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February 26, 2009

Aircraft Drawings by Brantley Phillips

Graphite drawing: A6

Graphite drawing: A10

Graphite drawing: Blackhawk

Graphite drawing: Chinook

The artist: Brantley Phillips

Brantley Phillips is an artist, a pilot, an outdoorsman, a lover of fine food and a gourmet cook, a happily married man with a terrific wife, and a really friendly guy liked by a lot of people, including me. He gets a lot out of life and he gives a lot back. In my next few blog posts I'll be writing more about him and showing more pictures. In this post I want to tell you about his love of flying and show you a bit of his aircraft art.

"Thank you [says Brantley]! Although I really don't know if I'm much of an outdoorsman ... to tell you the truth my favorite outdoor activity is slow-cooking barbecue ribs while smoking a cigar.

"I used to do these pictures after I hung up my wings and became a dispatcher for the company I flew Medevac for. I worked the night shift, which I loved, being a night owl...but you'd go for hours with nothing happening so I'd bring my art stuff and draw these pictures in the wee hours. I wasn't looking at real aircraft for my models, unfortunately, just pictures of airplanes off the internet, but it was great fun and a most rewarding way to pass the time."

Brantley and his wife live in Alaska now, but they started out in the "Lower 48." In his first year of college Brantley attended the University of Georgia but he had always loved airplanes and got his private pilot's license in his senior year of high school, so when he learned that you could major in airplanes at Florida Institute of Technology he transferred there after his freshman year.

After graduation he moved back to his home state of South Carolina and worked at a few aviation jobs. "I got to fly turboprops, teach others how to fly, loved it all." He got married and he and his wife decided to move to Alaska where Brantley got a job as a copilot on a Lear jet flying Medevac patients from small towns to Anchorage for medical care. "For three years I got to see every inch of Alaska, from Ketchikan to Barrow to the tip of the Aleutian chain, I got to see it all. I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world."

Eventually, however, he realized he'd seen everything he wanted to see and decided he wanted something with a better schedule. He is now working at a desk job and "happy I get to sleep in my own bed at night and I don't get called out to fight blizzards on some remote island at 3 a.m."

Final approach to the small island town of Sitka in Southeast Alaska.

To be continued. (More on Brantley and more pictures in my next post.)

January post on Brantley's art workspace.

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February 14, 2009

Artists and Photography - Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) was a French painter and printmaker.

Bonnard's paintings were much-influenced by various factors including the ideas of Paul Gauguin (who inspired the Nabis, of which Bonnard was a member), and Japanese prints (which became widely available and influential in Europe beginning in the 1860s), and photography.

According to Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Bonnard "did not begin photographic work in earnest until 1898." However, he had had his camera since the early 1890s and many of his peers, including his close friend, Vuillard, were enthusiastic photographers. So even though he may not have spent much time at it himself until 1898, Bonnard had for a long while been well aware of how photography had given us a new way to look at things and suggested new ways of painting them.

But these were just suggestions. Bonnard didn't copy photographs when he painted. He composed pictures, in fact, basically from his imagination and from memory. ("Bonnard explained that having the actual subject in front of him would distract him from his work. His art was always the result of an initial attraction to something: ‘If this attraction, this primary conception fades away, the painter becomes dominated solely by the motif, the object before him. From that moment he ceases to create his own painting.’" This quote is from an article entitled Bonnard: Observing Nature on the nga.gov.au site.

He might get something out of a photograph, but never more than a tidbit that would help him achieve the effect he wanted.

"It appears that he viewed his photographs as sketches; both were meant to inspire a mood or capture a fleeting movement for later reference." This quote is from the above-mentioned Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography, which has much more on Bonnard and photography.

But also Bonnard's compositions reflect a more general idea that was gleaned from photography by anyone who was familiar with a camera. In many of his pictures there is a "snapshot" look. Obviously these paintings were not composed to look like formal compositions of the past. Notice feet cut off at the bottom, or part of a person missing at the edge of a picture, for examples. Or very intimate subject matter that does not look as if it had been composed but, instead, had been "caught." The result is a casual look, as if something very "real" (a "slice of life") was captured and shown to us.

Because Bonnard's works are still under copyright, I can't show any of them on this post. There are many of his works shown on this page on the Metropolitan Museum of Art site. Click on a picture to see it in a larger size.

You can see a photograph of Bonnard on this site, and there is also an artistic (rather than personal and artistic) biography. Here, at AskART there is a more personal biography.

More Posts on this blog in series on artists and photography:

Edgar Degas and Photography
Degas and Photography - More
Eugène Delacroix and Photography
Édouard Vuillard and Photography
There will be more posts in this series, from time to time.

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February 7, 2009

Sharpie Marker Artist

I'd love to have a basement to decorate for myself with Sharpie markers like this man did! It looks like it must have been great fun to do and it would also be very pleasant to be surrounded by this mural while doing whatever you do down in the basement.

The story appeared in the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader last September (2008) and I think that's the best place to read about it (for as long as they have the article on there), since I don't feel right about quoting extensively from it and you can read all about it there.

They also have a 360 degree moving panorama of the basement walls on there, all of which are decorated. BUT, I also recommend you go to this page to see the panorama in a larger size. There is no article on this page, but it's nice to see the larger viewer.

I love everything about this. I know it had to be lots of fun to do, I would love to be surrounded by scenes like these, I like the idea of painting all the walls, and the "built-in-looking" furniture that's against the walls, the same cream color so that it can all be decorated with black markers (and also having so much of the room painted in such a light color makes the place look large and uncramped; besides, the black furniture looks great against the cream color).

I love the illusions, but of course the scenes were not intended to look photographically realistic. The non-existent third dimension is implied by perspective lines and by things being "behind" and "in front of" each other, etc., but we are quite aware that what we see is not at all real; we can only enter these scenes via our imagination, but this isn't difficult to do as we are surrounded by the "life size" drawn scenes, which come right up to and even in some places "leak into" and cover what's really in the room -- and the ideas (art, good company, pleasures of the mind) are so appealing.

To me, art -- as opposed to copied or intuitively inspired decoration, for instance, or as opposed to photographs taken by someone who is not artistic but only wants to "record" the scene (for another instance) -- doesn't spell things out for us showing us every detail in a "realistic" manner; it suggests things to us; the less specific and "real" it is, the more we enter into it. Art involves the viewer's imagination, and this is what makes us "feel" something when we look at it -- We are, truly, involved in it.

For instance, the curved stairway that appears to go behind the wall is far from realistic.  Even a cat or a very young child would realize that it really doesn't exist behind that wall, but that doesn't prevent me from wishing I could climb the stairs to see if there are more books up there, every time I see it come around. It doesn't matter that I know I couldn't really climb those stairs - In my imagination I certainly can, and do. And I imagine what those men are talking about -- With characters like those gathered together there must be fascinating conversations taking place (and I think of other people I'd like to see there with them).

To me, suggestions are more interesting than the real thing because via my imagination I can have an adventure and endless fun -- What is at the top of the stairs? I get to see, in my mind, what I want it to be, and seeing it again (and again) is no less enjoyable as I can recreate (or rearrange) it unendingly.

Also, I noticed that the three-dimensionality of the actual stairway is greatly enhanced by comparison with the illusions drawn on the walls. The real stairwell looks sooooo concave.

And there's the fact that he didn't just draw "decorations" on the walls - He drew what he would love to be surrounded by; for instance, the ancient vases, the library with its shelves and shelves of books, fictional and historical characters (and his father) who are especially meaningful to the artist, the 'paintings,' the what looks like a long carpeted hallway that I wish I could walk to the end of, and so on.

And there's a lot of enlivening tension caused by the fact that there are many real, three-dimensional, objects against the wall that were painted the same cream color as the wall which were drawn on, too. That was a clever idea. Those real items look all the more "bulgy" (while, for instance, the actual stairwell looks all the more concave) because of the contrast with the flat walls that have been drawn on in the same manner.

There is another contrast, too: The contrast of a basement, which makes me at least think of a cold, dank, airless and depressing place full of junk, and the scenes portrayed on its walls, which makes me think of art, books, and interesting people and conversation in a very comfortable-looking place.

What could be more fun than this, in this particular place? For me, I don't think anything else could compete. If I were the artist, I would probably just think of more ways to integrate the "real" with the "unreal." I would guess he has already thought about the same kinds of things.

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