Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big Snow, Small Joys

(image: nich hance mcelroy)
Happy Snow Day! Are you out of the house today? I didn't even try to dig myself out to get into the studio this morning. I'm just appreciating the beautiful light bouncing off all the white and huddling close to the fireplace. Now, I'm a MOVER, but every so often it is nice to be forced to just be still for a while and appreciate the small things. Don't you think?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Picasso Key Chains and Mona Lisa's Mustache

Marcel Duchamp
Have you seen the series "The Mona Lisa Curse" by Robert Hughes?  He makes some interesting points, but my favorite is his assertion that art is conceptually vulnerable.  In other words, it can be so viewed, in such a manner, as to loose significance.
Now, the artist in me disagrees with a most dramatic "NEVER! Authentic art has an internal incorruptible life!" The viewer in me though? She can't help scan her mental files of "Water Lilies" cutting boards,"Nighthawk" mouse pads, and "Starry Night" coffee mugs.
Of course, there are artists whose work focuses on that very discrepancy between a work of art itself, and its significance as a market or cultural object.  (Enter Warhol, et al.) But the point still remains that for everyone to have their Mona Lisa production must be increased.  In our age of mass production, it is difficult to appreciate a work of art simply for what it is in and of itself.
(Side note: Do you think this could be part of the contemporary appeal of street art, which is generally devoid of salable product and harder to repeat?)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pasta and Paint

My marriage to a man with Italian heritage and mad culinary skills (1) makes me deliriously happy, and (2) has me thinking a lot about pasta.  Namely, why should its shape affect the way it tastes?!  I mean, I DO understand the whole surface area picking up more or less sauce, etc. bit, but it is still pretty amazing to consider just how different angel hair and farfalle in the same (homemade of course!) sauce can taste, non?
It's interesting to consider how the same logic can be applied to brushstrokes/the application of paint to canvas. Give an artist a single color and brand of paint, and the mark that she makes will have a totally different feeling, say, if she slabs it on with a thick pallet knife vs. feathers it in with fan brush. It's weight and width almost make it a different beast altogether. Just thinking about that makes me want to run out an buy some really enormous brushes! mmm...
(via folkloric)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Match

Unlike my uber-talented sister, I have do not have any design credentials to my name. I do love when the composition or palette of a room reminds me of a certain work of art though.  I think Jenna and Romaine may have been feeling a similar vibe when they were pulling these together.  Don't you?

(Jenna Lyons' home via
(Romaine Brooks' Self-Portrait)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Friday!

(Tim Walker photograph)
Happy Friday, Friends!  I hope you use the weekend to take a deep breath and look at the world with fresh eyes!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Keeping Track of Ideas

Don't you just love a good inspiration board? I think I'm going to start a great big one for my next studio project.
(Image via

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scared of the Dark

Even though most people have all their senses at their disposal, we should all try to focus on our senses as if we are lacking one, in order to make them all more acute.

So, you're an adult. You're not scared of the boogie man or the monsters under your bed anymore...but not being able to see can be down-right terrifying, right? (So can being unable to hear, now that I mention it.) Having a full tool belt of senses gives us confidence to meet the world head on, and being short one tool makes us feel vulnerable. (That is why one of the most intense punishments for prisoners is the temporary deprivation of communication with others through solitary confinement.)  Being without the use of one of our senses is scary!

We learn from greats who have experienced this like Helen Keller, Beethoven and Ray Charles.  These and other individuals accomplished amazing things despite the loss of one or more of their senses, by becoming hyper-sensitive in other areas. Compensating for the loss, a blind person's sense of hearing becomes more acute than the average Joe.  A deaf person becomes aware of the way things feel or smell.  These individuals show us that it is possible to navigate life with incredible power by appreciating each of our senses. 
(Image via Cup of Jo)

As a visual artist, it's easy to let my sense of sight pull all the weight.  I try to combat this by painting from life instead of from photographs whenever possible. When I'm standing on a street corner painting a cityscape, my senses are processing the sounds of people laughing, the smells of nearby restaurants and the feel of the hot sun on my neck. When I work this way, the painting becomes more than just a copy of the way things look. It becomes its own tiny world, with its darkness lit from many different lights. By trying to use all the senses at my disposal, I am able to paint a much clearer picture of the world than my sight alone can provide. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Working for the Weekend

I hope that everyone has a fabulous weekend!  Some friends are coming into town tomorrow, and I plan on checking this out at Irvine Contemporary.

I'm sure that that there will be a fair amount of this going on as well!
(Images via  photographer Ditte Isager)

Until next week...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Computers May Be Taking Over the World, but People Still Make Better Art

Have you heard about the computers running Wall Street these days?  I mean, talk about artificial intelligence replacing human intuition! No need to muddy the world with "emotion and fallible judgment" when all you really need is cold hard data mashed into complex algorithms, right?  Sigh.  Well at least we can still count on the art world to fill our craving for all things random, inspired or chaotic, right?  Maybe.

It seems that order may be the most under-credited pillar of aesthetic success.  Did you know that Jackson Pollack planned a complicated linear framework for Autumn Rhythm?  Or that the Fibonacci Sequence's Golden Spiral is a pattern found in everything from shells and whirlpools to the proportions of the human body and the aesthetically pleasing composition of certain artworks?  How about this mind-blowing fact: If you connect a plate of sand to a sound system, and make it vibrate at a certain harmonic frequencies, it will produce beautiful patterns that would make textile designers green with envy!  (Incidentally, this does not happen if the notes are discordant.) 

Still, I'm inclined to be on the side of Mathew Crawford, author of the killer book, SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT (shout out to the Dugans who thoughtfully gifted it to me) who argues that nothing can replace the "tacit knowledge" of a real live person.  Data is important.  Ordering that data is important.  But the ability to recognize a pattern and to then choose to do something unique with that information is what separates the artists from the computers.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It Happens Without Fail...

I get all pumped to go out with girlfriends gussied up like this,
(Image via The Satorialist)
 step outside and immediately go in to change into something a little more along the lines of this.

Winter and I are not friends.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing

 (Image: Brittany Watson)
Ever notice how the best art is always missing something?  I mean that literally, as in even the most descriptive work of a certain quality stops short of articulating EVERY. LAST. DETAIL.  The Mystery of the Missing applies to everything from very abstract to more representational art.  Take John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo for example.

At least a third of this huge canvas is covered in deep shadow (including most of the main subject), and yet it resonates with a sense of music and movement that may have seemed contrived had each element been exactly rendered.  This purposeful obscuring is only one example of an artist calling an idea to mind versus ramming it down the viewer's throat, but the juiciest bits of poetry, the most poignant novels and the most haunting music all evoke narratives and emotions rather than spell them out.

I have a theory about why these gaps in art are so compelling.  They leave room for us to make an artwork our own.  They invite us to saddle up beside a masterpiece and complete the puzzle for ourselves.  Come to think of it, this desire to participate in the art could explain a lot about the popularity of the flash mob.

In my own business I've noticed that my most satisfied clients are those who feel that they have had some say in the painting that they commission from me.  They want to discuss color choices, personalities (in the case of portraits), etc.  It isn't enough to just own a work of art, they want to link themselves to it through their involvement in its creation. ( Side note: I am NOT saying that the most successful art is the result of outside input!  As we know, this can have the effect of diluting products even outside of the fine art realm.)  What I am saying is that good art entices us to participate in the artist's creation by leaving a little something up to the imagination.

So I ask you, Friends: Do you have favorite work of art that practices the Mystery of the Missing?  (Visual, musical, performance -- It's all fair game!)  Tell me a little about why you love it?  Throw your hands up and be the first one on the dance floor!  I promise not to judge :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Narcissism and Our Times (Or in other words, "Hey look at me! I started a blog!"

Hello, Friends!  Let me say by way of introduction that I am fully aware of the irony of starting a blog just months after Narcissism has been removed from the official medical index.  In an age navigated by personal devices beginning with the pronoun "i" it comes as no surprise that just conceiving of an available blog title is a tough task.  The advance of such technology means access to more interesting tidbits of information that ever (arguably more than we can process, but that is another story.)

As an artist, I find myself in the daily position of considering these facts in a right-side-of-the-brain type way.  Since my profession does not require me to immediately strip-search these bits of knowledge down to their trunk of validity and usefulness, they are free to bob around merrily in the ether of my mind while I attend to the artistic problems at hand.  Now Here's where things get exciting!  Every once in a while, two or more facts decide to emerge at one time and BAM!  An idea is setting off fireworks in my mind!  (Granted, these conclusions are often loony or just plain incorrect, but so was Aristotle's view of the cosmos, and it paved the way for Copernicus, right?!)  Anyhoo, I chew on these new thoughts all the way through my remaining studio time, maybe scribble a few things down in a sketch book before closing up shop, and then (without having taken time to translate those imaginative ideas into something a bit more concrete, I promptly forget them.

Enter the blog: A practice in turning sifted facts into more complete thoughts...or at least thought-provoking questions.  Will you play too?  Can't you just see it now?  Your Comments + My Comments = BIG IDEAS!  Tell me what you think, share new observations, whatever strikes your fancy.  The Only Rule:  Be Nice.  This is a happy place!
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