Famous Quotations by Artists About Art and Drawing

Inspiration and Motivation for Practicing Artists

Artist working on clay sculpture in art studio
Hero Images / Getty Images

Artists are filled with inspiration. Not only are their works of art a source of influence for other artists, their words can be as well. Many of the old masters of the art world were quoted during their lives and these words can hold true to artists today.

When we study art, these quotations can give us insight into the thought process of these great painters and philosophers. It's a quick glimpse into their world, almost as if you're their student.

A single line can do wonders for sparking your creativity, helping you approach your art with a new viewpoint, and motivating you to create. After all, that is our goal as artists, right?

With that in mind, let's look at what the masters say about practice, drawing, and art in general.

The Importance of Practice

Every art teacher you encounter will emphasize the importance of practice. Developing a daily routine that incorporates drawing from life and will give you an intense familiarity with both subject and medium. Naturally, the great masters of art have something to say on the matter:

Camille Pissaro: 'It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character.

John Singer Sargent: 'You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.'

Perseverance and Practice in Art

We've all heard that it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert in something. When you are starting out, that seems like an awful lot. Yet, if you put in a little each day, those hours soon accrue.

You've seen the internet memes about champions who begin their careers losing every race, writers who can't get published and cartoonists told they have no imagination. On this subject, I believe the last word goes to...

Cicero: Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit. or 'Constant practice devoted to one subject often outdoes both intelligence and skill.'

Drawing for Painters

Some people believe that it isn't critical that you draw in order to paint. However, painters should draw and they are often forced to. Drawing is about seeing and directly making marks, and realistically, you need to draw.

This is not the kind of drawing that relies on finely detailed photorealist renderings in graphite. Instead, painters are concerned with the drawing that is about taking a fresh, direct look at your subject and exploring its form, structure, and perspective with a line.

Even abstract artists draw. Sometimes people draw with paint, but they are still drawing.

The old masters seem to agree:

Paul Cézanne: 'Drawing and color are not separate at all; in so far as you paint, you draw. The more color harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes. When the color achieves richness, the form attains its fullness also.'

Ingres: 'To draw does not simply mean to reproduce contours; the drawing does not simply consist in the idea: the drawing is even the expression, the interior form, the plan, the model. Look what remains after that! The drawing is three fourths and a half of what constitutes painting. If I had to put a sign over my door [to the atelier], I would write: School of drawing, and I’m certain that I would create painters.' - source

Frederick Franck from ​​"The Zen of Seeing": 'I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.'

It's All About the Technique

Technique is the cornerstone of art. Ideas are the lofty towers that we create in our minds, but without the firm foundation of good technique, those ideas will crumble into dust. (Yes, my own words, if you want to quote me. Helen South.)

Leonardo da Vinci: 'Perspective is the rein and rudder of painting.' 

Pablo Picasso: 'Matisse makes a drawing, then he makes a copy of it. He recopies it five times, ten times, always clarifying the line. He's convinced that the last, the most stripped down, is the best, the purest, the definitive one; and in fact, most of the time, it was the first. In drawing, nothing is better than the first attempt.'

Who Needs Rules?

Naturally, there's a lot of debate among artists about how things are done; some people are traditionalists, some prefer to find their own way, even if it means re-inventing the wheel. For some, the process is central, while for other artists, only the end result matters.

Bradley Schmehl: 'If you can draw well, tracing won’t hurt; and if you can’t draw well, tracing won’t help.'

Glenn Vilppu'There are no rules, only tools'