Oil Painting Blog

Blog about oil paintings by Robert Dawson

Quotes from The Art Spirit

Quotes from The Art Spirit by Robert Henri (favorites in bold):

"We are not here to do what has already been done."

"For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself."

"Don't try to paint good landscapes. Try to paint canvases that will show how interesting landscape looks to you--your pleasure in the thing."

"An interest in the subject; something you want to say definitely about the subject; this is the first condition of a portrait."

"The work is done when that special thing has been said."

"To start with a deep impression, the best, the most interesting, the deepest you can have of the model; to preserve this vision throughout the work; to see nothing else; to admit of no digression from it; choosing only from the model the signs of it; will lead to an organic work."

"The value of repeated studies of beginnings of a painting cannot be over-estimated."

"To stop in the process of drawing the lines of a feature to inquire what next is surely to leave a record of disconnection."

"Hold to this principle that the greatest drawing, the greatest expression, the greatest completion, the sense of all contained, lies in what can be done through the largermasses and the larger gestures."

"Seeing beauty in nature is a compositional act."

"Windows are symbols. They are openings in. To draw a house is not to see and copy its lines and values, but to use them."

"THERE IS NOTHING in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body."

"I believe the great artists of the future will use fewer words, copy fewer things, essays will be shorter in words and longer in meaning."

"If you want to know how to do a thing you must first have a complete desire to do that thing."

"Things are not done beautifully. The beauty is an integral part of their being done."

"Do not let beauty in the subdivisions destroy the beauty or the power of the major divisions."

"If you look past the model at the background it responds to your appeal and comes forward. It is no longer a background."

"Generally in pictures which give the illusion of fine color and form we find one, less often two, areas made up of pure color."

"There will be new ideas in painting and each new idea will have a new technique."

"The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and all the littlenesses are in it."

"Painting should be done from the floor up, not from the seat of a comfortable chair."

"THE PICTURE THAT LOOKS AS IF it were done without an effort may have been a perfect battlefield in its making."

"Don't worry about your originality. You could not get rid of it even if you wanted to."

"An artist who does not use his imagination is a mechanic."

"All is as beautiful as we think it."

"One of the great difficulties of an art student is to decide between his own natural impressions and what he thinks should be his impressions."

"Art after all is but an extension of language to the expression of sensations too subtle for words."

"ALL THE PAST up to a moment ago is your legacy. You have a right to it."

"All satisfying things are good organizations."

"It is often said The public does not appreciate art! Perhaps the public is dull, but there is just a possibility that we are also dull, and that if there were more motive, wit, human philosophy, or other evidences of interesting personality in our work the call might be stronger."

"Art has relations to science, religions and philosophies. The artist must be a student."

"Be willing to paint a picture that does not look like a picture."

"What moves you is beautiful to you."

"Your eye does not follow the muscle and bone making of the arm. It follows the spirit of life in the arm."

"Don't become a victim of line."

"There are lines that are heavy, dragging, lines that have pain, and lines that laugh."

"I think the heart should be the master and the mind should be the tool and servant of the heart. As it is, we give too much attention to laws and not enough to principals. The man who wants to produce art must have the emotional side first, and this must be reinforced by the practical."

"Intellect should be used as a tool."

"THE LACE on a woman's wrist is an entirely different thing from lace in a shop. In the shop it is a piece of workmanship, on her hand it is the accentuation of her gentleness of character and refinement."

"A drawing is an invention."

"It seems to me that before a man tries to express anything to the world he must recognize in himself an individual, a new one, very distinct from others."

"A man should not care whether the thing he wishes to express is art or not, whether it is a picture or not, he should only care that it is a statement of what is worthy to put into permanent expression."

"To award prizes is to attempt to control the course of another man's work."

"We must realize that artists are not in competition with each other."

"Technique is to me merely a language, and as I see life more and more clearly, growing older, I have but one intention and that is to make my language as clear and simple and sincere as humanly possible. I believe one should study ways and means all the while to express one's idea of life more clearly."

"All good drawing or painting is compositional."

"I am not interested in art as a means of making a living, but I am interested in art as a means of living a life."

"PAINT LIKE A FIEND when the idea possesses you."

"I am quite certain your best work will come from dealing with the memories which have stuck after what is unessential to you in experiences has dropped away."

"It would be easy to divide artists into two classes: those who grow so much within themselves as to master technique by the force of their need, and those who are mastered by technique and become stylists."

"More and more things are produced without a will in the creation, and are consumed or used without a will in the consumption or the using."

"Work always as if you were a master, expect from yourself a masterpiece."

"Don't be ashamed to keep your bad stuff."

"No work of art is really ever finished. They only stop at good places."

"Every change must count, and count strong."

"THERE IS A PAST, present and future in the fall of a dress. Don't arrange it."

"The reason for the survival of the award system is purely commercial."

"Prevent your drawing from being common."

"The man who becomes a master starts out by being master of such as he has, and the man who is master at any time of such as he has is at that time straining every faculty."

"All nature has powers of response. We have always been conscious of it. Our idea that things are dead or inert is a convention."

"People have not looked largely at life, mainly because our education drowns us in detail."

"Your style is the way you talk in paint."

"The painting of a nose is the painting of an expression."

"Do WHATEVER you do intensely."

"A GREAT PAINTER will know a great deal about how he did it, but still he will say, "How did I do it?""

"All real works of art look as though they were done in joy."

"Take care that your compositions are an expression of your individuality. See things not as they are, but as you see them."

"A WORK OF ART is the trace of a magnificent struggle."

Notes from Problem Solving for Oil Painters

by Gregg Kreutz


I1. Every painting needs an abstract idea. You have to find that idea interesting.

I2. Eliminate extraneous details to simplify the painting's message.

I3. Always have an area of focus. Differentiate and prioritize.

I4. Consider how the viewer "reads" the painting and build the composition to direct the viewer's visual attention.

I5. At every moment, ask yourself what you can do to make the painting great or better. Always seek improvement. Try finishing one area.


S1. Simple shapes carry. Are the dominant shapes as strong as possible?

S2. Are the shapes too similar? See I3.


V1. Could the value range be increased to maximize the painting's visual tension?

V2. Could the number of values be reduced? Fewer details, more impact. "Art is a synthesis, a condensation, not a documentation." See I2.


"The thing to remember is that you're not really painting a green apple, you're painting light hitting an apple."

L1. Is the subject effectively lit? Single light-sources are more powerful than multiple light-sources.

L2. Is the light area big enough?

L3. Would the light look stronger with a suggestion of burnout?

L4. Does the light have a continuous flow?

L5. Is the light gradated?


H1. Do the shadowy shapes describe the form? Don't copy shadows. Use them to reinforce the overall shape of the object.

H2. Are the shadows warm enough?


D1. Would more foreground material deepen the space?

D2. Does the background recede far enough?

D3. Are the halftones properly related to the background? Halftones are shaded areas, which imply a connection to the background. Therefore, they should have some background color to recede properly.


O1. Is the underlying form being communicated?

O2. Is the symmetry in perspective?


C1. Is there a color strategy?

C2. Could purer colors be used?

C3. Do the whites have enough color in them?

C4. Are the colors overblended on the canvas?

C5. Would the color look brighter if it were saturated into its adjacent area? Create a sense that a color is so intense that even the air around it is saturated with that color.


"The viewer becomes involved with the painter in making the transition from reality to canvas." Let paintstrokes show to involve the viewer.

P1. Is your palette effectively organized?

P2. Is the painting surface too absorbent?

P3. Are you using the palette knife as much as you could?

P4. Are you painting lines where you should be painting masses? "The painterly approach is to see reality as a series of near or far volumes."

P5. Are the edges dynamic enough? Alternate hard and soft edges to enhance depth.

P6. Is there enough variation in the texture of the paint? Dark, thin. Light, thick.