Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Sharpie drawing No. 17: Crazy Orifice Assortment

"The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself, and this society has become fatally entangled in it."---Herbert Marcuse.

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On Joan Miro and Barcelona

There was a good article in yesterday's Guardian Newspaper (UK) about a forthcoming show of Joan Miro's work at the Tate in London.

I remember when I was living in Barcelona, studying for my Fine Art MA, that an extremely pleasant way to spend an afternoon was to do the following: walk through the Barrio Xino and then across to the hill of Montjuic; climb the staircases up to the top of the hill, then walk through the park to the Fundacio Joan Miro; look around the galleries for a while, and then sit in the outdoor cafe, which was in a small courtyard with a fountain in it in a quadrangle formed by the museum buildings. You could sit there for hours, with the sun warming your face, chatting to friends, before maybe walking over and taking the cable car down and across to the other side of the port.

The clip above is from a French film about the great man (thanks to Figaro Magazine). If, like me, you understand some French and Catalan, you'll get what he's saying about his art being rooted in Catalonia. There's also an interview with Antoni Tapies talking about Miro. (Click here to see my Meditation on Antoni Tapies and Barcelona.)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Project Cabrini Green

Speaking of public art projects, a colleague of mine at Columbia College was involved in a really impressive work called Project Cabrini Green.

Cabrini Green is (soon to be was) a set of high rise buildings that were put up decades ago as part of Chicago's progressive public housing schemes. Eventually they fell prey to the widespread problems of urban blight and poverty, and Cabrini Green became a notorious byword for inner-city housing gone wrong. All but one of these 'projects', to use the American term, have come down, and the last one is being demolished starting today.
1230 N. Burling, scheduled for demolition, with LED installation
Of course, if you lived there, it was pretty tough to carry the stain of living in (gasp) "Cabrini Green". So artist Jan Tichy organised a huge project that worked with the remaining members of the Cabrini Green community to capture and record their own words, and translate the sounds of their voices into a series of LED displays that pulse according to the rhythms of their voices. These LED displays were installed inside the rooms of the final building, and they will go on blinking, clearly visible from the street, while the demolition continues, and until the last brick of Cabrini Green is gone forever. Video of what that looks like here. And a live feed on the project website, here. The live feed is also being fed to the foyer of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.

My colleague, Bobby Biedrzycki, helped out in some of the workshops with the Cabrini Green residents. (Bobby gave me an unusual interview last year.) Congratulations to him and to all who were involved in this beautiful and rather melancholic project.

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On my next public art project

I've just signed the contracts for a public art project that I was chosen for in the middle of this month.

It's for the city of Urbana, Illinois, which is a small city (population 40,000) in the middle of the state. Most of the   University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a huge educational powerhouse, is housed within the Urbana city limits. Maybe that has something to do with its civic pride, and the fact that it has a vibrant public arts program. A curious fact is that in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's mentioned that Hal, the killer computer, was programmed in Urbana, IL.

The project that I submitted was a variation on the community memoir/luminary project that I did last year together with Patty. It's called 'IN URBANA, I ...', and the concept is this: I interview residents of on the street, and ask them to complete the sentence 'In Urbana, I ...' in any way that they choose -- for example, 'In Urbana I go to college,' 'In Urbana I fell in love,' 'In Urbana I raised a family.' As the participant writes down their sentence, I take a smartphone photo of them and upload it to a Facebook page. The Facebook page will also be used to solicit more sentences and photos. When I get to somewhere between 100-200 contributions, I will print the faces and corresponding sentences onto a big display (format to be determined). That will be exhibited in a public space in Urbana for a while. One proposed spot would be outside the Urbana Free Library:

There are a few important differences between last year's project and this. First: I've received a $2,000 grant to complete it. I intend to raise another $2,000 from other sources. Second: I'm flying solo on this one, though I might get some students from the university to intern for me. Third: one of the things I learned from last year is to make the barrier for participation as low as possible, or to make it as easy as possible for people to make a contribution. Last year, Patty and I ran a series of two hour workshops, and the hardest thing in the world was to make people turn up. This way, people either say yes or no. If no, it's on to the next person.

I've already sent out the first press release. In the next few weeks I'll put together the timeline for the project. Stay tuned for more news.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sharpie drawing Number 16: How Now Miaow Cow

"Art continues in late capitalism. It might be the case that it is co-opted, but again that would mean something in terms of the recipient of art but not to the work of art itself."---Herbert Marcuse, from a 1978 interview.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 31: Playtime with squiggly

I took some of the acrylic shapes that had dried overnight, and placed them on top of a heavily textured and stained panel:

What you're looking at are collage elements, that I can pick up and place anywhere on the surface before I glue them down.

An idea is beginning to form that may, in fact, lead me to create some pictures that actually look like they are from the same hand!

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 30: Squiggly

The painting that I spent most time on didn't register well in the photo I took, probably because I glazed it in yellow again. I did have this one, though:

It's a 6" x 6" panel, with several layers of drawing separated by thick layers of clear tar gel. The drawing was mainly doodling, to see how the process would look, but in the end I quite like the picture anyway.

And before I left, I laid down a whole load of shapes in thick acrylic gels/paint, to use as collage elements when they are dried (they're on a plastic sheet so I can prise them free later):

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On 'Ocean' by Philip Guston

Meditation Number 62 is a return to Philip Guston, this time at the other end of his career. This is a painting I saw for the first time in San Antonio three weeks ago.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Do you want to join my mailing list?


I'm Philip Hartigan, and I'm the artist who writes this blog you're visiting. Thanks so much for stopping by, when there's so much to see these days on the internets.

I make prints, paintings, books, and installations. I was born in the UK, and I now live in Chicago, USA. I was thinking how it would be great to keep more in touch with people who visit this blog, so I want to ask you if you would do this:

  1. Go to the Contact Me page.
  2. Join my mailing list.
  3. I will immediately send you one of my hand-made prints (add your physical address in the Message box) -- WHEREVER you live in the world.

It's a secure connection, so only I will see your details. And I hate spam and advertising as much as you do, so I will never share your information with any scumbag marketers.

This way, I can send you an occasional newsletter, to let you know in advance of some of the exciting projects that I'm going to work on this year, and the interviews with the fascinating people that I post on this blog.

The fun starts by clicking here.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

On Sharpie Drawing No. 15: Memories of BC

"The utopia in great art is never the simple negation of the reality principle but its transcending preservation (Aufhebung) in which past and present cast their shadow on fulfillment. The authentic utopia is grounded in recollection."---Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Sharpie Drawing No. 14: Starfish parrot with boy pretending to fly

"Art breaks open a dimension inaccessible to other experience, a dimension in which human beings, nature, and things no longer stand under the law of the established reality principle. Subjects and objects encounter the appearance of that autonomy which is denied them in their society."---Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension. 
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 29: Pour and draw

Also when in doubt, I pour:

And I draw:

Those two words rhyme, by the way -- at least with an English accent like mine. Here in Chicago, they would sound more like 'pore' and 'draaa'.

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City Guides for iPhone: app giveaway

I like walking. I walk at least a mile every day, just to stay in some sort of shape while I'm waiting for a recently injured tendon in my lower back to heal.

But I've always loved walking as a way of exploring the place where I live. I was born in the UK, and I've lived for periods of between six months and eight years in cities outside England: Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and now Chicago. Soon after I arrived in each of those places, I would get out onto the streets with a Walkers' Guidebook in hand, following the different itineraries to famous and not-so-famous places. Even when I lived in London, I used to do this sort of thing, doing the south-west London river walk that ended up in Kew Gardens;  the East End Jack the Ripper walk; the Bloomsbury walk; and so on. It's a great way to get to know a city, and needless to say you see so much more than taking even a bus tour.

Nowadays, there are some great apps out there that enable you to do all of this using a GPS-enabled phone. And as a matter of fact, the people at have just such City Guides for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch -- more than 2,000 of them, in fact.

They have kindly made three of these city walk iPhone apps available, free, to each reader of this blog who emails with the correct answers to the following quiz. Each app would normally retail for close to $5, but if you answer the quiz correctly and email your answers to, you can get three walking tour apps to cities of your own choice.

So, pens at the ready ..... Go!

1) Chicago is known under several names. How isn't it called?
a) the Windy City
b) the City of Big Shoulders
c) the City of Lights

2) Chicago’s downtown area is known as ... .The nickname refers to the area encircled by the elevated train tracks.
a) the Loop
b) the Hook
c) the Ellipse

3) Chicago is the birthplace among others of McDonalds, the chewing gum giant Wrigley’s and the cell phone giant Motorola. What sport has been invented here:
a) 16-inch softball
b) baseball
c) squash

4) At the time of its completion in 1974 the Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center towers in New York, and it held this rank for nearly 25 years, How many states are visible from its roof?
a) 3
b) 4
c) 5

5) Chicago is the third largest city in United States, its metropolitan area, commonly named "Chicagoland,"being the 27th most populous metropolitan area in the world. What American cities are more populous than Chicago?
a) New York and Houston
b) Los Angeles and New York
c) Philadelphia and New York

6) Chicago is home to the largest population of ... in the world, except Warsaw:
a) Poles
b) Czechs
c) Serbs

7) In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project. Since then the Chicago River is the only river in the world that:
a) flows North in the Northern Hemisphere
b) flows backward
c) the only river in the world that flows both northwards and southwards across the line of the Equator

8) Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is the patron saint of what country?
a) Ireland
b) Scotland
c) Poland

9) The Art Institute of Chicago has one of the largest and most extensive collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world. Which of these painters was not an impressionist:
a) Monet
b) Cezanne
c) Dali

10) The University of Chicago is the site of the world's first:
a) atomic reaction
b) unmanned flight
c) extraterrestrial encounter

One more time: email your answers to

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 28: When in doubt ...

... draw lots of circles (coal mountains):

... or slather a layer of mo(u)lding past all over it:

One day, I KNOW that I will actually make two paintings that look like they are by the same artist.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 26: Drawing and Iridescence

I spent a lot of time drawing randomly on a couple of heavily textured panels, using airbrush paint and a fine brush. When I'd filled up the space, I took an electric sander to them to roughen them up and tone them down a bit. I started drawing in pencil on one of them, and finally I coated them both with a semi-transparent layer of pearl iridescent colour:

Not sure about whether the smaller panels work with so much going on in them:

I always think that the only way you know when to stop is after you've gone too far.

Talking about painting, of course.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

On new friends

Not my cat.
It's taken me a year to figure out that if I want to reply via Google Connect to the excellent people who are using that method to follow this blog, then I too have to become a follower of my own blog -- which I didn't before because I thought it might look like a desperate attempt to inflate my numbers.

And to think, I used to work in the IT industry full-time.

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On my panel contribution to Story Week 2011

So I was on a panel at Columbia College Chicago's Story Week Festival, and above is a rough cut of the video that was shot during the event. By the way, that opening image is of Dan Sinker, the journalist who did the whole fake Rahm Emmanuel Twitter account thing. Two points: a) he teaches at Columbia College; b) if you don't follow American politics or know about the recent Chicago mayoral election, you won't know what the hell I'm talking about.

The whole video gives you clips of the events that took place throughout the day. If you can't wait, and want to skip to the part where Patty introduces our panel, it's at about the 4 minute 38 second mark.

The panel I was on was called Story and the Arts. Patty (my wife, the writer whose debut short story collection has just been published, Associate Professor in the Fiction Writing department, etc) had the idea of asking people who work in a broad range of disciplines at Columbia to give 15 minute presentations about their own work, speaking to the theme of how they use (or work against) story/narrative in their field.

The contributors were: Darrell Jones, dance; Tony Trigillio, poetry; me, visual art; Audrey Niffenegger, writing/printmaking; Bruce Sheridan, film-making; Rod Slemmons, director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography (which is part of CCC).

Darrell led off by performing a piece that mixed dance/movement, taped sounds and music, and spoken word. There's an all-too brief segment of that at about 4:45 in the above clip. To be quite frank, it was, to quote the Bard, abso-fucking-lutely fan-fucking-tastic. Poor rest of us, who had to follow him.

Tony discussed the battle in contemporary poetry between experimentation and narrative, and then discussed one poem from his latest collection, which inhabits the world of Lee Harvey Oswald from the late 1950s till his death.

I also talked about the tension between narrative and process/materials in my own work. As examples, I chose a few of my James Joyce etchings, one of my installations, and the sound/print collaboration I did with Patty, based on her grandfather's archive of letters and photos.

Audrey seemed to welcome the opportunity to NOT talk about 'The Time Traveller's Wife' but instead to take a canter through her printmaking work, which goes back nearly 20 years to the time she was at the School of the Art Institute. I had a great discussion with her afterwards about etching, aquatint, and the other esoteric recipes of printmaking. When one printmaker meets another printmaker, they generally recognise a fellow soul: someone who knows things that normal human beings simply have the common sense not to gent involved in.

Bruce showed two clips from one of his films, about a New Zealand writer from the mid-twentieth century. He had really fascinating things to say about the relationships between the spoken word and the visual space in film.

Finally, Rod showed examples from exhibitions that have been mounted at the MCP, including work by Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, and others, focusing on photographers who played around with narrative expectations that arise from the 'reality' of photos, and other artists who incorporated (and excluded) text in their photos.

The discussion afterwards was carried out in front of a somewhat thinned out audience. This happened because the previous panel ran late, and we didn't start taking questions until after 6 pm. But we got great questions from the audience, there was a lively and engaged back-and-forth between the panellists, and everyone agreed afterwards that it had been of great value. This was confirmed by the emails that flew around amongst the contributors on Friday, saying how energized everyone felt by seeing the work of their fellow contributors. I guess that includes me -- but I have to say, if you want to have your mind blown, check out Darrell Jones' work first.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

New pages on this blog

I'd like to draw your attention to a few new pages that I've added to this blog. The 'Gallery' page has some slideshows of my most recent work - the stuff that I'm currently working on in my studio - which also link to full Flickr photo albums.

The 'Instaphotos' page is just a fun set of snapshots that I take with my phone and upload to Twitpic. Usually they are art-related in some way.

And finally, I have added a 'Contact' form, which provides a secure link to send me a message. If you're willing, you can also add your details to my contact list, in order to receive newsletters about my activities, and previews of new work before anyone else sees it.

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And the winner is ...

Not my cat.
A few minutes ago, I took the names of all the people who responded to my recent call to 'Follow' this blog, wrote their names on individual pieces of paper, folded the pieces of paper up, threw the folded pieces of paper around in the antique hat, swirled my hand around in the hat for ten seconds, closed my eyes, and pulled out a piece of paper.

On that piece of paper was the name:


So Viki is the winner, and she will receive this handmade artist's book:

Thank you to the people who decided to follow this blog, either via the Facebook Networked Blogs application, or the Google Connect or RSS subscription services.

And another thank you to the people who've been reading this blog for a while. Next week I'll tell you about another special giveaway that everyone who reads this blog can enter.

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On the 'Noa Noa' woodcuts by Paul Gauguin

This is video-tallk-meditation number 61, and it mainly expresses admiration for the woodcuts that Gauguin made for his Tahitian journal, called Noa Noa ("fragrance"). This follows on from my post yesterday, about a superb piece on NPR that talked about the Gauguin exhibition that has just opened at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Sharpie Drawing No. 13: Coal mountain vortex boy

"Liberating subjectivity constitutes itself in the inner history of the individuals—their own history, which is not identical with their social existence."---Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension.

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On Paul Gauguin and National Public Radio

The worst political party in any advanced democracy -- the US Republican Party -- has ginned up its dim-witted followers into thinking that if it defunds National Public Radio (roughly equivalent to BBC Radio 4) they will magically cure the deficit and abolish all that is evil in the culture.

Every second that NPR is on air, it provides evidence that it is the most editorially balanced news service in the USA -- in fact, it is maddeningly even-handed to anyone of real leftist sympathies.

Then it airs pieces that are extremely good even by its own high standards. One such was Susan Stamberg's spot on 'Morning Edition' the other day, about the Paul Gauguin show at the National Gallery in DC. I blogged a little about this when it opened in London last year. Look out for my next video talk, which will be on Gauguin's NoaNoa.

If you didn't hear the NPR piece, the following link will open the page where you can play the podcast, or read a transcript of the entire segment. Well worth your while.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On my new blog followers

Follow this blog NOW and you can still win this book!
Thank you if you are one of the people who recently responded to my 500th blog post by signing up to follow this blog. I am very grateful when anyone tells me they're reading what I post, but it's also nice to see the names and profile pictures over there in the right-hand column, too.

In just a few days, I will put all the names into a hat - a literal hat, by the way, that I bought from an antique store a few years ago - and then I'll announce who won the artist's book.
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Day 25: Sanding, drawing, coating

Pushing on with the same panel. I sanded the surface to make the painted marks lighter and to add some highlights here and there:

Then I drew some more shapes using a pencil:

And then I coated the whole thing with a layer of gloss medium:

Bon profit a tot hom!

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