Monday, May 21, 2012
The Barnes Foundation in its new home
The Barnes Foundation, which opened in 1925 in a Philadelphia suburb, was known for offering art experts and novices alike a unique experience. Established by Albert Barnes in a mansion built especially to house his amazing collection, the museum was designed to provide a new way of looking at art. Combinations of paintings, many by masters like Renoir and Cezanne, with sculpture from Greece, Rome, and Africa, furniture and household objects, emphasized the commonalities among the pieces, and encouraged viewers to seek out themes and conversations.
Several years ago, after a complicated legal battle, the provisions of Barnes’ original plan were overturned, and the Foundation moved to new quarters in central Philadelphia. Although many feared that the move would change or dilute the Barnes experience, in fact the reality is different. The experience is much the same as before, but better: enhanced by the new setting, lighting, and accessiblity.
This article in the New York Times discusses highlights, and this interactive feature shows the rooms as they were in the old location—and as they still are in the new space. The Barnes experience is undiluted, and immensely satisfying.
Friday, May 11, 2012
FAS graduate publishes a book of her paintings
We’ve just had exciting news from our graduate, Norma Boeckler . She has published a coffee-table size book of her paintings, and it’s available here on Amazon. The book is a delight to the eye, including flowers, birds, portraits and landscapes. The introduction was written by FAS Head Instructor Hank McLaughlin. Best of luck and congratulations, Norma!
Friday, March 09, 2012
Remembering “Mac” McMahon
Franklin McMahon, a member of our Guiding Faculty, has died. “Mac” was a unique artist, with the ability to capture individuals and crowds with instant recognizability. As an artist/reporter, he was on the spot for many historical events across the decades. His obituary in the New York Times is accompanied by his illustration of a pivotal moment in the trial of the murderers of Emmet Till, a seminal event in the civil rights struggle.
We’ll miss Mac’s sense of humor and his generosity.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Introducing Hank’s Pithy Art Tips!
For all our Facebook and Twitter fans—and those of you that don’t yet follow us there—we’re introducing a regular new feature: Hank’s Pithy Art Tips! Check in with us every few days to see what helpful hint Hank McLaughlin recommends to solve some of the pesky problems that all artists encounter. The tips will be here on the blog, as well—so you can find them easily whenever you log in with Famous Artists School!
Here’s some background on Hank:
As an artist, Hank McLaughlin has a close relationship with nature. When choosing a subject to paint, he’s usually drawn to the natural world. But even though he tells his students that they’ll be more successful if they paint from nature, he reminds them that they don’t have to go on a camping trip to do it. As he says, “Go to the refrigerator and take out a couple of apples. That’s nature!”
That’s the kind of humorous, down-to-earth touch that characterizes both Hank’s approach to art and his work with students. He’s a well-rounded artist who is comfortable in a wide spectrum of mediums, from oil pastels, pencil, charcoal and pen and ink right through watercolor, acrylics, and oil paints. He’s even dabbled in sculpture and woodcarving.
His formal art education began at age 18, when he admired the work of Harold Wolcott, a noted painter. Mr. Wolcott invited Hank to study with him. After two years, Hank moved on to the Art Students League in New York City, and later studied at Paier School of Art in Hamden, Connecticut.
For many years, Hank combined his own painting with a full-time job as Art Director of Remington Arms Co. Now, in addition to his work with Famous Artists School students, he has a busy freelance career, handling commissions for portraits, commemorative illustration, and package design, as well as lecturing and teaching classes in art. His paintings have been exhibited widely, and can be found in the collections of former New York Mets Ed Kranepool, Jerry Koosman and Dave Kingman, and Paul D. Arnold of Arnold Bakers, among others.
One of Hank’s favorite activities is leading “paint-outs”—location painting workshops in picturesque Connecticut spots for fellow painters and students. It’s just one way of maintaining that friendly relationship with nature that he’s always found so inspiring.
Monday, February 27, 2012
A twenty-first century look at a fifteenth century masterpiece
Hubert and Jan van Eyck’s “Mystic Lamb”, better known as the Ghent Altarpiece, was created in 1432. As part of an emergency conservation project, the work has been photographed centimeter by centimeter at extremely high resolution. Now art lovers and technicians alike can study the work using this open-source approach. If you’re new to this kind of technology, I recommend the help page on the website as the best place to start.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Renoir as “fashionista”?
The current exhibition at the Frick Collection in New York, “Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting” belies Renoir’s designation as an Impressionist. Far from rapidly capturing the effect of light and color that we usually associate with Impressionism, these large-scale paintings are traditional and imposing in scale. In the style of painting, the brushstrokes and soft color that Renoir used here, we can see echoes of Impressionism; but he was more interested in using the full-length format to display the Belle Epoque attire that he saw around him. According to the exhibition catalog, Renoir came by his interest in fashion naturally: his mother was a seamstress and his father was a tailor. Whether or not we can pigeonhole the creator of these works, they are wonderfully pleasant to the eye and evocative of a lost era.
Friday, February 03, 2012
Van Gogh: An Eye for Detail
An exhibition currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, entitled “Van Gogh Up Close” offers a new way of looking at this artist’s revolutionary work. The forty-five works in this exhibition portray his ability—or more accurately his need—to focus closely on details in nature and find ways to replicate them on canvas. For him, it was a kind of centering, a way of calming some of his more explosive moods. The works on view show Van Gogh using a wide variety of styles, using long quick brush strokes in all directions, creating a feeling of fluidity, and often referencing the Japanese prints that he loved and collected. Click here for a slide show of some of the paintings in this exhibition.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Studio Talk: Painting Trees
Trees, like people, are individuals. A maple is different from an elm. A cottonwood is different from an oak. And no two trees of the same species look exactly alike. In painting them, much of your success depends on how carefully you observe. You can always change the shapes and values to suit your own purpose, but a first-hand study of real trees will result in a more convincing painting.
When painting a tree, try to visualize the complete trunk and main branches, even though they may be hidden by foliage. This will help you establish the correct placement for any branches that might show through the leaves.
Distant trees can be painted flat or in detail, depending on their importance or the effect you’re after. But those in the foreground should appear to have depth as well as height and width. This can be done by using light and dark values to represent light and shade.
Foliage is never a solid mass. It should look as though a bird could fly through it. Leave some “sky holes” to achieve this effect—big ones for the big birds, little ones for the little birds!
One way to handle painting foliage is to use the “dry brush” technique, which produces simultaneously the effect of large masses and individual leaves. It’s accomplished by applying the color with the side of a fairly dry brush. The paint is deposited on the ridges of the paper and skips over the depressions. This effect is achieved most easily with a flat watercolor brush.
For a group of distant trees, you can keep them quite simple and yet avoid a flat appearance by giving each tree a slightly different value and color.
Monday, January 23, 2012
From Murder and Mayhem to Art
A new era of photojournalism was spawned in the late 1930’s when one photographer saw crime scenes a little differently. Arthur Fellig - known famously as “Weegee” - developed his own brand of noir-style photography that is still celebrated and studied today. A recent New York Times article details the extensive collection donated posthumously and subsequent exhibitions of Weegee’s photographic works at the International Center of Photography. During his time Weegee’s work was entwined in his exuberant persona. He often reached crime scenes before his competitors, sometimes before even the police. This speaks to the connections he forged in the neighborhoods long before the era of texting. The most poignant description of Weegee’s work in the Times article, which elevates it above simple, shocking exploitation is this: “Tellingly, one of his first acts of genius was not to focus only the events themselves — although his images are certainly strewn with bodies, crushed automobiles and the like — but on the people hanging out of windows or peering over rooftops for a better look, who mirror and encourage our own undisguised interest.” In capturing the most gruesome parts of life, Weegee managed to point a finger at humanity.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Brain teasers for the eyes: the art of Jesus Soto
Jesus Soto, a Venezuelan artist who was active in Paris from 1950 on, was fascinated by the ways in which truth depends on perspective. Although he worked in an era when Abstract Expressionists were all about painting from their inner beings, Soto was more interested in heightening viewers’ awareness of the roles that eyes and bodies play in experiencing everything—not just art, but the world around us. That is, objects change radically depending on the viewer’s position, and another viewer’s perspective will be different again—producing layers upon layers of visions of reality. For example, Soto (1923-2005) created three-dimensional constructions consisting of compositions of stripes and geometric forms painted on sheets of plexiglass. These painted sheets were attached to similarly painted panels, leaving as much as ten inches of space between. The resulting visual experience changes as you shift back and forth to see the relationships from different angles.
Click here for more background information and examples of Soto’s work, which is currently on display at the Grey Art Gallery of New York University.