Monday, February 28, 2005
Christo’s “Gates” and more musings on “what is art?”
Yesterday I spent several hours in New York’s Central Park, walking its paths and encountering “The Gates”. It was a wonderful experience: a panoply of color and movement, of intimate corners and broad vistas….and people, lots of people! But is it Art (with a capital A)?
My dictionary defines “art” as follows:
1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. 2. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; specifically, the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.
By these definitions, the Gates certainly qualify as art. They are indeed a human effort whose result is to supplement and alter a natural setting. Their appearance in the Park serves to highlight and enhance the dips and curves of the landscape, the wide open spaces and secret pathways. And the Gates encompass so many elements: static three-dimensional form, movement as the fabric lifts lazily in the breeze, or flaps when the wind is stronger, and brilliant color that changes as the light shifts.
An artist friend, asked to reflect on whether the Gates qualify as art, said yes: because they promote discussion and make viewers see in new ways. The juxtaposition of artifact (the Gates) and nature (the Park) adds an emotional dimension as well. Not only do we think and consider when looking at the project, we also form an emotional connection to the work because of the experience of walking through, under, around, and next to it. Art succeeds when it engages both our intellect and our emotions.
The Gates were installed for only two weeks. In a way, that finite time frame was part of the art, as well. A viewer said, “It will be really interesting when they’re gone.” Did she mean that our vision of the Park will be forever changed due to this interlude? Or are some beautiful things meant to be seen and absorbed, then left as memories ?
For more information about the Gates and Christo’s other works, go to www.christojeanneclaude.net
If you’d like a tour of the Gates, here are a series of wonderful photos taken by Midge Eliassen: Gates2.pdf
Friday, February 25, 2005
I read about something in the New York Times “Circuits” section yesterday that reminded me of how very broad and all-encompassing the word
art can be.
A group of French artists who live in Paris asked artists from around the world to capture the views from their windows. You can see the result at www.lappareil.com/window. It’s like spending a 30-second vacation in a variety of places, in the company of the artists who live there.
Yes, art can be personal and international, a door into adventure and fantasy. Enjoy it!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Instructor Hank McLaughlin on sketching
Hank McLaughlin‘s Tips on Sketching
1. Why is it important to develop the habit of sketching?
John Singer Sargent once said, “Sketch your hand once a day and you will become an artist.” Use your non-drawing hand as a model – fingers spread out, making a fist, etc. This improves your hand-eye coordination. Nearly anything we observe in nature will make a model for a sketch…a tree, rock, apple, etc. It is not what you sketch, draw or paint, but how well it is sketched, drawn or painted. Developing a habit to sketch spontaneously and often will improve all other aspects of your art. Your finished drawings will improve and so will your paintings. It has been said that Rembrandt sketched and drew as he breathed.
2. What are the different uses of sketches?
A sketch may be of a detail that can be added to a painting…such as an animal or human figure. A sketch can be a wonderful way to design a painting’s patterns in a simple way, with or without color, before actually painting. Sketching is also a great way to study the natural world’s beauty whether or not it ever leads to a painting. Begin sketching simple subjects at first: an apple on a table, a leaf, rock, etc. Beginners often attempt to sketch too complex subjects at first and as a result lose interest in the valuable and exciting practice of sketching.
3. What are the best materials to use?
Soft 2B-6B pencils and a sketch pad are the basics, but pastels, oil pastels, watercolor, felt tipped pens, colored pencils and even acrylic and oil paints can be used for sketching in color. Color sketches are not necessary, but worth a try. The sketching itself, regardless of medium, is most necessary.
4. How often should I sketch?
Once you begin and see its value over time, you will want to sketch every day.
5. What size sketchbook should I use?
It’s a matter of personal choice. Many artists carry a sketchbook that will fit into a pocket for quick sketches of people or any subject that attracts you while traveling. Some use a large pad, 20”x 24” or larger, on an easel or propped against a chair for sketching in a life class on cheap newsprint paper. They use something soft like vine charcoal to make many quick sketches to study the human form in various positions. Use sketchpads or sketchbooks of any size in between to fit the situation.
Mark English talks about Norman Rockwell
Many of the Founders of Famous Artists School were giants in the field of American art, and none more so than Norman Rockwell. Among our current Guiding Faculty, several artists knew Rockwell, and felt his influence as their own art careers developed.
Recently we asked Mark English to reflect on Rockwell and his significance for a generation of American artists. Here’s what he had to say.
Quite simply, Norman Rockwell was a genius at telling a story and caputring the real character of his subjects. Each of his paintings is a self-contained short story. There’s no need for any words—the story is all right there, in the faces of the people and in the situations. All of the covers that he created for the Saturday Evening Post had that quality of story-telling.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget that Rockwell, as a painter, was also a technical genius.
I met him about a year before he died. As you might expect, he was a friendly and witty man, who could tell a funny story with animation and zest.
I can’t say that he influenced me directly as an artist. My work is very different from his. However, I have always recognized him as the best illustrator that ever worked in the field. In fact, I think that his photo should accompany the definition of the word “illustrator” in the dictionary. There may have been others who were better artists technically, or who were more esthetically innovative, but no one defined the role of illustrator as well as he did.
Like Rockwell, I sometimes worked from photos of models. Of course, he was much better at it than I was! Now I’m mainly painting landscapes, but when I was doing a lot of illustration and figure painting, I used photos as a starting point, though I took liberties and seldom did real character studies. Although it’s now well known that Rockwell worked from photos (which were meticulously costumed and posed by him), he used to deny that he did! When he gave talks about his methods, he’d always say that he only worked directly from models. I remember Austin Briggs telling me that one day, he and Robert Fawcett (both were Founders of Famous Artists School) dropped in unannounced at Rockwell’s studio. The floor was covered with glossy photos of models for his current painting. Briggs told me, “We were all very polite. Nobody looked at the floor!”
There has been a resurgence of interest in Rockwell’s work lately, because the art world is just waking up to how good and important he was. And of course, the public has always loved his work. The large exhibition of Rockwell’s work that is now traveling around the United Sates has also brought him even more into the public eye. I understand that some of his paintings have sold for more than a million dollars. Also, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, has helped to enhance his reputation. I did a workshop there several years ago; it’s an impressive place, not only for its incredible collection of Rockwell’s work, but also for the number of people who visit every year.
There’s certainly a lot of nostalgia associated with the way we look at Rockwell’s paintings. They represent a time when life seemed to be simpler and more accessible. But they have great historical significance as well. Rockwell gave us a better image of life in the thirties, during the war years, and on into the upheavals of the sixties, than anyone else did.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the inaugural issue of insideART! All of us here at Famous Artists School are very excited about the launch of our beautiful new website and this online magazine. Here are just a few of the features we’re planning:
—conversations with Guiding Faculty members
—anecdotes from the Famous Schools archives
—“how-to” tips from our instructors and Faculty
—links to art-related websites and news
—profiles of our successful students and alumni
—and much more!
Beyond that, this is your magazine too! Write to us with your questions, comments, suggestions, and news. We hope that insideART will become an on-line community for artists everywhere.
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