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...

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...

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...

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...

Approachable Art: The Nature Journal Nov09

Approachable Art: The Nature Journal...

I first discovered the concept of a serious, nature journal after reading through Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. The beautiful thing about keeping a nature journal is that your subject of study is both model and still life at the same time. A model is an organic shape which has an individual nature that you can readily identify and that may offer similarities of structure to other models. For example, a tree limb is unique and will be like no other tree limb in existence while still providing a possible similarity in design to the human arm. In this way if you practice drawing an organic form like a tree limb, you are simultaneously building skills to later draw a human limb because it’s also organic and some of the same foundational principles will apply. For example, the human limb is also prone to irregularities and is unique to all individuals. At the same time the journal provides the student with organic models, it is providing a still life. The value of having a still life is that it’s still. It’s not going anywhere. Unlike a squirrel, or a human being, it doesn’t get cranky or fussy with you for taking your time. But again, like the squirrel or human being it is organic so the principles are close enough for transferring skills to a new study of life models. Another perk of the still life is that it looks good when you’re finished. Most of us think of art and we think immediately of the framed still life as the primary example. During the sixteenth century the primary form of artistic expression was the still...

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...

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...

Show Your Appreciation for Art Aug11

Show Your Appreciation for Art...

Most of us know a musician. We may even know someone who writes, or have a friend who creates artwork of some type. We don’t generally think of them as artists though. Bob may work at the factory and play drums in his band in the evenings. Sarah is a tour guide for a museum even though her artwork could be hanging on the very walls where she works. Sam writes his novel at home, working at the local coffee shop each morning to earn a living while he waits for his latest work to become a best seller. When we think of these friends, we generally associate them with the job that pays the bills. There are very few artists who can actually live off of what they earn by creating. Some would argue that’s because they’re not good enough artists, but I disagree. From what I’ve seen, their work is exceptional,  just not well-known, or maybe well-valued is a better term, by the masses. The only difference I would say is that those who are more famous, have better marketing people helping them succeed at their chosen career. And for that they pay a percentage to their agent, or publicist or manager, because… people do not work for free. And yet, many seem to think that artists should have to struggle financially for their art. Everyone knows the phrase “starving artist” yet no one seems to think it odd that artists have to work more than one job just to survive. Surely it can’t be because their work is mediocre, because I’ve known many a mediocre waitress, plumber, or lawyer and they seem to only need one job. What is it, as a culture that makes us not value art? Is it...

A World Without The Arts Aug04

A World Without The Arts...

Try to imagine if you will, a world without art. No music, no theater, no books to read other than those that teach you math and science. Your walls are blank; nothing hangs in your home to stimulate your visual senses other than possibly a clock to tell time or a certificate saying you’re accomplished at some task. Every building looks the same, made from the same mold, as architecture is mainly for function, form has no consideration. Every car looks the same; every piece of clothing, utilitarian. The world lacks imagination, for creativity has been starved out of existence. I for one, find this imagining an unpleasant task to accomplish. The thought is so repulsive that my imagination rebels and I find myself not wanting to venture down that path. For weeks now, I’ve been trying to write a fictional story on just this topic, but the words will not form. In the telling of this story, I wanted people to discover just how important the Arts are to humanity. Every day, we take for granted the creative stimulus that helps us become more interesting, more inventive, more diverse people and yet every day, we lose the very incentive that nurtures our creativity. It’s the first thing that’s cut in school programs when the budgets are overtaxed. Art, music, theater; they are expendable, those in power say. But are they? How inventive would this world be without creativity? To quote Albert Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”  But where would imagination be without the creative forces that stimulate it? Would it wither and die, leaving us a world so drab and boring that nothing would inspire us to create? Would we only be able to...

Crossing the Lines — Art vs. Craft Jul21

Crossing the Lines — Art vs. Craft...

These two terms have been known to be lumped together at times, but there is a difference between Art and Craft. While Craft generally refers to creations made for utilitarian purpose, Art is primarily created for aesthetics or contemplation; or to quote the philosopher Immanuel Kant, “Objects of art are intrinsically final: they appeal purely at the level of the imagination and no good practical utility, except the cultivation of the human spirit.” That’s not to say that a beautiful piece of jewelry or a finely-crafted rocking chair could not be thought of as a “work of art”, but because it also doubles as a useable piece, it’s placed in the craft category. In contrast, if one were to take a utilitarian piece and make it unusable, it could then be considered Art. Taking it one step further, if said piece displayed the elements and principles discussed in my article, Understanding Art as Art, it would be then be considered Fine Art. In adding the word ‘fine’ to the category, a value is placed on the work of art itself; not stating that Fine Art is valued more highly over Craft. Usefulness can be and often is, considered just as valuable as aesthetics. People often confuse these terms and sometimes feel that Craft isn’t given the spotlight it deserves. In the 18th century, when art underwent a divisional change, Artisans and Craftsmen were categorized as skilled workers, producing quality, functional pieces whereas Artists were categorized as creators of original, one-of-a-kind, expressive objects mainly for aesthetic or contemplative purpose. In the past few decades, we have seen that the line between Art and Craft can easily be crossed. We now see museums exhibiting stunning craftsmanship at its best. An intricately-designed quilt, a finely-painted piece of...

Shifting Focus Jul08

Shifting Focus

I will never forget the opening words of my college drawing instructor. “Anyone can draw. What I hope to teach you is how to see.” Perception is something we often take for granted, yet it is pivotal to our everyday lives. When it comes to the arts a picture is only worth a thousand words if there are at least a thousand words that can be said about it. There must be a context into which it is seated. Out of that context, there must be a point of focus for our perception to work at all. To help understand what I mean by this let’s take a moment and understand how the human eye works when it focuses on something in our field of vision. Innately, the eye focuses in on one thing with detail, forcing the rest into peripheral vision. For example, when I look at the cup of collected pens and pencils on my desk I see clearly one pencil and all the rest are suggestive images that I interpret as being there, but I don’t focus on them. If I look at the pen beside the pencil, it becomes the center of focus and the pencil becomes a suggestive object in my peripheral vision. So why do I choose to see the pencil and not the pen? There is no detailed explanation for that which will cover every individual. You might have seen the pen first. What we both have in common was that we saw something of importance, something we chose to focus our attention on. As a rule of thumb you might say that in order to see something we must chose to not see something else; at least clearly. What does this have to do with art?...

Understanding Art as Art Jul01

Understanding Art as Art...

How does one define art? Merriam Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects”, yet who determines what is visually pleasing to the eye? Art is subjective. What one would consider beautiful, another might feel horribly offended by. So how do we determine what is art and what is not? We look to the basic elements and principles of art. Knowing these, help us understand the criteria by which art is judged. Art Elements The elements of art are the basic components. These elements are line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture. Art is not art without at least one of these elements. Let’s look at each element and define it. Line Line is the most basic element of drawing. Line can be thin or thick, horizontal, vertical or diagonal. It can be zigzag or curvy, long or short, rough or smooth. Line is defined as the mark that spans between two points. Shape/Form Shape or form is defined as the space created by edges that set one space apart from another. Shapes can be geometric or organic. Value Value is lightness versus darkness; shadows versus highlights. Is there a full range of value in the piece? Space Space refers to the areas around, below, above, or between the objects. There is positive space; the shapes of the objects and negative space; the areas created in the empty space between the objects. Color Color is one of the more intricate elements and needs a whole article of its own to define. To keep this article brief, I will just say that color is the use of hue in a work of art. Color has three properties, hue being the first and referring...