Friday 30th January 2015Artist Spotlight: Alejandro Jodorowsky
If you've been alive on planet Earth and in the art world during the last year (which we have to assume you have been, since you're reading this at all), you've probably heard of the documentary 'Jodorowksy's Dune'. An excellent film about Jodorowsky's stunning yet failed attempt to create a movie version of the fantastically popular science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert, the film was shown at festivals around the world to great acclaim. Though perhaps more a cult classic in the popular world's imagination, the film is nothing less than a testament to what has been dubbed 'The Greatest Science Fiction Movie Never Made' - Jodorowsky's Dune
Jodorowsky is a decidedly eccentric and charming fellow, very intense and passionate about his vision. Famous to another generation for several surrealist films, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, Jodorowosky's version of Dune was to be his greatest masterpiece. Even from a modern standpoint, it sounds absolutely incredible, although his vision of the film took some major liberties from the original source material of the novel. Working in collaboration with H.R Giger and Salvador Dali among many others, including the top special effects creators of the time, the film became much larger than any production budget could handle, despite being one of the most appealing films that has been seen in Hollywood in the last 30 years. Alas, it was never made, but lives on - at least in part - in many of the science fiction movies that we know and love.
It's lamentable to think that something so wondrous, bizarre and beautiful was shut down, but it had spiraled wildly out of the scope of a single movie at the time, and Hollywood had not yet hit on the idea of creating a series of films at the time, though it would soon explore Star Wars and all that offered. Contrasted with the 1984 version of Dune that was eventually created by David Lynch, it would have been stunning, no matter the length.
Jodorowsky is still alive and working at 85, and recently released another film, The Dance of Reality, which is a surrealist reimagining of his boyhood in Chile. "I want to liberate my imagination and my mind with every kind of movie. That is what I wanted to do all my life." Hard to argue with that!
Posted on January 30th 2015 on 07:29pm
Wednesday 28th January 2015Project Inspirations: Working With Seasons
If you've been a regular reader of the inspiration posts we've made over the (has it really been years?) since this blog first started, you might have noticed a trend: we love the seasons of the year. The way the entire world changes itself somehow just seems like the most exquisite poetry in motion, even if it can be pretty darned cold and dreary by the end of Winter. Change is always good for inspiration and creativity, and having a world that changes around us so regularly can be a great tool for change in our own lives, if we let it.
But more than a source of happiness and inspiration, it's possible to use the seasons themselves as an integral part of your work. Depending on what media you work with, this might find its expression in any number of different ways, and the possibilities are only limited by your own personal sense of creative style and flair.
Our most recent suggestion was a project for the coldest days of Winter, taking advantage of how rapidly soap bubbles can freeze in extremely cold weather, and what you could accomplish with some macro photography, but that's just one of the ways that the coldness of winter can be used as a tool to inspire new projects. Anything that works with water can be changed by extreme cold, which of course suggests watercolour painting. Have you ever tried doing masking with ice? Though we have little experience with watercolours, you could probably have a fun afternoon messing around on the porch with an easel, experimenting with different ways this might work - sometimes, the most exciting discoveries are made by accident.
Following on the watercolour tangent, as Spring begins to grow restless waiting in the wings behind Winter's trailing edges, it might be interesting to experiment with abstract watercolours that are partially designed by rainfall. It would create an extremely unique look, and could probably be modified by a careful application of masking or other techniques that might adjust how water impacts the pigment on the canvas. Maybe even letting the eavestrough (or similar makeshift version of it) do the colour mixing for you - if different pgiments have different weights, they may begin to create some astonishing patterns.
These ideas might work for you, they might not, but the main goal is to get you to start thinking about completely unexpected ways to incorporate the year's cycles into your creative process and your creative work itself. Happy experimenting!
Posted on January 28th 2015 on 03:54pm
Friday 23rd January 2015Shaking Up the Auction World - Again
The internet has been responsible for some of the biggest shakeups in supposedly firmly established industries - that's the nature of a disruptive technology. As we grow used to what it really means to have instant access to information from almost anywhere in the world, however, and as an entire generation grows up never having lived without the internet, its role as a disruptive technology is starting to draw to a close - at least, so it may seem.
Ever since the massive debut of eBay (and its partner Paypal, which made Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla the billionaire he is today), the auction world reeled as the possibilities of online auctioneering took hold in the public imagination and spread like wildfire. The more staid and formalized world of art auctions, secure in its market and its clientele, barely blinked - who was likely to spend $100 million on eBay?
Thanks to a new online auction house startup named Fine Art Bourse, or FAB, this may be all about to change. “We will go live with a truly global business”, founder and fine art auctioneer, Tim Goodman said. “This global presence will be unique to the online art industry,” he added.
With fee structures inherently designed to be rock-bottom compared to the more traditional auction houses - Sotheby's, Christie's and the like - they have a real chance of making some serious inroads into the auction market. “My target is to have 2 per cent of the market — about $280m — by year four.” An impressive initial goal, although still a rather long way off from the bigger players in the market.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether or not high-profile collectors and their agents are willing to engage with the newcomer startup, which has already raised $2 million in seed money for the initial round of funding, and is hoping to gain another $5.4 million to complete startup operations. The entire model is intended to be lean, and, in the words of Goodman, "humble", although it's hard to see how a multimillion dollar business can ever be considered humble. Perhaps that's a reflection of just how grandiose the other players are in the market, and an excellent indicator of the success FAB is likely to find by playing its own role as a disruptive technology.
Posted on January 23rd 2015 on 03:12pm
Wednesday 21st January 2015Selfie Sticks
Whether you love it or hate it, the selfie craze might just be here to stay. Instagram is more popular than ever, and celebrities are all over the bandwagon to ensure that the entire thing is here to stay. As always, when there is a market gap, someone will come along to fill it, and the selfie craze is no exception.
Mobile phone photography has already managed to recreate the entire camera industry in miniature - you can purchase additional lenses, additional editing software, feature phones whose entire premise is based around a camera with more megapixels than some DSLRs. The only thing that was missing, really, was the tripod. However, since a tripod is bulky and much of the appeal behind smartphone photography is the extremely portable nature of it, there probably isn't going to be too much of a market. Enter the selfie stick.
It is, unsurprisingly, exactly what it says on the tin. A stick of some kind of strong lightweight material (let us forestall the day of carbon fiber selfie sticks, please) with a way to attach your phone to one end. You hold it up, and you can suddenly take all sorts of wildly angled selfies from your phone. Can't quite get the tiger cage in the background into the shot? Nicholas Cage just too far away to get into the frame? No problem, if you've got a selfie stick.
Whether or not people will be roundly mocked for actually carrying these around and using them remains to be seen, as their popularity hasn't quite hit peak annoyance yet (if it ever does), but there has already been a bit of controversy over the devices, which are much more popular in Asia than in the West. Most of the devices use Bluetooth to trigger the camera shutter and actually take the shot, which wouldn't be much of a problem - unless there were huge numbers of them in use. In South Korea, the problem is that the sticks are so popular that they are being bootstrapped together by vendors who don't register them with the local broadcasting authority, the equivalent of running around downtown London with an unlicensed radio station transmitter in the back of a van - pirate radio, bluetooth style.
Will they catch on here? Keep your eye out this summer to find out.
Posted on January 21st 2015 on 04:57pm
Friday 16th January 2015Artist Spotlight: Alex Grey
If you're familiar with the progressive/art-rock band Tool, you're probably familiar with the work of Alex Grey. His artwork has adorned many of their latest albums, and this helped to widely popularize his work among a certain generation. A remarkably unique contemporary artist, his style is incredibly intricate and detailed, often incorporating repetitive fractal geometries and the human form.
While Grey works in a number of media, his primary focus is on painting, and he has created an impressively large body of work. The underlying themes tend to be extremely gentle, caring, and uplifting, which is a refreshing change from we see so much of today. The New York Times said, "Grey’s vision of a flawed but perfectible mankind stands as an antidote to the cynicism and spiritual malaise prevalent in much contemporary art," and they are exactly correct.
To be fair, there is a certain amount of hippie-drug-culture-age-of-aquarius-flakiness involved as well, but it's hard to find much fault with that when the underlying message is so overwhelming positive. It may not be for everyone, but it's nice to know they're out there.
“My art has always been in response to visions. Rather than confine myself to representations of the outer worlds, I include portrayals of multi-dimensional imaginal realms that pull us towards consciousness evolution.”
Some of the most exciting contemporary artwork is being done by people who are willing to be completely open and honest about their love of humanity, reality, and the world itself, and it makes the art world's currently fashionable ironic cynicism feel hollow and disgusting. The fact that Grey has wound up his art almost entirely as an extension of his philosophies about the universe, the nature of reality and the value of mystical experience communicates the genuine nature of his convictions, something that has been lacking in the art world for far, far too long.
As the generation of artists, thinkers and philosophers who have been influenced by his work and his ideas, hopefully it will coincide with a backlash against the frustratingly apathetic cynicism that postmodernism has gifted us with, and that has gripped us all for too long. It's still useful, of course - but as in all things, balance is the most important.
Posted on January 16th 2015 on 04:44pm
Wednesday 14th January 2015An Earlier Mona Lisa?
Whenever you start putting extremely high price tags on certain items, no matter what they are - ideas, types of metal, or old paintings - you're probably going to start seeing people creating fakes and forgeries. Impossible patents for processes that could never work, gold tainted with baser metals, or even... a brand new Mona Lisa?
A rather startling claim has been circulating for the last several years, one that might completely change the perspective of the world - at least, assuming it isn't exposed as a forgery. The claim is that before Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, one of his masterworks which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, he had already made at least one earlier painting of the same woman in the exact same pose - in effect, an earlier version of the iconic painting. The subject appears to be younger, and to some observers, more attractive, but it is doubtless intended to be the same woman.
Originally discovered in 1913 in a British manor house, the contested painting has been championed by the Mona Lisa Foundation, a non-profit which has given it full support on behalf of the owners of the painting itself. Nothing is known about what stake the foundation may or may not have in the sale of the painting, but they are aggressively promoting its veracity - albeit with little success in the art world, despite three solid years of campaigning on its behalf.
As strange as it may seem to those of us with a more cynical perspective on the human attitude towards value, there is some popular support of the veracity of the painting, although the experts remain extremely skeptical, to put it mildly. "I do not know of any major Leonardo scholar who has definitely accepted it," Martin Kemp, an Oxford art history professor said of the piece.
Its supporters, on the other hand, point the finger at orthodox narratives and doctrines, and the weight of reputations that stand to be ruined if the contested painting is accepted as genuine. David Feldman, vice-president of the Mona Lisa Foundation, said, "There is no easy way to get recognition and acceptance from the art world, particularly when connoisseurship in the traditional way is being challenged."
Posted on January 14th 2015 on 04:23pm
Friday 09th January 2015The Death of the Compact Camera
Much has been made of the rise of cellphone cameras and mobile photography in general over the past few years. First, with skepticism and thinly-veiled mockery, and gradually with growing interest and even some semi-respectable gallery shows (though a few less-than-respectable ones, included a curated selection of Instagram photos that weren't even taken by the artist which is of dubious artistic merit). Finally, though, we're starting to see the end result of this process, something that probably hadn't occurred to most of us - at least, most of us who don't manufacture cameras: the death of the compact camera.
The compact camera has a long and storied history, dating back to the early 1900s and the Eastman-Kodak Company. With what was arguably the first 'compact' camera, the Brownie, Eastman-Kodak completely revolutionized the field of photography, and created the concept of the snapshot. Instead of being complicated devices that could only be operated by professionals dedicated to their craft, the camera and photography itself was suddenly within the reach of the average person. This set off a massive demand for the little cameras, and the Brownie continued to sell for decades, although it was of course gradually improved as the technology advanced.
Cellphone cameras have taken that to the next level, however, and completely removed the need for a separate camera unit. Gone are the days of grainy, single megapixel (or less!) cameras that were more of a novelty than an actually usable product. Instead, we're faced with cellphone cameras that have megapixel counts rivalling that of most compact cameras, and in some cases, some of the entry level and semi-professional digital SLR cameras as well. The only thing that's really lacking in the cellphone camera market is the lenses, although various third-party aftermarket lenses can be purchased by anyone looking to improve this side of things. The downside, of course, is that at some point, the light still has to pass through the built-in lens, generally to poor effect.
What this all means, though, is that the compact camera is essentially on its way out. Sales in 2014 were the worst in many years, and this trend is likely to continue as cellphone manufacturers continue to push the envelope when it comes to their cameras, as they do with all elements of smartphones. It seems likely, though, that the only people who have a problem with this are the camera manufacturers themselves. Maybe we'll see a Canon- or Nikon-branded phone sometime soon - that'd be a treat.
Posted on January 09th 2015 on 05:13pm
Wednesday 07th January 2015A New Year for New Inspiration
Finding inspiration for your artwork can sometimes be the biggest challenge. That's why it's such a frequent topic here, and something that everyone - yes, literally everyone - in the artistic community struggles with at one time or another. Something that truly motivates you, that gives you the passion and power to create beauty in the world, is a glorious and wondrous thing - but it can also be elusive, and extremely frustrating when it stays just out of reach.
Every experience we have in the world is an opportunity for inspiration, even if it may not seem like it when you're in the depths of a dry spell. Remembering this fact, most particularly when it seems untrue, is the key element in turning things around and getting back your creative muse or mojo or groove or whatever. There is a certain mindset, a kind of lightness of being, for lack of a better term, that seems to take over when we look at things in the right way, and it's possible to induce that mindset in yourself (though it can take a little work).
Everything you do - everything - is potential fodder for artwork, if you look at it in the right way. One of the things that makes us excellent creative types is our ability to bring together disparate elements into that fusion of joy we call creativity, and in order to do that, we have to be willing to look at everything in the world in a new way. When you drink your coffee, look at the patterns of volatile oils on the surface and think about everything that went into bringing them there. On the way to work, zoom out and think about the massive number of interactions happening on the single city block around you. When you relax after a long day in the studio, feel your blood pumping through your veins like you did when you were a child. See your nose in the middle of your vision. Touch the barest fingertip to something. Anything. Just focus on the experience, and not on the end result.
Let this new year be the start of your inspirational mindset adventure. Try to look at the world in a new way, down to the smallest detail, and let the flood of new information set your neurons alight with new connections and new ideas - and most of all, with new beauty to share.
Posted on January 07th 2015 on 05:00pm
Friday 02nd January 2015George W. Bush, Artist, We Hardly Knew Ye
To kick off the year on a bit of a light-hearted note, let's take a look at the retired life of one of America's most polarizing presidents, George W. Bush. We can hear you now, asking, "Wait a second, isn't this an art blog?" Bear with us here for a second, and all will become clear.
GWB was leading a quiet, retired life on a ranch somewhere in Texas, when he was the victim of a hacking attack that shared what turned out to be one of the most surprising releases of private information. Thankfully for everyone involved, it wasn't nude selfies, but rather the former President's struggling first attempts at painting. Painting, of all things. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he showed about as much flair for the craft of painting as he did for foreign policy, and yet being a former president, his work was much gawked over and speculated about.
However, recently, he gave some advice to aspiring artists that is actually worth listening to, however surprising that may be. During an interview with CNN's State of the Union program, he talked briefly about his budding art career, and casually dropped this little nugget of wisdom: "Never paint your wife or your mother." Apparently, he had painted a photo of his wife, Laura, and she was less than pleased with the result. For those among you who are experimenting with new styles, media, or just learning to draw at all, it's best to save the ones you love as subjects for later.
As for the rest of his career, Bush had his first solo show in early 2014, although it was hosted at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas, so nobody is really too sure if they wanted it or if they were contractually obligated to show it. No statistics about the show's success or popularity were made available, though, if that gives any indication as it to it's value.
"I was trying to be like a Polaroid camera. I'm learning ... how to work colors, to get a different feel. I don't know what I'd be doing -- I don't drink anymore. I guess if I were a drinker, I'd be up there drinking away. Now I'm painting away."
Posted on January 02nd 2015 on 04:30pm