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What is art

20 November 2010

Richard McKinley explain what art is all about : "we are not photograhers", "an artist is like a poet", "play!", "Experiment!"

I just watched his DVD which I highly recommend, it's not important about the technique (pastel), the DVD is full of wisdom and insights!

This is the webinar recording about it: webinar recording. Underpainting is the main keyword but not only. There is a wealth oh know-how and insight which make Richard's lesson invaluable! If you want to have the content of the webinar click here.

Video Download: Bold Underpaintings for Lively Pastel Landscapes with Richard McKinley | NorthLightShop.com




12 November 2010

Color as a way to Abstract Art...

Form is the predominant carachteristic of Cezanne's paintings..

Color is used as a way to differentiate a painting from photography which can now exactly reproduce nature. Fauvinism is born, Matisse is the originator, color is the predominant difference with reality.

The Fauves:

Henry Matisse (1869-1954)
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
André Derain (1880-1954)
Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958)


Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Vasilij Kandinskij (1866-1944)
Pietr Mondrian (1872-1944)



But I still see many mimicking photography today, loosing the art of drawing and just trying to imitate a picture, using a reference photo and painting on top of it in order to exactly reproduce reality and make a "pretty" painting.

"....oh, I like this watercolor. It can go well with the colour of my couch at home..." is the result sometimes...

What a waste. Photography has reached so deep in our souls?

Gustav Klimt painting
Gustav Klimt painting: Art
Color is planned the same way as Sue Arch plane her paintings (see below) yet strokes and texture are applied to give a unique feeling to the painting which does not resemble a photography..




sue archer paintingSue Archer watercolor.
The word "art" comes from the latin "ars" which means "skill". Sue archer is an "artist" in the most literal meaning. She is a good artist, she knows watercolor, she plans her work. But she doesn't draw from life and uses to exactly copy higlights and shapes from photographs ( I know this because I watched her -excellent- DVD)




An article about Winslow Homer appeared in 1883: under-statement and over-statement as a way to express art.

As a frenchman has well said "Art is a state of compromises, of sacrifices" - much omitted or altered for the sake of clear showing and emphasizing of a little. Most arists accomplish this end, as we know, by the weakening process - by taking, to start with, a lower, duller, less positive key than nature's, and by then still further modifying minor things in order that the cheif may appear strong enough by contrast. To use the familiar phrase, they tone things down. But Mr Homer had gone the other way to work in these little [watercolor] marines and had toned things up. He had boldy omitted everything that could not serve his purpose - which was to show the demoniac splendor of stormy sunset skies and water - and the unsatisfied by the brilliant hues of nature had keyed them to deeper force, made them doubly powerful, the reds stronger and the blacks blacker - insisting upon and emphasizing a theme which another artist would have thought already too pronounced and too emphatic for artist use. That he could do this and keep the balance of his work is a patent proof of his artistic power.
For though over-statement is not more non-natural or less allowable in art than under-statement, yet under-statement is, of course, the easier, safer kind of adaptation. If this is unsuccessful, the result is simply weak; but if over-statement is unsucessful, the result is an atrocity. Mr Homer, however, was so artistic, so clear, so well poised in his exagerations, that he did more than satisfy the eye. He opened it to the full force and beauty of certain natural effects, and filled for us the sky of every future stormy sunset with memories of how his brush had interpreted its carachteristic beauty.

...his freedom from the neat little waxy prettinesses of idea and expression which are so alien to true art, but alway so delightful to childish minds, weather in bodies childish or adult.

No one can be blind to [his watercolors] in the first place or indifferent in the second, as one may be to the things by which it is encompassed on the average exhibition wall - things probably more "pretty" or more "charming", possibly more polished but in almost every case much weaker, more conventional, less riginal, and at the same time much less truthful.

M.G. Van Renselaer, Harper Magazine, November issue, 1883


Art is when something is created which does not have any function


star light



27 July 2010

Sometimes I wonder what is art?

And it's not an easy question....

So now and then I take notes.

Once for instance I thought that

  • Art is something that make us keep staring at, as if we were "kidnapped" by it

  • We kind of loose the perception of time

But then I thought, well, an erupting volcano make us also stare at it,doesn't it?

Yes, but Nature cannot be art. Then, of course,

  • art is something related to man!

So art is man-made and marvel us while we loose the perception of time.

Update 28 July 2010

I found this text and I imagined to meet the person who wrote it...115 years ago...

Pen Pictures and how to Draw Them: A Practical Handbook on the Various ... (1895) , by Eric Meade, p. 17


One great reason why numerous students fail to excel in art is because their training proceeds on a plan altogether too narrow. It is long after he learns to draw when the average art pupil discovers that the capacity to make an excellent copy of a model is not everything. When it is clearly understood what Art is, rules and principles are more easily grasped and appreciated. It is usual to say that Art is everything which is not Nature. This is extremely vague and insufficient. Besides its imitative functions, Art represents a craving in the mind such as anyone may feel when he sees a good picture or piece of sculpture, or when he perceives sounds and harmonies. It is the means by which the internal and spiritual is revealed to the sense. In connection with drawing the first function of Art is to gratify the eye.

29 July, 2010

When you have something to say and create a skilled, intelligently formed work of art (simplicity on the surface, complexity at a better look) which can be read , this is perhaps a good definition of good piece of art...

..and this tell us that you need an idea...in the very beginning!

Les 400 coups, a masterpiece movie by TruffautsFrançois Truffaut "Les 400s coups" (translated as The 400 Blows) is a French black and white movie from the 1960s and a masterpiece. No special effects.

Avatar Avatar the movie is a 2009 Oscar Award winner with incredible special efffects...and no story. When I watched the movie I thought it was the most childish and silly one I had seen for a long time..


I read the following text by Tolstoy, written in 1892, nearly 120 year ago.


man walking with long shadows


"What is art?"

Take up any one of our ordinary newspapers, and
you will find a part devoted to the theater and
music. In almost every number you will find a descrip-
tion of some art exhibition, or of some particular picture,
and you will always find reviews of new works of art that
have appeared, of volumes of poems, of short stories, or
of novels.

Promptly, and in detail, as soon as it has occurred, an
account is published of how such and such an actress
or actor played this or that rdle in such and such a drama,
comedy, or opera ; and of the merits of the performance,
as well as of the contents of the new drama, comedy, or
opera, with its defects and merits. With as much care
and detail, or even more, we are told how such and such
an artist has sung a certain piece, or has played it on the
piano or violin, and what were the merits and defects of
the piece and of the performance
. In every large town
there is sure to be at least one, if not more than one,
exhibition of new pictures, the merits and defects of
which are discussed in the utmost detail by critics and




San Giorgio Mount and Lugano Lake

Mamma mia! What a different world we live in now? where are we heading to, I ask myself? Who listen to music in a theater anymore, which newspaper writes about a performance and who is reading the article after all?

But why despairing? On the positive side, when I look at the world around me, I still see its greatness.

people in positive mood

...And people with good moods and intentions still exist and abound...

29 July, 2010

In an artist forum, one day I posted a comment on a ink and pen work. The piece was technically perfect. It was made from a picture...and it looked exactly like the picture.

Now, what was the purpose of it?

I commented saying that some scribbles and hand drawings were much more alive than an exact reproduction of a photograph. Real pieces of art: reproduction of reality in a proper, human sensitivity.

The guy resented the comment and immediately replied in a "let's-see-if-you-can-do-the-same" way.

Incidentally, I read the phrase above yesterday..".the capacity to make an
excellent copy of a model is not everything
" (Eric Meade, 1895)


Return from what is art back to the elements of art page

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