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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 Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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