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20 Quotes That Will Boost Your Art Career.


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"You don’t know what you don’t know" - Donald Rumsfeild

  • The first time I heard this it was from artist and mentor, Brent Lynch. I had no idea it was a summerized quote from defence secretary, Donald Rumsfield in response to the Afghanistan war in 2002. He too was reflecting on the Jahari Window - a psychological model for interpersonal communication. Now, there are times as an artist that you stumble upon answers to issues you didn't even know you had after listening to podcasts, reading books by other artists, or hearing critiques (on anyone’s work). Being open to learning, can bring new and insightful information that will lead your work in the direction you want and maybe even need. If you're thinking of mentorship, I'd highly consider joining the best online artist community called Mastrius for course, events, and amazing mentorship.




Photography by Yasha Rassi, art by Crystal Rassi


"Be more than a camera" - unknown

  • I don’t know who said this first but I hear it all the time. It’s great to have technical skill, but evoking emotion is what captivates most people. I once saw an instagram post of an artist who had immense technical skill and rendered a rural street scene to photographic perfection. All of the comments were about his skill but no one ever said anything about how it made them feel. I made a polite comment about just taking a photo and one girl - not yet out of high school - immediately told me I was a “Hater” and “I couldn’t do any better”. I simply asked her “if money wasn’t an issue, would she buy it?” She pondered for a while and said “no”. I asked “Why not?”. We had a private conversation where she admitted that the photo replica was boring and didn’t actually make her feel anything. Her eyes were opened to the possibilities of art so much that she said she’d consider going to art school because of this conversation. You see, so many people are smitten by technical ability, but would rarely bring home a piece that has no meaning to them or doesn’t spark emotion or inspiration within them. 

  • In line with photography, Peter Adams also said "A camera didn't make a great picture, any more than a typewriter made a good novel". We are so much more than our tools.


Art by J.M.W Turner


"Paint what you see, not what you know" - J.M.W. TURNER (and others)

  • Ah yes, a golden rule to help budding artists get past the anxiety of trying to paint something complicated. Getting caught up in details for every aspect of a painting and override the message. For example, in a landscape where there are trees, you know that those trees have lots of branches and leaves. So many new artists try to paint every leaf and branch and they lose out on capturing the idea of the tree, or the light on the tree, or the unique shape of the tree. Or maybe the trees are not the star of the show, but rather it’s the lake or the mountain in the scene. If you’re trying to paint every detail of the tree, then all the detail will distract from the star of the painting!



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"Value does all the work, colour takes all the credit" - unknown

  • I had a hard time understanding this for a long time. Getting the value (light and dark) right is the second most important aspect to getting a painting right (the first is composition). And understanding the values of hues helps avoid a flat painting. For example, when looking at a color wheel in it’s purest form (no hue adjustments, no value adjustment, no chroma adjustments), then red and green have the same value. If you were to take a primary red vase and put it on primary green cloth, take a photo and turn it black and white, you’d only be able to tell there was a vase there by the direction of the light hitting various folds of the cloth and the shape of the vase. It would be a rather flat painting. Instead, you could use a high chroma red vase and light desaturated green cloth and the differentiation would give a lot of depth while the green and red complementary colors are playing off of each other where the green is the supporting the main red character.



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"Where there is light, there is dark" - origin unknown

  • This phrase has been used in religion, mathematics, psychology, and of course, art. The first time I heard it in the art context, it was during my architectural drawing class in university.

  • In mostly representational painting and drawing, there is always some value differentiation of edges, even if very subtle, because of the refraction and reflections of light. However, “lost edges” can be extremely powerful and when it comes to different styles of art, this might be a rule to break.



Charles Woodbury - Rhododendrons, Oil, 1930


"Paint in adverbs, not in nouns" - Charles Woodbury

  • This kind of says it all and leads back to avoiding being a camera. Capture joy, misery, fun, excitement, loss, cold, warm, bright, awe, wonder, etc. You get it.



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"Do one thing everyday that scares you" - Elenor Roosevalt

  • I actually don’t like this saying as a general “words to live by” kind of thing because drugs and crime scare me and I definatly won't be doing any of that... but it works for art. I used to avoid colour altogether because I thought it would ruin my drawings. But when I was forced to try it class, I fell in love with colour. And for some reason, right after university, I avoided painting backgrounds because I thought it was a distraction to my subject. I really think I was scared to do backgrounds because I didn’t know how to do them well enough to support the subject. After mentoring a young student in beginner painting, I painted a normal landscape for the first time -just for her - and it turned out better than I thought! After that, I started painting landscapes and now my backgrounds fully support my narratives. There’s so many things I’ve overcome, the list is endless - Every step into something new and scary has led me to be a better artist.



Mies Van Der Rohe - Barcelona Pavillion


“Less is more” - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (architect)

  • This ties into the previous quote about painting what you see, not what you know. You don’t have to paint every detail to be a good painter. You can easily lose the message or feeling when you try to paint every detail. And for some artists, going so far as using minimal brush strokes, or limited palettes can be extremely effective!



Henry Matisse - The Red Room


“Creativity takes courage” - Henry Matisse

  • Yes Matisse, yes it does. Putting yourself out there as an artist, exploring new ways of doing things and new messages to talk about, are all a bit scary because deep down, we care about what others think. We can get so caught up in the commercial side of art for our own financial stability that we forget to paint for ourselves. I am not sure if this is What Matisse meant but this is what this quote means to me.



Unsplash image


"Just do it" - Nike

  • Oh Nike, I may not like your shoes, but your slogan resonates! Artists - nothing will be done for you, so you’re just going to have to get up and get it done yourself. Until you can hire and accountant, bookkeeper, social media manager, marketer, videographer, you just have to do it yourself. Just do it.




“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.” – Voltaire

  • Can I use a quote to explain a quote? Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Everyone was first once an amateur”. I mean, we all learn from those who have gone before and then we take what we’ve learned and use aspects of someone else's advice or technique to make our own. We’ve judiciously used other people’s techniques. And while we’re at it, let's just say how nice it is to know that at one time, your favorite artist was an amateur and took the same path to learning new things, and made mistakes along the way.

  • That said, lets not forget Ocar Wilde's full quote: "Imitation is the truest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness". We need to be careful that we as artists are not just plagiarising! If we're not going to develop new things on our own, we must ensure to take what we've learned and make it our own.



Scott Adams - Dilbert Cartoon


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

  • I can’t say I recall ever keeping a happy little accident. I’m sure I have, but I can’t recall. If you have - drop me a message!



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“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do.” - Bob Ross.

  • This is so true. I believe that people are born with certain personalities than lend themselves to certain professions. It’s a matter of finding out what you like and going after it. If I didn’t pursue art education, or didn’t paint as much as I do, you wouldn’t think I have “talent”. It’s years and years of work.



Eugene Delacroix - "Liberty Leading the People" - 1830


“What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” – Eugene Delacroix

  • Maybe you want to be a landscape painter and paint the grand canyon, but you’re worried that it’s just a redundant theme. Perhaps, but it hasn’t been done by you, with your colour palette and your brush marks. Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean you can’t give it a new story.



Marc Chagall - I and the Village - 1911


“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” – Marc Chagall

  • If I’m honest - my most successful paintings I don’t remember painting. How did I do that? Can I replicate this? It’s like the spirit takes over and your mind and body just watch the show.



Picasso working - Photography by David Douglas Duncan


“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

  • Picasso is always accredited for this saying but his “frenemy”, Henry Matisse (who also happens to be 20 years older) was also quoted saying the exact same thing. Who said it first, we’ll never know, but it is is something that many great artists have repeated throughout the years. Nothing will get to canvas without doing the work. And quite frankly, if you’re feel uninspired, get your sketchbook, find a change of scenery, and just sketch. Don’t even worry about whether or not your sketch has anything to do with your portfolio - just get your hands and brain going.



Van Gogh - Wheat Field - 1989


“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

-one brush stroke at a time

-one colour at a time

-one line at a time

-one sketch at a time

-one glued paper at a time.

-one splash at a time

-one video at a time.

-one social post at a time.


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