Insight from literary artists



By definition, a “unique” object can be produced only once.  Therefore, an artwork produced by any person at any skill level is unique.  Whether it is painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery fiber art, photography or some other art form, an original artwork has a one-time quality and style that can never be perfectly duplicated, even by the artist who created it.

People who do not make art often think that everything an artist draws or paints is done for a serious purpose.  But this is not so.  A piece of art done just for the joy of it carries the spontaneous imprint of the artist’s mind and is a reminder of joy.

Artists’ sketchbooks especially reflect the workings of an artist’s mind.  If you ever have the chance to browse through the sketchbook of an artist, one thing becomes clear.  Artwork done spontaneously, for the delight of the artist, can’t always be judged by standards of artistic merit.  Many sketchbook pieces are not artworks that can stand alone.  Rather, they are self-explorations, random ideas, designs and representations of places the artist saw and loved, or just quick impressions of ideas.  But each sketchbook page contains a secret — the artist’s comment on a particular moment in his mind.

The style of any artwork gives us insight into the personality of its creator.  The person who thinks precisely usually draws precisely; a person who sees humor in all things will often draw and paint humorous subjects; the person who is flexible and spontaneous may paint splashy, colorful and uninhibited artworks.

This is easily illustrated by looking at the works of artists who are also well-known authors.  Robert Louis Stevenson enjoyed sketching his island paradise with good humor and adventurous flair, but on the other hand when Victor Hugo sketched a beach house on stilts it looked like a lost soul.  James Michener, who had great skill in organizing huge quantities of data into a fascinating book format, painted tight, well-organized compositions.  His painting “Biography” is actually laid out like a checkerboard with each square representing some significant event in his life.

People who can both write and paint can help the rest of us understand the process of making art, and the fun and struggles involved with creation.   D.H. Lawrence learned about the joy of painting when an artist arrived at his villa in Italy and gave him four discarded canvas to “play” with.  Lawrence wrote, “I sat on the floor with the canvas propped against a chair — and with my housepaint brushes and colours in little casseroles, I disappeared into that canvas.”

Max Beerbohm, a master caricaturist, could find the one physical characteristic that made a face recognizable.  He wrote, “When I draw a man, I am concerned simply and solely with the physical aspect of him.  I don’t bother for one moment about his soul.  I see all his salient points exaggerated.. face, figure…gesture and vesture…..In these salient points a man’s soul does reveal itself, more or less faintly …Thus if one underline these points, and let the others vanish, one is bound to lay bare the soul.”

Wyndham Lewis, a novelist who also painted, explained in his novel “Tarr” the excitement and freedom that painting offers:  “He flung a man or a woman on to nine feet of canvas and pummeled them on it for a couple of hours, until they were incapable of moving … He had never been able to treat people like this in any other way of life, and he was grateful to painting for the experience.”

Henry Miller, a writer who loved to draw and paint and at one time supported himself by selling watercolors, put the fun of making art in a nutshell when he wrote, “What’s important about drawing is drawing, the doing it right or wrong, good or bad, finished or unfinished. The effort, in other words. Them as wants perfect hoses, perfect nudes, perfect architecture, let them go to those as makes ‘em.”

Published by on June 2016. Filed under Paint Box Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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