Yesterday, Sherrill Miller of San Anselmo, California wrote, “The artist and teacher Van Waldron has passed away. Over the years I’ve gathered a few quotes from him. As I frequent your Resource of Art Quotations for quotes to give my students, I thought you might like to add some of Van’s.”
Thanks, Sherrill. I’m sorry to hear of Van’s passing. Receiving original quotes from firsthand sources like you is what makes our quote site the most popular on the Internet. I once had a copy of Van’s self-published book “Floral Painting,” but I loaned it to a floral friend and now I can’t remember who. (If you’re reading this, it will be okay to send it back now.) Van Waldron was a wealth of clear thinking as well as brilliant painting.
In the ebb and flow of floral popularity, Van’s work stood out for freshness and sensitivity. A student at the Bongart School and a graduate of the Art Institute of California, his lush colours pushed hard to canvas edges while floral arrays were often held with alluring darks. Petals and leaves were generally accomplished in a single gesture. “Try to paint with larger and fewer strokes,” he told his students.
Many artists look at the painting of florals as a redundant art. The rationale of these artists is that it’s impossible to do better than nature herself. Actual flower arrangements in all their fleeting fragility might be the preferable art.
On the other hand, flowers are perhaps the handiest guide and model to the use of bright colours, subtlety of colour control, varietal design motifs, elegance, light and shadow, reflected light, translucency and nature’s beguiling gradations. As varied as snowflakes and as available as the turn of the seasons, they are there for the picking. Flowers are an education in a vase.
Van understood both the limits and the potential of floral painting. The knowledge the genre provides can be used for painterly joy in other genres. Above all, Van thought the painting of florals generated thoughtfulness and sensitivity, and was key to bringing out an artist’s best. “Sensitivity to touch,” said Van, “is one of the key distinctions between an artist and a person who is just using paint.”
PS: “Try to finish your painting while you are still excited about it. Spend too much time, you lose interest and the picture begins to fall apart.” (Van Waldron)
Esoterica: Van understood the fugitive nature of life. Floral art “freezes” the miracle of spring for the long months of winter. And yet this art cannot be the same as nature itself–it has to be its own thing; its own art. Those floral painters who would undertake to paint well begin a love affair with the fragility of life. “We only get one chance to listen to the wind,” said Van, “and when it is gone, it will not be back.”
The Russian style
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
I never had the pleasure or privilege of knowing Van Waldren. It is a great loss to Art when any artist passes and especially one of such influence and talent. I was made aware of Sergei Bongart when I painted at the Art Institute of California and have met many of those who knew and studied under Sergei. One can see the influences in Waldren’s work and can learn much from studying them. There is in his work the same vibrance and fire attributed to the Russian style. Artists like Bongart, Fechin and Waldren have influenced the styles of many painters working today in Southern California. Their impact gave me the stimulus to adopt similar techniques in my own work and it is satisfying to know there are many painters who will carry on his words and traditions.
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The possibilities of flowers
by Adrienne Moore, Vancouver, BC, Canada
I have often used flowers as a source of inspiration for my paintings as it is hard to find a subject so readily available at all times of the year. However I do not recommend painting the flowers by literally copying each flower. I would rather allow the sensual nature of the flowers to empower the artist to guide and try to convey them so it allows the viewer to experience the freshness and fragrance of newly picked sweet peas. There is uniqueness in every flower, every bouquet. In the dead of winter it is always possible to find flowers that challenge the artist to find a way to paint with empathy. I’ve heard remarks from fellow artists who maintain that they do not like flower paintings. I agree that a lot of flower paintings look alike but if the idea is taken one step further to move into more abstracted form then the possibilities are endless. A visit to Costa Rica gave me so much pleasure to recreate the colour and intricate forms that I saw there. I find it difficult to believe that if the nay-sayers have not explored what flowers offer, and that some people can really believe that flowers make boring paintings.
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The music of floral painting
by Fran Gibson, Havertown, PA, USA
Like anything alive, flowers are an opportunity to feel the energy of life and express a point of view. I wish people who look at paintings could understand that paintings are similar to musical scores in that there is surface tension and transitions, reference and extension of an idea, an aesthetic that connotes feelings and temperature, love and sorrow, changes and nothingness, and so on.
Generally, I paint bouquets and individual flowers until they die. If I have not resolved the picture, I sometimes get new flowers and take to painting and rebuilding the energy and place with the idea that I am not painting botanicals, but a piece of instrumentation and discovery.
The endurance of florals
by Janet Summers-Tembeli, Samos, Greece
Floral painting to me is like portrait painting only the subject is vibrant and alive with colors I normally wouldn’t have a chance to paint with. Nature, whether landscape, human, or a humble rose is always inspiring. The forms, details, patterns, unusual color combinations and composition of floral paintings require all the observation and skills of the best artist. Flowers have taught me more about color than any other source as all colors are derived from nature and colors seen in nature in their natural light are so pure. I have been seduced by many flowers to paint their portraits; their sensual forms and colors continue to amaze and inspire me. In the 21st century we need more beauty. It’s to be found in flowers, sea shells, feathers, seed pods, pebbles and all the realm of nature. Floral painting is timeless and will always endure.
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Open up your eyes
by Ronald Fritts, Cochise, AZ, USA
Every human effort entails and should require a conscious effort to be creative. Everyone, not just obvious achievers, should be applauded for creative efforts. I am attempting to bridge the gap between the artist in general and invention and creativity specifically. Basically everyone has a vital urge and an innate right to creativity throughout life. It is referred to as the ‘creative impulse. Open up your eyes. They are the windows to creative survival and existence. They are the tools by which we open horizons to discovery and find new relationships in the world. Technology must not rule or encumber our visual survival in the 21st century. Our eyes are the mirrors of our soul. When we act creatively, we not only have the power to change the world, but also have the grace to add quality to life. How to see effectively should be an aid in the survival of man. How to see effectively may become the necessary force behind everyone in the computer age. Our eyes are a source of pleasure; however they also hold the seeds that fertilize our minds.
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Problems with copy-cats
by Harry Lock, Hillcrest, South Africa
I am the Editor of the South African Artist Magazine. In recent times there have been several instances of artists — some full-time professionals — making use of reference material which is clearly not their own, and frankly an infringement of copyright.
Some examples are:
A painting entered for our magazine’s cover competition that was a copy of a photograph published in National Geographic, showing an old man holding a violin. This work was disqualified from the competition but was offered for sale on a recent exhibition.
A well known South African artist who is known for his paintings of musicians has copied a scene from the motion picture ‘Ray’ showing a young Ray Charles at a piano with an old man.
A painting of Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl was entered into a charity exhibition, as was a copy of a Hazel Soan watercolour, straight from one of her books. Both of these works were offered for sale.
There is currently a short film an advertisement encouraging people to be entrepreneurial which is regularly shown on television here, which follows an ‘artist’ who sells his paintings at a local street market earning enough money to make a living. His paintings are all portraits of famous people, among them Che Guevara, Bob Marley, and Nelson Mandela, all copied from well known portrait photographs of these people.
I don’t want to discuss the issue of copyright, but rather artists, amateur and professional, who seem to think this is acceptable. It is a problem here in South Africa, and was wondering if this also occurs on your side of the world.
My friend, John Smith, a professional artist and teacher, suggests it might have its roots in how painting is taught by private teachers. Invariably they have a pile of books, calendars, and prints in their classroom and students are encouraged to find a picture they like, and make a painting of it. This, he says, instills the sense that there is nothing wrong with copying. What’s your take on this?
(RG note) Thanks, Harry. Up here in the Great White North we have a rule: “Copy all you want while learning, but don’t sell your copies or try in any way to pass them off as your own.” Even in pleasant Canada where fairness and justice are our main religions, this rule is frequently busted. In theory, had Andy Warhol worked in Canada, many of his prints and paintings (for example, those based on photos of Marilyn Monroe which he did not take nor get permission to use) would not have been acceptable for church-basement art shows. For those who may be interested, The South African Artist Magazine is at www.thesaartist.co.za.
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Art scam alert
by Maria Oppenheim, Wiesbaden, Germany
As an enthusiastic reader of your letter I thought I could mention the recent trick used by art scammers to cheat artists by nurturing hopes of selling their works. We all love to sell and tend to get impressed by someone wanting to buy. It started out for me by a friendly sounding email. The person picked 5 paintings from my website and told me he had purchased furniture in Berlin which he was planning to ship to his home. He would send the shipper to my studio to pack up the paintings and I was to pay him out of the excess money he would send me per cheque. I didn’t react but then I received a cheque for 10.000 Euros from the UK. It didn’t have his name on it but that wasn’t the worst. I asked my bank and they said they wouldn’t cash cheques because the sender could take it back and then I would have paid the shipper and be rid of my money and my work. So I wrote him a friendly note saying I could only accept payment by PayPal and never heard from him again. Today I received another poorly-written email with the same kind of inquiry.
I am so please to be writing you to know more about your artwork because my friend Linda Hansfom as told me that your work of art is one of a kind, i will be pleased if you can send me images and prices of some of your new work or have me directed to the link on your website where i can have those artwork viewed.
Maybe you could spread a word of warning to those of us who tend to trust too much or ignore risks. We need vigilance when on the Internet.
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When it’s gone
by Biba J Reid, York, England
In today’s letter there was a quote: “We only get one chance to listen to the wind,” said Van, “and when it is gone, it will not be back.” attributed to Van Waldron. I believe this actually originated in the song When it’s Gone performed by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band / John Denver, and composed by: Don Schlitz and Jimmie Fadden.
(RG note) Thanks, Biba. Yes, it does appear that Van adapted the lyrics to his own philosophy. While quotes in our Resource of Art Quotations are not always sourced, we do appreciate when readers help us out. Your correction will be entered.
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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Marise Morais who joined the increasing number of readers who write to us in their own language. Marise wrote, “Te curto muito pintar flores, elas são lindas , perfeitas, e com cores exuberantes!” “I really enjoy painting flowers, they are beautiful, perfect, and with exuberant colors!”
And also Graciela Haydee Bustamente who wrote, “Estoy totalmente de acuerdo contigo, a través de de ellas, podemos expresear la percepcion, con todos los matices que las mismas nos brindan. No es fácil pintar una flor, debemos realizar una evaluacion muy detallada de la imagen.” “I totally agree with you, through them, we can express our perception, with all the nuances that they offer us. It is not easy to paint a flower; before starting we need to make a very detailed assessment of the image.”
(RG note) Thanks, Graciela and Marise –and everyone who writes, sometimes regularly, in a language other than English. Just as painting and other arts are universal languages, we are a truly international Brotherhood and Sisterhood.
Enjoy the past comments below for An art of its own…