Saturday, October 25, 2014

extraneous work (vi): presenting art, software, social media, networking, framing art

out of necessity i have several art websites, including this blog. already for my artist's homepage www.fwaaldijk.nl i had to learn a minimum of html. i'm quite unsatisfied with this website, but i find it prohibitive to invest even more time in learning how build a proper website.

spend money on having someone do it for me, i'm pondering on that. my artist budget is not spacious, and i always want to be in control of everything. i'm also not in control now, since my knowledge of html, css and dynamic scripting is abysmal. on this blog (like on my other blogs), i usually spend just the minimum amount of effort to learn how to control the most important issues (layout, fonts, picture representations, video embeddings - rare as they may be).

often i hear that an artist should use the internet-related social media, such as facebook. however, i truly dislike facebook, and seldom can muster the necessary energy to participate. i prefer blogging, since in this way i feel that i'm not pestering anybody with my long and often philosophical writings. anyone wishing to read can do so, but the blog feels agreeably low-key / modest to me in the sense that i do not advertise my postings, or draw attention to them other than by simply putting them up on the web.

the downside is that my blog doesn't generate much feedback / interaction. in order to sell art, many people recommend strategies based on networking, also web-based combined with social media. my own strategy is indeed old-fashioned and not so productive: i think customers should see the art in real life, and that the art should speak for itself.

for this i participate in some art-showing events each year. presenting my art in real life is however more work than presenting it on the web. for instance there is the framing to consider:

framing a painting
framing notre dame des anges with shells (click on the image for an enlargement)

i often experiment with the framing of paintings, because i want painting and frame to really work together. so more often than not i find myself constructing a frame, usually from wood or from aluminum. both materials require precise and time-consuming work. the designing of the frame, testing different options, both visually and constructively is often equally time-consuming.

therefore i undertake this only when i feel the paintings will really gain in strength, as compared to letting a professional picture-framer make a frame. i often use this latter option too, as costly as it can be, just to save time. but i still feel happy that i am able to create good picture-frames myself, it is not so easy.

framing drawings in addition involves cutting glass, and cutting passepartouts...the latter i can do well, but cutting glass is somehow not my strong point (it often breaks badly), so this i usually outsource, or avoid. i also like to use old picture frames, and repaint them with my `special' layered technique. in this way many drawings acquire some extra atmosphere. for this i regularly visit second-hand shops, to find suitable old frames. i have a fair collection of them, so i can pick one when a drawing is finished. i also use prefab standard size frames for drawings, mostly in wood but also aluminum sometimes.

my general guiding principle is that the frame should distract as little as possible from the artwork being framed. on te other hand, it shouuld also be distinct enough colourwise and material-wise to be clearly separate from the artwork. i have seen countless artworks where the frame dominates the art...perhaps because without the dominant frame the art work is not special enough?

the question: if an artwork needs a frame to become art, then what have we? touches on a similar but more disturbing question:

if an artwork needs a museum to become art, then what are we doing?

many artworks in modern musea in my not so humble opinion would not be considered artworks if they were found outside of a museum. and in that case, i find myself prone to irritation that they take up space in a museum, and pretentiously so.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

extraneous work (5): writing about art, presenting, photographing, photoshopping

writing about art to me also means presenting art visually, to accompany the writing. almost all bloggers use photographs or other images to enliven their accounts, but i dare say that presenting art works online is a special challenge. why? because:

in this day and age we still have no reliable way to represent/reproduce colours.

and certainly not online. this fact to me is still less surprising than that nobody complains about this (have you ever heard someone else beside me complaining about this?).

take for example the famous painting luncheon of the boating party (le déjeuner des canotiers) by pierre-auguste renoir. let me present below the three first results from google image search:

dejeuner des canotiers, pierre-auguste renoir
le déjeuner des canotiers, pierre auguste renoir (1881, click on the image for an enlargement)

dejeuner des canotiers, pierre-auguste renoir
le déjeuner des canotiers, pierre auguste renoir (1881, click on the image for an enlargement)

dejeuner des canotiers, pierre-auguste renoir
le déjeuner des canotiers, pierre auguste renoir (1881, click on the image for an enlargement)

i could go with more reproductions of this painting...and each would be quite different from the other. so even when searching for art images, i am constantly evaluating picture size, detail but also overall colour. and this is hard, even if i have seen a painting many times in real life. and i have come to observe often that my own computer screen is very different from other screens, so i cannot in any way really control what you are seeing on your screen.

this to me is extremely frustrating, it is like having a piece of music being represented in different speeds, scales, instrumentations, on different computers... but (almost) nobody complains. this is a very clear indication that most people don't care about the precise colour of the things they're looking at. except when it's clothes, or cars, or ...

anyway, be sure that the pictures presented on this blog often involve a tedious amount of photoshopping. this holds especially for photographs of my own artwork. here i discover time and again that my canon 650d is simply not as good colourwise as my canon 350d was (before the batteries expired, new batteries are extremely expensive, i thought i would get better value from the much newer model 650d, but alas). as a result there are quite some paintings that i have not been able to photograph satisfactorily at all, even when using photoshop extensively. so i'm studying on how to resolve this. one way i have discovered is to use a combination of photoshop and picasa. admittedly i'm no expert on photographing, nor on photoshop. but in this series on extraneous work, it seems fitting to mention that i have been forced to acquire much more expertise in these disciplines than i would have liked to, simply to be able to present art.

of course in the pre-digital days, i simply could not afford the equipment which was necessary for good colour reproductions. so all my bitching aside, there is some improvement.

extraneous work (4): writing about art, art contemplation, teaching art

my other dutch blog is called beeld en wereld (image and world; `beeldenwereld' means `world of images'). it started out as a blog containing notes for the art contemplation course `beeld en wereld' that i taught to art students at the unitacademy nijmegen. now i also use it infrequently as a personal blog for typically dutch art affairs. the course notes `beeld en wereld' cover a very broad range of subjects, and i am planning to translate some of these subjects to put up on this blog. one central theme is the dynamic relation between inner world <--> outer world, which i believe to be especially relevant for artists. the course notes also contain some art history, art philosophy, and guide questions for artists.

schema 1 beeld en wereld
scheme of inner world <--> outer world, interfaced through language, image, story with several feedback loops.

i do not think that many contemporary artists write as much about art as i do, although like i said earlier there are quite a few artists who write or have written more. my art blogs attract a fair number of visitors (over 400,000 visits in the past 6,5 years, not much in web terms but not a dry stream either). but the amount of feedback given is very little. it often feels like i write in some sort of empty place, with an occassional casual visitor. therefore it is quite uplifting to see that my students and some visiting artists are really interested in the course topics and the illustrations that i prepare for `beeld en wereld'.

also, the course has really helped me to gain insight in the myriad constellations that occur when considering the interaction between myself as an artist and the outer world. what role suits me, what roles are possible, viable, sustainable, what roles are in vogue; what reactions can be expected from various sources; different looks at market forces, what are the roles of art in our and other societies, current and past..etc. etc.

to me art contemplation encompasses everything from art itself to art history, art sociology, art psychology, artist's psychology, artist's development (technical, themewise, (non)pictorial, society-related, businesswise...) and what you can come up with.

i have found that such art contemplation is often sorely lacking in curricula or art discussions, whereas especially to the artist her/himself it can be very uplifting and helpful to understand the complex mechanisms that surround the various worlds of art. from the inner world of the artist to the outer world of society in general.

it is also very uplifting to me to see that other artists have worked on these issues as well:

diego vélazquez, las meninas
las meninas by diego vélazquez

in interpretation las meninas has more layers than an onion...many of those touching on inner world <--> outer world. please follow the above link to wikipedia and read about this painting, if you are unfamiliar with it. interestingly it also touches on the relation between vélazquez and his commissioner king philip iv of spain. this relation must have been excellent, just looking at the artistic freedom vélazquez was given for this portrait.

this most famous painting has inspired many other artists, writers, philosophers through the ages. such as picasso who in 1957 painted 58 different versions:

pablo picasso, las meninas 1957
las meninas by pablo picasso

joel-peter witkin, las meninas
las meninas by joel-peter witkin

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

extraneous work (3): writing about art, presenting art

[you will by now understand that the word `extraneous' in the series' title is meant thus: `not immediately pertaining to the creation of art'.]

i write about art in different ways, one important way is this blog. but i also have two other art blogs, in dutch. the first of those is called trijntje fop gaat op de schop. it is an extensive tribute to the many many artists that inspire / have inspired me. it takes the form of poetry, specifically light verse, with animals as characters. the name `trijntje fop' comes from multatuli's ideas (multatuli = eduard douwes dekker, see the previous post), from a famous and hilarious passage containing school children's poetry. it was taken as a nom de plume by the dutch poet kees stip (1913-2001). the name is currently used to describe light poetry with the following style characteristics:

  • about 1 or more animals (`on a ...' ) with typical human characteristics - as in de la fontaine's work
  • abundance of spoonerisms.
  • 2 to ... lines, mostly 6 lines in aabbcc form.

most of my trijntje fops are about a specific artist, where the 'punchline' usually consists of some wordplay on the artist's name. i illustrate these poems with relevant artworks and background information, which is where the real work creeps in. all in all i've written some 200 trijntje fops so far...which was a lot of work. to give an idea, let me present my latest trijntje fop -not about a specific artist- below:


op n tasmaanse duivel en n duivelsrog


briest thea tasmaanse duivel:
`alleen maar banaan met zuivel?
vervloekt zij wie steeds ons hellevoer
weer boekt bij die zweedse melkboer!'

de helleveeg eist n vragenuur:
voor welk beest spijst t vagevuur?

`besef toch' sust dragan duivelsrog
de chefkok van satans ruif en trog
`aan types als bok beëlzebub
heeft íedere kok n helse club

de stamppotstampij
van harry harpij!
of maak maar ns snert voor ruziester
en drama queen slechtvalk lucifer

misschien stopt de hel met kniezen
indien k ze zelf laat kiezen?'

bel nu 666 voor vlammetjes!
-of stuur sms voor bammetjes



tasmaanse duivel, chen wu
tasmaanse duivel
(foto chen wu)



duivelsrog, david sim
duivelsrog
(mobula mobular, foto david sim)


bok, de seve, baquoy
bok
(tekening van de sève, gravure van c. baquoy, in  illustrations de histoire naturelle générale et particulière avec la description du cabinet du roy, tome v, 1755)


harpij, bjørn christian tørrissen
harpij
(foto bjørn christian tørrissen)
 


slechtvalk, peregrine falcon, john james audubon
slechtvalk 
(john james audubon, uit the birds of america)


harpij waterspuwer, veronique pagnier
waterspuwer harpij (mythologisch)
(foto véronique pagnier)



harpij, bjørn christian tørrissen
duivel = satan, beëlzebub, lucifer
(tarotkaart van pamela colman smith)



drama queen: iemand die graag van een mug een olifant maakt; vlammetjes: scherpe snack, bammetjes: boterhammetjes



john james audubon, for example, features here. what an incredible artist! the world of art is very strange, for the recognition of audubon is no doubt formidable, yet one does not usually see his works in art museums, nor is he usually mentioned in art history books. [one reason of course is that his main work is contained in the incredible book birds of america (link to digital version, only 120 complete sets exist), and it is hard to display books]. anyway, the older i get, the less i understand of this world. but the less i care, too, for fitting in, for understanding...what i perceive as the general insanity of our society.

(in the trijntje fops i often comment ironically on this general craziness.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

extraneous work (2): writing about art (van gogh)

perhaps you remember that i wrote about multatuli earlier (my favourite dutch author, more or less from the same time period as vincent van gogh) as being perhaps the inventor of blogging, see his published ideas. sorry to see that they are still not translated in english, an unbelievable state of affairs to me. i'm not a chauvinist, this is a terrific author with truly original prose and ... ideas of course.

but vincent van gogh is an example of a visual artist who also wrote prolifically, on art. of course, contrary to multatuli he never intended these writings to become public, they were after all personal letters, mostly to his brother theo, who was a close supporter of vincent. theo died shortly after vincent, and fortunately for us theo's young widow johanna bonger took great pains to spread appreciation of both vincent's art and the brothers' letters.

crediting multatuli with the invention of blogging is probably unfair to earlier minds which i'm unaware of. and of course, there was an essential ingredient missing: pictures. in vincent's letters one does see pictures being integrated, abundantly so and in much the same way as on this blog. [so even though i would like to be original or prolific or whatever epithet: the truth is that i'm neither of all these things, compared to certain giants in the past and present. but does it matter?]

excerpt from letter to john russell, vincent van gogh
excerpt from letter to john russell, vincent van gogh (click on the image for an enlargement)

the letter is in english (which is why i chose it for this post) since john peter russell was an australian artist who made vincent's acquaintance in paris. vincent was completely fluent in dutch, french and english, and also a voracious reader. here is a portrait of vincent by john russell:

portrait of vincent van gogh, john peter russell
portrait of vincent van gogh, john peter russell (1886, click on the image for an enlargement)

anyway, vincent wrote over 840 letters (844 have survived due to theo and johanna), containing a staggering amount of prose and sketches. seeing the interest in these letters i should remind myself that perhaps my writings here are not as uninteresting to others as i often fear them to be. but already for vincent the letters themselves were enough, and so it is for me as well: a main reason to maintain this blog is to help me crystallize and develop my thoughts on art.

excerpt from letter to john russell, vincent van gogh
yellow house sketch from letter vgm 491, vincent van gogh (click on the image for an enlargement)

Monday, October 20, 2014

intermezzo: francis bacon and van gogh

should have posted this before starting the series... my `study after van gogh' reminded me suddenly of francis bacon and vincent van gogh (both in a league of their own), just let me put up some pictures of bacon's amazing series of studies 'after' van gogh:

study for a portrait of van gogh ii, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh ii, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

i am as usual enthralled by bacon's way of distorting space and spatiality. i really am working on spatiality myself, but am a long way from where i would like to be.

the series of portait studies was inspired by the van gogh painting painter on the road to tarascon (destroyed in world war ii, bacon only had a photograph)

painter on the road to tarascon, vincent van gogh
painter on the road to tarascon, vincent van gogh (1885, click on the image for an enlargement)

study for a portrait of van gogh iii, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh iii, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

study for a portrait of van gogh v, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh v, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

study for a portrait of van gogh vi, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh vi, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

however, i suddenly realize that this intermezzo is even more to the point than i thought. if there is any artist who wrote about his art, then it must be vincent van gogh. let's elaborate on this in the next post.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

extraneous work (1): 6,5 years of this artist's blog

so time flies. and it happens i repeat myself. what i would like to do next is start a little series on all the extra -sometimes extraneous- work that comes along with being an artist, for me at last.

is this an interesting subject? not sure. why would a musician blogging about practising scales interest me? how she has to make recordings to submit to ... and how she has to do photo shoots, buy strings, tune the instrument, heat the appartment... we take all these things for granted, even when we're in awe of her music. even then, would my interest stretch beyond reading what influences / influenced her, her coming of age as a musician etc? not sure.

when i look at the large amount of time i spend on music (practising, myself; listening to music) and compare it to the amount of time i read about musicians/composers... it doesn't bode well for how interesting my own blog would be to others than myself. [still, the blog at least makes my art available on the web, and it has the added advantage of offering me the opportunity to crystallize some of my thoughts on art.]

but i suppose i would be interested in a description of this musician's activities, if it is well written, and offered some real insight in what drives her, both musically and as a person i suppose, since it seems hard to separate the two completely. and if like on this blog, the description would be interlaced with music...

anyway. it seems i would do well to at least write well on this blog. yet i tend to think that if i had wanted to become a good writer, then i would not have become an artist. most things takes a lot of time and energy to do well, and writing a blog is no exception. worth it too, since writing this blog helps me in important ways with my art itself: to present my art, to think about art and artists, to rethink my art, to rethink my artist's position in life and society, and even to create my art.

in order to present my art here, i spend quite some time on photography and subsequent tuning of digital images with photoshop and other image editors, such as picasa. a subject for the next post in this series, but as an example:

outsider in woman-man dance, frank waaldijk
outsider in woman-man dance (own work, 2010-2013, 21 x 30cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

difficulties abound: the colours of the drawing are hard to capture even with my canon 650d; then apart from often tricky colour adjustments the white-balance and the brightness of the picture need to be calibrated for use on computer screens. for shiny paintings, reflection-specks are edited out. then the image has to be saved for web, in a typical compromise between size and detail.

the drawing itself combines two themes: man-woman dance, and outsiderness (being an outsider). much as i would like to be able to write strikingly about my art, this is where i usually find myself at a loss for words.

lately i realize that this has something to do with a `trite' question: what do we mean with `meaning'? i cannot explain the meaning of art, i feel. if it has meaning (whatever that means), then the most important part of that meaning to me is essentially non-verbal. what is the meaning of the goldberg variations?