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Praeterita 2010: the year in review

I started this blog a year ago after I read Alyson Stanfield's book "I'd Rather Be In The Studio: The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion." One of the things Ms. Stanfield recommends is that artists use a blog as self-promotion tool. I quickly decided that it would be just as interesting to talk to other artists and people involved in the arts, to try to find out what makes them tick. I ended up posting 17 interviews over the last 11 months, for which I've gathered together all the links:

Deborah Doering: conceptual art, gallery director.

Carrie Ohm: ceramics, performance.

Lisa Purdy: painter.

Judith Sutcliffe: artist, writer, director of Shake Rag Alley art center.

Julia Katz: painter.

Diane Huff: monoprints.

Allison Svoboda: collaged ink drawings.

John Hubbard: painter.

Janet Chenoweth & Roger Halligan: painter; sculptor.

Tom Robinson: Chicago art legend.

Kay Hartmann: graphic novel.

Chuck Gniech: painter.

Suzy Takacs: independent bookstore owner.

Rebecca Moy:…

Last meditation of 2010: On Cecily Brown's 'The Fugitive Kind'

Whew, did it! I wrote, recorded, and put together in Windows Movie Maker 50 of these short talks on artists or single works of art. For the year, that amounts to more than 100 minutes of video, and 15,000 words of writing.

The final one of 2010 is on Cecily Brown, an English painter who is also the daughter of the grand old critic David Sylvester (whose main claim to fame is that he played Boswell to Francis Bacon's Johnson).

Coming in 2011: the audio/printed book version of these meditations on art.



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Tate Channel interview with Jeff Koons

From the Tate UK's video channel, an interview with ex advertising man and art showman Jeff Koons. Idiot or genius? You decide.



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In the studio

Here are some shots of a painting I've been working on since May, and which I've been adding to recently:

I'm using acrylic gels, pouring mediums, and modelling paste to build up the textures. Then I lay the canvas flat and pour fluid acrylics and reflective paints freely over the surface, which then settle down and dry in the surface:

Instead of a brush, I use needle applicators (plastic paint bottles with a nozzle at the top) to draw these circular patterns all over the surface (they're based on piles of coal). Then I'm repeating the process several times over:

I've been trying all year to introduce figures, buildings, shapes that would more directly imply narrative, but so far I keep getting lost in this basic mucking around with texture, and one basic idea - the 'coal mountain' shape. After painting over and painting out again and again, I'm now resigned to just letting it happen, to keep on with this process, and then I'll just see what eme…

On looking through old sketchbooks: 31

"Sketchbooks in general... seem to contain mainly studies for paintings. For me, the sketchbooks are more like a secret and wholly spontaneousjeu d'espritand some of them I like as much as anything I have ever done. They are invariably without premeditation. I mean not only that I have no plan when I make them, I also have no plan to make them."--Robert Motherwell.

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Tate interview with painter Terry Winters

Terry Winters is in that category of artists 'if you don't know of his work, then you should.' Here he is talking in his studio in a short interview for the Tate Channel.



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On Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols

I heard this on Chicago's excellent classical music station, WFMT, the other day. It's Ralph (pronounced 'Rafe', if you weren't already familiar with the weird customs of the British upper classes) Vaughan Williams' 'Fantasia on Christmas Carols' -- a marvellous piece of music, somewhat appropriate for the day. If you listen to the entire work for long enough, it starts off sounding like something by Benjamin Britten, and ends up sounding like something by Leonard Bernstein.

When I searched for this on YouTube, the versions that kept appearing were filmed in Newcastle, England, which is actually where I was born.

Feliz Navidad a todo el mundo.



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Meditation on 'Chalk' by Luc Tuymans

This is the 49th short web-talk, meditation, slideshow with commentary, call it what you will, of 2010. Luc Tuymans paints from magazine images, film stills, reproductions. So perhaps it's fitting that the painting I chose to talk about was one that I saw in a brochure before I saw the original on a wall. But if it was derived from a photo, what is the 'original' anyway?




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On a new accordion book with embedded video player

Well, not that new, but as we're getting to the end of the year and blogging time is tight, I thought I'd post images of another artist's book that I made in the last year:
It's called 'My Earliest Memory of My Father.' It's 2" high and 5" wide when closed, with bookboards wrapped in teal fabric. When you open it up, you see two things: on the right, an MP3 player showing a short stop-motion animation on a continuous loop; on the left, an accordion fold print of images from the animation. The animation is called 'My Earliest Memory of My Father', and I made it in 2006 for an installation at Finestra in Chicago. Here is the stop-motion animation:

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Interview with jewelry maker Ann Mazzanovich

Ann Mazzanovich is someone who I've worked with on the travel articles that I do together with my wife, Patty. In addition to helping shepherd travel-journalists and photographers around US destinations managed by her employer, PR firm Geiger & Associates, it turns out that Ann has a few other equally interesting sides to her personality. One, she studied sculpture at art college. Two, she comes from a family with a very interesting past. And three, she is still involved in art as a maker of jewelry.


Philip: You studied sculpture at art school. How did you get from there to making jewelry?

Ann: I’ve had a fascination—or some might call it an obsession—with jewelry my entire life. I had worked with beads and wire since I was small, but in college I began selling my work to make a little extra money. After graduating with a BFA in Sculpture from Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, I found selling my sculpture to be a difficult and lengthy process, often ending in heartache. I …

On the horrible artistic taste of the filthy rich

I was in St. Augustine, Florida, last weekend, a beautiful little town on the north-eastern cost of the state. Its main claims to fame are the fortress and other buildings dating back to the mid-1500s -- quite unusual for the USA, obviously -- and the grand palaces built by several late nineteenth century robber barons such as Henry Flagler and Otto Lightner. The later buildings are impressive, actually. What turned my stomach was to see the things that Mr. Lightner put in the museum built to house his personal collection of loot. Lightner founded Hobbies magazine or some such, and the various bits of Victorian sculpture, crockery, and Pears Soap Advertisement oil paintings were clearly put together by that sort of character: the one who gets a certain reassurance by poring through catalogues of things, and feels that he has broadened his personality when he has noted down all the numbers of one particular type of train. In other words, most of the Lightner Museum's collection was…

On looking through old sketchbooks: 30

"I never draw except with brush and paint."--Claude Monet.

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Meditation on 'Aphrodite of Cnidus' by Praxiteles

For this week's web talk on art - number 48 of this year - I decided to go back more than two millenia to the Greek sculptor Praxiteles. I wonder which contemporary artists will still be admired in the year 4310 A.D.? If there are any humans left to make and appreciate art, that is.



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On 'Coal', a new artist's book

I don't think I've posted this before. It's an accordion-fold book, called 'Coal'. Linocuts and xerox-litho transfers of sketchbook drawings, based on the mountains of coal that lay around the mining village where I grew up.
Text printed on inside cover:

I grew up in a mining town in the north of England.
It was really a village, with 200 residents. You could see the wheels of the mines’ winding houses from the streets between the terraced houses. In the yards at the mine there were mountains of coal. Coal seemed to be everywhere. Bits of it lay on the streets where it fell from the carts that delivered it to the houses. We lit our fires with coal. We even bathed with soap made from coal. In the Victorian era, it was called King Coal.
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On a recently discovered interview with Francis Bacon

One of the many treasures to be found on the Tate Channel site is a recently re-discovered BBC interview with Francis Bacon, from 1965. He's showboating a little, but he's spellbinding too, as he goes through some of the things he said in his famous series of printed interviews with David Sylvester.



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Interview with artist Philip Hartigan

After publishing a series of interviews with other artists on this blog, here is the text of an interview that I gave to an educational website a few months ago. The link was just sent to me yesterday. The focus of the interview was on advice from a working artist to students and recent graduates from college.

Artist Interview

Philip Hartigan has worked as an artist for 16 years, including running his own studio, exhibiting his artwork, and studying art in Spain. He currently teaches a class at Columbia College of Chicago. Artist Career Path Philip had a flare for art throughout his life. “I always had some talent for drawing and painting, and felt that visual art satisfied me more than writing,” he says. This is what drove him to following an art career path. Experiences of a Professional Artist Starting in 1994, Philip spent six years working in the art studio and exhibiting his work, as well as doing freelance IT work for an additional income. After those six year, though, he’s been able…

On looking through old sketchbooks: 29

"Drawing includes three and a half quarters of the content of painting. Drawing contains everything, except the hue."--Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

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On new discoveries with drypoint printmaking

If you go to Dick Blick to buy a copper plate for etching, you'll find that in the shelves reserved for printmaking supplies, a 5" x 7" plate will set you back about $15. But I just discovered last week that if you go the craft supplies area, you can buy a thinner but perfectly usable 4" x 12" plate for half that amount. It's perfectly suitable for both etching and for drypoint. To test the plate, I drew a drypoint on it using the found images of Lucerne that I downloaded from the internet for my ongoing Lucerne project.

A drypoint is when you create the image by scratching lines into the metal plate, without using a resist layer or etching chemicals. You then ink, wipe and print the plate. I use a diamond point needle to create the lines, and to see how the drawing is 'developing', I would normally rub a little etching ink over the drawing with my thumb. But today, I decided to see whether I could scan the plate in order to see the lines better. Th…

On 'Mine' (1999) by Kiki Smith

Meditation number 47 of the year is on the estimable feminist installation artist, Kiki Smith.
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On Cornish artist Peter Lanyon

It's two years almost exactly since Patty and I spent a great four days in St. Ives, Cornwall, in the southwest of the UK. Here is one of the photos I took for the magazine article we were doing while we were there:

The Tate gallery built an outpost in St. Ives about twenty years ago, drawn there by St. Ives' long tradition as a colony for artists. One of those painters of a former generation who lived and worked near St. Ives was Peter Lanyon (1918-1964). The Tate St. Ives has recently mounted an exhibition of his work, and this short film from the Tate Channel is a nice introduction to one of the best British abstract artist:



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The giant luminaries in the snow

I drove the 136 miles to Mount Carroll the other day to check on the luminaries, and to discuss with the Historical Society the idea of moving them indoors during the winter to different locations around Carroll County. Here are a couple of low-res cellphone photos of the luminaries in the snow:

They are surviving the first blast of Illinois winter remarkably well. More than six inches of snow fell in the last week, and temperatures at night having been getting down near zero Fahrenheit. For you centigrade-thinking people, that is what we scientists refer to as 'fucking cold'. Yet, apart from a slight bowing to the lids, the wood of the frames looks fine, as do the plexiglass panels. But I don't want to push our luck by leaving them out all winter, so I'm going to arrange for them to spend a few months at a time in public buildings in the area.

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On David Hockney's iphone & ipad drawings

There was a nice piece on National Public Radio's 'Morning Edition' today about painter David Hockney's latest pictures (note to non-Americans: NPR is a bit like BBC Radio 4, and definitely the best news organization in the insane US media landscape). He's been using an iphone and ipad application to make bright, colourful sketches - really small paintings - which are being shown at the Yves St. Laurent Foundation in Paris. As I said in my web-talk about Hockers a few weeks ago, the style, the use of the latest gimmicky technology, and the choice of exhibition venue all add to his reputation as the Noel Coward of contemporary art. But the pictures themselves are good enough, they contain enough good draughtsmanship to be considered for what they modestly claim to be: the exploration of traditional skills in a a novel medium. Here is one of the pictures (this may disappear depending on copyright interpretations):
And here's one that looks more like a drawing:

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On Barbara Koenen at Thomas Robertello Gallery

Thomas Robertello Gallery in Chicago will be previewing some giant paintings/prints by Barbara Koenen starting this Friday, December 10th. Koenen is a very fine artist, who created these works by drawing the patterns with adhesive medium and then carefully sprinkling aromatic spices onto the shapes. The final works are an homage to the long tradition of rug-making in Afghanistan which has been severely curtailed since the western invasion in 2001. I can't attend the opening at this fine gallery, but if you can make it, it's at  939 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, on Friday December 10th from 5 pm until 8 pm.
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Paula Rego interviewed about printmaking

American readers may not be familiar with artist Paula Rego, born in Portugal but residing in England for many decades. In addition to paintings and large pastels, she is also a master printmaker, as this interview from the Tate Channel indicates.

And if you want to do two weeks of printmaking with me at the Interlochen College of the Creative Arts in 2011, registration is now open for the two classes that I will teach: Reduction Linocut, and The Artist's Book.
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On looking through old sketchbooks: 28

"Beautiful colours can be bought in the shops on the Rialto, but good drawing can only be bought from the casket of the artist's talent with patient study and nights without sleep."---Tintoretto.

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