Quotations

Thanks to the oval I have discovered the meaning of the horizontal and the vertical.
— Georges Braque
I’ve learned that it’s what you leave out of a performance, not what you put into it. Fred Astaire taught me this. He explained: ‘‘When you have a show and it’s perfect, where every song works, no matter how perfect you think it is, go in and pull out 15 minutes of it. Don’t stay onstage too much. Know when enough is enough.’ I’ve learned that less is more. It’s not because of age, but it’s the right thing to do. Don’t overstay your welcome.
— Tony Bennett

Value does the work, color takes the credit.
— Author unknown (everyone who has ever painted)


You speak. Some will listen, others will not. You cannot choose who will and who will not. Do not concern yourself, do not adjust to please. Let those you please find you. Good things come when one no longer cares about pleasing anyone else.
— Ken Kewley


Everything I say is only true in some limited way.
— Lois Dodd.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
— Winston Churchill


To simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
—Hans Hofmann

Long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.
— Helen Keller

Don't think: look!
— Ludwig Wittgenstein

In art you never hit what you’re aiming at, but the difference may not be downward.
— Robert Kulicke

There’s no story. I don’t want to tell stories.
Other people always read things into your work, which you can never see. That’s fine, that’s great. For me it was just exciting to look at it and try to do something with it.
— Lois Dodd

You have to accept your nature. And this is who I am.
— Catherine Murphy


To strain after innovation, to worry about being on ‘the cutting edge’ (a phrase I hate), reflects a concern for a place in history or one’s career rather than the authenticity of one’s painting.
— Jane Freilicher


The most beautiful things in in art come from renunciation.
— Edgar Degas


I do not think about you when I paint. I paint for myself, to follow my interests — to satisfy my curiosity.
— Catherine Murphy

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
— William Shakespeare


Everything I have done has been influenced by Cezanne, and this gave me a new feeling about composition. Up to that time composition had consisted of a certain idea, to which everything else was an accompaniment and separate but was not an end in itself, and Cezanne conceived the idea that in composition one thing was as important as another thing. Each part is as important as the whole, and that impressed me enormously.
— Gertrude Stein

I have a criterion which requires my subject to have a precision which says, "I am a particular tree," or "This is a real location." I love this idea that correctness in nature brings about another dimension to the painting, at once abstract and specific, a line that speaks in the particular and alludes to a lot more.
— Sylvia Plimack Mangold

Some objects are less susceptible to metaphor than others. The whole world is less susceptible to metaphor than a tea-cup is.
— Wallace Stevens, Miscellaneous Notebooks


The secret to being a bore is to tell everything.
— Voltaire (1694 – 1778)


If you can turn off the mind and look with only the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract.
– Ellsworth Kelly

If a person will begin with certainties, she shall end in doubts; but if she will be content to begin with doubts she shall end in certainties.
— Francis Bacon, 1561-1626

In art, as in everything else, one can only build upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure constantly renders movement impossible. My freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength.
— Igor Stravinsky

Precision is not the opposite of mystery.
— Louise Glück


One is usually bewildered by all the sensations of real life. And the impossibility and danger tempts us. So we struggle like headless chickens flouting madly about at anything to try to succeed. That drives us beyond our capabilities and thrills us if we even succeed a little. With dogged practice we bleed and grow. We eventually live in a state of constant failure with little sparks of surprises that we do not control or understand and realize we are where we really want to be.
— George Nick on painting

Drawing may be the most intimate and honest of all art mediums. Its lightweight materials enable artists to work almost anywhere and often give their efforts a truth-telling transparency that exposes the very nerve endings of their talents. Sometimes drawings function almost as a kind of signature, distilling an artist's sensibility to its essence, Sometimes they express gifts visible in no other medium
— Roberta Smith, The New York Times


What does it mean, "abstract" ? Does it mean to abstract from something— to start with an image and transform it into essentials, like Mondrian’s tree series? Maybe it means some kind of freedom from the image so we can get directly to the serious part and not get lost in apples or nipples. Maybe it means the big idea itself— painting as physics or philosophy. Maybe it means to be purified or to be closer to concrete essences. Maybe it’s a formal design strategy with invented rules, a graphing or charting of information. There is no guarantee of freedom in abstraction ... The painter Max Gimblett says "The impulse moves between the instant and the gradual... In alertness and attention. In silence with the paint. Painting is inherently mysterious, it’s a state of being where there is no recognizable ‘Mind’..."
THE CONTEMPLATION OF THINGS AS THEY ARE,
WITHOUT ERROR OR CONFUSION,
WITHOUT SUBSTITUTION OR IMPOSTURE,
IS IN ITSELF A NOBLER THING
THAN A WHOLE HARVEST OF INVENTION
— Francis Bacon (1620) posted on the wall of Dorothea Lange's darkroom

Even if you only have 20 minutes, paint like you have all day.
— anonymous



A self-taught artist usually has a poor teacher and a worse student.
— Henny Youngman 

A director only makes one film in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again
— Jean Renoir

As soon as the process of looking begins, the "subject" disappears, absorbed into the setting, so that background and foreground are one.
— Rackstraw Downes on Fairfield Porter

Lennart Anderson opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world, as an interconnected web of relationships, of colors and tones and light and space, free of the limiting labels of trees, grass, arms, and noses, and how thrilling the experience was of finding an equivalent for these relationships in paint. For lack of a better word, it was an abstract world. Entering it was entering a realm of infinite possibility, and from the very beginning I loved dwelling in it.
— Susan Jane Walp


Address yourselves to the masters, therefore, speak to them, they will answer you, for they are still living. It is they who will instruct you; I myself am no more than their quiz-master.
— Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Where there is a handicap (or constriction of possibility), mastery shows itself.
— Goethe

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
— Oscar Wilde

We’re talking about the struggle to drag a thought over from the mush of the unconscious into some kind of grammar, syntax, human sense; every attempt means starting over with language. Starting over with accuracy. I mean, every thought starts over, so every expression of a thought has to do the same. Every accuracy has to be invented.  I feel I am blundering in concepts too fine for me.
— Anne Carson on writing


Color, like drawing, is an abstraction. One color, just as one word in poetry, needs to be found to stand in for several colors. Each color needs to be chosen in consideration of the whole. Color does not become itself until the whole work is completed. A painting that earlier in its making resembled a poem, as it gets filled in, cluttered with too much color that changes or dilutes what was there, loses its poetry. If a painting isn’t working I find it is not because something is missing but that there is something that is not needed,
— Ken Kewley

Match your format and your effort to your energy level.
— Bill Teitsworth


Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.
— Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, architect, and poet (1475-1564)

 The beauty of sticking with a singular pursuit is that once you get a toe-hold on an area of 

understanding, other people's lessons and knowledge become more accessible.
— Mitchell Johnson

Nothing is denied to well directed industry.
— Sir Joshua Reynolds

The curve of learning is a meander, the shape of a spring creek on a valley floor, given its own interior consistency by curiosity and desire and a sense of the beautiful. With a lot of traveling sideways to gain a little distance forward, with more motion than progress, it's not terribly efficient but in the end covers the ground pretty well.

— Ted Leeson

My secret for success? Well it’s not a secret that I have never hung out too much and I’ve just worked very, very hard for thirty-five years. It’s just a lot of hard work. That’s my secret— it’s a big secret.
— Joan Snyder


The small painting often mimics the shock of a sight quickly seen, before cognitive habits break down the elements into the familiar.
— Tom Rhea


I think we’re at a time where everything is abstract and everything is representational. It’s more about how you find your own language with paint. It’s really just your body and its relationship to the world. Using the senses is not anti-intellectual.
— Josephine Halvorson

The one thing I can say about images and work with images, if I can put their function into one sentence: it’s the thing that gives you the feeling that life is worth living. Which is step one. I’m not saying it’s really worth living or it’s fantastic. I’m saying it’s also the thing that will keep you from killing yourself and others. So it’s a public service, I think, to engage in images.

— Lynda Barry

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is given to the less talented as a consolation prize. Indeed, the idea that doubt can be heroic, if it is locked into a structure as grand as that of the paintings of Cezanne's old age, is one of the keys to our century.
— Robert Hughes

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
— Mary Oliver

Structural discipline shapes ineffable emotion.
— Jed Perl on John Heliker

What do you look at when you look? You can't look at everything.
— Stanley Lewis


Conversation in real life is full of half-finished sentences and overlapping talk. Why shouldn't painting be too? 
— Edgar Degas

I don't think enjoyment comes into the picture. It is an earth shaking necessity. To succeed or fail is after the fact of working. I learn so much daily. I don't feel there is control, only hard work that keeps demonstrating surprising possibilities, solutions and adventures. Hope disappears when the action stops.
— George Nick


It is best to have a good knowledge of the basic foundations – color, value, drawing. This will give you freedom to do as you please. Something else that helped me was limiting the size of brush I was using. The smallest brush I use is a 2” art brush, even with my small paintings. This forces me to be decisive and to keep the image abstract for as long as possible.
Take risks and don’t be afraid to lose what you have. Once the painting becomes precious, that is a very dangerous thing. You become afraid to destroy your precious little painting and then it becomes tedious and overworked. If this happens to you, destroy it by making some unintentional marks and then have the confidence to redraw and find what was lost. It will be better the second time around. I strive to paint with a tight eye and a loose hand. Wouldn’t that be ideal?
So, if I were to give any advice to another artist, it would be to enjoy the process and paint to please no one but yourself. And one more thing… make sure to squint and step back.
— Chelsea James

Art should be like a well planned crime. Which is to say that you don’t discuss it before, and you don’t talk much about it afterwards either.
— Brancusi

The harder you concentrate, the more th
ings that are really in your head start coming out.
— Lucian Freud

You OUGHT to love colour, and to think nothing quite beautiful or perfect without it; and if you really do love it, for its own sake, and are not merely desirous to colour because you think painting a finer thing than drawing, there is some chance you may colour well. But to colour well requires your life. It cannot be done cheaper.
— John Ruskin


I think we live in a paradise. This is the Garden of Eden, really it is. It might be the only paradise we ever know, and it's just so beautiful, with the trees and everything here, and you feel you want to paint it. Put it into a design. That's all I can say.
— Albert York

To do good work one must eat well, be well housed, have one's fling from time to time, smoke one's pipe, and drink one's coffee in peace."
— Vincent van Gogh



What are the tasks of painting? As a figurative artist, I have found the answers in early-modern and premodern works. Their power is in the visual invention, the meaning coming through the form. Good, old-fashioned stuff like that is always newer and better than apologetic, illustrational, never fully baked stuff. Embracing the great-grandparents and the grandparents is the greatest freedom: from theory, and from meaning that precedes the object and its colors, lines, and edges.
— Lisa Yuskavage

Much of Dickinson’s emphasis on maintaining a positive attitude stemmed from his conviction that quality paintings and drawings were produced by functioning at the height of one’s enthusiasm. He often spoke to his students of the ‘joy in working.’ There was ‘no need to work without it,’ he said. If students lost their zeal for a particular painting, he recommended that they scrape their canvas and begin anew. The artist, he maintained, should only initiate a work of art with the very highest ambitions, and during the process, bring every fiber of being into play… Several students have related that Dickinson instructed them to paint ‘as though you’re jumping on a moving train.’

— From Mary Ellen Abell’s essay “Seeing Everything for the First Time: The Teaching and Aesthetic Philosophy of Edwin Dickinson,” in Edwin Dickinson: Dreams and Realities)


All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
— Federico Fellini

A tight structural form opens possibilities. Take a pattern, an established model or sub-genre, and write to it. In writing, limitation gives freedom.
— W.G. Sebald


Marshal the power that omission donates to pictorial forms.
— unknown


Why should anybody paint realistically? We’re surrounded by reality. Who wants more? Enough reality. But it’s fun. It’s fun!
— Ellen Phelan 


All creation presupposes at its origin a sort of appetite that is brought on by the foretaste of discovery. This foretaste of the creative act accompanies the intuitive grasp of an unknown entity already possessed but not yet intelligible, an entity that will not take definite shape except by the action of a constantly vigilant technique.
This appetite that is aroused at the mere thought of putting in order elements that have attracted my attention is not at all a fortuitous thing like inspiration, but as habitual and periodic, if not as constant, as a natural need.
— Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard College, 1939-1940

People who hold forth on my painting conclude that I have arrived at the ultimate degree of abstraction and imagination that relates to reality. I should much prefer to have them acknowledge what is given: the total self-surrender…The richness I achieve comes from nature, the course of my inspiration. Perhaps my originality boils down to my capacity as a hypersensitive receptor.
— Claude Monet

Part of the physical pleasure of painting is to explore the limits of what is possible in paint. Is it possible to render the feeling of flesh, the sheen of the ceramic, whatever it is? Objects in the painting force me into the pleasure or agony of figuring out my own limits.
— Richard Baker

At art school you can teach the craft, it’s the poetry you can’t teach. But now they try to teach the poetry and not the craft.
— David Hockney

Self-portraiture is a singular in-turned art. Something eerie lurks in its fingering of the edge between seer and seen. 
— Julian Bell

People only have the degree of freedom that their audacity wins from fear.

— Stendahl

Subtlety often develops as the enemy of the large effect of the motif.
— Lennart Anderson

What do you express when you’re making your paintings? What you express is unconscious. It is not something you planned. I think that plans are less interesting than the aura that comes off your painting.
Rackstraw Downes

All the songs take a long time, and although the good lines come unbidden, they're anticipated, and the anticipation involves a patient application to the enterprise.
— Leonard Cohen

We look at the object with intent regard, then at the palette, and thirdly at the canvas. The canvas receives the message dispatched, usually a few seconds before from the natural object. But it has come through the post-office en route. It has been transmitted in code. It has been turned from light into paint. It reaches the canvas a cryptogram. Not until it has been placed in its correct relation to everything else that is on the canvas can it be deciphered, is its meaning apparent, is it translated once again from mere pigment into light. And the light this time is not of Nature but of Art. The whole of this considerable process is carried through on the wings or the wheels of memory.
— Sir Winston Churchill

My art, what do you want to say about it? Do you think you can explain the merits of a picture to those who do not see them? I can find the best and clearest words to explain my meaning, and I have spoken to the most intelligent people about art, and they have not understood; but among people who understand, words are not necessary. You say humph, he, ha and everything has been said.
— Edgar Degas

Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.
— Chuck Close

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners; I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
— Ira Glass

There's a lot of things I'd like to do, but when you're actually in the trenches and you're in front of the page (canvas) or the guitar, you have to deal with where the energy is, what arises, what presents itself with a certain kind of urgency.
 — Leonard Cohen

The seen distortion is what the thought did to the sight.
— Edwin Dickinson


I think all observational painters edit to some degree, even if they do so unknowingly. I never feel that I know enough about what I am seeing to knowingly edit my paintings. The visual world has so many surprises that when I‘ve tried to work from imagination, the results look programmatic and unimaginative. 
— Dik F. Liu

In art, all that is not indispensable is unnecessary.
— Carolus Duran

One should draw and paint one's model the way one sees it — simply the way one sees it. Simply? That of all things is the most difficult! To draw something the way one sees it, not the way one knows it, not the way one thinks it looks, and not the way some others saw it! Only then, when one forgets what one does not actually see, can a resemblance — which is the essential thing — emerge.
— Alberto Giacometti, 1953

Drawing is how high by how wide by what angle. Everything is that, and if you can do that, you can draw anything.
— Edwin Dickinson

The cure for boredom is curiosity.There is no cure for curiosity.
— Dorothy Parker


Comments about style always seem strange to me — 'why do you work in this style, or in that style' - as if you had a choice in the matter...What you're doing is trying to stay alive and continue and not die."
— Philip Guston

When painting from life, before you use any color for a particular object, compare it to any similar object. Ask which is more or less intense, lighter or darker, etc. Reserve the most intense or darkest to where it is really needed.
— Ken Kewley

There is a distinction between fact and truth. Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so.
— Lucian Freud

Seek first of all for absolute truth of tone and color, and get this truth in the simplest and most obvious way.
—Carolus-Duran

Starting with a note of truth in a picture is the important thing — the first color you put down influences you right straight through. Do not put things down approximately — you will take a wrong thing and unconsciously key everything to it, making it all false.
— Charles W. Hawthorne

As for my work, which is not that entertaining, or about entertainment, the one thing that I always wish to have is my small handprint, so that it would be considered one gesture from one human being to another.
— Vija Celmins

Tell your own story, and you will be interesting. Don't get the green disease of envy. Don't be fooled by success and money. Don't let anything come between you and your work.
— Louise Bourgeois

There's a lot of things I'd like to do, but when you're actually in the trenches you have to deal with where the energy is, you know, what arises, what presents itself with a certain kind of urgency.
— Leonard Cohen

James Castle used soot and spit and produced beautiful drawings. One just has to find [a medium] that works with the right speed and intensity for one's own needs. If a medium is too fast for you, then you loose control over it, and everything falls apart. Watercolor is far too fast for most people, so there were only half a dozen artists who ever did it well. If the medium is too slow and deliberate for you, then you loose interest: your thoughts are always ahead of your hands. What could be free pursuit, full of excitement and danger, becomes instead a diligent execution of pre-meditated projects. Ideally one uses a medium that works as close to the speed of one's thoughts as possible. Oil painting does it for me. And that is fortunate, since it also happens to be the most universal and powerful medium.
— Alex Kanevsky

Open your dumb eyes.
— George Nick

When a painting goes well, it is easy; it has a life of its own. Its quality and its conviction come from its naturalness. It appears effortless because it is. The work, the struggle, is getting to that place of effortlessness with enough knowledge and experience so that it will cohere into the language of painting. The other challenge is not messing with that effortlessness: letting it be; not letting the conscious mind mess with the wonderful lightness of those moments.
— Timothy Hawkesworth

For me it’s not so easy to jack yourself up to do the work. Especially when you’re just over 70, as I am now. And I have all these memories in my head and all of these things that I have to take care of, and all of the books that I want to read. To bring myself, then, up to that level of devotion that making work is, it’s sometimes hard to be inspired. But I somehow found a way to make myself go. Like, jumping on the train, and there it goes and I’m on it and every day unfolds with little tiny nuances of things.
— Vija Celmins

My father said why don’t you paint your own backyard. Which is extremely intelligent and I resented it a great deal. I couldn’t see a picture in the backyard. All I saw was a mess. But I kept the idea — the idea seemed like a really good one: paint your backyard, paint what’s in front of you, don’t paint anyone else’s backyard.
— Alex Katz

[Albert York] told Calvin Tomkins, “The modern world just passes me by. I don’t notice it. I missed the train.” If the Museum of Modern Art does hang York’s paintings in one of their Supersize galleries, ...York will subtly condemn the billboard and bigger ego trips Modernism has bequeathed us. His small paintings are exactly the size they ought to be and they have presence and volume, concreteness of fact and power of imagination that too much art that is on the train, its ticket punched for stardom, lacks. And York paints beautifully. His paintings have the glow, the inner light and the look of inevitableness that real painting has, regardless of size.
— William Corbett

I don't do wristy paintings because I want the brain to intervene between the observation and the mark.
— Euan Uglow

As you get older you have so many thoughts running the track.
— Vija Celmins

The mind is a muscle.
— Yvonne Rainer

Subject matter must be normal in the sense that it does not appear sought after so much as simply happening to one.
— Henry Finkelstein on Fairfield Porter

Order seems to come from searching for disorder, and awkwardness from searching for harmony or likeness, or the following of a system. The truest order is what you already find there, or that will be given if you don't try for it. When you arrange, you fail.
— Fairfield Porter

I can't be distracted from paying the closest possible attention to what I am doing by evaluating it ahead of time.
— Fairfield Porter

What one pays attention to is what is real (I mean reality calls for one's attention) and reality is everything. It is not only the best part. It is not an essence. Everything includes the pigment as much as the canvas as much as the subject.
— Fairfield Porter

Politically "concerned" artists continue to make pictures that illustrate the horrors of war, of man's inhumanity to man; feminist artists produce art in which woman is exalted, and imagine that they have accomplished a useful act; and no doubt there are a number of spectators who find it helpful to be reminded that there is room for improvement in the existing order of things. Yet beyond the narrow confines of the "subject" (one one of a number of equally important elements in the work of art, as Porter points out) the secret business of art gets done according to mysterious rules of its own. In this larger context ideology simply doesn't function as it is supposed to, when indeed it isn't directly threatening the work of art by trivializing it, and trivializing as well the importance of the ideas it seeks to dramatize.
— John Ashbery

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
— Agnes de Mille

I have a vague idea of what a painting I am about to attempt might feel like, its emotional climate. I try to find the right images, the right way to paint it, so that there is nothing extraneous, that it is directly to the point. The direct route appears to be the most difficult to find. I have a good visual memory from which I borrow freely the images or portions of them: color, light, circumstances, etc. that fit the emotional climate that I am trying to produce with purely visual means. I don't worry too much if it all makes conventional narrative sense in this new context. I am not telling stories, nor am I just looking and painting what I see. I suppose, if painting is a form of language, I attempt to create a language, foreign to all but myself, and then say a few things in that language in such a way that would make it clear to anybody who listens, even if the language remains foreign to them.
— Alex Kanevsky

I don't paint things. I only paint the difference between things.
— Henri Matisse

Painting is damned difficult — you always think you've got it, but you haven't.
— Paul Cezanne


I have never used raw umber or burnt umber or any brown. We can mix many more beautiful browns on the palette while at work, more chromatic browns, than anything out of a tube. I detest the idea of brown on the palette.
— Stuart Shils

One color, just as one word in poetry, needs to be found to stand in for several colors. Each color needs to be chosen in consideration of the whole. A painting that earlier in its making resembled a poem, as it gets filled in, cluttered with too much color that changes or dilutes what was there, loses its poetry. If a painting isn’t working I find it is not because something is missing but that there is something that is not needed and therefore hurtful.
— Ken Kewley

When an artist draws from the model, she does not attempt the impossible task of copying every detail she sees before her. She already has in mind a full image of the human figure, its forms, planes, and proportions, decided upon according to her taste. She has patiently constructed this figure through study and observation. To a great extent, when the artist draws from the model, she visualizes and sets down the image she has long since created. Thus, the artist's personal image of the human body, her secret figure, so to speak, becomes the implicit vehicle of her style.
— Robert Beverly Hale

Paint all sorts of flowers on pieces of card or cardboard, as roughly as you like, using just a single layer of paint; make five or six of each colour, or as many as there are tints, red, blue, purple, mauve or violet, but six of each. These will be the capital flowers. Besides these make smaller ones, for chequering, of red, blue, yellow and white, as pure of colour as you can. Cut all of these apart, and place each colour in an orderly manner in little boxes. Then paint a green Festoon or Bouquet on a plank or on cardboard, complete with foliage; on which you can place such flowers as you want, arranging and rearranging them in accordance with your thoughts.
— Gerard de Lairesse, Groot Schilderboek (Great Book of Painting), 1710

Painters are usually stubborn and materialistic.
— Fairfield Porter

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
— Abraham Maslow

Painting is a nail to which I fasten my ideas.
— Georges Braque

Painting is the pattern of one's own nervous system being projected on the canvas.
— Francis Bacon

The more courageous I am in destroying a partial success, the more likely it is that I will get something alive and true.
— Frank Auerbach

I exploit what is dangerous and scares me: misogyny, self-deprecation, social climbing, the constant longing for perfection. My work has always been about things in myself that I feel incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassed about.
— Lisa Yuskavage

If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.
— Thomas Watson

For many people, there is nothing quite so moving or inspiring as the sight of youthful talent blazing away with total commitment. But in fact, there is something more moving, and in its way, more impressive. It's the sight of creative talent at the other end of life. The painter or performer who has dedicated a whole life to his or her calling; the artist who has stamina, who has gone on creating, who, despite setbacks, has never given up, and keeps on finding more to discover, more to express.
— Sebastian Smee

Discipline is remembering what you want.
— David Campbell

Discipline is sweetened by compromise.
— Fairfield Porter

Universally people just learning to paint make more interesting paintings when they’re looking at things. Paradoxically, they think they are being more true to themselves when they invent things.
— Harriet Shorr

There is little or nothing new in the world. What matters is the new and different position in which an artist finds herself seeing and considering the things of so-called nature and the works that have preceded and interested her.
— Giorgio Morandi

The imaginative process, whatever it is and whatever form it takes, may be like dreams, that is, not at all straightforward or predictable, surely not linear, but misleading, deceptive, suggestive of condensation and displacement. Like the dream, an individual’s imagination reveals as much as it veils. Whenever we follow a particular thread or line, we may be losing an even more important clue; for we are pursuing something that is essentially irrational in the light of our present tools to understand it. But as with dreams, the imagination will suggest recurring patterns, schemas, significant statements as well as evasions. It is a coded process which we can pursue at least part of the way.
— From Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives by Frederick R. Karl

A painter's fleeting stab at perfection is a negligible stitch in an unbounded fabric. Its only significance lies in our own momentary, mortal gaze as we reckon with eternity. — Peter Schjeldahl

Somebody once said you don’t paint from observation. I said, I do paint from observation. He said, no you don’t because it has to be the same size. I said, ok (laughs) and walked away. Some people want to make the equation narrower, but I want to make it larger. I want to turn what I am looking at into a painting. I also want the viewer to understand that this is a painting, not life ... They’re all still-lifes. I’m controlling the situation and that’s what a still life does. Scale is extremely important. I don’t want to blow it up until it becomes a pop billboard. I want it to be within your grasp and for you to be able to understand that it’s a private experience.
— Catherine Murphy

Oil paint was made for depicting flesh.
— Willem DeKooning

[A painting] is the material trace of another human consciousness. The artist, who is missing from the scene, has nevertheless left us a work, an act of pure will, which has no practical purpose ... I have often thought of paintings as ghosts, the specters of a living body, because in them we feel and see not only the rigors of thought, but the marks left by a person's physical gestures. In effect, painting is the still memory of that human motion.
— Siri Hustvedt

Painting stems from a sense of organization, the sensed position of contrasts.
— Roy Lichtenstein

In attempting a figure painting, consider that no amount of distortion will make a painting seem more relaxed.
— Larry Rivers and Frank O'Hara

Look and make your hand do what your eyes see. How you draw it becomes what it is. Keep your eyes on an object just to see how much looking you can do.
—Vija Celmins

Say to yourself, I am going to work in order to see myself and free myself. While working, and in the work, I must be alert to see myself. When I see myself in the work I will know that that is the work I am supposed to do. I will not have much time for other people's problems. I will have to be by myself almost all the time, and it will be a quiet life.
— Agnes Martin

The model can go on standing still forever, but the painting will nonetheless be the product of an accumulation of memories, none of which is quite the same as any other.
— Paul Cezanne

As Cezanne grew older, his paintings could increasingly be understood as visual representations of the uncertainty of perception, for the more he worked, the more acutely he became aware of the difficulty and complexity of his chosen task.
— David Galenson

Working from life is working from memory: the artist can only put down what remains in her head after looking.
— David Sylvester

Most important, for openers, work six hours a day, seven days a week for six years. Then if you like it you can get serious about it.
— Alex Katz

You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is ... unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far.
— Alice Neel

De Kooning is my main man, really, because he just did everything you can do with paint. He reversed it, dripped it, scraped it. But I want to hold on to a certain amount of reality.
— Jenny Saville

It's not like I go out there excited. I just go out to paint. Then, in the middle of the process, if all goes well, it becomes exciting.
— Lois Dodd

Shadows which you see with difficulty, and whose boundaries you cannot define ... these you should not represent as finished or sharply defined, for the result would be that your work would seem wooden.
— Leonardo da Vinci

You can paint teddy bears for all I care. The subject of a painting is the responsibility of the artist. What you must do is make a commitment to the image and to the idea.
— Janet Fish

The only merit I have is to have painted directly from nature with the aim of conveying my impressions in front of the most fugitive effects.
— Claude Monet

Make a painting in which every part of the painting is of equal importance.
— Chuck Close

Do a painting like the paintings of the person whose paintings you like.
— Alex Katz

There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.
And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.
Keep the channel open...
No artist is pleased...
There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.
— Martha Graham in a letter to Agnes de Mille

We work not only to produce but to give value to time.
— Eugene Delacroix

When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you have to think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is the life itself. And I think the world tends to forget that this is the ultimate significance of the body of work each artist produces. It is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.
— Stanley Kunitz

Fruits like having their portrait painted. They seem to sit there and ask your forgiveness for fading. Their thought is given off with their perfumes. They come with all their scents, they speak of the fields they have left, the rain which has nourished them, the daybreaks they have seen.
— Paul Cezanne 


I do not believe in things; I believe only in their relationship. For things to exist, there must first come into being a relationship between you and the things, or between the things themselves.
— Georges Braque


Take the risks and you’ll get the payoffs. Learn from your mistakes until you succeed. It’s that simple.
— Chef Bobby Flay