Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Hard Road to Dreams



Arnold Böcklin (1827 - 1901), the 19th century artist famous for his canvases of centaurs and mermaids, once said,
“Nothing in art is created without effort, and the painter’s ideas don’t come to him on wings while he dreams, either. The one may be more talented than the other, of course; but without untiring diligence, single-mindedness and a combative spirit, there can’t be any good result. All this talk about ‘inspiration’ is nonsense.”

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ArnoldBocklin.com

Musee d'Orsay article about him, link.

19 comments:

Dave H said...

That is a great statement.

Along the same lines and much shorter:

“Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” — Chuck Close

Larry said...

Thomas Edison wasn't an artist, but I always love his quote:

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Andrew Wales said...

I really like that attitude -- and the fact that he could paint like that while the Grim Reaper played the fiddle right behind his back really impresses me!

Jen Z said...

That's a bit of a cynical way to look at it (well, he does have death hanging over his shoulder, doesn't seem like a very optimistic chap)
I just don't like the the thought that dreams should be discredited, as I've been delivered ideas while sleeping (and don't forget Dali's key-in-the-bowl trick)
However, I will agree that you don't get good results without doing the work...

Frank Ordaz said...

I believe in hard work...but when inspiration does come it is a wonderful thing. Ivan Kromskoi said he had a vision or dream ( I can't remember ) of "Christ in the Desert" and he said he painted Jesus from memory...the impression on his mind was so strong that he used no model.

Pat said...

I was looking at your picture with the monkey and I couldn't help but see the resemblance between you Bocklin!

James Gurney said...

Pat--the only difference was that the monkey wasn't as good on the violin.

Jen--You're right. I have a feeling Arnold said this because his stuff is SO dreamlike that everyone must have said to him, "Whoa, man, you must have just seen the vision and painted it!" And of course he was both inspired and diligent.

Frank, I hadn't heard that story about Kramskoi before. For some reason I find it hard to believe. The Christ in the Wilderness painting is so illusionistic, and he used models (even photography) for most of his work. Who knows?

Robin Neudorfer said...

wonderful quote! So feeling that recently. Inspiration is what gets me going, but then the perseverance is what keeps me honest.

Frank Ordaz said...

Jim,

I just read about Ivan K. within the last 2 weeks describe how he was inspired to paint it...and I could not believe it myself. I am hunting down the reference.

George F. Watts was also big on inspiration and he too said he saw "Hope" the painting in a dream and that it was his best painting ever......when Isaac Newton saw the apple drop...that was inspiration that set off his theories....

Patrick Waugh said...

I did a self portrait based on this painting once. That's a good quote, I hope my hard work and patience pays off sooner or later...

Nathan Fowkes said...

Amen.

Doug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sasha said...

This is a great post to be reading right now, as I'm currently in the process of pulling several all nighters to get illustrations done for mid terms.

Hard work is hard but so rewarding when you can finally put down the pen and look at the finished product.

Miss Anike Maj said...

I agree with the quote because I interpret it to mean that inspiration is nothing if one neglects to also put in hard work. Many many things inspire me, but my best work is in areas and mediums I've practiced and played with the most, and made the most mistakes. If you don't have the drive, all the inspiration in the world wont save your art.

Daroo said...

I think true artists make themselves available to receive inspiration. Like an athlete anticipating the play so that she's in the right place at the right time, the artist lays the groundwork so that he can both, recognize a good idea and then use his hard won skills to realize it.

Jim -- I think you're right that Bocklin was reacting to others' comments - to those who are not practiced at thinking creatively ideas seem to come from a magical place. I'm willing to bet that, when you speak publicly, one of the top three questions you are asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

William said...

i would like to add that in this painting the paint has been put on the canvas very thinly over a simple underpainting.

why do so little people use the full range of paint nowadays? why must they lay the paint so thickly, like a child playing with mud? you can never expect to obtain good results like that.

what's more, i believe it is possible to follow the same approach when making a watercolour or oil painting.

sorry if this sounds negative, but i see too much bad paintings and desperatily needed to say this :-)

James Gurney said...

William, you raise a very interesting, and maybe controversial, issue about chroma and impasto. You're right that many of the traditional academic painters worked with a much smoother and less saturated paint surface than the current standard. I like both extremes if they're handled well--or best of all a good variety within a single painting--but this debate certainly goes back to the 1880s or so when the Salon juries were complaining about impastos "which please only the colormen."

dakinroy said...

James - It could just be the side by side photos, but you look uncannily like Arnold, with the monkey/death switcheroo of course...

Take care, Dino

dakinroy said...

James - It could just be the side by side photos, but you look an awful lot like Arnold ~ with a monkey/death switcheroo of course...

Take Care, Dino