Hawthorne on Painting

Quotations from "Hawthorne on Painting" 
by Charles W. Hawthorne
Charles W. Hawthorne

Do studies, not pictures. Know when you are licked — start another. Be alive, stop when your interest is lost. Put off finish — make a lot of starts. It is so hard and so long before a student comes to a realiztion that these few large simple spots in right relations are the most important things in the study of painting. They are the fundamentals of all painting.


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.

Never mind if your whole canvas is not successful. If one spot is successful, it is enough. Do a bit of truth. When you meet a spot of real truth in a painting you forgive — oh! so much. We walk past miles of canvases, able to find no technical fault with any, until suddenly we are halted by one, perhaps ugly in its choice of subject, but which is immortalized by its expression of truth.






Spend a lifetime in hard work with a humble mind.
Get into the habit of doing what you see, not what you know.


When a painter is sixty or seventy, she may be able to do a thing and the whole world rejoices. You can't begin too early, for this is not a thing of a month or a day.
Anything under the sun is beautiful of you have the vision - it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so.
It is so hard and long before a student comes to a realization that these [first] few large simple spots in right relations are the most important things in the study of painting. They are the fundamentals of all painting.
See what you can do with your daring with color and your ignorance mixed with it.
A sketch has charm because of its truth — not because it is unfinished.
If you are not going to get a thrill, how can you give someone else one? You must feel the beauty of the thing before you start.
Put off finish as it takes a lifetime — wait until later to try to finish things — make a lot of starts.
Have as much fun as you can and don't feel that the edge of your canvas confines you – let your vision go right on.
Keep this little canvas, it is a promise for the future. When I say "keep this canvas," I mean for the influence on yourself. When one does a good thing, it's well to keep it to show how foolish we are at other times.
Be humble about it. Paint the color tones as they come against each other, and make them sing, vibrate. Don't ask me to look at those self-satisfied, pretty things.
Realize the value of putting down your first impression quickly.
Swing a bigger brush — you don't know what you're missing.
Paint what you see, not what you know.
The ring, the call, the surprise, the shock that you have out-of-doors — be always looking for the unexpected in nature, do not settle to a formula.
Painting is just like making an after-dinner speech. If you want to be remembered, say one thing and stop.
To see things simply is the hardest thing in the world.
The successful painter is continually painting still life.