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Discussing Watercolours With Candice Leyland

As an artist myself, I like to know what makes other artists tick. There are so many different mediums an artist can apply to their work, with each having its own distinct characteristics.
 
Watercolour paintings have always been of interest to me because of the relatively light touch they require. I’ve done them, and they are not easy to get right, especially for an OCD-having person like myself.
 
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that watercolours are quite easy to “ruin” or overwork, generally. To produce a stunning watercolour work, I would say is no easy task.
 
Now, for an artist like Candice Leyland, who is specializes in watercolour works of art, she makes it all look rather easy.

Candice is an independent artist who produces and sells her work in my neck of the woods, which is to say south-western Ontario – Kitchener-Waterloo region, to be precise, although she was born in Palmerston.
 
She is a teacher at the local landmark Homer-Watson Gallery, and she is also represented at the Uptown Gallery in Waterloo, ON.
 
As it mentions on her website’s About page, Candice is known for her rather moody, ethereal but at the same time slice-of-life style of painting, featuring very warm-looking and inviting paintings of everyday things like animals, scenery, and flowers.
 
Sort of a cross between Edward Wesson and Norman Rockwell, maybe
 
Speaking of flowers, here is one of her pieces simply called “Tulips” – rather self-explanatory.

In the hands of a lesser artist, these things might seem boring, but as we know from the countless artists from history who have done well with their craft, a great artist can make anything look interesting if it is captured the right way, with the right timing, colours, and, of course, the mysterious X-factor!
 
I could start listing off the many artists who have made the ordinary into extra-ordinary, but I digress. The point is, Candice has that gift herself, and I think you will see it is evident in the work.
 
She has an eye for the little details that makes a piece of art
 
I had a chance to ask her a few questions about how she approaches her work, and her thoughts on watercolour paintings in general. Please enjoy my little chat with Candice Leyland! 🙂


When did you start painting and why?
I had very little interest in art before high school. I remember we had to choose one “arts” course. Since I was shy and was already intensely studying piano, I didn’t want to take drama or music, so I defaulted to fine art class.
 
I had planned to get my “arts” courses out of the way so I could focus on science and math for the rest of high school. It is kind of funny that that one decision had such a huge impact on my life.
 
In art class, we started drawing and the teacher insisted that drawing was a skill that took practice.
 
Many people, even as adults, believe that being good at art is some kind of god given talent that people just “have”, but once I learned that it was a skill I could master and improve, I was hooked and motivated to improve.

I spent every spare minute I had practicing in my sketch book – I loved creating things and experimenting. I did sculpture, pottery, silkscreening, photography, and I devoured every book on art history I could find.
 
I fell in love with the impressionists. I spent lunch hours in the art room listening to music and making art.
 
Are you partial to creating any other types of art?
I play piano and guitar and sometimes draw, but I mostly work in watercolour. I feel it is the best way to express myself. I am addicted to colour.
 
In the past, I’ve worked extensively in photography (both commercial and artistic) and have tried oil and acrylics. I keep coming back to watercolour.
 
When did you start watercolour painting, specifically? What drew you to watercolour?
In Spring of 2016, I picked up watercolours. It felt like forever since I had been creative and I wanted to get back into making art.
 
I was always drawn to the lightness and simplicity of watercolour, but its non-toxicity and portability were the biggest draw factors for me at this point in my life.
 
I had a medically fragile child and lived in a relatively small home. Watercolours allowed me to paint from the kitchen table or even the couch safely and relatively mess free.
 
When I dove into it, I taught myself through books from the library and youtube videos. My colour theory and drawing skills from university were a solid foundation and learning watercolours came relatively easily to me.

Where do you buy your paints and do you have a preference when it comes to brands or quality of the paint itself?
I shop at a lot of places in Kitchener Waterloo. I like to support the small shops like the Artstore on Caroline Street.
 
I tend to use QOR watercolours by Golden. This is a relatively new brand (although Golden has been making Acrylics for decades). I love the vibrancy and flow of these paints. I’m pretty much obsessed with them.
 
Locally, QOR Watercolours are only available at Curry’s I tend to get my paints there. I sometimes use Holbine watercolours or Daniel Smith.
 
What is involved in the process of you sitting down to paint?
I have a very minimalist set up for a studio. My process usually involves printing my reference photo, taping a piece of paper up and getting fresh water. This is one of the biggest benefits to watercolour.
 
There is hardly any set up and take down. No barriers to creativity.

What style of art do you consider yourself to be doing?
I struggle with describing my own work or fitting myself into a mold. I feel like impressionistic florals is an accurate description. My work is moody and ethereal and focuses on light and colour.
 
What type of surface do you generally paint on?
This is where I get snobby. Only Arches brand paper, Only Cold Press: 140 lb or higher.
 
What size of brushes do you generally work with?
Round Sables between 4 and 8 and a big old mop to wet the paper.
 
Do you feel there are any drawbacks to using watercolour you’ve found in your experience using that medium over the years?
The main drawback to watercolours is the expense of framing, but good framing makes a significant difference in preserving and presenting your painting.
 
I have experimented with modern mounting methods such as adhering paper permanently to board or using ground watercolour mediums, but in my opinion, the best way to display a watercolour is to have it professionally matted and framed.

Other than that, I mostly see advantages. People always tell me how “unforgiving” watercolour is. I always hear comments like, “watercolour is so hard!”
 
I will admit that once a painting is ruined it can be hard to go back. But to me, this is not a drawback, it is a strength.
 
Watercolour paintings are often faster to make and can be less expensive to produce other mediums. If a painting isn’t working, you have the opportunity to start fresh.
 
The nature of watercolour forces you let go of control. Don’t get me wrong, with skill and technique you do have a great deal of control over the medium, but the freedom and chance of painting in watercolours is what draws me.
 
It frees up the creative process tremendously.
 
How do you decide when a piece is done?
Someone gave me a great piece of advice about this. He said to sign your painting when your close to being done, and then give yourself a limit to how much you can fiddle with it afterward.
 
After I sign my painting, I allow myself a few tweaks, then walk away. Watercolour paintings are so easy to overwork. When the painting is signed and complete, I post it to social media.
 
I love the relationship I have with my followers. I did have a teacher that once told me, “If you hate a painting – Do it again! If you Love a Painting – Do it again!” which is great advice.

You are always learning and improving. A painting might be done, but you are never done learning.
 
Would you recommend any other watercolour artists for people to check out?
My best friend Lee Angold and her botanical illustrations amaze me.
 

Visit: https://candiceleylandart.ca/

 

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Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia Multimedia Artist Živka Suvić – An Interview

As an artist myself, I am drawn to other artists. When I come across an interesting artist, I look at their work and imagine what caused them to create it. In all cases, the time and place of an artist influences their work, even if it is doing so unconsciously.
 
We are all influenced by our country, our upbringing, experiences, and so forth. Every artist has a story, and it informs their work in intimate ways. This is an obvious fact, but that doesn’t make it less interesting, because seeing an artists’ work is like seeing into their life in some way.
 
When I came across the work of Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia multimedia artist Živka Suvić, I was very interested in her creative process, because there was so much work and it has an intensity and energy that myself, as a Canadian, finds very different from the art I tend to see around here in Canada.

This is only logical. Every country in this world is different, and Serbia certainly has its own character. What that character is, I don’t know exactly, having not been to Serbia.
 
I know Serbian-born people who are living here in Canada right now, but it is not the same as visiting the country or knowing their history in detail. Clearly, Serbia has had its share of unrest, and like it or not, this often breeds great artwork.
 
In my own rather uneducated way, I could sense
 
Working in multiple mediums including assemblage, portraiture, landscape, and even incorporating video, Živka’s work seems to me to be of the sort that comes from a dark, restless soul. At the same time, there is hope in her work.
 
In her portraits, eyes stare back at you, some
 
After checking out Živka’s website, I wanted to ask her some questions about her work. Art speaks for itself, but if you have a chance to talk to the creator of that work, why not?
 
And so, I spoke with Živka recently and got a better idea of what makes this Serbian artist tick. I hope you enjoy our chat!


Q: What inspires you to make art these days?
Art is my path, my way of communicating, my way to express myself. Since I was a child, I enjoyed painting or drawing. Later, I choose art to be my life’s occupation, or maybe art chose me.
 
I don’t know, except to say that this is the way I function. Inspiration is around everywhere…
 
Q: What descriptive words come to mind to describe your own artwork?
Collecting, expression, time, materials…these are some of words. Also…consistency…etc.

Q: How much does Serbian culture influence your artwork?
I’ve finished my studies at the Art Academy in Serbia, and during that educational process, we students were well informed with the world of art history.
 
Art history also covered the national history of art, but the focus wasn’t necessarily on national works. On the contrary, we had the freedom of choice to choose our models.
 
Probably, the national culture has an impact on my work today, perhaps unconsciously, and certainly that social situation plays a big role on my life…
 
Q: How often do you show your work publicly?
I would say often. Last year, I had five independent exhibitions, and this year I have two. In addition, I exhibit in group shows.
 

 
Q: Has a secret patron ever emerged from the shadows who wants to give you a vast sum of money to support you in your endeavours?
No, there was no secret patrons. I have customers, buyers, but patrons…no.
 
Q: Why do you like creating artwork which has a tactile surface?
I use specific materials, and their nature allows me to create artwork which has a tactile surface. I use papers, different thickness, cardboard, and decoupage technique. That’s why the surface is tactile.
 
Q: Do you consider your art messy?
No, I don’t consider my art messy. There is a certain order within what I am doing. Every act of creation requires certain a chaos around it, but within the work there is a line.
 

 
Q: Do you consider some of your art to be “dark”?
Yes, I do, they are probably dark. But they are just some of my works. I think about the effect my work could have on the observer. I can control what I want to exhibit.
 
Q: When painting your landscapes or your expressive portraits, do you paint from memory or prefer to do the work live?
I usually combine the two. Sometimes, I start live and finish my work from memory….or vice versa.
 
Q: What is your special connection to New Zealand?
I spent a year and a half there studying, and New Zealand remained in my good memory. I met wonderful people and made friends there.
 
Q: What is the purpose of an assemblage, in your view?
Specifically, assemblages that I’ve made in New Zealand stayed in the Art school in Dunedin, as an exhibit and demonstration material for future students.
 
I created them through a process of collecting discarded materials which were put in pillows and boxes. Each pillow symbolically represents a dream.

Q: How often do you like to visit the ocean? Do you prefer oceans to lakes?
I’m fascinated by water, in general. Right now, I don’t have any opportunity to see an ocean, but there is a river passing trough the city I’m living in.
 
Q: Do you have any artists from the past who serve as inspirations to your work now?
Yes, I have many artists who are my inspiration, even though their work has no direct impact on mine, like Robert Rausenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Arman. These are some of artists who inspire me.
 
Q: What are your artistic goals for the future?
Goals…I’m working on my new paintings and maybe, in the future, I will develop a story about assemblages. I have a goal to continue working, exhibiting, and selling my work…
 

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Animation in 2018 – It’s Not What You Think

For most of the medium’s history, animation meant thousands of hand-drawn and painted transparent cells flashing on-screen 24-times (or less) per second, just the way Uncle Walt used to do it

Nowadays, animation isn’t just hand-drawn Disney films and saturday morning cartoons, it’s computer-generated 3D blockbusters, it’s the dances in Fortnite, it’s Thanos and Iron Man in The Avengers.

The digital age has created plenty of new industries that call for animation, but we’ll focus on the big 3 industries most people think of when they think animation.

We’ll start with the grand-daddy of them all.

Film

What happened to hand drawn movies like The Little Mermaid or Snow White? Pixar.

Pixar is responsible for both pioneering CG animation and popularizing it. We all know Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles.

3D-animated family films are nothing new to us but whenever someone hears “animator” they think of someone drawing pictures. A lot of animators in 2018 can’t even draw, and they don’t need to.

Why spend years perfecting a skill that’s not even required to have a successful career? An animator working in film is going to be using their CG skills much more often than their drawing skills.

There’s another aspect of film animation you may have overlooked: VFX. The amount of computer generated visual effects on major Hollywood releases is staggering.

Consider that Avatar met the qualification for a “Best Animated Feature” nomination. Consider that without VFX, The Life of Pi would have been a movie about a boy talking to an empty boat in an old pool.
 
Iron Man would be a series about Robert Downey Jr. making wisecracks while wearing spandex and pretending he was shooting lasers out of his hands.

 

Consider that the upcoming Lion King remake (https://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/get-right-disney-animated-not-live-action-remake-lionking-143343.html) is not a “live-action Lion King” movie, it’s likely a 100% CGI film, even more so than the “live-action Jungle Book” remake which featured an entirely 3D-animated cast with the only exception being the protagonist.

Television and Tweening

Think television is the only safe bastion for hand-drawn animation? Think again. Television studios have ditched a lot of hand drawn frame-by-frame animation in favour of “tweening”:

Drawing each body part separately and having the computer drag that part across the screen from Point A to Point B.

Compare the early 1990s seasons of Arthur to the newer 2010s seasons.

Arthur Season 1:

Arthur Season whatever:

Arms pivot from the shoulder and heads pivot from the neck instead of being redrawn over and over in a slightly-different position each time.

So why use tweening?

Tweening means that animators with poorer drawing skills can still animate effectively. Tweening is faster than doing an entirely new drawing every frame and time is money.

Tweening means you can have the best artist draw out all the body parts you need and then that character will always appear consistent.

In the hand drawn days there was always the risk of someone drawing a character “off model”. A large group of different people all trying to draw the same character several thousand times throughout a project would inevitably lead to a few frames where that character didn’t look like themselves.

Sometimes there’s a nice mix between hand-drawn and tweened, a recent example being Rick and Morty. Sometimes hand-drawn still lives on strongly in Adventure Time and Legend of Korra (animated in South East Asia), but it’s done digitally now.

Animators are drawing in ToonBoom animation software instead of on paper.

That means artists can be more accurate in drawing new frames, colours don’t flicker due to paint-mixing, and you can always throw in a 3D car (because 2D animating a car is a job no one wants to do).

Video Games

If you’re at a AAA studio (Think Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty) it’s 3D animated and motion captured with a few exceptions like Overwatch’s delightful hand-keyed cartoony animation.

Despite some Andy Serkis controversy stating otherwise, motion capture is not just a matter of an actor moving around and then the animation is done.

After an actor’s movements are recorded, there is a lot of cleaning up to do. Sometimes the motion capture camera isn’t able to see one of the markers on the suit. You’ll have arms spasming in 3D space or maybe a head that’s offset from the neck by a kilometre.

You also rarely have any animation on the fingers, and facial animation is recorded separately but more commonly the face is animated manually by animators in 3D software.

If you’re an indie studio, 2D animation is much more common. Cuphead is every animation nerd’s dream right now as it was drawn onto animation paper (a huge rarity in film much less in video games), but even then it was scanned into Photoshop and traced and coloured digitally.


 

Conclusion

So what is animation in 2018? Ditch the image of the man in the suspenders drawing with a pencil and replace it with the image of someone working in front of a computer using a drawing tablet.

Animation is found in the 3D films of Pixar and Disney, but it’s also hidden in every major modern Hollywood film in the form of VFX.

The weird-looking 16-frames-per-second (or less) saturday morning cartoon is gone and has been replaced (for better or worse) by digitally animated, sometimes handdrawn kids’ shows that aim to appeal to girls and boys instead of only one or the other.

Animation is your gun firing in Call of Duty, your candy exploding in Candy Crush, and even the way a window expands on your OS.

 

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Cartoon Design and Character Development Basics with Animator Carlos Campos

Today I had a good talk with my buddy Carlos Campos, a freelance animator who I’ve worked with on many smaller productions, generally of the short animation variety.

In fact, if you have ever seen the Youtube channel Kindertunes, you may have seen one of his animated kid’s songs that we’ve done together, such as the Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Teddy Bears Picnic, or Take Me Out To the Ballgame.

Here are some of his designs for bears that appeared in the Teddy Bears Picnic video.

On our animation projects we’ve done together, Carlos mainly uses Powerpoint, but there are of course other options for programs which can animate, none of which I know how to use myself. In other articles on this website, Carlos has given tutorials on how he designs shapes in Powerpoint.

Today, I grilled Carlos on how he goes about designing a character for one of his cartoons from the ground up. This process of character development, I would say, is animation 101.

It’s part of the process you’d need to know in order to start an animation project of any kind. This is why it was so interesting to me, that I wanted to ask Carlos how he goes about developing a character.

It so happens, he’s currently working on a character for a new animation project about an old rat, and that character is in development as we speak.

Enjoy our interview on the basics of cartoon character development!

Q: Hey, Carlos, I hear you’re doing a music video about some rats. Can you explain this a little?

A: Well, that is true! But not about any kind of rat, this one is an ironing expert!

Q: Oh really? Interesting…

A: Yes! Many Mexican children know about it, since it happens to be a character from a traditional children’s song.

Q: What song is it from?

A: The name is “Una rata vieja” which translates to “An old rat”.

Q: Ah. And so you are in charge of the video, and so also you must create some digital rats.

A: Exactly.

Q: How do you do that?

A: The process involves different questions, such as Why? How? What? and Where?

“Why?” is a crucial one. The answer has to be the motivation behind creating a character. A purpose. In this case, as it often is, it’s about transmitting a message. An uplifting, fun children’s song, in Spanish, from the rich, Mexican culture.

In order to convey this vibrancy, there are important elements to be taken into account. Using clear, simple, universal symbols that are grounded in reality in a creative way.

So I start with basic shapes such as triangles and circles. But they are very rigid and unlike forms found in nature.

I sort of smooth the edges and make each shape into something more organic.

Then, I put the pieces together to make a character model that can be tweaked, moved around and edited easily, which will simplify the animation process.

Q: Do you differentiate between a mouse and a rat somehow, or do you just aim for the basic form? I’m no animal expert but i’m sure there’s a difference. At the same time, I understand you’re focused on simplifying the shapes.

A: As you can tell from the pictures, the rat’s body is quite elongated. If it had been a mouse, I’d have made its body more compact, but that’s a very good question!
 
It depends.

The main difference is that a mouse is smaller than a rat. That’s it! I n this case the song revolves around a “rat” character and no mice are ever mentioned so it’s hard to see the contrast.

Q: What program are you using to do the design and animate, is it all one program?

A: Yes! It is Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 from the Microsoft Office Suite for the Mac.

Read my interview with Carlos about storyboarding in Microsoft Powerpoint

Q: How long have you been using it, and how does it factor into the way you design characters? Are there any other programs you’ve tried which are similar, that you maybe don’t like as much?
 
What’s the advantage of designing in Powerpoint? Sorry for all the questions…

A: I have also worked with the Adobe Suite for more specialized projects. The learning curve is quite steep though, and some of them such as Photoshop and Illustrator may be better suited for tasks such as photo editing and graphic design.

Then there is 3D software such as AutoDesk Maya. There are huge differences in how each program is used, and I honestly prefer the qualities of animating in 2D.

This also involves the “How?” aspect of character design. The medium used does affect the outcome. There are digital tools such as the ones stated above, and traditional ones.

One could create characters by sculpting, drawing or painting them. Writing them, too!

Q: So do you usually stick with Powerpoint then?

A: Yes! It is my platform of choice for this type of project.

Q: You could make them out of ASCII code.

A: Hahaha, very true! Must be hard to animate though!

Q: Do you ever draw the characters first or do you make them in Powerpoint from scratch?

A: I might draw them first but to me that’s very rare. I do it mainly for storyboarding. When creating them, I like to do it straight on PowerPoint.

Looking for other examples for inspiration is very helpful, too!

The style can vary dramatically from one project to the other if the niche is very different. A rat in a horror-movie animation will appear differently to that in a children’s video, of course, even though they’re based of the same animal.

Q: So how long will it take you to create a rat like this one here? What’s his name again?

A: Traditionally, it’s a “she”! In this case I’ve decided to have “genderless” I guess, so that any kid can identify easily with it.

Another key thing: making characters relatable somehow.

It doesn’t really have a name… “Rat”, I suppose!

Q: Does Powerpoint do any texture?

A: It has the option to add textures from a pre-existing library or through and image file.

Q: Do you think you’ll add texture to this rat, or keep it as is?

A: Again, I think keeping it simple might be a good idea, especially for younger viewers who might be overwhelmed with too much detail.

In some scenes there might be several elements on the background already or I might add texture on there too.

I’m open to new ideas and/or seeing how the style develops.

Q: So the design is partly to please the audience that might be watching, but also to make it easier to animate? Not to overcomplicate it….

A: Exactly! And it can also be a matter of personal preference. I tend to like keeping things minimal in all aspects of life. It will be part of the animation which is already in progress.

Q: How many basic picture templates do you have in a given animation? For instance, how many are there in this one?Do you need some basic ones to work with?

A: Oh, what do you mean by picture templates?

Q: As in, static images of the character.. where you just need to move certain parts of their body, not everything

A: Oh, right. Well, again it varies. A 30 second sequence could have 10 individual “slides” with the character. Then when the setting or the pose needs to change, I create another one.

Q: How long do you think this rat video will be when all is said and done?

A: The length of the song is around 1.5 minutes, so around that.

Q: And how many emotions would you say are conveyed in that whole time?

A: About 10, probably. Other scenes also provide context and do not necessarily include the character’s facial expressions. That give moments in the animation “room to breathe”, so to speak.

Q: So what would some of those emotions be? anything in there specific or complex like “indignancy”?

A: Hahaha…No. Maybe more like calm, shocked, then relieved…

Q: That’s part of the plot, I guess…

A: That’s it! They match the lyrics as the story unfolds.

Q: Right.. How about colours? How do you decide on some of those, such as the background?

A: The color palette is tetradic. That is, it uses four colors, made up of two complimentary color pairs, with their different shades. This is to make sure that they all look harmonious together.

The rat was originally meant to be dark gray, but the color was then changed to a grayish-light blue.

This change was made to avoid the cliché while making it look friendlier in a way. More “cartoony” yet still grounded in reality.

Q: Did you learn this somewhere or would you say it’s more common sense?

A: It also ties in with the other shade of blue used in one of the backgrounds. This is all color theory! It can be common sense to an extent, but it is also an important principle in graphic design.

The rest of the palette includes a warm, brick orange, vibrant blue and greens, and even variations of pink. They are all reminiscent of the bright colours typical from traditional Mexican architecture. Gives it that sense of fun and liveliness.

Q: Ah.. so the colours are fairly meaningful then

A: Yes! Imagine if they were all red, blue and white, or dark and eerie-looking? That would make people think of anything but Mexico!

Color is a big part of our culture of celebration. We actually call “hot pink “rosa mexicano” here, which translates as “Mexican pink” since we like those bold hues so much! They are part of our identity.

Q: Wow, there’s a lot of little details to be considered. I can’t wait to see the final result.

A: Yup! It makes every project an interesting one.

 

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Still Lifes of Suzanne Valadon – Where No “Decent” Woman Would Tread

Much has been said on the nudes of Suzanne Valadon, and rightly so. Truly, they are wonderfully composed and naturally iconoclastic in nature.

Women. Real women portrayed in natural scenarios by other women was unheard of in the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Generally women did not tackle nudes at all; the powers that be fearing the practice would corrupt delicate souls.

Valadon, exempt from propriety due in part to humble birth and in other part her choice of tawdry career as an art model, was able to express herself in ways other women could or would not at the time. She was admitted into salons (where no “decent” woman would tread) and even found herself the first woman painter of Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (SNBA), in 1894.

Here she is pictured with her son, Maurice, in 1889.

All this is quite spectacular on its own, but I would like to leave the icon smashing and feminist critique behind for a short while. I’d even like to leave the entirety of her personal life behind. Today we will look at Valadon as a genderless painter of fruit and flowers. We will examine her still lifes and perhaps see the merit the SNBA saw when they chose to add her to the pantheon of art gods.

Bouquet de Roses dans un Obus, oil on card, 1913

One of my favourites, Suzanne places roses inside an obus (cannon shell). To the roses she gives definition with her characteristic heavy lines. To the obus, however, she uses soft short strokes.

This renders an object of war nothing more than a harmless vase. The placement of the object on a kitchen sill next to feminine lilac drapes annihilates the last bit of danger to the point that the obus loses its meaning entirely.

Even knowing what cannon shells of the period look like, a viewer would be hard pressed to identify it as such. Bordering on symbolist, she keeps the colours orthodox and avoids contrivance.

It is a balanced work that evokes a timely “Frenchness”, and a little titter at the tender emasculation of a phallic object (whoops, some feminist critique slipped in).


Untitled, oil on card, 1930

Speaking of timely Frenchness, what could be more delightfully 1930s French than a blue vase stuffed with roses? Never a servant of style, Valadon takes a more post impressionist (but not quite) look at these flowers.

Her beautiful built up highlights and shadows are made somehow more realistic by the presence of clear brushwork. The flowers are lit up from within.

Her choice of perspective is ever so slightly naïve, causing the vase to float, lending extra emphasis to it as a focal point. Objects in the background are arranged firmly in reality though, grounding the whole thing on what I’m sure was a wonderfully printed tablecloth.

Valadon painted many roses, tulips, orchids and the like, but her greatest still lifes often involved the honesty of circumstance her nudes had in spades as well.

A common basket of even commoner duck eggs waits quietly for the cook, nestled in straw. The stonework is alive with colour, both in light and shadow.

Valadon does not half paint even the most simple of highlights. The way the light falls over the eggs and onto the wall brings to mind an open door; perhaps the cook has come for these blue cast beauties at last.


Basket of Duck Eggs, oil on card, 1931

Nature Morte au Lièvre, Faisan et Pomme, oil on card, 1930

Pieces like, Still life with Hare, Pheasant and Apple, convince us of Suzanne’s sense of humour. An old hare dangles almost peacefully from hind legs drained and awaiting a competent cook to relieve it of its skin in one swift pull.

The young pheasant seems to be dreaming grand, worried dreams despite its questionable life status. Apples sit pertly on a plate, as if to rub in how alive they are; not knowing they all share the same fate.

A quick laugh is had at the idea of a “nature morte” of dead animals. It’s so on the nose if it weren’t for the sombre, reverent overtones this piece would risk vulgarity. As it stands though, in characteristic Valadon style, she goes just far enough.

We feel the ambivalence of the old hare, the tragedy of the young pheasant and the haughtiness of the apples. It mirrors truth, not to mention the sanctifying warmth pervading the scene is downright Fauvist.

Given her close ties with Ganguin, this is unsurprising. Suzanne’s emotional colour vocabulary is extremely developed across her still lifes and painted portraits.

So far the emphasis has been on her later, more developed works, but what of earlier material?


Nature morte au compotier de fruits, oil on card, 1917

Again, nearly symbolist in nature, this fruit bowl is absolutely uncommon. Her slight naivete of perspective keeps a sense of stuffy refinement far away from her popular and often grossly academic subject.

Colours, simply layered, build a juicy pear and living grapes. She bothers to paint the calyx of an upside down apple though. In fact, this composition is rife with luxurious, unnecessary details.

The brocade stripes of the wall cover, blue details on the china pedestal bowl and the delicately defined wicker table stand in sharp contrast to the relatively faceless fruit.

She forces the viewer to realize detail in objects she omitted it from. Like so many excellent paintings, it is what is left unpainted that is remarkable.

Remarkable works, Valadon has many. In her time she was a immensely popular and respected artist, though time can cruelly erase that which does not fit the appropriate narrative.

Suzanne, when she is mentioned at all, is mostly talked about in terms of being a revolutionary woman (she was) or being a woman in the den of great men (Ganguin, Cezanne, Latrec…).

Her life is often cast, if cast at all, in the red glow of bawdiness thanks to the childish puritanism of our modern world. This I think, though titillating, is unfair.

Her work shows a greatness of spirit and a delicacy of soul. She mastered the concepts of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’; played with humour and nuance.

Everything about her art suggests an actualized, inspired, aspiring mind. If anything, Valadon achieved in life what most artists only achieve in death.

The respect and admiration of her peers. It would be wonderful if she were appreciated in death the way she was lauded in life.

Let us quietly appreciate a grouping of more typical Valadon still lifes and see what Gauguin saw in a talented, young art model so many years ago.


Bouquet des Fleurs 1937

White Fruit Bowl undated

Roses dans une Verre 1937

Her confident lines are instantly recognizable as is her slightly off perspective. Even working with universal subjects, she manages to make every vignette intensely personal.

Her still lifes are as intimate, in my opinion, as her nudes and deserve as much notoriety in popular art critique beyond the French Riviera. Though, it must be said again, her nudes are extremely worthy of examination.


The Future Unveiled, 1912

So please, no more of this “Mistress and Muse of Montmartre” crap that appears in so much analysis of her. When it comes to Valadon there is plenty to talk about inside the frame.

Speculating on the woman more than the work does no one any favours and has constantly robbed the present of the honest presence of a brilliant artist. Suzanne Valadon; a Crown Jewel of Montmartre.

This is her rightful place and there she will live in my heart and mind forever.

Photo of Valadon, Photographer and date unknown


 

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Best Painting and Art Making Apps for your Smart Phone – ArtFlow, 8bit PhotoLab, TextArt, and More!

by: A. Martellacci

My art is made from wire, garbage and string.

Until a few years ago, I did not have a smart phone. It seems odd I would bother trying to create art with technology at all. Maybe I’m afraid to be left behind. Maybe my junk art collection is beginning to alienate people. Either way, I wanted some good clean fun.

With no idea where to start, I gamely opened the app store hoping to trip over something interesting.I did so right away because my phone is creepy and can read minds.

ArtFlow, was the first suggestion google curated. It looked just technical enough to be useful and unassuming enough to be immediately comprehensible from its short bio and pics. The reviews were glowing, except for occasional id10-T error reports.


ArtFlow

The user interface is clean… like, blank.Tap the little white dot in the corner to view the toolbars and tap again to hide.I like it.Not all tools are available in free mode (duh), but many of the most useful brushes and pens are there.

Both RYB and HSV colour wheels are free to use, for what it’s worth. It is obviously designed for tablet and slows a bit on the phone if there’s too much going on.

Using just the tip of my finger and the charcoal setting, I was able to create gentle blends without any of the smudges of real life.

Obviously, super accurate sketching was out of the question on my tiny phone screen, but I ended up pleased with a few of the pieces. Building colours with air brushes (standard, shading and foggy) and the round brush was especially zen.

Not being much a fan of markers in real life, I was surprised to find myself enjoying them especially.

Canvas size presets are standard, and therefore useful.Saving is also standard.Save to anywhere.Send to anyone.Zooming in and spinning the canvas works great.

The app’s ability to delineate between brush stokes and the zoom function taps was consistently good; so no accidental mark making

The thing I was sad for but don’t begrudge, is layers can only be added in the paid version… which I have now. The layers work great and don’t cause slowdown on my (crappy) phone.

ArtFlow is the perfect pocket scratch pad. I love sketching with it when I have a spare moment. It will always have a front page spot on my phone.

Never knowing when enough is enough, I went back to the all knowing algorithm interface known as, the Play Store, and scrolled for a long time. Nothing looked immediately interesting. Searched: “art apps”. Scrolled. 8bit PhotoLab. Interesting.


8bit PhotoLab + Bonus App

Holy crap! I loaded an image of Luna. Yes, from Sailor Moon. Wut? My finger must have slipped. I scrolled to the Commodore PET monitor setting and this happened:

This is going to be awesome!

There are a million different settings. Great fun to play with. I finger sketched a cube with ArtFlow.

These are some of my favourite 8bit PhotoLab filtrates of the above cube after spending (a lot of) time messing around.

All kinds of monitor, colour palette and even vector graphics filters can be customized to create the most vintage computing or modernaesthetic effects.I have not reached the end of this app’s free functionality (but I bought it anyway).Oh, and it goes great with another little free app I found.


TextArt

TextArt. Free font selection is limited, though you can upload your own. TextArt, and the endlessly nifty, 8bit Photo Lab, created this delightful abomination.


Notebloc

Not comfortable drawing on a screen at all? Use Notebloc to scan and trim your meatspace sketches (and notes) instead. It does a pretty good job of it. Photographing flat things is not as easy as it seems.

Notebloc proves useful for in situ scanning and saves in pdf. I’ve already used it professionally and am creeping the Notebloc tablets on amazon.

Here are a collection of jellies and aspics. Don’t let their bouncy, colourful looks fool you. One is made from pickle relish, another from tomato soup and I think there’s even some sour cream and mayo in there.

What happens when you mash Notebloc, 8-bit Photo Lab and TextArt together? You get my new forum avatar.

This collection of apps puts a whole lot of fun and functionality in the palm of your hand. They play well together, are either free or cheap and translate well to smaller screens.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need some time alone to fingerpaint.

Oh, by the way, I came across this post on the Pixpa blog called The 40 Best Drawing Apps and Art Apps for 2019, which gave me a lot of new ideas.  Recommend checking that out if you have a chance!

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Niki de Saint Phalle – Ready To Kill

In 1960 I was a very angry young woman. Angry at men and their power. I felt that they had robbed me of my own free space in which I could develop myself.
 
I wanted to conquer their world, to earn my own money. Angry with my parents who I felt had raised me for the marriage market. I wanted to show them that I was somebody, that I existed and that my voice and my scream of protest as a woman was important.
 
I was ready to kill.

Niki Saint Phalle’s unique brand of feminist art expressed both jouissance and angst in equal measure, and explored the complex and confounding ways in which biology and culture co-construct the female experience.

She was born on October, 29, 1930 to an aristocratic Catholic family as a second of five children; her father André was a wealthy French banker, and her mother Jacqueline Harper was an American, but raised in French.

Soon after her birth, facing with aftershocks of the Black Tuesday, the French wing of the Great Depression, the Saint Phalle’s lost their fortune; her father was forced to close his finance company and they moved to the United States.

From an early age, Niki pushed the boundaries in her personal and artistic life. She attended the prestigious Brearley School in New York, which she found to be a formative experience for her, and a place where she became a feminist.

However, she was expelled for painting the fig leaves covering the genitals of statues on the school’s campus red.

Coming of Age

When she was 18, Saint Phalle eloped with Harry Mathews, a person that she knew through her father.

Both of them were artistically inclined, oversensitive, overtly rebellious romantics, and they bounded together as such. While Mathews studied music at Harvard University, Saint Phalle began exploring painting, and gave birth to their daughter Laura in 1951, when she was 20 years old.

In 1952, the couple moved to Paris, where Mathews continued to study music, learning to become a conductor, while Niki studied theater to become an actress, and she was also modelling for Elle and Vogue.

The following year, Saint Phalle was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown, and hospitalized in a psychiatric facility.

At this point of her life, she had gone through a violent nervous breakdown, caused by the facts she had married young and somehow accepted the conservative values and the lifestyle of her family that she wanted to reject so badly.

Niki was first treated with a barbarous treatment, a series of electric shocks, but luckily, she ended up in the hands of a humane psychiatrist who restored her to mental health.

She was encouraged to paint as a form of therapy; somewhere in between the shocks and analysis, she began doing her first collages, and soon after that her first paintings.

They were so original and compelling, that her husband, following her energetic example, gave up all thoughts of a musician career and began writing for the first time since 1949.

The couple moved to Majorca off the coast of Spain, where their son Philip was born in 1955. During this time, Niki developed her imaginative, self-though style of painting, experimenting with a variety of materials and forms.

During the visit to Barcelona, she was stuck by the work of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi and his park Güell, which was instrumental in Niki’s early conceptualization of the elaborate sculpture garden she would fulfill much later in her career.

Saint Phalle’s art was also influenced by other various artists such as Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Jackson Pollock.

At the end of the 1950s, Niki and her husband moved back to Paris; in 1960, she divorced Mathews, giving him the custody of their children. She met artist Jean Tinguely, with whom she would collaborate artistically; within a year, they had began a romantic relationship, and eventually married in 1971.

Niki Saint Phalle’s first solo exhibition in 1961, punctuated a dynamic period of her early career and she met a number of influential artists living in Paris at that time, whose use of found objects was to have a strong influence on her work.

On show were several of her Shooting Paintings. They were made by fixing polythene bags of paint to a board, and covering them with a thick plaster surface. Viewers were invited to shoot a rifle at the surface, popping the bags and causing the paint to run down the textured white surface.

The process of creating the artwork became a live performative event done in the public eye, and with the public’s participation, challenging traditional perceptions of the artist as a hermetic figure. Shooting Paintings involve the viewer directly and physically in the creation of the work, and leave the resulting image to chance.

In this period, Saint Phalle’s artistic work had become a bold act of defiance, reclamation of space for herself, and for women. She started to articulate these ideas and combining them with other social and political issues‒ amidst an atmosphere of radical ideas, from civil rights, anti-war and anti-violence protests to campaigns for women’s rights and sexual liberation across the West.

Famous Works

The Crucifixion piece, from 1963, an abstracted female figure, is made from found objects and fixed on the flat surface of the wall. It partly resembles to the method of sculptural assemblage, a combination of collage and sculpture that brings in a third dimension by adding elements that project out of a planar, two-dimensional surface.

The work responds to the genre-blending of mid-century abstraction and expresses Saint Phalle’s attitude towards the female condition, which she saw as a highly ambiguous and contentious state.

The figure comprises together suggestions and formal elements of the constructed, biological-cultural stages of womanhood: youthful and sexualized, maternal and abundant, elderly and confined.

The figure has no arms, indicating a lack of female agency and disempowerment within a society that strongly delineates woman’s roles in accordance with diminishing reproductive capacity.

Her most famous and prolific series of works, the Nanas, were inspired by a friend’s pregnancy, her reflections on archetypal feminine forms, and the vexed positions that women occupy in modern, patriarchal societies.

‘Nanas’, a French slang word roughly equivalent to ‘broads’, is a title that encapsulates the theme of the everywoman as well as the casual denigration that closely accompanies the rhetorical grouping of women as a social category.

The Black Venus (1965-67), a large-scale sculpture presents a non-traditional view of the goddess figure and does not conform to the stereotypes of female beauty established by Western classical art, and does not recall sculptural goddess form of the Ancient Western world.

Instead, the figure is large-limbed, black-skinned, actively in motion, and adorned in a colorful, cartoonish bathing costume.

In 1966, she collaborated with Tinguely and Olof Ultvedt on a project for Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. The trio created a large installation Hon-A Cathedral, the largest nana figure; the installation provoked a strong reaction from the public.

It is a large-scale sculptural work which viewers could enter from the vaginal opening, and could hold up to 150 people at a time. ‘Hon’ is the Swedish word for ‘she’, implying that the sculpture is both a symbol for the every-woman and a cathedral-like space for the worship of woman and femininity.

Its structure references classical architectural theories about the entrance to cathedrals and their metaphoric and symbolic relationship to female genitalia. The feature also presents the woman’s body as a place of exchange and creation, a generative space of new life by way of its exit.

That was also the period when Niki worked on Le Paradis Fantastique, a commission for the French Pavilion at Expo Montreal, Canada in 1967.

While she was working on this project with Tinguely, St Phalle’s lungs were severely damaged by polyester resin toxic fumes. Her favorite material, polyester, was the cause of her recurring health problems.

During the early 1970s, she spent some time in the Swiss mountains recuperating from a serious lung illness. In Swiss, Niki met childhood friend, Marella Caracciolo Agnelli who was a well-connected socialite with a penchant for collecting art.

Saint Phelle told her about her vision of creating elaborating sculpture garden of Tarot symbology. With Agnelli’s help, she acquired a parcel in Tuscany, Italy. In 1978, the foundations were laid, and two years later, the construction of the first sculpture began;

The Empress, an enormous sculptural building designed in the shaped of a sphinx, became her home and studio for the next decade.

Elaborately decorated with mosaics and ceramics on the outside and Venetian glass on the inside, the work maintains the aesthetic of assemblage used in many of her earlier works.

Niki spent many years completely immersed in the creation of her dream place. After nearly 20 years of intensive work, financial and health problems, the garden was opened in 1998. It contained vibrant mosaics and colossal sculptures, based on the Tarot cards symbols.

Tarot is an ancient, venerable set of cards, with picture representations of archetypal, elementary situations upon them. They described existential, human experiences and psychic states. Saint Phalle was deeply convinced that the cards have a considerable meaning.

She saw the Tarot Garden as a site which crosses boundaries into the religious and where everyone is potentially able to have a direct experience of the archetypal content of the Tarot.

The idea came from Antonio Gaudi’s Park Guell, but the garden became much more than a simple variation on Gaudi’s concept. It was her absolute, on-going concern, and a deep, captivating theme for life.

Jean Tinguely died in Switzerland, 1991, and Saint Phalle began to make a series of kinetic sculptures, his chief sculptural medium, to honor his memory.

The Grotto

The Grotto, Hanover (2001-2003), the final instalment in a series of semi-architectural works accessible to public is the last project Saint Phalle worked on before her death.

This particular cave was originally built in the baroque style in 1676 as a place for members of the Hanover court to escape the heat.

Niki was invited to turn the space into an immersive art environment; she created a design in response to the formal qualities of the existing architecture, and maintained the original function of the Grotto.

Grotto consists of three rooms, each decorated in different style. The central room’s (‘Spirituality’) walls feature a spiral of yellow, gold and orange mosaic pieces made of glass and ceramics, along with river pebbles and seashells.

The room on the right is set against a field of dark cobalt blue, inspired by the work of Henri Matisse.

The final room is bright and full of silver shards of mirrors, creating an impression of continuous daylight inside the dark cave. The room features sculptural figures in a range of styles from across Niki’s career, acting as a form of retrospection of her oeuvre.

Death

Niki Saint Phalle died on May, 21, 2002, after six months in intensive care in La Jolla, California. Her death was caused by emphysema, a chronic obstructive lung disease.

Saint Phalle continually disrupted long-held conventions in art; her iconoclastic approach to her identity and society at large made her an early and important voice to both the development of early conceptual art and the feminist movement.

Her work often combined plastic art and performance in new ways, blending and dismantling hierarchies between sculpture, painting and performance in a way that would influence conceptual artists and their thinking toward developing new and hybrid forms rather than refining single-medium-specificity.

 

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François-Auguste-René Rodin – Father of Modern Sculpture

In front of the model, I work with the same desire to copy the truth as if I were making a portrait; I do not correct nature, I incorporate myself into her; she leads me.
 
I can work only from a model. The sign of the human form fortifies and nourishes me.

François-Auguste-René Rodin’s story recalls the archetypical struggle of the modern artist.

He was born on November 12, 1840 in a poor area of Paris’s fifth arrondissement to Jean-Baptiste Rodin, an office clerk in the local police station and his second wife, Marie Cheffer.

Early Life

In 1854, he decided to pursue a career in the arts, attending the Ecole Speciale de Dessin et de Mathematiques which trained boys in the decorative arts.

Due to poor vision, Rodin was greatly distressed at a young age. Unaware of his imperfect eyesight, (he was nearsighted) a dejected Rodin found comfort in drawing, which allowed him to clearly see his progress as he practiced on drawing paper.

By age 14, Rodin had developed obvious skills as artist, and soon began taking formal art courses. While completing his studies, the aspiring young artist began to doubt himself, receiving little validation or encouragement from his instructors and fellow students.

After three years of studying sculpture and drawing, he applied to attend the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was gravely disappointed when the school denied him admission.

While he passed the drawing competition, he failed three times in the sculpture competition; his pursuit of naturalism did not suit the school’s academic style.

After the third rejection, Rodin resigned himself, at the age of 19, to take job in plaster workshops to create architectural ornaments.

His career in the decorative arts working on public monuments provided him with a meager living for the next 20 years.

He continued to make sculptures, and by the mid-1860s he had completed what he would later describe as his first major work ‘’Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose’’ (1863-64).

The piece was rejected twice by the Paris Salon due to the realism of the portrait, which departed from classic notions of beauty and featured the face of a local handyman.

In 1866, Rodin met Rose Beuret, and she remained his lifetime companion despite his numerous affairs.

Around this time, Rodin found better fortune-filling commissions in the workshop of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a commercial sculptor, but the steady work and increased income was disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

A fateful trip to Italy in 1875, with an eye on Michelangelo’s work further stirred Rodin’s inner artist, enlightening him to new kinds of possibilities, he returned to Paris inspired to create and design.

The Age of Bronze

In 1876, Rodin completed his piece ‘’The Vanquished’’, which he called ‘’The Age of Bronze’’, a life-size sculpture of a nude man clenching both of his fists, with his right hand hanging over his head.

A young officer was the model for this sculpture, which provided the first great ‘success de scandale’ of Rodin’s career. The composition and rough surface of the figure were unconventional by academic standards.

The subject also remained obscure- the title only vaguely suggesting classical art- and prompted confusion among critics; rather than clothe his image of man in respected symbolism, Rodin had presented a common man, naked.

The Salon accepted the work, but doubts were raised about its authenticity and many accused him of casting directly from the model’s body; the sculpture appeared so realistic that it was directly modeled from the body of the model.

The allegations were a testament to Rodin’s technical skills, though the suggestion that he had somehow cheated heartily offended the sculptor, who was able to disprove the claim with photographs of his model.

However, the work was validated when it was purchased by Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Fine Arts, Edmond Turquet. Turquet would then commission Rodin to create a monumental bronze doorway for a planned museum of the decorative arts.

The Gates of Hell

As Rodin entered his 40s in the fallowing decade, he was able to further establish his distinct artistic style with an acclaimed, but sometimes controversial list of works, eschewing academic formality for a vital suppleness of form.

In 1880, Rodin began working on ‘’The Gates of Hell’’ an intricate monument partly inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and Charles Boudelaire’d Les Fleurs du Mal.

Rodin laboured on this project for over twenty years.

It is believed that Rodin chose to draw on Dante’s Inferno for the subject matter. The monument consisted of various sculpted figures, including the iconic ‘Thinker’(1880), ‘The Three Shades’(1886), ‘The Old Courtesan’(1887), and the posthumously discovered ‘Man with Serpent’(1887).
 
The Thinker is the most famous example.

Deriving from a figure at the top of the sculpture who gazes with melancholy over the hellish scenes bellow him, he represents Dante the author of the Divine Comedy; the figure also represents modern, secular man, strong in mind and body, but lonely and doubtful in the position he has created for himself as master of his own universe.

The Gates of Hell was a deliberate attempt to rival Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral, the Gates of Paradise (1425-52), the competition for which is often said to have initiated the Renaissance.

Rodin initially planned to split the composition into a series of panels, just as Ghiberti had done, but after looking at images of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (1534-41), he opted for a more fluid arrangement of figures.

Although Rodin wished to exhibit the completed ‘Gates’ by the end of the decade, the project proved to be more time-consuming than originally anticipated and remained uncompleted.

The Kiss

The years during which Rodin worked on The Gates of Hell coincided with his relationship with Camille Claudel, a young sculptor who joined his studio as an assistant in 1884.

It proved a stormy romance beset by numerous quarrels, but it persisted until Camille’s madness brought it to a finish in 1898. During the years of passion, Rodin made several erotic sculptures of loving couples.
 
The most sensuous of these groups was the Kiss (1884).

The critics gave the sculpture the title, but Rodin originally called it Paolo and Francesca, after the story in Dante’s Divine Comedy about a young noblewoman who falls in love with her husband’s brother.
 
In the story, the couple is killed by the jealous husband, but Rodin focused instead in their loving embrace.

This erotic sculpture was made during the early years of Rodin’s relationship with Madame Claudel.

The Burghers of Calais

By 1899 Rodin had a large studio with several assistants. His work continued to elicit scandal and trouble. ‘The Burghers of Calais’’ a piece from 1889, is a public monument made of bronze portraying a moment during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England in 1347.

The piece includes six human statues, and depicts a war account during which six French citizens from Calais were ordered by monarch Edward III of England to abandon their home and surrender themselves—barefoot and bareheaded, wearing ropes around their necks and holding the keys to the town and the caste in their hands— to the king who was to order their execution thereafter.

‘The Burgers of Calais’ is a portrayal of the moment that the citizens exited the town; the group was later spared death due to the request of Queen Philippa.

The piece was nearly refused for its depiction of the city’s heroes as dejected victims. The figures are arranged all on one level, rejecting the pyramid composition typical of figure groups at the time.

The men look downtrodden, but determined. They are dressed in rags, and their hands and feet are expressively enlarged.

However, their awkward appearance did not suggest the heroic dimension that the town had envisioned, and the sculpture was accepted with some hesitation and compromise.

Monument to Balzac

Similarly, in 1881, Rodin was commissioned by the Society of Man of Letters to create a memorial for the poet Honore Balzac. Instead of taking 18 months to complete the work, Rodin became infatuated with the topic, and completed the commission in 7 years.

Rodin spent years reading Balzac’s poems, finding pictures of him and models who bore a resemblance to the heavy-set man.

Finally, he placed the proud head on top of a body swathed in a huge, shapeless robe and made a mound-like protrusion at his crotch as a reference to his virility.

The commission was ultimately rejected, and after much controversy Rodin decided to keep the sculpture for himself.

After the sculpture of Balzac, Rodin’s pace slowed down, but he had achieved financial success.

Several exhibitions around the turn of the century brought him worldwide renown; exhibitions in Belgium and Holland in 1899, his first retrospective in Paris in 1990, subsequent shows in Prague, Germany and New York.

Unbridled Sentimental Inventiveness

Around 1900, there was a pressing desire to find a new formal approach in sculpture.

The theories of the German sculptor Lehmbruck were symptomatic from this point of view. In his writings, he particularly condemned ‘unbridled sentimental inventiveness’, making explicit references to Rodin’s art.

In 1908, Rodin moved to the now-famous Hotel Biron, the most beautiful 18th– century Parisian mansions, which became his new studio and home of his affair with the Marquise and later Duchess, Claire de Choiseul.

She exercised great control over his life and the sale of his work for seven years, until she was accused of stealing a box of drawings.

Because of her scheming and that of other women around Rodin, friends encouraged him to marry Rose Beuret in January 1917. Rose died two weeks after the wedding, and Rodin passed away on November, 17 of that same year in Meudon, France.

Hotel Biron at Meudon

Before his death he bequeathed all of his sculptures, drawings and archives to the state of France to create a museum in the Hotel Biron at Meudon.

The Museum was opened in 1919; after several years of reconstruction, the museum was reopened in 2015 on November, 12, Rodin’s birthday.

By the time of his death, Rodin was linked to Michelangelo. His reputation as the father of modern sculpture remains unchanged; his many intimate drawings of his models have altered the nature of the traditional respect paid to this eminent artist.

Henri Matisse was influenced by the spontaneity of his drawings, while Cubists and Futurists were fascinated by his sense of motion and the fragmentation of his human forms.

While Rodin’s reputation declined in the decades following his death, his rebellion against academic standards and his vivid expression of the human form planted the seed for a new French sculpture.

To the generation of sculptors coming forward in the 1890s, faced with the conventions of Academic art and the death throes of Realism, Rodin seemed to be the one who had breathed new life into their art form.

The early works of Joseph Bernard, Brancusi, Picasso, Gaudier-Brzeska and Zadkine, all reflect Rodin’s undeniable influence.

We’ll leave you with this video documentary about Rodin.


 

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Minimalist and Postmodern Interior Design – The Choice of Lazy

by: Sabrina Hassenstein

It is a well known fact that Minimalist and Postmodern interior design styles are becoming rampant amongst clients. Clients are choosing these empty, monochrome, drafty, and overly depressing designs left right and centre…but why?
 
The answer: pure laziness.

 

Starting from the beginning, Minimalism is having a minimal amount of items to put a room together; which is impossible.

An empty space is not “put together.” In fact, the definition of “put together,” in a design sense specifically means, “a collection of items that creates a cozy effect without over-crowding a room, including a combination of colours and objects.”

By this definition, Minimalism cannot bring a room together as it is specifically monochromatic and empty, this includes the lack of wall art, knicknacks, curtains, and even furniture.

The lack of furniture allows more draftiness, which by default does not make the room cozy and is by definition not “put together.” To all minimalism, “put together” is an insult to actual designs that do, in fact, put a room together (i.e.
 
90’s Shag, Space Age…etc).

 
Along with the above stated issue, Minimalism is simply just plain lazy. It is often the choice of people who are too lazy to buy decorations and decorate the interior of their living or working spaces, as well as too lazy to take ten seconds to flip through a paint colour catalogue.

Funnily enough, clients who choose the Minimalist design are often the most difficult people to work with because they are simply TOO LAZY to provide any input and will often throw temper tantrums when you go ahead and use whatever minimal input they DO decide to give.

They are, by extension, TOO LAZY to be decent, reasonable clients and are not worth the minimal amount of money they decide to pay you (their stinginess is a whole other issue that this opinion piece will not touch on).

That being said, Minimalism is a horrible choice of an interior design and should be avoided, however it is not nearly as bad as Postmodernism.
There is such a thing as TOO MUCH colour and TOO MUCH MISMATCH, which is exactly what Postmodernism interior design is.
Postmodernism is essentially a minimalist attitude, but is given by somebody who is obsessed with having a living or working space that stands out; and it stands out for all of the wrong reasons.

Much unlike its cousin, Postmodern interior design is all about bright colours that stand out (mostly neons) in an attempt to stand out and show off.
This concept is better said than done as Postmodern as an interior design look ATROCIOUS. Splashing neon green with bright pink in one room with white leather couches and a tube T.V. is the definition of not thinking before doing.

In fact, most of the clients who choose Postmodern interior designs and decorations are often clients who don’t care, they just want to get things over with and want to pay you as little as possible, just like Minimalist clients.

And, just like the Minimalists, they will also complain about the outcome and throw a hissy fit because “the room clashes,” which would not have happened if the client had paid attention to what was being asked.

This is another design that involves draftiness as the client often times does not wish to spend money on furniture or knicknacks, simply because they do not understand that buying things does not equate crowding.
So while people are choosing to move more towards bland, monochromatic colours and drafty rooms with no decore, they are being shamed into buying more for those bland, sad rooms and will take all of this out on the interior designer they have hired to better their interiors simply because they cannot think for themselves, which is, as you’ve guessed, pure LAZINESS.
So in order to conclude, people who choose the Postmodern and Minimalist styles of interior decor are often lazy and stingy with their money, impossible to work with and / or form a healthy client-designer relationship with, and are often times brainwashed by the government and guilted into buying more than they want, thus leading to anger towards their designers.

It is my sincere hope that this opinion piece sheds a better light on how horrible and tacky of a style Postmodernism and Minimalism is and that you choose to not go for any of these design aesthetics.

Down below, I will include a comparison of 90’s Shag vs Minimalism and Space Age vs Postmodernism for reference. Thank you for reading.

postmodern: too much going on


Space Age: Warm, cozy, captures the eye, not over-crowded.


Minimalism: Cold, empty, monochromatic, drafty


90’s Shag: Warm, cozy, not over crowded, complimenting colours.

 

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Kenzo Tange – Osaka’s Pride Shapes The World

” We live in a world where great incompatibles co-exist: the human scale and the superman scale, stability and mobility, permanence and change, identity and anonymity, comprehensibility and universality’’

Born in Osaka, Japan on September 4, 1913, Kenzo Tange was one of the foremost architects of the twenty century.

He was considered a genius for the buildings he designed throughout his prolific career. He designed more buildings in his lifetime than legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Background

Growing up in the small city of Imabari, on Shikoku Island, he became interested in architecture during high school, but he wasn’t the best math student, so he had to work extremely hard to get into a university.

In 1935, he was accepted to the University of Tokyo’s architecture department. Three years after, he got his first job under Kunio Maekawa, a well-known Japanese architect at that time, who had practiced with Le Corbusier in his Paris studio in the late 1920s.

Due to the World War II, his job did not last long, and, to avoid the draft, Tange had continued his postgraduate studies at Tokyo University and became an assistant professor at Tokyo University in 1946.

During his studies, he won an architectural contest, which earned him solid reputation at the university. He set up his own studio, through which such remarkable architects as Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki passed, learned, contributed and flourished.

Postwar Japanese Architecture

He had continued to teach at Tokyo University, becoming a full professor of urban engineering. He retired in 1974 as a professor emeritus, but continued to teach in United States at numerous illustrious colleges and universities.

Postwar architecture in Japan, while widely eclectic and international in scope, has seen its most dramatic achievements in contemporary interpretations of traditional forms.

In general, Japanese architects of the 20th century were fully conversant in Western style and active in developing a meaningful modern style appropriate to Japanese sites.

Before getting his first real break as an architect, Tange worked as an urban planner. In 1949, his first major commission came after he had won an architectural contest for the design of the Hiroshima.

The commission was symbolic: the replanning of the city of Hiroshima after its destruction by Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped by the USAF B-29 Enola Gay on August 6, 1945.

At the heart of the Hiroshima, Tange helped design Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, its peace centre (1950) and museum (1952), they are among his best known early works.

Peace Memorial Park, located at the epicenter of the atomic blast, contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those killed by the explosion.

The cenotaph for victims of the bombing is shaped like an enormous saddle, resembling the small clay saddles placed in ancient Japanese tombs; it contains a stone chest with a scroll listing the names of those killed.

Kenzo Tange designed the museum and cenotaph and two peace bridges at the park were sculpted by the American artist Isamu Noguchi.

The Peace center, raised on stilt-like, Le Corbusier-style columns, faced by a monument that combined ancient forms and the latest structural technology.

The fusion was a symbol of the new Japan; traditional Haniwa tomb and a concrete hyperbolic parabola resolutely looking to the future while proudly recalling the best of its pre-imperial past.

From here, Tange became an integral component in the rebuilding of Japan after the devastation of World War II.

As Le Corbusier long dreamed of rebuilding the centre of Paris, so Tange worked long and hard on a comprehensive and highly contentious, redesign of his country’s capital city.

In the years that followed, he designed an outstanding series of public buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (1957), the Shizuoka Convention Hall (1957), city halls at Kurayoshi (1957) and Kurashiki (1960) and the Kagawa prefectural offices( 1958), latter being considered a particularly fine examples of the blending modern and Japanese traditional architecture.

Most of these early structures were conventional rectangular forms using light steel frames.

Brutalism

Tange’s work during the 1960s took more boldly dramatic forms with the use of reinforced concrete and innovative engineering.

He launched Japanese architectural movement, Metabolist school or Metabolism, with his Boston Harbor Project design (1959), which included two gigantic A-frames hung with ‘shelving’ for homes and other buildings.

Led by Tange, Kikutake Kiyonori, Isozaki Arata and Kurosawa Kisho, the Metabolist focused on structures that combined high-tech imagery, Brutalism and megastructures as multifunctional complexes that verge on self-containment.

Their advocacy of such devices as artificial land platforms above cities, which grew out of a desire for economy of land use, revolutionized architectural thinking.

They believed that cities should be built to account for future changes. The solution was modular, prefabricated capsules that could be attached to the core of a main structure.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo designed by Kisho Kurosawa is the perfect example of this very architectural style.

Tange’s plan for Tokyo from 1960 received worldwide attention. He presented a master plan for a floating city in Tokyo Bay at the 1960 World Design Conference; the plan was unlike anything architects had ever seen before.

In practice, it would have meant projecting the city out over the bay, using man-made islands connected by proliferation of bridges, and characterized not by buildings as such, but by eye-boggling concrete megastructures.

Although never realized on the scale Tange had intended, Tokyo, these great concrete concatenations were influential in Western Europe, especially in Britain, encouraging a generation of architects who preferred sheer scale and raw concrete, and were labeled ‘brutalists’ by the critic Reyner Banham.

For many of them, Tange Kenzo was the godfather of 1960’s Brutalism.

His most successful brutalist design, the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre, was a samurai fortress brought into the late 20th century, as well as a modern concrete megastructure.

Although seems all off a piece, this was a determinedly indeterminate building in the sense that, theoretically at least, its 16 massive cylindrical towers, housing the centre’s services, could be greatly extended, while yawning gaps left between occupied floors could be filled in with future offices and studios as required.

Nowadays, these gaps have been filled in with roof gardens and terraces, adding to the enigmatic and unexpectedly romantic quality of this powerful design.

Yoyogi National Stadium

For the 1964 Olimpic Games in Tokyo, he designed the Yoyogi National Stadium; the two structures featured sweeping curved roofs and an asymmetrical, but balanced design that masterfully assimilated traditional technique.

The structures evoke early agricultural and Shintō architectural forms while retaining refreshing abstraction. Many lauded Tange for the surreal beauty of the stadium.

At the same time, he designed and built the Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo.

International Works

In the last half of his career, Tange designed plenty of buildings in Japan, and fulfilled important overseas commissions.

Outside Japan, Tange was overly modern; he was responsible for the design of some of the most notable buildings including embassies and university buildings in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Iran, Algeria, the Kuwait International Airport, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Singapore’s National Library, Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo, Chicago’s American Medical Association Building, and the master plan for Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia.

In his later structures he built up combinations of smaller geometric forms into an irregular but functionally attentive whole.

Death and Influence

Kenzo Tange died of a heart ailment on March 22, 2005 in Tokyo.

The most significant and influential figure in post-war Japanese architecture, Tange was profoundly influenced by the work of Corbusier.

If Tange began by imitating the late-flowering, sculptural concrete designs of the Swiss-French genius, he gradually went on to create a body of internationally recognized work that was very much his own, fusing the very latest in structural daring with the traditional Japanese forms.

An often profound thinker and respected teacher in Japan, Canada, and the United States, Tange continued working until his last days, although he retired from practice in the 1990s, and imaging how architecture could be convincingly reconciled with the very latest communications and buildings technologies.

He had disliked the willful excesses of postmodern designs in the 1980s, and watched cautiously as a new wave of gratuitous bendy, twisty buildings sprouted from city skylines worldwide in the 1990s.

He was quietly optimistic considering these fashionable affectations to be no more than ‘transitional architectural expressions’, an accusation it would difficult to level at the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre or the National Gymnasium, Tokyo.

Teacher, writer, urban planner and architect, he is revered not only for his own work but also for his influence on younger architects.

Tange’s constant adaptation of his building designs was praised by many, and he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1987. According to the Washington Post, the jury that chose him for the honor ‘’called him a leading theoretician of architecture’’.