William Morris Hunt

William Morris

American Printer and Painter

Author Quotes

Strive for simplicity! Don't have the face a checkerboard of tints! Use such colors as nature uses, but not try to keep them distinct! Your work may be called monotonous, but one tone is better than many which do not harmonize.

The artist is an interpreter of Nature. People learn to love Nature through pictures. To the artist, nothing is in vain; nothing beneath his notice. If he is great enough, he will exalt every subject which he treats.

The mission of art is to represent nature not to imitate her.

There is force and vitality in a first sketch from life which the after-work rarely has. You want a picture to seize you as forcibly as if a man had seized you by the shoulder! It should impress you like reality! ... In your sketches keep the first vivid impression! Add no details that shall weaken it! Look first for the big things! 1st. Proportions! 2nd. Values - or masses of light and shade. 3rd. Details that will not spoil the beginnings!

There's lots of fun in this world, after all. And if there isn't, there is in the next. And we're going there, sure.

I don't like persuaded sitters. I never could paint a cat if the cat had any scruples, religious, superstitious, or otherwise, about sitting.

What is nobler than a man wresting and wringing his bread from the stubborn soil by the sweat of his brow and the break of his back for his wife and children!

I tell you it's no joke to paint a portrait. I wonder that I am not more timid when I begin. I feel almost certain that I can do it. It seems very simple. I don't think of the time that is sure to come when I almost despair, when the whole thing seems hopeless.

When an artist leaves his work to amuse people, he loses his time and their respect. If people are to be amused by artists, it must be by employing them in their legitimate occupation.

Imagination comes in after we have experience.

You are to draw not reality, but the appearance of reality!

Inspiration is nothing without work.

You can always draw as well as you know how to. I flatter myself that I feel more than I express on canvas; but I know that is not so.

It gives a fellow an awful shiver to hear the first shovelful of dirt and gravel rattle down upon the coffin; but after it is covered, it falls gently and makes no sound. The feeling of rest is perfect. There's no more nagging, no more pain!

You can't do a fine thing without having seen fine examples.

It's impossible to make a picture without values. Values are the basis. If they are not, tell me what is the basis.

It's no easy matter to paint a background. I venture to say that the old painters had more difficulty with their grounds than with their figures. You know the story of Vandyke brought to Rubens with this recommendation: 'He already knows how to paint a background.' 'That is more than I can do!' was the reply.

Let me give you a few simple rules for learning to draw. First, see of what shape the whole thing is. Next, put in the line that marks the movement of the whole. Don't have more than one movement in a figure; you can't patch parts together. Simple lines; then simple values. Establish the fact of the whole. Is it square, oblong, cube, or what is it?

Most of us live for the critic, and he lives on us. He doesn't sacrifice himself. He gets so much a line for writing a criticism. If the birds should read the newspapers, they would all take to changing their notes. The parrots would exchange with the nightingales, and what a farce it would be!

Nature is economical. She puts her lights and darks only where she needs them. Don't try to be more skillful than she is!

Painting is the only universal language. All nature is creation's picture book. Painting alone can describe everything which can be seen, and suggest every emotion which can be felt. Art reaches back into the babyhood of time, and is man's only lasting monument.

Don't talk of what you are 'going to do!' Do it!

Elaboration is not beauty, and sand-paper never finished a piece of bad work.

Give up the idea of 'color' for awhile! Consider masses - values, only... One dark and one light place in every picture.

How are things visible? Can you see an egg against a white background? Not by drawing a line around it can you make it evident.

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William Morris
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American Printer and Painter