Some thoughts about painting

Posted on

How fortunate we are when a truly great artist not only has the ability to create wonderful, enduring paintings, but also has the gift of teaching and is able and willing to share that knowledge with others. This is the story of John F. Carlson. It is through artists like him that Sunday painters, hobbyists, and professional students like me learn and grow as artists.

In his book, “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting”, Carlson shares valuable insights gleaned from years of experience. This book is a must for every landscape painter and should be at the forefront of one’s art library. Following are some quotes from his book worth considering. (Click images to enlarge)


“In painting, as in singing, there is no excuse for a poor technical performance. We take it for granted that the man who is to give a concert at Carnegie Hall knows how to sing. If he does not, we do not wish to listen to him.

“In painting we are apt to be very forgiving of poor technical performance. ‘Why, see! See what the man intended here!’ In art intentions have no place; only results. In good art, the results do not have to be explained. As a matter of fact, there is but one kind of art and that is good art. There is no comfortable halfway station; it is either fine, or it is not art.”


The only way to study is to practice.


“When one has thus arrived at the point where he can play, let him not mistake this ability or dexterity for the end or final expression.”

“Study direct from nature. Study to feel, and to know something of her visible functionings.”

John F. Carlson – “Snowbound Stream” – 30″ x 40″ – Oil (1915)

John F. Carlson – “Autumn Beeches” – 40″ x 52″ – Oil


“Let the student realize at once that there is no method or style through which he can become a fine painter. Have not a care about ‘putting the paint on.'”

“Style or method in painting is like your personal handwriting; you thought little about it when you were forming your first crude letters in school. We all use the same alphabet, and one man’s letters are legible to another; and yet how vastly different in general appearance! The style of your handwriting was dictated by some latent and unconscious quality within you, and even your present style will gradually change, with the years of practice in writing , or in painting, with the ripening of character. When you sit down to write and essay or a letter it is not your penmanship that you are thinking about; it is what you are going to say that occupies your mind.”

“It is what you are going to ‘say’ on the canvas that is all important, and not how you are going to put on the paint or handle the thing.”


If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, please feel free to comment. Also, be sure to click that “Like” button. Thank you.

***If you would like to receive this weekly blog automatically, please complete the simple form on the bottom right of this page. To receive my monthly newsletter complete the form on the top right. Thank You.

I’m pleased to offer both of my instructional videos and book as a complete set for the first time. They may also be purchased individually. All are best sellers and include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)

For those that have purchased the book, I invite you to join our new Facebook Group – “Limited Palette Unlimited Color”. If you qualify, I hope you’ll join us. Check us out on Facebook. HERE is the link.


Want to take your painting to the next level? I can help. Click HERE to learn about my critique/mentoring programs.


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE


Please Note - You must be logged into a Facebook account in order to write comments. We highly recommend using Google Chrome, Fire Fox, or Internet Explorer since some individuals have not been able to leave comments on the Safari browser. If you have any issues, please email me.