Mr. Turner: A Film About the Life of Landscape Artist J.M.W. Turner Jan04

Mr. Turner: A Film About the Life of Landscape Artist J.M.W. Turner...

Joseph Mallord William Turner lived from 1775 to 1851 and was known as a landscape painter in the English Romantic period. While he lived, he created much controversy in the field of art but now critics revere him as an artist who showed that landscape painting could rival other genres for beauty and statement. At the time, historical paintings were very popular, and in retrospect, Turner’s work rivaled the content of the historical painting by just examining the local landscape. He was known as the “painter of light” in his day and worked in oils and watercolor. People today remember him for his oil painting, but in fact he was considered a master in both mediums. Some people consider his work a prelude to Impressionism, and part of the controversy of his style was in the way he would approach some pieces with a tendency toward the Abstract long before that style was conceived of let alone popular. He was an extremely prolific painter, and Wikipedia cites that he “produced over 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 paper works.” Turner experienced a difficult and lonely childhood, and later worked for several architects. During this study period in art, his sketchbooks show studies in composition and perspective. He also studied topography with Thomas Malton. The architect Thomas Hardwick suggested that Turner continue painting rather than pursue his interest in architecture. Enrolled in academy, he would spend his winters painting and his summers traveling, particularly to Wales. As he became older, he grew more eccentric. His dying words were reported to have been, “The sun is God.” In October 2014, British filmmaker Mike Leigh wrote and directed Mr. Turner. The film starred Timothy Spall as Turner and Spall won the award for Best Actor at Cannes. Timothy Spall also learned to paint when he accepted the role of the beloved and famous British painter. According to Wikipedia sources, Sony Pictures Classics will handle the United States distribution, and scheduled a limited release date of 19 December 2014. Fandango lists a limited release in New York and Los Angeles for the film as of the New Year with no other showings as of yet. However the film is meeting with critical acclaim both professionally and on public review sites. The film is a ‘warts and all’ depiction of Turner’s genius, wherein there is no bright shadow to applaud. Filmmaker Mike Leigh wanted to depict the life of Turner as a real human being subject to flaws, passions, depression and grappling with the world around him in a difficult period of history. He did outlandish things such as strapping himself to a ship’s mast in order to paint a snowstorm at sea. Turner’s love affairs were unusual and sometimes exploitative. He was a radical and a revolutionary, and an often anarchic member of London’s art societies. Film is useful to depict the otherwise silent stories that accompany artists to the grave. An artist may leave behind artwork by the tens of thousands and all of them fragments of a story, the story of their lives. In taking up those fragments and analyzing them, and sharing them again through a new lens with moving pictures, it is easy to see how one art, the art of cinematography, can renew public interest in another, the art of the landscape painting. Film reveals the man behind the art with the hope that the art left by Turner becomes even more precious to the...

Leonid Afremov Modern Painter...

Leonid Afremov was born in 1955 in Vitebsk, Belarus and has lived an international life as a modern impressionist painter with a politically neutral agenda. His purpose is to remind the busy people of the world that certain places are simply beautiful and worth a moment of study. Afremov has created his own unique painting style as well. He uses a palette knife and oils and the technique makes his work recognizable. The artist also uses the internet to promote and sell his work, rather than attending galleries or using exhibits and dealers. It was the internet which changed the game for Afremov and now he is a well-known and respected artist who works with landscape, still life and portraits. His work seems to glow like a stained glass window. Afremov has lived in Belarus, Israel, the United States and Mexico. One of his role models is Marc Chagall and he studied at the Vitebsk Education Institute. In 1978 Afremov graduated from the Vitebsk Art School as one of their elites before studying privately with a famous local artist, Barowski. Years later in 1990, he and his family immigrated to Israel under the political auspices of Gorbachev. At the end of the 90s, Afremov befriended the jazz musician Leonid Ptashka and began to paint a collection of portraits of popular jazz musicians. This brought about an upswing in his artistic career with respect to being able to exhibit his work. But after setbacks, his family immigrated to the United States and began to use the online auction system Ebay to sell his work. This proved to be extremely profitable and Afremov was able to paint whatever he wished. Psychologists found his paintings to be relaxing and calm and offered to buy them in order...

Develop a Habit of Research in Writing...

Over a lifetime, a writer might develop an amazing array of facts and information because of lengthy research into the topics of their stories.  In a study of medieval Paris, an author may learn all the historical landmarks, the city streets and their ancient layout before the city was modernized, or the placement of walls and battlements that are no longer standing in the present day.  The writer might also discover customs now lost to society, such as the rag-catcher who would collect the used handkerchiefs of the city dwellers and take them on to be ‘recycled’ in other ways.  This research can stay with a writer for years after they have finished their story and it is a product of research conducted once the writer has the germ of the narrative firmly in mind.  This is the research that most of us come to associate with the daily life of a professional writer. But research can occur at any stage of the game, in many forms, and should be a universal writing habit. The curious writer is the one best poised to uncover story almost by accident, thus sparing himself the discomfort of having to dream up a narrative from scratch. It’s a common adage in the writing community that one does not think up a story, one writes it down like a faithful assistant. Julia Cameron attributes this to having a good sense of direction. A good habit of daily research means that stories come to the writer, rather than the writer chasing them down like butterflies with a net. The writer must be curious. A curious writer is rewarded with ideas that she never strove for and these are the most natural and organic ideas. They become discoveries like buried treasure...

Volkswagen’s Fun Theory Reviewed Dec14

Volkswagen’s Fun Theory Reviewed...

A recent Volkswagen commercial demonstrates a lighthearted experimental process that they have termed the ‘Fun Theory.’ In the commercial, the Volkswagen team wire a set of stairs inside a metro station to become a piano keyboard that interacts with those pedestrians who choose to take the stairs. As the pedestrians travel up and down the newly refurbished staircase, they suddenly discover they are playing notes on a piano. The sensors in the key pads that pedestrians step on were programmed to create the sound appropriate to the note played by the relative piano key. In doing this, the Volkswagen team wanted to know if more people would take the stairs because they had made taking the stairs ‘fun.’ This social experiment brings art, architecture and music together in one sensory experience. The commercial demonstrates several reactions to climbing musical stairs and each pedestrian seems to have a different response to the idea of creating music on their way up the staircase. Piano music of a whimsical and fun nature plays in the background of the commercial, fading in and out at key points to demonstrate that people stopping to press a key on the staircase are also playing the piano with each step they take. The result of the commercial is spontaneous, warm and encouraging to the viewer. But what is the Fun Theory ultimately? Volkswagen’s team stops at the word fun as if fun is to be the only necessary element conveyed in the re-purposing of a set of metro stairs into a piano keyboard. Instead, let’s look deeper into what sort of purpose and pleasure the pedestrians might have been getting by the exercise (no pun intended) and, lastly, what does this say about music and the arts — about creativity itself?...

Choosing Character Names in Fiction...

How do you choose a character name? There are several ways to choose an effective name in the process of writing a short story. The easiest way to choose a character name is to browse through popular baby names on the internet. There are several sites that will show up on a Google search, especially if you use search terms such as, ‘popular boy names’ or ‘names for girls.’ To choose a character name that is from another nation, you can perform an online search for French or Japanese names and surnames. Books are also printed which contain an index of hundreds of character names and you can find these books in the writing section of your local bookstore. One excellent resource is from Writers’ Digest, The Character Naming Sourcebook. It contains an extensive list of first names and a good handful of common surnames as well.  What about surnames? Just as with first names, you can perform an online search for ‘surname’ or ‘last name’ as well. You can also use a character surname based on street or location names in your local geography. There are many ways to refine your selection of a character name. You can choose a name that simply sounds good or a character name that has a particular meaning. Many name sites on the internet will give you the meaning of a particular name, as will most books with indexes of names. Not all characters have realistic names and you may want an outrageous or poetic character name to fit a particular mood in your writing style. For example, science-fiction character names may sound quite outlandish and unusual. In this case, you may want to try an unconventional approach to the given name and surname, such as using...

The King Who Danced Dec14

The King Who Danced

Louis the XIV, known also as Louis the Sun King, was the King of France from the year 1643 until he died in 1715. He remains the longest-reigning monarch of any European country and was responsible for a great many feats, for better or worse, including the building of Versailles. But he is less well known as a dancer who often starred in performances of the ballet at the time. It is conjectured that Louis’ mother, the Queen, spent so much time with him at the theater and enjoying fine cuisine that, from a young age, Louis XIV also gained a passion for these pastimes as well. The King became the chief patron of the Académie Française. He supported the advancement of Classical French literature and became the backing to such writers as Molière, Racine and La Fontaine, names that we know even now, especially Molière, who’s gifts of satire were unrivaled in Paris. Louis was also the patron of many exceptional artists of the period, including Charles Le Brun and Pierre Mignard. But in the realm of music, composers and musicians such as Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, and François Couperin were the backbone of the King’s personal interests and these musicians, Lully especially, often contributed to the production of ballets. Louis was a danseur who performed around eighty roles in forty different ballets. It could be argued that King Louis was practically a professional dancer as the number of performances rivals those of a truly dedicated artist. Louis not only performed in traditional ballet but also took roles in Molière’s comédies-ballets, which were an art form that combined drama with dancing. At one point in his dancing career, King Louis performed as Apollo and Neptune in the same performance of a...

The Approachable Art of Doodles Dec07

The Approachable Art of Doodles...

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines doodling as “to draw something without thinking about what you are doing,” and “an aimless or casual scribble, design, or sketch; also a minor work.” We might therefore associate the doodle with the open notebook in school when students fail to pay attention to the lecture and instead have created some artistic scribbles upon the page there. But what if you doodled with thinking about what you were doing, and what if that aimless or casual scribble became something a little bit more than a minor work? Of course the initial appeal of doodling is that it’s harmless, and that you can’t doodle incorrectly. Any line pressed to the page, no matter how uneven, no matter how quickly, may become anything. You can never be too repetitious with a doodle. There is no model and no right and wrong. So this is an encouraging and approachable choice for a sketch. An artist might even find that a doodle on the side lines of some piece of paper becomes the pattern for tomorrow’s more formal study. It’s clear that doodles can convey the same basic principles of art when they are finished. Looking at two doodles side by side there may be a particular mood evoked by one that the other doesn’t have. Composition may form organically based on the size of paper, margin or other factors involved in the free form flow of the pen or pencil, but in the end, there will more than likely be some compositional form if only that dictated by the space provided. A study of contrast is sure to show up in an eventual doodle, particularly one rendered in pen and ink. And a particular style may begin to appear in many doodles by the...

Art in the period of Jane Austen Dec07

Art in the period of Jane Austen...

The author Jane Austen is famous for her novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. She is, to this day, wildly popular with readers. Her works stand the test of time for their comedy and their domestic realism, but many people don’t know about the context of her work. She was writing satire in response to a popular novel form of the day called the sentimental novel. Sentimental novels were closely related to Gothic novels in that the authors wished to evoke a strong emotional response in the reader through what some have called a “language of tears.” The novels feature dramatic plot points in order to progress feelings of emotion more than any workings of plot. In some ways these novels were the forerunner of the romantic comedy genre. They were designed to teach conduct to young ladies on the proper way to behave. In this we may get a glimpse into the lighthearted anarchy of Jane Austen’s writing style in her satires of current popular fiction. Critics argue that Austen’s novels did not always satirize the genre of sentimental fiction, and actually might have lingered upon the edge of it at times, just with more realism and less sensationalism than other authors might have attempted. It’s widely agreed that her writing was a transition point toward realism that began to dominate the literary scene in the 19th century. So the novel pendulum can first be seen swinging away from the rationality of the Augustan Age, into sentimentality, and then moving back again with Jane Austen and others toward the dawn of realism. Some of Austen’s contemporaries in this field were Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Eliot, as well as Charles Dickens. Austen lived through the era known as...

NaNoWriMo an abbreviation every writer knows...

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is happening through November. The idea behind the project is to give writers the opportunity to write a large work on a deadline and to have the support of their peers throughout the process. The goal is to achieve 50,000 written words between the span of November 1 and November 30. Just thirty days to write 50,000 words. To give a rough estimate of the size of the project, that’s the size of a slim novel. The project is not only open to established writers, but encourages any creative individual who has an idea to partake in the contest. An excerpt from NaNoWriMo’s site reveals that last year: “310,095 participants started the month of November as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.” The structure provided by the project is what helps new writers the most. With their step-by-step contribution scheme, NaNoWriMo encourages continual work from the aspiring author, asking for daily word counts, providing inspirational content or meeting grounds in order to help with writers block. Finally the site asks the writer to submit a full text of their manuscript for validation. This process confirms that the writer did in fact write 50,000 original words and once validated, the writer ‘wins.’ There are no official prizes other than a feeling of satisfaction. So winning of course means that the participants have completed the word count and are now in possession of a first draft of a novel. The publishing world considers a novel to be anything larger than 50,000 words. This also means that there can be more than one winner in every National Novel Writing Month. The worldwide contest has few restrictions and the possibility for writing content is really...

Corita Kent an important figure in art Nov23

Corita Kent an important figure in art...

When we think of artists in this day and age, we don’t immediately think of the Catholic Church. When we think of the great artists of history we are more likely to consider that Michaelangelo was working in the Sistine Chapel for example. Perhaps that is what makes this feminist nun working through the revolutionary 1960s so intriguing to us. Corita Kent was celebrated across the net this week in what would have been her ninety-sixth birthday. She died in Boston in 1986 leaving a legacy in pop art. This famous figure was well known for her silkscreen work which took popular culture icons and mixed them with spiritual texts. In fact, she helped establish serigraphy as a fine art form. Corita Kent spent most of her life in Los Angeles at the order of Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Throughout her time with the order, she obtained a graduate degree in Art History, teaching art and later becoming the chair of the art department at Immaculate Heart College over time. Her vision was avant-garde and she drew to her famous figures that came to study such as Alfred Hitchcock and Saul Bass. She is most noted for her work in designing the 1985 version of the LOVE U.S. Postal Stamp. It is iconic and carries the themes of love and peace that are so representative of her artwork. Kent did not just use the writings from scripture as a basis in her artwork but also incorporated words from e.e. cummings and Gertrude Stein, among others. She would rearrange graphic elements from American consumerism, coupled with newspaper clippings, signage and even song lyrics. Wikipedia lists current exhibitions of her art in 2014 in Berlin and Paris, as well as Cleveland Ohio. Titles...

The Art of Traveling Books Nov23

The Art of Traveling Books...

Since the advent of the internet, communication has exploded in so many ways. It is easier to keep in touch with people. Easier to share. One of the more interesting discoveries within the online community is the idea of the traveling book. Most commonly these are little Moleskine journals or the like being sent from person to person on a distribution list kept online. It’s very similar to the idea of crowdsourcing but free and with art. Members who partake in this social experiment have to feel comfortable giving a mailing address out to others, but what comes about is a book filled with art and in no particular order. The pages are tackled one at a time by the next artist on the mailing list and the images are as random and unique as each individual contributor. Sometimes these books are themed but usually they are open to complete personal interpretation. The range of artwork may span from pen and ink to collage. Whole paintings may be followed up on the next page by simple word art, or an expression of hand-written ‘typography’ flooding the white space. Color stands in stark contrast to black and white. Mixed media may be followed by traditional watercolor or line art. Really, the sky is the limit. In the end, time produces a final product that resembles a portable gallery. It is then sent back to the original owner who can take the time to peruse every page and its artwork. These experiments in artistic social contribution are often found on groups such as Ning, Yahoo! Groups, Google, and other sites where people gather together for common causes. Artistic collectives may be said to contain only amateurs, but there is no mistake that the art upon the...

Art in Urban Exploration Nov16

Art in Urban Exploration...

Some people are discovering a new hobby, one that is slowly being revealed through recent media attention, and it is called urban exploration. Some readers may already know about this pastime through such shows as Discovery Channel’s Urban Explorers or other media sources that cover it from different angles, including the hip and horrific potentials for such expeditions. Urban exploration is like hiking or spelunking, except it focuses on the man-made world of industrialized environments. Explorers get into abandoned ruins, underground passages, or rarely traversed areas of cities in order to experience the raw, man-made environment which is often in a state of decay, neglect or exclusion from mainstream society. This kind of exploration opens up a vast amount of possibility for historical documentation and of course for artistic expression. Responsible urban explorers are careful not to trespass on private property where they are not welcome, but there is still a rush of adrenaline in wandering through a city’s ruins that cannot be denied. Explorers also need to be extremely careful with physical safety in decrepit environments as they uncover the underbelly of our societal structures, then reveal it, primarily through photographs. The motto of most urban explorers is, “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.” This phrase is a common philosophy of modern hikers in the natural world, but the urban explorer adopts it for his or her own ethical platform as well. Controversy about public safety is of course high and that’s part of what makes urban exploration alluring for some. Art has always pushed the boundaries of what is culturally acceptable and this undertaking is no different. Those artists who explore an urban landscape are primarily photographers. They capture the emotional thrill of ‘infiltration,’ a word...

Los Angeles City With Art Nov16

Los Angeles City With Art...

There are some cities in the world that just declare their artistic nature for all to see and Los Angeles is one of those cities. The sprawling city is home to several museums including the J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). There are museums in satellite regions of LA worth visiting as well, including San Marino’s Huntington Library, Art Collection and Gardens and Malibu’s branch of the Getty called The Getty Villa which is a structure created to resemble a first century Roman villa located in Herculaneum, Italy. While traditionally viewed as the home of Tinsel Town, or Hollywood, we often tend to view Los Angeles first as home to the U.S. media empire. This is not untrue, but the city surprises us by also being home to so many museums with such extensive programs of art. And the museums house several kinds of art including sculpture and landscaping. Really it seems impossible to visit the Getty in less than a day. In fact, it nearly requires two or three trips to see everything on the campus. And it’s the same with the Huntington Library, particularly if you are fond of old books, letters, as well as gardens and art. History is strongly represented by the Getty, the Huntington and The Getty Villa. At the Huntington Library out in nearby San Marino, history is more immediate as visitors are encouraged to peruse letters, paintings and architecture from a time when the southwest United States was mostly orchard fields and Georgian mansions. The J. Paul Getty Museum located in the hills that divide Los Angeles from San Fernando Valley covers a thorough and diverse range of historical periods...

Baroque and The Three Musketeers Nov09

Baroque and The Three Musketeers...

If you are a big fan of The Three Musketeers, whether through various movie adaptations or because you’ve read the works of Alexandre Dumas, then you’ve certainly remarked that unmistakable flair in costume and setting that comes with the novel’s particular genre. The Three Musketeers is an action and adventure story set during the reign of King Louis XIII and set in the middle of the French Period of Baroque art. In short, we revisit the seventeenth century as we dash around a pastoral French countryside sporting royal blue and fighting with crimson red. During this century, art took on a much more lively form, or a style, that brought about a kind of drama and opulence rarely seen in art before. A good analogy would be to compare art before the Baroque period to a high school choir, and art during the Baroque period to going to your first operatic performance of Wagner in a grand theater. It’s big and it’s showy like a fantastic opera. The Baroque style of art was just beginning in Louis’ father’s final years, around the start of 1600. It’s useful to know that Louis’ father, Henry IV was a protestant in a Catholic country during the Protestant Reformation, and later converted to Catholicism in order to keep his state. The personal tale of a King and his future son threads into the larger story of a Catholic Church which had decreed during the Council of Trent that art should express religious themes with grandeur and more dramatic tension in order to evoke strong emotion. In other words, they wanted people to have the feels. Parisian architecture was not exempt from this and there are entire books devoted to the subject of Henry IV’s architecture and urbanism before...