Aphorisms for Artists by Walter Darby Bannard



1. Good art is good art. Period.

2. Art is not “about.” Art is.

3. I don’t want art that needs fixing. I want art that sends me back to the studio to fix my own.

4. Good art does not break with the past.

5. Art is too popular.

6. Good art is the product of an integrated personality.

7. See first. Name later.

8. New art is not always good art, but good art is always new art.

9. If you are lucky, people will buy your art for the wrong reasons.

10. When you break all the barriers, you get a pile of rubble.

11. Postmodernism is Modernism with Alzheimer’s.

12. An ivory tower is a fine place as long as the door is open.

13. When art writing seems incomprehensible, chances are it is.

14. A critic without an eye is a eunuch in a harem.

15. Ugliness in art is the last refuge of the uninspired.

16. Great art doesn’t care about you.

17. Art rides in on pleasure.

18. Art is in the materials. Don’t look for it somewhere else.

19. Art is making something better without knowing what “better” is.

20. Good new art may not look like art.

21. There is no sweat equity in art.

22. Fun is profound.

23. Keep your ego out of your art.

24. Mindless open-mindedness is closed-minded.

25. A work of art is never finished, it is abandoned.

26. There is no best way to make art, but there are a lot of better ways.

27. Talent without opportunity is like electricity without a light bulb.

28. If you can say it, don’t paint it.

29. Good art carries a high density of choice.

30. There’s a big difference between grabbing attention and rewarding attention.

31. An explicit measure of worth in art will result in inferior art tailored to it.

32. Art is good by judgment, not inventory.

33. Look with your eyes, not your ears.

34. Saying that something is art does not make it art.

35. A painting isn’t bad just because it looks good over the couch.

36. Writing about art is only useful to art when it leads into the experience of art.

37. Innovations in art are catalysts, not conclusions.

38. Art is here to take us beyond language.

39. There is no regional art any more.

40. Art is entertainment.

41. The art consensus is not a guarantee, it is a convenience.

42. Begin a work with a fresh idea, then let its ideas replace your ideas.

43. You don’t have to be a caveman to appreciate Lascaux.

44. Always steal from other artists, but never steal from yourself.

45. Art, like law, politics, people and food, should always be judged case by case.

46. Good art is what it is, not what you want it to be.

47. Your habits are always at war with your imagination.

48. There is nothing as worthless as bad art.

49. Science and art are not opposed, they are just different.

50. When painting a landscape, assume the painting is real and the landscape is an illusion.

51. Live to paint, don’t paint to live.

52. When making a painting, only one thing counts: what you do next.

53. The power of art is not communication, but effect.

54. Art captures life.

55. Paint, don’t think.

56. You can see it but you can’t say it.

57. The only thing that makes a work of art good is the work of art.

58. Facts and common sense interfere with our systems of denial.

59. Making art is not risky.

60. Inspiration doesn’t follow style, it creates it.

61. Talent is a seed that needs fertile soil.

62. Planning is fine. Preparing is better.

63. When inspiration dies, imitation thrives.

64. When anything can be art, art is not much of anything.

65. Art-making is just a lot of tricks and devices.

66. Originality is overrated.

67. Beauty gets a bad rap.

68. When it gets easy, get busy.

69. Making art is like swimming underwater while wearing a blindfold.

70. If it doesn’t begin as feeling, it doesn’t end as art.

71. You can’t learn to be a good artist, but you can learn to be a better artist.

72. “Art for art’s sake” means art for our sake.

73. Too much freedom is a dangerous thing.

74. If you like everything, you like nothing.

75. An argument about art is not won until it helps someone see.

76. In art, as in life, the best way to remedy mistakes is to take advantage of them.

77. Making art is like making love. If you think about “meaning” you lose it.

78. Recognize good art, don’t identify it.

79. Always let intuitive perception precede analysis.

80. The road to bad art is paved with good intentions.

81. Art is not truth.

82. Listen to your materials, not your ego.

83. Don’t replicate your art, replicate yourself.

84. You cannot justify good art, you can only promote it.

85. All art is abstract art.

86. Art is imitation of nature.

87. Every artist needs a good friend with a good eye.

88. Art is reality. Words point to reality.

89. In art there is no absolute good or bad, but it is absolute that there is good and bad.

90. Life is more important than art.

91. Good art is not made in the spotlight.

92. When everyone is avant-garde, there is no avant-garde.

93. Just paint.

94. You don’t know nothing.

95. Don’t explain, enjoy.

96. Seeing the real thing is the real thing.

97. Great art is like a stone in the river.

98. Art is as persistent as it is fragile.

99. When bad use is made of a good idea it is the fault of the user, not the idea.

100. Without the eye, the head is blind. Without the head, the eye is adrift.

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Aphorisms for Artists ©2016 Walter Darby Bannard and New Modern Press