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

“Art and Human Nature”

Venus of Willendorf, ~23,000 BC. No art had ever been created in the world before this sculpture.


One of the fun things about working at the library is emailing academic journal articles to myself for free through the university. It’s fun because they’re meant to be for students so I feel like I’m stealing knowledge. I found one article called “Art and Human Nature”  by Noel Carroll (The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 62, blah, blah.) I was interested in it because I always like finding ways to justify trying to make paintings for a living. I mean, it’s not like it really helps anyone. So this article talks about why art evolved.

The author starts by giving a definition for art and why we can say all human cultures have created it:

“There are certain very frequently recurring features in a great deal of what are called artworks across cultures, including their embodiment in a sensuous medium that calls for an imaginative response to their decorative, representational, emotive and symbolic properties. Also these things are typically the product of the application of skills, acquired from a tradition, and they address both feeling and cognition, often affording pleasure.”

“Art” as described above is universal, and something universal wouldn’t have evolved without having adapted advantages. Art for art’s sake is just a modern spin, the roots of art are a lot more primitive. These are some ways that the articles suggests art has been beneficial to human evolution:

Imagination Practice

Having an imagination and being able to think about how things could be, but aren’t, is a valuable adaptive asset that lets a person run cost-free trials of possible future events in their mind, and lets them arrange chains of events into meaningful wholes. Fictional stories, myths and narrative images are some of the oldest forms of art and are one of the most effective exercises of our ability to do that.

"Garden of Earthly Delights" by Bosch. It could happen!


Also, being able to empathize with and understand others through the imagination is an important part of sociability, which is an important part of human survival, which brings us to…

Mind Reading

Art is often a creative expression by a person or group that’s then experienced and understood by someone else. Some music is “happy” or an actor’s face is “angry” or a temple is “majestic,” etc. As social animals it’s vital to be sensitive to and able to interpret other people’s emotional states, something art allows us to refine. As the author says: “Art, in short, is one of the most important cultural sites we have for training our powers for detecting the emotions and intentions of others.”

"The Old Guitarist" by Picasso. I feel this is sad. Wikipedia says I'm right. Art interpreted.


Group Cohesion

Not only do individuals interpret art, people can respond similarly as an audience to an artwork. This is another important way art enhances sociability in humans by “quickening the social glue.” (Does alcohol count as art?) Groups of people laugh at the same parts in movies, bond over the same music or are affected similarly by religious objects, coordinating their emotions and creating group cohesion.

Obama's "Hope" poster by Shepard Fairey. Had me convinced.


Different cultures will create different art, just like they have different languages or religions, adapting them to their needs. Art encodes cultural information and embeds it in the mind where it’s accessible, creating shared understanding in a society.

What a douche.


Art Killed Neanderthals, is Badass

The author also mentions that evidence suggests the Cro-Magnon peoples possessed art and the Neanderthals didn’t. So there’s that.


Filed under Art History

Frasier Crane on Minimalist Art

“There is a difference between simple and deceptively simple.”

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Tiny Architecture

A tour of the Cube from Mike Page on Vimeo.

Lately I’ve been looking up tiny, environmentally-friendly eco houses. While I do think everyone ideally should live more efficiently, I should mention that I’m a pretty wasteful person. I drive two blocks to the store, I buy food that has 3 layers of packaging around it, and I think the most I can say is that I save water by being too lazy to shower or do laundry. Yes, I’m gross, but at least I’m doing something! Anyway, after living in a studio apartment I think living in a tiny, energy-efficient house is something I could possibly do since all I really need is a place to store food and internet.

But the important thing is that they look cool, and some of these designs get pretty creative with their tiny-ness.

The Hobbit House:

My favorites from this neat slideshow:

There’s this crazy thing you can buy:

An ecopod is another type of prefab home for sale:

And shipping container homes are a thing too:

Click here for more information!

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Filed under Inspiration

LBCC Graphic Design Show

LBCC graduates Jeff Hayes and Jace Hattig

The Linn-Benton Community College graphic design program has produced many great designers over the years, including a couple of guys that I met last year while backpacking through the impoverished villages of eastern Europe (pictured above.) Here are a few selections from this years graduating seniors show:

by Jace Hattig

The last photo is of an example of vinyl wrap that can be applied to cars for business advertising or general badassery. This design was created by LBCC graduate Jeff Hayes for Sign Works of Oregon, and won 2nd place in some sort of national car wrap design competition that I don’t feel like looking up right now, but trust me such a thing exists:

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Filed under Everyday Art

Beach Adventures

It’s a beautiful weekend outside! Here’s my peacock, Dudley, enjoying a nice beach day.

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Filed under Everyday Art, My Art

New York City Field Trip: Art Fairs

In 2008 I visited New York City for the first time, going with my mom to two of the annual art fairs, Red Dot and Pulse. When I was little my parents used to bring me to different art fairs in Oregon which were usually held outdoors with tents set up for each artist there to sell work. The New York City fairs were different by being indoors, for one, and in being more of a showcase on a national scale for artists and the galleries representing them. It was definitely a learning experience for me.

The first fair we visited was the smaller of the two, Red Dot, and was held in what seemed like basically a hotel with each little room holding a different gallery from around the country, showing works from their artists. These photos were unfortunately taken before I learned how to include an entire painting in a frame:

This was probably my favorite piece at that fair. They’re very lighthearted and unique, and to me look like thought bubbles. There were a couple other panels not pictured.

This pattern is made entirely by layers of spaghetti. I also spelled spaghetti right on my first try!

I change my mind. This is the best one.

The Pulse fair was more what I guess you would call “contemporary” art, and more fun as an audience because it was so showy. Individual pieces and artists were highlighted as opposed to Red Dot where the focus was the galleries. One thing that stands out to me about the kind of art there is that there was a lot done with neon lighting. A lot. I didn’t think it was that interesting, but there were tons of other great installations, sculptures, performances and paintings:

More work using light.


This oil painting was one of my favorites because of how lush and detailed the scene is, looking both contemporary and very classic at the same time which made it stand out.

This woman was having inkless tattoos of derogatory words done all over her body, placing paper with blood impressions of the tattooed words on the wall behind her as the performance went on. It was one of my first experiences with real-life performance art.

  Clearly the best.

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Filed under Everyday Art, Inspiration