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Jackson Pollock

My painting does not come from the easel.

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When is a Painting Finished?

I paint.
On my easel
pictures in oil and acrylic grow
like stalagmites in limestone caves.

I think that painting is a magical act
that transforms invisible thoughts
and feelings into visible colors
and forms.

But I never can tell
when is the work finished.
After all it is always possible
to change a line, a hue, or a color
or even the whole composition.

Painters have different opinions
about this.

Some say that when the artist
successfully planted
all the details onto the canvas
the image expresses itself
as a severed autonomous entity,
which frees the painter from
the task of continuing to paint.
From then on the painting gains
an independent inner life of its own.

However, abandoning a work of art
involves a moral decision
ripened by the stiffening tension
between skill, creativity and integrity.
At what point does the polished image
meet the artist’s expectations?

And then, even if it does,
no single image can express
all that an artist wants to show,
and consequently his muses
compel him to carry on with his work
and create more paintings.

Hence the oeuvre of the artist
evolves as a set of different images
of the same single thrust and grind.

Many years ago I was wandering
through the countryside
of southern France in Provence.

[...] Read more

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Painting The Walls

painting the walls,
rolling over handprints,
cobwebs, and smoke stains....

over splashes of color,
over peels of time.
painting over the sounds

of voices whispering, laughing....
painting over tears hidden
from the world, from each other.

painting over running, and working,
working all day and half the night.
painting over children, and dreams,

folded like old clothes, and put away.
painting over notes from God,
that were often barely noticed...

painting over the nail that held
up the clock, hands moving slowly,
turning the seasons of living....

painting over the final words,
the last breath held in the hands,
of lives written in the grain....

the testimony of each feeling....
painting the walls,
and brushing the corners,

as if we never lived!

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Patrick White

In The Eye Of The Hurricane Rose

In the eye of the hurricane rose
all is as calm as a bee
as my world is shed around me
like eyelids.
The racket of Canada geese
holding a political rally
high over everybody's heads
a thousand feet straight up
as the economy returns like spring.
I know what it is
to be a phoenix of a tree
and lose your leaves
like a fire that goes out in the night.
I used to be a snowman
and purified myself
with my own disappearance
when things warmed up.
Now I'm a scarecrow
with nothing to chase away
except the farmer.
It wasn't me
that held a grudge against the birds.
Everything's wrong
but it's all right,
the chaos is vividly illustrated
with picture music
and I'm wearing my eye in my ear
and there's a keyboard and an easel near
like a skeleton with a forced grin.
A painting a day.
Van Gogh on steroids.
But I can't afford to eat my cadmium yellow
and they're not handing out food for thought
at the back of the think-tank anymore.
I don't know what to say
about all those people
who set out to be artists
and wound up being stores.
People eat.
People pay the rent.
Baby needs new shoes.
Benign reason can smother an artist
faster than the demands of a serial killer
in the hands of the pillow she dreams upon
and the tigers of wrath
who are wiser than the horses of instruction
who took so easily to the cart
as Blake said in his sayings from hell
soon learn that heroism isn't smart
if you don't want to be hunted into extinction

[...] Read more

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Nazim Hikmet

Gioconda And Si-Ya-U

to the memory of my friend SI-YA-U,
whose head was cut off in Shanghai

A CLAIM

Renowned Leonardo's
world-famous
"La Gioconda"
has disappeared.
And in the space
vacated by the fugitive
a copy has been placed.

The poet inscribing
the present treatise
knows more than a little
about the fate
of the real Gioconda.
She fell in love
with a seductive
graceful youth:
a honey-tongued
almond-eyed Chinese
named SI-YA-U.
Gioconda ran off
after her lover;
Gioconda was burned
in a Chinese city.

I, Nazim Hikmet,
authority
on this matter,
thumbing my nose at friend and foe
five times a day,
undaunted,
claim
I can prove it;
if I can't,
I'll be ruined and banished
forever from the realm of poesy.

1928


Part One
Excerpts from Gioconda's Diary

15 March 1924: Paris, Louvre Museum

At last I am bored with the Louvre Museum.

[...] Read more

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Why Is Repin Painting Monet?

why is repin
painting monet
why is not repin
painting repin
or why is not monet
painting monet
or they're just
making a team
in this day
very sunny day
in the south
south of beauty
oh beauty
beauty named france
france of that field
the sunflower field
oh making
making for a painting
a painting for price
a price for bread
bread for respect
respect for van gogh
van gogh for a day
a day for painting
painting for words
words for us
and us for them
and them are only
only and just
just se7en words
'we all are brothers
brothers
in love'

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Patrick White

Long Day Painting By Myself Down By The Lake

Long day painting by myself down by the lake
where I used to paint with you many years ago,
and now your absence haunts my solitude
as I grey my greens with cool alizarin red
and though the trees and the water are the same
it's a much eerier world just to know once
you who were here with me, are utterly gone,
and what has carried on without you, though
I'm affably intimate with its creative characteristics
is wholly estranged from the name I'll write on this painting.

As if an era in art had passed. Dreams and assumptions,
things you take for granted because in living them
you sometimes must, like love and oxygen,
and the presumption of life going on between us,
for the most part unplanned,
but a commingling of waters nevertheless,
a sharing in the other's quiet amazement
that the other exists as they are in your mindscape at all.

A heron rises from the cattails in the shallows.
A fish jumps at a dragonfly on the tip of a sword
of the wild irises in a muddle of mystic indigo
and a sulphur butterfly struggles in the thick pthalo blue
of the sky I slashed in with my painting knife
as if I were grouting the canvas like a mason
to lay a fieldstone wall that wouldn't keep the birds out
that have learned to ignore me like a scarecrow
in warpaint ghost dancing at an easel
spreading its legs like a doe
come out of the woods
to drink quietly from its own reflection.

Everything seems thriving and deserted.
The waterlilies still clutter the wild rice
like prolific constellations of the frogs
whose singing doesn't sound all that bad after awhile.
I'm a curiosity to the fox
that's been taking a profound interest in my work
all afternoon as if I were some kind of savage impressionist
and it were a cultural savant with a few pointed suggestions.
Two raccoons luxuriating like moss on a femur of oak
behind me, watching me underpaint the lakeshore rocks
like two kids through the wire fence of a construction site.

Events of the day. Transactional armies in the grass,
bees and ruby throated humming birds
enabling the daylilies like pyromaniacs
and soon, the green dragon of the sumac
will burn in the auto de fe of the fall as well.

[...] Read more

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Patrick White

Spots On A Paint Rag

Spots on a paint rag trying to figure out
if they're part of a larger picture.
Daubs and smudges and smears of black and red.
Topographies of dry thick ridges of blue acrylic,
peach-coloured mesas bruised
by the encroaching violets of dusk in a painted desert.
Are these the wanna-be windows of life
who failed to achieve a whole and harmonious view
of what they're doing here swiping off knives
thick with the gore of cadmium red,
cleaning off brushes that get to go out
on the field to caress and poke
stars and trees into being? Waterboys, not players.

I say the word, life, and I feel tonight like
the heaviness of a bell that's supplanted my heart.
The right root, but the wrong blossom.
Even though I'd melt that bell
back down into raucous cannon
to defend the concept to my very last breath.
But tonight I'm tunnelling under the foundations
of the cornerstones of life to bring
the walls down on top of my head,
like an avalanche of prophetic skulls
to just get a peek inside the grand paradigm,
the white light of the gessoed underpainting.
The secret garden with low-hanging fruit
on easy street with the sacred whores of Babylon.

An existential sadness, deep as a death-wound,
as if I'd just been stabbed in the heart
by the hands of a clock that mistook me for an intruder,
undermines me from below, a pyramid built on quicksand.
As if all those who had drowned in life
like fish up over their gills in water
were swimming in the watershed of every tear
that almost makes it up over the top of the dam
I try to throw up like a manly front to what
I know I won't be able to hold back for long.

And there go the villages in the flooded valley
I tried to live among like a neighbourly mountain
come to Muhammad on the way up and down.
It's cold and lonely and the air is thin
at the peaks of experience, with only
a star and a cloud for company.
The hard diamond in the rough I used to be
has grown mushy over the years. Tears.
Imagine that. Warm, salt seas with undulant tides
of emotion coursing in and out,

[...] Read more

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Fra Lippo Lippi

I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave!
You need not clap your torches to my face.
Zooks, what's to blame? you think you see a monk!
What, 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds,
And here you catch me at an alley's end
Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar?
The Carmine's my cloister: hunt it up,
Do—harry out, if you must show your zeal,
Whatever rat, there, haps on his wrong hole,
And nip each softling of a wee white mouse,
Weke, weke, that's crept to keep him company!
Aha, you know your betters! Then, you'll take
Your hand away that's fiddling on my throat,
And please to know me likewise. Who am I?
Why, one, sir, who is lodging with a friend
Three streets off—he's a certain...how d'ye call?
Master—a...Cosimo of the Medici,
I' the house that caps the corner. Boh! you were best!
Remember and tell me, the day you're hanged,
How you affected such a gullet's gripe!
But you, sir, it concerns you that your knaves
Pick up a manner nor discredit you:
Zooks, are we pilchards, that they sweep the streets
And count fair prize what comes into this net?
He's Judas to a tittle, that man is!
Just such a face! Why, sir, you make amends.
Lord, I'm not angry! Bid your hangdogs go
Drink out this quarter-florin to the health
Of the munificent House that harbors me
(And many more beside, lads! more beside!)
And all's come square again. I'd like his face—
His, elbowing on his comrade in the door
With the pike and lantern—for the slave that holds
John Baptist's head a-dangle by the hair
With one hand ("Look you, now," as who should say)
And his weapon in the other, yet unwiped!
It's not your chance to have a bit of chalk,
A wood-coal or the like? or you should see!
Yes, I'm the painter, since you style me so.
What, brother Lippo's doings, up and down,
You know them and they take you? like enough!
I saw the proper twinkle in your eye—
'Tell you, I liked your looks at very first.
Let's sit and set things straight now, hip to haunch.
Here's spring come, and the nights one makes up bands
To roam the town and sing out carnival,
And I've been three weeks shut within my mew,
A-painting for the great man, saints and saints
And saints again. I could not paint all night—
Ouf! I leaned out of window for fresh air.

[...] Read more

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I'm Not One Of Those Peephole Old People

I'm not a portrait painting on a canvas.
Waiting for a visit to exhibit.
I'm not one of those peephole old people...
Peeking out of keyholes all day,
Hey...
I,
Am much...
Alive.

I'm not a portrait painting on a canvas.
Waiting for a visit to exhibit.

I,
Am much...
Alive.

I,
Am much...
Alive.

I'm not one of those peephole old people,
Peeking out of keyholes all day!
I'm not a portrait painting on a canvas.
Waiting for a visit to exhibit.

I,
Am much...
Alive.

I,
Am much...
Alive.

I'm not a portrait painting on a canvas.
Waiting for a visit to exhibit.
I'm not one of those peephole old people...
Peeking out of keyholes all day,
Hey...
I'm not a portrait painting on a canvas.
Waiting for a visit to exhibit.
I'm not one of those peephole old people...
Peeking out of keyholes all day,
Hey...
I,
Am much...
Alive.

I'm not one of those peephole old people.

I,

[...] Read more

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Beyond the Art

Dad only had a month to live.
I peeked in to tell them goodnight.
Mom was painting. She stopped to give
Me a kiss. 'Your Dad will be all right.'
Next morning, both my folks were gone.
Perhaps they went out for some air.
Mom's new painting was sitting on
Its easel. Mom's class touch was there.
Mom's grace, Dad's strength - what a combo,
For forty years, husband and wife.
I touched the canvas. Where'd they go?
And then the painting came to life.

A couple walked along the sea.
Mom and Dad smiled and waved to me.

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untitled abstract painting of Custer's Last Stand

Untitled abstract painting of Custer’s last stand

an abstract painting of custer’s last stand
Hangs in the Montana Museum of Modern Art
A fish with a halo and many Indians mating
And no name tag makes this painting, stand apart

Montanans know the title of this portrait
Although no name tag is shown
Yet, as the gaze falls upon it
the title is intuitively known,

the last words that were spoken
from this famous man’s mouth
As the battle of the Big horn
Began to go south

Oddly enough, as in the painting
his last words were not prayer
Though the words; “copulation and Indians, “
“Fish And Holy, “ were there.

The title of the painting and Custer’s last words
Weren’t from Romans or Corinthians.
They were simply “Holy Mackerel
Look at all the F#@*in’ Indians

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Hilaire Belloc

Ballade Of Modest Confession

My reading is extremely deep and wide;
And as our modern education goes—
Unique I think, and skilfully applied
To Art and Industry and Autres Choses
Through many years of scholarly repose.
But there is one thing where I disappoint
My numerous admirers (and my foes).
Painting on Vellum is my weakest point.

I ride superbly. When I say I 'ride'
The word's too feeble. I am one of those
That dominate a horse. It is my pride
To tame the fiercest with tremendous blows
Of heel and knee. The while my handling shows
Such lightness as a lady's. But Aroint
Thee! Human frailty with thy secret woes!
Painting on Vellum is my weakest point.

Painting on Vellum: not on silk or hide
Or ordinary Canvas: I suppose
No painter of the present day has tried
So many mediums with success, or knows
As well as I do how the subject grows
Beneath the hands of genius, that anoint
With balm. But I have something to disclose—
Painting on Vellum is my weakest point.


Envoi
Prince! do not let your Nose, your royal Nose,
Your large imperial Nose get out of Joint.
For though you cannot touch my golden Prose,
Painting on Vellum is my weakest point.

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Emulation

Dependence leads to emulation,
but sadly creativity
demands thereafter separation,
with hypersensitivity
the reason often for defection
of emulator, who betrays
his master by his rude rejection.
Disengaged like divorcés,
regretting the dependence that
had once inspired them both, they lose
their symbiosis and combat
each other with conflicting views,
and claim they always had suspected
the other was far less inspired
than they, and ought to be rejected,
the sell-by date now long expired.

Inspired by an article Holland Cotter on an exhibition of the art of Titian, Tintoreeto and Verones at the Boston Museum of Fine Art (Passion of the Moment: A Triptych of Masters, NYT, March 12,2009) :

The show is about three such personalities: Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian; Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto; and Paolo Caliari, called Veronese. All three shot off sparks as they reforged painting as a medium. And all three had feverishly competitive overlapping careers. These masters of 16th-century Venetian painting were no Holy Trinity. They were a discordant ménage-a-trois bound together by envy, talent, circumstances and some strange version of love. This is the story the exhibition tells through 56 grand to celestial paintings — no filler here, not an ounce of fat — sorted into broad categories (religious images, portraits, belle donne) and arranged in compare-and-contrast couplings and triplings to indicate who was looking at whom, and why, and when. And that story is set against a larger historical narrative that goes something like this. Before the 16th century Italian art was dominated by two cities, Florence and Rome, and by two kinds of painting: fresco and egg tempera — water-based, fast-drying, smooth-surfaced — on wood. Venice lay outside this mainstream. Fresco wasn’t viable in the city’s humid atmosphere; tempera had problems too. Then, at the end of the 15th century, oil painting, still little known in the rest of Italy, was introduced, and Venetian art caught fire….Finally into the arena strode a third giant, and a somewhat gentler one, Veronese (1528-88) . Named for his native city and still in his teens when he hit Venice, he was quickly acknowledged to be a prodigy, fully formed. Titian became the artist he was through long growth, Tintoretto by sifting and synthesizing influences. Veronese was Veronese from Day 1. Ingratiating in manner, he was a painter of fine texture, sweet color and courtly reserve. Patrons who found Tintoretto too outlandish gave Veronese their business; the elderly Titian took him under his wing. And from the 1540s to the 1580s Venetian painting became a three-way dance among these three men, a tricky choreography of emulation and rejection, dependence and separation. You can follow the moves in a cluster of steamy paintings of nudes at the center of the show, installed in a gallery with crimson walls and tasseled curtains. The Titians — the “Danae” from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, “Venus with an Organist and Dog” from the Prado, “Venus With a Mirror” from the National Gallery of Art in Washington — are stop-and-stare fantastic.

3/13/09

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Candle Hat

In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrant looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting The Blinding of Sampson.

But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror
and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio
addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.

He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew
we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head
which is fitted around the brim with candle holders,
a device that allowed him to work into the night.

You can only wonder what it would be like
to be wearing such a chandelier on your head
as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.

But once you see this hat there is no need to read
any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.

To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
lighting the candles one by one, then placing
the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.

Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,
the laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house
with all the shadows flying across the walls.

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in, " he would say, "I was just painting myself,"
as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

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The Artist's Dilemma

The wind blew in and the wind blew out
And it surged around the eaves,
The door out to the patio slammed
And the yard filled up with leaves,
Then Susan sighed, ‘There's goes my ride,
I was going to take the mare,
Now what can we do on a Sunday when
The wind's so wild out there? '

Her aunt lay back on the couch and stared
At me, with her doe-black eyes,
Not much older than Susan, she
Was Venus, in disguise,
Her fingers ran through her coal-black hair
And her hand smoothed down her thigh,
‘Why don't you ask the artist, dear,
Before his paints run dry.'

I'd finished painting the background in
Of the leaves that swirled in the air,
But put my palette aside and turned
To look for her meaning there,
Then Susan laughed, as she always did:
‘Do you mean that you'd be game?
I've only modelled alone before
But two? It would be insane! '

Imelda slowly uncurled herself
Rose steadily to her feet,
‘I'll be the older matron, while
You shall be young, and sweet.'
I shrugged, effecting a nonchalance
That I didn't really care,
But said, ‘Okay, I can paint you,
Put your clothes on the old armchair.'

I played about with my palette, mixed
The tones in a kind of blush,
Squeezed the Titanium White, and mixed
It in with the tip of my brush,
And when I finally turned around
They were stood, stark naked there,
I said, ‘Clasp hands, then back to back,
And Sue, let down your hair.'

I'd painted my wife a thousand times
So I knew each curve and line,
But Imelda, this was the first I'd seen
And I caught my breath in time,
Her black hair over her shoulders and

[...] Read more

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Madonna portrait

I saw you painting,
not a sideways glance
of a elephant head
with deep creases showing,
or the neck of a giraffe,
not a Tuscan scene
with tables with white table clothes,
neither an abstract scene
in blue, green and gold.

A portrait unfolded before my eyes,
not a half naked nymph,
or wood fairy
but a Madonna without child
pregnant and serene
looking utterly holy
with olive skin
and great big innocent eyes
against dark colours
in a ruby red cloak.

Your fingers mixed colours expertly
on the palette
to the right exact hue
and blazing lights
lit the canvas
on the easel
and the painting
became an old world masterpiece
with stroke after little stroke
adding depth and meaning
and somewhere in the distance
a midnight-black dragon appeared
with a open mouth
as if drawing nearer
truly alive
detailed to the smallest respect
and evil in every way.

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Artist Only

I'm painting, I'm painting again.
I'm painting, I'm painting again.
I'm cleaning, I'm cleaning again.
I'm cleaning, I'm cleaning my brain.
Pretty soon now, I will be bitter.
Pretty soon now, will be a quitter.
Pretty soon now, I will be bitter.
You can't see it 'til it's finished
I don't have to prove...that I am creative!
I dont' have to prove...that I am creative!
All my pictures are confused
And now I'm going to take me to you

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Artists Only

Im painting, Im painting again.
Im painting, Im painting again.
Im cleaning, Im cleaning again.
Im cleaning, Im cleaning my brain.
Pretty soon now, I will be bitter.
Pretty soon now, will be a quitter.
Pretty soon now, I will be bitter.
You cant see it til its finished
I dont have to prove...that I am creative!
I dont have to prove...that I am creative!
All my pictures are confused
And now Im going to take me to you.

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Wave Wet Sand

You are as reliable as a painting
In wave wet sand.
Look in your eyes and I cant see a thing,
That usually means attratction to me
Ive read all the books about love I could find,
And Ive found not one, no,
Not one word about mine -
cause you are reliable as a painting
In wave wet sand
Youre coming and youre going:
Like the water you never end.
cause you are reliable as a painting
In wave wet sand
And I am just another piece of an island
In reach for your hands
...feel my doubts when you are in my arms.
Darling: if you know that its love
And not charm
You must tell me so or go elsewhere to hunt.
cause you are...
Your love...
I am just another piece of an island
I cant close my ears when I hear that you call.
I dont want to fear every tear that could fall:
Ill go on my own, and pass people with doubts.
My goal is to find just a piece of your love.
Your love is - your love is like the water
You are like the water.
You are like the water.
You, you are my shore, and you know
You are my shore.
cause you are reliable like a painting...
I am just another piece of an island...

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You're My Evergreen

The words we say, old flowers fade away
Remember yesterday, wish it would bloom again
Apathy and pain, here comes the autumn rain
Old apologies scattered in the wings of fate
Cause today it all looks black and white, wish it would change
We can't keep painting colours when its
Don't hesitate, cause you will bleed
A thousand tears won't wash it clean
Don't hesitate cause you can free yourself
Evergreen, evergreen
Down on my knees, crawling though the streets again
Surrendered to my needs, so i can breathe the air
You're my evergreen, regents park in spring
It takes me to a place, where i can dream again
Cause today it all looks black and white, wish it would change
We can't keep painting colours when it rains
I just want some place where i can breathe without this bitter taste
Cause today it all looks black and white, wish it would change
We can't keep painting colours when it's grey
It all looks black and white today
You're my evergreen, regents park in spring
It takes me to a place, where i can dream again
Cause today it all looks black and white, wish it would change
We can't keep painting colours when it rains
Evergreen, evergreen, evergreen

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