Monthly Archives: May 2008

Alison Elizabeth Taylor

Alison Elizabeth Taylor
Starting from a sketchbook drawing, which is revised and refined as it is scaled up, sometimes to wall-size, Alison Elizabeth Taylor creates her images (which she calls “paintings”) out of wood veneer.

Using different kinds of wood, sometimes 100 or more varieties in an image, she applies the sections in ways that allow the natural color and grain of the wood to contribute to the image, like a cross between brushstrokes and mosaic tiles.

The process is called wood marquetery, a form of decorative art that was developed to a high degree during the Renaissance, but hasn’t exactly been a household word or staple on art school curriculums since.

Taylor, a graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, took her original inspiration from a whim to make a portrait out of cheap wood-grain contact paper.

After moving to New York to go to graduate school at Columbia University, she encountered the Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Studiolo means room or cabinet, and refers to small rooms that royals would use as studies or sitting rooms, that contain their books, papers and works of art. The piece in the Met is a wood marquetery version of the interior one such room, its faux cabinets and trompe l’oiel books and lutes arranged around the interior of a small room in life-size approximation of the actual room, in what is perhaps one of the earliest examples of virtual reality.

Taylor was immediately struck by the process and inspired to begin working earnestly in real wood, a painstaking process.

Taylor sets her pieces into position in her intricate representational images and holds them there temporarily with a tacky plastic film used in sign making, until they can be glued into place with a press.

For a new installation called “Room” that is her modern take on the Studiolo, the pieces were too large for her own studio and she had to enlist the facilities of a architectural woodworking firm with a commercial veneering press.

Unlike her Renaissance counterparts, but in keeping with her other work, Taylor’s images are not of nobles and their rich belongings, but of the everyday and mundane, even the ugly, but represented with captivating beauty of the grains, colors and textures of wood.

There is an article on the New York Times site, with a slide show of her work. She has a show currently at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea until June 21, 2008.

[Link via Kottke.org]

 
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Boris Artzybasheff

Boris Artzybasheff
Illustrator Boris Artzybasheff was born in the Ukraine, emigrated to the the U.S. and was active during the mid 20th Century.

“Unique” may be a mild word to describe Artzybasheff’s approach to illustration. maybe if I add adjectives like “idiosyncratic”, “eccentric”, “bizarre” and “off the wall”, I can get a little closer; oh yes, and throw in “wonderful”.

Artzybasheff is most noted for his graphic images in which he indulged in his fascination with anthropomorphized industrial machinery — glaring cauldrons pour bright molten metal into seeming surprised ingot molds, steel rollers feed the ingots through their “teeth” with conveyor belt hands, rods or wire ropes are extruded through the noses of forming machines, electro-mechanical calculators, heads full of vacuum tubes, use their intricately wired and gimbaled arms to perform calculations on themselves, and hydraulic presses, grommeted eyes bulging with exertion, slam down their plates with muscular arms (image above, left).

The always amazing ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive has posted another of their series on great illustrators with a feature on these images from the Machinalia section of Artzybasheff’s long out of print but newly reprinted book As I See: The Fantastic World of Boris Artzybasheff.

The above link is to the hardcover on Amazon, which lists a release date in October, but it looks as though you can order the softcover now through the site of publisher Ken Steacy. The Amazon link is worth exploring, though, because you can see some of the many other books he illustrated (and wrote) over the course of his career.

His most widely seen illustrations were for big magazines like Life, Fortune and Time, including over 200 covers for the latter. He also had a number of large commercial clients, including Parke-Davis, Parker Pens, Xerox, Pan Am, and Shell Oil, for whom he did some remarkably weird and wonderful illustrations (above, top right). You can see some of his advertising and commercial illustrations on the American Art Archives.

[AISFA article link via BoingBoing]

 
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Tang Wei Min

Tang Wei Min
I’ve long been fascinated with the cross-pollination of ideas and styles between the artistic traditions of Asia and Europe. Even though they are technically on the same continent they were effectively separate worlds for much of the time their artistic methods and traditions were developing.

Now, of course, the world is melting together, connected by strands of optic fiber and jet contrails, but the traditions are being maintained in some quarters and mixed in others

Tang Wei Min is an artist from Hunan Province in China who applies the painting styles and techniques of the European masters to subject matter drawn from the traditional costume and ceremonial dress of historic China.

In paintings that carry the feeling of Baroque era European painters, particularly Rembrandt, Tang Wei Min paints rich, incisive portraits of people in decorative robes and head dress (something Rembrandt himself was quite fond of), and at times, gives a nod to his inspirations by mimicing the composition of particular paintings by Rembrandt and others, including the pose from Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring (above).

I really enjoy his Rembrandtesque chiaroscuro and great chunks of impasto white highlights, combined with the fascinating clothing and intensely portrayed faces of his sitters.

I couldn’t find a dedicated web site for the artist; I came across his work on the Art Renewal Center, and with a little digging found that he is represented by a number of galleries in China and the U.S.

 
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Tim Warnock (update)

Tim Warnock
Matte paintings are paintings that produce the illusion of a background or part of a background in film. They can also form part of a foreground.

Matte paintings are almost as old as movies themselves, and were originally painted on glass, and positioned in front of, and/or behind the actors (or stop motion creatures), creating the illusion in the camera of a complete scene.

Modern matte painting is composited, and usually created, digitally.

Tim Warnock is both a matte painter and a concept artist, and some time ago retired his paintbrushes in favor of a Wacom stylus.

I wrote a brief post about Tim Warnock back in 2005; since then his online portfolio has been redone and, of course, there is much new work.

His portfolio is divided between matte painting (image above, top and detail, bottom left) and concept art (above, middle and detail, bottom, right).

Warnock brings a talent for crisp realism, characteristic of matte painting, to his concept art. In both cases he uses sharp value contrasts and carefully controlled color relationships to give his scenes high definition and visual drama.

 
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Draw yourself as a teen

Draw yourself as a teenHere’s a great idea, started as a simple notion by webcomics artist and blogger Dave Valeza, and now snowballed into something of an internet meme.

The suggestion was simple: “challenge: draw yourself as a teen“, supplemented with “if you are still a teen, draw your future post-teen self”.

Word has gotten around, as people have participated and posted the results on their own sites and blogs, and the list on Valeza’s blog is now of over 400 links and growing.

Some of the participants have done “then and now” versions, in which their teenage self is contrasted with their current identity, complete with notations on hairstyle, clothing choice and attendant paraphernalia like sketchbooks, music players and reading matter.

Some of the drawings are more accomplished than others, of course, but many are quite well done; and even the less sophisticated drawings are often enlivened with wry observations and remarkably self-confessional critiques of former (and present) selves.

The list is too long to explore all at once, but it makes a nice diversion to bookmark and revisit occasionally. It would be nice if there were a more formal arrangement with thumbnails and such, but that’s a lot to ask. Valeza has marked off the list at increments of 50, which can help you keep track.

On many of the images, you have to click through several links, and various interfaces (LiveJournal, Flickr, deviantARt, etc.), to get to the full size images.

Some of the drawings are essentially condensed tales of growth, angst and self-awareness, worthy of more filled out short stories. Others are simple drawings of a past self-image, but there is much food for thought here, both in terms of stories and artistically.

(Image at left, left to right, top to bottom: Kennon James, Jacob “Gil” Paul, “buttface makani”, Steve Wolfhard, “lokabrenna” ,Viki Nerino)

[Link via Drawn!]

 
 
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CRW Nevinson

CRW Nevinson - Paths of Glory
Though most of the horrors you’ll see in the art on these pages are imaginary, like movie monsters and fantasy creatures, some horrors are quite real, and we occasionally need to stop an remind ourselves of them.

For those in other parts of the world, I’ll mention that today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. Though it’s a day associated with barbecues, trips to the beach and the unofficial start of Summer; it is a holiday created to honor those who have lost their lives in military service over the course of the nation’s history.

In recent years, much of that observance has focused on World War II, the surviving veterans of which are at an age where those who remember the war directly are rapidly shrinking in number.

It occurred to me to look back at another generation to the previous large scale conflict, World War I, from which there are fewer surviving witnesses, mostly those who were children at the time, but enough to remember that the horrors of war don’t diminish with distance in the past.

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson was a British artist, associated with the Futurist movement and the less well known Vorticists, who became an official war artist in 1917. The Vorticists were a short lived but influential group of British artists who took the geometric latticework of Cubism and Futurism and sent it whirling through their interpretation of motion in the painted image.

Nevinson brought the fractured dynamics of the group’s style to the portrayal of scenes from “The War to End All Wars”, at first in service of the image the government wanted to portray; but eventually, from his experience as an ambulance driver, in a revulsive response to the atrocities of war.

His painting Paths of Glory, in which the stylized angles of Vorticism are abandoned for a more direct approach, (above) was initially banned by the military censors, but Nevinson managed to display it during the war outside of official channels.

Nevinson was one of the artists chosen to paint large works for the Imperial War Museum’s Hall of Remembrance; where his painting Harvest of Battle hangs along with John Singer Sargent’s famous Gassed (see my post on Art of War).

Art depicting the horror or war is not often brought to the fore, even in museums where major pieces are part of the collection, so it often falls to places like the Hall of Remembrance to keep it on display.

Actually, it’s up to us to look up and remember the images with which artists have tried to impress on us the inhumanity and tragedy of war, particularly when we are asking our friends, neighbors or sons and daughters to face it for any reason.

 
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