Colin Campbell Cooper

Colin Campbell Cooper
Colin Campbell Cooper was an American impressionist painter active in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He was, within that rather loose classification, the foremost among them in the portrayal of architecture. He is also one of my personal favorites.

Known for both his later paintings of California gardens and landmarks, as well as his earlier paintings of New York skyscrapers, Cooper also turned his lush palette and virtuoso brush to other subjects.

His painting of Lower Broadway in Wartime (above, 2nd down, right) is in the museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts here in Philadelphia. I’ll sometimes stand and look at it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. What’s not obvious from these small reproductions on the web is that Cooper’s paintings can be marvels of texture and color mixing, with luminous transitions of one color passage into another within the surface of a single wall.

Areas that appear highly detailed are in fact very painterly, with much more suggested than overtly painted. (I’ve listed links below to previous auction sales on Sotheby’s and Christie’s that can often be zoomed in to levels of considerable magnification.)

Cooper was born in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins, as well as training at the Académie Julian in Paris. He taught for a time at the Drexel Insitute of Art Science and Industry (now Drexel University, also home to such noted art teachers as Howard Pyle).

Cooper married Emma Lampert, herself a well known artist, and the couple traveled and painted in Europe and Aisa as well as across the U.S. Notably they traveled to India, at the time far off the track for even the most adventurous American and European travelers, and Cooper returned to create from his location sketches stunning paintings of the Taj Mahal, the palace gate at Udaipur and other locations rarely seen in the West.

After the death of his wife in 1920, Cooper moved to California, perhaps to start over. The move marked a separate phase of his career in which his style and subject matter changed and he exhibited a renewed interest in including figures in his paintings. He taught and later became Dean at the School of Painting at the Santa Barbara Community School of Arts.

There is currently an exhibition of Cooper’s work at the Santa Barbara Museum in California, Lasting Impressions: Colin Campbell Cooper, that runs until October 8, 2010.

As far as I know there is only one in-print book on Cooper’s work: East Coast/West Coast and Beyond: Colin Campbell Cooper, American Impressionist by Deborah Epstein Solon and William Gerdts (Gerdts is a well known authority and author of several books on American Impressionism). The book was from a 2007 exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum. My impression is that this is the same exhibition that is currently at the Santa Barbara Museum.

There is a very nice 10 page article on Cooper and the current exhibition in the August issue of American Art Review, written by Deborah Epstein Solon, co-author of the book mentioned above, and illustrated with numerous images of Cooper’s work. This issue is still on the shelves as of this writing and should eventually be available as a back issue from the publisher. Cooper’s work is also featured on the cover.


deviantART Muro

deviantART Muro: loish, nuevemonos, len-yan
For a while now deviantART, the online arts community portal, has been teasing it’s members and visitors with an “It’s coming..” campaign, touting an event to coincide with deviantART’s 10th anniversary on August 7th.

The event was the release of deviantART Muro, a new online digital painting and drawing application that works in the browser.

While online drawing and painting interfaces are nothing new, this one is different in that it is made entirely in HTML5, rather than the normal approach of creating these apps in Flash. For those of us interested in the technology, it’s a striking achievement, and the most impressive use of HTML5 I’ve seen to date.

For the casual user, the most relevant advantage of creating the app in HTML5 is that it can be used on the iPad (and presumably the iPhone, though the interface would be quite small).

Beyond that, it’s just a very nicely implemented online drawing an painting tool, well designed, fluid, and able to respond to pressure sensitive input from Wacom tablets. It’s sophisticated in other ways, the “Pro” version, available at the flip of a switch at the top of the interface, allows for the use of layers (image above, top).

There are a range of brush types, adjustments and a nicely functional, if small, color picker. Both the Basic and Pro version of the interface are available free. There is a feature to login in and purchase more advanced brushes.

Images can uploaded directly to deviantART if you have an account, or exported (from the “Image” menu) as PNG files.

There is a gallery of work done in the app that is still small, but growing. The deviantART community is largely devoted to art styles related to concept art, science fiction and fantasy, but you can get an ides of the range of styles that could be accomplished with the app. (Images above, below the interface: ‘loish, nuevemonos, ‘len-yan).

While not a substitute for a dedicated digital painting app on your computer, this in-browser app is impressive, fun to work with and an indication of even better things to come.

[Via WebMonkey]

[Note: if you have trouble accessing the Muro interface, particularly in Firefox, please see this post’s comments, and let me know what your experience was.

If you encounter a request for a survey, my suggestion is to close the browser window and open another one and try again.]



Pájaro (pronounced páh-hah-ro), who takes his name from a childhood nickname meaning “bird”, is a Venezuelan artist who spent much of his youth and adolescence in Spain.

He embarked on his path as a self taught painter at the age of 23.

Returning to Venezuela he brought back with him the influence of European Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art that expresses itself in an interesting mixture of styles, creating a form of visionary magic realism that he terms “Metarealism”

Pájaro draws on those aspects of classical art that he chooses and mixes them at will; Renaissance garbed figures, rendered with Baroque or even modern sensibilities, might appear in landscapes with the intricate detail and false atmospheric perspective of Medieval painting.

His subjects are dreamlike juxtapositions of figures, objects, times and places, rendered with an appealing eye for texture and tone, and usually painted with a muted, carefully controlled palette; though he occasionally applies high chroma passages.

Pájaro presents his subjects in compositions that feel somewhat theatrical, as though implying that he has stories to tell us, and with an intensity of rendering that imbues them with a feeling of personal significance.

On opening his website, there is a choice at bottom right to view the site in English. There is an “Enlarge” button to the lower right of most paintings; unfortunately, the JavaScript that opens the window for the enlargements takes some time, particularly on a large monitor.

Pájaro also has started a blog, though there is little content as yet.


Sharpie Liquid Pencil

Sharpie Liquid Pencil
Sharpie, makers of the iconic line of markers and pens, has announced a Liquid Pencil, a pen like instrument that makes lines with “liquid graphite”.

The lines are apparently erasable like a pencil, but dry into ink like permanence in 24 to 36 hours (depending on whether you believe the packaging or the Sharpie blog).

I like to carry around small sketchboooks, but seldom sketch in pencil because the subsequent wear on a sketchboook carried in a pocket often smears pencil drawings. I love the idea of being able to sketch in graphite, erase and smudge while drawing, and then have the resulting drawing “self-fix” in a few days.

Whether it actually works as advertised I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to try one of these yet, but the concept is appealing enough that I thought I’d mention it now. The Sharpie blog says they will be available in stores in September, though Office Depot shows them as available for order online now.

Engadget has a short video review of the Liquid Pencil in use.

Sharpie, incidentally, is looking to make their web presence a resource for doodlers, with their Sharpie Uncapped site and Showcase (more here and here).

[Via Daring Fireball and Engadget]

[Addendum 8/29/10: Alas, though I haven’t yet tried this myself, follow up posts on Engadget indicate that the dream of the Liquid Pencil is indeed just a dream, and Sharpie is getting by on their claims on a technicality. The marks remain erasable, to some degree, indefinitely. No mention was made of smear resistance, however, so I may yet try one when I get the chance, but Sharpie hasn’t done themselves any favors with this bad bit of PR.]


Iain McCaig (update)

Iain McCaig
Iain McCaig is one of the film industry’s foremost concept designers. He is widely known for his beautiful concept art for the Star Wars and Harry Potter films, among others.

When I last wrote about McCaig in 2006 I pointed out how impressed I was with his beautiful concept drawings in the Art of Star Wars books: The Art of Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace, The Art of Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones and The Art of Star Wars, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.

In the time since my post, the Gnomon Workshop has released 4 volumes of instructional DVD’s: Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig; and in 2008 a new book was released Shadowline: The Art of Iain McCaig (image above, second down).

Still, I’ve been hoping for more of an online presence for McCaig. Unfortunately, the “Coming Soon” sign on has remained in place for the last several years.

The good news is that McCaig now has a blog, the bad news is that it is not frequently updated and does not contain a great deal of material.

The good news is that one of his recent posts points out that McCaig will be giving a rare free workshop next Saturday, August 14th, 2010, at the Art Institute of California in San Bernadino (image above, bottom).

The workshop, called “Showtime” begins at noon. The event is free, but seating is limited and admission requires that you RSVP to (909) 915-2100.

There is also a Facebook page for the event (may require login).


The Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum: Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase
It has often been pointed out that the borough of Brooklyn, if it were not part of New York City, would stand on its own as one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., perhaps 4th or 5th largest.

Like most American cities of that size, Brooklyn has a world class art museum. Unlike most of those museums, however, the Brooklyn Museum has a unique problem in terms of its identity and public perception, in that it exists in the very large and imposing shadow of the more famous museums of nearby Manhattan. This leaves it unfairly relegated to a public perception of second class status, when in fact, The Brooklyn Museum is terrific and should be prominent on the list of major American art museums.

There was an article on the New York Times site a few days ago, Sketching a Future for the Brooklyn Museum, in which several members of the arts community give their take on the museum’s rather unique position and public relations dilemma.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Brooklyn Museum for the first time last summer, drawn by an exhibition of the works of French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (more here), and was surprised and delighted with how much I enjoyed the museum and the works then on display from the permanent collection.

I say “then on display” because, like every major museum, only a small portion of the museum’s holdings can be on display at any one time, and works are rotated into view periodically.

The Brooklyn Museum has a wonderful feature to make even more of its collection available, in that some of its extensive archives are open to the public in the “Visible Storage” center on the museum’s 5th floor (image above, bottom). Here you can get a behind the scenes glimpse of how museums catalog and store their collections, with great class cases on rolling tracks that are frequently rotated to display more of the works in the collections.

The collections are housed in the museum’s impressive Beaux-Arts building, one that would stand out as a prominent cultural center in any city — except New York. Like many major museums, non-flash personal photography is permitted in the permanent collections.

For those who can take the ride out to Brooklyn, the museum is right next to the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. The combination is just right for a day’s outing.

For those who can’t get to the museum physically, the Brooklyn Museum website is arranged to encourage browsing through the collections, though it helps to have a starting point. I was personally impressed with the museum’s holdings of Claude Monet (image above, top) and other proponents of Impressionism, as well as American Impressionists, including one of my favorite paintings by William Merritt Chase, his Studio Interior (image above, third down and detail below; also see my post on William Merritt Chase.)

You can spin off of your search by clicking on tags for related topics, like Landscape or Venice, museum sections like the Beaux-Arts Court, or search for artists like John Singer Sargent (image above, second down). Note that the search box in the right column of the collections pages returns different results than the general search box at the top of the pages.

Unfortunately, the website’s pop-up code for the enlargements is a bit awkward, but the images are large enough to enjoy and the interesting mix of the collections can lead you off in search of fascinating artists and subjects.

As you browse through the collections, you’ll cross paths with a number major works that will whet your appetite for a visit, putting the Brooklyn Museum on your map the next time you’re in New York City.