'There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing' - artists quotes

I thought today I'd share some of the artists quotes that particularly appeal to me - do you have any that really mean something to you?

On attitude, content/meaning/concept of the work and skill:

Cezanne: A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.

Lucian Freud: When I look at a body it gives me choice of what to put in a painting, what will suit me and what won't. There is a distinction between fact and truth. Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so.

Francis Bacon: I remember Francis Bacon would say that he felt he was giving art what he thought it previously lacked. With me, it's what Yeats called the fascination with what's difficult. I'm only trying to do what I can't do.

Mark Rothko: It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Art is literacy of the heart.

Elliot Eisner: Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.

Roy Adzak: In whatever one does there must be a relationship between the eye and the heart.

Wassily Kandinsky: I applied streaks and blobs of colours onto the canvas with a palette knife and I made them sing with all the intensity I could...

Paul Klee: A line is a dot that went for a walk.

Andy Goldsworthy: The essence of drawing is the line exploring space.

Henri Matisse: I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.

Pablo Picasso: Art is a lie that helps us to realize the truth.

James McNeill Whistler: Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.

Edgar Degas: The fascinating thing, is not to show the source of light, but the effect of light.

Constantin Brancusi: When you see a fish you don't think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through the water... If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality. I want just the flash of its spirit.

Cezanne: Style is not created through servile imitation of the masters; it proceeds from the artist's own particular way of feeling and expressing himself.

Toulouse Lautrec: In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only; making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.

Edgar Degas: The true traveler never arrives.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see

Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.

It is all very well to copy what one sees, but it is far better to draw what one now only sees in one's memory. That is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.

A picture is something which requires as much knavery, trickery and deceit as the perpetration of a crime

William Dobell: A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing.

Eugene Delacroix: Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything

Michelangelo: A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.

Georgia O'Keeffe, 1923: One day seven years ago I found myself saying to myself -- I can't live where I want to -- I can't go where I want to go--I can't do what I want to -- I can't even say what I want to --....I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to.

William Gough: It takes years to know how to sit still and let the water settle.

William Whittaker: One must really love to paint, to be driven as it were, to put in the time necessary to really get proficient.... Many people would like to paint, but not enough to paint those endless failures necessary to get to the good work. If it were otherwise, we'd be overrun with painters.

Virgil Elliot: It's the ABILITY to draw that is important to a painter, whether he actually draws his designs on the canvas before he begins to paint his picture, or "draws" with paint as he goes. The ability to draw well is the ability to see well. Artists develop the ability to see beyond the ordinary level of seeing by first learning to draw.

Robert Hughes: 'The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

Judi Betts: If you work with abstract painting for a period of time, you may come to think of it as a melody, a song, a piece of beautiful music.

Roger Hilton: Abstract art is the result of an attempt to make pictures more real, an attempt to come nearer to the essence of painting.

Georgia O'Keeffe: Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they may say something.

Lin Yutang: Of all the unhappy people in the world, the unhappiest are those who have not found something they want to do.

on anxiety blocks, angst, confidence ..... and getting on with that painting!

Suzanne Edminster: Much life or art anxiety can be relieved by simply making something – anything.

Eric Maisel: A creative block is the wall we erect to ward off the anxiety we suppose we'll experience if we sit down to work.

Claude Monet: No one but myself knows the anxiety I go through and the trouble I give myself to finish paintings which do not satisfy me and seem to please so very few others.

John Gargano: Discussing concepts and exploring alternatives prime the pump but they are not doing.

Robbie Gass: Like an ability or a muscle, hearing your inner wisdom is strengthened by doing it.

Nathan Oliveira: You're sitting there with your muse and your muse is telling you something and you’re following it, and you end up the next day looking at it and thinking "what the hell was the muse saying to me?"

on Talent:

Edgar Degas: Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.

Michelangelo: If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.

Simonides (500 B. C.): One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one's capacity.



Suzanne said…
Good one, Vivien. Thanks for sharing these!
Julie said…
An amazing collection of thoughts and ideas, several of which struck a very deep chord. I have moved away from painting over the last year but your quotes are tempting me back. Thank you for sharing these, it must have taken you ages to get them together and make this post. :)
Rose Welty said…
Vivien, I so needed to read these tonight - good humor, and good advice to stick with it!

vivien said…
thanks everyone :)

they all resonated for me - I started collecting interesting quotes a while back and Julie I'm glad it tempted you back to painting :) - there are tough times to work through - I hit one in the middle of my degree - too many ideas whirling in my head and no certainty of where I wanted to go or if I could manage it - a horrible horrible patch.
vivien said…
and I'll add some quotes that Annie emailed me as she can't get on to make comments

"He paints like a man going over a hill, singing."


"It is reallynot important whether one's vision is as
greatt as that of another. It is a personal question
as to whether one shall live in and deal with his
greatest moments of happiness."


"The fun of living is that we have to make
overselves, after all."
dolls like us said…
I love art it is a passion with me . When I was in high school I only got to take two years . I was not good enough but for two years funding was low and you had to excell to get more then a year. I do art today i loved reading your article it brought back wonderful memories of wayne high school
vivien said…
:) keep on painting - it's never too late

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