Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Charles Harold Davis

The Old Homestead, Charles Harold Davis
When it comes to landscape paintings, I set a pretty high bar. I think the reason for this is that over the years I've painted quite a number of them and, on the whole, never felt really challenged in doing so. As compared to portraits, genre scenes, still-lifes and most other types of painting, I find them to be "easy" art. In fact, I highly recommend them to beginning painters for that very reason. Except for the medium of watercolor, when painted under some degree of instructional supervision, it's very rare that even a first-time painter doesn't come up with something they'd proudly hang over their couch. And therein lies another reason I have minimal respect for such works--they very often (the vast majority) are "couch" paintings. Aside from the innate beauty of God's green earth, they convey little as to meaning and message. You could get far more satisfaction by simply cutting a hole in the wall and installing a window (with the added advantage of having a framed landscape that changes with the four seasons).

A Clearing, Charles Harold Davis
Charles H. Davis, 1914
I'm not saying landscapes don't have their place in art. They do; but most often as backgrounds for some more interesting item or element (they don't such things "centers of interest" for nothing). Charles Harold Davis was an American landscape painter born in 1856. He grew up in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and studied at the schools of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts before tripping off to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. From there it was just a short trek to the Barbizon Forests and his first flirtation with Impressionism. When he returned to the U.S. in 1890, Davis settled in picturesque Mystic, Connecticut. There he made a permanent shift in his style to the Impressionism, except that rather than concentrate on the landscapes of his Impressionist peers, he took up painting the varied cloudscapes overhead (above). It was for these that Davis became best-known.
Twilight over the Water, 1892, Charles H. Davis
Even though Charles Davis was American, his landscapes, perhaps owing to their Impressionist roots, seem to me more French that "New Englandish." Davis's Twilight over the Water (above), dating from 1892, seems quite reminiscent of Monet's famous Impression, Sunrise of 1872. Although Davis' cloudscapes do have a certain degree of interest, as seen in his Clouds After Storm (below), from 1900, to me they do not "carry" the painting, much like a beautifully filmed motion picture with little plot and no characters. Compare the work below to The Old Homestead (top). Both are landscapes but one has a center of interest. The other doesn't (beyond some colorful clouds).

Clouds After Storm, 1900, Charles Harold Davis,
Even with the addition of a road through the forest and some colorful (if somewhat monochromatic) fall foliage, they do little to rescue Davis' Golden October (below), from the realm of bland. Roads were intended for travel. Where's the traveler(s)? Perhaps a group of hunters, or even a forlorn cow would serve to lift this work from the mundane to the modestly interesting.

Golden October, Charles Harold Davis.
When Davis makes up his mind to do so, he is quite capable of injecting various elements of human interest into his paintings, such as seen in his A Ruined Homestead (below) from around 1915. The painting remains a landscape, but one loaded with pathos, and no doubt history and a lingering human presence despite it's deserted present. Even though the landscape is rather dull and uninteresting, Davis' dilapidated farmhouse is anything but.

A Ruined Homestead,  ca. 1915, Charles H. Davis.
One of Davis's best-known and most-beloved paintings is The Oak (below), dating from 1903. It's only when Davis steps back from what he knows and does best, moving outside the realm of what we've come to call a "safe zone," that his work becomes in any was exceptional and thus memorable. During his lifetime, Charles Harold Davis met with critical acclaim and commercial success. He was represented by several galleries, including the Macbeth Gallery in Manhattan, where he had eight solo exhibitions and a memorial retrospective. He was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 1906, and in 1913 he was a founder of the Mystic Art Association (now Mystic Arts Center). His works are in the collections of institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. At the time of his death in 1933, Davis was likened to Millet and to great literary figures like Hardy and Tolstoy. Though such accolades were impressive, soon thereafter he was largely forgotten. Mundane landscapes have that effect upon artists. Some claim Davis did not promote himself enough. He is often thought of as shy and diffident. If that was the case, this same trait is evident in most of his landscapes as well.
The Oak, 1903, Charles Harold Davis
All Hallows Eve, Charles Harold Davis

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What Were They Thinking--Interiors

No matter how stunning, you know the designer has gone
too far when you can no longer tell what the room is used for.
Here in this country (the United States) we have a moral and legal concept claiming, "A man's home is his castle." It's ironic that, in Europe, where most castles originated, that's not so much the case. Here, the occupants of the castle have long had the right to defend their abode with lethal force if they feel their lives are threatened. If, on the other hand, the castle is deemed by their neighbors as simply too weird or too ugly for the neighborhood, then lethal force is a much more problematical defense. That's where zoning laws come into play, and in general, the bigger and more costly the houses in a given neighborhood, the more restrictive the rules governing virtually every aspect of their existence. In London, for instance, new zoning laws are taking effect preventing the remodeling of historic homes into "Iceberg houses" (below) in which owners go underground to construct multi-level basements housing multi-car garages, swimming pools, bowling alleys, home theaters, gymnasiums, even climbing walls. In the process, foundations of nearby homes are sometimes damaged as well as other subterranean infrastructure. Yesterday I dealt with the communal aesthetics and property value aspect of designing and building strange looking "castles." Today, we move inside.
Iceberg houses--out of sight, out of mind? Not quite.
However, once one moves inside the castle, "what will the neighbors think" bears little weight and things can get pretty...weird. Strangely enough in perusing hundreds of photos of the really...really weird, I've come to realize that weirdness is room specific. That is, the private areas, bedrooms and bathrooms tend to be the most outlandish while kitchens and especially living rooms seem quite tame. And even in these two rooms, when unusual designs present themselves, they tend to be in relatively good taste and in some cases, strangely beautiful. They're not without personality but not the type you'd find in a loony bin.
The axiom, "What will the neighbors think?" extends from
outside into the living room, the least loony room in the house.
Kitchens can sometimes become quite radical, but for the most part, when kitchens become strange is when they begin to cease looking like kitchens. The word "sleek" keeps popping up in describing them. Kitchens are natural "clutter collectors." Sleek is the natural enemy of clutter, thus more often, when kitchens take on a strangely alien appearance, it's due to a lack of the expected clutter of cooking items lacking permanent storage, or left exposed for the sake of convenience.
When a kitchen no longer looks like a kitchen.
Having presented relatively moderate strangeness as seen in kitchens and living rooms, neither are immune to the really radical "What were they thinking?" label, especially when you turn a really bored interior decorator loose with a brush, some masking tape, and a bucket of godawful bright pigments and primer. In many cases, the effect is to go so far as to lose the actual identity and purpose of the room. The rooms below seem to have been done in the style of Late Abstract Expressionism (which, despite appearances, means they're fifty years out of date).
Strange to the point of disorienting.
Bedrooms become radical when it becomes obvious that their primary design motif has absolutely nothing to do with sleep. When they take on the purpose to impress, surprise, and seduce, they can best be termed "sexy." Moreover, one of the strongest components of "sexy" is beauty. Very rarely do you find a designer bedroom which, though sexy to the point of blatant eroticism, is not also sensually beautiful. The examples below take this element to the extreme. Even though I'm getting a bit old for the seductive aspect, I could sleep quite restfully in any of them (or rest quite sleepily).

I don't know why, but I've always dreamed of having
a round bed (better still, one that would slowly rotate).
Anything I've said about sexy bedrooms goes double for bathrooms, I suppose because there's the element of nudity involved in bathing. At the same time, ninety percent of all bathroom functions do not involve bathing (and are far from sexy). It would seem that the two rooms in which designers are most likely to go overboard, indulging in luxurious decadence, if not outright bad taste, are the two most private rooms in the house. Bad taste or not, I wouldn't mind a leisurely scrub in any of the vats of warm, soapy water seen below.

We've had one of these aquatic fixtures in our bathroom now for more than twenty years. I use it for an hour or more about every day.
Stairways are an open invitation to weirdness.

The weirdest of the weird, a tribute to the
artist M.C. Escher. I'm not sure exactly
what the room is used for.


Monday, February 20, 2017

What Were They Thinking--Houses

The Conch Shell House, Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
This home was built with a mixture of recycled, found, and traditional materials.
Whoever said architects don't have a sense of humor? I don't know, maybe nobody. I only know that I would strongly disputed such a blanket criticism. Then again, maybe they're just crazy...or their clients are. In any case, perfect examples of such lunacy, whatever it's source, can literally be found all over the world. It must be a pandemic. Take the strange creation above. At first glance, it appears to be some sea creature washed ashore. Yet, it has a certain alien beauty that is all the more evident in the video at the bottom.
ICD Itke Research Pavilion, Stuttgart, Germany. Though not actually
a house, I couldn't resist using it as an example of the work of a
mad architectural "genius."
The German creation (above) also tends to remind me of a sea creature--a beached whale, having gorged itself on marine ova of some sort. Of course, the most acclaimed architects in the whole world are those commissioned by the gang at Disney. And though virtually everything the create is either retro, whimsical, or otherworldly. Disney's theme park "Toon town" domestic abodes (below), designed for each of their highly-paid "movie star" characters, have a tendency toward all three of these elements. Are the Disney architects required to be crazy? No, but it helps.

The Disney rodent residences (I'm not sure precisely what genus of creature Goofy might be), never had it so good until old Walter Elias made them box office stars.
Perhaps taking his inspiration from Disney, or maybe Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, the owner of what's come to be known by the locals as the "Spaceship House" in rural Tennessee, appears to have been his own architect and builder. Maybe he returned, having been kidnapped by aliens. Let's hope the neighbors don't mind the daily "close encounters."
The Spaceship House. Notice the out-of-context colonial street light in the front yard.
If the examples of architectural humor (above) seem strange, they also seem strangely beautiful in their own contextual element. However, that can't be claimed for what I've labeled the "just too weird" practical jokes below. When architects begin designing ships out of water and beehives with balconies simply to attract attention to themselves (and attract tourists), then what they create is no long architecture but an affront to the aesthetic sensibilities and personal lifestyles of those living nearby. We have a word for such works--eyesores.

It's no longer simply "good, clean fun" ala Disney, but
anti-social impudence.
Of course, architects must share the blame for "over-the-top" neighborhood travesties of good taste with owners--those with more dollars than sense. As artists, architects should offer their clients guidance, not squelching honest creative expression, but also not allowing themselves to become conduits and facilitators of bad taste, seemingly motivated only be their clients' urge to do little more than anger others living nearby. The domestic monsters below are prime examples of prime real estate being turned into communal liabilities.

"Oh, that's right, you live out there by the house with the stupid grin." When does Postmodern cross the line into silliness?
On a street in Sopot, Poland, stand two nearly identical buildings (below) known locally as the Crooked houses or the "cuddling" houses, depending upon how you feel about anthropomorphic architecture. They raise the question most succinctly: Should architects strive to inject an element of humor, even craziness, into their works? Should they try to "warm" them by giving them human traits. Remember, Bartholdi's Liberty Enlightening the World (the Statue of Liberty) standing on Ellis Island in New York Harbor, is actually little more than an (inspirational) sculptural, lighthouse, in effect, a "building" shaped like a woman. Though Bartholdi was no architect, in order to insure his enlightening "lighthouse" was structurally sound, he did employ a famous French engineer--Gustave Eiffel.

The Crooked (or cuddling) House,  designed by architect, Szotynscy Zaleski, Sopot, Poland.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at some of
the outlandish interiors which architects, their clients, and interior designing
co-conspirators have created.

Here's a sneak peak. Does anyone really
need a red carpet to get into bed?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sir William Dargie

23rd Battalion at El Alamein, October 1942, William Dargie
What happens when the same artist wins the top prize in a national art competition seven out of eleven consecutive years? Calls for reform? Boycotts? Blaring newspaper headlines? Endless derogatory comments from art critics and the public alike? Riots in the streets? All hell breaks loose? Yeah, pretty much...more or less. That was the case in 1952 when the news broke that the Australian portrait artist, Sir William Dargie had taken home top honors (again) in the Archibald Prize competition sponsored annually by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. One newspaper reported: "Apropos of records, enter Bill Dargie in 1952 for a seventh win with a portrait of Essington Lewis. A mini-riot ensued. For young and emerging artists, restless for the new, the Dargie near-monopoly was becoming a scandal." Another writer added, "The win prompted an art students' demonstration. The students [about 40], most of whom refused to give their names, marched around the gallery, were photographed in front of Dargie's portrait, gave three cheers for Picasso...then left."
Yellow Couch, William Dargie
Okay, it wasn't quite a riot, more of a tussle. It wasn't the money. The prize of 539 British pounds sterling amounted to about $2,470. It wasn't the artist. By that time William A. Dargie was probably the best, and certainly the best-paid, portrait artist, not just in Australia, but in all the British Empire (above). He was also something of an artist/war hero (top). It wasn't the portrait itself that was such an outrage, though it was a rather traditional, stodgy-looking, fat, old man named Essington Lewis. He had made his fortune during the war manufacturing and selling arms of all types, shapes, and sizes, from hand guns to tanks and torpedoes. No, it was the Gallery and the Board of Trustees which came to feel the brunt of the art world's protest. A headline screamed: "'Don't Hang Dargie--Hang the Trustees!"
Just above, Dargie poses with a print of the 1954 portrait he painted of Queen Elizabeth II commemorating the first visit to Australia of a reigning British monarch.
William Dargie was born in 1912 in Footscray, Victoria (now a neighborhood in Melbourne), the eldest son of Andrew and Adelaide Dargie. The young artist picked up art training wherever he could find it, mostly from individuals and small technical schools in the Melbourne area. When the war came, he enlisted only to be dragged from the tranches and made a "war artist." His 23rd Battalion at El Alamein (top) dates from 1942. In fact, it's said Dargie got word that he'd won his first Archibald Prize in 1941 while digging ditches in North Africa. His wife had entered a portrait he'd done before the war of Sir James Elder, a Director of the National Bank of Australia. (The Archibald competition is limited to portraits of famous Australians by Australian artists.)
1952 was not the end of Dargie's Archibald winning streak. He won an eighth time in 1956 for his portrait of Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira.
Following his 1941 win, during and after the war, William Dargie went on to win the Archibald Prize in 1942, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1952, and 1956. By 1956, the reaction was not so much outrage but boredom--ho hum, Dargie won again. What else is new? His portrait of fellow artist Albert Namatjira (above) Dargie considered his best, though like virtually all of his earlier winning entries, he was beset by criticism that his work was empty, tired, and outdated.
It's little wonder Dargie did a second version (the now famous "wattle painting" of the queen. The first attempt resulted in one of the worst royal likenesses I've ever seen, adding years to her visage. (Golden Wattle is he national flower of Australia and was the decorative motif for the queen's dress in Dargie's portrait.)
Dargie's greatest critical success came in 1954 when the newly crown Queen Elizabeth II made a state visit to Australia. The young queen was so enamored with Dargie's official portrait, commissioned by the wealthy industrialist, James P. Beveridge, she ordered a personal copy of her own. Dargie had become concerned that the official portrait might be damaged or lost during transit to and from Australia. He commenced work on a copy, to be shipped separately, in the hope that at least one version would arrive safely. This "spare" was painted upside down at the London home of his hosts, the Hamilton Fairley family. Dargie employed this seemingly odd move in an attempt to view the portrait as a series of colors and forms thus eliminating the natural desire to improve on the original. Doing so prevented embellishment and created a truly identical copy. The painted provenance, and the circumstances of the replica’s creation, are attested to by the artist with the inscription on the reverse, which reads:


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Nils Dardel

Black Diana, 1929, Nils Dardel
The period around the turn of the century (1900) is one of the most interesting eras in the whole history of art. In Paris, the art capital of the world at the time, Impressionism had become passé. Post-Impressionism, with all its various permutations, was all the rage. Picasso was about to make his grand entrance from backstage in Barcelona. The smell of the internal combustion engine was starting to replace that of horse manure, and there were almost as many foreigners living in the arty Montmartre and Montparnasse districts as there were Frenchmen. Virtually every stereotype we now hold dear with regards to the city of Paris began, or was well established, at the time. Art students from all over the world were flocking to what were deemed the best art schools in the world. Yet, as exciting as the city was for those budding young men and women, it was a terribly difficult time to be coming of age as an artist. There was simply too much of a good thing--too many struggling artists, too many trends developing, too many styles to choose from, and always...always something new to check out, just coming up over the horizon.
Dardel was a handsome, young man. Judging by his self-portraits and his rollercoaster love life, he was attractive to both men and women.
This was the scene a young artist from Sweden named Nils Dardel faced when he first turned up in Paris around 1910. Born in 1888, he was twenty-two at the time, having already spent two years studying at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm. He was no "babe in the woods," but the Paris art world and social swirl must have seemed all but overwhelming. He very wisely latched onto Henri Matisse as his instructional source and sampled a little bit of everything, from Cubism to Fauvism, Pointillism, and several other "isms" associated with Post-Impressionism. None were a perfect fit for a young painter steeped in Swedish Naturalism. His grandfather, after all, had been the Swedish painter, Fritz von Dardel, adjutant to King Charles XV of Sweden, and member of the Royal Swedish Academy.
Return to the Playgrounds of Youth, 1924, Nils Dardel.
Nils Dardel was what was termed at the time a "dandy," which had a whole different implication from the "fine and dandy" phrase we Americans think of today. At best, it referred to a rather fussy, perhaps somewhat effeminate, upper-class effete. More often, however, it had homosexual or bisexual connotations, which seemed not at all to offend the young socialite artist. Homosexuality was illegal in Sweden at the time but not in Paris, which may account for the fact that Dardel spent most of the next twenty years of his life in and around that city. And even though he married in 1921 and the following year, fathered a daughter, Ingrid (who also became an artist), Dardel had about as many liaisons with other men as other women. The marriage, nonetheless, lasted until 1934.
The Dying Dandy,  1918, Nils Dardel, a man preoccupied
half his life with his own death. 
Dardel suffered from a serious heart problem. He knew he would die fairly young, so he "burned his candle at both ends," which only made matters worse. He was an alcoholic and his romantic relationships with both men and women gave rise to gossip and myths. To this day, much of his art is considered autobiographical. A pale, androgynous central figure in The Dying Dandy (above) from 1918, holds his hand on his heart, surrounded by mourners as though he were Jesus Christ himself. The style is modern. In the second version, the figures and the blue background co-exist on the flat surface. The colors work expressively with the complementary hue of blue and orange, red and green.

The Angler, 1931, Nils Dardel (possibly a self-portrait).
We are fortunate in studying Dardel's art to have a fairly complete chronology of his work. One of his earliest, a self-portrait painted in 1906 when he was only eighteen, marks a starting point steeped in Swedish naturalism (not realism). His The Dying Dandy is from the 19th century's "teen" years while his Return to the Playgrounds of Youth from 1924 and his Black Diana (top), from 1929, represent the Post-Impressionist influences of the 1920s. Dardel's The Angler (above), from 1931, not only indicates a return to the Naturalism of his youth, but is quite likely a self-portrait.

Mexican boy, ca. 1940-43, Nils Dardel
During much of the 1930s, Dardel lived a nomadic life, traveling extensively without ever really settling down. Many of his portraits are of people and places he encountered in his travels. He was known to be self-destructive, and was not much appreciated in his lifetime. His breakthrough in Sweden came simultaneously to the outbreak of World War II in Europe, when Liljevalchs Konsthall displayed a retrospective of Dardel's life and works. In the midst of the war in Europe, Dardel, like many of his friends, came to the United States. But unlike them, Dardel did not gravitate to the New Your art scene but to places such as Cuba, Mexico, and Guatemala, where he drew and painted portraits of the natives (above).

The Waterfalls, 1921, Nils Dardel
Nils Dardel died in New York City in 1943. He was fifty-seven, having lived longer than he ever expected. Today, Dardel's work is worth far more than he ever expected as well. His The Dying Dandy sold at auction in 1984 for a record price of 3.4-million Swedish kronors ($381,174). Four years later, the same painting sold for an astounding 13-million kronors ($1,457,430). More recently, in 2012, Dardel's work, The Waterfall (above) sold for 24-million kronor ($2,803,476), to date, the most expensive modernist Swedish painting ever sold.

The Paranoid, 1925, Nils Dardel.
Look like anyone we know?


Friday, February 17, 2017

Drawing Better (Part 5)

Luncheon on the Grass, 1862, Edouard Manet
For generations, those denigrating the use of photos as artists' source material have preached a negative dogma of almost religious intensity. Quite frankly much of what they preach has some merit. However, in virtually all cases, their objections boil down to the misuse of photos by artists who have never had one ounce of positive training as to the proper use of such input. Yesterday I went into some detail in providing such instruction with my DO list. Beyond that, though, some such instruction can best be conveyed in warning artists as to what they should never (or very seldom ever) do in working from photos, whether projected or otherwise. Herewith is my DON'T list:

A portrait from a flash photo.
Noticed how most facial modeling
(especially the chin) is lost.
 1. Avoid at all costs photos having a single light source emanating from the camera (flash photography) or from directly behind the camera. I've criticized the iconic French painter, Edouard Manet, several times for just this fault. Manet can be excused somewhat in that he was one of the first artist to employ photography as source material. In several of his paintings, his Luncheon on the Grass (top) for instance, we see the detestable flattening of his nude female figure in the foreground resulting from the primitive flash powder frontal lighting of his day. The effect is consistent among all four of Manet's figures but most noticeable in the nude figures. The same fault can be seen in the portrait at right, except it should be noted that even the slightest differences in lighting (left to right) adds subtle contours to the facial features.

Few, if any, artists drawing on location, would add a
parallax effect to their work. Thus, when seen in a painting,
parallax cries out as to the use of a photo as source material.
2. When photographing architecture, especially up close, parallax is a problem. Don't ignore it. The painter should, in all cases, make every effort to keep all vertical lines in his or her work from tilting (usually inward). With some degree of skill, parallax can be corrected in the photo-editing stage. Otherwise, it must be addressed using a straight-edge when the image is projected. Sometimes, when the photo is shot from a distance, correcting architectural verticals is fairly simple or unnecessary. However, with tight interiors or when structures are shot relatively close to the camera, such corrections can be quite extensive, involving not just the edges of buildings but doors and windows as well. You cannot just partially correct this problem. 

The Large Bathers, 1887, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Pointless
action from the early days of painting from photos--
a painted snapshot--19th century paparazzi style.
3. Beware of action photos. Until the invention of photography taught painters how to see and imagine action in their art, virtually all painting was static--posed--often for many long hours. Photography legitimized frozen photography...but not in painting. Only if and when an artist is willing to give up all pretense of traditional art renderings, as in painting sporting activities, are action photos acceptable as painting source material. In painting, frozen action for the sake of action is usually a misuse of photographic sources. Animals and children playing might be considered an exception.

Though this scene is obviously an exaggeration, but it underlines the pitfall of failing to "edit" unnecessary content.
4. Don't overdraw. Photos often capture even the tiniest details of a scene. Unless they're into Photorealism, most painters don't. Just because you can discern details in your projected photo does not mean you must render them. Lighten up...loosen up...leave stuff out, especially if it detracts from the main focal point of the painting or is irrelevant to the overall theme. An exquisitely painted glass of wine in a landscape detracts, rather than enhances the scene. It's nothing more than embellishment. Even if the content is easily discernible in your photo avoid using it simply to "decorate" your scene.

Don't let photographic aesthetics impose on your artist's instincts.
5. Discard photos which are "too perfect." Photographers are often "in love" with symmetrical compositions. Yet painters tend to avoid the formal in favor of the informal (and if they don't, they should). There's nothing wrong with near symmetry. A balanced composition, in terms of masses, is one hallmark of a good painting. The key here is to avoid reproducing picture-making habits predominantly used by photographers and seldom by painters. Here's where a painter having a good photography background really pays off.

Rogers vs. Koons--changes not transformative enough.
Cariou vs. Prince--changes significant and transformative.
6. Don't Infringe upon obviously copyright photo images. If you wish to paint from an outstanding photo while contemplating few (if any) changes, ask permission from the photographer and pay for the privilege if necessary. Quite apart from any legal ramifications (except in dealing with large corporations) infringement lawsuits are rare unless the artist is rich and famous. However, as an artist (who likely also has work under copyright) it's the right and moral thing to do. But, having said that, the courts have long ruled that if the artist makes "substantial" transformative changes from the original source, then the work is considered new, and thus becomes the artist's own property. Combining two or more photos (especially the work of different photographers) would easily fulfill the definition of "substantial." On the other hand, cropping a photo and painting only a portion of it, does not. When it comes to changing art media (photo to a painting) the predominant color is gray. For all practical purposes, images shot by photographers who died before this date in 1947 are now in the Public Domain (no longer under copyright).

Choose, edit, project, draw, paint.
That's all there is to it.
As with any such list, this one (and yesterday's, below) are probably incomplete, but hopefully encouraging and informative. Working from photos, much less projected photos, isn't for everyone. Left-brained artists will often find doing so too confining and tedious. Their right-brained counterparts likely have used photos for years (often exclusively) and may want to "bite the bullet" and invest a few hundred dollars in a digital projector for learning and experimental purposes. If they don't like drawing from projected images, the projector, hooked to the right input, will at least make the next Super Bowl a lot more thrilling.

It's cheaper than buying tickets.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Drawing Better (Part 4)

Projected drawing takes no less skill than drawing freehand,
only different skills...and less time.
I intended yesterday to finish this series with a list of do's and don'ts as to drawing with the aid of a digital projector, but got sidetracked to an equally important discourse as to an ideal course of study for a college art student in today's digital era. Lest that happen again (which it could very easily) let me today concentrate first on my DO list:

When shooting a series, especially a panorama, keep
these setting consistent. An ISO (DPI) of 200 or higher
works best for projection drawing.
1. Shoot your own photos (in a series) specifically mindful of using them as source material for a painting so as to have several similar images to choose from. They need not be perfect (you're not selling photos, after all), but they do need to be sharply focused and of relatively high resolution--200 dpi (dots per inch) is adequate, 600 dpi is ideal. Color values matter very little, or not at all, even at the painting stage. (At best they're merely a digital suggestion.) In scanning printed material, always dial the resolution up to 600 dpi (even if it brings to light a printed dot matrix.
The possibilities are endless. Allow your creativity to
flow through the software. Avoid free stuff--as
with most things, you get what you pay for.
2. Concentrate the bulk of your creative endeavor at the computer with whatever photo-editing software you are comfortable using. I can't emphasize that last point enough; you do NOT want a fight with the software when your creativity is at stake. Whether it be cleaning up, cropping, perhaps erasing parts of a single photo, or composing a single image using a dozen different photos, this is the "make or break" stage for your finished painting. Even the best painting skills will not disguise errors and deficiencies allowed to pass unnoticed here.
The back is more important than the front.
My projector is shown above.
3. Choose your digital projector carefully. It's awfully easy to way overpay for more projector power than you need, as well as to waste money buying a "pocket" projector so dim and "touchy" as to be simply unusable (I've done both). Regardless of brands, something in the four-to-six-hundred-dollar range is usually sufficient for most artists. Go for the high end if you plan to use the projector on a daily basis as a TV or computer monitor (as I do). Keep in mind, about half of the cost of a digital projector is for the bulb (their average lifespan usually being around 2000 hours).
Lens to distance ratio chart with projection size
being constant (2 meters).
4. If you work big, you'll need a big room with controlled lighting in which to draw (but not total darkness). Focal length is about fifteen feet for a 100-inch (measured diagonally) image projection. Using an easel upon which to mount your drawing surface allows minute adjustments at both ends (the projector and the easel.) Remember, your projector is merely an output device, you will need a laptop or desktop computer nearby as you draw. If you work with small images (less than 12 inches square), you may wish to rig up a means of mounting your projector above your drawing surface pointing downward much like the old darkroom photo enlarger. Whatever the case, both should be as solid as possible once drawing begins. A smooth wall will suffice in the absence of a good easel, but is somewhat more awkward and tiring to access (there's no place for the knees).
5. Take your time in drawing. Once you begin, maintaining perfect alignment is critical and adjustments are often quite frustrating if something gets jarred even slightly. Watch your feet and legs, being careful not to accidentally move your easel. For best results, do the entire drawing in one sitting (no bathroom breaks). Keep others out of the room to avoid distractions. This stage demands extreme care and concentration. However, in addition to improving accuracy, it eliminates about two-thirds to three-fourths of the traditional drawing time unless you get involved with alignment problems.
6. "Proofread" your drawn image. That is, once you think you're finished drawing, bring up the room lights slightly so that both the drawing and the projection are easily discernible. Then move your body back and forth in front of the projector to check and correct any missing details or errors. If you're drawing includes a lot of straight lines or perspective, by all means use a straight edge to draw those lines, but check at this stage to see if you've used it correctly. Save any shading for later. Projected drawing is great for the main structural details, but for subtleties...not so much.

Add the finishing touches to the drawing, then simply apply paint.
7. When finished, break down your drawing setup and get your studio back to normal. Then, with your source material in one hand, a relative hard pencil in the other, add any details to the drawing which you feel you'll need in the painting process. Use a smudge sheet under your fist at this stage and when finished, give your canvas (but not watercolor paper) a light coat of spray fixative to hold everything in place.

How do you get to the Met? Practice; practice.
8. As with all methods of drawing, "practice makes perfect." Start small and simple. If you come up with a usable drawing the first time--GREAT! If not, remember, one of the major motives for drawing (including project drawing) is to learn. Like freehand drawing, trial and error applies to projected drawing as well, though usually not as much of either.

Tomorrow: We get into what NOT to do when drawing from projections.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Truth in advertising.