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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Artists on Art

Calvin and Hobbes continues to inspire artists such as Jaime Posadas. The words are pure Calvin.
He ought to know, he did both.
One of the cornerstones of art is the assumption that the artist has something to say; and that he or she can say it best through their work. How-ever, that's not to say that down through the centuries artist haven't spouted off about art quite apart from what they have to say in their chosen media. I've always admired those artist who could think, speak, and write as well as they could paint, draw, or sculpt. Perhaps no other kind of art demands this ability more than that of Bill Wat-terson. If that name doesn't "ring a bell" it's because his daily comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes ran for only ten short years, from 1985 through 1995, at which time the inseparable pair hopped on their toboggan sled and "went exploring." Watterson, the late Charles Schulz, Gary Trudeau, and a very few others fall into the category of cartoonists with minds as fine as their lines. The illustration (top) does not tell the full story. In the comic strip Calvin (Watterson) expounds upon a more generalized view of art:
Calvin: "People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance."
To which the much more worldly Hobbes adds:
Hobbes: "Van Gogh would've sold more than one painting if he'd put tigers in them."
Of course, other artists besides cartoonists have a highly developed sense of humor (not to mention irony, rebellion, and sarcasm).

Jeff Terich from a US website magazine (
Sometimes what artists have to say is so lighthearted you have to suppose there's a little Calvin within them struggling to "spout off." The colorful, eccentric, wise-cracking Salvador Dali comes about as close to Calvin in spirit as any artist I can recall from the past.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dali
And then there was the TV painting entertainer, Bob Ross whose "happy little accidents" (and trees, birds, and sometimes clouds) have since become cliché among painters (a risk every quotable artist takes).

Bob Ross, the painter of light-hearted.
Most artists take art, especially their own, much more seriously than Ross--sometimes too seriously--but that's another risk quotable artists must take. Cesar Cruz is most famous for his quote:

I've altered Cruz's poster slightly to make it more readable online. Digital images often do not handle the subtleties of white and
almost white very well.
I'm guessing that no artists in history has generated as many philosophical words about art (and other topics as well) than Pablo Picasso, although his ninety-two years gave him considerably more time to do so than most other painters. His lengthy (and less quotable) quotes would (and have) filled several coffee table art tomes. As an art instructor to artists of virtually all ages, his words below always carried special meaning for me.
Pablo Picasso. Notice the croissants on the edge of the
table splayed out like a child's fingers.
I find it strange that we never question the fact that painters make art, yet when we refer to artists with cameras, rather than brushes, in their hands, we refer to them as "taking" pictures. (Is photography a form of theft?) The famed landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, felt otherwise:
Even in black and white, Adams' landscapes seem colorful to our
minds. Although he experimented with color film late in his career, he was not particularly fond of it.
Vincent van Gogh had something of a way with words, though during his tragically brief lifetime, only his brother, Theo, was aware of it through their letters to one another. Vincent explains how he "makes" is paintings (using absolutely no tigers or photography):
Starry Night, 1889. At first glance, van Gogh seemed to be a
man of few words. Yet his words in letters to his brother
suggest otherwise. They were as revealing as his paintings.
Again, as one who has created much, art as well as teaching it, I've always felt Edgar Degas' words (below) having to do with an artists learning, and then practicing their art were especially insightful. Be that as it may, I couldn't leave without proclaiming one of my own "notable" observations (bottom).

Portraits at the Stock Exchange, 1879, Edgar Degas
Copyright, Jim Lane
Painter's Mill, 1979, Jim Lane.
The rhyming was coincidental.


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