“It is harder to see than it is to express.
The whole value of art rests in the artist’s ability to see well into what is before him. This model is wonderful in as many ways as there are pairs of eyes to see her. Each view of her is an original view and there is a response in her awaiting each view. If the eyes of a Rembrandt are upon her she will rise in response and Rembrandt will draw what he sees, and it will be beautiful. Rembrandt was a man of great understanding. He had the rare power of seeing deep into the significance of things.
The model will serve equally for a Rembrandt’s drawing or for anybody’s magazine cover. A genius is one who can see. The others can often “draw” remarkably well. Their kind of drawing, however, is not very difficult. The can change about. They can make their sight fit the easiest way for their drawing. As their seeing is not particular, it does not matter. With the seer it is different. Nothing will do but the most precise statement. He most not only bend technique to his will, but he must invent technique that will especially fit his need. He is not one who floats affably in his culture. He is the blazer of the road for what he has to bring.Those who get their technique first, expecting sight to come to them later, get a technique of a very ready-made order.
To study technique means to make it, to invent it. To take the raw material each time anew and twist it into shape. It must be made to serve a specific purpose. The same technique must never be used again. Each time it must be made new and fresh. A stock of set phrases won’t do. The study is a development of wit.
An artist’s warehouse, full of experience, is not a store of successful phrases ready for use, but is a store of raw material. The successful phrases are there, but they have been broken down to be made over into new form. Those who have the will to create do not care to use old phrases. There is a great pleasure to invent the exact thing which is needed. Use it. Break it down. Begin again. It is a great thing to be able to see. Seeing is without limit. It is a great thing when one has a fair measure of seeing. Then to invent the means of expressing it. To be a master of technique rather than to be the owner of a lot of it. Those who simply collect technique have at best only a secondhand lot. A great artist is one who says as nearly what he means as his powers of invention allow. An ordinary artist often uses eloquent phrases, phrases of established authority, and if he is skillful it is surprising to see how he can nearly make them fit his ideas – or how he can make the ideas give way to the phrase. But such an artist is not having a good time. (…)
I have been trying to make this matter clear – this matter that the whole fun of the thing is in seeing and inventing, trying to refute a common idea that education is a case of collecting and storing, instead of making. It’s not easy. But the matter is mighty well worth considering.
There are men who admire women’s dress. They do not know what the material of the dress is. One may admire a tree without knowing it is a chestnut tree. A boat may be appreciated, painted by an artist, yet an artist may not have a sailor’s interest in knowledge of sails. He paints what and as he sees. He has found it beautiful and it is beauty he has sought to render. The garments of a woman may be fine – rare, expensive, a certain kind – but to the artist the dress may be only part of the woman.
If in your drawings you habitually disregard proportions you become accustomed to the sight of distortion and lose critical ability. A person living ins squalor eventually gets used to it.
There are mighty few people who think what they think they think.
There are pictures that manifest education and there are pictures that manifest love.
The ignorant are to be found as much among the educated as among the uneducated.
Education as we have it does as much to thwart the recognition of individual experience as lack of education limits it.
If you want to know about people watch their gestures. The tongue is a greater liar than the body.
The are hand shakes of great variety. Some are warm and mean that you are cared for.
Your enemy is not thinking of the skin on the back of his neck. Watch it.
Artists deal with gestures. They get to know a great deal about people.
A sitter may not say a word for an hour, but the body has been speaking all the time.
A work of art in itself is a gesture and it may be warm or cold, inviting or repellent.”