Tag: painting

The ‘Wet Muse’ Series: Scratchboard


I’ve decided to start a series of articles about my art interests that began with the recent post, The Wet Muse.

A class I recently took was “scratchboard.” The name is the entire art — scratching marks on a board to reveal an image. The “board” is a white clay substance adhered to particle board and stained completely with black India ink. The boards come in a variety of sizes and finished art can be mounted in a “floater” frame for display.

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The cold is biting, even through layers of linen, chirimen, and silk. Vender’s cries fill the air, offering up soba noodles, natto, charred eel, and chazuke, an accent to the everpresent flow of the Sumida River. Down an alley in the artisan’s district, lantern flames illuminate a broad shoji paper door, allowing the tile and […]

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ACF Critic Series #28: Never Look Away


There is a new Donnersmarck movie, Never Look Away, a brilliant successor to the famous The Lives Of Others, so we are getting the team back together. @FlaggTaylor and Carl Eric Scott join me on the podcast for a long, wide-ranging discussion about art and tyranny, about the relationship between beauty and politics, and what great movies can offer by way of meditation on our search for freedom. Flagg and Carl co-edited the book on Donnersmarck’s marvelous, Oscar-winning debut, The Lives of Others.

Of Love and Saucers – and Myths and Christmas


Sex sells, which I suppose is why @ejhill egged me on to write for Ricochet about one David Huggins, an elderly New Jersey man who claims to have long ago lost his virginity to aliens who have been visiting him ever since. (Huggins is the same fellow @majestyk briefly mentioned in his recent piece on UFOs.)

More remarkable than Huggins’s claim that his first girlfriend was an alien named Crescent, or that he served as a stud to sire countless alien progeny, is the fact that Huggins won’t stop painting pictures of it. Yes, Huggins paints alien porn. Alien porn isn’t all he paints – of his hundreds of paintings of encounters with aliens, many, perhaps most, aren’t pornographic. But enough are for one reviewer to dub his oeuvre “the X-rated Files.” Oh, did I mention these paintings are featured in both a coffee-table book and now a documentary movie? The movie, Love and Saucers, is out on DVD just in time to make a last-minute Christmas gift for that hard-to-shop-for relative.

I look at Huggins’s paintings and my first thought is, why? Specifically, what drives a man to make so many oil paintings without, well, becoming a better artist? Many reviewers call the paintings impressionistic or primitivist, but the truth is they’re amateurish, achieving neither realism nor any eye-catching style which would make deviations from realism charming. Oils are a messy medium to master. Painting on canvas is also expensive and bulky – especially when compared to your typical sketchbook. Why oils? The rest of you, though, might wonder less why oils?, and more why aliens?

Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life


Last week, I did a five-piece series on Thomas Cole’s The Course of EmpireThis week, I’ll give you another Thomas Cole series called The Voyage of Life, all four paintings done in 1842. But this week we’re doing things differently. I’ll show you all the paintings at once and give you some elements to compare. We’ll draw out this way the thinking put into the conventions of painting. (You can right-click on each to see the full-size versions.)


Thomas Cole, Desolation


We’ve come to the end of the series. We’ve gone allegorically from dawn to dusk in five pictures. For the first time, there are no people in the picture. This is the ultimate in man’s uncanny power of motion, or freedom. On the other hand, you could say this is the course of nature–all living beings, strive as they might to keep living, must eventually die.

Thomas Cole, Destruction


In this fourth painting in the series, we see the same recognizable city a second time. Cole signed his name in both, with the year he painted these scenes. Consummation is thus followed by destruction. The same white marble edifices redolent of unimaginable wealth are now the scene of war and the defenders are losing. Again, the beautified imperial precincts are thronged–this time the boats are bringing in not loot, but looters. We recall the old phrase, all roads lead to Rome. Well, roads can be traveled both ways.

Thomas Cole, Consummation of Empire


Now, we come to the central painting in the series, titled simply Consummation. This would seem to mean that we now see what empire is for. We saw freedom in the first painting, associated with savagery. We see greatness now, as though it were the greatest flowering or fruit of the seed we saw planted there.

Thomas Cole, The Pastoral State


The second painting in the series is unique. It is Arcadia, the earthly paradise, in the Greek mode. Notice that nature is without strife in this painting. Our arts give us new powers–nature will toil for us. Hence, horse-riding and sailing boats are about human beings using natural motions for their own ends. The only evidence of natural strife comes in small details–rams butting heads, presumably during mating season. That and an odd, isolated man plowing, but with an ox. We see new arts arise–taming and shepherding animals. And yet, this is an apolitical situation. We only see one glint of metal–a strange character, obviously a soldier, but alone, resting.

Thomas Cole, The Savage State


The joke about Americans is that they love nature almost as much as conquest of nature. This is the first of five posts on a five-painting series by Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire, that will address that joke. Thomas Cole famously founded the Hudson River School — named for the painters’ landscapes of the Hudson River Valley. They made large canvasses arranging and detailing the beauty of nature before man. As Locke says, in the beginning the whole world was America. The art is somewhat Romantic and the Hudson School thrived into the late 19th century, past Cole’s early death, because Americans loved it. They do so yet, and except for craft, it’s hard to say how the canvasses are any different to pictures or video of, say, the Grand Canyon. You’d have to argue about taste…

Hitchcock and the Moral-Religious Criticism of Art


Have you listened to my new movie podcast about Psycho? During the discussion of the moral concerns and conservative intentions of the movie-making, we tried to bring in the objects of art, and suggested that Hitchcock shows the audience certain important juxtapositions of movie plot and works of art, of settings–like the imposing residence–and societies–liberalism. I want to show you the works of art and to discuss their importance to the movie’s moral concerns. I’ll discuss them in the order in which they appear.

1. The Bates house, a very stately, old-fashioned kind of California architecture. The design is taken from Ed Hopper’s House by a railroad.

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During grad school, one of my professors told me that if I wanted to pursing painting seriously, I shouldn’t have kids. His reasoning was that the burdens and challenges that come with being a professional artist are often borne by one’s children. Much of art history would defend that point of view. So, when I got married and started […]

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It’s almost been a year since we had a family get together that evolved into something more significant. In July 2015, we cooked dinner with my sisters-in-law one Saturday night. It was a fancier meal than we would normally make so my wife Michele Bledsoe brought her camera, intending to document the process. What began […]

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Leonardo’s Annunciation. (A youthful work, in collaboration with his master, Andrea del Verrocchio. It’s done in oil & watercolors on wood. It’s in the Uffizi, in the Leonardo room, where there are no Leonardo paintings, except this collaboration & another collaboration. I think there’s a Ghirlandaio in the room–another apprentice of Verrocchio. They should have called […]

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