“In the illusory babel of language, an artist might advance specifically to get lost, and to intoxicate himself in dizzying syntaxes, seeking odd intersections of meaning, strange corridors of history, unexpected echoes, unknown humors, or voids of knowledge..but this quest is risky, full of bottomless fictions and endless architectures and counter-architectures…and at the end, if there is an end, are perhaps only meaningless reverberations…
Here language ‘covers’ rather than ‘discovers’ its sites and situations. Here, language ‘closes’ rather than ‘discloses’ doors to utilitarian interpretations and explanations. The language of the artists and critics become paradigmatic reflections in a looking-glass babel that is fabricated according to Pascal’s remark, ‘Nature is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.’ Language becomes an infinite museum, whose center is everywhere and whose limits are nowhere.
Language is built not written… Words for mental processes are all derived from physical things.”
-Robert Smithson from “A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art”
“The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay “Circles”
Circuit. Ink, acrylic, flashe, and mylar on watercolor paper. 24″x18″ © Jacob Rowan
“Red is the most joyful and dreadful thing in the physical universe; it is the fiercest note, it is the highest light, it is the place where the walls of this world of ours wear thinnest and something beyond burns through.
White is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. God paints in many colors; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.”
Does anybody have any good quotes about black as a color?
“Temperament is merely an incident, just as one banker may be temperamental and another not, while both have the genius for banking. The idea that an artist must be a tragic sort of figure is all wrong. Some artists are like Van Gogh and Gauguin. Some, like Titian and Renoir, are not. Tragedy is caused by a man’s nature and environment and is as irrelevant to painting as it is to other professions. Many young art students react against the prosaic world and feel they must be ‘different.’ They are afraid if they act like other people they will be like other people. The real difference between the artist and the one who is not an artist is not so simple as that.”
“I never concern myself with how much talent my students have. I couldn’t say to anyone in the beginning, ‘you have no talent.’ I believe that nature is lavish with talent just as it is with acorns—but not all acorns become oaks. Talent is something that develops, or appears, as you work.”
It is much easier to learn how to make a “pretty” picture than it is to learn how to wrestle with and observe reality in all its complexity.
“Any student can command a good technique in a few years and acquire facility with his medium, but this is not what real study consists of. Anyone can learn to paint. Sometimes it seems that the less one is an artist the more easily and quickly one can acquire the superficial qualities of a painter. But craftsmanship in painting is mere virtuosity, a skill that may hide lack of real perception.”
You never stop seeing, learning, and growing.
“Preconceived ideas about things with which you have no real experience have a tendency to defeat the acquiring of real knowledge…Do not allow familiar labels to interfere with fresh impulses. Disregard ideas that are already formulated, or constantly test them by new fresh experiences.”
Most serious artists keep a sketchbook. While there may be some drawings in there, most of the drawings are not “art” but rather a record of a certain kind of mental exercise (namely deep observation of the world or visual thinking). We don’t call piano scales Music or sports drills Football, neither should we call learning to draw making Art. Many students get bogged down when they are learning to draw with how the drawing looks (not whether it is accurate or not, but rather whether or not they could proudly show it off).
“Results are best when they come from the right kind of unself-conscious effort… The time you spend (drawing) only counts if you are having the correct experience… “
As an artist who feels much more comfortable in the “safe” realm of theory rather than the frightening world of actually doing, this quote was particularly convicting.
“For an artist, the important thing is not how much he knows, but how much he can do.”
Every day for the next week I will post a quote from The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides. My art professor described this book as the Old Testament of drawing (with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain being the New Testament). I recently started reading through it again and many of his opinions have resonated with my own struggles on the subjects of creativity and the nature/role of the artist. I have selected seven of his most pointed statements.
“There is only one right way to draw and that is a perfectly natural way. It has nothing to do with artifice or technique. It has nothing to do with aesthetics or conception. It has only to do with the act of correct observation, and by that I mean a physical contact with all sorts of objects through all the senses. If a student misses this step and does not practice it for at least his first five years, he has wasted most of his time and must necessarily go back and begin all over again.”
Filed under Art, Drawing, Quotes