Dramatically Simple

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“When you lose your simplicity, you lose your drama.” Andrew Wyeth (from The Painter’s Keys)

Many of the greatest artists, writers, poets, and creative people in general comment on the importance of keeping it simple. For some artists, this can be a difficult task, especially for those drawn to the dramatic. Although, at times, complicated fussiness has been popular, the simple is what is more often remembered. A look at a few of the great master’s work would seem to bear this out.

Rembrandt painted a number of complicated scenes such as the famous Night Watch paintings yet he is most often associated with the soft, unique light of his many portraits. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the complicated famous Last Supper mural and many more yet is most often connected to the Mona Lisa. What could be more simplistic in subject than the Mona Lisa? Michelangelo painted the fabulous intricate Sistine Chapel. While thousands flock to see the Sistine Chapel every year, the marble sculpture, David, is the image most often connected to Michelangelo.

The list could go on and on throughout the history of art but how often do artists think about keeping it simple? The problem for many may be in knowing when to quit. There is always something more to do. A little more color here. A dab of paint there. Eventually, the simplicity is lost and some of the drama with it. Perhaps, an alarm can be installed above the easel that can be programmed to know when the point of no return has been reached where simplicity will soon be lost. This alarm could send out a resounding, “Put down the brush, and step away from the paint!!” That could work but it might be simpler to keep it simple by making a simple effort to enforce simple self-restraint. If the self-restraint fails, there is always the alarm to fall back on.

 

Here is a Flash Mob performance of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. What fun! I wish these guys would show up at my local mall!

Weekend Inspiration–Zentangle

Doodling for meditation and relaxation is becoming popular as way to release the stresses of the day.  And its fun!  Everybody likes to doodle in some way even if its just scribbles.  The Zentangle craze is about using doodling as a form of meditation.  Just watching the video is enough to bring on some relaxation.  If you’d like to give it a try and don’t know how to get started, the video below is simple and easy to follow.  Go ahead!  Jump in if you haven’t already.

Arts in Healthcare–Doodling for the Health of It

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“Drawing is a frame of mind, a loving embrace if you will.” Susan Avishal (from The Painter’s Keys)

How often do students get in trouble for doodling during class?  Doodling, new research is showing, may not be such a bad thing at all.  In fact doodling may be good for your health.  While supposedly zoning out with some prodigious doodling, the brain is actually busy at work solving some major problems.  Instead of treating doodlers as slackers, perhaps it would be better to treat them as the smarter students because they just may be.

Psychology Today has a regular feature on Arts and Health by art therapist Cathy Malchiodi.  In an article about the benefits of doodling, Malchiodi cites recent research on doodling and memory retention.  It seems that the act of doodling while performing a specific function helps retain the memory of the function.  Malchiodi also discusses in the same article, the current “Zentangle” craze as another example of the health benefits of doodling.  “Zentangle” is more structured than simple doodling and creates a meditative concentration in the process that is both soothing and calming for the heart.

Maybe all those people who scold doodlers are the same analytical types who don’t understand daydreaming either.  Now we know.  Daydreaming and doodling are techniques of the right -brained creative types allowing the brain to work out and solve complex problems.  As both activities are meditative in nature, these creative folks are soothing and relaxing the heart at the same time.  So go ahead, doodle and daydream to your heart’s content.  You just may be about to solve a great human dilemma or come up with the next greatest invention.  You could be the inventor of the soon-to-be latest hot must-have item.  Grab a pen and start doodling.  The world is waiting for your great creation!  At the very least, you’ll be healthier.

The day dreaming post is Meandering Toward Insight

Weekend Inspiration–App, App and Away

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“Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.” Irwin Greenberg (from The Painter’s Keys)

Suppose you are out and about without a sketchbook when suddenly the urge to draw strikes. It’s in your head but you need to record it. What can you do? This moment may never come again. If the image isn’t captured now, will it be lost down the memory hole? Quick! Pull out your smartphone and start drawing right where you are. Record that image. Get some marks down to take back to the studio. How? There’s an app for that. Sketchbook Mobile by Autodesk is a phone app to download for $1.99. Open the app and start drawing with color or black and white. This app is amazingly easy to use. If you are already using this addictive little toy, please share your experience! It would be great to hear how others are using this fun app. Who needs games when you could be drawing!

But look out! This toy is distracting.

The Granddaughter’s Residual–UPDATE

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“Do your job and demand your compensation—but in that order.”  Cary Grant (from Brainyquote)

In two of my previous posts, the lack of resale compensation for visual artists, illustrators, photographers and sculptors was discussed.  The United States Copyright Office has now partially reversed the previous ruling on resale royalties for visual artists.  Visual artists have not had the same rights to royalties as composers, playwrights and screenwriters.  There is a bill coming up in congress and the senate to grant full residual rights but this move by the Copyright Office signals a hopeful direction.

Judith Dobrzynski has covered the issue for the Arts Journal blogs and has a full report on what these changes mean.  She received a report from the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) on his upcoming bill.  Please go to her post for the full story here.  There are also links in her article for the U.S. Copyright Office report on the reversal.

“Droit de Suite” is the title of these laws in Europe that came about from the destitute state of the granddaughter of artist Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875).  Millet sold his painting, The Angelus for 1000 francs in 1865.  14 years after his death the painting was sold for between 553,000 francs and 800,000 francs depending on the report, while his family lived in abject poverty.  His granddaughter was found selling flowers on the streets of Paris to survive.  The laws only granted a very small amount to the artist and/or his family negating the complaints from art dealers about loss of compensation for the dealers and galleries.

The United Kingdom has very recently enacted a “Droit de Suite” law but the U.S. so far has not.  This hopeful sign from the U.S. Copyright Office may signal an approaching change in this process for artists in the U.S.  One can hope.  And one can also contact his/her representative and senator to suggest they support “Droit de Suite” in the U.S.  Perhaps visual artists dying in penury will soon be a thing of the past.  No more granddaughters selling flowers on the street for survival.

Previous posts by me on “Droit de Suite” laws:

Visual Residual

The Case of the Destitute Granddaughter

Other blog posts on the subject:

BCA Galleries

Adam Lilith’s Art House

 

Felt or Flat

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller (from Skinnyartist)

If a painting, a piece of music, a poem, a story, a performance, a photograph is so beautiful it touches the heart, it is considered a great work of art. That description is the ultimate validation for the creator of the piece. How does an artist get to the place of creating works capable of touching the heart of the onlooker, reader, listener? As Helen Keller says, it must be felt with the heart. The act of making art must be approached from the goal of creating purely from the feelings of the heart.

Marla Hoover at The Arkansas Artist says, “I always try to paint what is in my heart at the time and I see so many ideas that I can’t seem to get them all out fast enough.” Ideas come from the inner artist, the one who resides in the heart. Ideas from the heart are felt rather than reasoned. Hoover goes on to describe the difficulty of painting what some one else has suggested. Some one else’s suggestion is coming from that person’s heart, not the artist’s heart. Drawing that distinction can be problematic.

Taking the time to listen and to feel the heart before creating art, can open the door to the flood of ideas. It doesn’t necessarily mean another person’s suggestion can’t be felt, it simply means it’s best for the artist to be sure his/her own heart is engaged in the process, as well. Art without the engagement of the heart is likely to lack the energy of feeling, leaving the artwork on the flat side. There’s not much that is beautiful in flat feeling-less art.

Monet’s gardens at Giverny were where his heart and his art were deeply felt.  For more on Monet’s gardens and his life at Giverny follow the link here.

Word Games

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“Criticism is easy, art is difficult.” Destouches (from The Painter’s Keys)

Why do artists need guidance and assistance to write about their art? It’s a fact for many artists. Creating a painting is one thing, describing the process of how that happened is another. An artist knows, usually, why a subject or theme moves him or her to paint it. There is a spark that must be expressed. It is a drive that comes from inside. But to put that drive into words can stump many artists. Some even panic at the thought of putting it down on paper for others to read. How can an artist write an emotion, a thought, an inspiration? Sometimes there simply are no words.

Once, in an art forum, I put forth the possibility that artists are sensitive people by the very nature of being an artist. Very quickly, I was verbally slapped down for making an assumption. However, I hold to the original suggestion that, perhaps, artists are sensitive and thus are open to seeing beauty, insight, emotion and other things that may have been missed by the average non-artist person. That sensitivity may be a part of the difficulty of writing about a very personal process that comes from a deep inner place.

Silvia Kolbowski writes in her blog that the majority of the art publications of the 1980’s and 90’s published mostly art criticism. Every artist knows putting their art out there for others to criticize can be painful. Adding words that could potentially make that criticism stronger can add to the pain. Sensitive or not, who wants to put themselves out there to be the subject of some witty critic using you as the focus for his or her latest quotable zingers. It’s a tough call. However, having the right words to describe the artistic process can go a long way in solving the problem and increasing confidence in writing the artist’s statement.

Author Vicki Krohn Ambrose has a new blog post on ways artists can come up with words describing their work or process. Following the suggestions Ambrose put forth hit the spot. Once the process is set in motion, the words begin to flow. It actually starts to be a game of sorts. After a bit of practice, the fun begins and words are spotted everywhere and incorporated into the artist’s new rewritten statement. This new statement can become a work of art in itself.

When words are hard to come by in describing the process, try the suggestions Ambrose outlines in her blog post and also her book. Make a game of it or see it as a new challenge to be conquered. And you can always follow what Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I never read what the critics write.” Armed with new, exciting words of description and ears closed to the sound of the critics, writing an artist’s statement becomes a fun word game. And who doesn’t love to play games??

Vicki Krohn Ambrose’s book, Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists can be found at Amazon (here).