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Posts tagged "art"

Sep 19, 2014
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“17 Drawings by Thoreau”

A print by John Cage:


  [Cage] found source material in the small ink drawings of natural phenomena in the poet-philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s journals. The selection (hawk feather, hazelnut, rabbit tracks, and so on), position, orientation, scale, and color of the drawings were calculated by what Cage called chance operations.

“17 Drawings by Thoreau”

A print by John Cage:

[Cage] found source material in the small ink drawings of natural phenomena in the poet-philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s journals. The selection (hawk feather, hazelnut, rabbit tracks, and so on), position, orientation, scale, and color of the drawings were calculated by what Cage called chance operations.

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Kay Larson, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

I would have liked this book a lot more if it were 150 pages shorter.

My favorite story is one Cage tells in Silence:


  A young man in Japan arranged his circumstances so that he was able to travel to a distant island to study Zen with a certain Master for a three-year period. At the end of the three years, feeling no sense of accomplishment, he presented himself to the Master and announced his departure. The Master said, “You’ve been here three years. Why don’t you stay three months more?” The student agreed, but at the end of the three months he still felt that he had made no advance. When he
  told the Master again that he was leaving, the Master said, “Look now, you’ve been here three years and three months. Stay three weeks longer.” The student did, but with no success. When he told the Master that absolutely nothing had happened, the Master said, “You’ve been here three years, three  months,  and  three  weeks. Stay three  more  days, and if, at the  end  of  that  time, you have  not attained  enlightenment, commit  suicide.” Towards  the end of  the second  day, the student was   enlightened.


Here are some more good lines:

I determined to consider a piece of music only half done when I completed a manuscript. It was my responsibility to finish it by getting it played.
Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. 
I wanted to be quiet in a non-quiet situation.
All I know about method is that when I am not working I sometimes think I know something, but when I am working, it is quite clear that I know nothing.
You have to play the game.
I like the ones I have. If you like the ones you don’t have, then you’re not as happy. 
I have never enjoyed understanding things. If I understand something, I have no further use for it.
And a reading list of stuff to check out:

John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings
D.T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series
D.T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism
Duchamp and pals, The Blind Man
Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise [PDF]
Alan Watts, The Way of Zen
Filed under: my reading year 2014

Kay Larson, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

I would have liked this book a lot more if it were 150 pages shorter.

My favorite story is one Cage tells in Silence:

A young man in Japan arranged his circumstances so that he was able to travel to a distant island to study Zen with a certain Master for a three-year period. At the end of the three years, feeling no sense of accomplishment, he presented himself to the Master and announced his departure. The Master said, “You’ve been here three years. Why don’t you stay three months more?” The student agreed, but at the end of the three months he still felt that he had made no advance. When he told the Master again that he was leaving, the Master said, “Look now, you’ve been here three years and three months. Stay three weeks longer.” The student did, but with no success. When he told the Master that absolutely nothing had happened, the Master said, “You’ve been here three years, three months, and three weeks. Stay three more days, and if, at the end of that time, you have not attained enlightenment, commit suicide.” Towards the end of the second day, the student was enlightened.

Here are some more good lines:

  • I determined to consider a piece of music only half done when I completed a manuscript. It was my responsibility to finish it by getting it played.
  • Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.
  • I wanted to be quiet in a non-quiet situation.
  • All I know about method is that when I am not working I sometimes think I know something, but when I am working, it is quite clear that I know nothing.
  • You have to play the game.
  • I like the ones I have. If you like the ones you don’t have, then you’re not as happy.
  • I have never enjoyed understanding things. If I understand something, I have no further use for it.

And a reading list of stuff to check out:

Filed under: my reading year 2014

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Pablo Picasso draws a chicken

A scene from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso:

NYTimes:

At Clouzot’s invitation, Picasso made a series of works in a studio in Nice, using ink markers designed to bleed through the surface so the strokes are visible from behind. Clouzot and his cinematographer, Claude Renoir (a nephew of the filmmaker Jean Renoir and the grandson of the painter Auguste), using a time-lapse camera, filmed from behind the easel as the artist worked on the pictures, which were destroyed at the end of production. When the film is projected, the paintings magically emerge from the void onscreen. For collages and canvases painted with standard oils, a stop-motion camera was used: the canvas was photographed from the front after each brush stroke, again giving rise to the illusion that the artwork generates itself as we watch.

The chicken painting scene from above was a last-minute addition:

”I’m enjoying this — I could keep going all night!” the painter exclaims when Clouzot asks him if he’s up for painting a quickie using the five minutes’ worth of film that remains in the camera. Thus begins the most entertaining segment of the film, in which Picasso paints a bouquet of flowers that he spontaneously reconceives first as a fish, then as a chicken, while Clouzot counts off the remaining time as if he were the announcer on an artistic version of ”Iron Chef.”

(Source: youtube.com)

Sep 09, 2014
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Edward Gorey’s covers for Doubleday Anchor Paperbacks

From goreyography.com:

In April 1953, Anchor opened up a new market for paperbacks: the “serious” or academic book. They were the brainchild of twenty-five year old Jason Epstein who convinced Doubleday of the market need for such books in paper editions particularly suited for college use. Epstein’s research so impressed the Doubleday executives that they created such a line and made him editor. The format was the same as the taller mass market size (Signet, Ballantine, etc.), but higher in price: 65¢ to $1.45. Anchor was well received from the start, reaching a mass audience through trade book outlets, campus bookstores and some drugstores. And they had Edward Gorey in charge of the covers.

As art editor, Gorey was responsible for the total cover package, supplying the lettering, typography and design layouts. Often other artist contributed the actual illustration: Leonard Baskin, Milton Glaser, Philippe Julian and even Andy Warhol; but Gorey then designed the finished product lending a uniform appearance to the whole line.

Gorey worked in this capacity from 1953 until 1960, a period which roughly corresponds with Anchor’s first two hundred titles. About a fourth of these have line drawn covers by Gorey. He also designed various covers for Vintage, Capricorn, Compass and other publications that followed Anchor’s lead.

Browse a wonderful set of these covers on Flickr→

Filed under: Edward Gorey

Sep 04, 2014
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Sep 02, 2014
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Mise en place for artists

Mise en place is a French cooking term that means “everything in place.” It’s used to refer to the way chefs will have all of their ingredients organized and ready to go before they start cooking. (Obviously, it’s an idea that applies to other types of work.)

Without mentioning it explicitly, cartoonist Kevin Huizenga explains why mise en place is important for artists:

Maybe you have a hard time getting to work because you really haven’t taken the time to figure out what materials you need, and you don’t have them ready-to-hand. They shouldn’t be “organized” in the sense of “visually organized.” One’s studio should be definitely be “messy,” but only in the sense that everything is where it’s most useful. If papers everywhere on the floor makes working easier right now, because you need to constantly refer to them, then they should stay there. So you need first to get the material conditions in place, before you can work.

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Roger Ebert’s sketchbook and thoughts on drawing

While I was watching Life Itself last night, I noticed two or three drawings in the mix of images, none of which were commented on.

Had I been reading his blog more carefully, I would’ve come across this blog post, “You Can Draw, and Probably Better Than I Can,” where he explains how he met a woman named Annette Goodheart in the early 1980s, who convinced him that all children can draw, it’s just that some of us stop:

The break in our childish innocence comes the first time we use an eraser. We draw a chin and think it looks nothing like a chin, and in frustration we erase it. That’s it. Our bond of trust with our artistic instinct has been severed. We will be erasing for the rest of our lives. I speak here not of great and accomplished artists, for whom I hold great awe, but for you and me, whose work, let’s face it, will not soon be given a gallery show.

It seems to me Annette said something like this: Begin with a proper sketch book. Draw in ink. Finish each drawing you begin, and keep every drawing you finish. No erasing, no ripping out a page, no covering a page with angry scribbles. What you draw is an invaluable and unique representation of how you saw at that moment in that place according to your abilities. That’s all we want. We already know what a dog really looks like.

When he was in London, Ebert bought a Daler sketchbook and a drawing pen across the street from the English National Opera.

I settled down in a nearby pub and began to sketch a glass, which is no more than an arrangement of ovals and lines. I continued to draw throughout the 1990s… I sketched mostly on vacation. I had the time. In Chicago there was always a deadline, someplace to be, a phone ringing. On vacation I found a cafe or a park bench, or was waiting for a concert to begin, or whatever.

He soon found out that the quality of his drawings didn’t matter at all — it was the mere fact that he drew them:

That was the thing no one told me about. By sitting somewhere and sketching something, I was forced to really look at it, again and again, and ask my mind to translate its essence through my fingers onto the paper. The subject of my drawing was fixed permanently in my memory. Oh, I “remember” places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. I could tell you about sitting in a pub on Kings’ Road and seeing a table of spike-haired kids starting a little fire in an ash tray with some lighter fluid. I could tell you, and you would be told, and that would be that. But in sketching it I preserved it. I had observed it.

I found this was a benefit that rendered the quality of my drawings irrelevant. Whether they were good or bad had nothing to do with their most valuable asset: They were a means of experiencing a place or a moment more deeply. The practice had another merit. It dropped me out of time. I would begin a sketch or watercolor and fall into a waking reverie. Words left my mind. A zone of concentration formed. I didn’t think a tree or a window. I didn’t think deliberately at all. My eyes saw and my fingers moved and the drawing happened. Conscious thought was what I had to escape, so I wouldn’t think, Wait! This doesn’t look anything like that tree! or I wish I knew how to draw a tree! I began to understand why Annette said finish every drawing you start. By abandoning perfectionism you liberate yourself to draw your way. And nobody else can draw the way you do.

As he wrote in a Facebook post, “An artist using a sketchbook always looks like a happy person.” 

Knowing Ebert himself drew means a lot to me, as the only direct contact I ever had with Ebert was this Facebook post where he praised one of my drawings.

He published a little paperback with some of his drawings (Two Weeks In Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook), but, unfortunately, it’s out of print. Luckily, you can read all of his thoughts on drawings and flip through some of his drawings on Flickr.

Filed under: Roger Ebert

Sep 01, 2014
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"Vintage" selfies, grabbed from Google Image search.

Aug 31, 2014
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David Lynch painting in his studio

From a nice NYTimes profile, “David Lynch, Who Began as a Visual Artist, Gets a Museum Show.”

Aug 29, 2014
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Paintings by Joan Mitchell

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