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Aug 5, 2010

A Painter's Desiderata: Or Too Many Maxims Ruins the Broth . . .

That blank canvas is there to offer a challenge, not to terrorize you  Paint like a locomotive  Don’t try to frost the cake before you bake it  A painter’s life is not for the faint of heart  You will learn more from a hundred starts than you will a hundred finishes  Begin with red, yellow, and blue and expand on that • Nothing shows more obviously in a work of art than boredom  Don't eat the paint  Inspiration is for amateurs  Beware of the teacher who quotes too many maxims (ha!)  Painting is a verb, not a noun  Throw down enough color to be able to push it around  Painting isn't hard: you just have to put the right color down in the right place, in the right shape, in the right order, at the right time  Art is a crazy way to make a living Acknowledge your inner child and play, but ignore the tantrums  Painting is not like having an affair, it is more like being married with children  And speaking of families...your paintings are not your babies: be willing to drown, strangle, or expose them (to critics)if it becomes necessary  Mimesis is art-speak for “It looks like a photograph”  Draw, draw, draw – then draw some more  Ask yourself as you paint, “Is it art yet?” If so, stop  Be bold, be proud, be polite  It ain’t the paint, it ain’t the brushes, and it ain’t the canvas  Look first, paint second  Check out the artist’s work before letting him go on too long about it  Do not keep repainting the fun passages as they will never be as good as the first time around  When you attend another artist's opening leave your own portfolio at home  Paint is unpredictable so remain open to unexpected surprises  Art is not a race – unless you find yourself working under the sun or against the tide  The best way to preserve a brush is to never let it dry out  All art is abstract so be a poet and not a reporter  For goodness sake, simplify!  The fewer the touches the better your brushwork  Your signature is not enough to justify a painting  Paint for the ages but don’t overlook the now  There is no “Secret Sauce of the Old Masters” Be willing to ferret out the beauty in the ugly for it is often unpainted territory  When you are painting try to forget you are painting  Yes, you are an artist but it is best to let other people tell you that  Disconnect your ego from your work, otherwise life will become painful  The term ‘tortured artist’ is oxymoronic, painting should be a joy  Selling a painting does not mean it was good – and conversely, not selling a painting does not mean it was bad  Be sure to have fun while you work because if that is all you get out of the experience then at least you got that  Mixing yellow and black together will not create a darker yellow, it will make a green – The moral? Color is idiosyncratic  Don’t assault your viewer with too much detail  If you think you have ‘arrived’ you haven’t  Every artist is emerging no matter their age • Don't just paint the cupcakes in life, paint the turds too  If you don't know how to paint but want to learn marry someone who can  Don’t overprice yourself  Watch out for the crazy f*cking nut-bars in this business and be polite when you inevitably run into them for some of them have money  If someone insists upon telling you how great an artist your are don't argue  Content is King so choose your subjects carefully – you may end up painting them over and over again • The key to success is remembering what you want  If someone insists upon telling you what Fine Art is, take a step back and let them wind down  Beautiful brushwork is like a fine cup of tea: something to be served up fresh for a specific occasion  Leave the histrionics out, they seldom add much  A cynic is a failed romantic  Reading a how-to-paint book is like reading about sex – it can be informative and perhaps a bit titillating – but never a satisfying substitute  When judging the success of your work make up your own mind – after all it is your art you are making and no one else's.

3 reader comments:

Mary said...

I really enjoyed reading these, but I especially like the first one!

Celeste Bergin said...

Charles Hawthorne said: All artists should have one other interest besides art, otherwise you will be too consumed by art and bore people". haha. (Let's go bowling!)

This was fun to read, and I love the illustrated wheel too.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Celeste: Thanks for your comment. I too believe one should have other interests beyond art -- and for me, they are Art, Food, and that other thing we don't talk about in polite company. (Ha!)

But really, I was fortunately enough to have a good high school art teacher who told me something which has turned out to be important in my life. (Remember when there used to be art offered in high school?)

Dr. Pearson, my HS art teacher, said, "Thomas, you can develop all the skill and technique you want but if you don't have anything of interest to say with it then it is of little use." That statement stuck with me. So I recommend to any teen who sets out to earn an art degree that they go for a BFA over a technical art degree. I feel the liberal arts stuff is essential as it teaches us what it is to be human.