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Monday, September 24, 2012

"Poetry and Progress Are Like..."


"....two ambitious men who hate one another with an instinctive hatred, and when they meet upon the same road, one of them has to give place."  Charles Baudelaire

Do you ever feel like that?

Here's the progress of two Chatham Beach paintings starting with the underpainting and the first layers of color:

 



More color added and some detail:



Almost finished, waiting to dry for the final glazes:



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Details, Details, Details

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." John Wooden

Detail of Wave triptych work in progress  ©2012  Katherine Kean   

Charles Eames said "The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will in the end be these details that give the product its life."   

Detail of Wave triptych work in progress  ©2012  Katherine Kean

It's been said that God is in the details. It is also said that the devil is in the details. Gloria Steinem said "God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there's no turning back."

Detail of Wave triptych work in progress  ©2012  Katherine Kean
"A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching." Sivananda

I've always thought of myself as a "big picture" person, happy to leave the details to someone else. More and more I find a lot of joy in details, espeically the details of paint. What are your thoughts about details? Love them, hate them, just endure them? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Is Summer Really Over?



I think not, at least not here, even if it did rain a couple of days ago!

My late summer/early fall newsletter will be emailed Monday. Sign up below if you'd like to receive it and have not signed up already:



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I heard there are going to be dozens of art openings citywide (Los Angeles) this weekend. How about in your town? Will you be going to any of them? Having one? What ever you choose, have a wonderful weekend!

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Part 2 of Art and the Brain

Girl with a Pearl Earring Johannes Vermeer

We left off last week, in Art and the Brain Part 1, addressing the concept of ambiguity in art. In researching Semir Zeki’s ideas about this I found the following:

 “One of the primordial functions of the brain is the acquisition of knowledge. The apparatus that it has evolved to do so is flexible enough to allow it to acquire knowledge about unambiguous conditions on the one hand (colour vision being a good example), and about situations that are capable of two or more interpretations, each one of which has equal validity with the others. However, in the latter instance, we can only be conscious of one interpretation at any given moment. The study of ambiguity thus gives us some insights into how activity at different stations of the brain can result in a micro-consciousness for an attribute, and also tell us something about interactions between different cerebral areas that result in several potential micro-conscious correlates, though only one predominates at any given time. Finally, the study of ambiguity also gives us insights into the neurological machinery that artists have tapped to create the ambiguity that is commonly a hallmark of great works of art.”

And what is this ambiguity? Zeki’s surprising clarification: “It is this that led me to offer a neurological definition of ambiguity, namely it that it is not vagueness or uncertainty, but rather certainty, the certainty of different scenarios each one of which has equal validity with the others. There is no correct answer, because all answers are correct. Schopenhauer wrote, ‘‘. . . through the work of art, everything must not be directly given to the senses, but rather only so much as is demanded to lead the fancy on to the right path. . . " Voltaire has very rightly said, ‘‘Le secret d’^etre ennuyeux, c’est de tout dire’’ [the secret of being boring is to tell everything]. But besides this, in art the best of all is too spiritual to be given directly to the senses; it must be born in the imagination of the beholder, although begotten by the work of art. It depends upon this that the sketches of great masters often effect more than their finished pictures.’’

In other words, artists might allow the viewer to “finish the image”. As in the above Vermeer painting - often cited by Zeki as an example - give viewers the opportunity to have their own experience and draw their own conclusions. Is she turning towards us, or turning away? About to smile, or just stopping smiling?

 The question for the artist wishing to provide this for the viewer might then become, how to decide what is enough information, where to draw the line on definition, what level of contrast indicates ambiguity, the nuances of vagueness? Does it come down to intuition, trial and error, experience?What are your thoughts? Do you think ambiguity is essential? If so, do you think this is a cultural leaning, or something inherited through nature?