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Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

15 Pieces of Inspirational Advice From Artists

Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Artists have a way of encapsulating the essential truths of life the way those of us without creative genius cannot. Phaidon’s latest book, Art is the Highest Form of Hope, brings the wisdom of visual artists to the public, collecting some of the best quotes from the art world.

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the sage advice offered by icons like Jackson Pollock or Frida Kahlo. Nor do they all apply just to making art. They’re arranged in categories—more than 40 in all—like “Advice,” “Childhood,” “Art School,” “Failure,” and “Money.” The pithy quotes were thoroughly researched by the Phaidon team and came from diaries, letters, notebooks, interviews, books, and even Twitter, ensuring a little more accuracy than the random inspirational posts that circulate the internet.

Besides the title quotation from German painter Gerhard Richter, other artists whose wisdom is collected in the relatively small volume include everyone from Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne to more modern artists like Ai Weiwei, Jenny Holzer, and Theaster Gates.

Here are a few inspirational adages from the book.

1. BE ORGANIZED // EUGÈNE DELACROIX

In 1823, the French Romantic artist wrote in his journal: “Cultivate a well-ordered mind, it’s your only road to happiness; and to reach it, be orderly in everything, even in the smallest details.”

2. USE YOUR PAIN // YOKO ONO

You don’t need to go out of your way to hear Yoko Ono’s wisdom. In March 2016, she tweeted, “Don’t get rid of negative emotion, but just use it … like the salt in your food.”

3. STAND BEHIND YOUR WORK // APRIL GORNIK

American landscape painter April Gornik has some advice for the meek and self-effacing: “Don’t pretend that you’re not proud of your work.”

4. EMBRACE A LITTLE CHAOS // FRANCIS BACON

The British painter Francis Bacon, who died in 1992, was one to embrace the randomness of the world around him. New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman’s 1998 book Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere quoted Bacon as saying, “I believe in a deeply ordered chaos and in the rules of chance.”

5. ENJOY THE RIDE // ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG

The Modern artist Robert Rauschenberg, winner of the 1993 National Medal of Arts, among other honors, advised trusting the journey. “I don’t know where I’m going but I’ll get there on time,” he told The New Yorker in 2005. He died in 2008.

6. JUST KEEP GOING // VINCENT VAN GOGH

Vincent van Gogh had similar guidance to Rauschenberg’s: “One must go on working silently, trusting the result to the future,” he advised.

7. GET A DAY JOB YOU DON'T HATE // JANE HAMMOND

The contemporary New York City artist has some decent advice for anyone who’s chafing at a soulless day job. “Find something to do that will make you some money, that can support your art, and that you can become good at so you can make a decent wage and that you don’t actually hate,” she said.

8. HAVE FAITH // GERHARD RICHTER

If you’re going to trust in the process, though, you’d better do it with a heavy dose of faith, according to Gerhard Richter. “I believe that you always have to believe,” he said in a 2011 interview.

9. BEWARE OF YOUR OWN SUCCESS // PABLO PICASSO

“Success is dangerous,” the incredibly influential Cubist Pablo Picasso said in a 1956 interview with Vogue. “One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.”

10. LEARN FROM FAILURE // AI WEIWEI

Most successful artists have experienced some degree of failure, whether it’s years spent trying to achieve a moderate degree of fame or a flop of a project after they do become well-known. “The only thing we can do is honestly learn from our falls,” the world-famous Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says.

11. LOOK FOR THE UPSIDE // SALVADOR DALÍ

Ai Weiwei isn’t the only artist who has preached embracing failure. “Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature,” according to remarks from Salvador Dalí’s diary.

12. BE BOLD // ANDREA ZITTEL

Californian artist Andrea Zittel, who specializes in installations and sculpture, also cautions against being too fearful of future stumbles. “You have to learn to feel confident about the prospect of failing because it’s so inevitable,” she said in a 2001 interview with Bomb.

13. FIND YOUR INSPIRATION // AGNES MARTIN

“Inspiration is the beginning the middle and the end,” according to abstract expressionist Agnes Martin, who died in 2004 in New Mexico.

14. LOOK AT THINGS YOU LOVE // DIANE ARBUS

All artists have different ways of sparking inspiration, but 20th century photographer Diane Arbus had this practice: “I like to put things around my bed all the time,” she explained at a lecture in New York City in 1970. “Pictures of mine I like and other things, and I change it every month or so. There’s some funny subliminal thing that happens. It isn’t just looking at it. It’s looking at it when you’re not looking at it. It really begins to act on you in a funny way.”

15. KEEP YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT // ALBERTO GIACOMETTI

While the creative life might be vital, it’s important to have priorities that include the world at large, according to 20th century Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. “In a burning building, I would save a cat before a Rembrandt,” he once remarked. And no, he wasn't saying he hated the Dutch master.

The book is $25 on Amazon.

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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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