Posts Tagged ‘art’

In these past few years of my reading life, it has begun to occur to me that there are far too many words in the world. Paradoxically, I insist on adding more as I contemplate this idea. But there it is—the superfluity of words within nearly every book I open. So many pieces of writing must struggle to conform in length and quality of content, that they end up all sounding similar, repeating ideas, or fleshing out arguments that are already corpulent. Over-indulged. Excessive. Unnecessary, much like a convenience store on every other corner. I find myself skimming through books to find the meatiest tidbits. Why can’t we say much more with very much less? It seems to me that would be the most elegant way of getting a point across. I do want to throw my ideas out into the world, along with all the others; I don’t want to add to the glut of mediocrity that is contemporary literature. Not that I think that my ideas or expressions are in any way superior: I simply would like to find a short and poignant way of bringing them to the minds of others.

Poetry is a fantastic means of saying much with very little. But I am not confident that my poetry is, how do I say this—very good. And “poetry” is a word of such raging connotations, much like “vegan,” which can cause the average person to turn up their nose before they even give it a taste.

So how to reach an audience (it doesn’t have to be a large one) without blending in to the background before I even get a chance to speak? How can I get my words into other people’s heads?

Let’s try this: brevity; physicality; imagery.

I can combine short writing/poetry with craft and photography to create a visual conduit for my thoughts. The possibilities are staggering. In how many different ways can I leave a verbal mark on the physical world, document it, and then share it with anyone who might be interested to see? The physical nature might add gravity to the words I want to say. Elements of photography and imagery can add an element of mystery, by blurring out words, or adding context, etc. I really am excited to start this project. I feel as though it has so much potential. I can be serious or light-hearted. I can stretch my creativity within my chosen media. I can find clever ways to use new media to make an impression. I believe it was Jenny Holzer who created the truisms? I can emulate her style, using non-traditional ways to get people to look at my words, to remember them, to contemplate what they might mean.

A striking piece by Jenny Holzer

Consider how many times someone has said, “I wish I had that embroidered on a pillow.” It can be ironic. It can be controversial, even. It can be so many things, and I can’t wait to explore what all it can be.

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It is said that  a man’s eyes are the windows into his soul. Might it not also be said that a person’s windows are the eyes of his or her soul?

I have always been fascinated by windows: what can be seen through them from the outside, the view from indoors — but also the windows themselves: the dressings, the objects placed thereon, the construction, the utility, the apparent warmth and security afforded by a nearly invisible plane of glass. The idea of the window could (and does) afford many a subject for artistic and philosophical expression. I am only the latest to consider it.


I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit Claude Monet’s home In Giverny, France. Having studied a great deal of art history during high school and college, I was well acquainted with Monet’s works, and had passed through the inevitable “Impressionist” phase that any art student must experience at some point in their educational development. Several weeks ago, at the mention of Monet, I might have shrugged my shoulders and acknowledged that he was an accomplished and prolific painter, and insisted that my mind had moved on to more complex contemporary movements.


To visit a person’s home, however, is to come to a radically new understanding of that person. A home is often an extension of the soul that lives therein, and as I toured the rooms and grounds of Claude’s abode, I found myself coming to a much greater appreciation of his life’s work. To see the waterlilies nestled among the reflections of blue sky, framed by the branches of weeping willow on all sides— it was stepping into the pages of Gardner’s Art through the Ages and letting it come alive.


Monet’s house in itself is a work of art. Each room painted in bright colors, and each of the many windows affording a breathtaking view onto the surroundings that inspired this man’s joyful paintings. After glimpsing through so many panes of glass framed by delicate lace curtains, peering out onto a sunlit landscape, from an almost equally sunny interior space, I can understand the inner space of an artist who wanted to bring the peace and happiness of Giverny—and of his own soul—into the world for all to see.

But enough of my ineffectual words. Let’s let the windows speak for themselves.


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Just six more days til my State Fair art contest entries are due. As usual, the deadline has sneaked up on me and I feel totally unprepared. I did get one of my photos printed and sent to me, but, alas, I am never satisfied with the way that digital prints look. Digital photography is really best viewed in a digital format, not on paper. And since nothing can compare with the beauty of a real silver halide print, I have decided to forego entering the photography exhibit this year and plan to cook up some good old analog images by the time next year rolls around. Besides, it’s been far too long since I’ve enjoyed the quiet cave-like feel of a dark room.

Nevertheless, I still want to enter something, considering that I’ve paid the entry fee already, so I’ve decided this is the perfect motivation to finally finish one of my long lost drawings from three years ago. I have a long way to go before the final product is ready to be revealed, but I wanted to share a few details in process…

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to spend a substantial amount of time on any one drawing. I always gravitate toward the same set-up when working on an art project, and have been doing so since before I can remember. Basically, I sit in the middle of the floor and spread everything out around me. Only difference now is that my mom’s not around to make me clean it up before I go to bed.

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If you’ve been to google today, you may have noticed the funny little figure above the search bar. And if your browser is hip enough, you may have seen the funny little figure slowly rotating. This nifty feat of programming is google’s homage to Alexander Calder, who was born today 113 years ago.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh yeah, Calder, the guy who makes those mobiles. Big deal, that is so Art History 101.”

The fact is, I first became familiar with some of Calder’s works when I was ten years old, and wasn’t terribly impressed at the time. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that someone, somewhere, actually had to invent the mobile. What did babies do before the early 20th century? But now I know, with no small amount of humility, that Calder was making kinetic sculptures by the time he was nine. Take that, pompous fifth-graders everywhere!

Calder is one of those artists that I’ve never really taken the time to get to know, but whose artwork is strangely, almost subconsciously influential to me (along with most Modern and Post-modern artists of all types). Far beyond the invention of the tranquil, slowly spinning mobiles that hang in the stairwells and lobbies of all the most prestigious art museums, Calder was prolific and whimsical in ways that most people haven’t had the opportunity to appreciate.

Take, for example, these Calder drawings:

So simple and striking that you probably think your children could have made it. But your children didn’t, and neither did you—Calder did, and now he’s hugely famous.

I, for one, think they are beautiful, even in their apparent simplicity. Especially in their apparent simplicity.

Calder was a linear type of guy, which I really dig. Even when making sculptures out or wire and steel, he was essentially just drawing in three dimensions. He had a thing for fish..

…and faces…

Until more recently Calder was lesser known for his jewelry. You had to be a real art insider to know enough to appreciate the inexpensive pieces that Calder sold or gave away to family and friends. Most of his jewelry was exceedingly simple in process, made simply by twisting and bending wire into complicated shapes and curlicues. No welding or soldering necessary in Calder’s world.

Some of his more elaborate pieces are downright comical, which is exactly what Calder hoped for.

Only Anjelica Huston can pull off a piece like that and still look perfectly dignified.

Above all, it is Calder’s attitude as an artist that appeals to me the most. Calder wanted to make people smile. Calder didn’t want his jewlery ever to be mass produced, because to him the artistic process and the hands-on creation by the artist were paramount. Calder wanted to find value and make beautiful things out of scraps and bits that others thought ugly. Calder emerged way before his time, influencing many of the artists of the ’60s, but really getting his creative start way before any of the other Modernists.

Calder, you are an inspiration, and a hidden gem among the run-of-the-mill Art History 101 crowd. I hope this blog gives you a little bit more of the credit that is due to you, because you are fantastic. Happy 113th Birthday.

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I really enjoy the way you tend to meet some really absurd and interesting people at garage sales. Sounds crazy coming from me, I know. But the fact that in most cases you don’t even know the person’s name, and don’t know anything about them except what they choose to reveal, is intriguing. Some people choose to share the most obscure and personal information, as if they had known you their whole life. One lady shopping at our garage sale told me that her doctor advises her to stay away from her own 28 year old daughter, and that she has to take medication to keep her daughter from affecting her health too much. She also seemed to think I was a really great person, but I’m wondering if perhaps this is only relative to how she feels about her daughter.

Yesterday I had a few people, during the course of casual garage sale conversation, ask me if I were still taking photographs and making art. I’m happy to say that I could answer with an emphatic yes. The ability to have the time to design and create has been a really wonderful thing in my life lately. I consider my blog to be my prominent means of creative self-expression this summer, and it has been a motivation to keep producing more in order to keep my readers thoroughly engrossed, as I’m sure they all are. (right?) Creativity is something that takes practice. The more I create and dabble and write about my intentions, the more ideas come flooding into my brain. There simply is not enough time for it all.

I’m currently working on a little project, but it is not yet ready to be shared. Instead, I’d like to show you an inspiration board that I have made which helps me to put together designs and ideas in a way that appeals to me visually. It might be boring to you, but perhaps when I reveal my finished product you will appreciate having seen the building blocks in process…

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The other day I was hauling trash out of my grandmother’s basement, helping the mighty effort to clean up a space that hasn’t seen a good tidying in decades. The amount of absolute, pure trash that one couple can purposefully accumulate is inconceivable. But if you’ve lived through the Depression, as probably none of us here have, then you can easily find it in your heart to stash away every egg carton, every plastic gallon ice cream tub, every single scrap and whatnot you come across that could ever possibly come in handy some unknown day in the future.

Among the things I hauled out were some warped and moldy picture frames, some with kitschy “art” still in place, just begging, positively groveling for a chance to be displayed. Now, hopelessly ruined, they would never grace the walls of any house. Too bad.

As I chucked one in the trash can, it caught my eye and I pulled it back out. It was a simple little countryside illustration of a house and some rolling hills. I can’t remember the details much, but the style of the image was alluring, almost Hopper-esque in its contrast and color use.

(in case you forgot what a Hopper looks like…)

I decided the print wasn’t a keeper but wrote down the name of the artist, Irv Wyner, before I put it back in the trash with the others. It didn’t occur to me that, in this day and age, something noteworthy might not be available at my fingertips as soon as I got online at home to look it up.

And that I did. I googled Irv Wyner, and came up with a paltry amount of information and a painfully small collection of images.

It turns out that Irv Wyner was a background artist for all sorts of great animated movies and television shows. His work sets the stage for such big-time stars as Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Sylvester, Porky, Elmer Fudd, you name it.

These are the only two images I could find online that look anything remotely similar to the print that I found..

Irv Wyner died in 2002, leaving behind basically no information about his personal life and very few marketable works of art, but a wealth of visual beauty that is regularly overlooked in some of the most classic animations ever created.

I kinda wish I had held on to that musty little piece of cardboard that led me to discover him.

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One fine day last summer, we were roaming around downtown Cincinnati on a trip to visit Jeff’s sister, looking for something to entertain us. Downtown Cincy isn’t always the most happening place, you know. While passing by some store fronts, a display of brightly designed skateboards caught Jeff’s eye, and he beckoned us back for a look. We were pleasantly surprised, and looked for the name of the store: Harper Studios. Hmmm. We tentatively ventured indoors, and were greeted by a small gallery space packed with art that instantly won us over.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that everything was animals. Then, I noticed the incredibly unique minimalist style and the vivid colors. Things just kept getting better and better. These weren’t just paintings of animals, they were works dripping with personality and insight, full of charm. It was impossible not to smile as I recognized the quirky little habits of all the wildlife I love personified in these flat, two-dimensional images. Geometry and nature were fused into one medium which was guaranteed to win me over. We left with a catalogue of Charley Harper’s works, and kept coming back to enjoy the fun images time and time again that weekend.

Last Christmas, I had the great fortune of receiving not one, but three Charley Harper prints! They seem to blend in naturally with my decor and color scheme, and I never get tired of admiring them. Thank you Ang, Trese, and Jeff!

So who is this Charley Harper guy, and what is his studio doing hiding out in downtown Cincinnati?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Charley Harper was born and raised on the family farm in West Virginia, where he no doubt developed his keen perception of the quirks of nature. He left home to attend the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where he met his wife and fellow artist Edie, and where he stayed on for years as a teacher. Eventually he worked in the commercial art world before opening his very own studio. He became immensely popular before he died in 2007, and his works can be seen in books, posters, and displays across the country. Since I fell in love with Harper’s gallery last summer, I’ve been more aware of his works popping up in random places. Walking through the education building at the Indianapolis Zoo, a Charley Harper print would catch my eye. Perusing photos of interior design spaces, I get excited when I notice a Charley Harper book artfully placed on a coffee table. And of course, at the Cincinnati Zoo there is a wealth of Charley Harper waiting to be noticed by the zoo-goer in the know.

What is so appealing about Charley’s works? Well, it has something to do with the way he takes an impossibly dense natural situation, and breaks it down with mathematical simplicity into a scene that instantly reflects the complex beauty of nature. Each image tells a story. As Charley used to explain it: “I don’t try to put everything in, I try to leave everything out.”

You’ll just have to see for yourself what we mean…

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I recently drove past the Indiana State Fairgrounds, like I have been doing many times lately, and instantly noticed what had not been there only several hours before….the first signs of an impending State Fair! I always get excited about the state fair, but this year I feel like I will have more of an opportunity to enjoy it. No classes, a little extra spending money, plus my nephews will be in town for the fun for the first time in years.

I haven’t really been creating much lately, but I’ve thinking about entering something into the art show.  I haven’t entered the contest  since I won a first place ribbon by default four years ago. I just happened to enter my photos into an obscure category that only one other person had entered. And since my photos were better than his, I got a first place ribbon! That’s marginally better than the time I got a bronze medal in a sparring match after getting beat by the only other two contestants in my ranking. Regardless, I still keep my medal and my ribbon with pride. You can’t win by default if you never try, right?

So, what do you think? Are there any photographs (of my own) that I have posted that you think might be of photo contest quality? Or, do you have any ideas for drawings or projects I could start on? I still have a couple of months to come up with something, but as of now I’m pretty short on ideas. In my experience I’ve noticed that the state fair artist judges tend to go for perfectly executed landscapes and pretty pictures of the like, but fortunately I’m not too interested in winning. I just like the idea of throwing something a little different into the mix.

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Been a little down today, and not much feeling like writing, so here’s a little Photoshop play instead.

A blue collage for those melancholic days.

And because nothing can cheer me up quite like a window cat can…

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