Friday, July 3, 2015

Sargent's Portraits of Artists and Friends

John Singer Sargent, Ambrogio Raffele, 1904
An exhibition of John Singer Sargent's portraits of artists friends has opened at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and will be on view through October 4.
Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

Dorian Iten's Accuracy Guide

Swiss artist and teacher Dorian Iten, who has studied in some of the best ateliers in the USA and Europe, is now offering a teaching package that concentrates on how to achieve accuracy in your drawings. 

The teaching rubric of "Accuracy: A Drawing Guide" begins on familiar ground. He takes a line drawing of a figure on the left, and reproduces it on the right. The drawing on the right shows alignments along a vertical line. 

Checking alignments is just one way evaluating a drawing for accuracy. There are four others, and he has concretized these modes of seeing by proposing five kinds of glasses. Each pair of glasses represents a different way of checking. 
Clockwise from upper left, there are the Alignment glasses, Angle glasses, Measurement glasses, "Creaturizing" glasses, and Implied Line glasses. These are all methods used for 2D copying of static subjects; they don't really help you deal with moving subjects, and they're not about constructing forms in space.

Here's what you look for with the Implied line glasses on. The simplified contours seem to extend beyond the small forms and pick up again in other parts of the pose.

To Dorian, these glasses are more than just a metaphor. He actually has his students cut them out of cardboard (but you don't really have to). Here's Dorian wearing the angle glasses. Very stylish.

The entire teaching package includes two videos, a PDF guidebook, and a cheat sheet that thoroughly discuss this clever approach. 

When deciding how to monetize the packet, he decided to offer it as a "$0+" pay-what-you-want product, registered under the Creative Commons license. I asked him why he decided to structure it that way. He said he did it that way because: 
"• I'd like more people to be familiar with it - and use it
• I want to make the guide available to everyone, without a paywall
• PWYW removes the upper ceiling of fixed prices and allows happy/supportive contributors to give as much as they like
• It feels easier to promote than a fixed price product
• If there is a sacrifice of profit in order to reach more people (which there might not be), I'm willing to make it at this point in my journey"
One way to approach the transaction is to download the packet for free, try it out, and then decide what it's worth to you based on how much it has improved your drawing. Then you can go back and contribute based on whether, for you, it was worth the price of a cup of coffee, a magazine, or a day-long seminar.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Is Casein the Oldest Paint?

Residue of a milk-based ochre paint has been found on the edge a 49,000-year-old stone tool, Archaeology magazine reports today. This finding in the Sibudu cave of southwestern South Africa would make casein—paint that uses a milk-based binder—perhaps the oldest paint formulation of all. 

stone age paint-making workshop found in the nearby Blombos cave included stone and bone pestles for grinding the pigments. There was also an abalone shell caked with orange and red pigments used for mixing or storing colors.

Researchers say the milk ingredient was identified by "several high-tech chemical and elemental analyses" and that it may have come from a bovid such as a buffalo, eland, kudu or impala—presumably a wild-killed lactating female—since cattle were not domesticated until 1,000-2,000 years ago. I'm not sure how they ruled out human milk, which would be a lot easier to obtain, and would be available throughout the year. 

Pigments mixed with fat also date back to the Middle Stone Age archaeological record, and their use was probably similar to the body paint used in Africa today. The oldest known paintings are the 40,000 year old stenciled handprints in the Maros cave system in the Sulawesi island chain of Indonesia.

What other paint binders were used by Paleolithic cultures? Archaeologists have found evidence of "vegetable oils, egg whites, yucca juice, yucca syrup, white bean meal, piƱon gum, plant fluids, saliva, blood, and even urine." In the Lascaux caves, the dissolved limestone in the water may have provided the ingredient to stick the paint together, since it dries to a hard calcite layer.

Whether the Sibudu casein paint was used to decorate the body, a cave wall, or some portable object is not known.
Press release. Photos courtesy Archaeology Magazine (Thanks, Greg Shea and RobNonStop)
Materials of Ancestral Art
New review of Gouache in the Wild from "Thick Paint" author Brad Teare: "Gouache in the Wild simultaneously respects traditional techniques while infusing them with a spirit of invention."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Clipping Services

Before the Internet, press clipping services once provided a necessary service to anyone running a publicity campaign.

With teams of readers scattered across many geographical markets, they would monitor print media for specific keywords and then snip out the articles, mark the keywords in the margin, and mail the client binders with all the relevant clippings.

Clipping services also advertised in art magazines for illustrators who wanted to collect tearsheets of other artists or photos of certain cities or subjects.

Is it a case of Death by Google? Some of these companies have shifted to monitor digital media, or they've merged or gone the way of the dodo.

But there are still players in the print-clipping game because a lot of print media is hidden behind paywalls.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Olga Lehmann at the Slade School

Olga Lehmann (1912-2001) was a Chilean-born painter who studied at the Slade School in Britain.

While going through the Slade School archives, some 1992 audio interviews with Lehmann turned up where she describes her experience at the school. They've been uploading those interviews to Soundcloud so now we can listen to the Slade oral history: Olga Lehmann.

Lehmann describes arriving at the Slade School at age 17 in 1929, and meeting the instructors Henry Tonks, (who first told her she should take up knitting instead of painting), and Randolph Schwabe, who had done war art in both World Wars.

Sketch by Olga Lehmann
She said that in the life rooms, men and women never mixed. The instruction was in the form of suggestions. When she talks about Slade teaching in the 1930s, she remembered the exercise of doing a painting from life using only black, white, and red.

Thanks to Stephen Chaplin and the Slade School for putting these online.
Wikipedia on Olga Lehmann

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bruno Liljefors and the Fox

The Swedish wildlife artist Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939) spared no effort to achieve a lifelike quality in his paintings.

He skipped social gatherings so that he could rise early and go into the countryside to lie motionless for hours, hidden behind reeds at the water's edge.

Occasionally he brought a gun, saying "Sometimes I have to kill these birds and animals in order to dissect and study their structure." But he needed to see them up close and alive to understand their postures and movements.

He tried sketching at zoos, but found that "the modified captivity of the animals distorts their character and changes their habits."

He created his own menagerie in Uppsala, Sweden with more free-roaming spaces, but even there he found they acted unnaturally—especially the fox, who he wanted most to observe.

So one day he decided to set the fox free.
"When he turned his fox loose he gave him a fair start over his hounds, intending to have a fox-hunt all to himself; but the fox waited quietly for the dogs to come up with him, and then they played together. It was a failure, even from an artistic point of view."  
Quotes from Brush and Pencil, Vol XV, June 1905.