Friday, January 30, 2009

Art & Soul

Sculptures by artist Audrey Flack

Excerpt from Art & Soul, Notes on Creating by Audrey Flack:

The element of time in the creative process is similar to dream time. It stretches and contracts as you work. You can work on something for weeks and weeks and nothing will happen, and yet something can transpire in only an hour. The last five minutes of dream time can process data of epic proportions, and yet one needed the entire night's sleep to arrive at the dream images.

Sunshine & Noir

Thomas Michael Alleman's series of black and white photographs of L.A. and New York, shot using Holga toy cameras :

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vintage Paper Moon Photographs

There is a wonderful collection of vintage paper moon photographs on Flikr.  Looking through them, it is fun to see the different people posing, their variety of expressions, and all the different ways the moon is drawn.  

See them all here: 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Portraiture Now: Feature Photography

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., has a current exhibit called Portraiture Now: Feature Photography.  It will be up through September 27, so I hope to see it this spring or summer.  

The show highlights the work of six photographers whose work has been featured in popular publications such as The New Yorker, while offering a variety of perspectives on how we see ourselves today.

Below are two photographs from the exhibit.  The first one is by Alec Soth, and the second is by Steve Pyke.

Here is another image I found by Steve Pyke of a cyberpunk.  It is wildly different from the above image, aside from being a black and white photographic portrait.  I find the contrast between the two images intriguing.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Michelle Obama portraits

These elegant portraits of our First Lady To-Be were taken by Annie Leibovitz and featured in Vogue. ("To-be" now in just about an hour!  A historic day!) 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Andrew Wyeth

We lost a very important American painter today, Andrew Wyeth.  

(His self-portrait, above, wearing Howard Pyle's boots, crossing a field in Chadds Ford.)

We journeyed to Chadds Ford, PA, a couple of years ago to visit the Brandywine River Museum which is home to the biggest collection of three generations of Wyeth art, and where you can tour through N.C. Wyeth's (Andrew's father's) studio.  Each Wyeth artist has their own style they are known for, and Andrew painted beautiful, quiet landscapes and sensitive, thoughtful portraits in earthy colors with an emphasis on texture.  He found inspiration in the Pennsylvania landscape, finding significance and beauty in such small things as hair from a horse's tail caught in a fence, or disappearing snow on a vast, open field, or wind blowing a curtain.

Here is a lovely portrait from his Helga series:  

Links to today's articles about Andrew Wyeth's death:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Magnolias for Pittsburgh

It's mid-January, but Chicago sculptor Tony Tasset's Magnolias for Pittsburgh still blooms. The first time I saw these scuplted trees, I reached up to touch a blossom before fully believing they were not real. The trees are located in the Seventh Street and Penn Avenue Parklet, a space the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust uses to exhibit rotating art pieces. Each tree is cast in bronze from one hand-sculpted replica, and has 800 blossoms painted with enamel.

Surrounded by five real magnolia trees, the sculptures blend in during the Spring. Today, on this grey winter day in Downtown Pittsburgh, with snow still lingering on the ground, they stand out as a bit of magic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Gift

The Gift, a book by Lewis Hyde, just celebrated its 25th anniversary this past year. Years ago, it was recommended to me by a college friend. It is described on the back of the book as "an inquiry into the place of creativity in our market-oriented society. Starting with the premise that the work of art is a gift and not a commodity, Lewis Hyde's revolutionary book ranges across anthropology, literature, economics, and psychology to show how the 'commerce of the creative spirit' functions in the lives of artists and in the culture as a whole."

The book goes from describing the gift-giving cycles of tribal communities where the richest man is the one who gives the most away and gifts are continually passed on, to the role of gifts in fairy tales, to the gifts of the modern artist. In a society where personal worth is commonly defined by the money one makes and we are driven by consumerism, it is refreshing to remember the value of the gift. Giving: acts of selfless love, and gifts: works created out of love, have life beyond commodities and things.

In these difficult economic times, it is interesting to see the success of Etsy as a new company, and a return toward valuing the hand-made and one-of-a-kind over factory-made. This is seen also in food: valuing home-made over shipped in and heated up, and preferring foods that are "organically grown" and "farm-fresh" over chemically enhanced or processed foods. Are people growing wary of fast-paced production, and more skeptical of the 'canned' identities promoted through advertising? Are our compressed communications with one another making us more isolated, and is that isolation driving us to seek reminders that we are human, and that the people around us are also human? Does art, created out of something as spiritual and intangible as imagination, offer a bit of the evidence of humanity we are looking for?

Thank you, to whoever drove to our house on Friday night, shoveled the sidewalk right in front of our house, and the walkway and steps up to our porch, and then hopped back in their car and drove away in the snowy night, without even knocking on our door to receive thanks and praise for their deed.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tilt-Shift Photography

Tilt-shift photography can make a subject look like a miniature-scale model of itself. My co-worker showed me this wonderful collection of tilt-shift photographs:

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pittsburgh's portraitists

Three of the greatest American portraitists were born right here in Pittsburgh. This is a little known, and hardly celebrated fact, except in the case of Andy Warhol thanks to the Andy Warhol Museum, one of just a handful of museums in the United States dedicated to an individual artist.

Here are the big three Pittsburghers' self-portraits:

Andy Warhol

Mary Cassatt

Philip Pearlstein

Process of a portrait

Below, you can see how I started by doing an under-painting in raw umber, sienna and white, laying down the major shapes and the lights and darks. This stage is just a very loose sketch, building a map for myself on the white surface, thinking of the composition as a whole without specific details. Then I painted the details in color, layering thin glazes to create more and more details on top of the more general shapes. You can see the left eye here is in the earliest stage of color, the first color I put down on top of the under-painting. (I usually begin color with the focal points and build everything in relation to those.)

Below is a close up of the layered colors that make the finished painting-- the eye has more shadows and light now. Because the contrasts of light and dark are high in this painting, you can still see the shapes of the different shades of color, particularly apparent on her forehead and neck. Thinking about shade as shapes of color rather than as gradients really helps to "sculpt" the face.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Here is an awesome New Year's commercial by a European energy company called Electrabel animating 300,000 candles with stop motion: