Art Quote of the Day

“Painting is a language much like English, Latin, French, or mathematics.  It just happens to be a language you learned, without even trying, when you were very young.  Today you are as fluent in reading paintings as you are in reading English.  You look at a picture and know what it’s a picture of .  You take the language of painting for granted.

You had to learn the conventions of English, build your vocabulary and learn grammar in order to communicate effectively.  In this regard, painting is no different from English or any language.  In painting, aesthetic conventions are the vocabulary and composition is the syntax.


The only way we can represent a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface is by using aesthetic conventions.  There are very specific rules about how to represent a tree.  If the artist doesn’t follow these rules, or aesthetic conventions, the picture won’t read as a picture of a tree. Of course, there is considerable latitude within these rules.  A tree by Monet looks nothing like a tree by Claude Lorrain, but both read as trees, maybe even the same species, because both artists  followed the rules for painting trees.

Two painters painting the same subject will produce two very different pictures because each uses different aesthetic conventions.

Making a painting is a lot simpler once you start to think in terms of aesthetic conventions instead of trying to duplicate what you see. Then all you have to do is find a way to make paint stand for what you see. Much of what you may now find difficult about painting disappears almost magically because you have no longer set yourself an impossible task.”

Conversations in Paint – A Notebook of Fundamentals by Charles Dunn


Art Quote of the Day

“The experience of unexpectedly seeing something that sets you off – a color, a relationship, an event – isn’t necessarily the sudden occurrence you think it is.. It may have actually  taken a long time for the idea to sift through your consciousness.  Few people are aware that, for an artist, the gestation period for a particular idea may be many years.  Georgia O’Keefe first looked at bones in 1916 but they did not show up as a subject in her paintings until 1930.  When he was 20 Claude Monet spent two years of military service in Africa and was greatly impressed by the light and color he observed there. This impression contained, as he put it, ” the germ” of his later work. Many artists experience the flash  of a new idea, followed by a slowly dawning awareness that they’ve known about it vaguely for a long time.  They just weren’t ready to recognize it.

In short , what will end up “inspiring” you are those things that satisfy some powerful internal visual need, which only time and much work will reveal.

When this happens, you may find you are having what seems to be a slightly odd experience.  An object, for example, ceases to be defined as we commonly understand it. A pepper is not a vegetable that is good in salads.  It is a remarkably complex, undulating green surface vaguely suggestive of the human form.  This is part of what is meant when people say that artists see “differently”. It leads some artists to maintain that the subject of a work of art is not just the thing depicted.

The Blank Canvas – Inviting the Muse by Anna Held Audette