Tag Archives: painting

Thursday Thoughts: Drawing and Painting

Drawing is using existing tools to make marks. It has a simplicity and directness that comes from taking a tool, like a pencil, and applying it to paper with the technique lying in the sensitivity and variations of the artist’s hand. The artistry of painting lies in the artist’s ability to mix shades and hues of color. These unique variations of an existing medium add depth, complexity, and subtlety which transform the melody of drawing into the symphony of painting. 

What do you think? How would you define drawing and painting?

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Drawing, Jacob Rowan Studios, Painting, Thursday Thoughts

“Little Moth”

"Little Moth" Graphite and Gouache on Paper

“Little Moth” Graphite and Gouache on Paper

A drawing to illuminate the beautiful song “Little Moth” by Melissa Margaret Thorson.

“Little Moth”

Little moth flying in the air How I wish that I could be As free as you seem
As you dance and flutter Past my window in the dark Oh where are you going

Or do you even need to know

Little moth looking for a candleflame Or a lamp on a table
In a room somewhere
Are you searching for some brightness You can dance around

Oh what are you looking for Or do you even need to know

Do you need to know
What that brightness will look like
Do you need to know
How you’ll recognize it when it comes Do you need to know
If you’ll live to dance another day
Or be swallowed up and burned away

Little moth I saw you passing by
Here and there and gone again
Won’t you come again some other day And share with me the brightness That makes magic for your wings

Oh how can you dance like that Or do you even need to know

© 2014 Melissa Margaret Thorson

You can find a video of her performing another wonderful song “Follow the Thread” here. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Drawing, Illumination, Jacob Rowan Studios, Music

Nicolaides Quote 5:

It is much easier to learn how to make a “pretty” picture than it is to learn how to wrestle with and observe reality in all its complexity.

“Any student can command a good technique in a few years and acquire facility with his medium, but this is not what real study consists of. Anyone can learn to paint. Sometimes it seems that the less one is an artist the more easily and quickly one can acquire the superficial qualities of a painter. But craftsmanship in painting is mere virtuosity, a skill that may hide lack of real perception.”  

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Quotes

The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Tate Modern in London. I didn’t have as much time to wander around and contemplate the art as I would have liked, but I was able to make several observations:

I. I discovered the “missing link” between realism and abstraction-Monet’s paintings. 

Monet: Water-Lilies. If one saw this painting without knowing who it was by or the typical subject matter of Money they could easily assume it was simply an abstract painting.

Monet: Water-Lilies. On a screen the subject matter of this painting becomes more obvious. However, stand in front of it as it stretches from wall to wall and it becomes easy to forget that it’s a painting of Monet’s water-lilies and to get lost in the abstract texture, color and form.

Some abstract artists work in a way that highlights the beauty of texture, color, and form without obviously referencing the visual world we are familiar with. This becomes a stumbling block to many viewers who have difficulty seeing the craft or level of care put into such paintings because they are looking for the world they know. However, paintings like the above serve as a reminder that the beauty of nature is abstract. Trees, mountains, sunsets, etc. are not beautiful because they look like themselves, but because of their forms, colors, and textures. Monet and the other impressionists began paving the way for abstraction by seeking to depict the beauty of the world in a way that would help their audience see with fresh eyes.

II. The Tate used a combination of past and modern art to help viewers understand what they were seeing and to show them how to approach the art. 

Understanding art requires an understanding of each movement’s place in art history. Art works derive some of their significance from their location in history. In several exhibits the Tate would provide examples of past art that influenced modern artists to help viewers better understand some of the artistic decisions the artists had made.

Rothko greatly admired Turner's work, particularly his later paintings, which are pared back to be almost pure evocations of light and mood.

Mark Rothko greatly admired the work J.M.W. Turner’s. Particularly his later paintings which are pared back to be almost pure evocations of light and mood.

No. 8 by Mark Rothko

No. 8 by Mark Rothko

Black on Maroon by Mark Rothko

Black on Maroon by Mark Rothko

III. My favorite painting at the Tate, and the one I felt was the most visually striking, was Max Ernst’s “The Entire City.”

I know some artists and critics who balk at the idea of picking a favorite work of art after visiting a museum. My art education helps me to appreciate and understand art that I may not like, but I still gravitate towards work that I find beautiful or attractive. It is human nature to categorize things based on our personal preference, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as one can move past that and see the merit in work they may not like.

The Entire City by Max Ernst. Ernst used a technique called Grattage in which we would place a canvas over a rough surface and scrape paint across it to create rich textures.

The Entire City by Max Ernst. Ernst used a technique called Grattage in which we would place a canvas over a rough surface and scrape paint across it to create rich textures.

IV. The more contemporary the art, the less information or explanation accompanies it. 

One thing that frustrated me was the lack of information on contemporary art pieces. This was all the more irritating because most of the art from more than twenty years ago had a paragraph or two to help viewers understand the work better. Famous paintings which many viewers likely would have learned about in school were still accompanied by basic explanations. Yet the more contemporary work, which the average viewer would likely have no familiarity with, would frequently lack any kind of conceptual framework or title.

V. Art that illuminates music- Gerhard Richter’s Cage paintings. (Description taken from Tate exhibit)

“Richter’s monumental Cage paintings were completed in 2006 and first exhibited at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Like his earlier squeegee abstractions, they are the outcome of several layers of painting and erasure. Their surfaces are animated by lines where the squeegee has paused, by brushstrokes, other scrapings, and areas where the skin of oil paint has dried and rippled. Cage 1 with its soft lateral striations evokes the surface of a gently running river; in Cage 2 a veil of grey covers autumnal yellows like a thin mist; in Cage 3 grey paint seems much more material recalling the coarse surface of a concrete wall. Deep reds dominate the upper and lower section of Cage 4 and are more concealed in Cage 5Cage 6has the greatest chromatic range but there is still a sense of understatement and muted light.

Richter was listening to the music of John Cage while he worked on these paintings and titled them after the composer. He has long been interested in Cage’s ideas about ambient sound and silence, and has approvingly quoted his statement ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it’. Richter is also drawn to Cage’s rejection of intuition as well as total randomness, planning his compositions through structures and chance procedures. While there are no direct links between any particular work in this series and any composition by Cage, some critics have suggested affinities between the two figures’ approaches and between the constant flux in Cage’s music and the space created by Richter’s paintings.”

Cage 4 by Gerhard Richter

Cage 4 by Gerhard Richter

V. Whenever I visit at museum or gallery I make a list of artists I want to research later. 

The Corridor by  Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

The Corridor by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

Crucifixion by F.N. Souza

Crucifixion by F.N. Souza

Lee Ufan. I found this painting quite striking and evocative. Ufan's process was mechanically precise. He would load a paintbrush and run it down the canvas until it ran out of paint. He would repeat this process until reaching the edge of his surface.   Yet despite the simple approach this painting has a great deal of depth and suggestive power.

Lee Ufan. I found this painting quite striking and evocative. Ufan’s process was mechanically precise; he would load a paintbrush and run it down the canvas until it ran out of paint, repeating this process until reaching the edge of his surface. Despite the simple approach , this painting has a great deal of depth, interesting form, and suggestive power.

Moment by Barnett Newman. This was one of his first paintings to incorporate the zip.

Moment by Barnett Newman. This was one of his first paintings to include the famous “zip”.

Ibrahim El-Salahi

Ibrahim El-Salahi

Lares by Paul Nash

Lares by Paul Nash

3 Comments

Filed under Art, Art Meditation, Artists, Illumination, Museums and Galleries, Painting

Interview with Kateri Tolo

Recovered

Recovered

An interview with Kateri Tolo, an artist and fellow Belhaven Alumni. You can find her website here

Tell us about your background:

I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. I am of mixed ethnicity (Mexican and American), which means that I grew up with the voices of two heritages in my head. As a child I did not find anything attractive unless it conjured a rich image. For this reason reading was my favorite pastime. I spent a short period of my childhood in Mexico in which I got to know my extended family and develop a  love for them that  is real yet distant as I have not seen them in many years. I did not have an idea of the function of art or the names of more than a handful of artists until my junior year of high school. That year was the most exciting of my life because I finally realized that I could use art and art history as a framework to understand just about any other subject in the world. That was when I knew that I wanted to be an artist.

Tiny Theophanies

Tiny Theophanies

Where are you now? 

I live in Jackson , Mississippi. I completed my undergraduate degree in visual art at Belhaven University. The fall after graduation I began work as an elementary art teacher at a private school. I just finished up my second year of teaching and am using the summer months to catch up on my own work.

What does your process look like? How do you go about making art?

This is an interesting question because I feel like my process is currently (or constantly?) in process. There are a few things, however, that I have noticed remain constant in the way that I work. I constantly break apart and reconfigure my work. Whether I am painting, drawing, carving, or shaping, I am constantly cutting up and breaking apart what I have made. I like to bring my works to the point where they are mostly ruined, take them apart, and then I put them back together again or repurpose the pieces. I am currently cutting apart some old drawings and paintings and reconstructing them to discover new relationships that I hadn’t noticed when I first composed them. I work this way because that is my drawing process. As I draw from observation in my sketchbook I find that every physical thing is made of countless planes and pieces. I like to break them down in my mind as I put them together on the page.

Many of your pieces reference biblical themes, how does your faith manifest itself through your art?

Ardor

Ardor

You are what you eat. There’s a good scientific fact for you. That is the way that my faith finds its way into my work. I have found that when I am truly immersed in the presence of God on a regular basis I want to make work that addressed what I am learning in my time in the word. It is not that I am trying to specifically reference a biblical account, although there are times when I do so. My work is a combination of things that I understanding and things that I do not understand; my physical and emotional experience as a human being as well as the wonder and awesome power of God and his plan for this world.

In what ways does your art illuminate the text? How do you wish your art to dialogue or interact with the Word?

More Than Years

More Than Years

When I read the Bible I make a conserted effort to record any symbols or images I notice in a passage. I do not focus very much on illustrating a story or an event with figures and such. I am more concerned with the more generic imagery. For example, I record  images like rocks, thorns, fire, triangles, undulating lines, etc. God himself chooses objects and images to illuminate the message he wants to convey to his people. Christ is called “the cornerstone” for a reason. Rocks are firm, ancient, and stable. The character of a stone lends itself well to the description of Christ’s role in the church body. It is the character of the object that is important. For that reason, I see that understanding the character of the images and symbols in the word is essential to illuminating scripture truthfully. In my work I want the marks that I make to FEEL like suffering when I am talking about suffering. I think that a viewer can relate to that sort of thing naturally. Many have said that art is not a good preacher. I think that art is more about our testimony, which is simply the story of a life molded by the truth of the gospel. I believe that art illuminates the gospel when it is molded by the character of its truth.

Restitution

Restitution

Tell us more about one of your pieces:

I feel that “Restitution” embodies two characteristics that are almost always present in my work. There is a very rough and destructive element to it. Portions of the plywood the work is painted on have literally been stripped and wrenched from the surface. The entire piece itself has been broken into two pieces. Other portions have been burned and chiseled violently. This piece was made with a intentional harm, however. In my mind I never sought to ruin the work, but rather to improve it. There were long periods of time where the work was treated with great tenderness and sensitivity of mark. In this work I acknowledge pain and beauty united. That is the only way I know how to make honest work.

What advice do you have for artists of faith?

I would urge artists of faith to pursue their faith. In fact, that would be my advice to all people of faith. The common pitfalls of the artist include arrogance, conceit, intellectual swelling of the head, a preoccupation with image, depression, the drunken pursuit of the hypnosis of the “process,” under-productivity, over-productivity, and an inordinate acceptance of all ideas for the sake of being well rounded. A human being does not posses the discernment or the will to navigate all these. I wish that I had more friends who are artists that would challenge me not only artistically and intellectually, but also spiritually. Artists are in desperate need of community that will honestly and lovingly encourage and rebuke them. I encourage artists of faith to pursue heavenly wisdom above all else.

You recently returned from the CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) Conference, what’s one thing you learned there that everybody should hear?

Self Portrait

Self-portrait

The theme of the conference was JUSTart, or art and how it relates to justice. We discussed many aspects of the issue, but the main question seemed to be “Is art of any use when it comes to real issues?” We also discussed the roles of beauty and brokenness in art. Which one properly addresses injustice in the world?

One of the final worship songs of the conference was a reprise of a song that was referenced during a plenary discussion by Cecilia González-Andrieu. The song is “Anthem” by songwriter Leonard Cohen. The famous line from the song says:
Ring the bells that still can sign.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in. 
 
For me this line was pivotal in my realization of how brokenness and beauty work together. Everything has a side of brokenness to it. When we draw attention to the brokenness we admit that it exists. When we live out the gospel, it becomes an avenue through which truth can shine through.
Kateri also has a blog about art education which you can find here

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Artist Interviews, Artists, Faith, Illumination, Painting

Bruce Herman-QU4RTETS: The four seasons of life

Spring/Earth/Childhood

Spring/Earth/Childhood

These four paintings, created as part of the QU4RTETS project to illuminate T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, have many layers of meaning and nuance and are meant to be viewed in conjunction with the entire project. However, they also stand alone as a profound visual meditation on the seasons of life. Bruce Herman uses repeating motifs, such as figures, a grid, and a tree, to give his paintings a greater conceptual depth than the standard seasonal metaphor for life. The first painting, Childhood, is bubbling with green and gold. The composition shoots upward, drawing the viewer’s eye to the young boy who stares right back. This paintings has the most clearly defined light source, which filters through the branches as a series of squares. The boy could either be seen as frightened as he rides the crest of growth exploding upward from the earth or as audaciously curious as he looks down from his high vantage point, or perhaps some combination of both.

Summer/Fire/Youth

Summer/Fire/Youth

In the next painting, Youth, a young and attractive woman stands with arms outstretched, seeming to bask in the heat radiating from the bonfire of a tree before her. The composition is a riot of reds, oranges, and golds that seem to flicker upward like sparks. The woman has no interest in what is going on outside of the canvas; she is wholly transfixed by the energy before her. A grid, barely visible, emerges from between the twisting branches. This painting contains all the zest and passion of youthful vision. The woman can be seen as a symbol for youth, but she also functions as a representation of the desire for the possibilities that seem just one step away. Her intensity mirrors the single-minded optimism and focus of one set on making their way in the world. At this stage of life the grid, the big picture or the reason for things, is obscured by the chaos of possibilities. Before the woman is the element of fire which has risen from the earth and is waiting for her to shape and be shaped by it.

Autumn/Water/Adulthood

Autumn/Water/Adulthood

In Adulthood a woman stands waist deep in water beneath a tree shedding its leaves. Her shirt mirrors the ripples spreading out from her. Her posture is slightly bent under the weight of life and the whole composition presses down and flows outward through the ripples. The woman has turned from her all-consuming focus of the tree and is looking outward with a somber expression. Perhaps the tree, as a symbol for her life or her work, didn’t turn out the way she planned. It seems to be dying or changing, and its leaves drift away from her on the ripples made by her presence. The brown of dead branches only appears where the silver grid has descended, as if her increasing understanding is putting to death everything in which she was so confident. In many ways this painting feels more somber than the following Old Age. The optimism of her youth has been tempered by an awareness of her own fleetingness and inability to control life.

Winter/Air/Old Age

Winter/Air/Old Age

While seemingly bleak and mono-chromatic, Old Age is full of quiet hope and peace. An old man with a silvery halo gazes contemplatively at the viewer. Behind him, a full-grown tree is visible through a silver veil-like grid. The old man’s gray hairs are his “crown of glory” and the halo is a traditional art symbol of those who are holy or righteous. He stands as a sage or prophet beneath the tree and seems to be ready to answer any question. The tree is full grown and its trunk reaches higher than the trees in the other three paintings. It is a tree that has been “planted by streams of water.” The grid in this painting is complete, suggesting that the old man is beginning to see something of the structure of his life and the world. Discovering one’s self is not something that can be accomplished with an internet questionnaire. It is only when one has reached the end of their life and can look back at all the decisions, events, and places that constituted their existence that they can truly know what kind of person they were.

Bruce Herman’s paintings, like T.S. Eliot’s poetry, are made up of symbolism, nuance, experience, and allusion. Given that these paintings were made in response to the Four Quartets and in conjunction with the other art and music of the QU4RTETS project, it is entirely possible that their chief concept is not the seasons of life as I have described them. However, like all great paintings, their ambiguity arises not from muddled or unclear meaning, but rather layers of suggestive and conceptually connected meanings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Art Meditation, Artists, Faith, Illumination, Painting

Makoto Fujimura-The Four Holy Gospels

Four Holy Gospels_Letter2o celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Crossway Publishing commissioned  Makoto Fujimura to create the Four Holy Gospels, a contemporary illuminated manuscript. The meeting of so many different cultures, the ancient tradition of the illuminated manuscript, the traditional Japanese painting medium known as Nihonga, the modern language of abstract expressionism, and most importantly, the word of God, beautifully reflects the truth of the Gospel as a message to all peoples, places,  and times.

Fujimura's presentation of the frontispieces for the Four Holy Gospels

Fujimura’s presentation of the frontispieces for the Four Holy Gospels

Fujimura uses Nihonga, ground mineral pigments, hide-glue, and water, a medium dating back to Japan's Middle Ages.

Fujimura uses Nihonga, ground mineral pigments, hide-glue, and water, a medium dating back to Japan’s Middle Ages.

Charis Kairos (Tears of Christ)

Charis Kairos (Tears of Christ)

Fujimura’s illuminations range from non-representational to suggestive abstractions (like the tree above). The subtlety of these more contemplative images, as compared to the lavish detail of traditional illumination, reflects his Japanese training and creates a meditative atmosphere for the reader. The pictures do not tell the story, the words can do that much better. Instead, they serve to slow readers down by giving their eye something to drift through as they contemplate the word of God. It is often intangible and impossible to explain, but something about the abstract, and often minimal, additions to the text just feels right, as if Fujimura is sensitive to the kind significant form that resonates with the meaning of the words.

Consider the Lilies (Matthew)

Consider the Lilies (Matthew)

 

Water Flames (Mark)

Water Flames (Mark)

 

Prodigal God (Luke)

Prodigal God (Luke)

 

In the beginning was the Word (John)

In the beginning was the Word (John)

“We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home.”

– Makoto Fujimura–

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Artists, Faith, Illumination, Painting, Videos

John Harris-The Secret History of the Earth

The Flooded Coast

The Flooded Coast

Abstract art has a unique ability to help us rediscover the beauty of nature by removing the viewers from the world they think they are familiar with. By exploring color, texture, and design outside of recognizable imagery the artist is able to keep his viewers from saying, “That looks just like a photograph,” and then moving on to the next piece.

John Harris, an English artist who is best known for his science-fiction paintings, was hired by NASA’s art program in 1985. Inspired by the satellite photos he saw while working for NASA, he began to work on a series of more abstract paintings exploring man’s relationship to the Earth, which he called The Secret History of the Earth. He says, “the Earth is a slate which is being constantly drawn upon, not just by man, but by time itself.” These paintings are designed to communicate the sense of complex and ancient history Harris felt from the satellite photos of Earth.

Aeolus Breathed

Aeolus Breathed

 

Sulphur Storm

Sulphur Storm

 

Above the Deep

Above the Deep

 

You can see his interest in the ariel views of the earth in his science-fiction work

You can see his interest in the ariel views of the earth in his earlier science-fiction work

John Harris talks about his process and inspiration for this series of paintings:

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Artists, Painting, Science-Fiction, Videos