The leaves are turning and the morning is chilly.
“To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that is very good but that most can’t eat it.” Leo Tolstoy (from Brainyquote)
Does making a living diminish the subject of political statements in artist’s works? Many artists feel very strongly about political causes and seek to project this viewpoint in their art. However, artists also want to make a living doing the work they are passionate about. The difficulty may be in finding a marketable role for an artist’s work while maintaining a passionate direction.
“Visual Arts has a role to play in encouraging us to search through the ‘fragments and bigger pieces’ of our world and to piece them together in ways which allow us to explore, describe, contemplate, manipulate and bring them alive,” writes the author of an article for Artstuff.net. The statement suggests a political motivation is a requirement for art creation. Artists must have a higher purpose in their work to adhere to this role for art in today’s world.
The Art Newspaper, reporting on the Frieze London art fair, makes the following observation: “Reflecting complex social issues, political situations and personal causes is important to many artists, but confrontational works are commercially difficult.” Though the artist’s role is to encourage searching, too much searching may not sell art. While one writer is suggesting art’s role is to prod the viewer into a form of enlightenment, the second writer says that politics does not necessarily sell art.
Artists make art because of an inner force. Success comes from the ability to steer this force into a commercially viable direction followed by aggressive marketing. If the goal is to promote a deeply felt political cause it may be worth contemplating how that can be accomplished in a way more likely to stimulate exploration than as an outright in the face statement. The inner drive may be difficult to steer but worth the effort in the long run if seeking commercial success. Making art edible “to the majority of men,” may mean a little creative adjustment. After all, we all want to be edible.
“I love red so much, I almost want to paint everything red.”–Alexander Calder (from Color Research)
Did Lewis Carroll base the character, the Red Queen, of Through Looking Glass, on the War of the Roses or on Queen Victoria? There is much speculation but the monarch was apparently an amateur painter with a preference for alizarin crimson. However, many artists, like the former Queen, love this juicy color. Botanical artists once frequently used this deep rich red. But artist beware. With alizarin crimson, it pays to read the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Alizarin crimson was introduced in 1868 by German chemists, Graebe and Lieberman. Handprint.com states alizarin goes on strong and dark but dries to a much lighter maroon. Both Handprint.com and GurneyJourney.blogspot.com give alizarin crimson very poor ratings for light-fastness. James Gurney states alizarin will fade out of the painting considerably over time. PR83 is the chemical name of this rapidly fading alizarin crimson.
Gamblin paints has solved the fading problem of alizarin crimson by creating a lightfast substitute, slightly less intense, called Alizarin Permanent. And another choice for artists from Gamblin is the warmer but equally transparent Perylene Red. A little experimentation might make either of these reds a successful alternative.
Golden Paints has, also, come up with a solution to the lack of light-fastness in alizarin crimson by blending the quinacridone reds with Phthalo Blue-green shade to come up with Alizarin Crimson Hue. Golden gives Alizarin Crimson Hue a light-fastness rating of I, the best rating, another good substitute.
Brainpickings and Making a Mark are two blogs with a series of Queen Victoria’s watercolor sketches. The Independent has a story on the recent unveiling of the exhibit of Queen Victoria’s watercolors, along with other royals artwork, at Windsor Castle this year. She painted quite a few landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and a number of sketches of her children. Enjoy the Queen’s paintings but maybe not her color preferences!
The Painting Pundit will be off for two days presenting a poster on the Art to Heart Project at the University Hospital Consortium Annual Conference in Atlanta. We’ll be back in a couple of days!
Part Two of the Art to Heart Project is at: http://www.arttoheartproject.com
“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian (from Artpromotivate)
What makes an artist create? For some it is the process of art- making. Others are obsessed with some particular subject, model or location. some just want to make a living. But does that really explain what makes a painter, paint or a sculptor, sculpt? There are lots of postulations on the subject.
Artist Charles Spratt has several different ideas. He says, “It must be for the love of it—it can’t be for the money.” Spratt is likely right on that point. He goes on to discuss the pleasure of creating and developing new ideas. The satisfaction of selling work is also a good reason many artists continue working, according to Spratt.
In the Painted Generations blog, author Barbara Hartsook gives three reasons why painters paint or writers write. Her first reason is, “to lose oneself in play and discovery.” Artists get lost in the process of creating and by the fascination of experimenting with the materials. Secondly, Hartsook states, “To reconnect with oneself.” And lastly, she says, “To express oneself and tell stories.” What this author has laid out is likely very true with a number of artists, may be even the majority of artists. We play, we connect, and we tell stories.
The LaMantia Gallery wrote on the subject of why artists continue to paint the same subject repeatedly. The writer gives three reasons: “market expediency, pursuit of perfection and experimentation.” Artists staying on the same subject because it sells might be a very good reason to continue with a particular subject. The other two reasons suggest that it is something the artist is compelled to do whether in search of perfection or for the fun of experimentation.
All three writers give good reasons why artists paint. And all are right. “For the love of it.,” is important. To lose, reconnect, and express oneself is part of the process, too. Making a living is vital for most artists, as is the pursuit of perfection. But the long and short of it, no matter what reasons you may give, is, simply, artists create because they must. Inside every painter is a little Voice that says, “Paint!” And writer, “Write!” Sculptor, “Sculpt!” While all other reasons are true, that little Voice is the only one that matters.
“Let us see how high we can fly before the sun melts the wax in our wings.” Edward O. Wilson (from The Painters Keys)
Many artists are experimenters who constantly search for new ways to express themselves through their art. They look for new techniques. They try different media. Some even come up with non-traditional materials not generally thought of as art making material. Others look for new uses of traditional materials. Still others seek out new and different subject matter.
The UK’s Daily Mail has an article focused on artist Gerald Toni and his use of coffee and tea to paint beautiful life-like works of people and objects set in coffee houses. He uses various blends of coffee and tea from all over the world. The amazing range of color values in his paintings come from years of experimenting with the different coffee and tea blends.
Watercolorist Carrie Lin, as told by Margaret DeRitter of Michigan Live has developed a unique method in her paintings using different papers such as yupo and rice paper. For the rice paper work she uses a crinkle technique perfected with years of experimentation. In the yupo paintings, she applies ink, allowing it to slide over the slick surface of the paper. Lin then uses both techniques as the background for her beautiful abstract paintings.
If you are in the mood to try for something new and different, Amiria Robinson has outlined techniques, methods and materials to try out in a series of articles for Student Art Guide “Entitled Beyond the Brush.” You might try painting with a mop or maybe your feet. You could experiment by painting with a rag. How about turning things around and dipping the paper or canvas into the paint instead of the other way around? Robinson described a number of lively suggestions worth trying just for the fun of it.
In the process of experimenting, artists are forever evolving and changing the way people view their world. This constant evolution brings color and expression to our lives. I wonder what the next development in the art world will be. Artists are always bringing new things to life.
“ I gave them paint. All it takes. These politicians make things too complicated.”
Put a group of people into a room full of art supplies and watch what happens. People find ways to create things. They experiment with materials, forms, and limitations. They solve problems. They begin to talk to each other in different ways. They even bond. And, generally, they have fun.
Bob Bates is the founder of Inner City Arts, an organization to provide art -making projects to urban youth. Bates, in an interview with It Magazine believes the process of creating art leads to better self- confidence. Bates states, “Making art requires thinking and decisions: what color will I use, how can I make this stand up, how can I make this stronger, quieter, brighter, more bendable.” The self -confidence comes as they see the evidence of how they solved the problems in making their individual art.
A research study by Julia Kellman of the University of Illinois, Urbana, found that people facing life -threatening illness were able to begin opening up and talking about their illness as they participated in art making projects together. The group bonded in the process of making art, leading to a greater feeling of safety to expose personal feelings and talk about what they were experiencing.
Lisa Phillips, writes in The Artistic Edge, “Artists are constantly pushed to explore unchartered territory. The truly great ones are those that produce new and exciting work that has never before been created.” Artists are always, by their very nature, pushing for improvement, to do something better than the last creation. Each piece is a learning experience that leads to the next one. Creativity begets more creativity.
As artists know, art making brings about creativity, problem-solving and bonding. It could be a very child-like, simplistic answer for much bigger problems. Picasso is frequently quoted as having said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one when we grow up.” Wouldn’t it be a hoot if all politicians were required to go into a room full of art supplies with orders to make art? What a lot of problems would then be solved! However, as the old saying goes, “If wishes were horses .….”
Kellman, J (2005). HIV, art and a journey toward healing, one man’s story. Journal of Aesthetic Education. 39(3), Fall 2005
“Like emotions, colours are a reflection of life.” – Janice Glennaway (from Irene Osborne)
Most greens fall into the yellow spectrum following the colors of leaves, grass and other growing things of the natural world. These greens usually produce a nice mud color if mixed with red. The discovery of Viridian green changed that, creating a clear bluish green perfect for cooler uses and making a better glazing green. Mixed with alizarin crimson, viridian makes a beautiful grey, similar to Payne’s grey. Viridian next to red creates an energetic drama.
In the early nineteenth century, painters began looking for a less toxic green than the highly toxic emerald green. Painting Through the Ages states that viridian is Chromium oxide Dihydrate and was first patented in 1859 by Guignet of Paris. It quickly became a widely used color. So popular now it is even seen in the paint of cars as in the new Chevy Volt. For artists, viridian’s uses vary according to artist but remains very popular and a “must have” right next to alizarin crimson.
Golden Paints says viridian green has excellent permanency. And Gamblin says viridian is very good as a tint. Paintmaking.com and others state viridian is excellent for oil painters but not the best green for water-based media. Its transparent qualities and tinting ability do not hold up as well in acrylics, watercolor or gouache.
The writer of the website Paintmaking advises to pay attention to the quality of viridian as some manufacturers may not fully purify the pigment leaving problematic traces of borate and chromate. In the case of Viridian, apparently, you will get what you pay for so test the different brands. The quality is worth the price.
For oil painters, viridian makes a beautiful cool green for shade, water and other areas the yellowish greens would tend to heat up. Few artists use it straight, usually diluting it with titanium white, ultramarine or alizarin. Straight or mixed, viridian will grab attention, even in the shade.
For the daring, here is a guide to mixing your own viridian from Painting Through the Ages.
A color guide of the many beautiful mixes that can be made with viridian is demonstrated by Colorbay.com.
Wetcanvas.com has an excellent discussion (here) posted of artists explaining their uses of viridian green. Very informative!
Happy shady painting!
“Art galleries should be apothecaries of our deeper self.” Alain de Botton
A growing body of research is revealing what artists have long known. There is healing in art. As more research is conducted more will be known. Medical and nursing schools are beginning to incorporate more arts in curriculum. Even though artists know of the healing potential of art, do galleries and museums know?
Two studies, (Lazarus 2003, Riis 2000), have shown the potential for art to lead to a better understanding in medical students of the human condition by helping the students relate to various emotions depicted in art. Students visit a museum and are encouraged to examine the emotion portrayed in the art and compare to situations encountered in medicine. The results have revealed the students gain a greater expression of empathy. In the second study, the authors conclude, “ …the humanities and the arts offer approaches and inspiration that are of the greatest value to the education of doctors of all levels, (Tidsskr 2000).
Yet museums have not seemed to embrace this. In an article in The Guardian’s arts section, Alain de Botton suggests that museums and galleries arrange art according to emotion. There would be sections for love, hope, mood and more. He believes art has the ability to “rebalance our moods, lend us hope, usher in calm, stretch our sympathies, reignite our senses and awaken appreciation.” As such, if galleries recognize these facts, they could promote art as healing
I have seen this aspect of art in my own work and wonder why the concept of art’s healing potential has not yet gained wider recognition. It is a slow process and takes time. Or that “science versus art” thing remains a major barrier. Hopefully, the barrier will continue to come down and art will become a more widely utilized tool for the medical profession, in galleries and in hospitals.
Kathe Kollwitz was a master at depicting human emotion. Visit the Kollwitz Museum website for more on her work.
2. Riis P. (2000). [Humanities and art as a part of medical education]. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2000 Dec 10;120(30):3738-40 (article in Norwegian)