Salvador Dali’s Guide to Making Art

"Melancholy, Atomic, Uranic Idyll" 1945

Sorry to anyone who noticed the no posts the past couple weeks (mom), but you can’t say you weren’t warned about the laziness!

“50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship”

The late 40’s were an interesting turning point in Salvador Dali’s career. The trauma of the atomic bomb caused him be interested in both more scientific and more spiritual themes, and in 1948 he wrote a book called “50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship,” a guide on how to be as great as Salvador Dali. Wanting to be as great as Salvador Dali, I bought the book.

Dali has always been one of my favorite artists. I think it’s because of how well he creatively manipulates symbols. Symbols are neat because they speak directly to the unconscious. They make up the language of visual art but need to be constantly re-imagined to be unique, something I could only hope to one day be as successful as Dali at.

Dali’s Atomic Mysticism:

In the first half of his career Dali focused on the symbolism of Freud’s emerging psychoanalytic theories. There was a lot of sex and excrement. I mean, he did plenty of other stuff too, but one of his main themes was unconscious thoughts and desires.

"The Lugubrious Game" 1929. Seriously, check out the guy at bottom right:

Dali was traumatized after the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima in 1945. His focus turned to the field of nuclear physics which he combined with a new interest in Christianity and what he saw as the ideal of renaissance painting.

"Dematerialization Near the Nose of Nero" 1947. Something about atoms, maybe? I mean, it says "atom" right in there.

Dali started a new spiritual era in his art that influenced everything he made from then on. His “Mystical Manifesto” explains the change during this time:

Many of the scenes I have painted in this period express the immense fear that took hold of me when I heard of the explosion of the bomb. I used my paranoiac-critical method to analyze the world. I want to perceive and understand the hidden powers and laws of things, in order to have them in my power. A brilliant inspiration shows me that I have an unusual weapon at my disposal to help me penetrate to the core of reality: mysticism… I, Dali, shall use my work to demonstrate the unity of the universe, by showing the spirituality of all substance.

"The Temptation of St. Anthony" 1946. One of my favorite paintings by anyone. Possibly THE favorite ever. I'll have to think about it.

Dali’s Secrets of Mystical Craftsmanship:

And now that I have read his book, and am therefore also a genius, let me share some of his secrets:

  • The painter must study architecture and avoid music. “Architecture will be for you a very superior ‘frozen music,’ since it addresses itself not to the ear but to the noblest organ, the eye.”
  • “Your studio must be situated close to the spot where you were born, and as, if you are to be a good painter, this spot must have an admirable natural setting.”
  • “When you are painting always think of something else.”
  • It’s not possible to paint everything that exists in the universe. The painter is limited to “only a few of them with fanatical constancy. The painter is above all one who likes this and who does not like that. This is known as ‘having taste.'”
  • On a scale of 0-20… Genius: Raphael-20 Dali-19 Mondrian-0. Craftsmanship: Raphael-19 Dali-12 Mondrian-0. Originality: Raphael-20 Dali-17 Mondrian-1/2.
  • “The two most beautiful and useful colors that exist are black and white, and the true nobility of the art of every colorist depends on the knowledge of how to utilize these as the basis of your pictorial work.”
  • A painter’s slumber takes practice. When napping one must lay holding a heavy brush upright and above a ceramic plate, so that when the brush drops out of your hands you wake up. A few moments of sleep is all you need to feel revived and any more will harm your work.
  • Create a telescope out of two magnifying glasses and a sea urchin skeleton through which you’ll view the painting to decide if it’s done or not. And because sea urchin skeletons are “very like the skeleton of heaven” you should always keep one somewhere in your studio to “constantly remind you of the celestial regions which the sensuality of your oils and your media might so easily cause you to forget.” It’s actually tripping me out a little that I’m reading about Dali’s urchin obsession today, since I just finished a painting of a sea urchin a few days ago (and gave it a cosmic title!) But I guess that shouldn’t surprise me now that I’m a mystical craftsman.
  • “The last secret of this book is that before all else it is absolutely necessary that at the moment when you sit down before your easel to paint your picture, your “painter’s hand” be guided by an angel.”


Filed under Art History, Inspiration

3 responses to “Salvador Dali’s Guide to Making Art

  1. S Wiarda

    I LOVE your new post!!! brilliant child.
    Only one minor typo. I think Hiroshima was in 1945.

  2. S Wiarda

    al, please “notifiy angelo AND ME of new posts via email!

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