Brush strokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and all the littleness are in it. —– Robert Henri
Painting at its best is communication. A successful painting communicates to others on a personal level. The artist, to be effective, must share something of themselves to make that happen. Their art must carry truth in it. Many times people confuse the truth of a thing with its outward appearance but that is just illusion. The truth of a thing is the whole thing. Not just its how it looks to the eye, but also its character, how it makes you feel. The artist in observing the motif decides to express themselves by capturing it in paint.
An artist must be sensitive enough to discern the whole and to infuse his paintings with the most important aspects of the thing. This not only takes the skill to paint but the openness to understand and make decisions about the subject depicted. There is facility and thoughtfulness and insight. It is opinion manifest through their ability as an artist and it is hard work. It shuns the superficiality of affectation and artistic mimesis.
There is a lot of technique being thrown around nowadays. Illustrators and artists are hiding behind technology and routine copying and photographic collage. This slick surface work, lacking any personality except in the most superficial way is completely devoid of the hand of the maker. In my opinion this is artistic cowardice. To remove the artist and their opinion is to remove the art from the craft of painting. Anyone, given enough time and effort can be taught the mechanics of image making but the mechanics alone do not produce a work of art. Art can be anything and take many styles but for it to be meaningful it must always carry the mark of the artist. All great art has an individual point of view.
The great artists and illustrators knew this and poured their thoughts and emotions into their work at every level. They infused their work with beauty, power, passion and care in spite of personal challenges, deadlines or outside influences. These artists left a bit of themselves for all to see and in doing so made their mark on the world of art.
There are ten thousand people in the United States who can paint and draw to beat the band. You have never heard of them and you never will. They have thoroughly mastered their craft and that is all they have—their craft… Merely knowing your craft will never be enough to make a picture… If you ever amount to anything at all, it will be because you are true to that deep desire or ideal which made you seek artistic expression in pictures—Harvey Dunn
Can anything be more tragic than to feel the infinite beauty of your surroundings, to read natures innermost secrets and, conscious of your own helplessness, to be incapable of expressing those powerful emotions? —– Isaac Levitan
Project your mind into your subject till you actually live in it. Throw your heart into the picture and jump in after it….Art is not a transcript or a copy. Art is the expression of those beauties and emotions that stir the human soul. —– Howard Pyle
10 thoughts on “Making a Mark”
Great article! I really enjoyed reading this. I might recommend checking out Odd Nerdrum's book 'Kitsch more than Art'. You may find some parallel thoughts.
To be a bit critical, "Anyone, given enough time and effort can be taught the mechanics of image making…"
That is true, but is it negative? Is it any less true for putting yourself into the work? I am of the belief that nearly everyone can learn to be a true painter who puts themselves into the work. It may not be as simple to teach as 'this is how to make something look three-dimensional' but can still certainly be taught.
I agree with you. My point was that craft is not enough and too many people hide behind mere craft because it is easier than trying to make art.
A few years after I started painting, some of my work was selling. I was discussing with a couple of other painters why I thought some sold while other didn't. I said, "I think you have to leave a little bit of your soul in your paintings". Sure enough, when I thought back, the ones that sold had much more of "me" in them.
The more I learn about the technical aspects of picture making, the easier it is to forget about putting "me" in my painting.
For a painting to sell, I think the buyer needs an emotional connection to the painting. If I don't feel something while making the painting, how can I expect the viewer to ever feel any emotion when they look at it? Thanks for the reminder.
Great post, love these quotes. Very inspiring.
All the quotes are helpful and inspiring. I had a similar experience to Wyn Easton, on a smaller level. A friend came by my apartment where all my paintings were laid out. The two she liked the most were not necessarily the most technically well done of all the pieces, but they were the least "safe", and they were pieces where I was trying to do something specific in mind. Go figure.
Great post. Art is a language and sincerity/honesty is paramount. But the debate beween craftsman (painter) versus 'seer' (artist)has a sting in its tail, surely? An artis in that senbse will only be someone very exceptional…
That is true and there lies the problem. The artist can only do their best; develop their craft to the highest degree they are capable of and then put their heart and soul into their work and hope that it will speak to the rest of us. The bar should be high and art should be rare. When everything and anything is art, then nothing is art.
Yes, right – thanks Armand.
I enjoyed reading this post. I agree with it whole heartedly. To me, there's no reason to create art if I can't somehow put something of myself in it. And sharing art to me is like sharing my feelings for a subject.
These quotes I have read before, but massed together are very powerful. Making my own vision or concept is never far from my mind. But I can't perform at that level yet, it takes me too much effort just to make a form turn, to adjust my values. I still have to learn to read before I can write, and that's a hard climb.
Your response to Jon would make a good post by itself.