Art Quote for the Day

Begin by painting your shadows light. Guard against bringing white into them; it is the poison of the picture, except in the lights. Once white has dulled the transparency and golden warmth of your shadows, your color is no longer luminous but matte and gray.
-attributed to Rubens

Dark is the basic tone of Rembrandt’s paintings, and darkness occupies a large area in them…. But how full of life is such darkness! Beginning with the most glowing middle tones of brown and yellow, they are gradually deepened through glazes and accents and made so unutterably rich in values!”
-Max Doerner (1949), The Materials of the Artist

Art Quote of the Day


When you compare a Rembrandt to a Vermeer, it’s hard to believe they were practically neighbors, living at exactly the same time in a little country about twice the size of New Jersey.  Although both painted light, they saw the light of Holland very differently.  Not only do artists see differently, but often an artist will see differently at different times in his/her  life. If you didn’t know better, you  might find it hard to believe that the works of Picasso’s Rose period were from the same man who painted his Cubist works.  As long as we’re capapble of growth, our opinions are subject to change.

The artist must always be specific about how he/she  wants you to see nature in his/her  painting.  He/she really has no choice; a painting is merely  an arrangement of fixed  areas of color on a flat surface.  The artist must lay down definite shapes that can never move once the painting is finished. If the artist wants you to see nature in more than once way, he must paint more than one picture.  That’s why many artists, like Monet, paint in series.

When you look at a painting, you do not see the subject as the artist saw it; you see the subject as the artist wanted you to see it. The artist has an idea about what constitutes the reality of vision.  Understand other artist’s ideas of vision so that you can find a way of seeing that’s right for you. Whatever idea of vision is true for you is  as valid as any other.

There are at least seven different ideas about what constitutes the reality of vision:

Through the Window Realism – what you see is what you paint. the picture represents everything you would see exactly as you would see it through a window or a door.

Selective Realism – the selective realist says you can’t possibly see every single object that’s in  front of you, let alone paint it. There’s just too much. Only three or four objects may stand out,so that’s all you paint.

Light and Shade Realism – unless you’re a bat , you can’t SEE in the dark. The only reason we see is because light strikes the retina . Vision is just light and dark and what we perceive as dark is simply the absence of light. Therefore, the only way to paint is to capture the way light falls on a surface and is reflected to the eye.

Focus and Fringe Realism – the actual image you perceive on the retina is clear only in the middle of the field.  Surrounding this clear center of sharp-edged interest is a blurred fringe that grows increasingly blurred toward the edges. Thus visual realism demands a clear center of interest at the focal point, which then shades off into less clarity.

Fringe Realism / Impressionism – since light is the only thing that stimulates the eye, to be true to vision, paint only the pattern of light that impinges on the retina.In Impressionism there are no “things”, only light-reflecting surfaces.

Dynamic Realism – nature is seen as being in constant change. Similar to Impressionism in that  it is not about objects as things. Rather , objects are just  planes with a tensional relationship to each other.

Dream-World Realism – paintings are images that appear in the artist’s mind.

Conversations in Paint – A Notebook of Fundamentals by Charles Dunn

Art Quote of the Day

” Composition is what’s left over after you’ve eliminated everything it’s not.  Composition is not how; the hows of painting are technique, the different ways pigments are applied to achieve different effects.  Composition is not subject matter; the identical composition can be equally effective as still life, figure, or landscape.  Composition is not drawing; otherwise, nonobjective art would not qualify as art.  Composition is not color; if it were, Rembrandt’s etchings wouldn’t be art.  What’s left?

Composition is where– simply putting the right mark and the right color in the right place.

You’ll find the secret to good composition in your kitchen drawer with your everyday silverware.  That drawer is partitioned off into a grid  that illustrates the prinicple of alignment. Knives, forks, and spoons each have their own compartment ( the principle of proximity). The drawer may hold dinner forks and salad forks; regular knives and butter knives; teaspoons, tablespoons, and soup spoons ( the principle of theme and variations).

Next to the silverware drawer there’s probably a junk drawer containing all those odds and ends that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.  Compared to your silverware drawer, it’s a mess. The junk drawer is comparable to the order found in nature.  There may be some kind of organization to it, but it’s not apparent to rational man.

Every organization is a hierarchy in which some things are more important than others. Similarly, a well-composed painting is an organization chart of its elements.  The viewer knows right away what’s important and what’s not.

Yes , a painting may look as if it were uncomposed in the same way a dance may appear spontaneous.  Watch the title dance number ,

Singing in the RainWe recognize (at least on an intuitive level) that Gene Kelly’s dancing is composed.  A work of art is always composed, and it requires considerable artifice to make it look spontaneous. ”

Conversations in Paint – A Notebook of Fundamentals by Charles Dunn

Art Quote of the Day

“Art schools and art departments try to help students develop a “style” ( or “voice” or “manner” or “set of concerns”). That seems natural enough , but it also puts constraints on what can be done.  Many artists that we call “great” did not have distinctive styles until they were well past the age when most students get their degrees.Rembrandt was still struggling with basic matters of technique.  Titian was a virtuoso, but his later styles had not begun to appear.  Other arts have similar examples.  Robert Frost’s first book of poetry appeared when he was thirty-nine, and

Wallace Stevens when he was forty-three.  Could anything useful have been said to them when they were eighteen or twenty?  In premodern China, the idea of developing a style of one’s own was scarcely promulgated at all, and some of the greatest Chinese painters spent their entire lives emulating one predecessor or another.

In part the difficulty that teachers have with students who have many styles is that it seems they can’t be taught.  If a student is approaching the  M.F.A. and is still showing abstract work alongside realist pieces, or doing aluminum sculpture along with prints and holograms, it begins to look as if they haven’t learned how to choose.  And that is because teachers naturally look for what is called in poetry a “voice”: a single identifiable set of concerns or styles, a character or a manner.  The ideal student is in between a monomaniac who keeps to one style, and a schizophrenic who can’t decide on  a personality.  A student’s work has to be fairly coherent- otherwise it won’t seem “right”

Why Art Cannot Be Taught by James Elkins