Quotes from Painting Class

I take painting lessons from John Gordon, who runs a studio called New Masters. He tends to say funny/inspiring/interesting/confusing things during class and sometimes I write them down so I can remember them (or try to figure them out later in the case of the confusing ones). Here are some of them.

John Gordon: Are you thinking about art?
Student: Yes.
JG: Don’t. Art just happens.

“I think what you’re doing here is drawing a bird. We don’t do that here. Lines.”

About comfort and challenge:

“It’s always good to push yourself beyond what you can do. You’ll develop so much faster by taking on things that are too hard.”

“If you’re comfortable, not much good can happen.”

About the role of intuition:

“Whenever you get that feeling, do it. Spontaneous. Faster than you want to.”

“We have knowledge that is dormant. The only way to use it is… follow your impulses, mop up afterward if you have to.”

About making mistakes:

“When you’re learning, it’s better to err on the side of not caution.”

“I’ve done this enough that I don’t worry about how dumb it looks.”

“The first step has to be big enough.”

“Even if you blow this, just the effort to find the truth gives power to a picture.”

“Fast and wrong is better than slow and wrong.”

“There’s no such thing as going too far because you can always take it back.”

About getting started:

“Get in there. Make it worth caring about.”

“Sometimes you have to make it wrong to get back into it.”

About confidence:

“Do you know hard this is? I’m convinced you can do it.”

“You have to accept yourself as potentially a very good artist.”

About patience:

Student: It could take a while.
John Gordon: That’s all right. There are no deadlines in this course.

“Wanting to get done with something is not a good reason for doing it.”

About perfection:

“You have to get over that. You’ll do 1/100th of the number of pictures in your life if you don’t.”

Student: Should I worry about that?
John Gordon: Worry? I wouldn’t worry. Just take care of it. The first attempt won’t always be spot on.


Kevin McGillivray

Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, painter, and writer in Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, online and offline neighborhoods, and vegetables. He paints and dives.

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