Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Conservation Disaster

In the previous post I briefly mentioned the quote by Stevens on retouching of paintings.
"To have a master's picture retouched is a crime that ought to be severely punished by law."
Recently on Facebook there was a posting by Jeremy Lipking of one of the worst retouched paintings I have seen in a while. I have seen a few, but this one is something. It is a painting by William Bouguereau, technically one of the best painters to have lived. Look closely at the top photo, an older version, then at the terrible retouches in the one below it. Namely, the angel's eye, painted in a different perspective, the ear, and mouth, both over rendered, and the fingers outlined with inky darks. Now, I realize that the lower photo is a bit sharper, but that does not answer for the heinous drawing.

I have no idea why someone would do this, or allow this to be done.
It is being sold by M.A. Rau Antiques. Interestingly they make no mention of the bad conservation. They have another Bouguereau (the girl with the flower) that I find questionable as well. Seems a bit shady, though to bring this up would effect the value, and that is bad for business. This story is going around, and lots of artists are in an uproar. Interesting thing is that the gallery's site seems to be having issues, and a lot of the links are not working, probably due to the high traffic visiting to see the train wreck.

The lesson here is that conservationists rarely, if ever, are trained painters, and should stay away from doing this kind of work. My teacher once told me a story of a conservator in Boston years ago that joked about this very fact, saying that the paintings come to him roses, and go out lilies. This was a museum curator. It seems to be about ego and forcing themselves into others work- in addition to an inability to fix the hand of a master due to lack of knowledge.
Of course I am of the opinion that the restoration of the Sistine Chapel was an absolute disaster.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alfred Stevens

Alfred Stevens was one of many great 19th century painters. His discussions on art were always witty and interesting. There were two events this week that made me think of him and some of his quotes.
First was the recent news that the head conservator of the museum is leaving town. I have always had a critical view of contemporary conservators. While I think it is good that they clean and maintain work, an amazing amount of horrific damage has been done by great works of art through conservation. How it is that a job was created that allows men and women that are not painters, or have any skills or training as painters, get to retouch the work of the masters is beyond me. In the old days, they would actually have a painter of some skill fix paintings (a college degree in painting is not sufficient these days- as the skills for painting are just not taught).
Stevens commented on this: "To have a master's picture retouched is a crime that ought to be severely punished by law."
I would add that if this retouching is done by someone not trained as a traditional painter, the law should hand down a death sentence, or at least a wicked wedgie so intense as to prevent any further retouching.

The other quote
Nothing hurts a good picture more than bad neighbors."
One would think that your work would look better if it is near lesser work, but it seems to have no other effect than to drag it down with it. I went to a show this weekend that really spoke to this phenomenon. One of the pieces was so bad it almost damaged art in galleries miles away. It even damaged art from other time periods, past and future.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Down Town View

Late Fall Evening on Gilbert
28x22, oil on linen, 2009

This is my latest plein air painting. We finally had some decent weather where the temperature wasn't insanely cold. It was in the upper 40s on Friday, which I can handle. I have been admiring this view of downtown for a while. I see this effect everyday when I leave the studio to drive home. There are wonderful flat, atmospheric blues that glimmer off the skyline. I had to practically stand in the street for this, and the effect really only last for about 15 minutes, so I laid this in from a photograph and did all the color from memory. As expected the painting was missing a lot of the warm from the photo reference.
The photo also helped paint the cars. I wanted to put out cones to stop traffic so I could paint them from life, but there are apparently some laws against this. Fascists!

I also worked on a different canvas than usual. I thought I would try a rougher canvas, so I purchased the Claessens style 29. A super heavy weight linen that has a tight weave and rough texture, almost like burlap. It was different to work on, but if you paint thickly, you get some effects that almost feel like a pastel drawing.
It should be hanging in the window of Rottinghaus Gallery in Obrienville.

This also is a great example of how terrible I am at photographing my work. This is a terrible image. I need to take this to a professional.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Color study

I wanted to post a second painting I am setting up based on the design and idea of my latest still life with the coffee and cigar. It is a similar scene but more like what you might see at the other end of the table where the son is sitting. So, coffee is replaced with chocolate milk, cigar with candy bar, newspaper with comic books and matches with baseball cards.
I did this quick color sketch on my nintendo DS, and then gave it the proper cropping in photoshop. I think I am in a bit too tight, but I think it could be a cute still life.
I stuck it next to the other still life for comparison.

original painting next to the digital color study

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Digital Sketchbook

In addition to my feeble attempts at oil painting, I also work as an illustrator for a game company. I do mostly pen and ink illustrations for medieval fantasy role playing games. It is called Harn and produced by Columbia Games.
One of the great time savers for this kind of work has been the use of Photoshop and my Wacom Tablet, which makes it very easy to fix and adjust work after it is scanned in the computer. I have not been able to move full on into the digital realm, as it just does not feel as natural to me, and I am still new at it.
A few months ago my lovely wife Laura bought a Ninteno DS, a hand held game that you see kids playing everywhere. I have played some of the games and most are mind numbingly boring. I am pretty sure these games actually destroy brain cells. It would be better for children to just stare out the window and day dream. I once sadly watched a child play a game that has you pet a virtual dog with the stylus. Anyway, my wife bought it when she found out they have a game that helps you learn French. I am not sure how much it helps, but she has fun- or at least she used to till I found a way to take it away from her.
I recently discovered that you can buy a game cartridge that allows you to load programs onto it. One such program is a freebie which is like a slimmed down version of Photoshop, called Colors. I am thinking that this would be a great thing for artists to have in their pocket throughout the day. I have been doing small digital paintings on this thing ever since.
Note, that now my wife and I are fighting over a video game console.
As I try to stay busy, I have been trying to use all of my free time reading or drawing. Now that I have a little digital color sketchbook, I can draw anywhere.

So without further adu, I present my new series of digital paintings:
Views of my Bathroom

In the winter it gets cold in our house, so there is a heater that looks like a robot next to the sink in our bathroom.

Another view from my spot of the paper on the radiator. It is interesting how warm the incadecant light can be, making the white toilet paper almost orange.

I think I got the hang of the program. This is of course the soap dispenser on the bathroom sink. It took me about an hour. I am pretty proud of the sparkle on the hot water handle.

Just for fun I did a fast morning sketch of my shadow on the wall. I still have bed head here.

I actually stood up for this one. It is also in our bathroom, of some stuff Laura has arranged on the medicine cabinet. I have been trying to decide if this would make a good painting, and this 15 minute sketch was too see how it might work. I am still undecided, and may have to try some other arrangements.
One cool feature is that it also saves every stroke, so you can watch the drawing as a video. Once I figure out how to make the file size small enough, I will post some of them here.

Here is another that I started this morning, though it is not quite done.

Now if Laura and I can figure out how to share this toy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Insult Comic

I wanted to post a link to blog that I enjoy for it's insight on art and illustration. David Apatoff writes some very thought provoking commentary and in my opinion is a very talented critic. I have always been fond of good art criticism. It is so incredibly lacking these days. It is of the opinion that anyone can be a critic. Folks with no real knowledge of the subject write about and criticize in some of the top publications today. There is rarely a critic that does anything more than voice their opinion. That is only part of the job, and usually you do not find anyone with the ability to intelligently discuss the qualities that make something good or bad. There have been some great critics, and some of the best are usually masters of the craft of which they are criticizing. Whistler and Oscar Wilde for example. Today we have very few of note. Tom Wolfe is of serious note and his book the Painted Word is a joy to read. Anyone confused by modern art should read it.
Back to the Illustration Art blog, I think his comments have some weight and intelligence. I try my best to comment on topics like this as well, but if David Apatoff is today's Oscar Wilde than I, with my silly blog, am more akin to Don Rickles. While I write with sarcasm, he quotes Shakespeare. Now, I don't always agree with him, and I think he occasionally missed the point, his writing is always uplifting and discussing the higher ideals of what are important in art and illustration.
I suggest that you keep reading this blog, as I still occasionally find it (myself) hilarious, and I do post art that I am working on, I would suggest that you also look at the Illustration Art blog. It is pure poetry. He also has an intelligent following so the comments and discussion is also pretty exciting. Go there now- well, go there after you religiously read all of my posts.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finished A Painting

I finally finished the still life I have been working on. Actually this one went pretty fast really. I had some issues with the design, but I think it turned out well. I have some issues that involve me being overly satisfied with a design before it's time.
The next issue was that I set this up using an old newspaper from 2006. It was too yellow. At first I liked it, as a design element, but it kept coming up as a problem to people that saw the painting. "Why is there an old paper in the painting?"
Finally, after my friend, and artistic uncle Carl Samson smacked me around, I changed it. I hate to admit it, but it is better.
Also, please note, that I am terrible at photographing my work. My camera is 6 years old and the guy behind it is much older (though I don't think that matters as much).

Coffee and Cigar (working title), 22 x 14, oil on linen, 2009
I may spend another day on this tweaking some things.

I also thought I would add a giff with all the photos I shot of the work in progress. Would be nice to figure out how to get the images a bit closer in temperature, but you get the point.

-OK, there is no giff. I tried to make a giff that would play through the 13 photos I shot of the painting throughout the process. It did not work. Watch here for a posting of the giff.

There is this- Click here, it will be up for only 7 days.