Aphorisms for Artists by Walter Darby Bannard


Decades ago, when I started teaching studio art regularly, it seemed like a good idea to publish essays outlining the salient characteristics of certain examples of good and bad art, in the hope that people would go look at the art and agree with me, or not, as they chose, and intelligent dialogue would ensue.

It didn’t turn out that way. A few folks would read an article and compliment me on my writing, but attempts to engage in further discussion usually revealed that the article was read carelessly and barely understood. Those who disagreed with my points talked to others who also disagreed, but not to me. The articles rather quickly slipped into obscurity.

It also seemed appropriate to surround hard-core studio instruction with an insulating layer of persuasive reasoning. I learned, however, that good students will eagerly try anything anyway, and lesser ones will, one way or another, resist everything no matter what you tell them. I now simply tell students what my eye tells me: “That is working. That isn’t. Try this and let me know how it turns out.” Why waste time?

“There are no rules in art,” so they say. Well, yes and no. Long experience with art, art writing, and art instruction assures me that, indeed, there is no way to specify what good art is or how to create it, but that certain principles, like gold in a pan, eventually wash clear enough to express in a few words.

This is what I have done here. I hope this book is helpful and enjoyable. If not, please give it to someone else.

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