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December 23, 2008

Artists and Photography - Vuillard

Édouard Vuillard (French Nabi/Post-Impressionist painter - 1868-1940) was another artist who was taken with photography. In the mid 1890s, he acquired a simple Kodak camera which he used as a help in composing his pictures (as well as to take snapshots of his family and friends). "What was interesting in this connection was the role the camera played in distorting, foreshortening, perspectival riddles, and in the cropping of pictures frames" according to the same article.

Indeed, many of Vuillard's pictures have very unusual compositions that look as though they could have been inspired by "snapshot" views.  He did not, however, paint exactly what his camera saw; rather he used photographs as reference and rearranged elements to suit his fancy.

"His paintings are never mere copies of photographs. Always, changes in emphasis and in the handling of light transform the photographic aide-memoire into a poignant work of art." (Quote is from the Carrick Hill website.)

Square Berlioz (aka La Place Vintimille)
Édouard Vuillard - 1915
Oil on canvas - 17.72" X 29.88" (45 cm X 75.9 cm)
Source: the-athenaeum.org

The painting shown above of "La Place Vintimille" is a view from the window of Vuillard's apartment on the second floor.
"Vuillard took many photographs of Place Vintimille, from his fourth-floor windows beginning in 1909 and, after he moved in 1913, from the second floor of the same building" according to this article in Art in America.

In this article on the Christie's auction site, it states that after Vuillard became familiar with photography, there was a difference in how his pictures looked, including the use of "optical foreshortening" and "radical cropping."

In this review on the "New York Art World" site about a Vuillard exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 2003, it states that more than 2,000 photographs taken by the artist have survived.

It seems odd to me that some see quite a lot of influence of photography on Vuillard's paintings, but others see very little. Here is an article in Slate Magazine on Édouard Vuillard (and other artists of his time) and photography that minimizes the part photography played in Vuillard's artwork, explaining that he bought his camera mainly for the purpose of taking snapshots of friends and relatives. It is admitted, though, that Vuillard did utilize the camera as a tool at times, to help him with "details" in some of his paintings. The author brings up something that hadn't occurred to me, which is the idea that it must have been unsettling for Vuillard to try to compose pictures (with his camera) that were not going to be seen in colors, but in black, white, and grays; and therefore he wouldn't have been inclined to think of his photographs as "art" -- but it seems to me that that is beside the point (which is that he did or did not use material from some of his photographs as aids in making some of his paintings -- There is no reason at all for photographs to be "artistic" in order to be of this kind of use).

This is the third in a series on artists and photography. Here are the others (and there will be more in the future):

Edgar Degas and Photography
Eugène Delacroix and Photography

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December 16, 2008

Artists and Photography - Degas

Edgar Degas enthusiastically photographed ballet dancers, his friends, himself, and other subjects. (If you click on the "ballet dancers" link, you will come to a web page that shows three of his negatives of photographs of dancers.) He referred to photographs while making some of his paintings and drawings -- not copying entire photographs but just using parts of them as a guide to certain details such as the twisted back of a woman bending over or the arms of a ballet dancer while in a pose that was hard to keep. As pointed out on this page on the same site, Degas eventually went back to relying much more on his sketches for his paintings as at that time a camera was not capable of capturing split seconds and a pose had to be held for a very long time, making it practically impossible to photograph a movement or casual position. Besides, it's hard to capture in a photograph what we "see" in real life. We do not see, for instance, action as a series of frozen stills -- we experience it as continuous movement, and so a painting or drawing made without reference to photos (but, instead, with knowledge of how people actually experience what they see) can look more real than what is captured by a camera. Making many, many sketches of real things as he saw them turned out to be of much more use to Degas than the camera, though he did appreciate some uses of photography as an aid to an artist, and he certainly had a lot of fun with it.

There is quite a lot more on Degas and photography on the above-mentioned site, and I recommend you click around to different pages.

Four Dancers - c. 1899
Oil on canvas
Edgar Degas, French Realist/Impressionist Painter and Sculptor,
Source: Humanities Web

The painting above is one of those that was made with the help of photographs.

According to this article, although Degas had been interested in photographs three decades earlier, he did not take up photography himself until he was sixty-one years old. "[In] a burst of creative energy that lasted less than five years, [Degas] threw himself into photography for a short but intense period." There is much more in this article about Degas and photography.

This article, entitled "Camera Obscura," in Slate Magazine, is about the 1999 exhibition of Degas' photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. There are small photographs from the exhibit here, but although you are supposed to be able to enlarge them, it didn't work for me. Watch the video below on this page to see many of Degas' photographs.

Note 1: A Los Angeles Times article entitled Reframing Degas is also about the exhibition of Degas' photographs.

Note 2: Since writing this post on Degas and Photography, I've written another called Degas and Photography - More.

Note 3: Excellent article on Degas and photography. It is an article called "Dance to the music of time" in RA (Royal Academy) Magazine, Autumn 2011

Note 4: There are now four posts in this series about Artists and Photography. This on on Degas is the second. The first was about Delacroix. The third is on Vuillard and Photography, and the fourth is the second post on Degas and Photography, mentioned in the paragraph just above.

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December 6, 2008

Artists and Photography - Delacroix

There are many people who believe, sometimes very strongly, that it is "cheating" to use photographs to help one to compose drawings, paintings, or other artwork. However, many highly respected (and self-respecting) artists, from the time photography became an accessible tool for artists (in the 1800s) until the present day have found it to be a great help.  Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) is one of them.

Many of Delacroix's paintings were based on photographs, requested by him to be made, of nude male and female models. 

"Delacroix based a number of his figures on photographs, and himself experimented in several modes of photography, regretting that 'such a wonderful invention' had not been made earlier in his career." 150 Years of Photographic Art by Jason Edward Kaufman

The Musée national Eugène Delacroix is presently exhibiting photographs Delacroix used along with the pictures he made from them. You can see some examples if you go to the museum's website (click on the link just above).

I recommend that even if you don't understand French to look at both the French and English-language pages. You can read it in the language you prefer, but the pictures aren't all the same on both pages.

In English
In French

I don't know whether Delacroix used the photograph below to as a reference in painting his self-portrait within two years of the date of the photo, but I suspect not as all he had to do was look in a mirror and he would see a much more "alive" and colorful image of himself from which to paint, but seeing these two portraits together makes me realize that a painting can look more "real" than a photograph -- or you might say more "alive" -- than a photograph.

Eugène Delacroix in 1858
Portrait by Nadar (pseudonym), real name: Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (April 6, 1820 – March 21, 1910)
Source: Wikipedia

Eugène Delacroix - self portrait, 1860
Source: Wikipedia

This is the first of a series of short posts on artists and photography.

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November 26, 2008

Whence the urge to create art?

I saw some pictures of marvelously decorated Pakistani trucks the other day and I've been thinking about them ever since. First I wondered, is this art? And why do men all over the world seem to do this same kind of thing? What is it that makes them decorate their vehicles like this? I recalled seeing pictures of decorated taxis and other kinds of work vehicles in other parts of the world, and after I got my fill of Pakistani trucks, I started looking for those, too. Here are the conclusions I've come to so far.

Men everywhere have apparently always decorated their horse and donkey carts, trucks, taxis, buses, and anything else used in their work (when not working for others who do not allow this) that they see as an extension of themselves -- something they're in close proximity to and personally directing and manipulating as if it's a part of them. Such things as parade floats do not count ...The kinds of decorated vehicles or carts, etc. I'm referring to here are experienced as a part/extension of the person who makes them do what they do (move loads from one place to another, plow a field, etc.) in connection with their work.  Ideally, these decorated "extensions" of the man reflect or enhance the persona he wishes to project.

It seems to me, also, that men wouldn't have a great need to do this kind decorating if they didn't think the results were going to be seen by other people. Can you imagine them doing this if they truly never expected anyone else to see it? It's a display type of behavior. This is a very primitive urge, I'm sure.

Women have a need to decorate, too, but not carts or buses. Women have traditionally done their "decorating" in the home, and they also decorate themselves; they build "nests" and make themselves attractive with their decorating instincts -- Men, on the other hand, construct their displays (sometimes at great expense) to attract the females who build the nests, and also to impress and intimidate other males who will feel in awe, and inadequate, at the sight of such a wonderful display (and, it is hoped, will slink away). It makes men feel really good about themselves to do this.

I don't think I demean women by saying that in general they have an urge to decorate their place of abode (including their office if they work in one) -- They do this for the good of those who live in their homes (their "nests") and also for visitors, and generally it pleases women greatly to do this -- I think this is very natural and is true of most women (it's in their genes), not to say they can't sublimate this instinct, but it's what comes with the package when they're born and if their surrounding culture doesn't suppress this instinct, it usually flowers.

And so it occurs to me that this very strong creative urge (by "creative urge" I mean a very strong impulse and a great deal of energy directed toward artistic creation and/or decoration) probably has a lot to do with testosterone in the case of men, and estrogen in the case of women.

Another thing that I thought of is that the primitive, powerful urge that both sexes have to decorate (basically, though usually unconsciously, for reproductive purposes) may well be the basic urge that is behind all kinds of art, not just primitive, or folk, art. It may underlie all things that we make in order to express ourselves, to say or show something, and to say it in our own way and to make it as impressive and "artful" as we are capable of making it. Not things made according to plans made by others, not copies, not "art from a kit." I mean original, passionately made art that we have such a desire to create that we can hardly keep ourselves from doing it. It's probably our hormones that cause us to need to create artwork, that is. That is the conclusion I've come to. What do you think?

I started out by mentioning the Pakistani truck drivers. I want to include links to pictures and a couple of videos showing their trucks because of all the decked-out vehicles I've ever seen, these are the most interesting, and look the most "primitive" and for me have the most impact and are what started me thinking. I'm also going to include a short video on "chivas" (decorated buses in Colombia) below, and maybe some other links. But mostly I want to focus on the truckers in Pakistan. I have seen lots of pictures of decorated trucks in Japan (and will have one link to pictures below), but they're all very "modernistic" looking -- sleek and "stainless steel" looking with lots of lights, not like something out of the past but like something futuristic from outer space. I've seen other male-decorated vehicles, etc., too, from other parts of the world including here in the U.S., but the trucks in Pakistan are my favorites.


(In Pakistan)

"From the shores of the Arabian Sea to the peaks of the Himalayas, highways are filled with Moving Canvases. Truck Art is the unique practice of transforming cargo carriers into masterpieces. Throughout South Asia, especially in Pakistan, huge sums of money, years of experience and training, and painstaking detail have brought artwork to every city, village, and port with a road. Their inimitable style has evolved into a genre of art that is extending into a broader culture."



Mohammad Ameer Muawiya Langrial

Decorated trucks, buses, and other vehicles in Pakistan.



Creative Truck Art of Pakistan: Art on Wheels

The Wonderful Decorated Vehicles of Pakistan

This is a slide show - Click on tiny pictures below and they will show up in large size above ...You must have Java installed in order to see these pictures. There are pictures of these vehicles out on the road in Pakistan - Very interesting backgrounds as well as trucks.

The Grand Trunk Road - Decorated Trucks in India and Pakistan

This is an article that tells about how the trucks are decorated. The truckers themselves (there may well be exceptions) don't do the work. There are truck decorating workshops where this is done, which are described as "garage, art studio and service station rolled into one. The trucks start out as a cab 'and a skeleton.'.....The truckers can also get a cup of tea, a hot meal, a shower and even a bed for the night."

Below the article, there are links to two short videos showing work going on at two of these workshops.  The second video features close up views of some heavily decorated trucks.

These places make truck stops in the U.S. seem extremely dull.

Masaru Tatsuki's Decotora Photo Op
(Decorated trucks in Japan).

There are six color photos of decorated trucks in Japan on this page, so scroll down to see the rest after you've looked at the first one (if you are inclined to continue looking at these). Five of the six are pictures taken at night. The trucks have colored lights on them.  One shows the inside of a truck from the back.  It looks very cozy in there (someone's in there).


Chivatour la Quindianita

This is a promotional video (but not very "slick!"), advertising decorated bus ("chiva") tours in Colombia (in Spanish). Being on a bus in this place is not like being on a bus in, say, Los Angeles, believe me. I've seen these called "party buses," too, and that sounds about right from the looks of it.



Tap-tap public transportation in Haiti.
Source: Michelle Walz Eriksson
License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

"Most Haitians get around Haiti by Tap Tap a colourfully painted 4x4, bus, school bus or truck. This one is just being loaded at the Bus Station in Port Salut, Dept. Sud."

See wikipedia article on taptap cabs in Haiti.

Would you like to participate in a poll on this subject (Are hormones behind our basic urge to create?)?  There's one on the right-hand side of this page, about halfway down (at the bottom of the blue strip).

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October 26, 2008

Yet More on Camouflage

I've spent several hours over the last few days learning more about camouflage. I really enjoy this. You may wonder why I'm so interested in camouflage (this is my fourth post on the subject). It's because I believe that an artist must always be aware of camouflage principles and techniques, and know why they are needed and be ready to use them. Besides, I'm fascinated by the subject of perception and camouflage has everything to do with perception.

What I've been thinking about as I've read articles and watched videos over the last week or so has led me to write this post so I can have it all down and easily available to refer to.  I'm including two new videos on camouflage I've just discovered.

Surely humans have used camouflage techniques throughout human history, and even earlier (many if not all animals/fish/birds/etc. use camouflage to hide from predators and/or prey though they are not aware of it; it is "built-in") and yet not until late in the 19th century was camouflage as we think of it today used by armies (some armies by necessity may have gone without uniforms but probably only small groups and individuals (such as snipers) intentionally used some kind of camouflage regularly). In fact, quite to the contrary, large groups of fighting men often wore attention-getting colorful outfits and were purposely very visible to the enemy (though this is a kind of camouflage, too - called "Aposematism" - See below).

Camouflage became necessary as technology started to produce changes in the weapons and techniques of warfare that required men to hide themselves. It became particularly important in World War I when armies started using airplanes. This is when artists were asked to help design camouflage (there is more on all this in other posts - Take a look in the list of Topics on the right side of this page for "camouflage" and if you click on that it will bring up a web page with all of the camouflage posts on it, including this one).

Camouflaged Marine Sniper, in Ghillie Suit
Source: Wikipedia

Artists - and Camouflage Artists

I believe that camouflage designers are artists, and certainly they have been around throughout human history (or human history would have been very short-lived). Nevertheless, artists (painters, set designers, architects, etc.) were consulted when it came to really ramping up the camouflage for new challenges when World War I came along. These artists were probably called in because although no doubt there were already people in the military who had some good ideas about camouflage, artists of did this kind of thing all day every day when planning and producing their artwork.

Principles of camouflage - or, What you should be thinking about and working with in order to accomplish the aims of camouflage.

According to this article on Camouflage and Concealment for snipers, "Target Indicators" (what others call "principles of camouflage") include:

- Tactile (Touch)

- Olfactory (Smell)

- Auditory (Hear)

- Visual: Siting [fitting in with surroundings]

- Visual: Shape

- Visual: Shadow

- Visual: Silhouette

- Visual: Surface [includes "shine" and texture]

- Visual: Spacing

- Visual: Color

- Visual: Movement

Note how the visual tools of military camouflage listed above are just about the same as what are usually considered the "elements of art."

Elements of Art

- Line [which can be used to imply "movement"]

- Shape [which would be the same as "silhouette"]

- Form

- Value

- Texture

- Color

- Space [using perspective to indicate three-dimensional space]

In fact, both lists would work for artists, though artists might not necessarily want to "hide" something; the idea is to change someone's perception of that "something" whether it is to hide it or make it more obvious or something else.  The elements of art (or "principles of camouflage") are the things you have to work with in order to get the effects you want.

Why artists need to know about camouflage principles and methods

The ideas behind camouflage design seem like common sense, but still sometimes we need to be reminded of them in order to make conscious what we may already have "known" but weren't really making full use of in our artwork. That is, it seems to me that although we may have more or less "instinctive" common sense knowledge of what needs camouflaging and what must be done in order for it to be perceived in certain ways, or to not be seen at all, this knowledge can lie dormant (and therefore useless) within us for different reasons, for instance if we've been taught to do or see or present things in certain ways and we assume that these are the "only" ways to do/see/present things and so our minds close to other possibilities. Another reason might be that some of us don't see any need to change the way things are seen (we don't see the problem and therefore don't feel any need to do anything about it).

Some other ways camouflage is useful (besides in war and painting pictures)

Hunters, of course, use camouflage techniques.  Makeup is camouflage -- There is even makeup that is called "camouflage makeup" or "camouflage cosmetics" for "heavy duty" hiding of bruises and scars, etc. caused by medical procedures, but ordinary makeup is camouflage, too, and is often advertised as such. Here's an article on Camouflage Cosmetics.

We can use camouflage techniques in decorating our homes (for instance, "How to make your rooms look bigger," or "How to ensure that visitors will take a certain path through your house and not go off into private areas").  And many people have camouflage ideas in mind when they dress and groom themselves.

Covering up what you don't want people to notice is probably something we have all tried to do, in many situations. Distracting attention from things we don't want others to notice with a decoy or something that provides a more compelling focal point is another camouflage technique.

Camouflage can be, and often is, used in the preparation of food. Camouflage, in fact, seems to be almost a synonym of "preparation" when it has to do with preparing something to be experienced in such a way that the intended "target" ("observer" you might say, but that implies that all camouflage has to do with sight and it doesn't) perceives it as much as possible in the way that the artist wants it to be perceived.

Something else we probably all know about is blending in. If we don't want to be noticed, we try to look, act, talk the same as the people around us, or blend in with the background. We could be in plain sight but unseen for example if we are wearing the same clothing style/colors as a crowd of people and appear to be doing whatever those people are doing. We become part of a pattern in that case and do not stand out.

The opposite of hiding things is making them very visible, of course, and this is another kind of camouflage. There is a name for it: Aposematism.

Here is a Wikipedia article on Aposematism. Aposematism is a warning to would-be predators that this thing they're observing would be a terrible thing to catch and eat -- probably because it would taste terrible, or kill them (or both). "The warning signal may take the form of conspicuous colours, sounds, odours or other perceivable characters. Aposematic signals are beneficial for both the predator and prey, who both avoid potential harm." (Quote is from the Wikipedia article Aposematism, link just above.)

I am guessing that this is the reason behind soldiers of the past wearing bright, colorful clothing. They wanted to show they were so strong and powerful that they had no fear at all. I suppose this at least in some cases scared the enemy who thought they must have good reason for being so confident.

How artists use camouflage

Although most of them probably don't think of it in that way, artists think about camouflage problems and possible solutions all the time as they decide how to compose their pictures, if not consciously then unconsciously.

I don't mean to say that artists use camouflage techniques just try to make things look "better" than they really are (though they may want to do that), as a person attempts to do when they put on makeup. Artists use these techniques to make their artwork say what they want it to say, and to not say what they don't want it to say.

Just for a simple example, sometimes there has to be something included in a picture (say it's something really big, or even the entire background) because the situation requires it -- you just can't leave it out -- but the artist doesn't want that "something" to really be noticed because it would detract from the main idea of the picture -- So how can they have this usually very noticeable object in the picture without it calling too much attention to itself? This is a job for camouflage, right?

Or what if you want to have several people (or trees, or anything) in a picture but you want people to focus mainly on just one or two of them. You have to figure out how to emphasize the people you want people to look at (Aposematism!) and de-emphasize the others. You can do both with camouflage techniques.

You may want something or someone to look very obviously like it/he/she does not fit in, not as a distraction from the subject but as the subject itself. You may want it to look like it doesn't belong there, the opposite of what you'd want if you were trying to hide it. You may try to make the viewer either sympathetic or unsympathetic toward it but it still doesn't belong where it is (that may be exactly what you're trying to get across).

Or possibly you could take something or someone who doesn't fit in in some ways but does in others, to evoke a feeling of appreciation of diversity perhaps.

Those are just a few examples I just thought of. There is much, much more you can do with the ideas and methods of camouflage in mind.

Insofar as artists are aware of camouflage principles and techniques they can control how people see their pictures. Artists who are not doing this might want to learn about camouflage. The more they learn about it and how it's used in nature and by humans (in the military, for hunting, and for many other purposes, some mentioned above), the more imprinted it becomes in the brain and available for guidance.


Nicholas Rankin on the history of camouflage

Nicholas Rankin, author of Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914-45, discusses the development of camouflage.


Nicholas Rankin on British deception in WW2

Nicholas Rankin on the techniques used by the British during the Second World War to hoax Hitler


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October 21, 2008

Artists' Studios

No artist's workspace is quite the same as any other's.  Artists are of course creative by nature and can adapt whatever they can find or afford to buy or have on hand to suit their own needs and desires, and in fact just as their artwork is a pleasurable challenge for them and reflects their own personalities, interests, and inventiveness, the setting they make for themselves to paint or draw or sculpt (or etc.) in is also an enjoyable challenge to put together, and the resulting "studio" tells us at least as much about the artist as his or her artwork does.

Many artists have to make all sorts of compromises when it comes to making a work space for themselves, though if they have plenty of money they will need to compromise less or even have the "studio of their dreams," perhaps in a separate small building in the yard. Or they might rent a space somewhere in a building where other artists have their studios and go there as if "to work." This would be a good place to get to know other artists, and also to escape the inevitable distractions at home.

There are so many different kinds of workspaces for artists -- My own "art space" is right here where I'm typing this. It doesn't look like an artist's studio.  Actually, it just looks like a mess.  It's in what used to be the "living room."

In front of me is a roomy keyboard table (which has a lot more on it than the keyboard, including my electric tea warmer) and immediately behind this little table is a taller wooden dining room table holding my computer monitor (among other things). The clipboard that I use for drawing is directly behind the keyboard, leaning against the taller table that has the monitor on it.

To my right is an old metal folding dining room table bought for $2 at a rummage sale.  On it  are shallow cardboard boxes with the tops trimmed off which contain many of my art supplies -- mostly pencils of all kinds, Conte crayons, and pens, but also rulers, a couple bottles of ink, and other odd things. There are also a couple of boxes on the table holding stacks of my drawings, and a cookie can with a lid that has erasers (mostly kneaded) in it.

Underneath the table are a couple of plastic "art boxes" with handles (one broken) that I used to bring with me to art classes. And there are topless cardboard boxes containing other art supplies, including paper that is not in tablets. I have art books on bookshelves that are built into the wall, and also on the floor and in a short bookshelf that's just to my left as I sit here at the computer (where I also usually do my drawing -- and reading). A large Hewlett-Packard printer box (we don't have the printer, but somehow we got the box) is what I keep my tablets in. It's across the room. A regular clipboard is my easel and my drawing board...It's the same clipboard I used in college for notetaking.

I love to see artists' workspaces, just like I like to see where writers write.  Just below are several videos I looked at today showing artists' studios.  Some of the videos are very short, some a little longer (but you needn't look at the whole video in some cases, which I mention).  The workspaces are all quite different from each other and I'm glad to say that just about all of them are a mess, just like mine! That's something we can't avoid, I guess.  I would much rather be in a messy studio than a very tidy one, though -- I am much more relaxed and it's a lot more interesting and stimulating environment (at least for me).


Aaron Kramer's studio
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


A Painting a Day Artist's Studio (Hall Groat II)
TIME: The first 2 MINUTES, 50 SECONDS are about his STUDIO -- After that he talks about his painting of a bowl and some lemons; so you can stop looking after 2 minutes and 50 seconds if you're not interested in his painting.
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


Jamaica Street Art Studio, Bristol
(Several artists have studios in this building)
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


Scott Hutchison's art studio
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


Cheap Joe Miller of Cheap Joe's Art Supplies Studio
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


Barbara Wurden's Art Studio
: 6 MINUTES, 26 SECONDS (You only need to watch the first two minutes, when she shows us around her studio (I really like the greenhouse roof!); after that she starts cleaning up the studio and the music is loud and terrible -- I had to turn the volume almost to "off" before I watched the rest of it. At about five minutes into the video she shows how she puts canvases directly on the wall to paint on them (doesn't use an easel).
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


John MacGowan's Studio Tour (in Newport, Rhode Island) part 1 of 3: The library area
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin


John MacGowan's Studio Tour, Part 2 of 3: The palette Area
Left click gently once on one of the arrows to begin

Mr. MacGowan is obviously an art teacher, so if you do oil painting, you might learn some things here.


John MacGowan's Studio Tour, Part 3: The easel Area
Continuing the part above, which seems to cut off abruptly, but actually he is changing to the next subject - the easel area. The easel isn't really an easel. He does what the last artist (mentioned above: Barbara Wurden) does -- He attaches the canvas directly to a wall.


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September 27, 2008

The Impressionists - Another Video Series

This post goes along with my last post, also on a video series about the Impressionists. The videos shown here are taken from a different TV program, a BBC series called The Impressionists produced in 2006. I would very much love to see the whole thing, but I'll take what I can get for free. This is fun to watch even though it consists of selected scenes, far from the entire original program.

The person who uploaded these videos to YouTube says that the scenes he's chosen for this particular video are "mainly about the paintings and painters doing their work."

The series is about Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Bazille...and Manet. (Manet was a realist painter who knew and had a big influence on the Impressionists), and Cezanne (post-Impressionist painter). Everything is seen from the point of view of Monet as an old man looking back while being interviewed at his home in Giverny.

The original series consisted of three one-hour programs, the first about Manet's influence on the Impressionists, the second focusing on Degas, and the third on Cezanne (a post-Impressionist painter).

These videos do not have the dialogue on them, but who cares -- They are beautiful. There is good background music, and since we have a good idea of who the people being played are (we know they're Impressionists, we recognize their paintings), and where they are (France), it's possible to follow along and enjoy this even though we can't hear anyone talking. Although they are actors, we get to watch the artists "painting" these pictures we know so well.

Hoping that a lot of good research was done before doing the filming, I like to think that I'm seeing more or less how it really was back then -- getting more of an idea than I had before at least. To see the train chugging along through the French countryside with steam pouring out, and inside the train an artist sketching a fellow passenger, for instance, brings the time to life.

It's interesting to see the world in which these artists lived and their relationships with each other (and their families) rather than just imagining each one of them as a person contained inside their clothing with no relationship with anything outside themselves (as one appears in a typical portrait). We see the artists trudging out into the woods, for instance, setting up their easels, wearing what I would consider "too nice" of clothes to be painting in. There's lots of squeezing of big blobs of paint onto palettes -- Looks expensive. Painting at the seashore, at a lake, etc. Their families very much a part of their lives.  I'm sure these scenes were made at the actual places where they happened, and it's wonderful to "be there" and have it seem so real.


(There is no dialog in these - just the background music)

Part 1 - The Impressionists BBC Series (2006)
My notes on this are below the video

MY NOTES ON THIS VIDEO: Manet's pictures are wonderful but they don't seem to fit in here, especially the ones of people being shot. But I remember that he wasn't one of the Impressionists.  Lots of squeezing of paint onto palettes. Painting at the seashore. At a lake.

Part Two - The Impressionists BBC Series (2006)
My notes on this are below the video

MY NOTES ON THIS VIDEO: Degas. Ballet dancers. Renoir. Monet.  Monet got up to paint the sunrise, wearing his nightshirt, but the paints were all ready on the palette, imagine that, and not dried up. Outside in a poppy field with Madame Monet and their son in a little hat.  Now and then when they're painting you get an idea of how they painted, even though these are actors. Renoir again, then Degas.

Cezanne again.  And so on. Very pleasant looking at the scenery, the people, and the paintings. Even the train station in Paris painted by Monet (and from which he no doubt took the train to paint out in the country).  Besides paintings, pastels by Degas. Monet painting his wife on her deathbed.  A few more paintings by Bazille near the end of this one.

Part Three - The Impressionists BBC Series (2006)
My notes on this are below the video

MY NOTES ON THIS VIDEO: In this one it shows an actor playing Cezanne. The finished paintings have the title and name of the artist. You can see how the scenes he painted look now from the same viewpoints.  Monet is also in this one, with his wife and her little parasol, and the haystacks. The cathedral. If we had inspirational music like that playing as we worked, we might make some great paintings, too! Monet, his garden, the water lilies.....the curved bridge reflected in the pond. Monet now an old man with a long white beard.

This video is from a trailer made while the series was still being filmed. There are bits of several scenes, and it includes not only background music but also the dialogue.
THE IMPRESSIONISTS (Work in progress trailer)

Here are comments by the person who uploaded this video: "The picture is still ungraded, the sound unmixed and the music itself is from other movies. It also contains shots and scenes which were eventually taken off the final cut (Monet screaming, various lines from old Monet...and a steam train from the wrong period, just to mention a few). It is divided in various sections: one about Monet, one about Manet, Degas and Cezanne."

Here is a longer trailer, with the same comments (see just above) by the person who uploaded this video to YouTube:
THE IMPRESSIONISTS (Work in Progress) Long Trailer


Here is a good review of the series on The Impressionists, and a link to price comparisons if you're interested in buying the DVD.

Frédéric Bazille, French Impressionist painter - 1841-1870

Paul Cezanne - French Post-Impressionist painter, 1839-1906

Edgar Degas
French Realist/Impressionist Painter and Sculptor, 1834-1917

Edouard Manet, French Realist/Impressionist Painter, 1832-1883

Claude Monet, French Impressionist Painter, 1840-1926

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French Impressionist Painter, 1841-1919

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September 23, 2008

Impressionism - Video Series

If you want to skip to the videos, scroll down the page.

The videos in this series on Impressionism are different and much, much better than the usual "just pictures, with music" kind of videos. The name of this series is IMPRESSIONISM, REVENGE OF THE NICE, with Matthew Collings (British artist and art commentator). This was originally a British TV series (in 2004).

These videos are not only enjoyable to watch, they're also educational, or the ones I've seen and heard have been -- Out of the ten videos in this series (there are links to all of them below) I have only been able to watch six, the reason being that no matter how many times I've gone back and tried again, different days and different parts of the day, there are four that I haven't been able to get past the very beginning of -- no more than ten or fifteen seconds into them --because they only play for literally about two seconds at a time, with a very long break and then another couple of seconds played, and so on and on and on (the others worked just fine). But don't go away! You needn't see all of them in order to come away with some new information and ideas on this subject (though you may have known all these things before; I didn't). Even one video would be better than none, truly.

Actually, there were five out of the ten that kept stopping and starting, but I watched one of them anyway (Part 5) -- It stopped and started in the same way as the other four, but I stuck with this one and I would say it probably took at least an hour to get through it (it's supposed to be 10 minutes and 22 seconds long). It was worth it, but I don't have forever to watch these in that way. These are really good, interesting videos, though, and I feel good about what I've learned from the parts I've been able to watch no matter that I haven't seen the others (I've watched them twice so far). But I wish I could see the others, too! If anyone knows where all-the-way-through smoothly playing, versions of Parts 4, 5, 7, 9, and 10 can be found, please let us know in the Comments section. Thanks!

Not only do we see all of the paintings Collings talks about in these videos, but he talks directly from inside the museum where the paintings are, from the sidewalk outside in a neighborhood Impressionists (or their precursors) lived in or from a seat in a cafe they frequented, etc. It's present-day Paris (and other locations, such as the French countryside, but mostly Paris), and present-day people milling about, but it's in the same places where these things happened - and, after all, people are people. The settings - and someone speaking directly from the settings - bring that time to life, and make it all seem more real.

The artists Collings talks about are just these four, the first two pre-Impressionists (and Impressionist precursors) and the last one a post-Impressionist -- with Monet being the only Impressionist in the bunch:

Gustave Courbet - French Realist painter, 1819-1877

Edouard Manet - French Realist/Impressionist painter, 1832-1883

Claude Monet - French Impressionist painter, 1840-1926, and Paul Cezanne - French Post-Impressionist painter, 1839-1906.

The Bridge at Argenteuil - 1874

Claude Monet

Source: The Athenaeum

I wrote down some comments and a few quotations while watching the six videos that I have been able to watch (1, 2, 3, 6, and 8), and I'm going to add those below, where the videos they pertain to are listed.

I'll put the videos that worked fine for me right on this page, and will just add links to their YouTube pages for the ones that hardly worked for me at all. You might have no difficulty with them, who knows (I hope you'll be able to watch them).

If you click too hard on the videos themselves, you will be taken to the YouTube page they're on -- but if you just left-click gently one time on one of the arrows on the front of the video, you will be able to see the video right here on this page.


Part 1 of 10 Parts


My notes on this one are below the video

Click here to watch Part 1 on its YouTube page if you have any trouble viewing it on this page.

MY NOTES FROM THIS VIDEO: Collings tells us what led to Impressionism and what kind of art was being produced before it came along. He first points out that at the time Impressionism was invented it was avant-garde and not understood or liked by most people. It was shocking, in fact. We think it's very "nice" now and find it hard to understand why people didn't like it back then.

The two artists he says "opened the door for Impressionism" were Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet. Claude Monet was the first (and "main") Impressionist. And the artist who turned Impressionism into Modern Art is Paul Cezanne.

All of these artists knew each other. The "radical idea" they all shared was that art should be real and not false. The "art of the salon" at that time is shown to be quite "unreal."

Collings first talks about Courbet, who was not an Impressionist himself (he was a "Realist").  Courbet had the idea that art should be about what's really happening in the world around us, now, showing people as they really are, rather than about mythological figures with perfect, unrealistic bodies enjoying themselves in some idyllic, unrealistic setting, for example.


Part 2 of 10 Parts


My notes on this one are below the video

MY NOTES FROM THIS VIDEO: This one is about Courbet, not an Impressionist but one who inspired the Impressionists. "You should paint the truth. Paint your own time, from your own point of view." -- Courbet

If you want to watch Part 2 on its YouTube page, click here.


Part 3 of 10 Parts


My notes on this one are below the video

MY NOTES FROM THIS VIDEO: More on Courbet ("Courbet gives to Impressionism rough surfaces and being against the salon, being for truth and against lies"), but it's not only about Courbet; before the end of this video he begins talking about Edouard Manet, another precursor of Impressionism. Manet makes color important. Courbet and Manet were Impressionism's two most important precursors.

If you want to watch Part 3 on its YouTube page, click here


Part 4 of 10 Parts


Part 4 is one of those in this series that I have not been able to watch because it's constantly stopping and starting. You can try watching it on its YouTube page, here.  I hope it works for you.


Part 5 of 10 Parts


Part 5 is another of those in this series that constantly stops and starts, or it did for me every time I tried it. However, I stuck with this one to the end (it is supposed to be 10 minutes, 22 seconds long, but I'm sure I spent over an hour watching it). You can try watching it on its YouTube page, here. I hope it works for you. If it doesn't, you still might want to watch the other videos -- I missed out on four out of the ten yet I'm very glad I watched the six.

MY NOTES FROM THIS VIDEO: As I did stick with it even though it drove me crazy, I took notes on this video. There is a comparison on this one between Courbet and Manet's ideas about what should be painted and how it should be depicted. There are many scenes of present-day Paris in these videos, the same places that were painted, lived in, where artists met, etc. "back then."

Impressionism was inspired by both Courbet and Manet although they themselves were not Impressionists. Courbet's art was (at first) revolutionary, "menacing" art (later it was more sensual and [sometimes] erotic and not concerned with politics), and Manet's was "a relaxed leisure type of art.....In Manet's art is the sense of modern life, conveyed in the liveliness of painting."

Courbet and Manet were the painters who most influenced the Impressionists. Collings goes on in this video to talk about Impressionist Claude Monet (whom he calls the "main" Impressionist). "Reality, sensuality, color were Monet's inheritance from Manet and Courbet." Monet brings painting outdoors in nature to the mix. Monet was the one who founded the Impressionist group. Movement, spontaneity and light were its principles. Monet met Renoir while at a private ("shabby, cheap") art academy. They became friends and spent much time painting outdoors side by side.


Part 6 of 10 Parts


My notes on this one are below the video

MY NOTES ON THIS VIDEO: Still on Monet. Monet adored Manet. Manet didn't like being confused with Monet. Manet didn't paint outdoors. Monet and other artists caught the train and spent weekends in the outer suburbs, formerly country villages. Monet painted outdoors along with Renoir. Monet didn't pay as much attention to details as Renoir did. It's in this section where we learn how the loose, informal style became the "Impressionist" style - This style came from their oil sketches they had intended to be preparation for finished works. Collings also talks about how Impressionism was inspired partly by photography.  The Impressionists wanted to make paintings that were "emotional, full of feeling, aesthetically heightened," that photographs couldn't compare with.

If you only have time for one of these videos, this is a good one.

If you'd rather see this on its YouTube page, click here.


Part 7 of 10 Parts


I have not watched this one yet. It's like the others that are stopped much more than they're working.

This one is about Monet. If you want to try watching it, click here to see it on its YouTube page. I hope it works well for you (and I wish it would work well for me).


Part 8 of 10 Parts


My notes on this one are below the video

MY NOTES FROM THIS VIDEO: It starts out about Monet, beginning late in Monet's life (the last video was apparently about Monet up to this time). Monet was "the main" Impressionist. When Monet died "pure" impressionism was over. His type of beauty was no longer "in." Cubism, Surrealism were the new avant garde, and these were not beautiful in the sense, at least, that Impressionism was. Monet's art came back into fashion in the 1950s (long after his death). His reputation rose with the public then, but Impressionism wasn't in fashion with avant garde artists of that era...They were far beyond it.

Cezanne came next after Monet died. He was "the Impressionist who takes Impressionism into Modern Art. He takes the spontaneity and movement of Monet and puts in structure...He puts cerebral difficulty in with sensual pleasure." Cezanne's earliest paintings were nothing like those he ended up painting. They were dark and grim.

If you have any problem watching this video here, you can click here to get to it on its YouTube page.


Part 9 of 10 Parts


I have not watched this one yet. It's one of those that is off more than it's on. If you want to try watching it on its YouTube page, click here. Good luck.


Part 10 of 10 Parts

I have not watched this one yet. It's one of those that's off more than it's on. If you want to try your luck with it, you can click here to see it on its YouTube page. How I wish I could see it.


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September 12, 2008

Martin Lewis - Printmaker

I love Martin Lewis' black and white prints of life on the streets in New York City (mostly in the 1920s and 30s), which are the works he is best known for. Although he painted and sometimes drew in colors, his prints are considered to be his finest work. I would love to be able to add some of his pictures to this post, but most of his works are still under copyright and the pictures he made in his early days that are no longer under copyright are not typical of the works that I like best and that he is best known for (not that I don't like the others - some I like a lot but I thought that if I added only those pictures here someone might get the wrong impression, thinking that these were typical of his work, and might not bother to take a look at his works that I'm going to add links to below).

He was good at capturing light effects, both in day and night scenes, and he was also very good at drawing snowy and rainy scenes. I love the "social commentary" aspect of much of his work. Also, he obviously had a sense of humor (take a look at Boss of the Block, for instance -- There are links below to several of his pictures and also there's a video below showing some of his work).


Martin Lewis was born in Australia in 1881. He left home when he was fifteen with the intention of making his living at art. He traveled and sketched in the countryside of Australia and New Zealand, and from 1898 to 1900 he attended the James Ashton Art School near Sydney, Australia (that was his only official art education), and eventually found work as a merchant seaman. In 1900 at age 19 he sailed to the United States, first stopping at San Francisco where he got work as an artist working for William McKinley's political campaign. By 1909 he had settled in New York City, where he supported himself by working as a commercial illustrator.

For two years in the early 1920s Lewis lived in Japan where he drew and painted, and studied Japanese art. The influence of Japanese prints is very evident in some of his own prints made after that period. He returned to New York City and by 1930 was concentrating on the black and white pictures he is most famous for, mostly night pictures. I'm very intrigued by night pictures and also I love (non tourist/real life) street scenes in big cities, and although I've never done any printmaking I wish now that I'd learned to -- I love pen and ink drawings and enjoy drawing with a pen myself; so naturally these pictures (which look very much like pen and ink drawings) appeal strongly to me, and they also appeal to many others. People pay a huge amount of money for his prints these days.

In 1930 he and his family moved to Connecticut, but he stayed in contact with friends in New York and returned there to live in 1936 as he loved big city life and found life in the country too dull. He taught at the Art Students League from 1944 to 1951.  He died in 1962 in New York City.

Now for the best part of this - Links to several of Martin Lewis' pictures, ones that I myself like best.


The Old Timer Battleship, 1916  One of his first prints.

Something different by Martin Lewis -- a painting.  Lewis lived in Japan in the early 1920s.  Mt. Fuji - Looking across to Gotemba, c. 1920
oil on panel

One of my own favorite pictures by Martin Lewis.  The Bridge near Nikko, 1926
Drypoint and sand ground

Down the Hudson -- Smoke and Sunshine, c. 1926

Derricks at Night, 1927

Glow of the City, 1929
drypoint on wove paper

Stoops in Snow, 1930. This looks like it was influenced by his stay in Japan.
(And, by the way, you can have this one for only $50,000 - Just "add to basket," as it suggests)

Shadow Dance, 1930
drypoint and sandpaper ground, trial proof

Arch, Midnight (New York City), 1930

Rainy Day, Queens, 1931

R.F.D., 1933
drypoint and sandpaper ground

Winter on White Street, 1934

Boss of the Block, c. 1939
Aquatint and etching

Here is one of my favorites (but this isn't a good picture of it; I have a better picture of it but it's under copyright and I can't display it on this blog -- Unfortunately I didn't make a note of where I found it on the web and now I can't find it again). The subject is cars on a wet country road at night. Wet Night, Route 6, 1933
drypoint etching

AT THE LINK BELOW THERE WAS A PHOTOGRAPH OF MARTIN LEWIS - But as someone wrote in the Comments section (in Oct. 2010), the photo is no longer on the page.  I've looked and looked to see if I could locate this photograph elsewhere, to no avail.  If you find it please let us know in the Comments section where to find it - Thanks!  Meantime, you will know where it was.  Where it was:

Title: Martin Lewis in a Subway Kiosk, 1951
Vintage silver gelatin photograph.
Photographer: Alfred Gescheidt.

This is very interesting. It is a photograph of a New York City night scene of the type Lewis drew, and what's even more interesting is that the man in the photograph coming up out of the subway is Martin Lewis himself. I think it would be very interesting and fun to try to draw this with pen and ink. By the way, you can buy this photograph for just $5,500.00.

Late Traveler, 1949  This print was made before the photograph of Lewis (see above) was taken, apparently in the same setting.

Here is a blog post on the "Articles & Texticles" site devoted to Martin Lewis, with several of his pictures that enlarge to a good size. The "Shadows, Garage at Night" is one of my favorites. After you open up a picture to a large size, click the X in the bottom right corner of the picture to close it and go on to the next one.

A series of New York City scenes by Martin Lewis

You can also see the above video on this page where you can read about the music recorded in 1932 that's played with the video.

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August 12, 2008

Nocturnes - Night Pictures

I'm almost always outside early mornings while it's still dark, and if there's no moonlight there are still the stars to see, and the also there's the occasional meteor burning up as it enters the atmosphere. Sometimes there are even bats squeaking just a few feet above my head.

It's still so dark that if you didn't know, on a moonless night you couldn't tell in what direction the sun was going to rise from because it's no lighter in that direction than in any other. I love being outside at that time (yes I'm sometimes a bit nervous, wondering what - or who - might be lurking in the darkest areas, but it's worth it).

In the daytime it's another place entirely ... glaringly bright everywhere, hot, crowded, and noisy, and it's not so easy then to think of what exists beyond our planet, or even beyond this block I live on; at night I feel part of something amazingly huge and wonderful, beyond what I can ever imagine. I'm hardly aware of my body (unless it's really cold), as it blends in with the night and my mind is set free. I don't feel alone, but in the company of everyone else on earth who's outside in the dark at the same time (or has ever been), and I feel also in the company of coyotes and rabbits and other creatures roaming about and of the birds sleeping in trees and bushes and even of the neighborhood dogs outside in their yards who don't seem to sleep at all at night.

And so I am attracted to night pictures: Nocturnes.

Originally the term applied only to music.

nocturne: literally means “night piece”; a musical piece that is generally quiet and reflective in nature.
From Music Arts Toolkit Music Glossary

nocturne: n. A painting of a night scene. An instrumental composition of a pensive, dreamy mood, especially one for the piano.
From American Heritage Dictionary

Below are some examples of nocturne pictures that I happen to like, and there are also two videos you can watch from this page showing paintings by John Atkinson Grimshaw who painted many very beautiful night pictures. Further down there are links to many other Nocturne paintings and drawings on the web.

Moonlit Landscape with Bridge - 1648-50
oil on panel
Aernout Van der Neer
Dutch painter - 1603 - 1677
Picture from Wikipedia
Aernout Van der Neer article on Wikipedia

The Bridge: Nocturne, 1910
Julien Alden Weir
American painter - 1852-1919
Picture from Wikipedia
Julien Alden Weir Online

Nightfall on the Thames - 1880 - oil on board
John Atkinson Grimshaw
British Painter - 1836-1893
Picture from Wikipedia

John Atkinson Grimshaw's night paintings are all very intriguing. I love looking at them. Below are a couple of videos featuring his art -- Please pay no attention to his pictures of fairies and damsels! They seem so odd interspersed with his wonderful night paintings, as if he were two different artists (it's like seeing Felix Vallotton's very odd nudes among his quite, quite different and much better other pictures).

Atkinson Grimshaw


Left-Click once gently on arrow to begin.
Commentary on Painting:
Under the Leafless Trees by John Atkinson Grimshaw


Left-Click once gently on arrow to begin.

John Atkinson Grimshaw Online at Artcyclopedia
James McNeill Whistler - self portrait - 1858James McNeill Whistler (American-born, British-based painter - 1834-1903) is probably the artist most identified with nocturnes. (He called some of his other pictures "symphonies.")

Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge
1872-77 - Oil on canvas
James McNeill Whistler
If you click on the picture, it gets bigger; click again and it shrinks back down.

Nocturne in Blue and Silver - Chelsea
1871 - oil on wood
James McNeill Whistler
If you click on the picture, it gets bigger; click again and it shrinks back down.

Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights
1872 - oil on canvas
James McNeill Whistler
If you click on the picture, it gets bigger; click again and it shrinks back down.

Nocturne in Black and Gold - The Falling Rocket
1875 - oil on wood
James McNeill Whistler
Click on small picture to see much larger version.

Nocturne in Blue and Green - Chelsea at Olga's Gallery.
1870 - Oil on canvas
James McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler Online at Artcyclopedia

Childe Hassam
American Impressionist Painter - 1859-1935
Nocturne, Railway Crossing, Chicago
Watercolor - 1892-93
Childe Hassam Online at Artcyclopedia

Armin Landeck -
American realist graphic artist - 1905-1984
Manhattan Nocturne at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Drypoint - 1938
Armin Landeck Online

Knud Andreassen Baade - Norwegian artist - 1808-1879
A Norwegian Fjord by Moonlight on The Athenaeum.

And, finally, here is my own drawing.
Conte crayons on red-brown construction paper

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July 22, 2008

Patrick Dougherty - Stick Artist

Patrick Dougherty calls himself a sculptor and he calls what he makes "classical stick architecture." I suppose by "classical" he means as in "age-old," from the time the first humans built shelters for themselves out of whatever material Nature provided.

Dougherty is identified with Land Artists and Earth Artists. "Stick Artist" sounds to me like it would fit better than anything else (his own site is called "Stickworks"), but I'm not an expert on his line of work, just a curious person who has been intrigued by some of the pictures of his works that I've seen (and recently while researching this post I've looked at several dozen such pictures).

Andy Goldsworthy is also referred to as both a Land Artist and an Earth Artist, and these terms seem to apply when you consider most of his works, but Dougherty's works don't seem to me to quite fit into either of these categories. As I understand it, Land Art is outdoor art that is made from what's already out there in nature (the soil, rocks, and other such things that are already on the site where the "sculpture" is to be made); Dougherty may get his sticks from nearby, but although his sculptures look as if they almost had to have been constructed on the site (not moved there from elsewhere as they would probably fall apart) they could be made virtually anywhere, and although they are very intriguing and have their own special qualities they don't look as if they might have been formed by nature right there on the spot where they are situated, as Goldsworthy's do. They definitely look "man-made" (and this is not at all a bad thing in my opinion, but I'm just saying that there is a difference). This (looks like Nature could have made it vs. definitely looks like a human made it) is how I differentiate his kind of art from (most of) that of Andy Goldsworthy and others whose art seems to fit better into the Earth Art/Land Art categories.

Earth Art is usually, I think, Land Art that's done on a very large scale.

Here are some pages with definitions of Land Art and Earth Art and examples of artworks and artists in these categories:

Tells about Land Art here, and compares it with Earth Art

This is a Wikipedia article on Land Art

ArtLex on Earth Art and Earthworks



He's a very good speaker and he stays on-subject and goes into things very thoroughly (yet not tediously). You can learn a lot about what he thinks about his art and how he decides how he's going to approach each individual "site-specific sculpture" by reading an interview or listening to him talk.

Some of the links below will get you to pictures of his works including works in progress (so that you can see how these things are put together), and some sites include extended commentary by Dougherty either in audio or in print. I'm also throwing in a short video someone made and put on YouTube that takes you "in motion" around and through one of Dougherty's installations.

I'll begin with the best interview -- one you might want to read before looking at the pictures on the other sites. This is really good. Unfortunately, I looked at all the pictures and read everything on the other sites before I finally got to this interview. I wish I'd read it first.

Here it is: An interview with Patrick Dougherty. The page is kind of confusing -- At first it looks like the interview begins on the right side, just under the picture, but actually it begins further down the page on the left side.

The introduction to the interview calls his works "freeform assemblages." Apparently "Yardwork" is the name of a sculpture he made in Quebec, where the interview takes place. The picture shown at the top of the page is the Yardwork sculpture.

Here are a few quotes I plucked out of this interview, but there is much more to read when you get to the site:

"When I turned to sculpting with saplings, it seemed easy to co-opt the forces of nature and play a kind of energy flow onto the surfaces of the large forms I made."

"In completing the sculpture I developed passageways through this outer shell, so viewers could glimpse intriguing bits of the interior. Visitors can stand inside each of the inner structures and explore a kind of internal maze."

"The use of sticks and the forest from which they come are part of the oldest memories of the human race and seem forever entwined with human fantasy."

"I say of my work that I make large scale temporary sculptures from materials gathered in the nearby landscape."

"Certainly gardens are a kind of rendition of the unfettered wilds. Shrubs, trees, flowers and grass become commodities and are forced into human geometry. I try to free the surfaces of my work using sticks as a drawing material, work them in such a way they look like they are escaping those chains of being planted in a row. I image that the wilderness lurks inside my forms and that it is an irrepressible urge."

"I make temporary work that challenges some traditional ideas about sculpture, that it should last forever, can be bought and sold and can accrue value for those who own it."



Patrick Dougherty - Installations -- This is on his own site.

When you get to this page, click on "page 1" over at the left, then when you get to page 1, left-click on whichever little picture over at the left side you want to see enlarged. It will replace the large picture that already shows. There are three pages altogether. These pictures show several of his projects as they looked when completed.

I especially like the photograph (on page 1) that shows large basket-like shapes seemingly fascinated with their reflections seen in a pool of water.


There are some interesting photos of one of his installations on a blog called "San Francisco Civic Center":

I wonder if those two people sitting on a bench near this particular sculpture are real people. I'm sure he didn't make them, but maybe some other artist put them there. They could be real people; but there is a very obviously fake man in the first picture that may well have been made from sticks for all I know as he's very "stiff," so I thought perhaps other artists might have contributed their own sculptures to the site before Dougherty came along.


On the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens site you don't click on the small pictures -- Instead you just hold your mouse pointer over them and they show up in a larger size to the right. This site shows dozens of photos of an installation being constructed at the Botanical Gardens, beginning with the arrival of a very big truckload of sticks. You a good idea of how his structures are made from these photographs.


Patrick Dougherty's Lookout Tree

Have your speaker or your headset turned on before you go to this page. There is a video just below the middle of the page that starts by itself when you get to the page and Dougherty starts right in talking, making you wonder where the voice is coming from. -- Scroll quickly down the page to just past the middle to see the video (it's small).

In the video, Dougherty, at a site where he's just built a sculpture called "Lookout Tree," explains how he looks for just the right spot and then gets ideas for what he's going to put there from a consideration of many things -- how the site looks, what's nearby, its history, the way people interact with it, etc. Then he explains how he (and many volunteer assistants) go about making the structures. Very interesting.


Childhood Dreams is the name of a work by Dougherty at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Click on the orange tab called "The Process" to see him working on the this sculpture. The pictures will change by themselves...You have to keep your mouse pointer off the picture...It can be a little maddening.



A walk around and through a Patrick Dougherty
installation called Xanadu in Lisle, Illinois


I myself like some of his works better than others (but as I mentioned, I've only seen photographs of them). The ones I like best do not look like they're meant to resemble a castle or church or anything like that, but look more like they could actually be real shelters or places constructed to observe certain views from or to meditate in, not meant to be decorative but to be functional. (Note: By "functional" I do not mean to imply that they should be austere and heartless and boring).

- Jean

P.S. Brian mentioned in his comment on this post that Dougherty's stick sculptures reminded him of African weaver bird nests. I found a picture (okay to use, from Wikipedia) of two weaver bird nests -- not in Africa, but in western India, and I'm going to add it here:

Weaver Bird Nests - Western India

Note about Comments - If clicking on Comments doesn't open them for you, try pushing down the Ctrl key while clicking -- That's the way I have to do it. - Jean

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