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Showing posts from July, 2011

Blind contour drawing, Zion

Yup: bin drawin' me sum hoodoos in that thar nashnul park in Yootar.

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Waiter art

I'm in the wild canyonlands of southern Utah at the moment. My wife and I ate at a good restaurant in the town of Escalante last night. I asked for my leftovers to be wrapped to go, and the waiter picked them up in some foil, and proceeded, with great deftness and artistry, to turn the food-in-a-foil package into this objet d'art:


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Interview with writer Katey Schultz

Katey Schultz is an incredibly talented writer with an interesting story to tell. I met her during the recent Interlochen Writers' Retreat, where she was one of the assistant faculty. She has work forthcoming in "War, Literature & the Arts," the only government-funded literary magazine in the United States, published by the United States Air Force Academy. Further links to her work are here. Today is the sixth anniversary of her blog, The Writing Life, on which Katey has documented not just the daily life of an emerging writer, but a fascinating journey across the United States which began two years ago. All good reasons, I thought, to talk to Katey in more depth.

Philip: Why did you decide to start a blog? As an online journal, promotional tool, or another reason?

Katey: Back in 2005, blogs were still relative babies in the internet world. I knew enough to know it might be fun, but when I created The Writing Life Blog, I had no idea how much blogging would take off in…

Meditation on Jake and Dinos Chapman

Number 77 is about the tiresome British twins.

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What I am reading (formerly Book of the Week)

Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations, edited by Michael Hamburger (Anchor books, 1960).

In a month when Google has just introduced another online service that is based on instant electronic communication between millions of people, I picked up a volume of letters written by Beethoven, selected from the thousands that he wrote during his life. This is not a great number for a busy, educated, and famous man living between 1770 and 1827, when a letter was the only way to communicate with absent friends or business partners, even those who lived in the same city. As this volume shows, Beethoven’s daily life involved not just writing music, but sending the manuscripts out to copiers, communicating with his publishers, his aristocratic patrons, musical societies and orchestras across Europe that wanted to perform his works, his family, his would-be lovers, dealing with solicitations from people who wanted to visit him – all of which required a written note, from a few lines to page…

First draft animation

This is the first draft of an animation for the Lucerne Project show in October. Except for the painted backdrop, which is 3ft high and 6 ft wide, it may not look like this. I just wanted to try a few things out, get my hand back in, put my thoughts in order, see how it looked, before I buckle down to work on something longer.

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What we learn from children

At a party last weekend, our friends Chris and Megan brought along their three year old boy Caleb, who did the above drawing in collaboration with another kid there. After Caleb had brought it over to show his parents, he put it down on the table and immediately wandered off towards something else that had taken his attention, as children do. My eyes stayed on the drawing. I am always attracted to the colourful drawings of children, the way they instinctively place the objects face-on, squarely in the picture space; the way their lines are so strong and definite; the way they make the most basic possible mark -- the scribble -- which is nevertheless so expressive; the way they gravitate to hot colours. Except for the level of intention, Caleb's drawing is not so different from this:


Whenever Patty and I teach the Journal and Sketchbook class, we talk about the drawings we do as children, how unselfconscious they are, and how many of us have that educated out of us as our academic…

News about The Lucerne Project

This weekend, details about The Lucerne Project show (at Finestra Art Space, Chicago, in October) were officially added to the Chicago Artists' Month sites, and we were given the go-ahead to start using the organization's logos on marketing materials. If you look at the Lucerne Project blog, you'll see the CAM logo in the right column.

I therefore spent my latest studio day taking better photos of the accordion book against a white background, and making publicity photos of it, such as the ones shown here:



It feels that I'm nearly finished, and also that there's so much work left to do.

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Artists-Writer-Artist: Fiona Banner (2)

For once, I found something useful on Wikipedia. Under 'Art', it provides a broad ranging and useful summary of the different functions of art. They are: non-motivated functions of art (basic human instinct for harmony, balance and rhythm; experience of the mysterious; expression of the imagination; universal communication; ritualistic and symbolic communication) and motivated functions of art (communication through illustration; art as entertainment; art for political change; psychological and healing purposes; social inquiry, subversion, or anarchy; propaganda/commercialism).

There’s no question in my mind that art of the non-motivated kind is vastly superior to the motivated kind. How to identify the different kinds of art that one sees, and deciding where to place them on this sliding scale, is an unending process of evaluation and response. The categories are not mutually exclusive, either. Pure aestheticism (pretty pictures of flowers to put in the bathroom) can be as ban…

Interview with artist Phillip Buntin

Phillip Buntin is another artist with whom I became acquainted via Facebook. The word that springs to mind with Phillip is "intelligence": it was the intelligent discussion on his Facebook page that led me to look at his work, which revealed itself to be a body of highly intelligent abstract mark-making. As a teacher at Kent State University, Phillip clearly tries to instill in his students the same application of critical intelligence that he applies in his own work. I think you will see the same qualities in the following interview. 

(Note: Because I am Philip interviewing someone called Phillip, I used our surnames in transcribing the exchange.)

Hartigan: Your work seems to play with notions of scientific precision, drawing from mathematical and scientific diagrams, yet you also seem to value open-endedness in art. In practical terms, how do you balance these impulses in your painting?

Buntin: My use of diagrammatic imagery is largely metaphorical and they are used to allude…

Artist-Writer-Artist: Fiona Banner

Fiona Banner is an artist who takes text as her medium in a way that some artists use clay, or paint. In the 90s she produced a 1,000 page book called Nam, which was the result of her sitting and watching, back to back,  four Vietnam movies - Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and the Deer Hunter -  and writing down what she saw, in real time.



Banner has also created word drawings where she sets up an easel before a nude model, but instead of depicting the model with lines, she writes a description of what she sees, and how she is experiencing what she sees. Sometimes she does this in front of a small audience, turning the action into a form of performance.

This is an artist who definitely writes at length, but not in a way that encourages prolonged reading of what she has actually written. A phrase that crops up a lot in interviews and writing about Banner's writing is "frustrating narrative expectations." Mission accomplished. Very often I find myself giving …

Meditation Number 76

This talk opens up to talk more broadly about how the perception of individual works of art (particularly 'controversial' ones) changes over time.

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Day 60: Designing a box

I spent hours cutting up bits of mat-board and masking tape, working out the design of a box to house the 100-page accordion book for the Lucerne Project.


I'm considering this: a box that folds out flat, to reveal more prints fixed to the inside, or a continuous print like a map or something. Here are a few photos showing how it folds back together:


The sides would stay closed using some tiny bits of velcro embedded into the book board.
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Interview with me on 'Linocult'

'Linocult, a blog and related twitter feed devoted to all things to do with linocut printmaking, published an interview with me today. Thanks go to Dailey from Brooklyn for his commitment to the cause of block printing. Have a look at the blog some time: he publishes great looking linoleum prints every day.

Link: http://linocult.com/post/7762836693/interview-with-philip-hartigan

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How to pour acrylic matte medium onto a panel

Like this:


It's pretty thick, like a cake mix. I pour it all along one edge of the panel, then tip the panel up and let it slide down the surface until it reaches the bottom, I turn it 45 degrees and let it settle in that direction. When it's all flat and smooth, I get rid of any air bubbles by spritzing it quickly with some surgical alcohol (warning, kids: don't drink this!).

The acrylic matte medium is mixed in with a little white acrylic paint, so that it masks the circle painting, but not entirely:


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Day 59: How long can it be?

The 100-page accordion book, if unfolded like so:


... amounts to about 40 inches for 14 pages. So to display it all like that come October, I would need a table or shelf approximately 23 feet long.


After doing those calculations, I went on overprinting shapes in blue and sanguine:

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Artist-Writer-Artist: The Parameters

While this subject of artists who write and writers who create art never leaves my mind for long, it's been absent on this blog for a while, except in the form of teaching the Journal and Sketchbook class in different places this year. With this post, I am proposing to restart the series, and to continue the investigation into the work of artist-writer-artists, in the hope of gaining some fresh insight into the creative process of individual artist-writer-artists, and into the creative process generally as it manifests itself in visual art and the word.

Jenny Holzer
Robert Indiana
Maira Kalman
The last time I talked directly about this subject, I made a distinction between artists who incorporate text into their work as just another visual element similar to a colour or a shape, and those artists who spend some time working with words, who explore the possibilities of expression that arise in the 'opposite' medium. So Jenny Holzer, who works in gnomic phrases cast in neon or …

Sean Scully goes past 1,000

Views, that is. My slideshow/webtalk/video on Sean Scully is the latest one from the Meditations on Art to have passed 1,000 views on the You Tube channel I set up for them (it's called The Art Channel, in case you didn't know).



Following close behind are the video talks (what should be the correct phrase?) on Jim Dine, Piero della Francesca, and Bill Viola. Meanwhile the Kara Walker video is steaming towards 2,000.

Take that, You Tube videos of kittens!

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My Studios VI: Wicker Park, Chicago

My current studio is in an arrondissement of Chicago called Wicker Park. It’s the East Village of the City of Big Shouders. It’s the Notting Hill of the Windy City. If you want trendy bars, bijou clothes shops, artists’ studios, artists’ collectives, small independent galleries, dozens of hipster hangouts, places to make and listen to music, then Wicker Park is the place for you. ‘So,’ I hear you ask, ‘what are you doing there — you who prefers to listen to Mahler and Richard Strauss while wearing your brown knitted cardigan and slippers?’

In 2007, when I was looking for a studio in Chicago, I was in several exhibitions that all took place within a few hundred yards of each other in Wicker Park. Rather than the youth-orientation angle, I was attracted to the vibrant local art scene, and the proximity to larger commercial galleries just a few miles nearer the Loop. I found a 300 square foot studio for a decent price near Damen and Division, a location depicted many times in the novels o…