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Showing posts from May, 2012

Just Leave It

That's the problem: I can't. Leave a picture alone, that is. I may have spoiled at least one of the small and large studies that I posted about before, but as I always say to students, you have to go as far as you can and risk spoiling something, so you know when to rein it in the next time. For the top, smaller one, I used India ink and a fine nib to draw lots of spidery lines, before collaging some more poured acrylic shapes on top. For the bottom, larger picture, I drew freely with red airbrush pigment from the bottle, then went back in with a brush and the pen-nib again. This is where I may have gone too far. 

Meditation on a painting by Wangechi Mutu

Number 101 in a continuing series of short talks on individual works of art. This time it's about a painting by New York painter Wangechi Mutu . Click here to see previous videos in the series.

The History of a Medium: Waste of Time?

Is it the case that an artist just creates in a vacuum, with no knowledge of the art that came before? Is it really true that it's better just to make your work, whether it be fiction, film, or painting, and not "spoil" or "taint" yourself by getting bogged down in the work of the past? Should you, when you go to college to study any of those arts, be prepared to consider the history of your chosen medium in an analytical way, or should you just learn how to hold a brush, focus a camera, and write a scene, and not bother with all that old stuff? Still from Federico Fellini's "I Vitelloni," 1953 It's an argument that is pertinent to the Film and Video Department of Columbia College Chicago at the moment, which as part of its academic prioritization process is facing the elimination of its Cinema Studies from the curriculum. Department Chair Bruce Sheridan, who I mentioned in my last blog post about the superb film/live orchestra event la

Muhly, Nyman, Campion, Daldry at Columbia College

I went to a great event last night at Columbia College Chicago: excerpts from the films "The Piano" and "The Reader", plus three 5 minute student films, all accompanied by a live orchestra. It took place in the movie studio space (big, cavernous, but acoustically good, believe it or not) of Columbia's prize-winning new media arts building. There were three screens, the central one showing the movies, the other two showing the orchestra, via a live relay from two cameras positioned on either side of the auditorium. In front was the 25 piece orchestra -- FulcrumPoint , an ensemble dedicated to new music, and led by the charismatic Stephen Burns. For "The Reader", they played Nico Muhly's music, which was surprisingly conservative for him, though the fact that it sounded like a tasteful movie soundtrack is not to detract from the experience of hearing it live. The student films had scores composed by Columbia students (who have since graduated a

Another Landmark for the Meditations

Here's what happened yesterday on the YouTube channel for the Meditations on Art series: See in the top right hand corner, where it says "Video Views"? It just passed the 100,000 mark. Again, compared to the cute cat videos to which I am addicted, it's a drop in the ocean. But in my particular bucket of YouTube water, it's significant. Thanks you to all and anyone who has watched and listened to these short talks. See them here .

Six of the Best, Part 16

Part 16 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity    ( Part 1 ,  Part 2 ,  Part 3 , Part 4 ,  Part 5 ,  Part 6 ,  Part 7 ,  Part 8 ,  Part 9 ,  Part 10 ,  Part 11 ,  Part 12 ,   Part 13 ,   Part 14 , Part 15 ) . Today's artist is Hazel Ang , a Canadian-born illustrator who now lives and works in Germany. "Suspense" Philip Hartigan : What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why? Hazel Ang : From 9 am to 6 pm I mainly use the computer, as I make vector illustrations, technical drawings, product renderings, and infographics for my day job. For my own personal projects I use acrylics, colour pencils and ink, and oils on paper or wood. It basically depends on what the piece calls for. Philip Hartigan : What piece are you currently working on? Hazel Ang : I’m working on a self portrait, as well as a sketchbook series of visually narrative illustrations exploring my current fixation on th

Some Non-Toxic Printmaking Results

I've been experimenting with non-toxic printmaking for a few years, and have even started teaching printmaking classes in the summer using these principles. What does "non-toxic" mean? It means that you try to replace all the chemicals used in the traditional printmaking processes -- many of which are now known to damage your health, as well as causing damage to the environment -- with agents that are safe to the user and can disperse harmlessly in the local water supply. As I've converted my own processes, I've discovered that nothing is really completely non-toxic. There always seems to be a residual pollution, but compared to the acids and tars that were formerly used, the difference is huge. In terms of what the new materials can give you in terms of mark-making, I have also found that certain things are easier to replace than others. The Akua range of soy-based printmaking inks, for example: I found it a little difficult at first to judge the correct amoun

Guest Post by Artist Susan Shulman

This is the second part of a dispatch from a visit to Europe by the three artists of the Seeking Kali Collective ( Part 1 here ). Today, artist Susan Shulman recounts what she saw in Paris -- including a visit to the apartment of the legendary Matthew Rose. Musee Maillol, Paris The week I spent in Paris was a non-stop cornucopia of art adventures. One of the highlights was to see the vast collection of Artemisia Gentileschi's painting at the Musée Maillol. I had admired her work for many years and was struck by the mystique surrounding her life, and the challenges she faced being a woman master painter in the 17th century. She was born July 8, 1593, and died approximately January 1654. She was apprenticed to and trained by of one of Rome's greatest painters, her father, Orazio Gentileschi. His style of painting was heavily influenced by Caravaggio and so was hers. Agostino Tassi, a colleague of her father, raped Artemisia at the age of 18 and these charges became publ

Guest Post by artist William Evertson

William Evertson is one of the three artists who make up the Seeking Kali collective, featured previously on this blog. Recently, the three artists met up in Belgium and France, and they kindly agreed to write up their visit for me. In Part 1, William Evertson describes what he saw in Leuven and Brussels. Tomowwo, in part 2, Susan Shulman writes about the Parisian part of the trip. From left: Susan Shulman, William Evertson, Ria Vnden Eynde. The  Seeking Kali  artist collective consists of me, Ria Vanden Eynde, and Susan Shulman. We live in three different countries and collaborate via social media and web tools. We rarely see each other in person, but we recently returned from Europe from our second ever get together, during which we combined some art business with cramming as many art exhibitions and museums into two weeks as possible. One of the first exhibits to catch our eye was Belgian artist  Christoph Fink ’s “Atlas of Movements” at the M – Museum Leuven, Leuven,

Finishing a piece

I made a final decision on that acrylic painting with dried acrylic shapes. The final arrangement was different, though. First, I spent time moving the shapes around on the painting until the right pattern just presented itself. The blue circle was a placeholder for the shapes, while I temporarily removed each one to apply the PVA glue: After applying the PVA glue, I carefully placed the dried acrylic shapes back on the picture, put some wax paper over them, and pressed firmly. The following picture shows me gluing one of the larger shapes: Et voila: the final painting (24" x 30"):

Six of the Best, Part 15

Part 15 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity    ( Part 1 ,  Part 2 ,  Part 3 , Part 4 ,  Part 5 ,  Part 6 ,  Part 7 ,  Part 8 ,  Part 9 ,  Part 10 ,  Part 11 ,  Part 12 ,   Part 13 ,   Part 14 )   . Today's artist is  L isa Beck , who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Double Burst, 2012, enamel on mirror mounted on painted masonite, each panel 12x12 inches, 12x 24 overall Double-Double, 2010, acrylic on mirror 96 x 144 inches Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why? Lisa Beck : That's a seemingly simple question, but I'm not sure how to answer the "chiefly" part, because I make many different kinds of things with many different kinds of materials. Seeing as I consider myself a painter, I guess the simple answer is paint (oil, acrylic, enamel, ink, gouache). I paint on wood panels, canvases, mylar, walls, and lately, glass mirror. I also make sculptur

Artist-Writer-Artist: Mira Schor

Artist Mira Schor has been working with text and image for several decades now, and Hyperallergic has a good interview with her to coincide with her latest show: Six Questions for Mira Schor About Text and Image : Mira Schor's "The Self, The Work, The World" (2012) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic) (click to enlarge) "Painter, author and critic Mira Schor’s current show at Marvelli Gallery delves into the world of language. The works on linen and paper chart a world where the individual appears in a form of stasis, holding a book or laptop, looking at things — windows, paintings, screens — and generating rectangles (and the occasional oval) which seem to speak, label, think and even dream ..."


When I have to give my quick description of my work to someone new, I say: " I make art based on personal narrative, mainly of being the son of a soldier in an English mining town." Sometimes that work is directly narrative, but sometimes the images take me in a more abstract direction. Today I went back to some works on paper that I did at the end of last year, and tried matching them with some poured acrylic shapes that I also made at the same time: Of the three, I think I like the first arrangement best. But I'll wait until I return to the studio, after sleeping on it, before I glue the dried acrylic shape down on the paper.

Six of the Best, Part 14

Part 14 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity    ( Part 1 ,  Part 2 ,  Part 3 , Part 4 ,  Part 5 ,  Part 6 ,  Part 7 ,  Part 8 ,  Part 9 ,  Part 10 ,  Part 11 ,  Part 12 , Part 13)   . Today's artist is Dan Schreck , who lives in Chicago. "Snail Mail Security Fifteen", 20" x 30" Philip Hartigan :   What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why? Dan Schreck :  Collage has been a mainstay for the past 2-3 years. I enjoy the limitations of the medium and always feel a challenge to rethink how I approach materials and tools. Philip Hartigan :   What piece are you currently working on? Dan Schreck :  I am currently working on  Snail Mail Security.  This is an ongoing collage series using found paper, the interiors of business envelopes. These collages are then photographed and printed as crisp, high resolution digital prints . "Snail Mail Security Four", 20

Lena Levin is Right

After my last blog post, expressing resignation at a bad first day back in the studio after a long absence, an online friend, artist Lena Levin , reminded me that good days often follow bad days. During my last studio day, I set aside the rubbish I'd been hacking at and tried out my new animation set-up: The toy soldier is a figure I've used frequently before . I bought a high resolution webcam, which can take still shots, and is now plugged directly into my Netbook, so that I can do stop-motion animation more easily. (Previously, I took all the shots on a camera, transferred them to the laptop, processed the hundreds of stills so that they weren't all a billion megabytes, etc.) In that photo above, I was experimenting with a dolly/tracking shot by taping the webcam to the roof of a toy London bus. In all, a more promising creative day ...

Frieze Fatigue

From Hyperallergic: A 360 view of one of the Frieze's many indoor open spaces (all photos by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic) (click to enlarge) "I love to look at art. Ever since I moved to New York, I have made a conscious effort to gradually build-up my art viewing stamina. When I first moved here, a quick trip to Chelsea would leave me overwhelmed and tired, my feet would hurt, my back would ache and my eyes would burn. Today, I am proud to report that when I have the time, I can happily go to Chelsea at 10am, stay till 6pm and have enough juice left over to go to a few openings and have a few drinks — I consider this a major accomplishment..." Read more

Back to the Studio

So I haven't been to my studio in a month, and have probably spent only three full days there in the last six weeks, what with finishing off the public art project, and ending the semester of teaching at Columbia College. After such a long absence, I got down to work straight away, and after several hours, the result was this: That's right: absolutely nothing of any worth at all. I try not to get too despondent about the bad days any more. It's good to be back in the studio again, and to get the bad stuff out of the way so that something better can arrive.

Six of the Best, Part 13

Part 9 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  ( Part 1 ,  Part 2 ,  Part 3 , Part 4 ,  Part 5 ,  Part 6 ,  Part 7 ,  Part 8 ,  Part 9 ,  Part 10 ,  Part 11 , Part 12 )   . Today's artist is painter and printmaker Thomas Bennett, who lives in Brooklyn, New York. "Guarded Sin," 2012, oil over monotype on paper, 16" x 20" Philip Hartigan : What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why? Thomas Bennett : I'm a painter and I work in two main media: oil on various supports and the monotype. Oil paint has been my main medium since my father introduced it to me as a child. I use multiple supports and grounds, from canvas to plastic to composite board to paper. The other medium I am strongly connected to is the monotype, the unique one-off print. It's painting and printmaking in one. I use oil based inks and oil paint on plexiglass, then pull a one-of-a-kind print after tr

Journal + Sketchbook: Postscript

After the last class on Thursday, one of the students from the Journal and Sketchbook class gave me a small graphic novel that he had made. It was created for another class, but in theory it was definitely something that would have been permitted as a final project for the J+S class. And it was so good I thought I would post images of it here (click on any image to display a larger version):