Category: Art blog

Browse drawing lessons, painting techniques, art show reviews, art history lessons, and studio notes in the art blog by Veronica Winters

contemporary art

King Woman: contemporary art show review

King Woman

King Woman is a contemporary art show with epic impact. Occupying two floors, the exhibition features several strong pieces in contemporary painting, photography and sculpture. This art show is a rare gem, sparkling in a landscape of mediocre art galleries in New York. Both abstract and realistic, artworks have a single vision where a woman is King. The curator of the show is Mashonda Tifrere. She said, “My goal for this show is to highlight work by women who question history and deny limitations, persevering in their art despite social mores and norms. These artists have also found a way to acknowledge their gender but at the same time move beyond it by owning it in an unabashed way – showing that women can be more than Goddess or Queen, that they are capable of being ‘King,’ at the pinnacle of power and strength and skill.”

Art transcends the gender roles, and while it shouldn’t be about the division between the sexes, it’s important to see women have equal say, being presented in exhibitions. While we don’t see male artists showing in groups where their art challenges stereotypes and disparity they often face, women seem to unite in their message channeled through their art. That vulnerable is beautiful! Women artists often feel unimportant and invisible, working alone in  their studios, walking the streets, interacting with people around them. However, their art becomes very powerful once the forces are united in the show like this one.

Carole A. Feuerman

Carole Feuerman is a pioneer artist in hyper-realist sculpture who started the hyper-realism movement in the 70s. She portrays women in steel, bronze and resin so lifelike, you can’t help it but to reach out and touch the sculptures. Tiny eyelashes, hair and droplets of dew make her figures appear incredibly real.  Large and small, her figurative sculptures can occupy a small space in a room or in the entire garden. The sculptures are often integrated into their environment, like you can see in Venice. http://veronicasart.com/venice-biennial-2017-a-crappy-show-with-rave-reviews/

On the artist’s website Feuerman explains her work. “She creates visual manifestations of the stories she wants to tell of strength, survival, balance, and the struggle to achieve.”

Chrysalis, 2017, resin, 33 x 36 x 18″

Ingrid Baars

Artemis, 2017, C-print face mounted on dibond, edition of 7, 45″x 59″

This incredibly powerful photograph is inspired by African culture, fashion and women. Romantic at heart, the photo manipulation is the image of  striking beauty and ethereal contemplation.

 

Yvonne Michiels

Royal Flowers, 2017, Fuji Crystal on dibond with perspex

Based in the Netherlands, the artist creates incredibly moving digital collages of women with floral crowns.  At first sight her portraits of women express confidence and beauty. Women’s faces look so magnificent, you stare at the image speechless, yet we can feel some hidden vulnerability behind the perfect looks.

 

Roos Van Der Vliet

 

Roos Van Der Vliet, Storytellers XX & XV, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 37 x 29″

These intimate portraits of women feel incredibly sincere and down to earth. Dutch artist paints women realistically to express her inner desire to replicate reality as close as she can. Her paintings give a sense that women are hiding yet want to be seen. Painting process is always a path to understanding oneself. Here we see the artist making discoveries about her own vulnerability and unimportance in a world around her.

 

Reisha Perlmutter

Iris, 2017, oil on canvas, 40 x 60″

Reisha paints women floating in colorful water. Abstracted patterns of body and water channel their healing powers where women are allowed to dwell freely in their ever changing environment.

Victoria Selbach

Kali Ma, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50″

This painting surprises with its size that creates instant sense of power and control found in a figure. She looks like a goddess or warrior who is ready to concur the world.

 

veronica winters colored pencil drawing
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The list of artists in King Woman includes:

Rebecca Allan; Azi Amiri; Ingrid Baars; Hunter Clarke; Donna Festa; Carole Feuerman; Lola Flash; Meredith Marsone; Yvonne Michiels; Stephanie Hirsch; Kharis Kennedy; Kit King; Lacey McKinney; Jane Olin; Reisha Perlmutter; Renee Phillips; Trixie Pitts; A.V. Rockwell; Victoria Selbach; Lynn Spoor; Swoon; Tiara; Roos Van Der Vliet; Elizabeth Waggett; Lynnie Z

Where:

King Woman is the contemporary art show that runs between October 12th-December 9th, 2017 at Pen+Brush nonprofit art gallery in New York (29 East 22nd street). To read more about the show: http://www.penandbrush.org/articles/press-release/upcoming-exhibition-king-woman 

19th century Russian portrait painting by veronica winters

19th century Russian Art & Portrait Painting: eyes are the window to the soul

Russian Portrait Painting

In this blog post I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite 18th and 19th- century Russian portrait paintings that I fell in love with when I was a child. These portrait paintings made a considerable influence on my aesthetic and desire to learn traditional oil painting techniques in adulthood. Some of these paintings represent the collision of classical ideals with Romanticism that is obvious in artists’ choice of subject and color schemes.

Art became a source of inspiration early in my life. Many oil paintings were printed in public school textbooks. Russian art occupied the last few pages in those textbooks that were printed in color and on thick paper unlike the rest of the material (the 1980s Soviet Union). Besides one art class in the elementary school, we didn’t have art as a subject back then, so those color reproductions and my parents’ art book collection became my first introduction to Russian art.

Ilya Repin (1844-1930)

Ilya Repin is one of the most well-known Russian artists of his generation. Excellent figurative painter, he is one of my favorites for his moral views and social purpose he channeled through his art. His portraits depict a variety of characters that all share the enormous artistic power and thoughtfulness.

Ilya Repin, Portrait of Garshin, 35×27,” 1884, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This portrait is one of several that Repin made of Russian artists and intellectuals following his return from graduate study in France. The artist begged the Academy to let him return home, so he could work on the national themes in his painting.

Here is an excerpt from the Met about this painting. “Russian author Vsevolod Garshin specialized in short stories expressing his pacifist beliefs, love of beauty, and aversion to evil. In the early 1880s he became friends with Repin, a leading progressive painter who shared his concern for contemporary political and social problems. Four years after it was created, Garshin, scarred by the suicides of his father and brother and his own mental illness, threw himself down a stairwell and died.” http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437442 )

Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1826)

Russian artist Borovikovsky
Vladimir Borovikovsky,  Portrait of Maria Lopukhina, 1797, 72×53 cm, State Tretyakov gallery, Moscow

Created at the end of the 18th century, this painting reflects the sentiment of the epoch where a man is part of nature. The artist fuses the model with a natural, but decorative landscape behind her where Russian landscape becomes more prominent than it used to be shown in Russian painting. This oil painting has a through balance of color. The blues of tiny cornflowers in the background are reflected in her beautiful blue sash, and the gold of the rye mingles with her jewelry and the golden sash accents. The color of a dull pink shawl wrapping around her figure is similar to the quiet roses blooming by her side. Her white gown finds similar tones with a couple of trees, repeating the diagonal of the figure.

Otherwise standard, diagonal three-quarter view of the woman depicts the beauty of a young Princess Lopukhina (1779-1803) who belonged to the Russian royal family of Tolstoy and died of tuberculosis in her early twenties. Her masterfully painted face shows beautiful restraint. Soft transitions between warm and cool tones, light pinks on the cheeks, greenish shadows, the riveting depth of the eyes, and gentle, rosy colors of the mouth – everything breathes with life. I love this portrait for its quietness, elegant confidence and a masterful balance between colors and shapes.

Borovikovsky created numerous portraits after his work in the military, and then graduation from the Academy in St. Petersburg. He found fame among the imperial court including Catherine II.

Karl Briullov (1799-1852)

Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii, 183 x 256 inches, 1830-33

Karl Briullov was the last great classical portraitist in the 19th century Russia. Trained in the Academy in St. Petersburg, the artist was influenced by the classical ideals of Rome. Painter of royalty, Briullov had a tremendous skill set that he showed off in his most famous historical artwork titled “The last day of Pompeii, 1830-33” that brought him a widespread fame throughout Europe. Realism and idealism, classical and neoclassical ideals collide on a huge canvas that depicts people in action, running for their lives during the eruption of Vesuvius. After receiving the highest honors at the Academy, Karl Briullov won a golden medal to travel to Italy. Immersed in the classical tradition of painting, the artist had spent three years studying each figure for the Last day of Pompeii, completing numerous drawings. There is movement and balance in every figure, buildings and horses. Every element is painted with great detail and mastery of the form.

Russian artist also produced many paintings featuring royalty as well as idealized Italian themes with lighthearted women doing regular tasks, like picking up grapes or washing clothes. Although those paintings were painted masterfully, they lacked vision and the reflection of some important societal changes happening in the country. Those changes were painted soon thereafter by the Itinerants.

Detail from “The last day of Pompeii”

 

Detail from the last day of Pompeii

 

Karl Briullov, Portrait of the princess Elizabeth Saltykov, 1841, The State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg.

 

veronica winters colored pencil drawing
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Nikolay Pimonenko (1862-1912)

Nikolay Pimonenko, Yule fortune telling, detail, 1888

This painting has such a bold use of color! Strong, single light source illuminates two peasant girls who read the fortune. In the old tradition, girls placed the melting wax into a cup with cold water to capture the “frozen” profile of a future husband. Here they look at the wall projection cast from the melted wax, trying to figure out who the man is. I love how spontaneous and fresh the brushwork is and how vivid colors harmonize to depict festive mood.

Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887)

Ivan Kramskoy, a leader in the Itinerants movement, was one of the strongest portraitists in his generation of artists. Like other artists in the movement, he believed in public duty and service to people through his art. He was interested in painting national themes, but Kramskoy was also a great portraitist. In 1869 he exhibited his portraits at the Academy for which he won a rank of an Academician. One of his famous artworks depicts a woman who could be either decent or not, but her facial expression is captivating. Every texture is richly painted: the feathers, silk, fur, and velvet. Light yellow light envelops the distant buildings and describes the contours of the figure. The artist puts the same color into the hat’s feather and her face to carefully harmonize the painting.

Ivan Kramskoy, Stranger, 1883, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Russian art
Kramskoy, the forester,  1874 (84×62 cm or 33×24,5 inches), The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

The gaze of this peasant man is just riveting! Tragedy, disturbance and hidden force reside in his enigmatic eyes. The artist shows a specific type of a man who doesn’t like to settle or to tolerate the abuse of the forest by men. Or perhaps the painting is about poor villagers  who are tired of their endless suffering and are getting ready to revolt against their wealthy masters.

Russian artist Ivan Kramskoy
Ivan Kramskoy portr. of artist’s daughter Sofia 1882

This portrait was painted in the end of the 19th century that marked the transition between the classical and modern art. The artist depicts his daughter in less controlled manner with loose strokes and colorful shadows that show the classical mastery of the anatomy and oil painting techniques. Her thoughtful face possesses no classical idealization, but expresses inner strength and depth of character that’s so hard to reach in a painting. The restrained position of her hands and mouth depicts a very young woman wrapped up in thoughts. Trained by her father, Sofia became a professional artist as well. She received recognition for her artistic skills but had a very complicated life after the revolution.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy, Portrait of Ivan Shishkin

Ivan Shishkin was a great landscape painter who posed for this masterful portrait by Kramskoy. The background and the pose are so simple that all our attention goes to the face of the artist, which channels so much humanity and life that seems impossible to describe in paint.

Vasily Tropinin (1776-1857)

Vasily Tropinin came from a family of the serfs and received his freedom only at the age of 47. He often depicted scenes of ordinary peasant life that feature women doing hard or meticulous work. Those paintings have jovial mood, celebrating ordinary, domestic life.

Russian art, Tropinin
Tropinin, the lace-maker, 1823 , The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

I’m fond of this painting because it shows the old Russian tradition of lace-making, something I learned how to do in my teenage years, taking a class for a year. A pretty, peasant girl creates intricate pattern with numerous bobbins and thin threads. Captivated by her task, she quickly glances at the viewer only to return to her work. I love the gentleness in her face and a hint of a smile that’s subtle and kind.

 

To Read about Russian genre painting, click on the image below.

19th Century Russian Artists and Genre Art: the Itinerants movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khaleesi Drawing from Game of Thrones

Khaleesi Drawing from Game of Thrones

 

There is something about the character that attracts you when you watch a movie. I think it happens because you find part of yourself present in that person. Sometimes it’s not obvious and you need to search deep inside to find the connection. Khaleesi has fragile beauty of course, but she also grows to become a fierce and powerful woman.🌟🌟🌟

Drawing is an essential building block to any representational art form. Pencil drawing is something I practice as much as I can because it improves and informs me of shapes, colors and composition applied to colored pencil and oil painting.

Step by Step drawing

Khaleesi drawing step by step drawing_Emilia Clarke

In this photo you see how I began my pencil drawing by blocking in the darks and leaving out spaces for the lights. Both lights and darks become the two extremes between which I create a range of tones at a later stage. I also work on the eyes in the first step to make sure they line up and rotate at the right diagonal.

Drawing Paper

koh-i-noor drawing paper review

I’m amazed by the quality of this paper.  It’s quickly becoming my favorite because Koh-I-Noor in & out pages are thick, smooth, and versatile. I love how easy it is to layer both graphite and colored pencil on it that hardly needs any blending! Also, I can place my drawings back into the pad for a beautiful presentation. I’ve drawn on Koh-I-Noor Bristol vellum, Bristol smooth, Colored Pencil and Black Drawing drawing papers so far. All of them are fantastic! While Koh-I-Noor Black Drawing has thin pages, the rest of them are thick, and all are smooth with a different degree of light texture present to grab the pencil. Give it a try!

emilia clarke as khaleesi from game of thrones
Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi from Game of Thrones | graphite on Koh-I-Noor Bristol vellum drawing paper

Once I’m done blocking in the values and I have developed a range of tones, I work on textures. In this drawing of Khaleesi you see the texture of clothing that I’ve done via rubbings. I placed a pumice stone under my paper and shaded over it with a soft pencil where the clothing should be. This rubbing gave me the initial texture I worked around in pencil to develop it further.

I also use the kneaded eraser a lot to make soft lift outs, to create subtle edges, and to clean up without leaving grease and residue on paper.

To make texture in the jewelry on Khaleesi’s neck, I used some magic tape. I placed it over the shaded area, made short strokes on the tape with a ballpoint pen and lifted it out to reveal this unique texture.

 

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How to manage emotions as artist, woman and entrepreneur veronica winters

How to manage emotions as artist, woman and entrepreneur

Have you ever struggled managing your emotions? Have you felt rejected, lonely, depressed, fearful or angry? I bet you have! Our feelings make decisions over 90% of the time despite our vast capacity to think logically. Negative emotions bring us pain, often take us to the past, or simply stop us from doing what we really want to. Training my mind, conquering my feelings, and taking control of the situation has become one of my top priorities in life for the past several years.

It’s often said that the time cures everything, pain disappears and we heal, but the expression “some wounds never heal” actually means that we can’t always overcome or let go of our past. I felt riddled and worn out by my past, and went to Thailand back in 2012 to understand the principles of Buddhism that I thought would bring me closer to the truth and would alleviate the pain I felt inside. And the Buddhist truth states that much suffering is caused by our “disturbing emotions.” I wanted to find a cure from emotional pain I suppressed inside me. Buddhism and the idea of mindfulness and meditation didn’t save me alone. What helped me greatly are a few books I list in the end of this post. I used to suppress my feelings because they were considered irrelevant in my family. I’ve suffered from a very low self-esteem most of my life that perpetuated problems and blocked me from doing what I didn’t know I was even capable of doing. Psychology books opened a new world for me where I discovered how truly lost I felt in my own perception of myself. Overtime I uncovered my behavioral patterns and trauma that ‘motivated’ me to act in certain ways, causing emotional upheaval.

The secret of change Socrates quote

Behavioral patterns

As I’m not a psychologist, I simply  want to share and explain some information I’m aware of. What is a pattern? Basically it’s a set of learned patterns you acquire in childhood through positive and negative reinforcements that determine your behavior today. It’s unconscious actions we do that can be compared to a computer program. Our brain gets programmed to behave in certain ways in accordance with our parents’ behavior with and around us. As children we learn to adapt and to get out of situations, forming these patterns. As adults because we’re unconscious about it, we often tend to find excuses or blame someone else for a situation we are in. However, if you’re observant of yourself, you’ll notice that you often end up in similar situations, or attract a certain kind of people into your life. For example, a woman might leave one abusive husband only to find herself in a new relationship with another one. Or you can’t find a job in town, get a new degree, look for another job and still can’t find it. Or you talk to a relative hoping for him or her to respond to you with warmth and care but encounter the same cycle of responses and behavior that are also established patterns of that person. It upsets you and triggers a number of negative emotions in you – this pattern can re-play for decades. You also may experience a conflict situation, and your pattern is to avoid the conflict altogether by appeasing people rather than trying to solve a problem causing that conflict, the same conflict that arises with different people and different situations has a single root – you. You also observe and experience the same emotional reactions that are caused by similar situations or people in your life.  As a result you lose control of yourself and become filled with negative emotions. These are the moments when you are often accused of having “thin skin” or “lack of patience” on your part.

Most people don’t like change and feel happy where they are. We tend to spot problems of others, but we are often unable to either recognize, acknowledge or get rid of our own psychological patterns that keep holding us back and limit our spiritual growth. Once you become aware of your patterns, you can break them to form new ones that serve you today.  Although it’s very difficult to break deeply engraved patterns on your own, it is possible to recognize your cycles of behavior that lead to cycles of actions. One of my cycles was to worry  deeply or to take negative comments, opinions and jealousy very close to my heart. It caused a chain reaction in me where I not only argued with those people constantly, but also degraded myself that made me feel even more worthless. I also attracted selfish personalities who demanded attention for good, yet didn’t reciprocate with emotional support I needed. To turn it around I began building my sense of self-respect inside. This conscious effort transformed my life where uninvited opinions of others became just their opinions with no true value to me. This led me to disengagement with people I didn’t want to be with and to forming new relationships with whom I shared mutual respect.

Another ‘big’ transformation I’ve experienced is self-acceptance. After so many years of struggles I accepted my body, my looks and what I do professionally. This led me to much understanding and acceptance of others. Actions and reactions of people around me (even not the most graceful ones) make sense to me today although I may find it very hard to deal with them. There is also understanding that difficult people come to your life for a reason and are there to teach you a lesson. This process of reclaiming your freedom and trusting yourself first and foremost involves taking a full responsibility for your actions.

our life is what our thoughts make it, quote by marcus aurelius

How to manage emotions

Despite all these breakthroughs and inner work, I still have a very hard time dealing with my intense emotions at times. As artists we are very vulnerable. Affirmations didn’t work and the daily pressures of life cause distress. That’s when I’ve discovered Tony Robbins’ videos.  In his teachings he quickly grabs your attention with his practical approach to changing your emotional state. I  found his emotional management techniques to be so simple, yet profound and applicable to any situation you may have. While I’m including some of his teachings below, you can find plenty of information and listen to his audio on YouTube.

  1. You can’t change people around you by telling them to change. You can either change your perception of this person/situation, or the way you behave around such people.
  2. Whenever you feel hurt, angry, lonely, depressed – every emotion we normally consider as a negative, Robbins treats it as a neutral and just a signal/ call to action to change something in your life. It’s important to acknowledge your emotion, rather than to suppress it to  see the message that your brain sends you.
  3. According to Robbins it’s important to identify the core emotion first, what you really feel behind the first feeling that arises like anger.
  4. If you ignore your signal the feeling intensifies.  Therefore, to set a new outcome, change your perception (the way you perceive or look at things) or procedure (the way you communicate needs/behave/expect).

If you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to change the state, clarify what you want, and take action to communicate that desire.

If you feel hurt, it means you have an unmet expectation that brings a sense of loss to you that’s very painful. Either change your expectations or communicate your desires differently.

If you feel anger or resentment it means your important standard is not met by you or another person.

Fear (fear of failure, anxiety) arises as a signal asking you to prepare to deal with something.

Frustration – change your approach to achieve your goal.

Disappointment – something that you’ve been expecting is not going to happen.

Guilt or regret– you’ve violated one of your own standards.

If you feel inadequate or unworthy – your mind asks you to get up and do something better, or change rules that are too harsh.

Feelings of hopelessness, depression, overwhelm – decide what’s most important for you to accomplish now, make a list with order and handle the first one. Do something immediately to take control of events. Pick one thing and master it.

Feeling lonely-we need to find a connection with people.

5. We give meaning to everything. But ask yourself what does it really mean? Choose meanings that empower you in life as opposed to assuming things that dis-empower you.

 

Spiritual growth is an ambiguous sentence, in my opinion. My interpretation is simply learning to become free from emotional and physical constraints we all experience, and I hope my writing helps you find or clarify your path in your journey. These days when I’m in doubt, pain or struggle, I train and force myself to refocus. I used to dwell in my thoughts on re-play. But as soon as I stop thinking that particular thought that upsets me, my day improves. I try to find something, anything to be grateful for around me in that moment. I also open my notebook with goals and ask myself what I’m doing today to get closer to them. It shifts my focus and changes thoughts. Try it and let me know how it goes for you, ok?

 

Understanding and managing emotions books:
  1. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Hearby Tara Bennett-Goleman | https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Alchemy-Mind-Heal-Heart/dp/0609809032
  2. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. | https://www.amazon.com/Female-Brain-Louann-Brizendine/dp/0767920104
  3. Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss
  4. Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss | https://www.myss.com/

 

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How to draw hair in colored pencil and markers

If you work in colored pencil, you know how long it takes to complete one drawing. To speed up the process many artists use the watercolor pencils, neocolor crayons, or markers. If you feel open to some experimentation drawing hair and underpainting your backgrounds, using permanent markers may become your thing. It’s my first time to use the markers and I’m sure I’ll make more posts as soon as I complete more drawings with them. Below you’ll find my drawing process step-by-step.

 

Step-by-step portrait drawing in colored pencil and permanent markers

Step 1

I sketch out the face using HB pencil on Strathmore drawing medium paper. This paper has a very slight texture that becomes somewhat problematic later. If you want to try out this technique, draw on Stonehenge paper or Bristol papers that are smoother and thicker.

Step 2

My pigment markers include just a few colors. Therefore I didn’t use black or brown on the hair. Instead I used a combination of sap green and red to get the darkest hue possible in the beginning. Usually, wax-based black colored pencil gives a lot of wax bloom and therefore underpainting the darks in markers is a good idea.

I also use yellow to fill in the background.

Underpainting with markers

Here you can see how crazy these colors look. Because it’s just an underpainting, I’m not worried about the fine details, but I watch for major patterns and waves happening in the hair.

Winsor & Newton permanent markers and sakura pen

Step 3

Once pigment markers are dry, I work in colored pencil over it. The underpainting gives me new, surprising color combinations. This is the step where I understand that smoother paper would work better with this drawing simply because layering over the markers in colored pencil still reveals paper’s texture, which I thought would be eliminated by the markers’ pigments.

When I’m done filling in the hair, I blend with the colorless pencil blender, and create the highlights with  some fly aways, using the Sakura Pen-touch marker that has a thin, sharp point.

I fill in the face in colored pencil only.

Step 4

In my final step I spray the fixative lightly, let it dry, and adjust minor things, like edges and details. A light coat of spray fixes the paper and allows me to work on areas that become too waxy and don’t accept pigment anymore.

portrait drawing in colored pencil
Italian girl, colored pencil and markers on paper, 9×12″

As you can see my end result is not hyper-realistic but very colorful. I’m pretty sure if I underpaint in black or brown marker, it would give me great image as well.

Video

 

 

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Learn what makes a painting great Video #1 Part 2: Composition, Color, Lines and Emotion

In this video in the series you’ll learn about composition, color, emotion, painting techniques, use of lines, and other artistic elements artists used to produce their greatest works of art. This video will help you understand the qualities of great art, especially painting created before the 20th century.

Feel free to share the video with your friends on Facebook!

You’ll find my video notes below!

 

Jacques-Louis_David_madame recamier
Jacques-Louis David, madame Recamier, 5’9″x7’4″, 1800, the Louvre

Composition

All beauty is the result of fine proportions. – Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), architect

Greeks were the first to invent and to use the mathematical proportion, linear perspective and the concept of divine proportion and scale in art and architecture (the Pantheon). Because of a conversion to Christianity, these postulates were abandoned in the Middle Age Europe only to reappear in the Italian Renaissance art several centuries later.

Man is the measure of all things becomes the mantra of the Renaissance artists in the 1400-1500s as they explore the concept of rational thought by creating art that’s three-dimensional, visually balanced, mathematically proportioned and color unified. (The principles of the mathematical perspective were devised by Filippo Brunelleschi).

Composition becomes central to the creation of representational art.

Pentagram
pentagon and decagon in a circle veronica winters video series
Pentagram and decagon in a circle

In this diagram you see the fundamental principle of geometric division of space or the divine proportion. A symbol of unity, the circle holds a pentagon inside with the 5-pointed star of Pythagoras drawn inside it. Renaissance artists used this model to place their figures in a visually pleasing composition. (Source: Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications)

Raphael Ansidei Madonna pentagon composition, veronica winters video series
Raphael, Ansidei Madonna, 1505-1507 | pentagon composition

 

The school of Athens, Raphael, veronica winters video series
The school of Athens, Raphael, 1510, fresco in Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican, Rome | pentagon composition

This painting represents the exaltation of rational thought. The artist paints his contemporaries as models to represent ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle standing right in the center of the composition. We see Leonardo as Plato, Bramante as Euclid, Raphael as Apelles and Michelangelo as Heraclitus. Raphael incorporates the architecture of the room by creating a balanced composition that proportionally relates to the interior. The fresco has 5 circles. The height of figures and their placement corresponds to the mathematical divisions seen in the picture.

Also see:

Poussin (French), “A dance to the music of time” (pentagon composition)

Besides using pentagons, artists create symmetrical and unsymmetrical balance with triangular compositions, the golden section rule, and several other devices.

Masaccio_ the holy trinity perspective
Masaccio (Italian), The Holy Trinity, fresco in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1428  | perfect linear perspective

In this painting while the iconography is standard, the unusual part is its perfect linear perspective. It marks Masaccio as the first Renaissance painter who achieved visual realism of the figures receding in space naturally with correct foreshortening.

Adam's Creation, Sistine Chapel_ceiling'_by_Michelangelo
Michelangelo (Italian), “The creation of Man,” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome

In this artwork, the curving S-shape creates an equal movement and balance of shapes on both sides of the painting.

Also see:

Caravaggio (Italian), “The inspiration of St. Matthew” 1602. This painting features the S-shape design as well.

 

rogier_van_der_weyden_descent from the cross composition
Rogier van der Weyden, “Descent from the cross”

 

We can see examples of triangular compositions in religious art where a cross divides the space in half or is placed at a diagonal. In this painting the artist arranges the figures in a way that mimic the shape of the cross. The diagonal of Christ repeats itself in Mary’s shape.

virgin and child van eyck composition
Jan van Eyck, “The Virgin and Child” | triangular composition

The triangular shape was a popular element to design a composition. It creates balance with a line falling from the apex of the pyramid diving the picture in half.

claude lorraine_the embarcation of st. ursula golden section
Claude Lorraine (French), “Embarkation of St. Ursula,” National Gallery, London | the golden section

Lorraine consciously designed his paintings following the rules of thirds or the “golden section,” which is widely used today by photographers and artists alike.

Also see:

“Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia,” 1682.

The artist also “framed” his landscapes with trees placed on both sides of a painting to create a circular motion, so a viewer never leaves his picture. He was also a master, creating a complete balance between the light and dark masses of trees, buildings, water and sky.

The Arnolfini marriage
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini wedding” 1434, National Gallery, London

The artist strikes an equal balance of shapes around the middle where we see the joint hands.

 

Emotion

Canova, Venus and Adonis, sculpture detail
Canova, Venus and Adonis, sculpture detail

Emotion is the strongest reason for artists to create art and for people to look at it to own it. Art is a visual expression of our soul. We respond to a painting or a sculpture instantly using our feelings as opposed to logic, and that’s what makes us human. Meaningful art helps us connect with our inner life. It confirms a record of our emotions dwelling within our memories. Art is not only a cultural and historical object, but also a remedy that speaks universal language. Artists have a vast emotional landscape to reach deep to convey a story in a meaningful way.  It’s the feeling that draws us into the picture. Because we all have a unique set of experiences, we respond to the art in different ways. Some paintings leave us untouched, while others haunt us with their beauty, melancholy, joy or fear. Painting is a record of  artist’s interior life, and his/her ability to see beauty in both the beautiful and the ugly.

Because feelings can’t be quantified in immediate dollars and cents unlike brand named stuff, many don’t see value in art, think it’s useless, and try to cut funding for school art programs and art organizations. As a consumer driven society we are conditioned to ignore craftsmanship, uniqueness and beauty produced in singular products because a cheaper version of artistic creation is all around us for free on social media, TV, magazines, shop posters, book covers, pillow designs and so on. We see art but we don’t really study it. Only our encounter with the original artwork has that immediate impact, raw emotion that enriches us as human beings.

Images:

Caravaggio, Head of Medusa, oil on canvas, 24×22”, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

(In Greek mythology, the terrible Medusa had the power to turn anyone who looked at her into stone: a power she retained after being killed by Perseus.)

Frans Hals, The Jolly Toper, 1628-30, oil on canvas, 32×26”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Flaming June, Frederic_Lord_Leighton_(1830-1896)
Sir Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896), Flaming June, 47” square, 1895, Puerto Rico

 

Vasnezov Sirin and Alkonost. The song of happiness and sadness
Vasnetzov, The song of joy and sorrow, oil on canvas, 133×250 cm, 1896, The Tretyakov gallery, Moscow
Russian painting vasili perov
Vasily Perov, Trine (Troyka), oil on canvas, 1866

Also see:

Isaak Levitan, Over the Eternal Peace, 1894, oil on canvas, 150x206cm, the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Ivan Shishkin, Winter, 1890, oil on canvas, 125 x 204 cm, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1890, oil on canvas, 161 x 118 cm, Museum of Russian Museum, Kyiv

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, tempera and casein on cardboard, 36×29” (91x74cm), Oslo, Norway

 

Romantics:

Friedrich, two men contemplating the moon
Caspar David Friedrich, two men contemplating the moon | The Met | http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438417

In this section I’d like to mention the 19th century Romantic Movement. Romanticism grew as a rebellion against the static, cold ideals of the Greco-Roman art, against religion and social order. Romantics were liberals who produced art that excited viewers with emotions, especially the fear and the power of wild, changing Nature as the source of the sublime. Romantics channeled these ideals via painterly movement and color. They wanted to reflect on real life, not some distant ideals. Artists celebrated freedom of creativity that found its support from new patronage of successful entrepreneurs and business class.

The funeral of Atala,1808,Girodet_de_Roussy-Trioson
Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, The Funeral of Atala, 1808, oil on canvas, 5’6”x6’10” (1.67×2.10 m), the Louvre, Paris

 

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-the polar sea
German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich, the Polar Sea (The Wreck of Hope), 1824, oil on canvas, 38×50” Hamburg, Germany

Also see:

Spanish artist Goya (1746-1828), The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Los Caprichos, 1798, etching and aquatint, 8×6”, the Met, New York.

He creates horror scenes with monsters and owls, depicts his nightmares that’s said to criticize Spanish society as corrupt and demented. The artist was for the French revolution and against the king of Spain, yet was very popular as a court painter to Charles IV. Late Goya shows highly emotional art, already being a thought after portraitist, painting royalty as individuals with psychological insight into their personalities that lacked idealization on purpose.

Goya, The Family of Charles IV, oil on canvas, 9’2”x11’, Prado Museum, Madrid & the Third of May, 1808, oil on canvas, 8’9”x 13’4”, 1814-15. (In this painting the artist shows the execution of Madrid citizens dying for Liberty).

Swiss painter, Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) painted somewhat erotic, moody and supernatural pictures of dramatic Shakespearean scenes and dreams that ignited fear. In his painting the skill of drawing is given away in favor of emotions and imagination. He painted several variations of the painting The Nightmare, oil on canvas, 102x127cm, Detroit institute of arts

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) The nightmare. 1790-91 version

Another Neo-Baroque French painter, Gericault (1791-1824) explored human extremes and violent action in his art. He painted people in action with the exuberance and energy of Baroque artists.

Mounted Officer of the Imperial Guard, 1812, oil on canvas, 9’7”x6’4”, the Louvre, Paris. He completed this artwork at just 21 years of age.

Other Romantic artists to check out are Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and J.M.W. Turner.

 

Color

1880_Frederic_Leighton_-_Self_portrait
Sir Frederic Leighton, Self-portrait, 1880

We can divide representational art into two opposing groups. One is dominated by the composition design (Michelangelo), and the other by the use of color and light. While thoughtful design stands for rational thought in art, beautiful play of light and color evokes strong feelings.

Those of you who have tried oil painting know how hard it is to achieve color unity. It’s not only the skill of color mixing, but also the artistic vision and sensibility to color. In masterpieces we see hues that interact and support each other. The complexity of a color comes with deliberate color mixing, dragging or glazing of the paint, overlaying, and letting one hue dominate and complement the rest. (Ingres, David, Simon Vouet). The tradition of color descends from Titian to Rubens, to Van Gogh and Picasso. Seurat developed his own scientific color system – pointillism that didn’t get traction among artists, however.

Jacques-Louis_David death of marat
Jacques-Louis David (French), The death of Marat, 1793, neoclassicism  

 

Mary Cassatt, Sleepy baby, pastels on paper, 1910, impressionism 

The Impressionists redefined the use of color, not painting with black in the shadows. Unlike the majority of artists who worked in the studio, the impressionists painted outdoors, capturing the weather conditions at different times of the day. That’s why you see numerous paintings done of the same subject but in various lighting conditions. We can look at Claude Monet’s waterlilies and Edgar Degas’ dancers to understand how artists were interested in atmospheric and light perception of places and people – the impression, rather than the actual copying of details. The impressionists revolted against the Academism and its annual Salon painting competitions to organize their independent shows that exhibited unconventional, colorful art.

In Russia we see a rise of national landscape painting with artists like Shishkin and Kuindzhi who depicted vast, luscious and vivid landscapes of the countryside. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Gauguin become the post-impressionism artists who focus on the spiritual in painting channeling it through color and symbols.

kuindzhi birch grove 1879
Kuindzhi, birch grove, 1879
Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910), the moon night | Impressionism & realism

 

Use of shapes, lines and negative space

michelangelo drawing of Libyan Sibyl
Michelangelo, drawing of Libyan Sibyl

Line is the most vital element in visual art. Contour lines describe form and the initial drawing design. Drawings exist as personal records of artist’s idea and thoughts, having unique handwriting, gesture and energy. Line drawings can be very expressive if an artist varies shape, thickness and completion of the line. Rembrandt’s drawings capture everyday activities in sketchy but confident, almost child-like lines. Drawings of Michelangelo are beautiful studies of models where the lines define the physical anatomy and monumentality of male figures frozen in action. Da Vinci’s drawings perfectly describe the subject with soft, gentle lines reminiscent of the softness we see in his paintings. It’s amazing to see how Ingres describes figures in his hollow drawings of just contour lines with minimal shading. Japanese printmakers, Hiroshige and Hokusai became the two masters of woodblock printing in the country. They exercised great influence onto the Impressionists with their approach to composition design and the simplification of shapes. Hiroshige’s artwork is very linear and creates simplified shapes and patterns with the lines of varied quality.

Hiroshige, “Travelers passing Mount Fuji” woodblock print, 1831, Honolulu
Alphonse Mucha, The precious stones: Topaz, Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, details, 1900, color lithograph, 26×11” each

The leading Art Nouveau designer and painter, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) used geometric shapes, mosaics, and diagonals to create beautiful lithographs of women as idyllic symbols. Czech artist gave birth to his unique “Style Mucha” with his posters of a famed actress Sarah Bernhardt that made him prominent in French Art Nouveau. His use of definitive, contour line is central to his illustrative style.

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) employs lines, patterns and shapes to create a unique visual experience. His figures are made of patterns with contour and geometric lines defining form.

Gustav Klimt, Tree of Life, 1909

 

As spectators we often don’t pay attention to the artistic use of negative space. Negative space is simply the background you see behind an object. It often affects how we perceive what’s in front of us by carefully controlling the tone, color and shapes in the background space. Let’s look at one of the Spanish realist artists – Cotan who uses the negative space to his advantage.

Juan Sanchez Cotan, Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, 1602, oil on canvas, 27×33”, San Diego Museum of Art

Because the Spanish court and the Catholic church employed foreign painters (Titian) in the 16th century Spain, native artists were not popular among the two major patrons, and therefore they were able to develop their still life painting that was nonexistent before the 1590s. Cotan (1561-1627) becomes a pioneer in still life painting. A deeply religious man, he painstakingly arranged simple objects at a curve, juxtaposing bright objects against the dark tones, where rich background reinforces the realism of foreground shapes.

Similarly Caravaggio used the dark background to bring his subjects forward. He defined and mastered chiaroscuro – the balance of light and dark in his paintings. So much so that when a viewer stands in a dark interior of a church he sees abstracted patterns of light and shade. When the light is turned on, the entire painting changes to a story we see in a design. His mastery of color, negative space and contrast play with our perception of reality. (David and Youth bitten by a lizard).

 

Texture, paint and brushwork quality

Jan van Eyck (Dutch), painting detail that shows glazing techniques with seamless brushwork.
Caravaggio, St. John the Baptist. | This painting shows the effect of glazing where color (red) is built up in many layers of thin paint (glazing).

Our eyes travel across canvas to notice the unusual texture and brushwork, or purposefully to see none. Strokes of paint can describe the textures and shapes of fabric, skin and space. They can also generate an emotional response to the subject itself. The artistic ability to do it freely takes years of experimentation and practice, like we see in Sargent’s painting. Sargent’s art has spontaneous brushwork quality that’s actually deliberate and skilled. He was masterful at hitting the right ‘note’ in a single stroke, and when he was not, the artist wiped it off with a rag, and did it again. His paint strokes have relaxed elegance and fluidity.

Traditional methods involve several painting techniques. Here I’d like to mention the glazing techniques used by Ingres and David as well as the impasto method of painting perfected by Rembrandt. Glazing creates depth and sophistication of a color by using thin, transparent layers of paint. The impasto technique creates texture in thick, opaque strokes. These two seemingly opposing methods are often combined together in a single work of art, like we see in the Rembrandt’s paintings that create the glow in his portraits. The Jewish bride.

Jan Van Eyck (Dutch, 1390-1441) was a fundamental figure in northern Europe, the first to perfect the oil painting technique. He had strong interest in optics and light effects to create painstakingly detailed realism. (Ghent Altarpiece, oil on panel, detail). In this kind of art you don’t see any brushwork to convey realism. The artist uses lots of glazes to build up the color.

Rembrandt, the Jewish bride, oil painting detail showing the impasto technique.

Impasto (to put in paste, Italian) is applied thickly on a canvas or panel with a brush or a palette knife that raises the paint surface and makes the strokes visible. Impasto creates textures in clothes, jewelry, and skin that looks like a suggestion of the fabric or skin rather than a direct representation of it. The relief-like surface makes the lights pop more to attract our attention to the focal point. Rembrandt, Velazquez, Titian and Goya used this technique.

A lot of artists use a combination of techniques that include glazing, impasto, scumbling and more that produce different effects like you can see here.

Detail of a painted gown
Alexander Roslin: Marie Suzanne Giroust, 1734-1772, konstnär, gift
Alexander Roslin: Marie Suzanne Giroust, 1734-1772, konstnär, gift med Alexander Roslin.

Action step:

Pick an artwork that you really like, and try to explain why you enjoy looking at it in terms of composition, color, and subject. Practice your understanding of paintings, and your art appreciation will grow exponentially!  Have fun with it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching my video and discovered how story, composition, emotion and texture – all contribute to and influence on our perception of the masterpieces. A great painting offers a lot more more than a good composition, realism, or a vibrant color. A great painting gives you an emotional experience, something poetic and spiritual that transcends time and place, and allows you to understand yourself and the world around you!

Join the art collector’s circle to receive a FREE notebook with inspiration, demonstrations & more! Click here: http://eepurl.com/b-vEXP

 

Coming up next: Video #2 Contemporary Painting

In my next video you’ll learn what to look for in contemporary art.

Complete video series:

Video #1 Part 1 – Learn what makes a painting great

Video #1 Part 2 – you are here!

Video #2 Contemporary Art – coming soon!

Video #3 How to take care of your art collection – coming soon!

Video #4 How to frame art – coming soon!

Video # 5 Why you don’t need an interior designer to buy and display art in your home – coming soon!

Bibliography:

The Metropolitan Museum of art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection

History of Art, 5th edition, H.W. Janson

The gilded age, E. Prelinger

Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications

Wikipedia & tons of art history classes in college! 🙂

 

Click on the image to subscribe to my art notes and receive a FREE download with my art, inspiration and demonstrations!

 

 

 

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art appreciation: understanding the qualities of great art

Learn what makes a painting great: Video #1 Part 1

In this first video in the series you’ll learn about some of the greatest works of art, art movements, ideas and artistic elements. This video will help you understand and appreciate the qualities of great art, especially painting created before the 20th century. Feel free to share the video with your friends on Facebook!

Video Notes:
Overview:

Art Movements 0:42

Art Patrons 1:49

Art Education & female artists 2:21

Why do artists create art? 3:26

Artistic Elements : Story & Subject

Story & Subject 4:29

Biblical Scenes 5:16

Historical & Mythological Painting 9:03

Formal Portraiture 14:42

Landscape art 20:33

Genre art & Dutch still life 23:13

Kramskoy, portrait of a stranger, 1883

Join the art collector’s circle to receive a FREE notebook with inspiration, demonstrations & more! Click here: http://eepurl.com/b-vEXP

Next video: Video #1 | Part 2

In my next video you’ll learn about major artistic elements that artists use to design their paintings. They include composition, emotion, color, and the use of shapes, space and some painting techniques.

Painting detail of angels, art in Turin, Italy

Complete video series:

Video #1 Part 1 – Learn what makes a painting great – you’re here!

Video #1 Part 2 – Learn what makes a painting great, part 2

Video #2 Contemporary Art – coming soon!

Video #3 How to take care of your art collection – coming soon!

Video #4 How to frame art – coming soon!

Video # 5 Why you don’t need an interior designer to buy and display art in your home – coming soon!

Hand, painting detail, art in Turin, Italy
Bibliography:

The Metropolitan Museum of art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection

History of Art, 5th edition, H.W. Janson

The gilded age, E. Prelinger

Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications

Wikipedia & tons of art history classes in college! 🙂

Click on the image to subscribe to my art notes and receive a FREE download with my art, inspiration and demonstrations!

Step-by-step drawing: 3 graphite pencil techniques that work

Drawing is so fundamental to artist’s skill, we can hardly skip it, working in the realist tradition. Here I’d like to share several basic tools and techniques I use, drawing portraits in graphite pencil. I must note that these techniques are applicable to any kind of pencil/charcoal drawing, and these steps and tools are universal across any subject you pick to draw. In the end of this post I share my inspiration behind the drawing and a short video illustrating the steps. Let’s dive in!

#1 Use paper stumps with care

step by step drawing

I begin shading the image by placing the darkest darks on paper. You can compare this method to drawing from shadows to light. Here I draw on the Strathmore Bristol smooth paper that’s super smooth and thick. Because it accepts a limited number of layers, I need to be more mindful how dark I’ve got to go in the first step of shading. (Strathmore drawing paper, medium has a slight texture that’s more forgiving for general drawing techniques in pencil and colored pencil because it accepts more layers).

Paper stumps help artists blend the graphite and charcoal.

Once I’m done massing out the shapes in a soft, 4B graphite pencil, I use the blending stumps to blend large areas, such as the background and the hair. I’m mindful of the pencil pressure as well as of the stroke direction. It’s important to blend in the “right” direction and not to overwork the surface.

Blending with paper stumps unifies the surface, blending everything to a medium gray tone. Therefore, I strengthen the darkest areas immediately after that. Various sizes of paper stumps give me the precision I need blending the graphite.

Never use these paper stumps for colored pencil work! They will ruin the surface.

#2 Use kneaded eraser and the Tombow Mono Zero eraser

how to draw people

In the second step, I usually pull out the highlights with the kneaded eraser. Any brand of kneaded eraser works.  This type of eraser has dual benefit of lifting out the pigment without any residue and creating soft edges around the highlights, which look natural and give a realistic effect of soft light.

What’s to lift out? The lightest lights you see in your picture. I often lift out a bit more than I need to come back to it with finer shading over the lightest parts of my image to create subtle tonal transitions.

General’s kneaded eraser

Tombow Mono zero eraser is a great eraser that lifts out tiny details, such as thin strands of hair or tiny highlights in the pearls. This eraser also works great in colored pencil drawings when I try to erase hard to reach, very small areas in my work. I buy these on Amazon, and it takes about a month to arrive home from Japan! So if you decide to give it a try, order two or three at once, you won’t regret it!

Tombow eraser

#3 Shade in graphite in layers, erase and repeat

Kat with a shell, graphite pencil on paper, 9×12 inches

This step consists of several steps that’s simply a repetition of my actions. I layer the graphite by erasing, enhancing the dark values, and refining details. I develop my picture further with every new layer.

I work on subtle transitions with harder pencils, especially if it’s a skin tone. I usually shade with 2-4H gently transitioning from mid. tone to light. While I’m doing this, I pay attention to values to turn the form.

 

how to draw people
Drawing detail

Value scale

Every color has its own value scale going from the darkest dark to white. Because some colors are darker than the others naturally, they have a wider value range as opposed to the light colors. (Think of ultramarine as a dark color and yellow as a light one). Why do you need to know that?
You control your values at all times as you draw or paint to have a range of tones that makes your image look three-dimensional. Usually, students complete their drawing with a very limited range of tones. That’s why everything looks “just grey” or “too flat.”
Convert your color image into a black-and-white picture on your computer, and you’ll understand how dark the shadows should be, or how light your lights really are. Then step back and compare your drawing to that picture.

Drawing detail: hands with a shell

I finish working on my piece with a final fixative, spraying my drawing outdoors. I strongly recommend using professional-grade varnish, like the Grumbacher matte final fixative for dry media. It gives a very nice and even finish to my artwork that’s impossible to achieve with cheaper brands like Krylon.

Final fixative for dry media

My inspiration

Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus, 1486, Uffizi gallery, Florence

My pictorial inspiration for my drawing comes from the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus. His shallow treatment of background space and the romantic figure of Venus coming out of the sea influenced me to create my goddess of the ocean. I worked on clothing and poses with a model to complete a fun photo shoot on the beach in Naples, Florida. The completed drawing is a study that I will later take to my oil painting.

You can read about the Botticelli’s artwork here.

Video

Here you’ll find a 40-sec. video as a summary of the step-by-step drawing described above.

 

How often do you draw in pencil? What’s you creative challenge? Let me know what you’d like to learn from me.

Share your thoughts in a contact form below!

Check out the step-by-step demonstrations here.
Join the art student club to receive a free drawing demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf

Venice biennial 2017:  a crappy show with rave reviews

If you regret that you haven’t seen the show yet, don’t. Venice Biennale 2017 is monumental on concept and degraded on visuals, heavy on installations, and weak on any form of painting, huge on scale and tiny on emotion. Chief curator of the Pompidou center in Paris, Christine Macel  has arranged the exhibition in a number of pavilions -realms which flow together with concept art titled “Viva arte Viva!”

While paid entrance to the biennale invites you to visit vast spaces of the Arsenale and the Giardini, a number of other pavilions are scattered throughout Venice in medieval palazzos with gardens with free entrance and somewhat better art. Regardless the location, each pavilion usually represents a single country with its native artists showing off their talent to the multilingual public.

9 chapters or realms, 86 countries, 120 artists- a single feeling of confusion. The show opens up with large-scale installations situated between a long stretch of bare, tall brick halls of the Arsenale (medieval Venetian warehouse for arms and boats).

Karla Black abstract sculptures

 

Venice biennial 2017: the Arsenale

Overall, the show is missing on making a powerful statement simply because the visuals fall far behind the heavy concept. Boring to the eyes and craftsy at best, the viewer has to read lengthy statements in provided brochures to “get” the idea behind the pieces. To install such exhibition in Venice is like to bring a first-grader to perform a concerto. Venice overflows with art and history, while the biennial rejects any slightest idea of having representational art on its grounds. The exception is the Venetian pavilion itself that defies the curator’s voice with sparkling jewelry, chandeliers, gowns and sophisticated glass that highlights artist’s labor and skill.

A woman’s head is picking out from a hole in the floor with piles of clothes arranged in a circle.

The Romanian Pavilion

Like in a fairy-tale about the naked king, fooling of people takes place in the exhibition stating what they see is ART.  Rooms after rooms visitors encounter piles of materials, fabric, metals or abstract sculptures, that often have profound meaning expressed through riveting writing. However these endless primitive installations and videos leave the spectators  confused on what ART signifies or how artful it really is.

First, art exists to bring our attention to something, to make a statement, or to leave a record of times lived. Curated as apolitical and without a clear message, the biennial misses to deliver on any of these points.

The German Pavilion

More rooms

Second, Visual arts are called visual for a reason. Because the artist’s call to attention and its impact is visual, conceptual art rarely leaves considerable emotional impact. Even when the concept is heavy, it’s weakened by the absence of the visual perception we all possess. Therefore, such installations should get a specific classification and not get mixed up or promoted as great ART. Such notion lowers and even abolishes any standard for an artist to aspire to, and for people to learn to understand or appreciate. Why did we keep high standard in music or dance and completely abolished the one in art? It’s not the absence of artists willing to travel years in education to achieve something worthwhile of people’s attention, it’s about few art critics and curators, influential art shakers who pick and choose, add and subtract – curate according to their tastes, business practice and economic whims.

 

The pavilion of Shamans

Art installations that catch attention

On the upside, the exhibition is gender-even, nationality-diverse, with the majority of the unknown artists representing both influential and obscure countries.

There are a few art installations at the main complex of the biennale that caught my eye, making a statement.

The Zimbabwe Pavilion
Zimbabwe pavilion
The Russian pavilion
Russian Pavilion: Change of Decorum. Growing aggression, terror, irrational life of people, control and manipulation of masses are the themes of the art installation with drones, people, soldiers and androids living in the “transparent world.”

The Chile Pavilion
Artist Bernardo Oyarzun explores the theme of the current representation of the Mapuche community, a group of indigenous inhabitants of southcentral Chile and southwestern Argentina. Dark room features an installation of over 1,000 Mapuche kollong masks, traditionally used in ceremonies. Note that 40 Mapuche artisans produced these handmade masks commissioned by the artist who installed them in the pavilion.
The Argentinean Pavilion
Claudia Fontes, The Horse Problem
“Making art is not a luxury. It’s a way of surviving that humans as a species have developed: we are, so far as we know, the only group of living beings capable of calling the attention of others to the meaning of life. That’s something to celebrate.” – Claudia Fontes
Other rooms

The Mongolian Pavilion

The Venetian Pavilion

Official website of the Venice Biennial 2017: www.labiennale.org

Art off the biennial in Venice

A nice surprise is a solo show by Carole A. Feuerman situated in a peaceful corner of a green garden at the Giardino Della Marinaressa, by the Venice Biennale (open and free to the public). The artist makes hyper-realistic, life-size sculptures of women in painted bronze and steel, resin and oil that look so life-like, you just want to reach out and touch the sculptures!

Kendall Island, lacquer on bronze, life-size sculpture

 

Project by Lorenzo Quinn on the Grand Canal in Venice. His monumental sculpture of white hands raises awareness about the climate change and the rising sea levels.

Art off of the biennial: street art in Italy

I must mention the performance that I saw on the streets of Turin. A young man pounded the keys of an old typewriter with rare obsession. Here is one of his finished pieces.

The artwork made using an old type writer.

veronica winters artist

 

Dali art: surrealism & symbolism at the museum in St. Petersburg

Dali art

Art is not created in vacuum. It forms as a product of cultural, economic and emotional upbringing of the artist. Dali’s inner world is vast and complex, and his symbols become the hints to discovering and understanding the artist’s true nature, his mind and soul. Almost every artist begins his journey at the same Start line. Dali sets himself on a path with the desire to learn painting, lacking the super powers. The Dali museum in St. Petersburg divides the art collection into several sections from his early works and anti-art to surrealism, nuclear mysticism, and masterworks. Housed in a sunlit, modern building, the show begins with his very early paintings he completes at the 13 years of age.

Early Dali art may shatter your perception of someone’s talent. It doesn’t look great. Dali early paintings show different styles and influences, mainly borrowing from the French impressionists and Fauvism.

Dali art
Dali early works: his self-portrait and a portrait of his aunt

 

dali artwork basket of bread
Dali, the basket of bread. | Here we can see that the artist masters the classical approach to painting that opens him up to the development of his own style and subject matter.

Dali art styles & symbolism

Artistic styles

Dali (1904-1989) is the most notorious surrealist artist. His artwork has been one of my major influences for many years, mostly because the artist is able to express his psyche in visual terms so well, painting the melting life inside him that goes far beyond his dream state. With remarkable skill, he renders tiny details on small panels and huge canvases alike. In his work, Dali elongates the natural forms and de-personifies people with sightless, stretched or egg-like faces. He scatters the symbols throughout his paintings, and turns the rational world upside down with his vivid, barren landscapes of complex stories.

Deeply influenced by S. Freud’s work “The Interpretation of Dreams,” Spanish artist explores the irrational and his dreams in the beginning of his professional career. The surrealists rejected the rational mind, horrified by the rootlessness of the world war I, and explored the irrational instead. Although Dali is the best-known surrealist in the group, not many of us know that the artist breaks away from the surrealist movement due to some irreconcilable differences steeped in social and political views. The museum in St.Pete explains that Dali didn’t like the surrealists’ ideas of commune living and sharing, and his desire for self-promotion and individuality led him to part with the movement in a decade after he first joined the group in 1929. But at that time the artist gets fascinated with the optical illusions, creating his double image paintings, challenging our perception of rational and irrational.

Dali is a notorious artist who is able to redefine himself and his mission after leaving the surrealists and entering the times of abstraction and subjectivity. He brands himself as a classical artist who loves Renaissance and aims to infuse his art with spirituality and classical ideals, unlike the abstract painters of his generation. He comes up with a new term the “nuclear mysticism,” and begins to paint huge canvases filled with the universal subjects, religious and historical themes. Influenced by the advances in science and technology, Dali’s late works (1949-1989) transform the surrealism style into monumental optical illusions, historical symbolism and the reverence for the universal. Besides having a number of solo shows in Spain and America, in 1974 he opens up his own museum in Figueres, Spain to house his art.

Symbolism

Art is not created in vacuum. It forms as a product of cultural, economic and emotional upbringing of the artist. Dali’s inner world is vast and complex, and his symbols become the hints to discovering and understanding the artist’s true nature, his mind and soul. Through his art Dali reveals many of his fears, such as his sexual fear of women and his intense relationship with his short-tempered father. Dali also had a brother. Also named Salvador, he died as a toddler less than a year before Dali’s birth. This family tragedy was deeply embedded within the artist’s psychic and affected his perception of himself. Numerous surrealist paintings project the artist’s sexual anxieties in his self-portraits with soft, stretched heads and figures.

In his paintings, Dali often explores the authoritarian rule of his father during the surrealist period, depicting his father faceless and indifferent. The artist also paints small, father-and-son figures representing former closeness. Small, distant figures give a feeling of warm memories the artist longs for. The surrealist landscapes often have the airless, orange-yellow glow that contrast the dark blue sky sky and the mountains.

One of the main subjects for Dali is women. He often depicts women deformed, stretched or as the cut-out figures during the surrealist period. He often depicts his nanny as an old figure with a cut out body supported by the crutches.  Women often turn their faces away from the viewer to conceal the artist’s emotions towards women. In his late works women become Venuses, saints and symbols of female beauty for the artist.

During the surrealist period, Dali paints elongated figures supported by the crutches. The crutches represent a fear of impotence, death. In his work, rotting, limping bodies suggest the horrors of wars.

Ants and flies are symbols of death and decay, decomposing the pray.

Roses represent female beauty and sexuality.

Venus represents female love and beauty.

Melting watch represents the fluidity of time. The “Persistence of memory” is influenced by the discovery of the atomic energy and the sub-atomic world. Dali breaks the word into rational sub elements where Time stops limiting us. The image of the melting clock came to the artist after seeing a piece of cheese melting under the sun.

Melting, broken eggs are symbols of memories in the mother’s womb.

Keys represent unlocking the unconscious mind.

Piano represents a fond memory of summer concerts at the beach, and a scary memory of books his father placed on the piano that had the illustrations of the sexually transmitted diseases (St.Pete museum reference)

 

Gala: Dali’s muse & promoter

Dali was a tireless self-promoter. Together with his Russian-born wife and manager – Gala (Elena Ivanovna Diakonova) they worked on connections, marketing, and new job opportunities for the artist. Dali might not have achieved his fame during his lifetime, if he and his wife didn’t pursue those relationships. The couple lived between the U.S. and Europe, while Dali not only painted and exhibited his work in galleries, but also worked on his jewelry, opera sets and costume design. He also contributed to the art scene with his book writing, numerous illustrations, holograms production, and the creation of the dream-like sequences for Hitchcock’s film Spellbound. 

It’s interesting to see how close Dali and Gala were, how she influenced the artist, and how strong their partnership was despite their open marriage arrangements. Considerably older and not a striking beauty, Gala captured Dali’s heart at once when they first met in 1929. She quickly began an affair with Dali, and became his life-long muse. Gala divorced her husband, French poet and one of the founders of the surrealists, Paul Eluard to marry Dali.

We can recognize Gala’s face in many of his paintings where she models for the artist both clothed and nude.  Gala becomes a symbol of female perfection for the artist. In the Dali museum at St.Pete you see Gala in a double painting of “Lincoln” and as virgin Mary in “Columbus.”

Dali dies in 1989 after receiving the international acclaim with the retrospective shows in Germany, Spain, U.S.A, Holland, England, and Japan. Almost every artist begins his journey at the same Start line, but not everyone gets to the finish line. As artists, we go through several developmental stages, and only the persistent ones win. Dali succeeds threefold.

The Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL

Below you’ll find some of the Dali artworks shown at the Dali museum in St. Pete.

“Archaeological reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus” is an important surrealist painting for Dali. Inspired by the original of Millet, Dali saw this painting as a reproduction during his childhood and its figures haunted the artist for life. Dali paints his version of Angelus depicting two primordial people, male and female. We also see Dali twice in this painting as a boy with his father in the center and with his nanny at the bottom of the figure. The primordial couple symbolizes human relationship and destruction, showing the deforming, anguished figures set in a melancholic, colorful landscape. His painting projects an intense feeling of loneliness, loss and inevitability.

 

Dali artwork
Dali surrealist work (see the symbolism section for the descriptions).

 

dali artwork
“Slave market with the disappearing bust of Voltaire,” 1940 shows us two images. In this double painting we see a bust of Voltaire as the symbol of reason hiding within the two female figures in the slave market. Here Dali argues that we’re enslaved to rationality, while the artist tries to open up a different channel for our perception, painting the irrational dreams and the unconscious. Dali suggests that the rational mind can’t always lead us to the truth. What do you see?

 

Dali artwork Lincoln
Dali, the portrait of Abraham Lincoln, see the description below.

 

Dali late artworks
Late works: “The Ecumenical Council” shows Dali in the left corner and Gala as St.Helena. She connects the artist with the spiritual world above. Influenced by Velasquez, the artist paints on a huge scale with the monumental themes of science, history and religion.

 

 

dali artwork nuclear mysticism
In his late works, Dali paints optical illusions on a monumental scale. #1 the double image painting shows “Gala contemplating the Mediterranean sea which at twenty meters becomes the portrait of Abraham Lincoln.” Gala is a symbol of perfection and the Lincoln’s head with the crucifix give references to death and the fleeting nature of beauty. #2 “The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” shows the vast discoveries of humanity as well as Dali as an explorer. He paints Columbus as a young man stepping out to a  new world. #3 “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” depicts Venus 33 times. The goddess of love and beauty, the second figure hides a Toreador face within her body. The toreador represents masculinity, a boy represents and artist, and a dying bull shows death. The bust of Voltaire symbolizes reason, and at the top left we see Gala’s face again. This painting represents Desire and Death.

 

The Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Dali museum houses a pretty vast, once private art collection of A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse. They started their Dali collection in 1943. In 1982 the Dali museum in St. Pete was inaugurated. They simply ran out of wall space and decided to build a museum to gift their art collection to the public. What’s amazing to see here is how many artworks they acquired from one artist that included both huge canvases and tiny pieces, all of which hung in their house in Cleveland.

I recommend to sign up for the virtual tour of one of the Dali’s paintings on the 3d floor (free with admission). It’s really fun. Also, download the museum’s app that guides you through the collection. Check out their special events schedule and evenings at the museum.

Official websites: St.Petersburg http://thedali.org/ and Spain https://www.salvador-dali.org/

 

dali quote

 

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veronica winters artist