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kottke.org posts about art

Study of the Creative Specimens

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2020

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study of the Creative Specimens is a collection of fantastical hybrid creatures created for Adobe’s 99U conference by Mark Brooks and illustration studio alademosca. Prints are available from Paper Chase Press. (via colossal)

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite!

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

A group of creatives led by Jessica Hische are creating unofficial posters for the Biden/Harris campaign in order to increase visibility of the campaign.

Last week, I [Jessica Hische] had a good conversation with the Biden creative team. I shared that one of my concerns for the upcoming election was the lack of visible support for the campaign. There are a lot of folx within the creative world and beyond posting on social media about voting (a wonderful and necessary message), but few of those posts mention the candidates by name. It’s somewhat implied that if you’re promoting voting or voting rights that you’re likely voting Biden and encouraging a Biden vote, but it’s not explicit. There’s a “I guess I’ll vote for him if I have to” vibe throughout leftist social media, but exasperated resignation doesn’t get people to the polls.

From top to bottom, art by Jessica Hische, Mary Kate McDevitt, Lauren Hom, and Joanna Muñoz. You can participate by downloading a template that includes the Biden/Harris logo — you can find the link at the bottom of the article.

Works of Fine Art (feat. The Simpsons)

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2020

Simpsons Fine Art

These mashups of fine art with The Simpsons are entertaining, but this one featuring Bart Simpson’s iconic blackboard subtly replaced by Cy Twombly’s 1968 chalkboard drawing Untitled (New York City) — perhaps the ultimate “my kid could have done that” piece of modern art — is a little bit of genius.

Stop Motion Stone Loops

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2020

I love Benoît Leva’s simple stop motion animated loops made from rocks and stones. This bouncing one is my favorite:

View this post on Instagram

on

You can check out more stone animations on his Instagram. (via colossal)

Honoring Jacob Blake

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2020

Sho Shibuya / Jacob Blake

To pass the time during the pandemic, artist and designer Sho Shibuya has been painting sunrise views from his apartment using the front page of the NY Times as a canvas and posting them to Instagram. But he’s also done special editions, like the one above honoring Jacob Blake, the seven holes in the paper representing the seven bullets fired at Blake’s back by a Kenosha police officer trying to murder him. The juxtaposition with that headline is… something.

Eric Godal’s Anti-Fascist Illustrations Updated for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

Piascik Anti Fascist

Piascik Anti Fascist

In the 1930s and 40s, artist Eric Godal drew some anti-fascist political cartoons that urged people not to listen to right-wing authoritarians who want to destroy and pillage society for their own ends. Godal, a German Jew, had escaped the clutches of Nazi Germany in the 30s and labored to warn America and the world about the fate of the Jews in Europe.1

Illustrator Chris Piascik has updated Godal’s drawings for 2020 to feature our own corrupt crackpot wannabe dictator. Calling Donald Trump a fascist is hardly controversial these days — he clearly is. What his supporters need to reckon with is: are they?

  1. Godal’s mother was able to get out of Germany on a boat but was denied entry to the United States as a refugee by the Roosevelt administration. She was sent back and eventually murdered in a Nazi death camp.

Banksy Finances a Mediterranean Refugee Rescue Boat

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2020

Meet the M.V. Louise Michel, a rescue boat operating in the Mediterranean Sea that answers emergency calls from “non-Europeans” seeking refuge in Europe from war, persecution, and authoritarian governments.

Banksy Louise Michel

Here’s the stated mission of the vessel’s crew:

To uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice. We onboard the Louise Michel believe we are all individuals, nationality should not make a difference to what rights one has and how we treat each other. We answer the SOS call of all those in distress, not just to save their souls — but our own.

According to the Guardian, the project came about when Banksy reached out to experienced activist and experienced rescue boat captain Pia Klemp via email:

Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.

Polluted Water Popsicles

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 25, 2020

Polluted Water Popsicles

Three art students, Hung I-chen, Guo Yi-hui, and Cheng Yu-ti, collected polluted water from all over Taiwan and turned them into popsicles.

Hung and her teammates visited 100 locations across Taiwan to collect waste. They then placed the samples — complete with dirt, bugs, and trash — into a freezer, turning them into popsicles. In order to preserve them, they encased the popsicles in a polyester resin.

Hung tells Quartz she hopes the project will raise awareness about water pollution. Her team chose to use popsicles as a motif because they are translucent and because popsicles typically look appealing to the eye. “Such pretty popsicles, would you still want to eat them?” she asks.

The same group did a similar polluted soap project for Hong Kong. (thx, naomi)

Dollar Bill Portraits of Powerful Women

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2020

Dollar bill portrait of AOC

Dollar bill portrait of Cardi B

Artist Claire Salvo is painting portraits of women — mainly women of color — over the depictions of slave-holding Presidents on the front of US currency. You can see her work on Instagram; here are the portraits of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Cardi B, Billie Eilish, and Michelle Obama. Each portrait is accompanied by a time lapse video of its creation.

Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2020

Amy Sherald's portrait of Breonna Taylor

For the cover of Vanity Fair’s September 2020 issue, guest-edited by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Amy Sherald painted a stunning portrait of Breonna Taylor.

For more than 20 years, Amy Sherald has been putting the narratives of Black families and Black people to canvas. In 2016, she became the first woman and first African American to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, which led to her painting Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in 2018. That oil-on-linen portrait was her first commissioned work — until Breonna Taylor.

Taylor is an “American girl, she is a sister, a daughter, and a hard worker. Those are the kinds of people that I am drawn towards,” says Sherald, who is immunosuppressed and has been unable to participate in protests. She calls this portrait a contribution to the “moment and to activism—producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever.”

Sherald’s process typically begins with taking a picture of her subject. Painting Taylor, a person she had never met, who would never be able to sit for her, presented a unique challenge. Sherald took extraordinary care in reimagining Taylor, inflecting her portrait with symbols of the 26-year-old’s life. Sherald found a young woman with similar physical attributes, studied Taylor’s hairstyles and fashion choices, and drew inspiration from things she learned about the young woman — that she had been a frontline worker in the battle against COVID-19; that her boyfriend had been about to propose marriage; that she was self-possessed, brave, loving, loved.

See also Breonna Taylor on the Cover of Oprah Magazine.

The Trinity Cube

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

Paglan Trinity Cube

Paglan Trinity Cube

When the world’s first atomic weapon exploded in New Mexico in July 1945, the energy from the blast formed a new mineral called trinitite from the desert sand. For his 2015 Trinity Cube project, artist Trevor Paglen took irradiated glass gathered from the area around where the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred in 2011 and combined it with trinitite to form a blue cube. He then installed the cube in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone to continue to be irradiated.

The artwork will be viewable by the public when the Exclusion Zone opens again, anytime between 3 and 30,000 years from the present.

Turntable Acrobats Performing Centripetal Illusions

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2020

This is a short but mesmerizing clip of a performance of choreographer Yoann Bourgeois’ “Celui qui tombe” (He who falls) in which six performers move about a spinning platform. The spinning allows them to run without appearing to go anywhere and lean at seemingly impossible angles without Michael Jackson’s patented Smooth Criminal shoes. From a review in the Guardian:

Lowered into a horizontal position, this structure begins to revolve, slowly at first, then faster. Subjected to increasing centrifugal force, the dancers cluster together, their bodies inclining inwards at ever more acute angles. Individuals depart the group and make exploratory sorties, circling the platform as if battling against a great wind.

(Brief science interlude: my high school physics teacher told us never to use “centrifugal force” instead of “centripetal force” because it wasn’t actually a thing. More on that here.)

Anyway, it’s an amazing physical performance to watch. I’ve featured Bourgeois’ choreography on the site before: The Mechanics of History and A Relaxing Acrobatic Performance to Debussy’s Clair de Lune — both use trampolines to create illusions that mess with the viewer’s intuitions about gravity.

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2020

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

Inspired by the charts on Robinhood and Yahoo Finance, Gladys Orteza is turning the charts of notable stocks into landscape artworks, inserting references to the company into the art. The Ford chart at the top has a truck, the Tesla chart features a rocket (a reference to SpaceX), and the Disney one includes the twin suns of Tatooine & a Jawa Sandcrawler.

Reminds me of Michael Najjar’s High Altitude series (stock market charts represented by jagged Andean mountain peaks) and Jill Pelto turning climate change graphs into art. (via waxy)

Bill Murray’s Face Inserted Into Famous Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

Bill Murray History

Bill Murray History

These photoshopped images of Bill Murray by Eddy Torigoe are silly and perfect. The George Washington and American Gothic are uncanny; the Napoleon one is quite good too. (via moss & fog)

A.I. Claudius

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2020

Roman Emperors Photos

Roman Emperors Photos

Roman Emperors Photos

For his Roman Emperor Project, Daniel Voshart (whose day job includes making VR sets for Star Trek: Discovery) used a neural-net tool and images of 800 sculptures to create photorealistic portraits of every Roman emperor from 27 BCE to 285 ACE. From the introduction to the project:

Artistic interpretations are, by their nature, more art than science but I’ve made an effort to cross-reference their appearance (hair, eyes, ethnicity etc.) to historical texts and coinage. I’ve striven to age them according to the year of death — their appearance prior to any major illness.

My goal was not to romanticize emperors or make them seem heroic. In choosing bust / sculptures, my approach was to favor the bust that was made when the emperor was alive. Otherwise, I favored the bust made with the greatest craftsmanship and where the emperor was stereotypically uglier — my pet theory being that artists were likely trying to flatter their subjects.

Some emperors (latter dynasties, short reigns) did not have surviving busts. For this, I researched multiple coin depictions, family tree and birthplaces. Sometimes I created my own composites.

You can buy a print featuring the likenesses of all 54 emperors on Etsy.

See also Hand-Sculpted Archaeological Reconstructions of Ancient Faces and The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture.

The British Museum Is Full of Stolen Artifacts

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2020

The British Museum contains hundreds of contested items, the spoils of the British Empire’s reach (and smash n’ grab) across the globe. Some of the museum’s most popular and prized items are included: the Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Benin Bronzes. The countries from which these artifacts were taken are increasingly asking for their return.

Some of the world’s greatest cultural and historical treasures are housed in London’s British Museum, and a significant number of them were taken during Britain’s centuries-long imperial rule. In recent years, many of the countries missing their cultural heritage have been asking for some of these items back.

Benin City in Nigeria is one of those places. They’ve been calling for the return of the Benin Bronzes, hundreds of artifacts looted in 1897 when British soldiers embarked a punitive expedition to Benin. Many are now housed in the British Museum.

And it’s just the beginning. As the world reckons with the damage inflicted during Europe’s colonial global takeover, the calls for these items to be returned are getting louder and louder.

See also this piece from the NY Times: This Art Was Looted 123 Years Ago. Will It Ever Be Returned?

Lovely Interactive Display of Early 19th-Century Hand-Drawn Illustrations of Minerals

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

Mineralogy Zoom

Mineralogy Zoom

I love this zoomable interactive display of British & Exotic Mineralogy. To create it, Nicholas Rougeux collected 718 hand-drawn mineral illustrations by James Sowerby sourced from a pair of multi-volume books called British Mineralogy and Exotic Mineralogy, published between 1802 and 1817. Then he arranged them according to hue and brightness in a collage worthy of Knoll.

British Mineralogy and Exotic Mineralogy comprise 718 illustrations by James Sowerby in an effort to illustrate the topographical mineralogy of Great Britain and minerals not then known to it. Sowerby’s plates are some of the finest examples of hand-drawn mineral illustrations ever created. The detail and care with which these illustrations were created is incredible and worthy of close examination. See the samples below.

And, oh boy, he’s selling posters of it too.

Ballpoint Pen Portraits by Mark Powell

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2020

Mark Powell Art

Mark Powell Art

Mark Powell Art

Artist Mark Powell draws portraits on repurposed canvases (old maps, newspapers, ads, postcards) with a ballpoint pen. I could have sworn I’d featured Powell’s work before, but I was probably thinking of the work of Ed Fairburn or Matthew Cusick.

The best way to check out Powell’s work is on Behance or on his website (where he has prints and originals for sale). (via colossal)

Bisa Butler’s Colorful Quilted Portraits of Black Americans

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Using colorful African textiles, Bisa Butler makes large quilted portraits of Black Americans. From a statement on her gallery’s website:

In my work, I am telling the story — this African American side — of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.

My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history.

In this short video, you can see how Butler creates her portraits. Look at the amazing sewing machine she uses — it’s got a steering wheel!

You can see more of her work on Instagram and in person at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York through Oct 4, 2020 and at the Art Institute of Chicago starting in November.

Update: I swapped out the previous video embedded above for a longer one that includes sound and an interview w/ Butler. (via @10engines)

Basketball Court Repaired Using the Traditional Japanese Art of Kintsugi

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Kintsugi Court

Kintsugi Court

As part of his Literally Balling project, artist Victor Solomon fixed up a rundown basketball court, repairing the blacktop using the Japanese art of kintsugi. Traditionally, the kintsugi method involves repairing pottery with glue mixed with gold powder, which results in visible cracks, a reminder of the pottery’s past and what it’s been through. Says Solomon of the project:

With the heartbreaking beginning to 2020 and this weekend’s return of basketball — I’ve been thinking about the parallels between sport as a uniting platform to inspire healing and my ongoing experiments with the technique of Kintsugi that embellishes an objects repair with gold to celebrate it’s healing as formative part of the journey.

(via the kid should see this)

Fantastical Overclocked Urban Scenes by Cássio Vasconcellos

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2020

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

For his Collectives series, Cássio Vasconcellos takes crowded urban scenes and stitches them together to form fantastical patterns of human activity that look abstract from far away but detailed close up. These are great onscreen, but I’d love to see them in person someday. I could imagine looking at the highways one for hours, zooming in and out on all the details.

See also Sporting Events Compressed into Single Composite Photos. (via print)

These Flower Paintings “Blur the Lines Between Painting and Sculpture”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2020

Joshua Davison

Joshua Davison

I quite like this work by New Zealand artist Joshua Davison, who uses a palette knife to build these sculptural paintings of flowers. Mmmm, gradients. (via colossal)

Dancer Misty Copeland Recreates Degas Ballet Paintings & Sculpture

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2020

Misty Copeland Degas

As part of their NYC Dance Project and in partnership with Harper’s Bazaar, photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory photographed Misty Copeland, a principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, recreating scenes from the works of French artist Edgar Degas. Above, Copeland poses as the subject of Degas’ La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (Little Dancer of Fourteen Years) dressed in a $9000 Alexander McQueen dress & corset.

The Harper’s piece vaguely hints at his representation of the ballerinas being “far from sympathetic” but as Julia Fiore wrote in The Sordid Truth behind Degas’s Ballet Dancers, the reality of the Parisian ballet that he was depicting was unsettling.

The formerly upright ballet had taken on the role of unseemly cabaret; in Paris, its success was almost entirely predicated on lecherous social contracts. Sex work was a part of a ballerina’s reality, and the city’s grand opera house, the Palais Garnier, was designed with this in mind. A luxuriously appointed room located behind the stage, called the foyer de la danse, was a place where the dancers would warm up before performances. But it also served as a kind of men’s club, where abonnés — wealthy male subscribers to the opera — could conduct business, socialize, and proposition the ballerinas.

Degas himself did not partake in this scene; he was a misogynist celibate, a Belle Époque incel if you will:

For Degas, the fact that young dancers had sex with old men read not as abuse on the part of the latter but as sin on the part of the former. He assumed girls’ transactions with powerful men meant they could pull strings from behind the scenes, a thought that elicited both horror and fascination. Degas clearly saw something vital in his recurring subjects, who spurred quotes from him like, “I have locked away my heart in a pink satin slipper.”

Degas’ disdain for women — and ballerinas in particular — is writ across “Little Dancer” itself, whose sculptural features were altered to emphasize van Goethem’s moral degeneracy. Degas subscribed to physiognomy, which presumes that criminal behaviors are passed on genetically and thus manifest in physical features. And so he flattened van Goethem’s skull and stretched her chin so she appeared especially “primitive,” a visual reflection of an internal state.

The subject of La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, Marie van Goethem, did not remain a ballerina for that long after posing for the sculpture:

Marie van Goethem was the “petit rat” who posed for the sculpture, and she likely engaged in the sexually predatory economy of the ballet world to survive. Van Goethem disappeared from the public eye shortly after the sculpture was completed; after being late to a rehearsal, the Paris Opera Ballet dismissed her. The teenager probably returned home to follow in the footsteps of her mother — a laundress and likely prostitute — and older sister, who was also a sex worker.

I wonder if the photographers were aware of this context when taking these photos? Is there something about the photos, about Copeland’s life story or status as a prominent Black ballerina, or about dressing her in thousands of dollars of contemporary couture that subverts Degas’ work and its themes? If so, I’d be fascinated to read an expert analysis that explored these issues. (via cup of jo)

It’s Self-Portraits All the Way Down

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2020

Artist Seamus Wray is painting a series of self-portraits of himself painting previous self-portraits, Inception-style. Here’s the first painting:

Seamus Wray Portraits

And then the most recent one (cats are increasingly involved):

Seamus Wray Portraits

You can see the full progression so far on his Instagram. The influence of MC Escher is obvious here, but the two things that sprung to mind more immediately for me were Annie Wong’s “time-tunnel artwork” (she takes periodic photographs of her and her son with the previous photograph in the background) and Macaulay Culkin wearing a t-shirt of Ryan Gosling wearing a t-shirt of Macaulay Culkin. Oh, and the Droste effect.

Famous Artworks Mask Up for Coronavirus Prevention

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

On an Instagram account called Plague History, artist Genevieve Blais has been modifying the subjects of artworks to give them face masks. You know I couldn’t resist including her rendition of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

See also Iconic Art & Design Reimagined for the Social Distancing Era, Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic, and Jesus Christ, Just Wear a Face Mask! (via moss & fog)

A Moment of Reflection: On the Paradox of Individual Creative Work

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2020

After producing over 220 art history videos in 6 years, YouTube channel The Art Assignment is going to take an extended break to “reassess what educational art content should look like in 2020 and beyond”. In the video above, creator Sarah Urist Green reflects on her experience so far and what’s happening next. I’m always interested in what people have to say about their projects at inflection points like this, but I was blindsided by the almost total resonance of Green’s remarks with my own thoughts about the advantages & limitations of how I’ve chosen to work here at kottke.org. Here’s an extended quote from the transcript of the particularly resonant bit:

I don’t actually enjoy being on camera, but individual authentic voices have always been at the core of what makes YouTube great. And I’ve been glad to be able to lend my own voice in the hopes of making art and art history more accessible.

Over time I’ve learned to appreciate the specificity of my own point of view — but also its limitations. I’m a person who’s more interested in art from the 1960s than the 1560s. I have a deeper background in art from North America than South America.

Making this channel has been a hugely rewarding way to stretch beyond my formal education and natural inclinations. But any channel on YouTube, and indeed any experience, is shaped by bias and perspective — both the content itself and the way that each of us interprets and responds to it. The fact that my voice sounds grating to some and comforting to others is a reminder of that.

I’ve also learned that these biases are often reinforced by the recommendation algorithms that govern the platforms we frequent. Whether we want to or not, we citizens of the internet work in collaboration with these algorithms to curate information feeds for ourselves. And even if our feeds feel objective, they never are.

The Art Assignment isn’t, and has never been, the history of art or an introduction to the art world. It’s always been my history of art and a glimpse into my art world. I hope that’s been part of what makes it good, but it’s also part of what makes it limited, subjective, and necessarily incomplete.

The more videos we make, the more aware I am of the vast amount we haven’t covered. Trying to make content on this platform that is both educational and also clickable can be a challenging task with many pitfalls.

We’ve used what I think of as a buckshot technique — making a huge variety of kinds and formats of episodes to see what might possibly stick.

In doing so, we’ve discovered that more people click on names of art movements they’ve already heard of, artworks they’ve seen before, and already famous artists (mostly male).

More people watch when I do a hot take about those rare moments when art hits the wider news, like a Banksy stunt or a banana duct-taped to a wall.

I’ve also learned what YouTube viewers are less likely to click on, which is artists they’ve never heard of, artworks they haven’t seen before, and topics that don’t court controversy or outrage. This says something about the YouTube algorithm, but it also says something about what kinds of information we’re all drawn to online. Who wants to watch an educational video when you can watch The Try Guys eat 400 dumplings? (Seriously, I just watched it, it’s great.)

But because I know what tends to get clicked on more and watched for longer stretches, I’ve been more likely to try to serve that to you. Not all the time of course, but even when served in moderation that’s not really good for art history. It reinforces dominant narratives and offers up the same boring old menu of famous artists again and again.

However, I’ve also learned that you all are willing to dive down lesser-known and unexpected rabbit holes of research and bear with me as I simultaneously cook poorly and attempt to understand the eating and cooking lives of artists. You’ve taught me you’re willing to reconsider art and artists you didn’t think you liked, and you’ve tried approaches to art that are far outside of your comfort zones and made beautiful and vulnerable work in response. You’ve tackled really difficult questions with me and been willing to linger in grey zones and leave questions unanswered. I mean we’ve never even established a definition of art on this channel.

Because of your capacity for the abstract and lesser-known, we’ve been able to keep going all these years. And, with the incomparable backing of PBS, we’ve been able to make content not just for the most people, but for an open-minded and discerning audience like you.

I can’t adequately relate to you how unnerving it was for me to hear her say all that — change a few specific references and I very easily could have written it (but not as well). Doing kottke.org is this constant battle with myself: staying in my comfort zone vs. finding opportunities for growth, posting what I like or find interesting vs. attempting to suss out what “the reader” might want, celebrating the popular vs. highlighting the obscure, balancing the desire to define what it is I do here vs. appreciating that no one really knows (myself included), posting clickable things vs. important things I know will be unpopular, protecting myself against criticism vs. accepting it as a gift, deciding when to provoke & challenge vs. when to comfort & entertain, feeling like this is frivolous vs. knowing this site is important to me & others, being right vs. accepting I’ll make mistakes, and saying something vs. letting the content and its creators speak for themselves.

I know that all sounds super dramatic — I don’t intensely feel all of that when I’m working, but that video made me reflect on it hard. And I suspect that many people who do creative work in public struggle in similar ways. Like Green with respect to PBS, I am grateful to kottke.org’s members (“an open-minded and discerning audience” if there ever was one) for their support of my work and trust in the limited & imperfect human who does it.

ISO Isolation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2020

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao’s illustrations depicting isolation, dissociation, and loneliness have taken on an added resonance during the pandemic. In a caption for one of her illustrations, she explains where the drawings come from:

I dissociate a lot. I like to think of my brain as a series of rooms. On good days I’m up front engaging with the world, and on bad days I’m waaay in the back. I can still kind of see and hear what’s going on outside but it’s far away and I don’t feel a part of it. It’s not unpleasant but time moves weird and I feel everything and nothing. A lot of you are connecting with my work because you’re literally stuck inside and probably a little depressed too so…Welcome to my rooms! Please take your shoes off and be nice.

Prints (and more) of Chiao’s work are available. (via colossal)

The Sculptor Tasked with Completing Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

In this meditative short film, Etsuro Sotoo talks about what made him want to spend 41 years working as a sculptor in an attempt to finish Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. From a website dedicated to Sotoo:

In 1978 Etsuro Sotoo arrived in Barcelona. He had just graduated in Fine Arts, he had just one year of experience as an Art teacher. When impressed by the unfinished temple: “It was the most fabulous pile of stones I had ever seen” …He asked for a job as a stonecutter. He wanted to continue the Nativity façade (the only façade that, thanks to his work, would be declared by Unesco World Heritage). He did a test and they gave him the position. Since then, he has completed what Gaudí did not even have time to think about. When he finished with the gaps, he started with the architect’s notes. When the tracks are over, it’s up to him to make decisions.

According to the video, Sotoo even converted to Catholicism as a way for him “to know Gaudí”. (via craig mod)

New Cartoons from The Far Side’s Gary Larson

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

Gary Larson New Work

In 1995, after his massively popular single-panel cartoon The Far Side had run daily in newspapers for 15 years, cartoonist Gary Larson retired at the top of his game and scarcely a peep has been heard from him since. Until recently. Back in September, Larson launched a website for The Far Side with a daily archival cartoon. But then yesterday, Larson revealed that he’s been working on some new stuff with “a digital tablet” (likely an iPad).

The “New Stuff” that you’ll see here is the result of my journey into the world of digital art. Believe me, this has been a bit of a learning curve for me. I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. (True, I don’t get out much.) But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there — a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run and sometimes coming up with “Cow tools.” (Let’s not get into that.) But as a jazz teacher once said to me about improvisation, “You want to try and take people somewhere where they might not have been before.” I think that my approach to cartooning was similar — I’m just not sure if even I knew where I was going. But I was having fun.

There are only three new pieces so far, but I’d guess more are on the way. The new stuff is more painterly and definitely has that drawn-in-Procreate feel to it, but the Larson’s trademark humor is very much in evidence.

See Intricate Details in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in a New Gigapixel Image

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2020

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper

The Royal Academy of Arts and Google teamed up on a high-resolution scan of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painted by his students. Even though the top part of the original is not depicted, this copy is said to be “the most accurate record of the original” and since the actual mural by Leonardo is in poor shape, this copy is perhaps the best way to see what Leonardo intended.

This version was made around the same time as Leonardo made his original. It’s oil paint on canvas, whereas Leonardo’s was painted in tempera and oil on a dry wall — an unusual use of materials — so his has flaked and deteriorated badly. It probably didn’t help that Napoleon used the room where the original hung as a stable during his invasion of Milan.

A zoomable version is available here. The resolution on this scan is incredible. The painting is more than 26 feet wide and this is the detail you can see on Jesus’ downcast right eye:

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper

Wow. You can compare this painting to a high-resolution image of the original on the Haltadefinizione Image Bank or Wikimedia Commons. And you can learn more about the copy and how it relates to the original on the Royal Academy website.

The genius of Leonardo’s composition is much clearer in the RA copy. The apostles are arranged into four groups of three and there are many subtle interactions between the figures. Leonardo believed that gestures were very important in telling the story. He explained that the power of his compositions were such that “your tongue will be paralysed with thirst and your body with sleep and hunger before you depict with words what the painter shows in a moment”.

There are many elements in the copy which are more distinct that the original, such as the figure of Judas clutching his money bag and knocking over the salt. The landscape beyond the windows with its valleys, lakes and paths is well preserved in the copy, but has almost disappeared in the original. Leonardo’s use of colour was was greatly admired, but in the original the colours are very faded — Saint Simon on the extreme right clearly wears a pink cloak, but this is not visible in the original.

(via open culture)