Monday Motivator: Continuous vs Dramatic Improvement

Monday Motivator Inspirational Art Quote
Monday Motivator quote

“So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. … we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about. Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.”

James Clear, Continuous Improvement:

We know the tortoise beats the hare, eventually. The hard part is having the patience to plod.

Free quilt pattern scallop tortoise
Temperance the Tortoise, a scallop quilt I made in 2010

Monday Motivator: Paintings Are Not Poor Cameras

Monday Motivator quote
Monday Motivator quote

“There is a natural distortion that occurs in every painting. Very few paintings are accurate to what we see with our eyes verses what the camera records. … a painter is looking to create a piece to communicate beyond a mere record … expression goes beyond accuracy.

“We tolerate inaccuracies in paintings because of two reasons. One, we simply know it’s not a technical reproduction; second, we accept that the painter is telling us something as an expression. Paintings are not poor excuses for a lack of a camera.”

Gregory Manchess, “10 Things…Painting Portraits” on Muddy Colors 22 April 2020

The skills for painting realism are not the pinnacle, they’re base camp supplies.

Monday Motivator: Connected Colour

Monday Motivator quote

“We are able to hear a single tone.

But we amost never (that is, without special devices) see a single color unconnected and unrelated to other colors.

Colors present themselves in continuous flux, contantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions.”

Josef Albers, “Interaction of Color“, page 5

Stop worrying about getting one colour absolutely right and spending ages mixing it. That colour is going to look different when you put your next ‘absolutely right’ colour next to it anyway. So go with ‘more or less right’ and adjust once there are lots of colours in play. Interaction is the name of the game.

Monday Motivator: How Many Questions Did You Ask Today?

Monday Motivator quote
Monday Motivator quote

“… researchers logging questions asked by children aged 14 months to five years found they asked an average of 107 questions an hour.

… high-performing students … saw curiosity as a risk to their results. The questions they asked were aimed at improving their results, whereas the questions asked by more curious students were aimed at understanding a topic more deeply.”

Wendy Berliner, “Schools are Killing Curiosity“, The Guardian 28 January 2020

Being results driven when painting means we’re asking:”How do I get this predetermined result?”. Deviations from the path are judged to be mistakes.

Being curiosity driven when painting means we’re asking:” What happens if I do XYZ”, then responding to the result. Deviations are possibilities.

Be curious until a result emerges, using the rules of art and characteristics of different materials as ingredients not a recipe. A perpetual voyage of discovery.

Monday Motivator: Look at What I Found

Monday Motivator quote
Monday Motivator quote

“In our time, artists are inclined to believe that art is like honey, the product of their own subconsciouses, their own minds, and I do not.

“I see myself as a well-working lens, a perceiver of something that exists independently of me: don’t look at me, look at what I’ve found.”

Hedda Sterne, abstract expressionist, interview by Anney Bonney, BOMB Magazine 1 April 1992

Play a game with yourself . Next time you’ve been sitting somewhere for a while, make a note of something you’ve noticed about where you are. Writing it down in an on-going list, whether it’s a repeat location or new. See if there’s a trend to what catches your eye. Maybe that’s what you ought to be painting.

Monday Motivator: Past and Future

Monday Motivator quote

“When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.”

From the poem “The Three Oddest Words” by Wislawa Szymborska

In her Nobel Prize for Literature lecture in 1996 Wislawa Szymborska said: “It’s not accidental that film biographies of great scientists and artists are produced in droves. The more ambitious directors seek to reproduce convincingly the creative process that led to … the emergence of a masterpiece. … Films about painters can be spectacular, as they go about recreating every stage of a famous painting’s evolution, from the first penciled line to the final brush-stroke. …

Of course this is all quite naive and doesn’t explain the strange mental state popularly known as inspiration, but at least there’s something to look at and listen to. But poets are the worst. Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later … Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?

Painters can do little that’s photogenic for ages too. Thoughts, observations, doubts and doodles that become part of our past influencing paintings in our future.

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Monday Motivator: Returning to Pencil

Monday motivator art quotes

“I am returning to the pencil. The premise of which remark signifies consciousness that at some point I left the pencil, a moment I have no recollection of. I am going to have to guess. It was around the age of eleven, just as learning got serious, that we were told we could use biro or fountain pens instead. Implicit in this message was the notion that pencil was somehow junior, inferior, not serious. …

“Just as I cannot remember stopping using them, I can’t quite pinpoint their return. …

“I find I can’t read now without one. For underlining and margin notes, the pencil’s the thing. It’s quick and doesn’t smudge …The great thing about these pencils … is the lack of fuss of them. … they don’t ask for much. The odd twist of the sharpener, yes. But not much more.

“Using a pencil I find myself following my best teaching advice: ‘Don’t rub out, just put a line through it’. It is as though the lack of physical pressure required to move my hand across the page somehow removes the psychological pressure to get it absolutely perfect first time. While I know it never will be, it’s a lesson I can never learn too often.”

Poet Anthony Wilson, “Pencil“, 11 May 2016

Monday Motivator: The Wonderful Pencil

Monday motivator art quotes

“Pencil is a wonderfully accessible medium. Anyone can find one quickly when they need to (a bit like that fact about how you are never more than 6ft from a rat).

It is a very versatile medium that allows you to be both expressive and precise.

There’s very little fuss with pencil – no prep time, you don’t have to wait for it to dry, there’s no clear up operation AND you can even rub it out. Simple and straightforward.”

Hannah Longmuir, “Pencil Drawing: Materials “, 27 April 2020

And if you use a propelling pencil, you don’t even need a sharpener.

Monsieur P big pencil

Monday Motivator: Whatever the Reason

Monday motivator art quotes
Monday motivator art quotes

“Whatever crazy, impractical, nonsensical reason there is for you to be an artist, consider the alternative. To paraphrase Robert Henri*–you can’t get rid of the part of you that yearns to be an artist, any more than you can get rid of your shadow. Embrace it.”

Robert Hunt, “Big questions. No Answers“, on Muddy Colors 8 April 2020

[*Robert Henri, 1865–1929, was an American artist and art tutor, whose teachings were collated in “The Art Spirit” first published in 1923 and still in print. And, yes, I have a copy.]


Some days our shadows are strong, other days we don’t have one. Sometimes it’s short, other times it stretches out far taller than we are.

Coral Beach sketching Isle of Skye

Monday Motivator: Improvisation vs Domination in a Painting

Monday Motivator quote
Monday Motivator quote

“…the unpredictability of wet in wet effects teaches [you] to improvise with the paint behavior rather than try to dominate it.

“…all wet in wet effects result from an imbalance of wetness between paper, brush and fresh paint

“…the main source of control is turning water against itself, using moisture to guide and control moisture in much the way that forestry workers use fire to control and extinguish a forest fire. This is the wet in wet balancing act.”

Bruce MacEvoy, Handprint
Wet on wet watercolour with granulating pigments