Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Writings of Robert Henri

Robert Henri was both an artist and a teacher who passed away in 1929. His book, "The Art Spirit" has been read by me countless times and utilized as an "art bible" of sorts. His writings are important to me because of their timelessness, and because I have often thought about many of the things he writes about. Here are a few excerpts from that book:

"An artist has to get acquainted with himself just as much as he can. It is no easy job because it is not a present-day habit of humanity. This is what I call self-development, self-education. No matter how fine a school you are in, you must educate yourself."

"But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song. Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect......"

"Great works of art should look as though they were made in joy. Real joy is a tremendous activity, dull drudgery is nothing to it....The drudgery that kills is not half the work that joy is...."

"Do not let the fact that things are not made for you,that conditions are not as they should be, stop you. Go on anyway. Everything depends on those who go on anyway."

"It's not that the juries don't mean well or at least think they mean well. but it is simply that art cannot be measured."

"If you want to be a historical painter, let your history be of your own time, of what you can get to know personally - of manners and customs within your own experience."

"No nation as yet is the home of art. Art is an outsider, a gypsy over the face of the earth."

"The only sensible way to regard the art life is that it is a privilege you are willing to pay for."

"Seldom has the great art or great science of the world been paid for at the time of creation. It has been given, and in general has been cruelly received. You may cite honors and attentions and even money paid, but I would have you note that these were paid a long time after the creator had gone through his struggles."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Joy of Imagination


There is one component I have found present in most great art, and that is the use of imagination. To me, this is what makes certain art engaging, vibrant and original. Whenever I view a work of art where the artist has chosen a fresh way to approach even the most mundane subject, I feel excited.

A fresh approach might include a novel way of rendering line, texture, color, pattern, perspective or even the subject itself. A never-before-seen subject rendered in an original manner can truly be called a work of art.

When I think of what contributes to imagination in art, three vital characteristics come to mind: Development in the fundamentals of art, having a point of view and commitment to developing that view and being broad-minded in one's thinking. I am hard-pressed to see how having a narrow perspective in everyday life would allow an artist to be imaginative in her work. It helps to think "outside the box."

As an artist who, for several years, rendered technically correct, well-done drawings and paintings in the manner of millions of other artists, I could not understand why my work was often overlooked.

I had no voice, no point of view and no idea what I wanted to paint. For me, this was a good point from which to start because I eventually learned that art must be more than technical skills and more than the dictates of the market. Once I clearly understood this, among other important details, I was able to begin working as a continually developing, evolving artist. The paintings presented on this blog have recently furthered into broader renderings, which are still recognizable as my work, though in a different way. This is simply imagination at work.

As a practicing artist who is also imaginative in most aspects of my everyday life, I have sometimes been called "eccentric," "different," and even "hard-to-pinpoint." Whenever I'm labled in this way, I don't take it personally. I simply realize that some prefer a life within the confines of a box -certainly not conducive to imagination.

In my next post, I will say more about imagination relative to my definition of it pertaining to both art and life. Your thoughts, please.