Quotes from Harvey Dunn

(From An Evening In The Classroom)
all images by Harvey Dunn

When values are contrast use subtle color when values are subtle use contrasting color.

The character, position and weight of an object are in the edge

You must make the main thing in your picture appear most important. If anyone tells me my hat is more important than my head –by God I’m taking off my hat.

When you feel like putting something into your picture or do not know what is the matter with it, take something out.

To paint a mass simple and big you must keep out all the lights and darks that do not belong to its general value.

If you want to be clever in your picture don’t let anybody catch you at it. If they catch you you’re not clever.

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.

Quotes from Harvey Dunn Part 3

These quotes are compiled from students notes. They were passed down to me from some of my teachers who studied with Dunn Students like Harold Von Schmidt and Kenneth Riley. Some of these quotes appear in a slightly different form in ‘An Evening in the classroom’  I have two more pages of these to publish, about 1300 words in all. I have published two other posts of Dunn Quotes here
These have been a great source of inspiration to me over the years and I hope you find them helpful.

Try planning a picture in ivory black and raw sienna.

When we start a picture we begin with a shape. Our first problem is to introduce into the shape a form. It may be only a line that will tie the sides together.

If the distance is dark the values will grow lighter towards the foreground.

One authentic detail will make the whole picture.

You cannot paint a picture from the model.

Keep repeating your main values it will give your picture unity.

An arm is all one; paint it so with one stroke of the brush

Play up to one color note

Light and dark, warm and cool colors, in equal proportions produce static neutrality, balancing each other right out of the picture.

To simplify your scene, paint as many things as possible in the same value. Then vary the texture and edges. Let modeled form come against flat surfaces, detail against simplicity, hard against soft etc.

When the center of interest is established in its tonal relations, that becomes the key to the picture and you have to stick to it whether you like it or not.

Eliminate everything that is not relevant to the main purpose.

When two values nearly alike come together, paint them as one value.

Dark in light must be at least as the shadow tone of white. If the light is soft paint it soft.

Form is expressed in the light tones by dark accents, in the dark tones by light accents.

Pictorial art is relating tones to create beauty- like chords of music- not the faithful copying of the model.

In the model there is a confusion of tones that have no meaning in art.

Do not have an important dark and important light in the same picture they will destroy each other.

If you see a thing dark make it darker; large paint it larger; small paint it smaller, then your work will be positive.

One dark accent will give accent to a high key picture.

Make your picture either a figure with a background secondary or a landscape with a figure secondary.
One dark note in a passage of light will heighten the effect of light.
To make light more brilliant, raise the value of the shadow. The light in your picture must be kept separate from the shadow. If you bear in mind that the light on dark must be at least as light as the shadow tone of white, your values will take care of themselves.
Begin a picture by first laying in the values, and then clearly define the edges.
Paint the large areas as indefinitely as you like, but paint the details with integrity.

Quotes from Harvey Dunn Part 4

Quotes from Harvey Dunn Part 4

The lightest light and the darkest dark is in the eye.

Do not be so afraid that your picture will not be seen. Who tells you to make everything hard the art editors? Why if they knew how to do it themselves, they would not be art editors, they could not afford to.

Commence your picture by first establishing the three main values of your focal center, as hair, face and background; and work on that until you have it right. Then paint the rest of the picture in that tonal range and do not under any circumstances depart from it. With your main tones decided you have the key to all the remaining tones. Use all the tones you want within the established values.

A background can be painted in the same range of values as the foreground by reversing the light effect; painting the lights cool and the shadows warm in the shadow plane and warm lights and cool shadows in the sunlight plane.

Use separate brushes for warm tones cool tones and mixtures.

Use shadow tones of white for highlights on the dark.

You establish the key for the picture when you put down your first strokes for the flesh in shadow.

The center of the shadow tone in a large light area may be lightened to throw more light in the shadow, as the edge will carry the mass.

Paint related masses together as one. It will simplify the composition and give greater carrying power to the masses.

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

In a decoration do not go into factual detail or anything else that does not contribute to the decorative effect.

In design darks may be used anywhere, but in representing natural phenomena they must follow visual laws.

In decoration contrasts must be softened in receding planes.

The light pattern and shadow pattern of a design must be kept apart.

If the light source is cool the shadows must be warm.

If the shadow tone of white is high in value eliminate as much as possible from the background.

In design tie the sides of the shape together with a pattern of shadow. Then draw in the form with deep shadow (dark) leaving the light area to the last. The whole picture will thus fall into a simple scheme of light, halftone and dark.

A man of but mediocre talent who is furiously driven by deep desire will get somewhere. He who doesn’t desire deeply isn’t hurt much by failure.

Quotes from Harvey Dunn part 5

This will be my last post on the Harvey Dunn quotes. The blog is a labor of love for me and one of its perks is getting to correspond with other likeminded artists. Some of these people I have not met in person but still I am glad for their contact with me.

Kev Ferrara is one such person. I would like to thank Kev Ferrara for sending me some more Dunn images to post with the quotes. Between fighting the good fight on just about every art blog and forum I read and also offering his insight and knowledge about the art process to people, I don’t know how he finds the time to draw and paint. Thanks Kev! I hope we get a chance to meet some day.

To visualize the simple values, think of how things appear in the shadow when your eyes are accustomed to the bright light and of how things appear in the bright light when your eyes are accustomed to the shadow. How many values can you distinguish on coming from indoors into the brilliant sunlight and vice versa?

Lick touches of light into the shadow field to give zip to the points of interest in the quiet tones and to tie the light field and the shadow filed together, similarly put a few flicks of dark in to the light field.

Only the greatest contrasts are at first perceivable. The value range will be light, halftone, shadow. The subtler values will be lost. This is the effect to aim at when expressing strong light. To see simply is to see pictorially. In strong light there will be no color in the shadow. By using absolute shadow or black, to draw in the shadow forms, all the values can be painted in local color.

Balance: Opposition of lines, values, colors forms, textures etc. in unequal but related proportions.

Maintain the integrity of the local value of every form. Paint the black, black and the white, white as it appears. The light will unify the values. One fleck of light on the dark will serve to bring the whole form into light.

Ideas are intelligent active things which present themselves to your consciousness for expression. You can only be receptive and express them as they will be expressed. It is not possible for a man to sit down and cold-bloodedly think up ideas- ideas can only come to you when you have an open mind to receive them.

If your life is full you will paint full pictures If it is empty your pictures will be empty too.

Any picture that needs a caption is a weak picture.

Get it down and get it said, to hell with everything else.