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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Inspirational Reading~~~By MysticSilks

I was
browsing through the etsy forum the other day in the Business Section. I happened upon the following reading. It was so inspirational that I wanted to share it,hoping that the words and thoughts may inspire others:

"The Education Of An Artist"
Excerpt from The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn 1957:
Ones education naturally begins at the cradle. But it may perfectly well begin at a later time too. Be born poor..or be born really doesn’t matter. Art is only amplified by such diversity. Young people of both origins may or may not become marvelous artists. That depends upon factors having little to do with circumstances of birth. Whether they will become significant artists seems to depends upon a curious combination of biology and education working upon each other in a fashion too subtle for the eye to follow.
But there is a certain minimum program. There are, roughly, about three conditions that seem to be basic in the artists equipment: to be cultured, to be educated, and to be integrated. Now let me be the first to admit that my choice of terms is arbitrary; many words could be substituted and mean approximately the same thing. This off choice of terms, however, has a reason which will perhaps emerge as I proceed.
Begin to draw as early in life as possible. If you begin quite early, use any convenient tool and draw upon any smooth uncluttered surfaces. The flyleaves of books are excellent, although margins of textbooks too have their special uses, as for small pictorial notations upon matters discussed in classes, or for other things left unsaid.
My capsule recommendation for a course of education is as follows:
Attend a University if you possibly can. There is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do. But before you attend a university work at something for a while. Do anything. Get a job in a potato field; or work as a grease-monkey in an auto repair shop. But if you do work in a field do not fail to observe the look and the feel of earth and of all things that you handle-yes, even potatoes! Or, in the auto shop, the smell of oil and grease and burning rubber. Paint of course, but if you have to lay aside painting for a time, continue to draw. Listen well to all conversations and be instructed by them and take all seriousness seriously. Never look down upon anything or anyone as not worthy of notice.
In college or out of college, read. And form opinions! Read Sophocles and Euripides and Dante and Proust. Read everything that you can find about art except the reviews. Read the Bible; Read Hume ; Read Pogo. Read all kinds of poetry and know many poets and many artists. Go to an art school, or two, or three, or take art courses at night if necessary. And paint and paint and draw and draw. Know all that you can, both curricular and non curricular- mathematics and physics and economics, logic, and particularly history.
Know at least two languages besides your own, but anyway, know French. Look at pictures and more pictures. Look at every kind of visual symbol, every kind of emblem; do not spurn signboards or furniture drawings or this style of art or that style of art. Do not be afraid to like paintings honestly or to dislike them honestly, but if you do dislike them retain an open mind. Do not dismiss any school of art, not the Pre-Raphaelites nor the Hudson River School nor the German Genre painters. Talk and talk and sit at cafes, and listen to everything, to Brahms, to Brubeck, to the Italian hour on the radio.
Listen to preachers in small town churches and in big city churches. Listen to politicians in New England town meetings and to rabble-rousers in Alabama. Even draw them. And remember that you are trying to learn to think what you want to think, that you are trying to co-ordinate mind and hand and eye. Go to all sorts of museums and galleries and to the studios of artists. Go to Paris and Madrid and Rome and Ravenna and Padua. Stand alone in Sainte Chapelle, in the Sistine Chapel, in the Church of the Carmine in Florence.
Draw and draw and paint and learn to work in many media; try lithography and aquatint and silkscreen. Know all that you can about art, and by all means have opinions. Never be afraid to become embroiled in art or life or politics; never be afraid to learn to draw or paint better than you already do; and never be afraid to undertake any kind of art at all, however exalted or however common, but do it with distinction.
Anyone may observe that such an art education has no beginning and no end and that almost any other comparable set of experiences might be substituted for those mentioned, with-out loss. Such an education has, however, a certain structure which is dictated by the special needs of art.


  1. I love his comment, "The flyleaves of books are excellent, although margins of textbooks too have their special uses, as for small pictorial notations upon matters discussed in classes, or for other things left unsaid." My college notebooks and notes are covered with drawings and wanderings of all kinds. LOL, I guess I did a good thing without even knowing it!

  2. Yes , you did. I have an old notebook from the 1950's covered with drawings, when the pages were supposed to be filled with math, or English notes from class.--:)