas

At the Races by Edgar Degas
At the Races by Edgar Degas

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. Twyla Tharp

Dog by Alberto Giacometti
Dog by Alberto Giacometti

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity. Alberto Giacometti

What is one to think of those fools who tell one that the artist is always subordinate to nature? Art is in harmony parallel with nature. Paul Cezanne

La Montagne Saint Victorie by Paul Cezanne
La Montagne Saint Victorie by Paul Cezanne

Painting is a means of self-enlightenment. John Olsen

Eraser by Claes Oldenburg
Eraser by Claes Oldenburg

I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum. Claes Oldenburg




Inspirations: 12 Great Quotes About Painting

Claude Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil by Renoir
Claude Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil by Renoir

If a painting of a tree was only the exact representation of the original, so that it looked just like the tree, there would be no reason for making it; we might as well look at the tree itself. But the painting, if it is of the right sort, gives something that neither a photograph nor a view of the tree conveys. It emphasizes something of character, quality, individuality. We are not lost in looking at thorns and defects; we catch a vision of the grandeur and beauty of a king of the forest.
-Calvin Coolidge, speech, Jan. 17, 1925

Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.
-Paul Cezanne

Jackson Pollock painting
Jackson Pollock painting

I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own.
-Jackson Pollock

Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.
-Jackson Pollock

Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.
-Edgar Degas

Portrait as an Artist by van Gogh
Portrait as an Artist by van Gogh

“If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint“, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
-Vincent van Gogh

“You must forget all your theories, all your ideas before the subject. What part of these is really your own will be expressed in your expression of the emotion awakened in you by the subject.”
-Henri Matisse

After the first brush-stroke, the canvas assumes a life of its own; at this point, you become both governor and spectator to your own event.

Turner on Varnishing Day by William Parrott
Turner on Varnishing Day by William Parrott

When making a painting, only one thing counts: what you do next.
-Darby Bannard

“Painting should never look as if it were done with difficulty, however difficult it may actually have been.”
– Robert Henri, in his book The Art Spirit, p135.

Churchill Painting at the Easel by
Churchill Painting at the Easel by

In Cezanne’s paintings, “edges aren’t boundaries but places where paint, surging across the surface, changes color.”
– Art critic Peter Schjeldahl, “Cezanne versus Pissarro”, New Yorker magazine, 11 July 2005

The painter’s work will be of little merit if he takes the painting of others as his standard, but if he studies from nature he will produce good fruits.
-Leonardo da Vinci, Thoughts on Art and Life

5 Books For Animal Artists That Are Not About Animal Art, Just Great Art

To be a well-rounded artist with as much information as possible at one’s disposal, I think it’s important get outside of one’s genre and see what else is out there.

The classic piece of advice is to visit great museums and see masterpieces in the original and I agree with that.

But, seeing a great painting and understanding what one can and maybe, should, learn from it are two different things.

Today I’m going to present two works each from five great artists, none of whom are “animal artists”, although almost all of them included animals in their work at one time or another.

I’m going to offer you a thought or two about how you might explore what I believe the artist has to offer. See what you can think of that uses the ideas in these paintings, but with animal subjects.

First is Roy Anderson, one of the great living painters of Native Americans. These images are from a book “Dream Spinner, The Art of Roy Anderson”, which I found at Settlers West Gallery in Tucson this past March for, can you believe it, $10. They may still have some. I don’t know if they will mail them out, but it can’t hurt to call and ask.

At the back of the book is a whole section on how Mr. Anderson creates his paintings, worth more than twice the price of the book for the excellent advice and information he offers.

Here is a master class in color and value relationships. The painting has three “layers” from front to back. Imagine if this was a herd of wildebeest trudging through the dust of the Serengeti.

This one is similar to the first Roy Anderson painting I saw and which just blew me away. I love the strength of the backgrounds. No fear of color here! How could one vignette an animal with this as an inspiration? I must admit, though, that I’ve thought about how to present a Mongol herder in his traditional garb, using my own ideas of shapes and colors for the background.

Second is Edgar Degas, who was equally accomplished in painting, pastel and sculpture.

What inspires me personally about his work is his revolutionary compositions, in which figures and other elements are “cut-off’ by the edge of the canvas.

If you find your compositions getting a little stale or have realized that you tend to plop your subject in the middle of the canvas, looking through a book of Degas’ work will blast you loose.

Third is Richard Diebenkorn, an abstract painter who scandalized his contemporaries in the 1950s by introducing recognizable figures into his work at a time when that was considered beyond the pale.

How could this composition be adapted to an animal subject? Like Degas, Diebenkorn has used an unconventional placement of his subject, tight against the left edge and facing more or less off the canvas.

All good painting has a solid abstract structure underneath. Robert Bateman, the legendary wildlife artist, started as an abstract painter and then applied that knowledge to his animal art. Here is a Diebenkorn abstract from the 1990s that could inspire a representational composition.

Fourth is Dean Cornwell, known as the Dean of American Illustrators. He trained in mural painting with Frank Brangwyn in England and it shows in his ability to put together panoramic images with lots going on.

The inspiration in this piece is having the foreground and even the main character in shadow, contrasted with the bright, colorful background.

Cornwell’s rich, decorative approach and fantastic draftsmanship have something to offer artists in any genre.

Fifth is Joaquin Sorolla, known for his incredible ability to paint light.

It’s easy to get caught up in what is called “local color”, the inherent color of a subject. This and the next painting illustrate the truth that the color of something depends on the light (and also what the object is next to). We accept that the three ladies in the foreground are wearing white, but there is not a speck of pure white paint on any of their dresses.

How many colors can you count in this “white” dress?

The paintings:

They Sing Towards the Sun  40×72″ oil (detail)

Elk Robe Medicine  36×26″ oil

The Song of the Dog  22 5/8×17 7/8″ gouache and pastel over monotype on paper

The Green Dancer (Dancers on Stage)  26×14 1/4″ pastel and gouache on paper

Coffee 57 1/2x 52 1/4′ oil

Untitled No. 12  38×25″ crayon, graphite and acrylic on paper

Pontius Pilate’s Banquet from The Robe  23×30″ oil

“Ransom”, a Captain Blood story 26×51 1/2″ oil

Bajo el toldo (Zarauz)  39 3/8×45 1/4″  oil

Maria en la Granja  67×33 1/2″  oil

To Finish Yesterday’s Post….

I ran into serious problems posting the images of the kittens yesterday and finally gave it up and wrote to tech support. Turns out, doesn’t it figure, that it was something I had done with a setting that I shouldn’t have. But the reason I bring it up is to pass on how quick and great the tech support was! Three Cheers for WordPress!

So, since it’s the next day, here’s a new ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY, one of my all-time favorites for truth and pithiness, from Edgar Degas, who knew a thing or two about painting:

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”


Had a good turnout this year. Lots of nice people, many of them first time visitors. Here’s a photo of the studio ready to go, with Niki also ready to help with hosting. He appointed himself Official Escort To And From The Cars, much to the amusement of the attendees.


Just finished this one yesterday. The reference was a print photo that I had been meaning to paint for ages. It’s important to see the warm tones in the snow leopard’s coat, which is similiar to polar bears. It’s an oil on canvas on board and is 24″x18″, so the head is life-sized or maybe a little larger. If you are interested in snow leopard conservation, check out the Snow Leopard Trust at www.snowleopard.org.