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Monday, June 27, 2016

Donald Zolan

Angel Triptych, Donald Zolan...always sweet little girls.
Heilige Schutzengel
 (Holy Guardian Angel)
by Lindberg.
As a small child there hung in my bedroom a cheap reproduction of a painting by an artist named Lindberg. There seems to be no record of whether that's his first or last name or what either might have been, although judging by the imitations and variations I've found, it's apparent the work remains popular even today. The painting depicts a lovely winged female figure (right) watching over two young souls making their way across a rather rickety bridge. There's little doubt as to the country of origin, given the title, Heilige Schutzengel, (Holy Guardian Angel), which is obviously German. In any case, that was what passed for children's art a century or more ago. Today, we still find angelic beings in children's art but they've changed a little, usually taking the form of that which art experts refer to as puti. They came out of the Renaissance, direct descendants of the Roman Cupid and the Greek Eros. Today's children's angels, whether of the guardian type or not, usually resemble the work of Arizona artist, Donald Zolan, as seen in his Angel Triptych (top). Strangely enough, none of these depictions are scripturally accurate. In the Bible, angels are always men.

Donald Zolan in his studio, ca. 2006.
This is not so much about the work of Donald Zolan as it is about the nature of children's art today. In fact, when you go in search of children's art you find ten times more work by children than for children. The prevailing attitude seems to be if kids want art to decorate their rooms, they can just make it themselves. Of course, art intended for children is actually aimed at parents. Children don't buy such work, their parents do (usually their mothers). Having said that, the offspring, even at a fairly young age, still have no small amount of input into the buying decision. I've chosen to highlight Zolan's work simply because it is so typical of today's "mainstream" art for children. Moreover, Zolan was at it for more than fifty years, (he died in 2009 at the age of seventy-one) so he probably knew what he was doing.

Untitled (as far as I can tell), Donald Zolan. I'd call it
Wild Goose Chase, but it might be a duck, and anyway, it's not wild.
Born in 1937 with a family legacy of five generations of artists and sculptors, Donald Zolan grew up in Brookfield, Illinois. His middle-class parents, according to his website, "...embodied the values of the Heartland--honesty, humility, and straightforwardness." That's probably true, there was a lot of that sort of thing going around at the time. His paintings, almost exclusively of small children, seem to confirm those character traits. What he captured in his paintings was the pure, honest, and open expression of his heart.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Donald Zolan
Something of a child prodigy, Zolan began drawing and painting at the age of three, though it was another ten years before he won his first scholarship in oils to the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduation from high school, he won a full scholarship to the American Academy of Fine Art in Chicago. Once more he was a fast learner. He completed the Academy’s four-year program in just two years. From there, Zolan apprenticed under Haddon Sundblom, the well-known illustrator of the Coca Cola Santa Claus. Zolan's Christmas paintings bear the unmistakable marks of Sunblom's influence (above). Later, Zolan attended the Arts Students League in New York City.

21st Century Children's art
Zolan pursued a fine arts career exhibiting and selling his oil paintings at shows and museums throughout North America, Europe, United Kingdom, and Japan. He won numerous awards including Best of Show at the Salmagundi Club in New York. His success led to the opening of the Zolan Gallery on Nantucket Island. By the mid 1970’s, as Zolan’s reputation in the fine art world flourishing, his portrait commissions expanding to include political leaders, writers, religious figures, astronauts, and industrialists from around the world. But Zolan’s first love was painting children. By that time also, he had developed a fresh new style in children's paintings, which launched his career into the collectibles and licensing world. His work displayed a prodigious talent at portraying the joyfulness, innocence, tenderness and wide eyed wonder of early childhood, which propelled him to the top as his works commanded some of the highest secondary market values at the time.
Zolan's kids became the faces of a whole new generation of farmers.
Zolan had the ability to constantly adapt the artwork to the changing times yet always keeping within his classical style. His subject matter became a natural to co-brand with some of America’s greatest trademarks. In 1996, Zolan’s nostalgic portrayal of children on the farm led to a mingling with John Deere tractors his first licensing success. In the last decade of his life, Zolan’s work was also branded with Coleman, New York Yankees, Radio Flyer, International Harvester, and Collegiate. Today, Zolan’s artwork is licensed to 30 multinational companies in North America, Europe and Russia.
Children's art today--prints and plates
As Zolan’s childhood depictions came to grace collectible plates, prints, figurines, children’s books, and other licensed products over some thirty years, expanded, so did his generosity in directly helping children and those in need. Whether visiting children’s hospitals; giving money directly to struggling families; donating artworks to nursing homes, children’s homes, and hospitals; or simply helping aspiring artists to start their careers, Zolan always gave from the heart and anonymously. Donald Zolan leaves behind an enormous legacy of artwork with over 200 oil paintings in the collection that will continue to be licensed nationally and internationally by his wife, Jennifer. Zolan’s sudden death did not allow him an opportunity to fulfill all of his dreams, but his legacy will go on, with plans to establish a children’s museum and programs to help young, needy and aspiring artists reach their artistic dreams. And that's where Children's art is as of today.
Rainy Day Pals, Donald Zolan
(GIF by Jim Lane).

Sunday, June 26, 2016


A GIF art lesson (be patient for it to start).
Yesterday, some friends and relatives were sitting around talking about the olden days before Wi-Fi, at which time I came to realize that I've had an Internet presence now for more than twenty years! I got my first modem for Christmas, 1995. WOW! How time flies when you're having fun. And it has been fun...every minute of it. Very few people noticed it at the time (because so few people even had computers, much less the Internet, but about ten years before I came on line, a group of software developers in Columbus, Ohio, led by Steve Wilhite, came up with a totally new art medium capable of making digital images move. 
The 1980s and 90s, tech breakthroughs came
like lightning in a thunderstorm.
The famous dancing baby.
They called it the Graphics Interchange Format, better known by its acronym, GIF. Under normal circumstances, such a startling invention would have been hailed as a technological breakthrough just short of color TV and having a greater impact than say...Rice Krispies? But as it was, such digital developments at the time were occurring like lightning in a thunderstorm. The reaction was...hmmm, interesting...did you hear about this new company called AOL that's doing away with hourly Internet access rates? CompuServe's new GIF format was little noticed until along came a dancing baby. Today we'd say the little toddler went "viral," though the term hadn't yet arrived. That was roughly 1990. Today, Wilhite's crude little creature has been replaced with the real thing, yet still using the same basic technology (below).

Get down, little guy!
We need your dancefloor for lunch.
If what nerdy math geniuses in dimly lit computer labs could do with this new image medium was little short of miraculous, putting GIF soft-ware in the hands of artists was like giving candy to a baby. (Speaking of babies, do you have any idea how hard it is to write with a drooping diaper dancing directly next to your text?) During the next several years the use of eye-catching little GIF icons spread like butter on a hot sidewalk to early websites like my own (which probably still has a few even after all these years).

It's called "morphing" and its all the GIF rage right now.
Of course, even as GIFs grew in size and dazzling complexity, such artwork became tiresome as an attention getting device. They were, by their very nature, repetitious and boring after the first couple minutes (are you bored with the dancing toddler yet?) Worse, once they started, there was no way to stop them. However, it was about this time that the Internet porn industry latched on to video GIFs where boredom was seldom a problem and repetitious movements were assets. Since then, video-based GIFs have become something of a cottage industry for video hobbyists and artists alike (above).

Giphey. Don't stare too long, it might be hypnotic.
When math, science, and art meet...
For Op (optical) artists, the very fact that it's "hard to stop a GIF" was like someone having invented for them a perpetual motion machine. No longer did they have to rely on the optical phenomenon of retinal fatigue to make their images move. GIFs did it for them...and did it longer and better. The word, mesmerizing, comes to mind as the only term appropriate. Surrealists also noticed the new art medium and latched onto its conflicting realities in creating a whole new hybrid era of dreamlike digital creations (below).

Think what Edvard Munch
could have done with GIFs
Peter Pan with a hyperactive

To my way of thinking, the greatest beauty of GIF technology is the relative simplicity and ease of use inherent in GIF creation software. Today I download a program called Blumenthal's Easy GIF Animator. I'm still using it in demonstration mode (free) but I plan to spend $29.95 for it, if for no other purpose than to create GIF animations for use here as the need arises to make some point regarding the artwork I feature. The word "Easy" in the name is, of course, relative. It's easy if you've had experience in editing photos, or in creating video productions. The little GIF video (below), which I made today (after two false starts) honors the memory of our dearly departed Pounci. And although it's not very sophisticated, once I got the knack, it took less than half an hour.

Not quite a cat, not quite a kitten...
Perhaps one of the most valuable contributions GIF software may make is when its placed in the hands of educators. Not only is it capable of teaching an entire lesson (such as in art, top) with a single, well-planned image, but it's also possible to "retrofit" the GIF format to famous paintings from the past making it possible for Picasso's Two Women Running on the Beach (below), dating from 1922, to get some virtual exercise; or in the case of van Gogh's Starry Night, to come alive with simulated visual movement. Speaking of van Gogh, The GIF image also makes it possible to do a quick and easy study of van Gogh's many portraits, their similarities and differences (bottom).

Two Women Running on the Beach, 1922. Pablo Picasso
Starry Night, 1889, Vincent van Gogh
Would van Gogh love it or hate it.
I think he'd be "crazy" about it.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tarsila do Amaral

Abaporu, 1928, Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporu
Art is not monolithic. That is to say, we can't talk about art as if it were some kind of rotating planet without grossly distorting the fact that every major nation on this planet has its own art, or is, at least, in the ongoing process of developing its own "brand" of art indigenous to that particular nation and its people. Moreover each nation's art is not born fully developed but follows a predictable pattern of development much as a baby becomes first a toddler, then a young child, followed by preadolescence, puberty, adolescence, young adulthood, and finally, maturity. If you want to follow the analogy into doddering old age, you're invited to do so but realize that, as with every analogy, this one tends to break down if overextended. Our country, the United States of America (better known as American art) followed that same course in the years after our separation from Great Britain. We really didn't reach maturity until the advent of the 20th-century. Until then, like children growing up, we tended to imitate our parents (England, but also Europe in general).
El Pescador, Tarsila do Amaral
We, as Americans, are so self-centered with regard to art that we seldom notice all the other "art children" growing up around us--nations whose colonial childhood came a few decades after our own. Like children, they have been as much influenced by their peers and/or older siblings (us) as by their parents. The smaller the country, the more difficult this growth into a mature individualism becomes. South America is rife with just such cases. Shortly after these countries gained independence. the impressionable young artists went sailing off to Europe (usually France) to imitate their "parental" culture. Consider it a kind of "homesickness" if you like, but once exposed to this foreign influence, many come to realize that what the went in search of was not superior to what they'd left behind. Each went back home after a few years, wizened, but also disheartened that those they left behind had not matured artistically as they had. Only then did they come to realize that they were, themselves, the means by which their nation's art would reach maturity. A little over a year ago I wrote about the Brazilian painter, Anita Malfatti, Her life and times were similar to that of her friend, Tarsila do Amaral.
Elegant, pretty, and glamorous, as seen in her photos and
self-portraits, Amaral brought all those qualities to a
very tired, conservative Brazilian art world.
Though Anita Malfatti was slightly younger than Tarsila, she made the obligatory breakaway flight to Europe (Germany, actually) nearly ten years before earlier and suffered much more for it upon returning than Tarsila, who headed off to Paris in 1920. Tarsila do Amaral studied at the Academie Julian. She spent just two years there, returning to Sao Paulo in 1922, whereupon she met Anita Malfatti for the first time. Malfatti had been exposed to German Expressionism. Tarsila had absorbed Cubism and Futurism. Their art was nothing alike but their goals were identical--to roust Brazilian art out of its colonial conservatism into the world of Modern Art.
Portrait of Mario de Andrade,
Tarsila do Amaral, whom she
later married.
Both young women (Tarsila was born in 1886, Malfatti in 1889) had studied first in Sao Paulo, though probably at different schools in that Tarsila's family were wealthy coffee growers, while Malfatti was not quite so fortunate. Only when they met, along with Menotti Del Picchia, and the brothers Mário(right) and Oswald de Andrade to form the Grupo dos Cinco (Group of Five) did they come to the full realization that they were to be the ones destined to bring Brazilian art to maturity.
For her part, Tarsila (even then known by her first name only) briefly returned to Paris where she embraced the more esoteric elements of Cubism before returning home, where she blended Cubism with the native culture with which she'd grown up. While in Europe, Tarsila found that European artists in general had developed a great interest in African and primitive cultures as inspiration. This led her to utilize her own country's indigenous forms while incorporating the modern styles she had studied. While still in Paris at this time, she painted one of her most famous works, A Negra dating from 1923. The principal subject matter of the painting is a large, female, Brazilian native figure with a single prominent breast. Tarsila stylized the figure and flattened the space, filling in the background with geometric forms (below, left column, third painting down).

A broad assortment of Amaral's work, mostly from the 1920s.
In search of her own style, Amaral emphasized that Brazilian culture was a product of an importing European culture. She and others in the "Group of Five" called upon artists to create works that were uniquely Brazilian in order to "export" Brazilian culture, much like the native hardwoods of Brazil had become an important export to the rest of the world. In addition, she challenged artists to use a modernist approach in their art, a goal they had strived for during the Semana de Arte Moderna (Week of Modern Art) several years before. During this time, Tarsila's colors became more vibrant as she rediscovered the colors she had loved as a child. She had been taught before that they were ugly and unsophisticated. Furthermore, around this time, Tarsila developed an interest in painting the industrialization she was seeing in and around Sao Paulo and its impact on society.

During the 30s and beyond Amaral's paintings began
to take on social themes.
In 1926, Tarsila married Mario de Andrade as the two continued to travel throughout Europe and Middle East. She had her first solo exhibition at Paris' Galerie Percier in 1926. The paintings displayed included São Paulo (1924), A Negra (1923), Lagoa Santa (1925), and Morro de Favela (1924). Her works were praised as being "exotic", "original", "naïve", and "cerebral", as critics commented on her use of bright colors and exotic tropical images. Paris loved her. Sao Paulo...not so much. In 1929, Tarsila had her first solo exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, followed by another in São Paulo. In 1930, she was later featured in exhibitions in New York and Paris. Her marriage to Andrade ended in 1930, also bringing an end to their collaboration.

in 1932, Tarsila became involved in the São Paulo Constitutional Revolt against the Brazilian dictator, Getúlio Vargas. She was seen as leftist, and was briefly imprisoned in that an earlier trip to Russia made her appear to be a communist sympathizer.
The remainder of her career Tarsila focused on social themes such as Segundo Class (below), from 1931, and Operarios (above) from 1933. Segundo Class depicting impoverished Russian men, women and children as its subject matter. In 1938, Tarsila settled permanently in São Paulo where she spent the remainder of her career painting Brazilian people and landscapes. In 1950, she had an exhibition at the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art, where a reviewer praised her as "...the most Brazilian of painters...who represents the sun, birds, and youthful spirits of our developing country, as simple as the elements of our land and nature..." Tarsila do Amaral died in 1973 at the age of eighty-seven. Her life was a symbol of the warm Brazilian character combined with an expression of its tropical exuberance.

Segunda Classe, 1933, Tarsila do Amaral


Friday, June 24, 2016

Name this Artist

As I do from time to time, I've put together a little quiz for those who think they know something about art. Every one of the artists below you've no doubt heard of, but have not associated their names with their art. In making it a little easier I've included an interesting clue beneath each work which may, or may not, help in identifying the artist. Beyond that, I've even included two self-portraits. Please e-mail me at if you can identify one or more of the artists. I'll be happy to post the name of the first art expert getting the most correct. Good luck!

1. He paid his taxes with paintings.

2. He painted on his front porch.

3. Twice he was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art.

4. Famous artist of Italian descent.

5. Son of a painter, father of a painter

6. His father was Irish, his mother Mexican.

7. Famous for his nude self-portraits.

8. One of his earliest paintings.

9. High on a hill in Rome.

10. One of his few watercolors.

On two of the paintings I've left the signature intact. Can you find them?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

John Altoon

Looks real, doesn't it? It's not. John Altoon's 1963 political statement
was never published, or even commissioned, by the magazine.

Two Figures and Dove,
ca. 1957, John Altoon
Most art buyers don't realize it; and one might go so far as to say it's kind of a modest little secret seldom mentioned in the world of high art; but when someone purchases an ex-pensive work of art, the buyer is actually paying for the "persona" of the artist as much, or more than, the work of art itself. I could easily paint in the manner of Picasso, as could most artists. But short of fraudulently passing it off as by Picasso's own hand, the painting would be worth little more than the cost of the supplies (if that). Certainly, for a young artist on the make, the quality of the work and the uniqueness of his or her ideas are crucial. But as prices rise, as they sometimes skyrocket to ridiculous heights, there gradually ceases to be any relationship whatsoever between prices and quality. There is, on the other hand, a direct relationship having to do with how colorful, exceptional, even tragic that artist's life may have been. That factor becomes more and more the case with Modern Art and its Postmodern progeny. The California abstract expressionist, John Altoon, is an excellent example.

The artist's "image" meant more than his art images.
Although John Altoon had all the academic credentials, and even taught college art classes at Los Angeles' Art Center, where he'd done his undergraduate work around 1949, his art was not really exceptional. L.A. born in 1925, Altoon was of the right generation to embrace Abstract Expressionism, which he did. However, he is more notably recalled today for his idiosyncratic figurative abstractions, rife with oddball biomorphic forms, frenetic in approach, yet in color, imagery, and attitude, representative not of the New York School, but of Los Angeles. An artist friend, Billy Al Bengston, praised Altoon as, "...the most brilliant, off-the-top guy. It probably killed him to have to think because he'd just come up with things and he'd do [them]."

Altoon was included in the inaugural show of L.A.’s iconic Ferus Gallery in 1957. From the left: John Altoon, Craig Kauffman, Allen Lynch, Ed Kienholz, Ed Moses, Robert Irwin, Billy Al Bengston
John Altoon was an influential avant-garde artist who dominated the Los Angeles art scene of 1950s and ‘60s as much by his charismatic personality as with his paint brushes. Most of his works fall under the heading of Abstract Expressionism, but it would be more accurate to say he "used" the movement rather than contributed much to it. He rose to prominence as a part of a group of artists known as the "Ferus Group" because of their association with the Ferus Gallery, an important L.A. art landmark of the era. Altoon was included in the inaugural show of the Gallery in 1957, along with artists Jay DeFeo, Richard Diebenkorn, and Clyfford Still, and was part of the gallery’s star-studded roster alongside Wallace Berman, Ed Kienholz, Robert Irwin, and Billy Al Bengston. This group also included artists such as Robert Irwin, Ed Ruscha, Ed Moses and Larry Bell. Altoon was a highly popular figure in this circle largely due to this boisterous presence and passionate individuality, which have left us with a far greater art legacy than his paintings.

Untitled 1961 (top-left); Untitled (Sunset series, top-right), 1964; Untitled, 1965 (bottom-right). The titles aren't much help.
With his outsized personality and reckless intensity, John Altoon loomed large in the L.A. art scene of that era. But by the time he turned thirty, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia suffering bouts of depression and paranoia. However, in the early 1960s Altoon became a patient of Dr. Milton Wexler, a prominent L.A. psychoanalyst who restored his ability to work. The period from that time until his death was the most productive and stable years in his life. During this time Altoon was considered a prominent member of several Los Angeles art circles, a man with an imposing character, but also a man who was an alcoholic, and who saw few limits when it came to living life.

Teaching and painting JAZZ!
From near the beginning of his art career, Altoon forged connections to jazz in his paintings. One of his earliest works, Jazz Players (above, right), ca. 1950, depicts two saxophone players in a figural composition that appears to foreshadow his decision to use jazz musicians as models in the Art Center class (above, left). He also contributed five album covers to the West Coast Artists Series for Pacific Jazz Records, a Los Angeles–based record label. When Altoon’s friend, noted jazz photographer William Claxton, became art director for the label, he invited a number of California artists, including Altoon, to create original artwork for the series. Altoon’s album covers (four of which are seen below) included cover art for some of the most prominent jazz artists on the west coast. Yet, despite his success, and to some extent because of it, there was always the matter of the artist's temperamental personality; a man plagued by bouts of depression, boisterous hard-drinking, skirt-chasing alternating with episodes of mania that often turned destructive and ugly. John Altoon died young, in 1969, at the age of forty-three from a massive heart attack--all a part of the artist's personal story, that which causes collectors to cherish his art...and pay dearly for it.

Top-left to right: The Jazz Messengers featuring Art Blakey, Ritual, 1957, cover art by John Altoon, design by William Claxton; Chet Baker Big Band, 1956; Russ Freeman and Chet Baker, Quartet, 1957; West Coast Jazz, Solo Flight, 1957, cover art by John Altoon, design by William Claxton.
Coffee Drinkers, 1953, John Altoon


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hanging Art

If you can still do this after joint picture hanging session,
the marriage should be a long and happy one.
In my book, Art THINK (available at right), I talk briefly about displaying art, though mostly from the standpoint of selling it. And, God knows, I've certainly hung a ton of it in my lifetime, both my own, and that of students, I don't think I've ever written about the rules and regulations governing the hanging of artwork in the home. I'm being facetious. There are no rules except those related to your thumb and even those are so laden with exceptions as to be all but worthless. I guess I should begin by saying that picture hanging is not an exact science. Neither is it "rocket science." The best we can do is to begin each sentence having to do with the art of hanging art with the words, "In general." That is, in general, the center of a work of art (or picture grouping)should be at average eye-level, some sixty inches from the floor. Now, if you want to pursue a more definitive number than that, you'll encounter everything from fifty-seven inches to sixty-seven inches. So, there are virtually no rules, only suggestions, generalities, and tips...oh yeah...lots and lots of tips. And if you're not real handy with a hammer, maybe fingertips as well.

A full-scale mockup, and
probably too much of a
good thing.
The first of these tips applies as much to hanging art as to creating art--plan ahead. Don't grab a hammer and start pounding nails, hoping to hit the "nail on the head' in getting it in the right place. There are several ways to avoid this. A sheet of quarter-inch grid graph paper is a good place to start. Draw the wall, to scale along with window opening and any furniture placed against it or nearby. Then measure the art work and start sketching it to scale. Once you've worn down your eraser by at least half, you're probably ready to start measuring for nail holes. There's a lot to be said for trial and error in art (and in displaying it) but not if you don't own the wall. If you can't handle all that drawing, cut sheets of brown paper or leftover giftwrap the size of your artwork and tape it (lightly) to the wall in various configurations. Then stand back and contem-plate the results. In most cases, framed work should be hung no less than two inches apart and seldom more than six. Remember that the more pieces in a grouping, the greater the complexity of the hanging task.

Any of these are better than a simple nail driven into drywall.
If simplicity is your "thing"...
Hanging a single painting juxtaposed with furniture, windows, light fixtures, etc. is usually a relatively simple task. It's best to get someone to help you though, if for no other reason than to hold the artwork against the wall so you can confirm your planning decision. So, you're then ready to start pounding nails, right? WRONG! In the first place, don't use nails at all unless they have a hook attached. There are several excellent hardware items which work much better (above). The "fishhook" hanger at right, though quite simple in design, is much stronger than it looks, leaving only the tiniest of holes in the wall. Even relatively small pieces will eventually fall when drywall ceases to embrace a nail, assuming you aren't lucky enough to have a well-place stud exactly where you need it.

Be prepared for sore fingers or needle-nose plyers when using the tiny nail mounted sawtooth bracket. I prefer the brackets at the
bottom with their own "nails" attached.
Use two strands of wire for heavy work.
Insofar as hardware is con-cerned, that which protrudes from the wall is only half the story. The hanging hardware on the back of the artwork is just as important. Traditionally, a flexible woven wire between two "D" rings has been the hanging method of choice (right). However, in more re-cent years, various other de-vices have become common-place, such as sawtooth hang-ers (above), each with their strengths and weaknes-ses. The ones not requiring nails or screws are my favorites, but they're not suitable for large frames or thin pmes. They're ideal for canvas stretchers, though.

Artwork must be hung in relationship to other items placed
against the same wall to create a unified presentation. Here
 the works are not only too high, but too far apart as well.
This painting is hung about a foot too high.
By far the most common error in hanging artwork is the matter I alluded to in the beginning, finding the right height. The tendency, as seen above, is to hang works too high and without regard to other items on or near the same walls (above). The same problem presents itself with a single painting as well as with groupings (left). Given the subject matter, (Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, below) maybe the owner was hoping to get as close to the ceiling as possible. By the same token, paintings should never be hung so low that they fall behind furniture, or even visually touch such items (below). Usually about six inches is the recommended space between a piece of furniture and its accompanying wall art. The two smaller pieces (below), hung side by side and about a foot higher, would have been quite attractive.

Even to the untrained eye, this looks bad.
So long as you have an idea of where you’d like the artwork to be placed, it is just a matter of finding the right height above something else (chest, bench, credenza, piano, etc.). Equally important is finding a center for your placement. Often there are many factors as to how to “center” your art. You may have your couch situated against a wall with a side table to its side and the couch may not be centered. You will need to decide if you must have the art centered on the wall regardless of the couch, or use the couch as a centering tool. It may be tricky because you may have beams in your ceiling that throw the placement off. Once again, that is a judgment call. One decorated suggests taking a photo of the hanging. Pretend its not your house and that you have no emotional connection to it. Look at the photo and ask yourself, if I passed this picture in a magazine would I consider the art too low or too high?

Some of about a zillion possibilities.
Probably the most difficult problem in hanging art is the art of hanging them in a pleasing arrangement. I won't go so far as to say there's no "right" or "wrong" way to do it, only lots of reasonable possibilities (above). Fortunately, artists tend to have instincts as to such things. Others don't. In any case, not only should the various works be arranged by size and shape (something like a jigsaw puzzle), but each grouping should relate as to content and style. Otherwise one or two items will invariably be more eye-catching than the others, causing the entire grouping to "fall apart." Moreover, today people often consider items associated with hobbies or collections to be art objects, and find the means to hang them on a wall. If you think a grouping of rectangular art is hard to unify, try working with odd shaped items such as masks, hats, plates, and sports memorabilia.

Ideal for an ever-changing display of children's art--thus freeing
up the refrigerator door for shopping lists and phone messages.
In the realm of advanced picture placement artists are continually coming up with creations to challenge even the most experienced decorator. How do you handle, for instance, a single painting spanning four or more canvases? If the artist is really being difficult, he or she may even utilize canvases of different sizes and shapes as a means to explore various compositional elements in their work. One example is the quadriptych image of the bicycle built for two (below). The owner is presented with questions, as to how far apart should the works be displayed? Should they be framed? Are they a single painting or three?

Dining room art is often displayed at
the eye-level of seated viewers.

The most important tip is to have fun when hanging art, and not to worry too much about getting things perfect. You're not doing anything structural to your walls, and your house isn't going to fall down if you don't hang the pictures right. If you hang something up and want to move it, it's really easy to fix the problem with a little spackle. In fact, I like changing displays of art every once in a while. I think a lot of people like moving pictures around, just as they move furniture around to freshen things up."

Wallpaper, especially that bearing strong
geometric patterning, should be left unadorned.
 Why hang one work of art in front of another?

Not a display grouping, but visual clutter.