What Artists Need to Know

Caspar David Friedich, The Sea of Ice or The Wreck of Hope, oil on canvas, 1823-24.

I got a surprise this morning seeing something I wrote I'd completely forgotten about. 

My friend Mollie Earls posted on Facebook some notes I had used for a talk I gave at the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem down in North Carolina perhaps a dozen years ago. All these years later I still believe these things. Like any list of bullet points on a complex topic, it's biased and one sided, but I think totally useful advice. (I had wanted to title my talk the 7 Secrets of Art, but as you can see I couldn't seem to hold it to just that).

The 7 Secrets of Art, and a few more.                                        

Secret #1. 

That there are secrets.


That there are in fact rules.


Tone is more important than color.


Shapes are more important than color.

Silhouettes are more important than details


Intervals are more important than forms.

Craftsmanship is always in style.
The problem with one’s work is usually not where you think it is.

Art is not an idea but a vision.

Art is the marriage of the skeptic and the hopeless romantic.

Art revisits the joys and terrors of childhood.

An artist has to carry forward some of the threads that were woven by the great masters.

While art is solitary, an artist needs feedback from someone they trust who has a good eye.

The art world is filled in equal measure with people who are:

      and downright silly.


Keep your eyes open, your heart warm, and stick to your guns.



  1. #15 I wish would read:
    Be kind to your art, be open to change, and cultivate what is authentic to you, even if it looks like somebody else's.


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