Let me show you my best painting secret!
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First published 1923. Available as paperback from Kalahari.net for R198.00
Is there an antidote for the cynical world we live in? How many times do you second guess yourself, your art and your choice to paint?
As an artist I can relate to the need for calm and self-affirmation. It will be OK. Keep on creating. In this reflective moment I find the writings of Robert Henri in The Art Spirit a comforting reminder that artists have asked these questions for a long time. It is a reminder that art is timeless. The Art Spirit is indeed a record of the human spirit triumphant.
The Art Spirit records Henri's anecdotes, philosophy and practical art knowledge. Robert Henri (1865-1929) was a famous French artist and teacher who setteld in America. In his time he came into contact with many famous masters and passed on his knowledge by teaching to many others who in turn went on to become masters.
"There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge."
This is not a book of glib soundbites. It is not a quick read filled with platitudes that can be glossed over. This is a book that must be read slowly and absorbed. Give yourself time to think about what Henri is saying. Read a page of two every day if you like to gain some calm and reflection over what art really means to you.
Despite the depth of ideas and sincerity in the writer I was moved by the similarity of concerns that artists experienced over a hundred years ago. Many issues are no different today. His advice is just as relevant today and a reminder that we share much in common with those who went before and thrived in struggle. Consider this quote:
"Just remember that the object of painting pictures is not simply to get them in exhibitions. It is all very fine to have your pictures hung, but you are painting for yourself, not for the jury. I had many years of rejections."
Would I recommend this book to an artist? Yes - read it and go back to it when you are in need of solace and calm. This too shall pass and there is much joy to be found when the human spirit triumphs over the banality of life. Art is merely the evidence of this journey.