Wednesday, April 7, 2021

YES, damnit, it IS SO art!

The other night I struggled with a moral dilemma. An ad for came through my Facebook feed - this is a company that turns art into fabric design. I instantly wanted to do lots of designs quickly so I could make money. But then it occurred to me that I was trying to do a cheap and dirty thing, just extruding trash to make cash. There's a word for artists who do that - "hack."

I don't want to be a hack. But it takes so long to produce something decent - and in the meantime other artists are selling their work. Competition. I thought about how I was struggling with the texture of the ground in "Blue and Gold Road" (not finished yet) and that I was using the Photoshop brushes to "cheat." Rather than creating my own design elements, I was using the brushes to stroke a premade texture onto the background.

I was feeling very conflicted and stressed while thinking these thoughts. But my Good Parent intervened and asked me to determine how I could utilize the readymades in an authentically artistic way to create good product. What I concluded was that I can play with stuff like the brushes but in a goal-directed way: think about what attracts me to the object, and build on that. Be "spontaneous" - let the readymades help me create a design but look at what their major "thrusts" are - for example, the brush I was using last has striations - parallel curves arranged around a more-or-less horizontal curved axis which is a double stroke with space between the two lines. The flattened curve and the "spines" are the thrust.

Having identified the main visual components I can develop them further into a finished visual object. So my aim should be to articulate what components matter, evaluate what their visual impact is, and add altered versions of said components in a harmonious arrangement. This is making use of readymades in a legitimately artistic method.

Relecting now on my internal stuggle, the Bullshit Detector part of me says: Are you effing crazy? You never heard of Duchamp, Warhol, or Banksy? You're worried about "cheating" by using Photoshop brushes to create an image, while the abovementioned artists (1) sent a urinal to the Armory Show, (2) painted an exact, albeit enlarged, replica of a soup can label, (3) used what must have been a clip art image to be present on paper just long enough to get shredded. I think I'm entitled to use whatever the hell I want short of parts of specimens of endangered species and do whatever the hell I want short of robbery, assault, homicide, or terrorism. So there, goddamnit!

Friday, August 7, 2020

The joys of wealth and privilege

The other day the weather was so beautiful it put me in mind of one of the most charming paintings in all of Western art: "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," by John Singer Sargent. It depicts two little girls in white dresses lighting Japanese lanterns. They're in a beautiful garden, surrounded by lilies and roses. It evokes all the loveliness of a summer evening.  

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, John Singer Sargent, 1886. Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported), Photo © Tate Gallery, UK Tate Gallery Website

Some years ago I had a memorable experience wherein 4 of the 5 senses were delighted by a soft summer night. I'd gone outdoors to retrieve the cat for the night. The frogs in a nearby pond were performing their nightly chorale; the Western sky at the horizon was that soft, tender blue of the last rays of the sun; fragance of flowers and grasses were wafting by on a gentle breeze. I picked up the cat and buried my face in his soft, thick fur.

I was in that perfect state of bliss when all the environmental conditions unite to nourish and support homo sapiens sapiens. I'm sure the little girls who modeled for Sargent's painting felt it too.

But looking at the painting now, after all that's gone down recently, I realized how privileged one must be to have a garden, Japanese lanterns, and little girls who are healthy and well-fed. Hell, it's a privilege to have a cat. There are those who, if they ever got their hands on a Japanese lantern, would sell it to buy food. Their kids don't wear crisp white dresses, they make do with ratty T-shirts and jeans. They don't have a pot to piss in, let alone a garden.

Sargent worked during the Gilded Age, when the heiresses he painted went to England and bought themselves husbands from the impoverished nobility. Wealth can afford beauty. Perhaps someday everybody can.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

And another thing..

Male Hairstyle from the past that is way prettier than what guys wear today

From a Tumblr blog called "Male Beauty in Art"

Monday, May 25, 2020

Why do men's clothes have to be so dull?

Today I read an article in The Guardian by their fashion editor, regarding how lockdown has "freed" men's sartorial choices: https// Good on you, guys, for dressing how you want. I approve of tie-dye anything, it being a major improvement on the black/blue/gray canon of men's suits. As well as being drab, a standard men's suit jacket conceals the male torso in a 2-button, hip-length tube that creates a silhouette much like a concrete building block.

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when men's clothes emphasized broad shoulders, narrow hips, and long legs. British military uniforms in particular were the human equivalent of peacock plumage. Witness Major George Cunningham here, circa 1810 or so:

See what I mean - the trouser stripe highlights the length and straightness of the leg, the diagonal embroidery on the lower rib cage points up the width of the chest, the pointed bottom hem and belt of the tunic emphasize the wasp waist and lead the eye downward to where the embroidery on the pants flank the, er, naughty bits. (The horse is handsome too.)

A larger version of this image may be found at It's on Pinterest thanks to 2 Nerdy History Girls, whose joint blog is at Their Pinterest page is at

This clothing didn't just say, "I am a male," it said, "I am a fit, strong, healthy male. Fight me if you dare." The look worked for mating as well as war.

I have a theory. My theory is...

Men's clothing today is so drab because powerful men don't want young whippersnappers to upstage them in the attractiveness department. Back in the Gilded Age, filthy-rich guys like J. P. Morgan were the model to whom ambitious young men aspired. Morgan was also one ugly dude.

Of course there's no accounting for tastes - those who favor men who resemble a cross-eyed walrus with a paunch would likely fall in love with him.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, physical fitness was not considered a sign of virtue and hipness, as it is now. Consciously or not, captains of industry saw the advantage of concealing their short, portly, bandy-legged bodies with loose draperies in dark colors. So now all men who want to be taken seriously in the business world have to dress like short, portly, bandy-legged robber baron capitalists.

Rise up, guys, and show off the physiques you've worked so hard to build! Make haberdashers create clothes that make you look like men again! (But please, no codpieces, those are just vulgar.) You have nothing to lose but your uniformity.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dala horses by my friend Julia

My friend Julia is a painter, a crafter, and a gardener. Recently she's had some success selling Dala horses on Zazzle. Dala horses are a part of Swedish, and Swedish-American, customs and heritage. They were originally carved by Swedish people during the long winters and painted red because the copper mines in the province of Dalarna, where the horse carvings started, yielded red pigment. Here's Julia's own words on why she makes Dala horses:

I've always loved horses and used to get made fun of as a child because I would always color them red. I had no idea why I did that. I just felt they should be that color.

My paternal grandfather had immigrated from Sweden but never talked much about it other than to teach me how to say a few words in swedish. My dad was proud that both of his parents had swedish ancestry but other than introducing us to a couple of his relatives didn't talk much more about it. As an adult I learned about dala horses and asked a Swedish uncle how I could learn to make then and he just replied "that's just something they do for the tourists" so I ended up having to teach myself.

I knew I'd gotten it right when the dala horse merchandise I created on Zazzle began to sell best in Sweden. Recently I inherited some of my baby pictures where I was playing with Dala Horse toys and then I knew I'd gone full circle and found the reason that they feel so much a part of me. Age and disability prevent me from carving horses much but I don't think I'll ever stop designing and painting them.
Julia's blog about her Dala horses is at Her other blog, about painting and gardening, is at

Thursday, August 15, 2019

So I made another sketch of Macha using what I learned from Millet's painting, and it didn't go well. The figure looked like a deformed grizzly bear cub. So I started working on my Website update instead. I'd have to get to that sooner or later anyway. I went through some tutorials which have the potential to bring me up to speed on coding modern responsive Websites. Got the content architecture designed, more or less, now do some wireframes and then start writing html.

Gawd but it makes me feel old to do grid page layouts. I can see how it evolved from recent CSS and HTML 5 but it's different enough I know I'll have to struggle a bit to get it to work. Haven't been this anxious about making Web pages in quite a while.

Do go look at my coloring page designs at, okay?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

So I'm working on the second Goddess design for the adult coloring book downloads collection at It's a depiction of Macha, Celtic Goddess of War and Fertility, as she uses the pin of her cloak brooch to inscribe a line representing the outer boundary of a fort to be built on a hill top. I've had a very hard time finding pictures to use as a model for her pose. Thought of photographing myself leaning over to scratch on the floor but that just didn't work out. Drawing a picture of Macha is proving to be much more challenging than the Aphrodite project was.

But I did find a photo in my old artists' model photos book (published circa 1950) of a young woman leaning down with her arm extended so her hand is about 5 inches above the floor. One leg is very gracefully bent just a little while the other one is nearly straight. Obviously she was able to keep her balance in that pose while the photographer took her picture from 8 different angles. So using my handy Photoshop Bezier tool in conjunction with the transform tool I bent her torso over a little further so her hand would reach the floor. (Which will become the ground in the finished design.) Now the problem becomes one of physics; can a human being simultaneously bend both legs adequately to get her hand to touch the ground, without pitching forward on to her head? And of course my problem as an artist is how do I get it to look like she's doing that?

In art school I learned that a standing human figure must have its chin above the heel of the "engaged" leg (the leg bearing most of the weight) in order to look convincingly upright and balanced. Artists and especially sculptors speak of "contraposto": an Italian term meaning "counterbalance" to describe how the torso twists and turns to distribute itself over a free and an engaged leg. For an illustration of this principle, refer to Michelangelo's David or nearly any standing Renaissance statue. I have to figure out how far to bend her over and how far out from her torso her arm would be, for her to maintain her balance.

As I was working with the photograph and the Photoshop tools I suddenly remembered Jean Francois Millet's painting "The Gleaners." This 19th-century work shows three women in a field gleaning the wheat left after the harvest. Two of the women are bent over from the waist as my goddess must be. They're at a different angle from the one I'm depicting Macha at, plus they're fully dressed, but using them as an example helps me determine exactly how far I need to have the goddess bend over. Pretty far, basically.

Here's a copy of the new drawing with the photograph under the line work, and a link to Millet's painting.

What is art, and what do you care anyway?

YES, damnit, it IS SO art!

The other night I struggled with a moral dilemma. An ad for came through my Facebook feed - this is a company that ...