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Post #1039 • August 24, 2007, 9:40 AM • 13 Comments

"When The Raising of Lazarus, by Sebastiano del Piombo, became NG1, the very first painting in the National Gallery's inventory, it ceased for ever to be a rich man's boastful chattel or a cathedral's venerated altarpiece (it had been both) and became simply the possession of the nation, its status irrevocably changed." (AHT)

Light graffiti. Also at David Thompson, data visualizations generated by Fidg't Visualizer.

A Morphable Model for the Synthesis of 3D Faces. Watch at the end when they apply the techniques to the Mona Lisa. (Reddit)

Now that is what I call a pushpin.

Belated greetings Re:Generator readers.

The Lost Art of Pin-Ups. "A sad tale of political correctness making our lives drabber." (AS)

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Women may be hardwired to prefer pink. (Reddit)

School Suspends Boy for Sketching Gun. If I ever have kids, I'm going to homeschool them, and I'll let them draw guns from life if they're interested. (Reason) The drawing in question, via Reddit.

"Shadow Hunter is the story of a provocative superheroine who survives a brush with death only to find herself fighting the legions of hell for her very soul." Jenna Jameson creates and stars in her own comic book, promises to do for comics what she did for the cinematographic arts.

Department of Knocking Opportunities: Artists Wanted.

Department of Skills: Jennifer Lin.




August 26, 2007, 6:08 PM

composition and art is a common area of contention that arises here on the blog on a regular basis and i want to present some thoughts in the hope of getting some response.

previously i felt that composition was probably the most important aspect that helped determine how succesful a painting or scultpure was or was not. recently it has occurred to me that this is not always the case. is it a coincidence that this change has crept in while digging deeper into one of my all-time faves cezanne. as of the last night i am about 2/3 of the way finished with an excellent biography on cezanne by john rewald. the book also has the good fortune of great photos of over some 200 works that you normally don't see.

as with most things that you newly discover and alters your old perception, i find myself asking why did i not see things this way before. it is now clear why it is difficult to say one thing, such as compsition, or the other is the reason a particular painting or sculpture succeeds or does not. most works must be taken as a whole for the most part, rather than per individual or relating lines, color, composition and touch. that said my new alteration in belief relates to how composition varies in its importance in regards to the success or failure of different styles of paintings.

when the subject matter is recognizably of this world(realist), say a landscape, portrait, still-life, etc. and is portrayed with desire for the 3rd dimension, i.e. with classic shading and modeling or via impressionist (monet), pre-cubist (cezanne), cubist (picasso) composition is relegated to no more importance and possibly less than the other normal things that make up a picture. realist paintings that are more flat say, giotto are more reliant on good composition to be a succes.

on the other hand, in general, the success of modern-contemporary abstract art seems to me to be more reliant on the compositional importance. this importance increases as the picture becomes more flat with less importance relegated to the third dimension. but then that does not really apply to all abstract flat paintings equally. nolands color would seem more important than the composition. it all kind of leads back to that everything matters as a whole.

because like marc, i need to jump in the car, but this time to pick-up my brother at the airport, i was not able to flesh this out as much as i would have liked. please chime in. what are your thoughts on this opie?

but maybe abstract and flat painting is more difficult because the composition is not a given? .. gotta go



August 26, 2007, 6:49 PM

Realism and naturalism have attractive features that continue to operate even if the painter hasn't arranged them well, especially modeling. In contrast, abstraction doesn't have anything to work with except composition. A badly composed abstract painting may, at best, contain attractive passages of paint and color, but so could the side of a house; it wouldn't compensate the viewer very well as art.

Composition relates intrinsically to quality. Composition refers to the arrangement of elements. When we talk about a work of art having a good composition, we mean a successful arrangement, and we detect that success by perception and intuition. "Good composition" resists definition just like "visual quality," and for the same reasons. The two terms may even represent the same thing.

Realism has parameters and you can teach someone how to do it. Modeling also has parameters and you can teach that too. Composition has no parameters, and teachers have little choice except to expose students to good, mediocre, and poor compositions repeatedly in the hope that they figure it out. Unlike modeling, composition has an infinite solution set, as well as an infinite failure set, and while I don't know if it makes sense mathematically to say so, the failure set contains more items.

I would have you compare a favorite Cezanne to a less-than-favorite one, and ask you whether the difference lies in the method or the arrangement. I think you'd pick the latter, but try it and report back.



August 26, 2007, 7:15 PM

One problem with "composition" is that we talk about it as if it was a matter of arranging simple, clear things, like legos. It isn't. In painting, every change is a compositional change.

Realist painting is as dependent on where things are (which I suppose is what you mean by "composition") as abstract painting. The difference is that in realist painting things have a roughly specfied overall relationship. In itself, this is too gross a matter to affect composition much, or make it better or worse.

When I am painting I work on the parts to try to have them be "in character" with the other parts, not to relate them schematically. I don't bother with composition as such until I crop the paintng because the composition is usually already "there". Then it is a matter of fractions of an inch.

It has to look "right". That's all that counts.



August 26, 2007, 8:53 PM

opie said: "It has to look 'right'. That's all that counts." Absolutely. The rest of the discussion is sheer practicality. Myself I look for two things. Parts/areas that don't participate fully - the ones that fade from the rest. And second, I am very suspicious of areas on the top layer that were painted under a failure of nerve. (I'm the judge of failure of nerve, and know damn well when it happens.) Failures of nerve that get transparently buried often come back to life.

The practical solution is to keep painting or crop down to the part that passes muster. It isn't a formula though. Often what passes both reviews still does not look "right". Then it is paint more or toss the whole damn thing.

The final part of my practical method is to get other eyes to take a look. I am quite choosey about whose eyes to use, though.

As far as having everything look in character, it usually does in the end, though I conduct many of the campaigns to be out of character with what lays there before I launch. A different method, I guess, than opie's.

The Scylla and Charybiis of abstract picture making are a mess on the one hand and a doodle on the other. My methods most often run into trouble by making a mess. Very organized abstract painters have more trouble with making doodles. I find the mess more often plagues very talented artists and the doodle plauges those with less talent, in general. No explaination, just an observation. Nor it is always this way. Klee made quite a few doodles, for instance. Mondrian too, especially towards the end. His were the most refined doodles I've ever seen, though.


Dizzy Simulacrum

August 27, 2007, 5:17 AM

The goal of perception is to negotiate the world. The human brain seeks order. Composition refers to a sense of order in the interaction of visual elements (both rational and intuitive but primarily intuitive). Synonyms are unity, coherence, harmony, wholeness, and gestalt (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

By definition a successful composition is a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts, a satisfying resolution of all competing visual forces. Rudolf Arnhiem suggests that our sense of congruity, consistency, and lateral balance is based in the make-up of our commonly shared central nervous system.

Successful composition is as essential in work that mimics our visual perceptions (what this current string of commentors are referring to as "realist") as it is for work whose content is purely self-referential (non-objective, concrete). It is also essential for every variety of image in between.

Harmonizing a work that is based in perception is more complicated than harmonizing a non-objective work.

Seeing artistically demands cultivated observation.

In conjunction with looking at a lot of art, one can cultivate observation through a study of gestalt principles, dynamic visual forces, underlying pictorial structures, and human psychology.



August 27, 2007, 8:09 AM

Catfish writes:
"The Scylla and Charybiis of abstract picture making are a mess on the one hand and a doodle on the other."

This is a good distinction, but I would replace "doodle" with some word that signifies hyperorder, uptightness, overcontrol. "Doodle" seems too innocent and casual to oppose "mess".



August 27, 2007, 9:07 AM

Since I had to look it up, Scylla and Charybdis.



August 27, 2007, 2:48 PM

So Franklin, are you telling us you didn't have a proper classical education? I hate to tell you, but Poussin would be appalled, and I'm afraid poor Claude would be quite beside himself. There's just no accounting for young people these days.



August 27, 2007, 4:36 PM

Well opie, doodle connotes aimless but hyperorder or overcontrol are probably better, especially in the case of the later Mondrains, because it gets at the specific reason the result wanders. But what is the word that will do this?

In Mondrain's early body of work every bit of exactness counted, but in the Boogie Woogie series, exact placement did not need to be fussed with (though that is exactly what he did) because adjacency and amount of color was all that really mattered.


Marc Country

August 27, 2007, 5:31 PM

"But what is the word that will do this?"

I'll toss out 'decoration' (or some variant thereof?)...


Marc Country

August 27, 2007, 5:32 PM




August 27, 2007, 5:56 PM

opie, doodle connotes aimless

This is the most brilliant phrase constructed on this blog, ever.



August 27, 2007, 8:50 PM

You have a jinglemaker's ear, Hovig. Let's do some Gilbert & Sullivan

Opie, doodle connotes aimless
esthetically shameless
something good old Piet would never do

He was a hardcore recorder
of superhyperorder
an antidoodle dandy through and through



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