*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Regardless of personal convictions or professional concerns, an artist’s power comes down to two things: her sensitivity to the radical mystery of existence, and the artistry and craft with which she can channel that mystery into an object or performance. Neither existential awe nor a given metaphysical outlook need to serve as an explicit motivation. Simply, the emergence of artistic vision – and the need to express the vision without distorting or conceptualizing it – is contingent upon the underlying wonderment at being itself, a wonderment without which there would be no art.
J.F. Martel in Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
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Beauty is made up of relationships. It derives its prestige from a specific metaphysical truth, expressed through a host of balances, imbalances, waverings, surges, halts, meanderings, and straight lines, the peculiar quality of which, as a whole, add up to a marvelous number, apparently born without pain. Its distinguishing mark is that it judges those who judge it, or imagine that they possess power to do so. Critics have no hold over it. They would have to know the minutest details of how it works, and this they cannot do, because the mechanics of beauty are secret. Hence the soil of an age is strewn with a litter of cogs that criticism dismantles in the same way as Charlie Chaplin dismantles an alarm clock after opening it like a tin can. Criticism dismantles the cogs. Unable to put them back together or understand the relationships that give them life, it discards them and goes on to something else. And beauty ticks on. Critics cannot hear it because the roar of current events clogs the ears of their souls.
Jean Cocteau in Andre Bernard and Claude Gauteur, editors, Jean Cocteau: The Art of Cinema
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For the artist drawing is discovery. And that is not just a slick phrase, it is quite literally true. It is the actual act of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind’s eye and put it together again; or, if he is drawing from memory, that forces him to dredge his own mind, to discover the content of his own store of past observations. It is a platitude in the teaching of drawing that the heart of the matter lies in the specific process of looking. A line, an area of tone, is not really important because it records what you have seen, but because of what it will lead you to see. Following up its logic in order to check its accuracy, you find confirmation or denial in the object itself or in your memory of it. Each confirmation or denial brings you closer to the object, until finally you are, as it were, inside it: the contours you have drawn no longer marking the edge of what you have seen, but the edge of what you have become. Perhaps that sounds needlessly metaphysical. Another way of putting it would be to say that each mark you make on the paper is a stepping-stone from which you proceed to the next, until you have crossed your subject as though it were a river, have put it behind you.
Geoff Dyer, editor, Selected Essays: John Berger
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