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15 Pieces of Inspirational Advice From Artists

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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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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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Made.com
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Art
What the Homes of the Future Will Look Like, According to Kids
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Made.com

Ask a futurist what the house of tomorrow will feature and she might mention automatic appliances and robot assistants. Ask a kid the same question and you’ll get answers that are slightly more creative, but not altogether impractical. That’s what Made.com discovered when they launched Homes of the Future, a project that had kids draw illustrations of futuristic homes that served as the basis for professional 3D renderings.

According to Co.Design, the UK-based furniture retailer recruited children ages 4 to 12 to submit their architectural ideas. The doodles, sketched in pen, marker, and colored pencil, showcase the grade-schoolers' imaginations. Paired with each picture is concept art made with a 3D illustrator that shows what the homes might look like in the real world.

The designs range from colorful and whimsical to coldly realistic. In one blueprint, drawn by Ameen, age 10, a neighborhood of rainbow buildings and flowers float among the clouds. Another sketch by Ellis, age 7, shows a “home built to last” with titanium, bricks, a steel roof, and bulletproof windows. Some kids seemed less concerned with durability than they were with the tastiness of the infrastructure. Cherry-flavored bricks, candy windows, and a giant jelly slide were just some of the features built into the future homes. Sustainability was also a major theme, with solar panels appearing on two of the houses.

Check out the original artwork and the 3D versions of their ideas below.

House of the future drawn by kid.

House of the future drawn by kid.

House of the future drawn by kid.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Made.com.

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