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kottke.org posts about art

How to Draw Yourself as a Peanuts Character

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2021

In this video, The Snoopy Show storyboard artist Krista Porter and Apple’s Anthony Jackson show us how to draw yourself as a Peanuts character. Once you get past all of the Apple synergy stuff (Pages! Pencil! Apple TV+!), this is actually pretty neat and you can obviously do it with any device/app or even pencil & paper. They’ve even included a PDF of drawing references to make it easier.

different faces drawn for Peanuts comic strip characters

See also Watch Charles Schulz Draw Charlie Brown — it takes him about 35 seconds. (via print)

Hilma af Klint, the Life of an Artist

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2021

On his Art History School YouTube channel, Paul Priestley gives a short but thorough overview of the life and work of pioneering abstract artist Hilma af Klint.

Hilma af Klint shared an interest in the spiritual with the other pioneers of abstract art including Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian. And like Hilma af Klint many were drawn to Theosophy, which opened a route towards a new world of spiritual reality, rather than merely depicting visual impressions of the world around them.

Had she not kept her abstract work secret she would surely have held the accolade of producing the world’s first abstract paintings. Instead, Kandinsky’s paintings of 1911 would, until recently, come to be recognised as the first abstract works of art.

(via open culture)

Great Art Explained: van Gogh’s Starry Night

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

Bear with me, I am on a bit of an art kick lately. As I said earlier this week, I’ve been slowly working my way through James Payne’s Great Art Explained video series. But then — bang! — he came out with a new episode on Vincent van Gogh and his masterpiece, Starry Night. Having seen this painting in person for the first time in a few years just days ago at MoMA, I abandoned the back catalog and dug in to this new one immediately.

Van Gogh is one of my favorites — I spent several happy hours at his museum in Amsterdam in 2017 — and Payne does a good job of contextualizing his life and work around the time he painted Starry Night, particularly the emphasis on the influence of Japanese art on his work and his probable incorporation of spiral galaxy imagery into Starry Night. Highly recommended, especially if you’ve seen the painting in person.

Frida Gets Personal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

Evan Puschak looks at how the personal nature, intimacy, and stylistic approachability have given Frida Kahlo’s work enduring and increasing popularity.

Great Art Explained: Michelangelo’s David

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2021

Great Art Explained is one of my favorite newish YouTube channels and I’ve been slowly working my way through their back catalogue. Today’s watch was a 15-minute explanation of one of the signature masterpieces of the Renaissance, Michelangelo’s David. The details related to the carving of the swollen jugular vein and the variable visibility of the veins in the hands is fantastic. (via open culture)

American Gothic + 1 and Other Restored Masterpieces

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2021

Last week I posted about the digital “restoration” of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch with the help of an AI program.

Using a contemporary copy of the full scene painted by Gerrit Lundens and an AI program for getting the colors and angles right, the Rijksmuseum has “restored” The Night Watch, augmenting the painting with digital printouts of the missing bits.

Edith Zimmerman got access to this technology and ran some of her own experiments of famous artworks. You may be shocked and delighted at what she found.

the iconic American Gothic painting with an extra person

A Rembrandt Masterpiece Uncropped by AI

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2021

a full frame version of Rembrandt's The Night Watch painting

In 1715, a significant chunk of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch, including a 2-foot-wide swath from the left side of the painting, was lopped off in order to fit the painting in a smaller space. (WTF?!) Using a contemporary copy of the full scene painted by Gerrit Lundens and an AI program for getting the colors and angles right, the Rijksmuseum has “restored” The Night Watch, augmenting the painting with digital printouts of the missing bits. The uncropped Rembrandt is shown above and here is Lundens’s version:

Gerrit Lundens' version of Rembrandt's The Night Watch painting

I’m not an expert on art, but the 1715 crop and the shift of the principal characters from right-of-center to the center appears to have radically altered the whole feel of the painting.

With the addition especially on the left and the bottom, an empty space is created in the painting where they march towards. When the painting was cut [the lieutenants] were in the centre, but Rembrandt intended them to be off-centre marching towards that empty space, and that is the genius that Rembrandt understands: you create movement, a dynamic of the troops marching towards the left of the painting.

(via @john_overholt)

See 1540 Paintings by Claude Monet in Two Hours

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2021

In just over two hours, this video presents 1540 paintings by impressionist master Claude Monet, a significant portion of his lifetime output. This is a really intriguing way to look at art. It’s not in-person and you don’t get a lot of time with each piece, but the video is HD, you can pause or slow the playback speed, and by seeing a lot of work over a short span of time, you can get a real sense of the stylistic choices and variations across Monet’s oeuvre — a view of the forest rather than the trees. (via open culture)

Bold & Colorful Minimalistic Portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2021

colorful abstract portrait of a woman with a red face

abstract portrait of a woman with colorful hair

colorful abstract portrait of a woman

Check out these striking portraits by Brazilian artist Luciano Cian from his Magna and Kuhle projects. Find more on his website, Behance, and Instagram. (via colossal)

Embroidered Forests

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2021

embroidered forest landscapes by Katrin Vates

embroidered forest landscapes by Katrin Vates

I am enjoying these embroidered forest landscapes by Katrin Vates. The stitching provides a lovely & subtle variable depth to the bushy trees that you don’t get from a drawing or painting.

pOrtal, a Seamless Sci-fi Video Link Between Cities

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2021

video portal between two cities

video portal between two cities

pOrtal is a project that allows for people in two different locations to interact via circular video screens. Right now, the link is between Vilnius, Lithuania and Lublin, Poland but there are plans to add more cities (Reykjavik/Vilnius and Vilnius/London to start). The production is a bit over-the-top (e.g. the video), but the idea of fun, seamless, sci-fi presence between two locations is a good one. (via moss & fog)

Edo Period Shadow Puppetry Woodblock Prints

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

Circa 1842, ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige released an 11-print series revealing the secrets of shadow puppetry performances. From the description of one of these woodblock prints held in the collection at The Minneapolis Institute of Art:

As comic entertainment, shadow performances were among the many diversions, including music and dance, offered at teahouse parties during the Edo period. In the eleven-print series Improvised Shadow Performances, Hiroshige depicted figures making shadows on shōji screens by contorting their bodies. The images demonstrate how to create ingenious shadows and could easily have been used as a how-to guide for clever shadow making.

You can find more of Hiroshige’s shadow prints at Ukiyo-e.org. (via colossal)

Bent Reality

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2021

Bent Reality

Bent Reality

Bent Reality

These surrealistic images were created by Cream Electric Art for a United Airlines ad campaign. Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes on how the Route 66 image was constructed. Prior art: Berg’s Here & There map of Manhattan, Inception, and these curved cityscape panoramas. (via moss & fog)

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai, Explained

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2021

Great Art Explained is a super YouTube series that I am somehow just now learning about that, uh, explains great art. Host James Payne has done about a dozen videos on pieces like Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes, Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych, and Untitled (Skull) by Jean-Michel Basquiat. His latest is about The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai.

In 1639 Japan closed its borders and cut itself off from the outside world. Foreigners were expelled, Western culture was forbidden, and Entering or leaving Japan was punishable by Death. It would remain that way for over 200 years.

It was under these circumstances that a quintessentially Japanese art developed. Art for the people that was consumed on an unprecedented scale.

Really interesting stuff. Subscribed.

See also several different versions of The Great Wave print and The Art of Traditional Japanese Printmaking. (via open culture)

A Harsh Review, Revisited

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2021

This is pretty unusual. Years ago, NY Times film critic AO Scott panned Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic and Silverman, instead of reacting in a typical way, ultimately took his core criticism to heart and changed the way she thought about her comedy. The two of them recently linked up for a conversation about the “challenges both of doing comedy and of writing criticism”, namely that:

You’re supposed to be honest, and you’re supposed to tell the truth and not worry about giving offense. On the other hand, what you do, what I do has a risk of hurting people.

Here’s Silverman:

But the thing you wrote that kind of changed me on a molecular level, which is what, I think, you were kind of onto at the time was completely what I was abusing — and you saw that before anyone else, and you made me see it — which is I’m liberal, so I’m not racist, so I can say the N-word, because I’m illuminating racism.

My intentions were good but ignorant, and it’s funny that in that movie and in the subsequent series I did, my character was ignorant [and] arrogant, but what I didn’t realize was [that I] myself was arrogant [and] ignorant.

I couldn’t help thinking of Pixar’s Ratatouille here, in which the opposite thing happens: the artist changes the critic’s mind.

Watch as David Hockney Pages Through His Sketchbook

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2021

This is a treat: artist David Hockney wordlessly flipping through one of his sketchbooks from 2019 for 6 minutes. For the first few minutes, I thought that some verbal annotation would be nice, but it’s actually perfect as-is — you can just focus on looking. (via open culture)

Banksy Graffitied Walls And Wasn’t Sorry

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2021

the cover of Banksy Graffitied Walls And Wasn't Sorry

Banksy Graffitied Walls And Wasn’t Sorry is biography of street artist Banksy written for children by Fausto Gilberti. Gilberti has also written kid’s books about other artists: Jackson Pollock Splashed Paint and Wasn’t Sorry, Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry, and Yves Klein Painted Everything Blue and Wasn’t Sorry.

Everyday Objects, Sliced

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2021

a sculpture of a shoe sliced apart and put loosely back together

a sculpture of a camera sliced apart and put loosely back together

Fabian Oefner takes physical objects apart and puts them back together into exploded/fragmented sculptures.

The sculptures of the Heisenberg Series are based on Werner Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty Principle. This theory states, that you can not measure two separate parameters of a particle simultaneously. You can either determine one parameter and ignore the other or vice versa, but you can never know everything at once.

Oefner took this idea from the world of physics and created an artistic equivalent of it. The sculptures are made of five different everyday objects: shoes, a clock, a tape recorder and a black box. The artist filled these with resin and carefully sliced them into hundreds of individual parts. He then rearranged the slices into a distorted new version of the object, that lets you see its inner workings.

Through this transformation, the objects have a peculiar effect on their observer: When you look at them from a distance, you can easily identify the object. However, if you start to get closer to observe its inner workings, the shape of the object starts to get distorted and vanishes completely. As an observer you are never able to observe the object as a whole and its inner workings simultaneously. The more accurately we see one view, the less clearly we see the other.

When I first glanced at Oefner’s images, I thought they were uninterestingly digital — 3D-generated images digitally manipulated or some such — but they’re real-world things actually sliced apart. (via colossal)

“The Woman Who Made van Gogh”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2021

Self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh

There are certain writers that, when I see their byline, I read their stuff, even if it takes me a few weeks to find the time. Ever since reading his excellent The Island at the Center of the World, Russell Shorto has been one of those writers. His latest piece, The Woman Who Made van Gogh, tells the story of Jo van Gogh-Bonger who, after both her husband Theo and her brother-in-law Vincent died within a year and a half of each other, worked tirelessly for decades to get Vincent’s work out into the world.

The brothers’ dying so young, Vincent at 37 and Theo at 33, and without the artist having achieved renown — Theo had managed to sell only a few of his paintings — would seem to have ensured that Vincent van Gogh’s work would subsist eternally in a netherworld of obscurity. Instead, his name, art and story merged to form the basis of an industry that stormed the globe, arguably surpassing the fame of any other artist in history. That happened in large part thanks to Jo van Gogh-Bonger. She was small in stature and riddled with self-doubt, had no background in art or business and faced an art world that was a thoroughly male preserve. Her full story has only recently been uncovered. It is only now that we know how van Gogh became van Gogh.

Because of her work, Vincent van Gogh is a household name all over the world and even the way people think about artists and their art forever changed.

Low Poly Landscapes

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

Lovely work here by Elyse Dodge — these look like half-finished renderings by the machine that’s simulating our universe. You can keep up with her work on Instagram or get some for yourself in her shop. (via moss & fog)

Desus and Mero Go to the Met Museum

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2021

After months of lockdown and closure due to the pandemic, Desus Nice & The Kid Mero go to the Met Museum in NYC to take in some art. Would 100% take a tour of any art museum with these two astute cultural commentators.

Rotating Lights in the Desert

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2021

Always a pleasure to see new work from Reuben Wu, whose stuff I’ve featured here before. For this piece, Wu journeys into the audiovisual realm, combining his light-forward photography with his music production work (he’s a member of the band Ladytron). Colossal, as usual, has the skinny:

For EX STASIS, Wu programmed a stick of 200 LED lights to shift in color and shape above the calm landscapes. He captured the mesmerizing movements in-camera, and through a combination of stills, timelapse, and real-time footage, produced four audiovisual works that juxtapose the natural scenery with the artificially produced light and electronic sounds. “As it gets dark, my surroundings cease to be an exterior experience and become a subliminal space, and that’s when I feel most connected and aware of my sense of being,” Wu says. “This dynamic terrestrial chiaroscuro synchronizes with my sound design and music to form singular looping pieces.”

“Dynamic terrestrial chiaroscuro”!!! Also, this photo from Wu’s Insta is just fricking beautiful. (via colossal)

How to Draw a Self-Portrait in 11 Levels of Increasing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2021

In this video, artist TM Davy demonstrates how to draw a self-portrait in 11 levels of increasing complexity. As he notes early on, this isn’t so much about the mechanics of art as the levels of thinking that go into creating a portrait. Davy defines complexity as “the layers of thinking that help us to build observational truths that are necessary for a picture that somehow feels right”.

In his journey towards complexity in portraiture, he starts with the “solar head” (basically a smiley face) and moves to individually identifying features, depicting simple volume & proportion, and the more complex geometry of the human face. From there, observation becomes increasingly important — he uses variations on “looking” or “observing” many times in his explanation — as he covers contours, light & shadow, chiaroscuro, and color.

See also Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks and A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity.

Building Black: Ekow Nimako’s All-Black Lego Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2021

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

For his series called Building Black, Ekow Nimako uses only black Lego pieces to build fantastical and futuristic sculptures based on West African masks, folklore, and medieval kingdoms. From Colossal:

Running through each of these artworks is a fluid understanding of time and space that blurs the distinction between generations, locations, and histories in order to imagine a new reality. “We are all living proof of our ancestors, all their joy, love, knowledge, and pain. They live in our DNA,” the Ghanaian-Canadian artist says. “Aesthetically, I enjoy taking elements from bygone eras and creating futuristic landscapes, particularly of African utopias to imagine a liberated existence for us all.”

That blurred temporality that foregrounds his sculptures and installations parallels his own trajectory, as well. “My art practice developed when I was four years old, as I constantly told myself I want to do this (play with LEGO) forever, and sometimes it feels as though my future self communicated with my past self, astrally perhaps, to ensure this very specific destiny manifested,” he says, noting that the plastic blocks have remained a fixture in both his personal and professional life since becoming a father.

Vice did a short video feature on Nimako and his work:

(via colossal)

Amy Sherald: The Great American Fact

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2021

Amy Sherald painting

Amy Sherald painting

Painter Amy Sherald is displaying new work at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in LA through June 6: The Great American Fact. One thing I really notice in her art now, after watching the excellent documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light, is how at least one person in her paintings is looking directly at the viewer. Here’s Sherald talking about that in the documentary:

The eyes tell you what’s in the soul and, for me, the people that I paint, they’re no longer themselves in the painting. They are these archetypes that know they are present. These aren’t passive portraits — they’re maybe subversively confrontational, if you will — but it’s definitely a response to a lot of images I saw growing up where our gaze was always averted. Or thinking about the fact that you couldn’t look at a white person in the eye. So, this is my way of nodding my head at that narrative and empowering the image in a way. I like the paintings hung a little lower for that reason so when the viewer walks up, it’s a different conversation. You’re not looking up at it — it’s almost looking directly at you and I think that creates a different kind of sensation.

She also says of her subjects: “It’s important for me that they’re just Black people being Black” and I think that really comes through in this new work. (via colossal)

The Art of Traditional Japanese Printmaking

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2021

There are many steps in making traditional Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e), but this short video focuses on the printing process as demonstrated by master printmaker Keiji Shinohara. This is a delight to watch — Shinohara’s deliberate precision is impressive and inspiring.

My absolute favorite part of this video is at the 3:40 mark when he precisely and firmly grasps the pressing tool (called a baren), swipes it on his face three times, and then uses it to press the paper into the inked block. This pre-press face maneuver is repeated several times but otherwise goes unremarked upon in the video — one of the commenters offers this explanation: “The oils from his face help grip the paper, making a firm and even press.” (via open culture)

You Don’t Know What’s Going On In People’s Lives

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2021

You Don't Know What's Going On In People's Lives

You Don't Know What's Going On In People's Lives

Illustrator Hazel Mead created a pair of pieces called You Don’t Know What’s Going On In People’s Lives: the original version and one featuring children. The images above are snippets from the larger images, both of which are available as prints in Mead’s shop. (via cup of jo)

Update: Several people sent me a link to this video from Cleveland Clinic that is very similar to Mead’s illustrations.

The Louvre Puts Its Massive Collection of Art Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2021

Louvre Online

Louvre Online

Louvre Online

Louvre Online

Louvre Online

Late last week, the Louvre announced that it had put its entire collection online, over 482,000 works in all.

Designed for both researchers and curious art lovers, the collections.louvre.fr database already contains more than 482,000 entries, including works from the Louvre and the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, sculptures from the Tuileries and Carrousel gardens, and ‘MNR’ works (Musées Nationaux Récupération, or National Museums Recovery) recovered after WWII and entrusted to the Louvre until they can be returned to their legitimate owners. For the first time ever, the entire Louvre collection is available online, whether works are on display in the museum, on long-term loan in other French institutions, or in storage.

With so many works, where to start? Try these “playlists” created by the museum, e.g. Masterpieces of the Louvre or Major Events in History. Or try the search function and find, for instance, all of the museum’s works by Leonardo da Vinci or Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (one of the very few women whose art is on display at the museum).

Paintings on Found Trash That Blend Into the Landscape

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2021

Mariah Reading

Mariah Reading

Mariah Reading

Eco-artist Mariah Reading finds discarded objects in National Parks, on native lands, and in other natural environments and paints impressionistic landscapes on them so they blend into the backgrounds of the places they were found. Atlas Obscura has an interview with Reading about her work.

The first piece I did that was a single object, not a bunch of [objects] stuck together. I was working at Guadalupe Mountains National Park and along its edge there was a major highway. I would walk along it and find a lot of car parts, just a lot of scrap things that fall off as the cars are whizzing past. I found half of a hubcap, and I took a closer look at it and realized it had cracked perfectly to form the silhouette of the mountain range I was standing in front of. I had a vision that I would just paint the land onto it and use the shape of the object to inform the piece. That’s when I started getting more into photography, too. Then my finished work shifted to not just being the painting, but also the painting photographed in the land where it was found.

That piece, called “El (Hub)Capitan”, is pictured at the top of this post. You can check out more of Reading’s work on her website and on Instagram. (via the morning news)

XXXX Swatchbook, a Book of CMYK Embroidery

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2021

XXXX Swatchbook

XXXX Swatchbook

XXXX Swatchbook

Back in January, Clive Thompson asked his Twitter followers for links to books of unusual dimensions. In the resulting thread, people shared images and links to books of all different shapes and sizes, from Irma Boom’s miniature books to the Codex Gigas to a book of Kraft American Singles (my contribution). Designer Evelin Kasikov’s XXXX Swatchbook, a handmade book about CMYK printing constructed entirely of embroidery thread and paper, would fit nicely into that collection.

XXXX Swatchbook shows the range of colours that can be achieved in handmade printing technique. But it also twists the idea of print by turning quick reproduction process into slow handmade process. It’s a book about a process, and with no less than six years in the making, the book itself is a process. It’s a catalogue of colour, a unique art book and an object of book art. The book documents 400 hand-stitched colour swatches in CMYK embroidery. The line screen in my book is incredibly low and ranges between 4 to 7 lines per inch (as opposed to 300 lpi in standard printing).

See also Embroidery that Breaks the Fourth Wall and The Embroidered Computer. (via colossal)