Harvey Dunn Quotes Part 2(All Images by Harvey Dunn)


Armand Cabrera

Harvey Dunn was not only a successful illustrator but also a great teacher. He didn’t teach fundamentals, what he taught was art philosophy and the higher ideas concerning picture making. Most of his students were working professionals who gladly gave up their evenings to attend his night class.

These quotes come from a variety of sources handed down to me from some of my teachers who studied with Dunn students. Some of them appear with different wording in ‘An Evening in the Classroom’ or the Robert Karolevitz book ‘Where the Heart is,’ some are from the student stories of Charles Andres, Ernest Watson, Kenneth Riley, Harold Von Schmidt and John Clymer.

When you have put down a few tones that go well together, paint your picture in those tones. Get along with as few as possible.

You will remember a picture for one or two authentic details.

A false note in your picture is like a stone in your shoe. It may be a comfortable shoe but the little pebble destroys all the comfort.
In design you weave the simple tones of your palette through the whole pattern. You do not have to be afraid of breaking up the mass.

Pyle never understood color. He realized this and it embittered his whole life. But he arrived at this fundamental truth about color; the shadows carry the drawing and the light carries the color.

All I ever did for Dean Cornwell was to teach him to work in a given value range, and in all his work since he has never departed from this rule. He said that Brangwyn did the same thing.

The darkest light in the picture is diffused, use the darkest dark as absolute shadow and accent the shadows to produce the effect of light.

Use highlights sparingly to bring out the most important details. Where one will do, do not use more.

Take the simple tones and colors of your central figure and paint the rest of your picture with these colors and tones.

When in trouble with a bit of drawing, design it.

In painting a dark room you should suggest mystery. Pyle and Abbey knew how to suggest the character of a figure in the dark by just lighting the top of the head. By forcing the light all around the head you not only destroy the character, but you rob the whole picture of its mystery.

Where a few details will serve to convey the idea, don’t use many.

11 thoughts on “Harvey Dunn Quotes Part 2(All Images by Harvey Dunn)

  1. Thanks so much for this Dunn post. Great pictures, great picture thoughts.

    Cornwell said that Dunn often said things just for the effect it would have on his students. Most of these quotes do not seem to fall into that category… just good solid principled thought. And some great information.

    Although some do… the idea that "all Dunn taught Cornwell" is to keep a value range could not possibly be so, given that "Dean was Dunn before he started".

    And Pyle may well have lamented his own abilities with color, but for my money he made quite a few beautifully colored canvases. So when Dunn talked about Pyle's frustrations, he may have been trying to make a student feel not so bad about crummy color by pointing out that even his master had doubts about his own use of hues. Which was, anyway, all by way of saying that beautiful color is actually beautiful values in disguise.

    Thanks so much for the great blog!


  2. A lot of this post relates to your prior post on simplicity. For example, "When you have put down a few tones that go well together, paint your picture in those tones. Get along with as few as possible," is simplicity with color.

    I noticed you posted this at 2:00 AM. Some of your other posts were made in the wee hours. Do you ever sleep?

  3. Gregory,

    I agree with Kev, Pyle had beautiful color. Maybe more subdued but still lovely.


    You are right that Dunn taught specifically for his students. There is a story about Dunn making some students paint with large brushes if they painted too much detail and others paint with small brushes to keep from being too loose.
    Cornwell always spoke kindly of Dunn. I have notes from some 1938 Cornwell lectures I plan to post in the future and he echoes much of the same thing as the Dunn quotes.


    Dunn is definitely one of my big influences as an artist and teacher. I am glad I can share this information with everyone

    As for sleeping, not much since the economy is down. I’ve worked through a couple of recessions now and I’ve always found you have to double your efforts in a bad economy to get anywhere as a self employed person. I schedule the posts when I’m traveling but I usually am up most night till 1 AM working. With the daily Twitter quotes, the Blog and Facebook, plus actually painting for my clients I always have plenty to do.

  4. First you post fresh Dunn notes… and now you say you have notes from a CORNWELL LECTURE!!!

    You sir, are my new best friend! 🙂


  5. Thanks for those quotes. I am glad to hear you have more

    when in trouble with a bit of drawing, design it.

    I am thinking about that for a neck tattoo.

  6. Stapleton,

    Always check with a loved one before getting any type of tattoo. Also try blurring it and picturing it four inches lower than planned so you know what it will look like in ten years.
    Stapleton has a great blog and an excellent article today on Frederick Waugh with great quotes from Waugh,the master of marine painting

  7. Hey Armand,

    Ive been meaning to drop by and say hi. I love your work, and your blog. I try and read it daily. Keep up the hard work.

    Best Jason

  8. Great post Armand, I'm with Kev, if you post the Cornwell lectures I'll erect a monument in your honor 🙂

  9. Ramon,

    They are on the way. A few more weeks and I will have the article ready. I do a history bio once a month, that's next week, which will be on Cornwell by the way. I just need the right images from my reference for the quotes.

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