A little gem

On the first page of a book I read this: We must teach ourselves to see the beauty of the ugly, to see the beauty of the commonplace. It is so much greater to make much out of little than to make little out of much — better to make a big thing out of a little subject than to make a little thing out of a big one. In every town the one ugliest spot is the railroad station, and yet there is beauty there for anyone who can see it. Don’t strain for a grand subject — anything is painter’s fodder.

This is my kind of book. When I was in Boston a few weeks ago I found it on a rack in an art store. “Hawthorne on Painting” is a tiny book  — first published in 1938 and only 91 pages long — but it’s a gem. It’s a compilation of quotes collected by the students of Charles W. Hawthorne, who founded and taught at the Cape Cod School of Art for 31 years. There are sections on landscape, still life, watercolour and working from the model, with a little intro to each. Open any page and read one of the quotes. I guarantee something will ring true for you. For me, it’s like going back over the notes I made while listening to the critiques of my first painting teacher Edgar A. Whitney. Maybe you’ve already heard about this book, or read it, but it’s never been on my radar. I think I will be reading it slowly. There is much to think about here.


45 Comments on “A little gem”

  1. Liz Steel says:

    I knew within a few words who you were quoting! I have re-read that book at least 10 times – actually a lot more as I dip into it frequently. Anne Watkins in NYC put me onto it 5 years ago. I take it away with me on every trip – read it on the plane and in the evenings. I know have the kindle version as well. A real gem!
    Glad you have it now!

    • That’s so cool Liz! I figured I might be the only person out there who hadn’t heard of it. I can see why you carry it with you and I will probably do that too. It is rich, rich, rich with info that needs to be read often. I was going to start circling things that were relevant and then I realize I would probably circle just about everything.

      • Liz Steel says:

        my thoughts exactly about circling!
        I am always moved to (almost) tears when I read that introduction (ie. always moved, and often a tear starts forming) No matter how much I read it.
        I think there are a LOT of people who don’t know about it, so glad that you will increase the readership dramatically now. (I have just shared it on FB a few times) When I finally get around to writing my list of favourite art books, this would be the first!
        I think there is something special about art books that are just words… gets you thinking visually! (Walt Stanchfield’s Drawn to Life 2 volumes is another on my top list and he talks about the best art books are those with words!)

      • Liz, I could read that introduction every day. This is definitely at the top of my list. I also have the Drawn to Life books. I bought them for my son when he started in the Animation program at university, but have never read them. I guess they will be the next ones on my bedside table. Unfortunately they are just a tiny bit longer to read than Charles Hawthorne!

      • Liz Steel says:

        yes- just a bit longer! there is a lot of really good really general art stuff in them, not just the best content on drawing people.
        the other much smaller book that I just thought of is Elizabeth Whyte – An Artist way of Seeing. I need to reread that again- it is years since I read it.
        And I need to visit The Art Spirit again… Ah! good reading art books are the best. enjoy!

      • I just saw your last comment Liz. I must have missed it earlier.I don’t think I have that Elizabeth Whyte book. Oh no, more to read!! Thanks for all the suggestions.

  2. I haven’t heard of this book, Shari, so thank you so much!! Sounds wonderful! I’m definitely going to check it out! 😃 (and wonderful sketch as always!)

  3. dezabaleta says:

    It is a really interesting book that knows how to convey the passion for art …

    Greetings and Happy New Year

  4. annieofbluegables says:

    I read a scripture that said “be not weary in well doing for you are laying a foundation of a great work and out of small things proceed with that which is great. “

  5. Thank you for sharing this “gem”. Before I finished reading your post, I hopped over to Amazon and bought the Kindle version. I plan to buy the print version also because there is a special delight in holding gems in my hand.

  6. heatherdubreuil says:

    Your sketch is a fine example of finding the beauty in the commonplace, Shari.

  7. Kathleen Weber says:

    Shari- love your work! Hawthorne on Painting was a classic when I went to art school almost 40 years ago. I still have my copy. Kathy Weber Weberstudio.blogspot.com

    Sent from my iPad


    • Hi Kathy, I just had a look at your website. Wow, stunning work. So how did I miss this book when I was in art school? I took mostly drawing courses, and graphic design of course, but no painting. I guess that’s why. Thanks for writing!

  8. Monique says:

    I will have to recommend it to my friend Nancy..perhaps she knows of it already..when we came back from Fl Dec3rd..as you know..there was no snow..yet all the snowblowing contractors had their diverse signage posts in every driveway..that w/ the recycling bins and then garbage bins led to a December I found unsightly apart from Christmas eve and day..you have made the posts “not ugly”.

  9. Lee Kline says:

    Shari, the teacher in you is always at work. Always giving us places to go for inspiration. Don’t forget also, Robert Henri’s “The Art Spirit.” Happy New Year, by the way……

    • Lee, I can’t shake that teacher out of me. “The Art Spirit” is one that I’ve been wanting to read for so long. Next on the list after Hawthorne and the two tomes of “Drawn to Life”. Happy new year to you too my friend.

  10. Wow! Love this sketch! I’ve been working in pen lately too and so you’ve inspired me once again, Shari. Thank you, and thanks for the book rec as well.

  11. Linda Murray says:

    I will have to check this book out, Shari. Sounds inspiring. Thanks for always sharing your tips and helpful hints. You are a master of your profession.

  12. Fern Van Horn says:

    Just realized in my excitement of you finding my favourite book, that I hadn’t even looked at your painting for today! (Later , after ‘comments, found it as delightfully inspiring as ever)’

  13. TonyU says:

    Two little gems in one post! The book (which I’ve just ordered) and your lovely pen and ink sketch. I’m sure I’ll like the former as much as I like the latter.

  14. Anna Cull says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Shari. I’ve just ordered a copy : )

  15. Lin says:

    Thanks Shari — I just ordered a copy too!! LOVED the quote and found more that I had to use a quote from him too for journaling — thank you so very much!

  16. Shari, if that book shows a spike on Amazon sales, you know where that came from: I’m on your long list of people that bought the book after seeing this post. Looking forward to it! And so happy to read through these comments and see that I’m not the only person that finds the kindle impersonal and so very much without the joys of a book.

    • I can finally see your comments Suhita. I should be part of the Amazon Affiliate program. Maybe I could have retired on the sales of that little book : )
      As for the Kindle, great for travel, but that’s about it for me. I’d much rather get a book from the library. In general its a much nicer experience all around, including walking through the dusty stacks. It’s just not the same when you shop in the Kindle store.

  17. joantav says:

    I haven’t heard of the book so I will have to look for it. Love this ink sketch!!! Nice hatching and shading.

  18. Norma says:

    That’s a beautiful quote! If anyone lives that, it’s you, Shari. Your paintings make the everyday ordinary into beautiful works of art. My inspiration is the painting you did of your garbage cans. It made me stop and think of what I’m not seeing in the world around me.

  19. Ambal says:

    All this texture is wonderful! Will be taking your craftsy class soon and looking forward to it! I think I saw the Carlson book at the library. Will have yo go back and borrow that. TFS.

  20. Ambal says:

    Oops. I wrote Carlson when I meant Hawthorne. Sorry. But I still like the quote and your painting. Thank you.

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