Tag Archives: creativity

See Like an Artist

20 Aug
Confined Watercolor Warm up

“Confined” watercolor on paper by Katie Turner.   The view is from a platform above an enclosed courtyard.

 

After thumbing through one of my old graphic arts books, I was thinking about how artists learn to express themselves visually and learn to see, not just using the sense of sight.  Matisse said that when he ate a tomato he just looked at it, “But,” he said, “When I paint a tomato, I see it differently.”

It’s true that artists see the world differently.  Seeing things differently enable an artist to deliver a message through their art.  Some say artists have heightened awareness.  How is it that an artist can see something different from others?

Some artists learn through life drawing classes.  Sometimes it can be a real struggle but life drawing classes can be a real growth opportunity for an artist.   They look, analyze, translate what they see into marks on paper and along the way acquire visual skills.  Learning how to “see” makes it possible to conceptualize more unique and original designs.

Some art classes don’t teach students to see but give them quick shortcuts to produce life drawings.  Historically, drawing was thought unnecessary and a lot of design students graduated from art school without any drawing at all.  As time continues, the pendulum swings back and forth with what is taught in school.   When representational art is popular, you will see more formal drawing classes available and when it’s not, less formal will rule.

There are many exercises available to hone your drawing skills that will also grow your ability to “see” creatively.

 

Here are my favorites:

  1. Turn things upside down before sketching. By placing an object in an unusual position it forces the mind to look more closely at it.  This forces us out of automatic drawing mode and trains us to draw what we see.

 

  1. Draw the negative spaces only. Concentrating on drawing these abstract shapes forces your mind away from preconceived ideas.

 

  1. Squint or use Red Acetate Film when sketching. Squinting or using this red acetate will quickly simplify any complex subject into simple shapes and values.  Your mind will be less likely to focus on the detail.

 

If you put just a few exercises into your daily practice, you will be “seeing” and drawing better in no time.  When the artist has better visual awareness, the door to creativity is opened.

 

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Art Masks Identity

16 Jul
Nick_cave from wiki

Nick Cave picture by Bowmanga 

Nick Cave is a Chicago based artist (originally from Missouri) who has some very interesting art that combines fabric, sculpture, dance and performance.

I first heard about Nick Cave while reviewing ISEA (International Society of Experimental Artists) 2019 symposium workshops. I found one workshop that involved creating a “Nick Cave” style soundsuit.  What is a soundsuit?  It is part sculpture, part costume and a bit of dance.

Cave has been creating soundsuits since 1992 using many found objects, fabric and other items.  He created these life size suits in response to racial experiences.  The suits usually have sound when worn, due to the sticks and twigs that he adds during the creation but often museums display the suits as static sculptures.  He uses the soundsuits as a way to confront identity.  He has created over 500 of these suits so far.

The soundsuits fully conceal the body and serve as a second skin that obscures race, gender and class.  Cave wants you to wonder, “What am I encountering?”  Viewers can look at these figures without bias towards identity.

“I don’t ever see the Soundsuits as ‘fun,’ they’re really coming from a very dark place.”  Nick Cave states.

Some schools are using the soundsuits idea as projects to teach children about identity.  Check out this video from a Detroit school here.

Here is a really short 2 1/2 minute video about Nick Cave’s Soundsuits click here.

Nick Cave’s Soundsuits video by PBS, click here.

Nick Caves exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts here.

Nick Caves represented by www.jackshainman.com

For more information on ISEA: https://www.iseaartexhibit.org/

Nick-Cage-Soundsuits1

Some of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits.  Photo from http://www.b4moda.com/nick-cave/.

In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz

23 Apr

I recently came across an announcement for a historical art show “In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz” at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.  The artist, Harold Schmitz, was working in advertising when he was drafted into WWII in 1942.  He became a map maker with the 955th Topographic Engineer Company for the next three years.  After the war he became an art director for Northwestern Publishing House.

Although I find many things relating to war extremely disturbing – particularly the horrors and suffering related to it, I do feel it’s valuable to keep an open mind to what can be gleaned.  It is also fitting to give honor to those who sacrificed and served our country.

The show features 40 drawings, photographs, letters and a recorded oral history by Schmitz.  The recordings, completed prior to his death in 2013 include Schmitz discussing his art.

“Viewers of this exhibit will witness the fascinating evolution of an artist influenced by an alien but beautiful environment and his work as a wartime Army cartographer,” said Michael Telzrow, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Director.

Without even viewing the show, I can see the importance of sketching, drawing, documenting the world around us.  As artists, we are the window to the past, present and future, providing our interpretation of the world and events around us.  How fortunate that Schmitz took the time to practice his craft, despite circumstance.  When I think of the artist-soldiers who found the drive to create like that, I am inspired to brush away any of my own lame excuses.  Documenting our lives through art is great artistic exercise.  The art is needed just as much as the photography.

If you are in Wisconsin and would like to visit this show check out the links below:  https://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibition/the-art-of-harold-f-schmitz/

https://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/contact/

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Ignore the Critics

31 Mar
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" Red Carpet Arrivals - 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival

Photo from IMDb

Have you ever thought of trying something new?  Have you ever considered doing something completely different and unusual? Has anyone ever told you to just forget it?

Well, Jim Carrey’s story will make you smile.

For those of you who don’t know him, he is an American-Canadian actor and comedian.  Carrey is known for the many movies he has starred in – such as The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cable Guy and many more, but how many of us know that he is a prolific artist?

carrey painting

Jim Carrey at work in his studio. Photo from NARTNET

It’s true!  In addition to his funny antics as a child, he would spend time drawing and making art.  Later in his life he began painting to help him deal with difficult things.  He certainly had his fair share of sorrows.

In 2012 he began to share his artwork with the world through twitter.  He was advised by critics not to share his art because he was known for his acting, not art.  His response:  that year he had his first gallery show.

carrey eva

Jim Carrey,  Eva (2016). Photo from WMAG

In 2013 Carrey continued on with his directing and also starring in movies.  He also spent time painting and even wrote a children’s book titled “How Roland Rolls” – a tale about a little wave.  In 2015 his personal life took another downturn when his ex-girlfriend committed suicide.  The art helped him through another emotional time.

It wasn’t until 2017 when he had his second art exhibition called “Sunshow”.  Carrey states: “Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.”

valentine carrey

Jim Carrey, Valentine.  Photo from JCONLINE

He explained that one winter was so bleak that he felt like he really needed color and so began painting obsessively with color until his home was filled with paintings.  There were so many paintings that there was no place to sit.  The colors represent the things he loves and his inner life is reflected in his paintings.  He explains that his artwork reveals things about himself he didn’t understand.

Art critics say actor turned artist is more common than people realize.  Actors have attempted to become artists with only a handful succeeding.  The critics believe it’s some kind of a joke or publicity stunt for an upcoming movie he might be making.  They said “The art Carrey has been showing would be turned down if he offered it to a Salvation Army store.  It gives amateurs a bad name.”

Still, Carrey is happy he didn’t take the negative advice and keep his art to himself.

He has a short documentary video on his art and the role it fulfills for him which you can find online by just googling Jim Carrey – I Need Color.

Carrey said: “It is better to risk starving to death than surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?”

carrey jesus

Jim Carrey, Electric Jesus. Photo from JCONLINE

Carrey believes art is merely a model of your inner life.  He describes his Jesus paintings as full of electric energy with healing accepting eyes.  He says he uses many colors because you can find every race in the face of Jesus.

He explains, “As far as I can tell, it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and then working toward it while letting go of how it comes to pass.”

Jim Carrey doesn’t know if painting really teaches him anything but he does admit to it freeing him.  The bottom line of it for him is love.  Whether its performance, sculpture, art we all want to show ourselves and be accepted for who we are.

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Kitaj Depicts Agitation

1 Mar

I was reading about R.B. Kitaj (October 29, 1932 – October 21, 2007) an American artist who developed a love of Cézanne while at the Royal College of Art in London.
Kitaj’s brightly colored figurative paintings influenced British pop art. His later works became very personal with complex compositions. He developed special line work he called “agitational usage”.  In his art, he would depict disorienting landscapes and 3D constructions with exaggerated and pliable human forms.
Kitaj published “First Diasporist Manifesto” in 1989 and in 2007 the “Second Diasporist Manifesto”.  He was one of several artists in 2000, to make a post-it note for an internet charity auction.  Surprisingly, it sold for $925, making it the most expensive post-it note in history, a fact recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The influence Kitaj had on the art world and the record-breaking post-it note were interesting to read about. If you’d like to see some of his dramatic artwork or read about the history, here are some links.

https://www.independent.com/news/2007/nov/08/r-b-kitaj-1932-2007/

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/arts/24kitaj.html

Put It in Reverse

14 Feb
seascape painting

“Waterways” 16″x20″ watercolor on paper, Katie Turner

There are times when an artist might get stuck in a rut.  Maybe you are beginning to tire of creating similar items day after day, week after week.  There may be times when you’re quite comfortable with what you’re doing.  You are even doing quite well financially but there is a seed of unrest within.  Whatever your condition, change and growth are calling.  Experimentation and exploration are the answers.  Experimentation and exploration may even lead to new innovative discoveries.

There are many ways to get started with experimenting.   One particular way that artist Edward Betts discusses in his book “Master Class in Watermedia”, piqued my interest.

Reversing the sequence was Betts suggestion.  A normal painting sequence would be to observe a scene in nature, then set about sketching, drawing and finally painting the shapes until you arrive at the desired scene.  Reversing the sequence would be to paint from abstraction toward nature, thus being intuitive and spontaneous and relying on chance.  Betts encourages all artists to do experimental exercise and adapt techniques that help with improvement.

Experimentation and exploration can be exciting and fun.  Have you been experimenting lately?  Have you ever tried reversing your sequence?  Thanks for reading.

~ Katie Turner

 

The Origin of American Watercolor

1 Jan
Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_Bell_Rock_Lighthouse_-_Google_Art_Project

Bell Rock Lighthouse by Joseph M. W. Turner (1775-1851) Watercolor on paper

Have you ever wondered how watercolor ended up in America?  This was a recent subject I researched and I’m happy to share it with you here.

To start, watercolor was used in other countries long before it arrived in America.

In prehistoric times, watercolor was used by cavemen to paint on cave walls. The next time it appears in history, it is used in illuminated manuscripts, such as religious texts.

Actually, watercolor didn’t develop as a major medium until paper was invented.  Paper was made in ancient China.  It was then improved by the Arabs and then made in European Mills in the late 1200s.

Thanks to Chinese poet-painters, watercolor painting was now considered as more than merely a decorative craft.  Their paintings were on paper and silk.  Their art was filled with calligraphy with the main image usually being a landscape.  The landscape became a central theme for western watercolor in later centuries.

According to author, Theodore Stebbins, Jr. who wrote “American Master Drawings and Watercolors”, watercolor originally was used as a tool for sketching drawings.  It was for practice and recording information, not for fine art until German artist, Albrecht Durer began using it for his landscapes in the late 1400’s.

Originally a printmaker, Durer found a way to combine transparent and opaque watercolors to make lovely colored drawings.

In 1770, England began producing paper made especially for watercolor paint.  Suddenly an influx of watercolorists emerged with lots of landscape paintings.  As Britain’s power grew, so did the influence of these artists.  Joseph M.W. Turner, a famous English painter from that time, excelled at watercolor experimentation.  He discovered new ways to apply the paint with sponges, rags, knives and brushes.  For a long time, the English watercolorists were considered more skilled than any other artists in the world.

Early watercolorists used to grind their own pigments.  In the 1850s Winsor & Newton and Reeves (two companies that still exist today) began producing paint in tubes and in dried cakes.  The portability helped the tradition spread to America.

Maps were some of the first watercolors to come from America – used as visual aids to the new land.  Gradually more skilled and talented artists began to develop and rivaled the Europeans.

American artists saw watercolor as a primary medium. This attitude was different from that of the Europeans! American painters considered watercolor as an equal to oils.  By 1866 watercolors were shown in galleries here alongside oil paintings.

Famous American watercolorists include: Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and John James Audubon.

Today, American Watercolor Artists continue to take the lead.  We contribute to the international watercolor tradition like no other country – producing important and varied bodies of work.  We are known for our individuality and artistic expression. We are continually pushing the limits of this medium.

We can expect watercolor development to continue as new products come onto the market.  Although Americans did not invent watercolor painting, I have no doubt we will lead the world in unique and original artistic development. I encourage you to keep watch for new developments.

 

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