The Laws of Nature

Friday, November 6, 2009

Advice

This is a self-portrait that I painted in oils about a decade ago. It's entitled My Vanity, and is a double entendre. The physical space where I apply make-up
is a vanity, and the reflection I'm seeing is the one I'd prefer to see without all the wrinkles and age spots. The fly on the mirror is an 18th century symbol for death - the ultimate reality that vanquishes vanity. What does this painting have to do with today's blog about advice? I'm using it to illustrate the point that when advice is given, we all need to look at ourselves in the mirror (psychological mirror, that is) with objectivity to see if the offered advice is warranted. If, individually, we don't know who we are as artists - if we haven't taken the time for self-examination and recognition - then it's hard to know which advice, if any, is good. So, it's well worth thinking about Ben Shahn's comments that I posted a long time ago. Ask yourself "What kind of person am I" and "What kind of art coincides with who I am?" After you've done that, you'll know if advice "fits" or not.

That being said, here's some advice from well-known artists that may, or may not, be useful to you:

Henri Matisse - Look at life with the eyes of a child.

Jasper Johns - Take something. Do something with it. Do something else with it.

Constantin Brancusi - Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave.

Salvador Dali - Do not strive to be a modern artist: it's the one thing unfortunately you can't help being.

Paul Gaugin - Do not finish your work too much.

Vincent Van Gogh - If you hear a voice within you saying, 'You are not a painter,' then by all means paint, boy, and that voice will be silenced.

George Green - Early on get rid of the idea of rejection, so that you can receive rejection over and over again.

Jerry Uelsmann - In the arts there are many right answers. I've learned over the years that when you get a clue to another possibility to follow it through ... Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself.

Edgar Degas - The secret is to follow the advice the masters give you in their works while doing something different from them.

Winslow Homer - Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems.

Eric Fischl - What experience has shown me is that it takes your life to become an artist.

11 comments:

Margaret Ryall said...

My most easterly position in North America and my habit of blogging before breakfast often puts me in the first response position to a post. I'm not really a keener!

The two quotes that resonate with me are:

Winslow Homer - Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems.
Most of the work I create is connected to nature. I am even more grounded in nature since I began to spend the summers on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean hemmed in by meadows and hills. It's hard to ignore. Doesn't this quote really sum up your post about the Value of Solitude?

Eric Fischl - What experience has shown me is that it takes your life to become an artist.
One of my biggest fears about starting my art career at 50 was not having enough time to become competent. I was treating 50 as the beginning and forgetting that the life I had lived up to that point had taught me many things that were ultimately more valuable to my practice than the "how tos" of art.

Myrna said...

Kathy, thanks for all the great quotes. The one I liked best was from an artist I had not heard of. I will have to check out Jerry Uelsmann -" In the arts there are many right answers. I've learned over the years that when you get a clue to another possibility to follow it through ... Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself." I think that is what I am working towards, that thrill when something shows up on the paper that amazes me.
PS your "Vanity" painting is one of my favorites!

Tonya Vollertsen said...

I liked "do not finish your work too much" , "solve your own problems" and "follow the masters but do something different". So many good ones though. Nice thinkish and thoughty post! Great painting!

-Don said...

Before reading your blog I clicked on the associated painting to get my take on it before reading what you would write about it. I love how you've made a lovely self-portrait a bit unsettling. The wide eyes with the reflected ring from the light gives the illusion of being in a trance. It's like you're looking at yourself, but not truly seeing yourself. The fly gave me pause - adding to that unsettled feeling - and I was not sure of its significance until I read about its symbolic nature. Great job.

Thanks for the quotes to go along with this gem. My favorite would have to be Winslow Homer's "Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems." That pretty much sums it up for me.

-Don

Sheila said...

Love your portrait and the title.

Thank you for the quotes. I may print some out and post them up in the room where I paint.

Kathy said...

Hi all! Thanks for responding to this blog.

Margaret - You really hit on something. Your art is informed by your entire life experiences, so the first 50 years are important! I'm so glad you mentioned that.

Myrna - your work "amazes" me, so I hope you get the same thrill!

Tonya - knowing when a painting is finished used to be a big problem with me and I overworked things. But, I've learned when to quit (I think!). Thanks.

Don - I appreciate your analysis of my painting. I rarely engage in self-portraiture and decided that it needed deeper meaning. And ... you picked up on the eyes!! No one else has ever mentioned that. Right on, bro!

Sheila - I'm glad you liked the quotes. It's been very helpful to me to write these down as I find them and then look at them from time to time.

Happy painting, y'all!!

Dan Kent said...

I remember your portrait from the portrait blog where you posted it some time ago. Beautiful. Thanks for the quotes - the ones the resonate with me now are the Van Gogh and the Jasper Johns. Ask me in five years and I suspect my answer will be different.

hwfarber said...

I'm not very good at taking advice and, even worse, at giving it--even to my kids. I research the "right way" of doing things; then experiment. I love the quote from Matisse. (I may be in my second childhood and doing just that.)

Your self-portrait is really exceptional--like your other paintings.

Kathy said...

Hi Dan and HW! Thanks for weighing-in on these quotes. Isn't it great ot know that what these artists said so very long ago resonates with artists today? This timelessness is reflected in their work - so maybe there's a connection. Think in a timeless manner and produce timeless work!
Hmmmm.

Mike said...

Kathy . . .These are soooo good, I want to use them in some of my workshops. YOu might be interested in this quote. I really should research it to find who said it, but I have it framed and hanging in my studio. It is a guide for living, as far as I am concerned. Use it if you can:

EXCELLENCE can be attained if you . . . CARE more than others think is wise . . .RISK more than others think is safe . . . DREAM more than others think is practical . . .EXPECT more than others think is possible.

This blog is wonderful soul food!

Kathy said...

Mike - great quotation! Thanks for contributing it. As far as I know, our old friend "anonymous" said that :-)