Eye Foolery

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Those things which are most real are the illusions I create in my paintings.” Eugene Delacroix

CBS Sunday Morning featured the fabulous mural art of Richard Haas. The wonderful illusions created by tompe l’oeil or “trick the eye” techniques have always fascinated people. Seeing Haas’ work is a reminder of how skillful an artist must be to create such realistic scenes. Years ago as a medical sales rep in Miami, I frequently drove past Haas’ iconic mural on The Fountainebleau Hotel at Miami Beach. Each time I saw the mural I was fascinated anew. There really was a temptation to drive right through the mural it is so realistic.

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.43.16 PM Trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, quoted by The Daily Mail says, “It seems universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.” Pugh is right. There is a magnetic fascination in these realistic murals. The urge to get up close and try to figure them out is irresistible. The Daily Mail has some excellent examples of Pugh’s work. Pugh tells the story of how one of his murals of an earthquake attracted the attention of the Fire Department while driving by the mural. They stopped the truck and were about to attempt to rescue the children in the mural before they got close enough to see that it wasn’t real. The firefighters doubled over laughing at the realization.

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.42.29 PM Why do these purposely, deceptive artworks hold such fascination? Likely there are a number of reasons. One reason Pugh believes is the sense of civic pride the murals invite. Communities love their local eye fooling multi-story artworks. And the murals are wonderful. A source of civic pride is one explanation but there is also something much deeper to the fascination. The deeper allure appears to be the simple fact that people enjoy being fooled. The greater the deception, the greater is the pleasure for the viewer.

The role of the artist is to show the world something it may not have seen before. Possibly all art is eye deceiving in some form. But the Trompe L’oeil artist is particularly skillful at eye-trickery. There is an element of amusement and playfully purposeful deception in Tromp L’oeil that is not present in most other forms of art. The Trompe L’oeil artist takes delight in tricking us and we take delight in being tricked. This eye foolery is all in good fun and we love it!

Here’s a fun video look at the definition of trompe l’oeil:

Trompe L’oeil

Take a look at these examples of trompe l’oeil:

http://www.creativebloq.com/art/trompe-loeil-12121498

http://www.trompe-l-oeil-art.com/trompe.html

Weekend Inspiration–All we are saying…….

This 20- minute lecture by Dr. Gil Dekel is worth a listen.  The feeling at the end is, “How awesome creativity is!”  What is the artist really saying in each and every painting?  Dr. Gekel tells us.

Brush Speak

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Red Calla Lilly-Georgia O’Keeffe

“I found that I could say things with color and shape that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for” Georgia O’Keeffe (from Brainyquote)

Art is an inner language that must be expressed outwardly.  For the visual artist, there is an urge to put sights or thoughts into some form of visual medium.  If visual artists could put them into words, they would be writers or poets.  If they could put them into movement, they would be dancers.  It is a language that the visual artist speaks and is as unique as a writer’s word or a dancer’s movements..   The difficulty may be in projecting the language so that it is as understandable as the written word or the dance performance.

Researchers are finding visual art is a means of expression for those who are non-verbal.  Visual art takes on a structure and meaning as clear to the non-verbal as the spoken language is to others.  Paula K. Eubanks (Eubanks, 1997) writes, ““Accepting art as a language means that art can be useful in developing language skills.”  For those with difficulties learning verbal language, art can become a primary means of communication.  To the non-verbal, visual art is speech.

For the visual artist, also, art speech is a need to communicate from an inner place that has no words. “I was facing a quagmire regarding the insight that if we could ‘say’ art we would have no need to make art,” states Frikkie Potgeiter in a research paper for the University of South Africa entitled, Critical Language and Visual Art: a post structural analysis. The visual artist does not express through poetry or writing but by placing paint on paper or canvas.  The language is one of color and form as O’Keeffe said.

The visual artist’s brush is the main instrument of communication, as is the writer’s pen.  For the visual artist, the goal is to adequately direct the brush to speak what is inside demanding to be spoken.  Brush speech must be mastered as any other tool of communication.   The artist has to maintain control so the brush doesn’t get carried away and say something offensive.  It is usually best to allow the brush to say only those things that are safe to be said in polite company.  However, some brushes will run on.

References

1. Eubanks, P.K., (1997). Art is a Visual Language. Visual Arts Research. Vol. 23, No. 1(45) (Spring 1997), pp. 31-35

2.  Potgeiter, F. Critical Language and Visual art: a post- structural analysis. De Arte. The University of South Africa

Panic Aversion

“The object isn’t to make art, but to be in that wonderful state that makes art inevitable.”-Robert Henri (from Skinnyartist)Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 10.50.59 AM

The search for inspiration can be a never- ending battle.   Nothing is working.  The feeling can range from confusion to panic.  What if you never get your inspiration back?  Where do you turn?  Listening to what other artists say from their own experiences is frequently helpful.

Artist Issac Julien is quoted in The Guardian as saying “It is important for inspiration to go elsewhere.”  He further goes on to suggest getting out of the city, going to places of tranquility.   Being out in nature and away from the bombardment of the over stimulation of the city gives the brain a chance to think without the constant backdrop of the cacophony of traffic, people, hustle and bustle.  In the peace and quiet of being out in nature, it is easier to hear what your brain is telling you.

For people who already live and work outside cities, the opposite action may be of benefit.  Go into a city.  Listen to the sights and sounds.  Watch the people.  Absorb the energy of the constantly moving atmosphere of city life.  Artist, Susan Phillipsz from the same Guardian article, states “always have something to write with.”  Taking notes or sketching what you see may bring on renewed energy.

And if these ideas don’t work, Artpromotivate has an article “20 Creative Ideas for Art Inspiration.”   I have written quite a bit about this subject lately because it happens to me and I have a tendency to go off in too many directions at once to try to get that inspiration back.  I go into an inspiration panic instead of following the wisdom of other artists who have also been there.  At times I have followed both directions suggested by these two artists, going into the city and going into nature.  Nature seems to work better for me but I have occasionally found the city helpful as well.  The point is to stop the panic and seek a change in scenery.

Say What?????

Any sort of pretension produces mediocrity in life and in art.”  Margot Fonteyn (from brainy quotesImage)

While walking around at a large art exhibit, (see “Voices”), my friend and I overheard various comments and opinions on the art.  One conversation left us so puzzled that it continues to produce a smile even now.  It was the perfect stereotype of a conversation many people, think goes on at an art exhibit.

Two people are standing in front of a large abstract painting.  Each is holding a glass of wine while discussing the painting.  As we leaned in to listen, one said to the other, “But is it ethically valid?”  My friend and I looked back at the painting while trying to contain our confusion.  “Huh?”

I’m thinking, “Hmmm. Ethical and valid.  What does that have to do with this painting?”  Maybe the title gave an indication but I couldn’t see the title.  I lost track of the beauty of the piece in trying to figure what that statement could possibly mean in relation to the painting.    I’m still shaking my head years later.  Maybe others can enlighten me.  I didn’t get it.

Evidently mom was right when she said, “Talking too much and eavesdropping can both have unintended consequences.”  I didn’t realize at the time, she was referring to art.

Does art speak for itself?

Who Lights The Fire??

“Nothing changes until something moves.”  Albert Einstein (from The Painter’s Keys)

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Does art have the ability to move people to action?  Do actions move artists to create?  Would anything move without art?  It may depend on the art and on the audience.  Perhaps it is the artist’s role to tap into the emotions of the audience, give it voice and lead the inspiration to move.

In a blog titled Sci Art Sci, the author delves in to the question of whether art can move people not already inclined to be moved.  He describes an example of an art project designed to highlight a particular issue.  He follows his example with the statement, “…I would say this piece has the potential to raise an eyebrow, to make somebody who already cares care a little bit more, for a time.  And maybe that’s enough.”  Maybe it is.  Sometimes a fire only needs a spark.

Recalling some of the movements of the nineteenth century, art is very much a part of the history of the moment.  Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (more here) is one example of art as part of a movement.  Did this painting inspire greater nationalism?  Or was it an illustration of the moment?   Examples abound of art and movements.  Does art provide the spark to a dry woodpile that sets it alight?  Or the other way around?  Any thoughts?