Sculpture: In the round – what a relief! Apr06

Sculpture: In the round – what a relief!...

Throughout history, sculpture has been used primarily as a monument art form. The earliest sculptures were thought to be made to supply “magic” to help hunters in their quests. Later, as civilization unfolded, sculpture took the form of gods or ancient kings; likenesses carved to honor greatness. In 15th C. Italy, sculpture of biblical heroes adorned the streets. Military victories were depicted by the ancient Sumerian sculptors. Even today, great writers or politicians are honored with likenesses in parks or government buildings.  It’s all around, but what do we really know about the art form? Sculpture is a branch of visual arts depicted in three-dimension. It is the carving (removal of) or modeling (addition of) of material to depict an image or scene. Typical materials used include stone, metal, ceramics, wood, glass and in more recent times, other materials, since Modernism took the sculptural process to an almost complete freedom of material use and process. Where sculptors used to carve or model, now they can cast or weld together found objects or materials that were not available in ancient times. The sky’s the limit in today’s sculptural world. There are two basic types of sculpture. Sculpture in the round; a free-standing sculpture that is not connected to anything except at the base, and relief sculpture; sculpture which is attached to a background and can’t be viewed from all angles. Relief sculpture is typically classified by the amount of projection it has from the wall; bas-relief, mid-relief, and high-relief. Bas-relief having the lowest depth of carving and then moving up to high-relief or that which is carved more deeply into the object. Much of relief sculpture is seen on architecture or decorating objects such as pottery. The term sculpture also includes many types of smaller...

Mosaics – Pieces of Art Feb16

Mosaics – Pieces of Art...

Mosaic art uses small pieces of material, placed together to form a pattern or image. These pieces are called tessera and usually consist of glass, stone, ceramics, mirror, or shells. The space (or interstices) between the tesserae are then filled with grout to solidify the artwork. There are several different techniques used to create mosaic art: Opus regulatum: the tesserae create a grid where the pieces align both horizontally and vertically. Opus tessellatum: the tesserae created a horizontal or a vertical alignment, but not both. Opus vermiculatum: the tesserae follow the edge of a particular shape highlighting the shape. Opus musivum: similar to Opus vermiculatum but extends throughout the entire background. Opus palladianum: the tesserae are irregular shaped and unevenly placed. Opus sectile: a single tessera creates a major shape. Opus classicum: a combination of vermiculatum, tessellatum and regulatum. Opus circumactum: the tesserae are set up in semicircle or fan shapes that overlap. Micromosaic: the tesserae are extremely small, used in jewelry or Italian panels. There are three main techniques to laying mosaics. The Direct method, used where surfaces have a three-dimensional quality, is when the tesserae are glued directly to a support piece and then grouted. The Indirect method, which is mainly used for larger or vertical surfaces, is when the tesserae are placed upside-down on an adhesive-backed paper and then transferred to the structure. The Double Indirect method is used when seeing the design is important. The tesserae are placed face-up on an adhesive or sticky surface, then after the design is complete, another adhesive surface is placed on the facing-side and then carefully removing the one below. This is the most difficult of the three techniques. The history of Mosaic art is rich and examples from various cultures can be found...

Cubism: The Birth of Modern Art Feb02

Cubism: The Birth of Modern Art...

One of the most recognized art styles of the early 20th century, Cubism rejected the concept that art should copy nature and instead highlighted 2-dimensional, geometric forms in their art work. The subject matter (often recognizable), was fractured into multiple facets, and then reassembled to convey the same thing, but often times from different perspective views. The term Cubism was coined when Braque’s landscape art, L’Estaque (right), was first viewed by French art critic Louis Vauxcelles, calling the work “cubes”. But landscape painting was rare in Cubist art. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, perhaps the fathers of this creative, abstract  style, were best known for their representation of motifs such as bottles, musical instruments, playing cards and the human figure. Picasso’s Still Live with a Bottle of Rum (left), is a prime example of Analytic Cubism with his abstract view of a bottle of rum. Exhausted with the traditions of Western art, Cubists were drawn to other cultures and drew much inspiration from the expressive nature of African art. Gaining insight from Paul Gauguin’s indigenous Tahitian themes, Picasso often used the traditional head masks of African art as reference for his work. When the new technique of collage, pasting colored or printed paper into artwork became vogue, Synthetic Cubism evolved, removing any representational aspect of the piece and letting the cut-out shape allude to the subject matter. Picasso’s Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar (right) embraced this collage-style artwork. Cubism revolutionized traditional art form, creating an avant-garde movement contending with the innovative technology of photography. It spread across most of Europe, planting the seeds for other emerging modern art styles such as Futurism, Constructivism and Expressionism. Although it has been argued that Cubism is not an actual style or movement, it is considered to...

Romanticism: A Matter of Emotion Jan19

Romanticism: A Matter of Emotion...

As a reaction to the restrictions of urban sprawl and industrialism, and a growing disillusion with the Enlightenment era values, Romanticism (or the Romantic era) began in the latter part of the 18th century. A crusade against the aristocratic social and political norms of the times; Romantics embraced the strong emotions and authenticity that embodied the movement. Art took on a much greater emotional quality, emphasizing terror, dread, elation and awe; often embracing the exotic or unfamiliar and giving the imagination greater control. Romanticism was first demonstrated in landscape paintings. Artists like David Friedrich and J. M. W. Turner turned the typical landscape painting into an historical narrative of life. The emotional subject matter seen in their work, often expressed a human struggle or victorious feat, adding much more meaning than what you would expect to see in a landscape-style painting. Eugène Delacroix created passionate war scenes reflecting current events or haunting images from historical atrocities. His Liberty Leading the People (1830) is probably one of the best known works of Romantic art. It portrays a woman (representing Liberty) carrying the French Revolution flag in one hand and a bayonet in the other, leading the French troops into battle. His statement, “And if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her”, suggests his emotional struggle with not being able to participate in the fight to free his country. Francisco Goya, probably the greatest painter of the Romantic era, exemplified the Romantic era values in his paintings using gruesome subject matter taken from his imaginative visions of the Peninsula War between Spain and France (1808 – 1814). His The Third of May 1808 (1814) painting, with its frightening depiction of the hazards of war and his use of thick, impasto brushstrokes...

Behold the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas Jan12

Behold the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas...

If I were fortunate enough to be able to travel to China, I would make the Mogao Caves near the city of Dunhuang a primary stop as the artifacts housed within these sandstone cliffs rival that of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City or the famous Terracotta Warriors. Impressive yet understated on the outside, these caverns carved within the cliffs near the edge of the Gobi Desert hide an unrivaled collection of Buddhist art, including over 2,400 sculptures and miles of murals spanning a period of 1,000 years, from the North Wei to the Yuan Dynasty. Once inside these modest-looking caves, you’ll discover a temple-like architecture filled with amazing statuary and wall murals that make this more than a cave with prehistoric wall paintings. According to legend, these caves were created in 366 C.E, when a traveling monk named Lè Zūn was inspired to build the first cave after experiencing a vision of a thousand Buddhas bathed in golden light. Later, he was joined by another monk, and the cave numbers grew. The caves were first used as a place for meditation, to serve the monasteries in the area. Since Dunhuang was a major trade route that linked China to the Mediterranean, travelers often came through the area, commissioning caves (all created by the monks) as offerings for safety and prosperity. The caves then lay dormant for nearly 600 years, when the Mongols invaded the area making travel to the area unsafe. Much later in 1900, interest was revived when Wang Yuanlu, a Taoist priest and self-appointed guardian of the caves, decided to do some restoration and discovered thousands of Buddhist scrolls in one of the caves. Discovery of these manuscripts brought much attention from Europe and archeological world. If the statuary and murals contained...

It’s All About Color, part two Jan05

It’s All About Color, part two...

Now that we’ve talked a little about color theory and how we get the various colors from mixing primary color, let’s talk about additive and subtractive color. Subtractive color is what you see when you are looking at anything in print. From newspapers to books to those tempting invitations you receive for some event, every printed piece uses  subtractive color. So do artists, house painters, and virtually anyone coloring a tangible surface. In contrast, everything you see on the screen, be it computer monitor, television or a projected slide show presentation, uses the Additive color. We view these colors every day, but most of us have no idea how they are created. First let’s talk about Additive color. In Additive color, color mixing is done with light. In the early 1800’s Sir Thomas Young proposed that he could make most colors in the visible spectrum by just mixing red, green and blue light, what we now refer to as RGB color. When red and blue are mixed, they create magenta, when red and green are mixed, they create yellow, and when blue and green are mixed, they create cyan. When all six colors combine, they create white, or a lack of color. This is how your television sees every visible color. The screen contains thousands of little light dots that emit red, blue and green light to create the colors for the images we see. Now let’s talk about subtractive color. In order for the human eye to see color on a tangible surface, the object’s surface must give off or reflect light when struck by white light. A color will either absorb or reflect the light (the amount depending on each hue), allowing the eye to see that specific color. Something that reflects...

2013: A Year of Accomplishments...

As the new year approaches, it has been a tradition to look back over the year’s accomplishments and struggles, and give credit to those around me who have made the year a success. I am proud to view Musebreak’s launch and its continuing publications as a success. In July we began Musebreak as a way for artists to help spread the message about the value of art to those not in the field. A handful of people banded together and decided to write about art, music and literature, and possibly make a difference in some way. I would like to commend the people of Musebreak for this year’s effort. You have done a fantastic job! In six month’s time, we’ve published 56 articles. I would like to especially thank Patrick and Fiona for their consistent efforts in getting out articles each week. For a volunteer force, I’m extremely proud of their effort to bring something of interest each week. I would also like to thank all of the others who have contributed with either articles or interviews as they could. I know it’s not easy to take time out of busy schedules to volunteer your time. Finally I would like to thank Musebreak’s audience, the readers who stop in each week to learn something new. Musebreak would be nothing without either. Since our launch in July our viewing numbers have grown. We now regularly receive over 4000 page hits per weekly publication. I count that a success, considering we are a small organization and I hope to see us grow in the years to come. I have made requests for more writers and interviewees and have yet to have much response, but I’m hoping in the months to come, people will realize that talking...

It’s All About Color Dec22

It’s All About Color...

Color plays a major role in art. It can set a mood. It can change the hierarchy of a composition; pushing the subject into the foreground or gently allowing it to fade off into the distance. Color can create harmony or conflict, depending on the artist’s choice of palette. It can give subconscious meaning to an element. Yet the most interesting observable fact that happens with color is its ability to perceptually change, depending on its environment. An artist has control over texture and line work; they can set the stage with composition and pattern, but the one uncontrollable factor in a work of art, is color. In studying color theory, an artist learns that color has perceptual changes depending on the visible light and surrounding color. We learn that even though we may have chosen specific colors for our piece, when and where the artwork is viewed changes the overall effect we may have been trying to achieve; that a work of art will appear different in sunlight as opposed to fluorescent or incandescent lighting. It will change depending on the wall color or physical space that it resides in. And at some point, an artist has to give up stringent control and allow the art to take on a life of its own. If you’ve ever done any home decorating, you’ll have experienced this phenomenon. A color chosen in a store from a swatch of fabric or a paint card does not look the same when placed in your home. It might appear duller or more vibrant depending on its surroundings.  It might not feel like the same color at all.  A friend of mine painted her house a sedate shade of beige, only to be stunned to see that in early...

Introducing Salvatore Ventura...

After moving from Europe to the Bay Area, Salvatore Ventura soon discovered his love for photography. Over the past decade he has explored various photography styles ranging from natural landscapes to personal portraits, and documented several local events. While working in high tech startups, Salvatore takes on photography assignments to keep in balance with his artistic side. We spoke with Salvatore about his experiences in the field of photography: What is it about photography that first gained your attention? Salvatore: I think it’s the mix between dream and reality that can be achieved within a picture. It’s powerful and sophisticated, yet so simple at once. What type of training/schooling did you receive to learn how to do this? Salvatore: I am mostly self-trained. I did read plenty, and still do, on technique, lighting, composition and colors, and of course, decoding works of great photographers. What type of equipment do you use? Salvatore: I started photography in the digital world, beginning my exploration with a point-and-shoot, and then evolving into a DSLR. I currently work with a Nikon D600. Do you use any digital post-processing? Salvatore:  Yes. Mainly around sharpening, color balance and cropping. Then of course there are special effects, to add a more distinctive accent on some shots, but it all depends. Some cases call for deeper edits. You only have female models in your current portfolio. Is that by choice? Salvatore: There are generally more female models than male, so it is easier  to work with them. But I have planned projects with male models, just haven’t had a chance to work on them yet. What is your favorite subject to photograph? Salvatore: People. Working on projects with models is by far my favorite. Travel photography, and landscapes are next. Do you...

The Gift of Art Nov24

The Gift of Art

Thanksgiving is near and after its festive celebration with the family, comes the horrible onslaught of pressure to buy gifts for the Christmas holiday. Ads on television, radio and the web tell us of the savings we’ll have if we buy wares from this store or that. “Spend, spend, spend!” is the holiday jingle that echoes like an earworm in my head and it makes me wonder, if my generation is the last to recall a time when gifts for the holidays were hand-made instead of purchased; a custom that seems to have slowly died away. Holidays were a simpler time. People purchased art or crafts for their loved ones if they didn’t make the items themselves. Craft fairs were abundant after Thanksgiving, people selling one-of-a-kind, hand-made items. I recall spending afternoons, walking the fair, eating holiday cookies and drinking eggnog or cider and looking for special gifts for family and friends. Now, there’s hardly a craft fair to be found; another custom that has gradually become extinct. People don’t want hand-made items. They want electronics and designer names; products that are mass-produced in countries where slave-labor is cheap and the profit margins are high. They’re not interested in one-of-a-kind items, lovingly created especially for them. Or are they? Is this just an illusion created by marketeers to get people to shop ‘til they drop each year? Every time I’ve ever given my art or a hand-crafted item, I’ve had great response. Not only was the receiver delighted with the item, but those around asked if they could have one as well. The holidays have, and will always be a time when I make gifts for those I love. As an artist, this is a no-brainer. But if I weren’t talented in this area,...

Photography: Is it an art form? Nov17

Photography: Is it an art form?...

As the paintbrush or clump of clay is to an artist, so is the camera to a photographer; a tool (or medium) used to create a possible work of art. It might not be as ancient a tool as brush and paint, but with the right knowledge, the camera can be used to sketch the artist’s vision or express an emotion that the artist intended to share. “I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn”. — Pablo Picasso How does photography become fine art?  It’s done in much the same way that a painting or a sculpture does. Photographers display the same basic elements of art and design (as discussed in our Understanding Art as Art article) in their photographs, that any other art form does. The photographer uses his or her knowledge of composition; of line, shape, value, color and texture to create a work of art. The photograph evokes a feeling, conveys a message, and takes the image one-step beyond the typical scenic shot of the amateur. Just capturing a beautiful photo isn’t enough to be considered fine art. Taking a beautiful photograph that speaks to the spirit is the key. How well the artist, or in this case the photographer, captured your attention with his or her unique interpretation of the subject at hand is a large part of the criteria. Where Photo Journalism tells a story and Commercial Photography sells a product, Fine Art Photography speaks to your soul. Great photographers like Ansel Adams, Manuel Bravo and Mary Ellen Mark not only captured the essence of their subjects, but used light and shadow, texture and juxtaposition to create mood, a feeling of emotion in their work.  James Nachtwey captured poignant images of war...

Musebreak: A Vision

When I contemplated the idea for Musebreak, I envisioned an online magazine dedicated to bringing the world information about The Arts. A place where everyday people could take a break from their everyday world and learn about the muse that inspires us all. What we deal with as artists, where we come up with our creative ideas, where our challenges lie. I believe that as creatives, we are obligated to explain our choices and talk about what drives us to do what we do, so we can break down the barriers holding us in an awe-inspired isolation; an enigma to the rest of the world. I envisioned Musebreak as an outlet for this purpose; a way to share creativity to those who have not found theirs. Most creatives tend to hang with other creatives, because they share a common bond and draw inspiration from the symbiotic relationship. They feel understood. There’s no need to explain behaviors that don’t necessarily conform to the norm. Unfortunately, that leaves the rest of the world shaking their heads and wondering why this type of person does what they do. My vision for Musebreak would enlighten those not privy to the artistic world—I had no idea what a challenge this would be. Being 100% volunteer, getting writers to volunteer their time has been a struggle. It is here that I have to sing the praises to the writers who have chosen to help me in this quest. Their weekly contributions are done without any type of feedback or pay. The only thing I can offer is to promote whatever artistic venture they are involved in and a space to write, free of strict deadlines or strict editorial constraints. I also feel the need to apologize for my attempts at...

Introducing: Patrick Hofmeister (aka WäDL)...

Patrick is a self-taught multimedia artist, born and raised in San Jose, California. Homeless and undirected at the age of 20, Patrick found his life-path changing direction when he discovered painting while living at the Bill Wilson Center – Transitional Housing Program. His house-monitor and mentor Marcus Are encouraged Patrick to focus his creative energies and pursue his passion for painting. Patrick’s enthusiasm for art is evident in all aspects of his life now and he credits Marcus, George Rivera and his mother, with his success in becoming a professional artist. Where there once was an aimless and misguided teenager, there is now a flourishing mural artist and sculptor, using his acrylics and spray paint to visually captivate his audience. And Patrick’s artwork is mesmerizing, grabbing the viewer’s interest as layer-upon-eye-catching-layer of vibrant detail is uncovered.  “I want the viewer to be as engaged in the viewing of my work as the work engages me in the moment I create it.” We spoke with Patrick at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, where his artwork is now showcased with three other artists in the Spiral: Art of the Street Exhibit. His collection of canvasses speaks of metamorphosis through organic imagery of moths, flies, darkness and light. When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? Patrick: I think it was when I was in 5th Grade. I was inspired by comic book art and a next-door neighbor who was an artist. Can you tell us what your chosen media is and why you like it best? Patrick: I mostly use acrylics. It’s what I have the most experience with. I like that I can work quickly with it and don’t have to wait hours for it to dry. What was...

Surrealism Oct06

Surrealism

In light of this week’s featured artist, I thought I’d write a brief summary on Surrealism, to help give you some background on his painting style. What began in the late 1910s to early 20s as an automatic writing style, Surrealism became an international movement encompassing not only writing, but all intellectual, political and artistic styles. Using Freud’s free association, all aspects of “The Arts” entered the realm of the inner psyche, casting off society’s tradition and creating shocking and unpredicted imagery. With compositions that contained no logic, odd creatures from everyday objects, and the use of surprising juxtaposition and non sequitur, Surreal artists allowed their unconscious minds free-reign to create. Former Dadaists such as Max Ernst, André Masson, and Man Ray were the first to adopt this free-form style of painting, followed closely by René Magritte, Salvador Dali, and Yves Tanguy. Probably the most recognizable piece of Surrealist art is Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” with it’s sandy beach scene of melting pocket watches, and unconscious symbol of the relativity of time and space. Spawned from the Dadaist, Surrealist art emphasized positive expression. According to Andre Breton, a spokesperson for the movement, poet and publisher of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, Surrealism was a way to tie together the conscious and unconscious, so that fantasy or the dream world would be connected to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.” As Surrealist art gained momentum, two separate groups began to evolve. The Automatists, a group more focused on feeling and less on analytical, believed images should not be burdened by “meaning”. The Veristic Surrealists however, believed academic discipline and form was the way to represent the subconscious,  to capture the images that if unrecorded, would easily slip away. They thought that by...