Monthly Archives: April 2012

Let’s Keep the Minimalism to a Minimum

Call me ignorant, but most of the minimalist work I’ve seen is silly, or not even interesting enough to be silly… more just boring.  Minimalism has all of its reasons, sure, but to me it seems as if people without the technical skills required to be real artists just created a new art form for themselves.  What would Raphael and Michelangelo say about Tony Smith’s Die?

Die is a six-foot by six-foot black square.  It is meant to evoke a reaction in the viewer who is forced to confront it, as it takes up space and must be walked around.  Oh!.. and it is not a sculpture… it is an ‘object’.  Don’t get it twisted.

It is a regression.

I am all for “anything can be art” and “if you think its art than it is”, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it or find it remotely interesting or necessary at all!  Where is the skill?

To me, it has nothing on something like this….


(Van Gogh, Self portrait I)

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A Stroke of Genius, See the Pun?

Oh the world of Introduction to Art History classes, a world of super-famous artists that everyone has heard of already but doesn’t know exactly why.  Well, I suppose we all know this impressionist… Claude Monet anyone? I thought so.

Allow me to direct you to a specific series of his work on the Rouen Cathedral.  Monet did several different paintings of this cathedral from the exact same viewpoint, with the only variations in the time of day and weather conditions.  This type of work was entirely impressionistic in which the subject matter was not the main focus, but the brush strokes and capturing the qualities of nature were the focus.  This was the conceptual revolution people!

(All of these are obviously separate paintings, put together by MOI on Photoshop for easy side-by-side viewing.)

While in  my Intro to Art History class I am usually scribbling down the notes that are on the slides and getting cut off mid-jotted-down-sentence by a professor that goes too quickly, today I just sat back and observed.  You would have, too.

There are a lot of great things about these paintings.  For starters, they were painted outside, en plein-air, on the spot.  There were no real preliminary sketches that prepared Monet for the works, rather just paintbrush, oil paints, and canvas.  Another great thing is the quickness with which they were created.  When one is trying to portray a certain time of day, time is the most important thing, it is a race against the changing colors of the daytime.  Nature waits for no one.  Not even Claude Monet!  Other great things include the believable shadows, depth of architecture, and apparent intricate details.

Monet created many works in this way, as one of the most famous French Impressionist painters of all time.  His similar series of haystacks ( in a field are equally as fascinating and skillful, if not more.  Which is saying something.  Agreed?  Agreed.

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A Well Deserved Promo & My Birthday

Being a young Internet surfer, I have seen many things on the World Wide Web.  Too many.  But occasionally I come across something so cool that I ‘bookmark it’ in my browser and return to it.  Tugboat Printshop is one of those things. Tugboat Printshop consists of husband and wife duo Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth.


I could look at their prints all day, ERRRYDAY.  How do they do it?  I have taken a printmaking class and it was pitiful.  I was, not the class.  We used linoleum blocks instead of woodcut (which Tugboat uses), which is supposed to be much easier.  I cannot even imagine how difficult carving into wood is, let alone carving these MASTERPIECES.

The prints made using the woodcuts are available for purchase on their website  I highly recommend sprucing up your… ANYWHERE with some Tugboat.

Here is an example of a woodblock that has been carved into and rolled with ink- ready for printing.


The colors and the details achieved are pure insanity. Praise. Praise. Praise.  If you know me and you like me… my birthday is coming up (super subtle hint).


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My Shallow Interests in Pretty Things

Prepare yourself now for a short post in which all I basically say is ‘its pretty, its pretty, pretty colors!’

Allow me now to share some of my favorite paintings based purely on aesthetics (except maybe the Birth of Venus).  I say this because I know very little about them, but I find them so exceptionally stunning that I must post them.  I must.

First is the Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.  I first saw this in my high school Art History class and my (attractive) teacher professed his love for its twisted beauty to the class.  He was pretty passionate about it.  I have to agree with his claim of its intrigue.




The twisted forms and the strangeness of it all makes me curious as the to the thoughts that produced it.  Don’t you wonder?

(I warned you I knew little about it.)

Next, is one of the great masters, Raphael.  In particular, Madonna of the Meadows.  The vibrant colors were exciting in the time it was created because people were just discovering the wonders of oil paint.  (I have recently been discovering the wonders of oil paint myself…).


I am not interested in this scene for its religious value, though I find it interesting, but for its obvious beauty.  Flat out, I just like looking at it.  The crispness in line of this disegno painting is pleasing to my eye.

If I am being completely honest, I just can’t resist a good-old-fashioned chubby baby.

Finally, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli is one of my all-time favorite paintings.  I have an outside interest in mythology so I admit it helps, but I find the cool colors to be exquisite.  And exquisite is not a word I typically use.  Its stunning.

I dare you to disagree.


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Caravaggio, You Evil Genius

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), the masterful Italian painter,  became more interesting to me once I learned of his ‘rebel’ status.  The man was thrown in jail on several occasions and had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope. THE POPE.  Caravaggio was known for ‘swaggering about for a month or two with a sword at his side’ after completing much of his work.  Eventually Caravaggio killed a man in a late-night bar brawl- making him the most bad-ass painter I have ever heard of from his time.


I first heard of Caravaggio in my Introduction to Art History class where we studied his genre paintings, in particular The Calling of Saint Matthew.  This painting showed up on the class Midterm, as well.  Caravaggio masterfully mixed contemporary life with a religious scene.  The figures around the table are in contemporary attire, counting money as they are interrupted by the traditionally attired Christ figure.  The viewer is also seeing this scene as it happens, live.  The viewer interrupts the moment just as Christ does.


The fact that this genre painting mixes the contemporary and the traditional (the nerve!), made it a revolutionary gesture of the time period.  It allowed viewers to relate to the moment and believe that anyone could be called to be an apostle at any moment by Christ himself. 


Subtle symbolism makes this painting interesting.  The window flung open revealing the cross in its frame is not accidental, nor is the light pouring in from an unidentifiable source- meant to call upon the divine.  The light playing off of Jesus’s naturalistic face is matsterful in its use of chiaroscuro. 


All of this said, when I first saw the painting I was not blown away.  I think the colors are dull and it is a bit dark for my taste, but I cannot deny that it is a work of genius.  Maybe it is the fact that I can never wrap my head around just how exactly painters can communicate naturalism so well, while interweaving symbolism and meaning at the same time.  Yes, it is that exactly.  How do they do it?!


I am captivated again and again.

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