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Category Archives: Art

George Lucas picks Los Angeles over San Francisco to build $1bn museum

In the battle between Los Angeles and San Francisco the force was with the former yesterday (10 January) when George Lucas announced plans to build a museum to house his collection of art and memorabilia in Exposition Park. The Star Wars creator abandoned plans to establish the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago last summer after a two-year legal fight with conservationists, setting his sights on California instead.

The decision to build the futuristic-looking museum in Los Angeles comes after nearly a decade and a close-fought competition with San Francisco, which had recently offered Treasure Island as an alternative home. Thanking the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, and the city’s board of supervisors “for their tremendous efforts and engagement”, the directors of the Lucas Museum acknowledged the decision had been a difficult one “precisely because of the desirability of both sites and cities”.

However, Los Angeles won through because the city’s Promise Zone “best positions the museum to have the greatest impact on the broader community”, the board said. The Lucas Museum, which will house the film-maker’s extensive personal collection that includes 10,000 paintings and illustrations by Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Robert Crumb, among others, will nestle among the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

“As a museum uniquely focused on narrative art, we look forward to becoming part of a dynamic museum community, surrounded by more than 100 elementary and high schools, one of the country’s leading universities as well as three other world-class museums,” the directors said.

Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Kerry Brougher, the director of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, were among those who voiced their support for the Lucas Museum at a meeting with the Los Angeles county board of supervisors in November.

Lucas has pledged around $1bn to the project, which is estimated to create at least 1,000 permanent posts. Building the 250,000 sq. ft museum is also due to provide tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs. Its directors said they are now turning their attention to finalising the details and “building what we believe will be one of the most imaginative and inclusive art museums in the world”.

Why Using Art in The Classroom ?

1. Responding to art can be very stimulating and can lead onto a great variety of activities. In its simplest form this might be describing a painting, but with a little creativity all sorts of things are possible. For example, the well-known ‘grammar auction’ activity can be redesigned as an art auction, where the students have to say a sentence about the piece of art – anything they like – and then the rest of the students bid according to how accurate they feel the sentence is.

2. Using art provides a useful change of pace. While many teachers use visual images to introduce a topic or language item, actually asking the students to engage with and respond to the piece of art can encourage students to become involved on quite a different level.

3. Incorporating art into the class or syllabus can take the students out of the classroom and encourage them to use their language skills in the real world. A visit to an art exhibition or an assignment that involves research on the internet can generate all sorts of language.

4. Thinking about or even creating art can be very motivating. It can take the emphasis off of accuracy and put it onto fluency and the ability to clearly express thoughts and ideas. This is great for students whose progress in speaking is hindered by a fear of making mistakes.

5. Responding to art has the potential to develop students’ creative and critical thinking skills. Students as low as pre-intermediate level will be able to read a short biography of an artist and discuss how their art depicts different aspects of their lives.

These are just some of the reasons why art can be successfully used in the language classroom. Now let’s have a look at some of the common problem areas and try to identify some solutions for these.

Potential problems and solutions
Problem: As we all know, art is very subjective and therefore we may be faced with students who are reluctant to engage with the chosen examples of art.

Digital Art’s Aesthetics

While borrowing many of the conventions of traditional media, digital art can draw upon aesthetics from many other fields. But various criticisms have been made against it: for example, given the variety of tools at their disposal, how much effort do digital artists really have to put into their work?

I asked Jan Willem Wennekes, also known as Zeptonn, for his opinion on this. He is a freelancer who specializes in illustrative design and art direction, with a focus on eco-friendly and environmental projects.

Jan Willem Wennekes: The question seems a bit ambiguous. On the one hand, there seems to be a question about the effort required to create digital art. That is, some people may think that using digital media to create art is easier than using traditional media. On the other hand, there seems to be a question of whether digital art is an art form in itself (or maybe at all?).

With respect to the first question, I think that working with digital media (mostly the computer, mouse, Wacom, scanner, software, etc.) does not have to differ from creating art in other media. The computer and all the tools generated by the software are still what they are: tools! You have to master those tools just as you have to master any other tools. For example, if you do not understand how light works, you won’t be able to create artwork with correct lighting, and so on. If you don’t know how the pen tool works in Illustrator, then you won’t be able to create good artwork, just like a traditional artist who doesn’t know how to use a pencil. You still have to master color theory and all the other things that are essential to creating a good or stunning piece of art. In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether it is a painting or a print. Simply put, you have to master all the tools and theory, just as you had to master them before. And the better you master them, the better your artwork can be.

What is Art ?

Art Is…

This question pops up often, and with many answers. Many argue that art cannot be defined. We could go about this in several ways. Art is often considered the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations and ways of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics. At least, that’s what Wikipedia claims.

Art is generally understood as any activity or product done by people with a communicative or aesthetic purpose—something that expresses an idea, an emotion or, more generally, a world view.

It is a component of culture, reflecting economic and social substrates in its design. It transmits ideas and values inherent in every culture across space and time. Its role changes through time, acquiring more of an aesthetic component here and a socio-educational function there.

Everything we’ve said so far has elements of truth but is mainly opinion.According to Wikipedia, “Art historians and philosophers of art have long had classificatory disputes about art regarding whether a particular cultural form or piece of work should be classified as art.”

The definition of art is open, subjective, debatable. There is no agreement among historians and artists, which is why we’re left with so many definitions of art. The concept itself has changed over centuries.

The very notion of art continues today to stir controversy, being so open to multiple interpretations. It can be taken simply to mean any human activity, or any set of rules needed to develop an activity. This would generalize the concept beyond what is normally understood as the fine arts, now broadened to encompass academic areas. The word has many other colloquial uses, too.

 

Art Makes You Smart

A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.

Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.

Crystal Bridges, which opened in November 2011, was founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. It is impressive, with 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment of more than $800 million.

Thanks to a generous private gift, the museum has a program that allows school groups to visit at no cost to students or schools.

Before the opening, we were contacted by the museum’s education department. They recognized that the opening of a major museum in an area that had never had one before was an unusual event that ought to be studied. But they also had a problem. Because the school tours were being offered free, in an area where most children had very little prior exposure to cultural institutions, demand for visits far exceeded available slots. In the first year alone, the museum received applications from 525 school groups requesting tours for more than 38,000 students.

As social scientists, we knew exactly how to solve this problem. We partnered with the museum and conducted a lottery to fill the available slots. By randomly assigning school tours, we were able to allocate spots fairly. Doing so also created a natural experiment to study the effects of museum visits on students, the results of which we published in the journals Education Next and Educational Researcher.

Over the course of the following year, nearly 11,000 students and almost 500 teachers participated in our study, roughly half of whom had been selected by lottery to visit the museum. Applicant groups who won the lottery constituted our treatment group, while those who did not win an immediate tour served as our control group.

Several weeks after the students in the treatment group visited the museum, we administered surveys to all of the students. The surveys included multiple items that assessed knowledge about art, as well as measures of tolerance, historical empathy and sustained interest in visiting art museums and other cultural institutions. We also asked them to write an essay in response to a work of art that was unfamiliar to them.

These essays were then coded using a critical-thinking-skills assessment program developed by researchers working with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Further, we directly measured whether students are more likely to return to Crystal Bridges as a result of going on a school tour. Students who participated in the study were given a coupon that gave them and their families free entry to a special exhibit at the museum. The coupons were coded so that we could determine the group to which students belonged. Students in the treatment group were 18 percent more likely to attend the exhibit than students in the control group.

Moreover, most of the benefits we observed are significantly larger for minority students, low-income students and students from rural schools — typically two to three times larger than for white, middle-class, suburban students — owing perhaps to the fact that the tour was the first time they had visited an art museum.

Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented?

Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition. Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school’s curriculum.

Tips to Create an Excellent Observational Drawing

Tip 1: Look at what you are drawing

Failing to look at what you are drawing is one of the most fundamental errors an Art student can make

This sounds obvious, but it is the most common error made by art students. Many students attempt to draw things the way that they thinkthey should look, rather than the way they actually do look.

The only way to record shape, proportion and detail accurately is to look at the source of information. Human memory does not suffice. Forms, shadows and details are hard enough to replicate when they are right there in front of you; if you have to make them up, they appear even less convincing. In order to produce an outstanding observational drawing, you must observe: your eyes must continually dance from the piece of paper to the object and back again. Not just once or twice, but constantly.

Tip 2: Draw from real objects whenever possible

The phrase ‘observational drawing’ typically implies drawing from life (see the superb observational drawing exercise set by artist and teacher Julie Douglas). Ask any art teacher and they will list the benefits of drawing from objects that are sitting directly in front of you. You are provided with a wealth of visual information…changing light conditions; rich textures; views of the subject from alternate angles; as well as information from other sense…smells and noise from the surroundings etc. Transcribing from three-dimensions to two is ultimately much harder than drawing from a photograph, but it often results in drawings that are ‘richer’ and more authentic.

Tip 3: Don’t trace

Throughout history, great realist painters have traced from photographs or worked from projections blown up onto walls. But these painters are not high school art students; nor are they assessed on their ability to replicate form.

Tip 4: Understand perspective

As objects get further away they appear smaller. The replication of this change of scale on paper (through the use of vanishing points) is called ‘perspective’. The fundamentals of perspective are usually taught in junior high school; by Year 10 at the latest. If you are a senior art student and have somehow missed this lesson, remedy this situation urgently. There are not many theoretical aspects of art that are essential to learn, but this is one of them.

Tips for Draw and Paint Faster

1. Use a ground

There are many benefits to working on a ground. One of these is increased painting or drawing speed. A ground covers a painting or drawing surface from the outset. It can act as mid-tone, with only black and white used to apply dark and light areas (as in the examples below) or be left partially visible in the final work. This results in an artwork that is much faster to complete (see our article about painting on grounds for more information).

2. Incorporate mixed media /patterned surfaces / textural elements

As with using a ground, patterned, decorative or textural items can cover areas of an artwork quickly. Although this strategy should be used with care, selecting only materials which support or enhance your project (usually with reference to a relevant artist model) this can be a great way to speed up your project and introduce creative use of mixed media.

3. Work on several pieces at once

Working in series – completing several paintings or drawings at one time – is a very helpful strategy for Art students. This speeds work up for a number of reasons:

  • A single colour can be used throughout a number of works, without needing to stop for remixing / washing brushes
  • While one work is drying, another one can be worked on
  • Similar processes or techniques can be mastered quickly and repeated on subsequent works

In addition, when working on several pieces at once, ‘preciousness’ about the work tends to be lost, leading to more experimentation and greater work speed.

4. Use masking tape to create straight edges

Some students are concerned that it might be necessary to ‘prove’ that a straight line can be painted by hand. This is not the case. Your control of a paint brush can be ascertained immediately by looking at the remainder of your painting. Masking tape creates straight edges in seconds. Once mastered, this trick can save you hours – and make your paintings sharper, cleaner and more professional in the process. If you haven’t used masking tape before, buy some now!

5. Omit parts of a scene

Deliberately picking out certain parts of a scene to draw has a strong impact on the final work and must be used with care to ensure that the resulting image supports the ideas explored in your project. As with the previous option, this allows you to demonstrate strong observational drawing skills, while saving time by omitting part of the scene.

7. Include photographs

While there is a certain quantity of painting and drawing that must take place within a Painting or Fine Art portfolio, photography can provide an excellent mechanism for moving a project forward at a faster pace.

Arts Education Matters

 Though the arts receive relatively little attention from policymakers and school leaders, exposing young people to art and culture can have a big impact on their development. The problem is that almost no one is bothering to study and document the extent to which the arts and culture can affect students. Instead, policymakers, researchers, and schools are typically focused on what is regularly and easily measured: math and reading achievement. This leads defenders of the arts to attempt to connect the arts to improved math and reading scores—a claim for which there is almost no rigorous evidence. Other arts advocates believe that the benefits cannot and need not be measured.

But the important effects of art and cultural experiences on students can be rigorously measured. In fact, we recently conducted two studies that used random-assignment research designs to identify causal effects of exposure to the arts through museum and theater attendance. In the museum study, we held a lottery with nearly 11,000 students from 123 Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma schools, roughly half of whom were assigned to visit Crystal Bridges of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., while the other half served as the control group. In the live-theater study, we conducted a lottery to offer free tickets to roughly half of the 700 Arkansas students applying to see “Hamlet” or “A Christmas Carol” at a professional theater in Fayetteville.

By comparing outcomes for students who had these art experiences—by chance—with the outcomes of those who did not, we can identify with confidence what the arts do for young people. The approach we took, which is typical in medical research, creates treatment and control groups that are, on average, identical in their backgrounds and prior interests, with only chance determining the distinction between the two groups. Therefore, any subsequent differences we observed in the students were caused by touring an art museum or seeing live theater, not a result of pre-existing differences among them.

We were also careful to focus on outcomes that could plausibly be altered by the arts. We didn’t look at math- and reading-test scores because we have no reason to expect that arts experiences would have an impact on them. Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner, who are affiliated with the education research group Project Zero at Harvard University, have conducted systematic reviewsof the research literature and found little credible evidence that the benefits of the arts transfer to other academic subjects. We should no more expect the arts to boost math scores than expect math to enhance appreciation for the arts.

Instead, we looked at whether exposure to the arts affected students’ knowledge of the arts and altered their desire to consume the arts in the future. We also looked at whether art experiences had an effect on student values, such as tolerance and empathy. Finally, we looked at whether students’ ability to engage in critical thinking about the arts was affected by these experiences.

A taste for the landscape

 Within that boisterous artistic period that was the American 19th century, no tendency or movement is more interesting and suggestive than the Hudson River School. The painters of this school gave a radical turn to the developing of landscape painting, making the landscape no longer a mere foreground for a composition, and turning it into the authentic reason and protagonist of the picture. But there is more, much more of which to speak. In this small essay we are going to try to discover some less evident aspects of this sensational artistic period.

There is much to say about the artists who may have influenced this movement. Some of them are quite evident, such as the late Baroque landscape painters -Meindert Hobbema, Claude Lorrain- in works by Cole or Durand. More complex, but maybe even more important, is the influence of the greatest American writers of that time, like Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau, with his writings aimed to proclaim the American cultural independence to Europe. We will study this complex influence in later chapters. Also, it is necessary to mention pioneers of the American landscape Art, like George Catlin or Thomas Doughty.

About the influence that this movement had in the immediately later American Art -symbolism, luminism and American impressionism- there is a lot to say. It has been said quite often – and it is difficult not to fall in the temptation of saying it again- that the influence that the painters of the Hudson River School had on American impressionism is similar to what the Barbizon School had on French impressionism. This is not so simple, at least in my opinion. First of all, American impressionism is a much more “heterodox” movement – and generally less studied- than its French homonymous: whereas many American artists simply copied the intentions and techniques of his European contemporaries, some -such as Winslow Homer- even approached impressionism before Monet, Renoir and their colleagues. In addition, American landscape painting entails very complex political and even spiritual connotations that difference it from French painting. In any case, the influence of the Hudson River School in the works of Albert Pinkham Ryder, Ralph Blakelock or Winslow Homer is undeniable.

THE PROTAGONISTS

THOMAS COLE (1801-1858) is known as the founder of the Hudson River School. Born in Britain, his family emigrated to America when he was only 17 years old, so we can consider him a totally American painter. Cole discovered the beauty of the Hudson River in 1825, after emigrating to New York, and began to create his first outdoors sketches. Here he paints some of his more famous works, like “The falls of Kaaterskill”(Warner Collection). His love for the American landscape was so strong that, after travelling to Europe- he found the landscape of the Old Continent cold and desolated. At the end of his life he settled down in the Catskills, where he painted the series of “The Voyage of the life”.

ASHER BROWN DURAND (1796-1886), although older than Cole, introduced himself in the landscape painting after knowing the works of the previous master. More romantic and less faithful to the reality than Cole, his works are, nevertheless, more beautiful and poetic, with clear influences of masters like Meindert Hobbema or Claude Lorrain. He is the author of works such as “Kindred Spirits” or “The beeches”.

 

The Fake and Real From Leonardo da Vinci

1. INDISPUTABLE WORKS BY THE MASTER

“Portrait of a woman (Ginevra Benci)”
1474-76
Washington , National Gallery
Although that in late 19th and early 20th century some discordant voices were heard (5) now nobody doubt of the authorship of this little jewel, appropriately called “cossa belissima (very beautiful thing)” by Vasari. First masterwork by Leonardo

“Saint Jerome”
c.1480
Roma, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Nobody have ever doubted of this unfinished work

“The adoration of the magi”
1481-82
Florencia, Uffizi
As the above, unquestionable

“The Virgin of the rocks”
1483-86
Paris , Louvre
Unquestionable work by Leonardo, with abundant documentation

“The Virgin of the rocks”
1483-86
London , National Gallery
The attribution of Leonardo, unquestionable in the 19th and early 20 th century, was questioned in the late 20th century due to the stylistic differences with the Louvre version. Nevertheless, recent in-depth studies of the work (6) have proved the authorship of Leonardo. The work was probably unfortunately repainted, and it is even possible that the two wings of the triptych were painted by a pupil, but the central panel is free of any doubts.

“The last supper”
1495-97
Milano, Convento de Santa Maria
Logically unquestionable

“Saint Anne, the Virgin, the child and Saint John”
c.1498
London , National Gallery
Another unquestionable work

“Portrait of Isabella d’Este”
c.1500
Paris , Louvre
Unfinished and in a mediocre state of preservation, however free of any doubts, with the only exception of Goldscheider (1952), who affirms that only the head is by the master

“Portrait of a woman (Gioconda, the Monna Lisa)”
1503-05
Paris , Louvre
Obviously unquestionable

“Head of a girl (La Scapigliata)”
1508
Parma , Galeria Nacionale
Few discordant voices, among them Ricci and Suida (1929). However, the mastery of the drawing and the numerous historical documents make it an unquestionable work

“Saint Anne, the Virgin and child with the lamb”
c.1510
Paris , Louvre
A never questioned masterwork, although numerous copies are known.

“Saint John the Baptist”
1513-16
Paris , Louvre
A supreme masterwork, with an astonishing technical perfection, and never discussed in a serious way, although Müller-Walde and Berenson (who later changed his opinion) considered it a work by the workshop.

The total is a dozen of works, and we can add two special cases:

“The baptism of Christ”
c.1472-75
Florencia, Uffizi
Work by Verrocchio (Leonardo’s master) but it is firmly believed by most critics that one of the angels and the landscape behind it were painted by Leonardo