Michael Divine

Writings: On Art Making


These ‘art’ writings are specifically about the process of being an artist. There’s advice and discussion about the process as well as some musings on the business of art.

The Future of Art Making

I think a lot about what the future holds for us. Like you, I am concerned (to say the least) for the ever changing climate. I worry about the divisive and tense politics of our times. Wealth disparity, economic catastrophes, and the kind of indentured servitude many of us find ourselves in: the list goes on. I sometimes imagine these post apocalyptic futures where the trappings of my own life are stripped away and, like so many others, we scrape the earth for sustenance, banding together in our little tribes, trying to fight our way through an inhospitable landscape. It’s […]

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On Painting

Sometimes, I’m painting and I’m just putting globs of paint onto the canvas, working it out as I go along blending it there rather than on my palate. I think to myself, “How could I really even begin to teach this? Who the hell wants to learn a process that can be so… messy!” It looks like a haphazard approach at times. The dollop of paint gets smeared onto the canvas along with several invisible dollops of faith in the process. All things considered, it usually works out, even when it doesn’t. So how does one teach that? Well, I […]

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How To Be a Painter Part Something or Other

1. Sleep when you are tired. Naps are perfectly acceptable. 2. Eat when you are hungry. Eat good food, just not too much. 3. Paint even when you don’t feel like it. You’ll never get anything done otherwise.

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Monet, His Waterlilies, and the Creative Drive

“Yesterday I resumed work. It’s the best way to avoid thinking of these sad times. All the same, I feel ashamed to think about my little researches into form and colour while so many people are suffering and dying…” – Claude Monet – 1914 (While working on his water lilies paintings during World War I.) I feel like this sometimes. There’s so much going on. There’s this endless stream of chaos beating down my door. Who am I to turn my back on this issue or that issue and “resume my little researches into form and colour” while so much […]

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Dear Artist

Dear Artist,Often, when asked what advice I might give to you, I say something like, “Practice!” Or, “Do it every day!” Or some such thing. Everyone says it and it’s true. But the deeper truth is – all of that is meaningless if not for one thing. There is only one real insight I can offer you: YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT. You have to love what you do. Above all else, no matter how much you practice, how much time you give it, how much money you make (or, more likely, don’t make) if you don’t love it, it […]

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Why Art is Expensive :or: Pricing Your Art So You Can Live

First, I will say what this post is not. This is not about what gives art value. I’ve written other pieces about that and probably will again. Nor is this about, say, why a David Hockney painting sold for $90.3 million. That isn’t a question of ‘why is art expensive’ but ‘why is it SO expensive’ and that question has also been discussed elsewhere. Instead, we’re simply going to talk about the cost of a work of art as an equation of what goes into it, what one (in this case, the artist) should reasonably expect to get out of […]

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How to be a Painter II

No one can tell you how to be a painter, that’s for certain. Better not try and figure it out either. You just have to do it. How do you breathe? Who taught you? How do you blink or how does your heart pump? Likewise, being a painter is just like that. It comes. Naturally. Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber are two great colors to mix with just about anything. It seems like, after you play with them for a while, that our entire world is made up of those two colors in conjunction with everything else. Don’t be afraid […]

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How to Be a Painter I

Look: you have to have complete understanding of when your hand is heavy handed, and when it is light. What that feels like, and how to hold the brush. Sometimes though you need to be heavy handed and sometimes light and you need to know that too. How to be able to hold the brush so lightly that, any lighter, and you would drop it. How to hold the brush firmly and yet, still allow it to have give – to feel the push and pull of the canvas on the brush as much as the hand that seeks to […]

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How to be a Painter III

It’s quite simple really – you just pick up the brush and you start. But when to start? Start before you get caught up elsewhere, before you get distracted, before the computer phone doorbell cat dog moth flies in your ear and whispers that there is something so important to do and is somewhere else and you had better do right fucking now. There will always be that thing that needs to get done right now. I’ve got a thousand of them, at least. And they get done, one by one. Always. Trust me. So forget about it. Just for […]

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How to be a Painter IV

or… “What works and what doesn’t” In art as in life, there is no right and wrong, good and bad, etc. There is only what works and what doesn’t. Just as in life, there is that which is incongruous to our spirits and that which is beneficial to a compositionally balanced life. Daily yoga works quite well. Daily drunkenness doesn’t work very well at all. So we choose what works within the rhythm of life to the degree that it creates something balanced and harmonically correct. When we choose to engage Life in that act of co-creation we are asking […]

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