Letters joaquin-sorolla_boys-on-the-beach

While Nature Herself has the privilege of playing with light, painters must, in humility, play with pigment. The transference is tricky and many painters don’t play around enough to get the hang of it. Here again, the relationship between photography and painting is useful.

“Bokeh” is a corruption of the Japanese word Boke, which means “blur.” Backgrounds, particularly, are often rendered out of focus. You may be familiar with what are called “circles of confusion,” those round spots of light that occur in photos. Photographers spend some effort to get “good bokeh” as opposed to “bad bokeh.”

Letters allen-sapp_esquois

Marcao Pozza-Mendes wrote from the Colorado Rockies, “Do you have a letter that deals with canned criticism? By canned criticism I mean remarking that a painting with an element like a road or river leading to a corner of the canvas always leads the eye out of the picture; there is never a way to make that work; there is never a way to break the ‘rules’ and end with a successful painting. Sometimes the canned criticism is proffered unsolicited, which makes it additionally annoying. We artists are trained not to do certain things in a painting, but there are cases where we CAN break the rules.

Letters rebecca_belmore_1

We all work in some sort of genre. We paint abstracts, landscapes, florals, or still lifes, for example. Generally speaking, we try to be innovative and give our work a unique spin or style. Perhaps pathetically, many of us venture into the world looking for things to inflict our style on.

We artists need to realize we’re taking part in something much more automatic, something much more anthropological. We’re repeating the artifacts of our cultures.

Letters james-bama_sioux-superman

As part of the visitor’s tour of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., you can look at the recently restored, nearly 200-year-old Capitol Rotunda — a massive, domed, circular room that marks the geographic center of the city and where eminent citizens lie in state and important works of art are dedicated. Constantino Brumidi’s The Apotheosis of Washington is painted 180 feet up on the 4,664 square-foot rotunda canopy. The neoclassical fresco shows George Washington majestically ascending to a godly rank, surrounded by Liberty, Victory/Fame, 13 maidens representing the original states and six groups of figures embodying the arts and sciences.

Letters maxfield-parrish_

The shaping of form is one area where many artists get into trouble. In the old days students were encouraged to paint and draw cones, pyramids, blocks and spheres until they were blue in the face. It’s no wonder that so many of the classically trained painters knew how to render form. Today, for those who would master form, there is no recourse but to study and practice.

Letters 3d-printed-regolith-temple

While most of us are tempted to stay and fight for our planet, there may be an opening for artists on the moon. NASA and others are doubling down on plans for Mars, but futurists at the European Space Agency are focused on a lunar colony and, with it, art.

The idea is that while scientists figure out how to breathe in outer space, artists can tackle the more nuanced details. To tap into planet Earth’s broader imaginations, the European Space Agency’s Advanced Concepts Team posted a call to artists and has awarded a residency to Spaniard Jorge Manes Rubio.

Letters tatjana_jablonskaja_bread

At the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt there’s a spectacular collection of Soviet Art. Massive oil paintings, posters, grandiose architectural renderings, and soviet propaganda films. My friends and I were simply blown away — I couldn’t wait to plunk down my Euros for the fat catalogue. The show is called “Dream Factory.”

Letters paul-nash_the-menin-road_1919

In 1859, in response to growing threats in Europe, an English art student named Edward Sterling put together a new volunteer army regiment. Though eventually broadening to include other professions, the group began as painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, actors and architects and would serve as a defensive unit in various home capacities including The Second Boer War. By the turn of the 20th Century, The Artists’ Rifles Volunteer Corps was one of the most popular military services among university students.

Letters jacques-majorelle_youtube

Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) was the son of a celebrated furniture designer of Nancy, France. Suffering from heart problems, he came to Marrekesh for his health in 1919 and immediately saw the painterly potential of southern Morocco. In 1924 he acquired land, called himself a “gardenist” as well as an “artist” and began the lifelong project of creating a unique botanical expression around his studio. He opened his garden to the public in 1947. Upon his death in a car accident the property fell into disorder — until it was rediscovered by couturier Yves Saint-Laurent and his artist-friend, Pierre Berge. Majorelle’s Art-Deco-inspired studio, painted the original bright blue, is now a museum and gallery of Majorelle’s work. Travelers wander among exotic plants and spectacular cacti.

Letters elton_john_bernie_taupin_1971

In 1967, two aspiring teenaged songwriters named Bernie and Reginald answered the same newspaper ad placed by a UK record label. Unknown to each other, they were matched when Liberty Records A&R Head Ray Williams handed Reg a stack of Bernie’s lyrics on the way out of his failed audition. Reg took them home, put them to music and mailed them back to Bernie.

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