What IS Art?

The Artist
This has been a very revealing week for me.
Earlier, while reading posts to the Portrait Painters LinkedIn site, I found out some artists trace their work, then paint. I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process. Somehow I have a feeling that I am part of a group of artist whose entries that are based on tried-and-true artistic tradition are competing with those who use projectors or worse – they print out the work on canvas and paint over it!!

“The Discovery” by Norman Rockwell

When this reality hit me, I felt like the boy in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Discovery.” The truth absolutely shattered my fairytale expectations. Is it really unrealistic to expect an artist to draw his or her artwork? I’m not talking about someone who draws their original layout and then stencils to a final surface or uses a projector to enlarge it for a large-scale mural. The concept is theirs.  Tracing photos is hard to call original. Though I can’t seem to wrap my arms around the practice, I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process.

The Art
Then, bringing up Rockwell’s work refreshed my memory of another revelation. I ran into a woman who said Norman Rockwell was not an artist, he was just an illustrator. Now, this cut me to the quick since that was my artistic thrust at the time. I was young and impressionable, but I asked myself, “Isn’t all art illustration?”  It illustrates places, people, vocation, moods, fantasy, aspirations, social issues.  The list is endless. I’ve heard people like to make such comments to impress others about their knowledge of art. Sure, I wouldn’t want to be remembered for just the painted logo on a van I did, but illustrative art can be very complex and demand high artist skills. Rockwell’s imagination and skill are seen above.

No one questions calling the sculptor an artist. Why, even hair stylists are called artists today. Maybe the word “artist” has lost some of its meaning. If a person renders a creation in or on stone, metal, paper, canvas or whatever, they’re an artist. If they copied a work or photograph, they’re a copyist. How good of an artist they are can depend on the viewer and the artwork. But if Reader’s Digest wanted to use “The Scream” by Edvard Munch for their cover would you have to call Munch an illustrator?

I would love to hear from critics and artists – is copying art? Is Illustration art?

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Back On – finally!

An Update

Just a quick, no philosophical update.
I took a vacation from blogging so I could purge the computer from it’s hiccups, viruses and broken hard drives. Yes, I’m slow – but I’m an artist, not an IT guy. It safe to post again.

Painting Delivered

Seascape - Cape Cod (22x28 on linen, private collection)

Seascape – Cape Cod (22″x28″ gallery wrap  on linen, private collection)

The BIG highlight to this frustrating winter was in February. I got to deliver a painting. It is always rewarding when you both enjoy the painting process and you see the client enjoys the end product. I would have rather painted a dramatic scene, but she wanted serenity and looking back over the past couple months – I needed it. Besides, being from Massachusetts, seascapes of Cape Cod hit a tender spot in me.

So, what made this painting exciting for me is the medium. I used OPEN acrylics by Golden and the rich color adds a depth and luminosity that rivals oil paintings. I was very pleased with the way it applied: however, I will have to experiment more combining OPEN with Blick’s white Gesso. It seemed to create a drag as I applied it to the linen. Now I can focus on the next project.

Around the Farm

UnfortunatelIMG_2009 - Copyy for my art, gardening season is kicking in. One of the more pleasant aspects to the early season is the hatching of chicks – which are easily surpassed by the arrival of baby DUCKS!!  I love waterfowl. The hens are troopers by laying marvelous eggs, but ducks are adorable. (Duck eggs are great, too!)

While walking around the pond to check on trees,  I saw a flock of Blue-winged Teal on the pond.IMG_2030 - Copy I had to snap a picture or two. Also, I  got a photo of a muskrat swimming away from them. One good thing about muskrats is they’ll control the cattail growth around the edge of you pond!

I figured, it’s been awhile since I snapped a picture of the magpie ducks and I didn’t have a photo of Buster (the ToulIMG_2016 - Copyouse gander) and Mandy (the Pilgrim goose) in their new tractor. They didn’t like the camera. Kansa is still my helper (of sorts), just in case you’re wondering.
Maybe I’ll be more profound next time. Have a great weekend!

What should we do with talent?

Where does talent come from?

 

I won’t try to pull a fast one on my readers or string them along with scientific studies (though many are interesting). I can only say,“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”(James 1:17) Now, I know this text refers to God’s gift of salvation and care for His children; however, “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Ex 4:11)   If God decides who will be dumb or seeing, He can easily decide who is artistic or musical, or struggles to appreciate creativity.The source may not be so elusive, but the why behind creativity remains.

 

Maybe more important – what do we do with talent?

Don’t you find it strange how differently people react to the arts and talented people?

Capture1Some are totally clueless in understanding what goes into a performance or project.

When I was the sole musician for a church and was accompanying two choir numbers, two other musical pieces, playing three Offertories plus attending the rehearsals and accompanying worship singing for three services each week, the music director looked at me in surprise when I mentioned I had to practice several hours each week.

Someone asked an artist how long it took for him to paint a picture and he replied, “All my life.” What a great response that is a bit tongue-and-cheek and yet it is all very real at the same time.

There is a lot of loneliness, too. We are those as children who brought home reports cards reading, “Loves to daydream,” “Great motor control but unrealistic use of color,” “Loves singing and sings with authority” and “Work well independently.” I remember the lonely hours as a stay as home mother. It probably didn’t hit me as hard as those personalities that need socialization. My poor children went to bed at 8 in the evening and I would begin painting (When your spouse works 2nd shift, you are almost a single parent) and would paint until my husband came home in the early hours of the morning. While church members socialized, I was practicing with those preparing their musical specials for upcoming worship services. I don’t say these things demanding pity, I am speaking a reality. Artists paint, sculpt, compose, write and practice away while peers shop, party and go to sport/art events.

Life experiences can bring lack of understanding and appreciation on the part of the viewer/listener. So people at recitals and show openings romanticize over the exciting life of artists and refuse to see the reality when an artists state that it can be a bit tedious (Don’t think so, ask Michelangelo when the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was “unveiled.”) Don’t get me wrong, the tedium is worth it to the artist who has the result in his heart and mind.

In the late 1800’s there were over 2,000 piano makers in the country! Every household wanted a piano. Sacrifices were made to own one. Almost every house that had a piano had a child who took lessons. Playing piano was not only a form of entertainment, it was a status symbol. To some people it portrayed wealth, to others it meant refinement and an extra incentive for someone to marry plain old Betty. You can almost feel sorry for the nine-year-old boy who drops his fishing worms when his mother pulls him by the ear into the house for piano practice (lovingly, of course!). Now there were the good old days of discipline against selfish impulses for long-term gains.

Girl with a Pearl Eariing - Vermeer

Girl with a Pearl Eariing – Vermeer

Today we are overloaded with art that seemingly has no cost to it. The painting may be beautiful, but it can be easily mass-produced. The rare voice can draw tears, however, with a touch of a button it’s gone viral and everyone hears it.

Thank God there are patrons who do appreciate the object that delights their eyes and the nuances of sound that move them emotionally. I’m glad there are museums. Those hallways of subtle lighting drown out the noise of cheap entertainment and busy lives and make the viewer focus on life as seen through the artists. Sometimes it’s a life we may have forgotten.  I often wonder what “the art” sees in us as we view it?

The Emotional Power of Color

There is something to be said of a Creator Who cares enough for our pleasure that He gave us the gift of our senses. They say the gift of smell has the most powerful ties to memory. Maybe. After all, I have wonderful memories that flood my mind when homemade bread, apple pies and other pastries stimulate my olfactory senses. And the TASTE! I have heard that the gift of hearing is the last thing to go when facing death. Touch can bring pain or comfort. But the gift of vision – what a gift! It is so complex that close to a third of our brain is devoted to it.

Untitled-Grayscale-01The emotional impact of color hit me surprisingly this morning. A sunrise this morning greeted me – beautiful, but I was struck by a memory of a 1963 Pontiac Catalina (or was it a Bonneville). When my dad brought it home, the first thing he did was open up the hood – but we were all impressed when he opened the trunk and sat in it with room to spare. A large family on vacation appreciates these points. The mafia would had treasured the roominess of it over resorting to a panel truck. But what hit me this morning was the memory of that deep, deep midnight blue. You know – the color of that blue-black stallion or the almost black suit that draws the viewer in. Detroit knew how to crank out beauties back then. The they knew how to use the baby blues and bubble gum pinks we see in the sky today. Looking at the cars today is very uninspiring.

blk & wh tree

Life Without Color

Now, using black & white photos is great when I’m checking my values on a difficult subject I’m drawing but- Can you image if we only saw in “black & white?” There would be no need for hair dyes and fabrics would stress pattern over color. TV’s would still be in black & white – let alone HDTV and HGTV would have a fourth of their audience when designers show landscapes in a spectrum of grays.  Function over beauty would be the dominant motivator in design and art would have a totally different focus. (This coming from a graphite artist! But even my eye can see the warmth and coolness of different “leads.”)

I mean, it’s as if you watch I Love Lucy for years and then find out, “She’s a beautiful redhead!” Even when I listen to music, it stirs images of color in my brain. Why is black so grim and domineering while greens are used for calming atmospheres?   It’s hard to imagine that color actually brings out emotional responses but they do.

The eye’s cones are a wonderful gift (I knew there was a reason I loved cones), and we are fortunate that we have cone receptors for red, green and blue; thus able to appreciate 7-10 million different colors! Dogs and some others animals have only two. A few have four and some see wave lengths we can’t – like bees. An interesting website on color is: http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-vision/look-inside-the-eye

butterfly treeSo, the next time you are enthralled by a sunset or captivated by the iridescence of an Indigo Bunting (bird) or butterfly, thank God for the ability to see color and ENJOY!

1-time for breakfast - Copy

How do You Know You’re Right?

Seeing art from the viewer’s eyes-
So, I’m painting a seascape – rather fun. I feel my blood pressure lowering with each stroke I apply. But I know not to rely on my immediate satisfaction. Sometimes in art I will view it upside down or in front of a mirror to CHANGE my PERSPECTIVE. The technique really is an eye opener and I find myself shortening the nose or moving the tree over. I found a website last week when I was looking for some equine inspiration. Horse Trainer Rick Gore has a page called “My Random Horse Thoughts” and the material in it is so mind compelling! (The link is:http://www.thinklikeahorse.org/Horse_thoughts.html)

I think this cartoon explains what I’m saying perfectly.

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

So – How Do You Know You’re Right?
What did you think 2013 would bring you? The same job? Same home? Same health? Same health care? So, we were wrong about a few things. You probably worried about what the year 2013 would bring. Did any of the worries come true? Maybe some did – a lost of job or decline of health, but you’re still here. You can let it get you down or surrender to what you think is a downward spiral of fortunes.

 

Perspective changes everything!
We all have been there. We see catastrophe all around us and a true friend will say to you, “It’s not as bad as you think.” Usually we find little comfort in those words, but then when we realize there are other tests to redeem our unpreparedness, other boy/girl friends to prove their faithfulness, and other chances for the body to heal and ways to cope with change – so – ah-ha! Life isn’t so bad after all!

 

There’s a song I use to sing as a child that adults sometimes forget –

 

“Why worry, when you can pray, trust Jesus, He’ll lead the way.
Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on God’s promise.
Why worry, worry, worry worry – when you can pray!”

 

The cartoon above stated perception is reality. But outside of what the artist renders as reality, that’s not often the case.  (If  it were true, car accidents would be rare, indeed!) Maybe if you and your friends can’t see the glass as half full, trust that God does (He probably sees the glass as FULL!) and He will care for you. Try seeing life from the Great Artist’s viewpoint.

John 10: 9  “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.   27  My sheep hear  my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:   28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”