Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Footage of Jackson Pollock painting

A slightly grainy film, but fascinating nevertheless. Thanks to OtipodasHistorias for posting this on YouTube.

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On looking through old sketchbooks: 27

Six drawings of the Malecon, Havana, Cuba, 2001 (click on image to embiggen)
"Drawing and colour are not separate at all; in so far as you paint, you draw. The more the colour harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes."---Paul Cezanne.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Footage of Matisse talking about drawing & painting

Thanks to snakeBISHOP for posting this to YouTube. No subtitles, but he starts by saying "For me, painting and drawing are the same thing."

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Interview with artist Rebecca Moy

"Bound", acrylic on canvas, 44" x 60"
Artist Rebecca Moy is currently showing a series of abstract paintings at Gallery 180 in Chicago in which open, flat areas of colour, a profusion of hard-edged shapes, and all kinds of drawn marks and textures are layered to produce an optically spectacular experience. The exhibition of her work continues at Gallery 180, at the Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago, through January 2011.

Philip: How long have you been painting, and what led you to your life in the studio?

Rebecca: In some ways, I’ve been painting ever since I can remember. My mother would say that I took ‘Lite-Brites’ to a whole new level. I’ve been painting professionally for four years, but of course there’s this thing called life that happens while we’re living it and the dots are in multiples and take some time to connect. Once I decided to embrace painting fully, I’ve been free.

Philip: Your paintings are bursting with contrasting colours, flat areas and lots of finely delineated small shapes. How would you describe your process?

Rebecca: My process is a complete science. My subjects are a bit more curious. Everywhere I go, and everything I do, I am constantly painting in my head. There are the shapes and spaces between things, anything—and somehow they define my visual reality. I layer these ideas in real time as I transfer them from pigment to canvas. In general my works are abstract, but specifically my work aims to trigger memory of time, place and meaning, the emotionality of being, and its various masks.

Back to the science of my work. I love color. As acrylic paint bears no forgiveness, I have to plot the piece out in my mind so that fifty layers later--after methodically layering color over color, line over line, continually going back and forth--the background syncs with the foreground and completes the piece. I had to learn to control the viscosities and opacities of every color and its relationship with the colors behind and ahead of it, in relation to every compilation surrounding it, sometimes from six feet away.
"Against the Grain", acrylic on canvas, 44" x 60"
Philip: Technical question: are there any specific kinds of paint, brushes, medium that you use to achieve your effects?

Rebecca: I’m a huge fan of Golden Acrylic Paints. I use cheap studio brushes because I quickly learned that the most expensive brushes don’t hold a fine line for any longer period of time.

Philip: Who is your ideal viewer? What do you want them to take away from your paintings?

Rebecca: My ideal viewer is everyone, perhaps no one. I want them to become mesmerized, to become lost in my lands of color and line. I want them to have an opportunity to experience a piece of themselves from my paintings, suddenly remembering something that makes them feel something that’s been with them for so long. I believe that my lines and colors are the structure and definition of who we are all becoming, one layer at a time.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Meditation on Delacroix's 'Massacre at Scios'

After posting all those extracts from Delacroix's journal, I thought I would talk about one of his paintings in the weekly Meditation on Art. Is this painting in the Louvre? I think I remember seeing it there on my last visit. One thing that the internet can never replace is the experience of seeing a huge canvas like this one, nearly eight feet tall, and all the physical space that this allows the eye to explore.

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On how to teach drawing

On Monday I'll be doing a class with some writing students in which I take them through some basic drawing techniques and then lead a discussion on how this might help their writing. I believe deeply in the idea of drawing as 'expressive mark making', and that you can start drawing using the simplest gestures and shapes. But I also thought this diagram, which I saw on Andrew Sullivan's blog 'The Daily Dish', was pretty funny:

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Delacroix's final journal entry

From a journal entry dated June 22, 1863:

"The first quality in a picture is to be a delight to the eyes. This does not mean there need be no sense in it; it is like poetry which, if it offend the ear, all sense in the world will not save from being bad. They speak of having an ear for music: not every eye is fit to taste the subtle joys of painting. The eyes of many people are dull or false; they see objects literally, of the exquisite they see nothing."

The journals ends on this date. Seven weeks later, on August 13, 1863, Delacroix died at the age of 65.

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On Winslow Homer and Thanksgiving

Ava, a friend who lives in Texas (though she always points out that her heart belongs in San Francisco), pointed me to the above print by Winslow Homer. It was commissioned in 1860, when he was 24 years old, and it's actually an acid political cartoon about the starving poor and the gorging rich. So nothing much has changed there, then. Here's a link to the New York Times article, too:


Gobble Gobble!
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Delacroix on self-belief

From a journal entry dated March 8, 1860:

"An artist should not treat himself like an enemy. He ought to believe that there is value in what his inspiration has given him."

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On 10 American artists I give thanks for

This is just a group of the Abstract Expressionists

  1. Marsden Hartley.
  2. Milton Avery.
  3. Alexander Calder.
  4. Mark Rothko.
  5. Jackson Pollock.
  6. Franz Kline.
  7. David Smith.
  8. Philip Guston.
  9. Louise Bourgeois.
  10. Andy Warhol.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Delacroix on dedication

From a journal entry dated January 27, 1860:

"The practice of an art demands  a man's whole self. Self-dedication is a duty for those who are genuinely in love with their art."

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On Kensington Gardens & Anish Kapoor, footballer

When Patty and I were in London 10 days ago, we were staying in a hotel in Lancaster Gate, overlooking the northern side of Kensington Gardens. We took a stroll through the gardens in the hour before it got dark, enjoying the autumn leaves strewn over the pathways, and the feel of the warm moist English November air on our faces. As we walked down to the Serpentine, the river that snakes through the gardens (really a big park adjacent to Hyde Park), we saw this on the opposite bank:

It was a huge stainless steel disc, easily at least twelve feet high, looking boldly out of place in such a leafy setting. I wasn't sure what it was, but I guessed that it must be a sculpture of some sort, and I had the feeling that I'd seen it before. Sure enough, when I got back to the USA, I looked it up and found out that it was Anish Kapoor's 'Sky Mirror', which I had seen several times on Rockefeller Plaza in New York City:

I think it worked better in New York. On the evening that I saw it in London, the sky was so flat and grey that the mirror didn't really reflect anything. As a piece of public art, I think it's so minimal as to be almost a provocation. At least the 'bean' in Chicago impresses with its size, and has an attractively playful element to it.

Here's an anecdote about Kapoor: back in the early 1990s, a friend of mine who lived in West London used to play in the same Saturday pub football (soccer) league as Anish Kapoor. My friend told me that there was this short, stocky guy who could run pretty fast, and who used to go in for tackles that were considered just a little too enthusiastic for a Saturday pick-up game. In fact, his tackling was so aggressive that on one occasion it nearly led to a fight. If you ever hear Kapoor talking about the spiritual and meditative nature of his work, you'll see the irony.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Delacroix on audacity

From a journal entry dated January 15, 1860:

"It takes great audacity to dare to be oneself, and this quality is particularly rare in a period of decadence like the present."

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On looking through old sketchbooks:26

Vermont woods, 2000
"The very act of drawing an object, however badly, swiftly takes the drawer from a woolly sense of what the object looks like to a precise awareness of its component parts and particularities."---Alain de Botton. 

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Monday, November 22, 2010

On another webby mention of the giant luminaries

One thing I've noticed when I 'google' myself (and who doesn't, from time to time?) is that what I think are fresh mentions of my name, or information about me, are really more like reprints of existing information that are picked up by these sites or blogs that just trawl the internet and aggregate together articles on similar topics. This seems to be happening with the article about the luminaries on Inhabitat, the green website that published an article about the project last week. It seems to have appeared on another site called agreenliving.org. It's basically the same information in a different place, but I'll take that as more publicity for the Carroll County public art project.


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Meditation on Francis Bacon's studio

I saw this when I was in Dublin at the beginning of 2010, and had no idea it was there when I went into the Hugh Lane gallery for a look around. Bacon was one of the early additions to my pantheon of painters when I was a teenager, so it was a welcome surprise to see the studio that I felt I knew so well from reading so many accounts of it.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Painter/printmaker Nathan Oliveira dies

Nathan Oliveira, a great painter and printmaker, has just died at the age of 81. My etching teacher introduced me to his work in the 1990s, and I always loved the way he combined figuration with abstraction. Click the following link to see some of his work:


And click the next link to see some nice interviews with him, recorded for the SFMOMA in 2000:


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Friday, November 19, 2010

On Tsotsi

Last night in the Story in Fiction and Film class, we screened 'Tsotsi', the recent film made from Athol Fugard's 1962 novel. The novel was the assigned work of long fiction for this semester, and as part of the festivities I gave away the above cartoon drawing to the first student who answered a simple question about South Africa. Note that I always sign these little things, in the hope that the winning student will treasure it for decades, and then one day will be able to sell it at Sotheby's for thousands of U.S. bucks.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Van Gogh, one last time

In honour of posting my last extract from Van Gogh's letters, here is early 1970s schmaltz-and-cheese-meister Don McLean's horribly sentimental, and of course utterly beautiful, song about you know who (thanks to folkman123 for posting it on the You Tubes):

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On playing around in the studio

New York gallery owner Edward Winkleman recently wrote a post on his always-interesting and entertaining blog about the importance of accidents and play when an artist is working in the studio. It comes in a blog post subtitled "Scratch a Conceptual Artist, Find a Painter." Not that I have anything at all against conceptual artists. Some of my best friends, etc ....
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Article about the giant luminaries in 'InHabitat'

(Apologies to email and Facebook friends who have already seen this).

A short article about the giant luminaries for the recently-completed Carroll County Community Memoir project has just been published in InHabitat, a great web magazine devoted to all things green in architetecture, design, art, technology.


I've been following Inhabitat for nearly a year now, and it publishes information on the most amazing things. I guarantee that if you spend a few minutes reading its pages, you'll discover possibilities with sustainable design that you've never even dreamed of. The things that artists do, too, can be spectacular, so I'm quite chuffed, as we Anglos say, that the luminaries created by me, Michael Johnson, and Ryan Bess have been included.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Delacroix on talent

From a journal entry dated March 1, 1859:

"There is something naive, and at the same time daring, about the dawn of an artist's talent, not unlike the graces of childhood and just as happily careless of the conventions that govern grown-up people. This is what renders still more astounding the daring which the greatest masters displayed towards the end of their careers. To be bold when one has a reputation to lose is the surest sign of strength."
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On looking through old sketchbooks: 25

Coniston Water, UK, 2000
"I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen." -- Frederick Franck.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Van Gogh’s last letter

From a letter dated July 24, 1890:

“As far as I am concerned, I am giving my canvases my undivided attention. I am trying to do as well as some painters I have loved and admired.”

Three days later, either in the grip of an attack or in fear at the onset of one, he went out into the wheat fields near Auvers in northern France and shot himself. He did not die immediately, but stumbled back to the house of Dr. Gachet, with whom he was supposedly recuperating from previous attacks. Theo rushed from Paris to be with his brother, and two days later, on July 29, Vincent Van Gogh died in his brother’s arms.
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Rare film of Claude Monet painting

Kudos to nickwallacesmith for posting these rare clips of Claude Monet, talking to a chap in a straw boater (look at Monet's nose: do you think he drank much??), and then painting in his Giverny garden.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Delacroix on his models

From an inscription in the flyleaf of his 1859 Journal:

“Addresses of models given to me by Corot:

Madame Hirsch, rue Lamée, No. 6. Superb head, brunette, same type as la Ristori.

Adele Rosenfeld, rue du Marché-Sainte-Catherine, No. 5. Reclining pose seemed to me superb.

Josephine Leclaire, rue de Calais, No. 4. Very elegant, beautiful figure, thin arms.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Van Gogh on portraits

From a letter dated June 3, 1890:

“I should like to do portraits which will appear as revelations to people in a hundred years’ time. In other words, I am not trying to achieve this by photographic likeness but by rendering our impassioned expressions, by using our modern knowledge and appreciation of colour as a means of rendering and exalting character.”
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