Monday, June 28, 2010

BAMBOO


Corel Painter X art software simulates a Bamboo Pen... without the drawbacks of traditional pens, which can clog, spatter, or run dry.

Young Ronald Searle and his friends enlisted in the British Royal Engineers at age 19 during World War II. They were stationed in Singapore when the city was captured by the Japanese in February 1942.

Searle and his friends were taken prisoner and shipped to a dense tropical jungle to build the Burma-Siam railroad. They worked at forced labor in sweltering heat, chopping through miles of dense bamboo forests and hacking a path through granite mountains. On a starvation diet of less than 400 calories per day, plagued by insects and disease, victimized by brutal guards, the prisoners began dying like flies. The guards quickly killed any member of the ragtag group who fell behind. Searle recalled:
My friends and I, we all signed up together. We had grown up together, we went to school together and they all died like that. So few of us came out of it. Basically, all the people we loved and knew and grew up with simply became fertiliser for the nearest bamboo....
Cholera also took a terrible toll on the men, including Searle:
Between bouts of fever I came round one morning to find that the men on each side of me were dead, and as I tried to prop myself up to get away from them, I saw that there was a snake coiled under the bundle on which I had been resting my head.
His captors enforced a harsh discipline. The slightest infraction
meant a thrashing for someone with the ubiquitous bamboo stick - and being beaten with bamboo is like being beaten with an iron bar.
One such beating left Searle temporarily paralyzed. But there were even more insidious uses for bamboo:
Some of our overseers had an extremely primitive sense of humour. During the noon break on the cuttings, they would frequently relieve their boredom by calling us into line before we had barely gobbled down our rice, to watch the torture of one of us picked at random. The unlucky one might be made to hold a heavy rock above his head in the full sun, with a sharpened bamboo stick propped against his back. If he wavered, which he inevitably did, the bamboo spear pierced his skin.

Searle resolved that he was going to draw a record of his ordeal. He obssessively began drawing every day on smuggled scraps of paper.



He later described his sketches as "the graffiti of a condemned man, intending to leave a rough witness of his passing through, but who found himself - to his surprise and delight - among the reprieved." Searle could have been severely punished by the guards for his drawings. He sometimes concealed them by rolling them up inside the ubiquitous bamboo and burying them in the ground.

When the railroad was completed, Searle was among the small percentage of prisoners who survived the jungle. He was shipped back to Changi, a horrifically squalid and overcrowded jail in Singapore.

There, the men continued to starve. Searle was especially taken by a pair of baby kittens at the jail:



Searle fattened them up and on Christmas day, 1944, cooked and ate them.

In August 1945, Searle was released after the war ended and went on to a long, passionate career as a brilliant artist. Thinking back, he said, "Everything goes back to being a prisoner. When I think how fortunate I was to survive that, to lose all one's friends at 19 years old - every day is a treasure. I decided when the war ended that I was going to do something interesting."

Searle, now 90, drew distinctive pictures using an old fashioned bamboo pen.




Corel Painter X art software conveniently provides you with art and passion with none of the mess or drawbacks of a traditional Bamboo Pen... which can clog, spatter, or run dry.


130 Comments:

Blogger kev ferrara said...

Great post and beautifully written, David. You teased out the irony of the corel ad copy with excruciating finesse. Loved that.

However, I don't think I've ever been as emotionally affected reading one of your posts as with those heartfelt drawings of those silly young kittens... followed by their fate. Searle seemed to love those kittens, from the way he drew them. That love really brings home the classic idea of being grateful for the food we get to eat and respectful of the living beings they once were. Killing them must have been heartbreaking. I wonder if he was able to taste them at all.

6/28/2010 9:50 PM  
Blogger Gabey Dimaranan said...

it is really with suffering that people grow up and understand and appreciate life more.

i think that no matter how hard we try to express life today in our art as the new generation of artists, we couldn't match up to the essence, depth and impact the likes of Searl gives to his artworks because of the experiences he had that molded him to what he and his art is today.

i would give anything just to appreciate and understand life as much as he did.

6/28/2010 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabey, I would much rather not achieve that level of understanding if it involves a Japanese POW camp.

There is no shortage of comfortable middle class types who produced great art, I'd rather be on their side of the fence.

-Steve

6/28/2010 11:38 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Nicely put, Kev. Searle was a genius but I thought he had a mean streak because his drawings could be so vicious. I guess if you've had to eat baby kittens to stay alive, you begin to see the world a little differently,

6/28/2010 11:41 PM  
Blogger Smurfswacker said...

I agree with Moran. While respecting his abilities, I never liked Searle's work. His drawings seemed to exude anger and pessimism, which always repelled me. I knew nothing about the man himself.

Having read this article, I can understand where Searle was coming from. Few would have emerged from a youth like his without the conviction that this world is a pretty effed-up place.

6/28/2010 11:56 PM  
Anonymous jcpahl said...

Wow, didn't know that about Searle. Or about Corel Painter X and it's bamboo pens that never clog or run dry. Great post.

6/29/2010 3:18 AM  
Blogger Katherine Tyrrell said...

Excellent post - and it adds a lot to our understanding of the man and his drawing style

6/29/2010 3:59 AM  
Blogger Katherine Tyrrell said...

Excellent post - and it adds a lot to our understanding of the man and his drawing style

6/29/2010 3:59 AM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

BLUE

6/29/2010 6:07 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev, the fact that Searle and his cell mates saved the kittens for their Christmas feast, and even fattened them up with their sparse rations, suggests that Searle had plenty of time to contemplate what he was about to do, even as he was drawing them.

(I have written in the past about the old aphorism about commingling sex and art-- "you can't drool and draw." But Searle's drawings of the kittens may be an exception to that rule.)

Was killing them "heartbreaking" for him? Hard to say. He would be the first to tell you that he had descended to a sub-human existence in order to survive. After a few years of starvation, perhaps you begin to look at everything-- no matter how cute or innocent or beautiful-- for its potential caloric contribution to your existence.

I think the food chain gets awfully complicated here at the extreme edge of human experience. Searle's boyhood friends became "fertilizer" for bamboo, which grew into something to beat and torture him. In an act of stubborn resistance, he then used that bamboo to hide his precious drawings. And ultimately in an act of astonishing redemption, he was able to fashion bamboo into a drawing tool, to convert his experiences into objects of lasting beauty. Who is to say where the kittens Searle ingested will come out in nature's omnivorous recycling?

6/29/2010 9:32 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Gabey and Steve-- yup, I'm looking for the kind of passion, insight and profundity that doesn't require me to get up out of my armchair. Perhaps I can purchase it in the new release of Corel's Painter X.

MORAN and Smurfswacker-- I agree, it does put some of Searle's pointed opinions in perspective. If you look at photographs of him from that era, five years after his ordeal he had regained weight, put on a suit and tie and looked pretty normal from the outside. But you don't recover from the internal scars nearly as quickly.

jcpahl-- Thanks very much.

Katherine Tyrrell-- I enjoy your informative blog, and appreciate your writing in.

6/29/2010 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Myron Macklin said...

What a great piece of reading to start my day.

I like how you expand on the struggle behind the simply-made, bamboo pen vs the cold, mechanical, everyday sameness of Corel Painter X. The bamboo pen (or most any analogue tool for that matter) means that an artist has to live in the moment. They have to make marks on paper and canvas that speak from their hearts instead of "undoing" their way to a perfect vision.

Besides its great to have ink under your nails when you hit the bed isn't it?

6/29/2010 9:57 AM  
Blogger Don Cox said...

The best collection of Searle's war drawings is in a book called "To the Kwai - and Back". (1986)

More good serious drawings are in a little book "Refugees 1960" which he did with his then wife Kaye Webb.

6/29/2010 1:01 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Was killing them "heartbreaking" for him? Hard to say. He would be the first to tell you that he had descended to a sub-human existence in order to survive. After a few years of starvation, perhaps you begin to look at everything-- no matter how cute or innocent or beautiful-- for its potential caloric contribution to your existence."

So true, after a few days of nothing but uncooked onions I started thinking people looked delicious.

6/29/2010 1:22 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrmA-nZjTh8&feature=related

Here is a better copy of Blue

6/29/2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

" The bamboo pen (or most any analogue tool for that matter) means that an artist has to live in the moment. They have to make marks on paper and canvas that speak from their hearts instead of "undoing" their way to a perfect vision."

Isn't oil paint popular because it allows you to undo for ages?

Shall we discount that as well? Or a drawing which used the erasure, or a charcoal piece which used chamois?

6/29/2010 6:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

*Should we only respect writers who send their rough drafts straight to the publisher?

Writing your book in Microsoft Word is hereby a sin against Immediacy.

(or the rhetoric there-of)

6/29/2010 7:02 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Myron: thanks!

Don Cox wrote: "The best collection of Searle's war drawings is in a book called "To the Kwai - and Back".

Don, I recall angering many people by suggesting in an early post that Searle's war drawings aren't very good from a purely artistic perspective. (This should not be surprising when you consider the conditions under which they were made and preserved, but still my comment inspired lynch mobs.) The drawings remain important and even magnificent for other reasons, but if you don't know the story behind them and view them purely as aesthetic objects, it seems to me they don't make the grade. (This is yet another reason for keeping an open mind about multiple sets of criteria by which it can be enriching to judge objects.)

I read later that Searle viewed his war drawings in a similar fashion. Searle's refugee drawings from the 1960s I thought were quite well done.

Richard wrote: "after a few days of nothing but uncooked onions I started thinking people looked delicious."

And indeed, they can be (applied judiciously and with great discrimination, of course).

6/29/2010 7:10 PM  
Blogger Francisco Galárraga said...

Richard's gotta point here fellas.

6/30/2010 12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, he doesn't... Just too boring to bother refuting.

6/30/2010 12:42 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"They have to make marks on paper and canvas that speak from their hearts instead of "undoing" their way to a perfect vision."


when Tony Hancock pompously uttered "every brushstroke is torn from my body" in 'The Rebel' it was a cringe-inducing send up of the
popular myth that every mark an artist makes is a gesture of authentic, trembling passion. the idea was a cliche even then in 1961.
as Richard suggests 'undoing' is largely irrelevant to the sort of highly finished fantasy painting frequently done by users of Corel. oil painting on canvas involves just as much 'undoing' in the form of reworking and working with paint that remains wet and 'live' for days. so the idea that every mark must be 'heartfelt' (imagine how exhausted you'd be after a days work if you did any form of cross-hatching) would only apply to swift gestural work where every mark drew attention to its own spontaneity.

6/30/2010 4:52 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Oil paint doesn't have "undo". It gets tacky fairly quickly, especially if it is brushed on thinly. The best that can be undone is to scrape a section off with a palette knife and start the passage over. Or to try to put strong strokes over top of weak ones, which is much harder than it sounds. Either way, a fresh stroke, to appear fresh, must be executed that way. There's no way to simulate painting well. Every stroke is a decision, and a good painting is one confident and strong decision after another, hour after hour. Only a mastermind can make a truly great painting... which is one reason a great painting has such psychic force.

Although painting's multiple concerns per brushstroke (value, temperature, stroke body, etc.) can't be topped for sheer difficulty per decision, Ink is probably even less forgiving even than oil painting in terms of correcting, as any attempt to remove a stroke dirties up the paper.

Since using MS Word doesn't simulate the handwriting process, it really doesn't equate with Corel's Bamboo simulator. Especially since, as far as text publishing goes, the expressivity of the handwriting of the author is not a consideration. Apples and oranges.

With the realist tradition leading out of the symbolist era and into the era of the great illustrators... there came an understanding that every technical method has a certain emotional quality to it. And this emotional quality will inform the picture. There's nothing pretend about this idea. Franklin Booth's pen work is obviously of a different emotional character than Joseph Clement Coll's which is obviously different than Searle's emotionalism.

The target of that line from The Rebel is not the great illustrators, but the ultra hipster abstract expressionists, who had taken the speculative scribbling of some clueless critics as gospel and spent years riffing on about significant form and plasticity... as if mouthing these phrases automatically gave their work the quality which their hands could not provide.

6/30/2010 11:15 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Matt Jones, who runs the premier Ronald Searle tribute blog, has posted an interesting new entry on this subject, including a photograph of Searle's own bamboo pen.

6/30/2010 12:46 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/30/2010 2:08 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, are you equating the 'non clogging' ease of use of Corel Painter with not having to suffer any of life's hardships ? the sort that Ronald Searle endured in a POW camp are a very extreme example of hardship, but i don't see the link between his experiences and the choice today that an artist might make between a traditional tool and a digital tool.
this romanticisation of the traditional tools such as a bamboo pen and the denigration of anything digital as cold and soulless would sound like luddite-ism if it wasn't coming from someone who thinks Wall E is amazing.

6/30/2010 2:13 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, i don't think you can hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter or bad character animation in Maya (just to pick another digital example) any more than you can hide bad oil painting.

6/30/2010 2:38 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Especially since, as far as text publishing goes, the expressivity of the handwriting of the author is not a consideration. Apples and oranges."

That's not at all what I meant.

I was talking about the immediacy of the word/phrase that was chosen.

If someone sits down to a typewriter and fires off a first draft, and that is what is published, it will be more "immediate" than someone who works and reworks what they are trying to say on MS Word.

Personally, I don't give a damn if a text was written in Word, and reworked forever or shot off in a single draft. As long as they contain the same content it changes nothing about what is said.

I see this as the same with art. If from x distance (around where brush strokes break down into form) I cannot tell the difference between a painting or a digital giclée I do not care. They are experientially the same. I will have no change in content experience. I will understand the forms just the same.

6/30/2010 2:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"i don't think you can hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter or bad character animation in Maya (just to pick another digital example) any more than you can hide bad oil painting."

Right!

6/30/2010 2:47 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence, all fair points. There is no guarantee that a person who goes through Searle's ordeal will emerge a better artist, just as nothing says that a digital tool can't produce great art. (You are correct, I think the first half of Wall E was an astonishing artistic accomplishment, and I think the new Toy Story 3 is brilliant as well).

However, for me "convenience" is pretty far down on the list of ingredients for great art. Corel's convenience is important for meeting deadlines or making changes (and it makes it easier for editors to revise your work) but a lot of the best art is a messy, gut wrenching and downright inconvenient process. Corel promises to spare you from those nasty "spatters," but look how Searle used those spatters!

I think it is ironic that something like "bamboo" that meant so many important things to Searle-- his friends' bodies fertilized it, his captors beat him with it, his full time occupation was chopping it, he hid his art in it, and ultimately he drew with it-- is now a software feature for a new, comfortable generation of artists who will hopefully never understand what Searle went through. Bamboo has been compartmentalized, sanitized, and digitized, to be turned on and off with a switch. Lord, what would Searle think?

In this context, I was tickled that Corel markets their software with that "art and passion" slogan. A lot of what makes Searle so great-- his fierce opinions, his determination to do something important and unusual with his remaining time on earth, his willingness to take risks-- cannot be purchased by an artist in the form of software (just as it couldn't be provided by a shiny new set of winsor newton oil paints).

6/30/2010 2:49 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence and Richard: "Kev, i don't think you can hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter or bad character animation in Maya (just to pick another digital example) any more than you can hide bad oil painting."

I'm not an expert, but I'm not sure I agree with that. Digitally you can build a painting from a photograph rather than starting with a drawing. If you don't have good skills with color, you can rotate through a hundred different color schemes with a click of a mouse until you randomly stumble upon something that works. If you miscalculated your values, play with the contrast. If your composition sucks, rotate and crop it. In fact, isn't the technical name for layers, "place to hide bad digital painting/drawing"?

6/30/2010 2:58 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Oh, speaking of great digital work, I saw a fantastic digital sculpture today.

http://i45.tinypic.com/fy08lg.jpg

6/30/2010 3:04 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"I'm not an expert, but I'm not sure I agree with that."

"Digitally you can build a painting from a photograph rather than starting with a drawing."
Norman Rockwell?

"If your composition sucks, rotate and crop it."
If your painting's composition sucks -- take it off the stretcher, turn it, put it onto a smaller stretcher, crop it.

"In fact, isn't the technical name for layers, 'place to hide bad digital painting/drawing'?"
How is this particularly different that layers and glazes in oilpaint?

6/30/2010 3:08 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Film has different aesthetics than visual art. A movie's frames are blowing by and no particular one is onscreen long enough to be inspected, and that's fine. Because the "inner life" of film is in the subtext that arises from changes in a character's tactical or reactive behavior and changes between or within shots.

(The most beautiful animation cell ever drawn and painted in history was still only onscreen for one twenty-fourth of a second.)

So a film's power is not (and can not be) in any one frame as it is in illustration. Thus film spreads its aesthetic effects over a sequence of time, whereas illustrative art concentrates a world into a single image.

A movie frame is gone in an instant. An illustration, on the other hand, is open to contemplation into perpetuity... thus it better be rich in depth of life, personality, originality, authority, poetry, mystery, handicraft, significance, intelligence, wit... (none of which are available as photoshop filters) or its flame of interest will quickly wither and die.

Richard, you really need to go look at a great N.C. Wyeth or Dean Cornwell painting before you start making silly remarks about the comparison of such works to a giclée reproduction. If you are in Brooklyn now, I'd take a train ride up to the Society of Illustrators and take in their pirates and petticoats show. Seriously.

And yes, I understood what you meant about MS Word. And it is true that one can craft one's marks to some degree in live artmaking to "look fresh"... but that is a very very limited opportunity. Things can get messy, dead, stiff, overworked super quick and the drawing can be lost at the snap of the fingers. You can't just press delete and start fresh. Which is why painters are taught that confidence is more important than accuracy. This is why I reject the comparison.

6/30/2010 3:11 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Richard, you really need to go look at a great N.C. Wyeth or Dean Cornwell painting before you start making silly remarks about the comparison of such works to a giclée reproduction. If you are in Brooklyn now, I'd take a train ride up to the Society of Illustrators and take in their pirates and petticoats show. Seriously."

That's funny you mention N.C. Wyeth as I grew up across the street from his old house (Old route 100 along the Brandywine of Chadds Ford, PA) and have seen far more than my fair share of his work in person, have met his son and daughter. To make a long story short I would rather just bike over to the Brandywine River Museum, which has a far larger collection of his work. I am not ignorant to what art looks like in person.

As for the his work versus a giclee I am talking about at a distance where you no longer see technique, etc. Ideally the work is merely appreciated for what it is of -- no longer a painting but a scene with characters and light and scenery, etc. At that point there is next to zero difference between one or the other. NC Wyeth wasn't painting so you'd get your nose up in his work to look at the stroke, he was trying to render a scene.

6/30/2010 3:23 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard said: "Norman Rockwell?"

Don't you dare! Keep looking for a real example.

6/30/2010 3:25 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The hallmark of great original art is that the authority shines out of it. There are some pieces of art that simply blow your mind with their prowess. People who spend their lives sequestered in front of a computer screen may never experience the true power of an original work. Having held many colls and booths in my hands, having seen the best Dean Cornwell and Harvey Dunn shows ever mounted... Having been to see Pyle's and Wyeth's originals in their respective museums... Having seen and held Brangwyns and Fechins... the vast majority of digital art just seems like more MS Word to me.

(Yes, some digital is great stuff. But even goodbrush's work doesn't compare to the force of the above mentioned artists' works in reality.)

...

If you back away from a Wyeth to the point where it looks the same as its reproduction, you've already lost some of the power of the work. If you've retreated far enough to where a Wyeth looks the same as a photoshop painting, you've probably hit your head on some low hanging plumbing pipes on the way back and you should seek help.

6/30/2010 3:29 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

What's wrong with that example? Dude worked from photographs. *shrug*

6/30/2010 3:30 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Digitally you can build a painting from a photograph rather than starting with a drawing"


if you choose to yes. examples abound on this blog of illustrations traced or starting from a photo.


"If you don't have good skills with color, you can rotate through a hundred different color schemes with a click of a mouse until you randomly stumble upon something that works"


if you have no colour sense how are you going to know when you've stumbled upon something that works ?


"If you miscalculated your values, play with the contrast"


true, contrast is fairly easy to alter in a computer.


"If your composition sucks, rotate and crop it"


if you're that bad at composition how will you notice it sucks ?


"In fact, isn't the technical name for layers, "place to hide bad digital painting/drawing?"


if you can't tell in the final image then it's irrelevant how many layers were used.

6/30/2010 3:32 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

kev

I forget the name of the video now, it came out about 20 years ago and was mostly about Andrew Wyeth, but in an old clip of NC Wyeth working he himself crossed to very nearly the opposite side of the room before returning to the piece to keep working on it.

6/30/2010 3:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

(To get a look at it how it was meant to look in it's intended form of display; Printed)

6/30/2010 3:37 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard and Laurence, I am sure you understand how software can process a photograph to appear as if it was created by hand in another medium, so I can only assume that you don't understand how Rockwell and other brililant draftsmen used photographs as reference for paintings. It is, in my view, a fundamentally, qualitatively different process. The distinction goes to the heart of the judgment, taste and skill in making art, and it should also answer your question about why it is easier to "hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter or bad character animation in Maya (just to pick another digital example)."

I have deadlines that prevent me from engaging on the merits of this right now, but I'm guessing others will have strong opinions.

6/30/2010 3:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Clemens Kalischer, himself!, said he witnessed Rockwell tracing his photographs using a slide projector to paper/canvas(I'm not sure which).

6/30/2010 3:51 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

such a tracer ;-)

6/30/2010 3:57 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Of course, Richard. An artist will be looking at his work every which way, in an effort to be more objective about it.

Unless you're trying to tell me that Wyeth only cared about how his work would reproduce and could give a crap less about the work as an original work of art?

In that case, Wyeth must have demanded the return of his original art from the publishers merely to compare them with the final printed result. And thereafter, having been satisfied with his abilities to make giclées out of oil paint, he discarded the worthless canvases in the trash.

Don't try too hard to prove a point, my friend, just because its yours. ;)

6/30/2010 4:02 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Unless you're trying to tell me that Wyeth only cared about how his work would reproduce and could give a crap less about the work as an original work of art?"
Of course not; I'm merely suggesting that he had a primary goal as a commercial illustrator -- to create works primarily for their ability to illustrate -- I'm sure their beauty as singular art objects was highly important to him, but I doubt that that was primary to him in the same way it is to an impressionist with a near single-minded attention for surface quality.

6/30/2010 4:17 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Wow-- I can tell we are way overdue for a discussion about the role of photography in art. My point (and then I am really signing off for a while, so you can take as long as you like to whack away at me) is that Painter software enables any moron to scan a photograph and then move the cursor over it to convert it into a color pencil drawing or a watercolor. Check out their promotional videos on their web site and you know exactly who they are selling to-- people who want to hide their bad (or utter lack of) drawing skills. There's nothing remotely clandestine about it. The resulting picture, in a superficial way, makes them appear to have a talent they lack (which was your original question). There is even Painter software for kids, who have no technical skill but enjoy this game.

Compare that with what Rockwell does-- he designs his own composition from scratch, using gesture drawings and value roughs. He selects and poses models for key elements of his compostion and, to make sure he gets the folds and the buttons and the strands of hair right, he photographs them (which is simply more efficient and less expensive than the way he started out doing covers for the Post). Like other artists, he draws them on tracing paper and moves that paper around to shift the positions of various elements of his composition until he is satisfied. Using those drawings, tracings and photographs for anchors, he then proceeds to lay his image on the canvas and paint it.

There is taste, judgment and skill applied at every stage of what Rockwell does. There is nothing but wrist movement in the process I described with Painter. If Rockwell screws up, it is easy to see. The only way to screw up on what I described with Painter is to miss a spot.

So going back to the original question, I think "you can hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter" more easily than you can hide it if you are drawing by hand, whether from a photograph or a model. For me, it doesn't even seem close.

6/30/2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

"You must first be an artist, before you can be an illustrator." ~ NC Wyeth

6/30/2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, i wasn't referring to the process of using a 'filter' to alter a photograph into a bad painterly effect, but in using a photo as reference in the same way Rockwell and many others have done. i am in no way defending photoshop-processed photos. i was thinking of the work of someone like Michael Kutsche.

6/30/2010 4:24 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The thing that is most misunderstand about working from reference is that you can only see what you know. Which is to say you can only see what you look for. It's a strange fact.

Look at these Rockwell reference paintings for his Land of Enchantment mural:
http://lh5.ggpht.com/_SUBGzd1BG60/SXKmkFr2x2I/AAAAAAAB5VU/aZKYGG-ObTw/Rockwell,+Land+of+Enchantment.jpg

... and then look at any other paintings in the history of art to see if you can find a similar quality of form as Rockwell here accomplishes. And then you will understand just how much Rockwell knew, and how much of his personal expression derives from what he looks for in a figure.

6/30/2010 4:35 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

David, I don't think any of us were supporting using grafix programs to copy over photographs (and calling it art) anymore than you would support using a light box, transfer paper and charcoal to copy a photograph (and calling it art).

6/30/2010 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

I've always thought Searle's wartime drawings were the best work he ever did. It has an authenticity his commercial work never achieved.
Interestingly his Refugees book is an unsuccessful hybrid of his 'real' work with his cartoon voice and just rings really false, like an exercise in conscience.

6/30/2010 5:34 PM  
Blogger scruffy said...

All i want to say is two words...

poignant.

brilliant.

6/30/2010 5:53 PM  
Blogger Kagan M. said...

I'm really surprised to see so many disagree (or miss the point) on this one. If you had to prove your worth as an artist to a master wouldn't you want to be judged by raw drawing talent rather than the final product of some lengthy process? Probably chock full of stages you'd be embarrassed to reveal?
Great ends don't signify respectable means, and it's unfortunate most don't care what the means are anyway.
I'm with David all the way.

6/30/2010 8:52 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/30/2010 9:17 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Talent is a very small part of artistic ability, most is merely skill, the sort of skill that comes with years and years of earnest effort. There is nothing wrong with art being the product of a very lengthy process -- most of my favorite classical painters have been an object of ridicule at some point or another by a foolish contemporary overly steeped in the rhetoric of immediacy. Besides, there is a greatest person to prove your value to than a master; yourself, your family, friends and the general populace.

As for embarrassing stages, If I thought there were stages that are embarrassing somehow unavoidably tied to digital media I would not think it a valid artform. I think the fact that I believe it to be a valid artform suggests straight off the bat that I don't think there are any stages that are intrinsically embarrassing about working digitally.

Of course, most early adopters of digital art technologies are not artists but laymen merely excited by the prospect of the new media, so most of the early digital pieces are not fantastic (that should be expected given the user-base).

This is just as true in music with the Eigenharp. There is no reason that it can't make fantastic pieces of music other than that most of the early adopters are goofballs and laymen.

6/30/2010 9:49 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard,

Craft maximizes talent. It doesn't exist independent of talent. Craft is useless to somebody without talent. Furthermore, nobody can perform beyond their level of talent, only at it, or beneath it. (Luck, as Branch Rickey famously said, is the residue of good design.) So when you declare that talent is a small part of "artistic ability", you aren't talking sense.

Your discussion about early adopters of new technology is also contradicted by fact. For instance, by the early use of the computer in professional graphic design and video production, by the early adoption of multitrack recording by top industry professionals in the music business, and Clara Rockmore's early adoption of the Theremin. Understand, that many new technologies are often so expensive that early adopters are by necessity people who would make money off the product right away, and would appreciate the range of its use immediately, i.e. pros.

6/30/2010 10:58 PM  
Blogger Kagan M. said...

Richard
I didn't mean to suggest that there's anything wrong with a lengthy process in art, nor that digital art isn't valid. As far as commercial art goes,(or fine art, who cares?) by all means utilize unlimited undos and layers, I certainly do on deadline. There's nobody giving out medals for doing it the old way.

I suppose it really doesn't matter in the end, but somehow I do have more respect for the artist who can make a bold stroke in one confident motion than one who achieves the same thing by tweaking anchor points and nodes.

I think strong drawing is less obscure on actual paper. Even by looking at an art-o-graphed drawing by one of the heroes of this blog you can tell that there's meat to it, it's not merely a tracing. You're not left wondering if the line varieties are the artists or a preprogrammed brush setting.

I also think a few of you mistook what David was talking about for filters (which is so late-'90s) — with the bamboo brush or oil or any other type of brush you can manually push the pixels of a photo around and make them appear to be painted. I do feel this would be an embarrassing stage to any great final piece - like David said, you can't go wrong unless you miss a spot (or the photo is bad to begin with). You talk about proving yourself to your family and the general public, but that's easy because they generally have no taste! (Sorry Mom)
You're right, it's yourself you have to prove something to, but what pushes you further? Seeing work from people who are better than you or pats on the back from mom and dad?
(Full confession, I "pixel-pushed" a portrait for my grandma and feel terrible accepting credit for the "artwork")

I'm sure there's great Eigenharp tracks, Guitar Hero renditions and certainly auto-tuned hit singles, but that's not proof the people who did them are any good. I'd be satisfied with a live song or solo!

I guess my view is although an ipad in life drawing class might be practical it's not particularly impressive.

6/30/2010 11:19 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi David

I think you are going to have to give post moderism a break if you think Norman Rockwell is a great draftsman.
His line is rarely under any tension, nor does his brushwork ever feel like it is under any motivating force. If you only work from photos you stop feeling the pressures of life that create from, stress, shear, gravity, tension and tourque.
If I recall right even the portraits he did of his sons where from photos. I know you like to lump him in with leutrac and Degas but they can draw a horse ass in about three
lines and you feel the lines are under surface tension.
Photos are cold and dead things compared to the living.
As Gicommetti said grey specs on a screen. Why would anyone want a mechanical device between them and there experince of the world?
Great draftmanship is great understanding, that why it is so hard. Rockwell is a great illustrator but his form,his drawing
seems mute.

7/01/2010 12:53 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

there are almost certainly more depressingly bad amateurish oil paintings in existence than there are bad Corel digital paintings (even if we start the clock at Corel Painter's beginnings). the quality of the final image has nothing to do with whether you can 'undo' or use layers or which brush tool you used. it is down to the eye, talent, sensibility and intent of the artist. the computer does not 'do all the work for you' as many seem to think. nor does it cover a lack of draughtsmanship abilites. nor does it offer endless choices to turn a piece of crap by an amateur into a masterpiece, unless you're the type who can be fooled by that kind of thing.

i don't even know how Michael Kutsche did this drawing:

http://tinyurl.com/3amytnk

it's probably 3D retouched in Painter. i don't really care how he did it either. the way he sculpted the figure in 3D, textured, coloured and lit it show everything about the choices he would have made had he been painting it in the traditional way. they are the choices any skilled draughtsman would have to make, whatever medium he happened to be working in. the Incredibles don't look like that because a computer did it all. the characters are based on hand sculpted maquettes which in turn were based on concept drawings. it's all just drawing in the end.


incidentally, if you want more insight into Rockwell's natural drawing ability you need only look at the late teens - nineteen twenties period before he started heavily using photo reference.
wooden poses and unconvincing facial expressions abound.

7/01/2010 5:32 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Craft maximizes talent. It doesn't exist independent of talent."
Agreed.

"Craft is useless to somebody without talent."
No person is without talent. Talents are just differently accessed -- this has to do with how we teach for it. It's people like yourself who try to suggest that talent is somehow rare and special that causes many people not to discover their own level of talent.

I don't think there is a normal person alive today that without the right teachers and amount of work could become the equal or superior of any artist you hold dear to you -- the mailman, the baker, and all the rest. These people are your equals, you shouldn't forget that. The fact that so many of them allow you to become the artist while they become something else, well, you should thank them. If everyone wanted to be an artist you would see very quickly that it isn't as special as you might think it is.

"Furthermore, nobody can perform beyond their level of talent, only at it, or beneath it."
This is not a problem, as no one has touched their level of talent, there is not a person alive who has even touched the first percentile of the level of talent we could preform given the right circumstances.


Laurence, could you provide an example (rockwell)?

"You talk about proving yourself to your family and the general public, but that's easy because they generally have no taste!"
I disagree. I think the general public has fine taste, obviously it's not perfect, but the general public at least has better taste than most people who consider themselves insiders -- insiders have taste that is thoroughly inbred. The general public at least has taste which is expansive and can cross many genres, media, and the rest.

7/01/2010 8:17 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

http://tinyurl.com/35vasjc

http://tinyurl.com/33kjomh

http://tinyurl.com/37vdxou


Richard, i'm not out to trash Rockwell at all. i think he's brilliant on many levels, and i realise he was inexperienced at this stage and heavily under Leyendecker's spell. but i wonder how it might have gone had he not hit on using photos as a technical aid to give his pictures that authentic layer of realism they were lacking before.

7/01/2010 9:17 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Laurence,

Found a picture of him doing the prelim drawing

7/01/2010 9:44 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"i wonder how it might have gone had he not hit on using photos as a technical aid to give his pictures that authentic layer of realism they were lacking before."

He didn't think he'd ever be able to do it from what I've heard and was rather sad he didn't think he could. When asked about his wife who painted without references he simply replied "I don't know how she does it!"

In a bit of tragedy he realized that it was worth trying, but not until he was old and sickly. When he died he was found part of the way through a painting without photographic references for the first time since he was very young, slumped over and cold, unable to finish.

:- |

7/01/2010 9:49 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

(according to Kalischer)

7/01/2010 9:51 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I sense a bit of spring fever in the air.

We all have equal talents, one proclaims, despite that all the evidence points to unequal distribution of talent (I wrote a whole post on the cluelessness of this idea, which blogger just ate).

Another says that one of the greatest draftsmen in history sucks and holds up his early work, before he came into his own, as proof... Imagine? And then somehow thinking that Rockwell came into his own merely because he started using photos... as if photos are magic items. Forget that Rockwell was also working from the model... ugh!

Then Tom... somehow deleting the truth about Rockwell from about 1925 to 1940. Not seeing the life in his draftsmanship... I throw up my hands, among other things

Its all too much. Too much wrong, not enough time.

back to work.

7/01/2010 9:53 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"We all have equal talents, one proclaims, despite that all the evidence points to unequal distribution of talent."

Is it not at all possible that the evidence points primarily to unequal distribution of education and training -- rather than something innate and mystically residing between genetics and spirituality?

"Another says that one of the greatest draftsmen in history sucks and holds up his early work, before he came into his own, as proof... Imagine? And then somehow thinking that Rockwell came into his own merely because he started using photos... as if photos are magic items."
Well, he has been quoted as saying as much himself. I mean, he used projectors to trace the photographs onto the canvas. How much more evidence do you need? That's even worse than using the Durer device.

7/01/2010 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Normal Bean said...

Richard, do a little more research before you post such nonsense about Rockwell. In fact, do a lot more research. And for fuck's sake LEARN HOW TO RESEARCH! It isn't just googling what you want to hear. It certainly isn't cherry picking facts to trot out here to try to impress people who know better. Stop trying to win your picayune points, and start trying to understand... Rockwell changed over time. One quote you think you remember from Rockwell in the 50s doesn't mean that he was tracing photos in the 30s during his peak. And even when he used photos, which he relied on more and more through the years as modelling fees increased, you can see how significantly he changed everything and how it was all conforming to his original sketches anyhow. If you don't have the sensitivity to notice what (and how much) Rockwell is altering reference to get what he is after, the problem is with your lack of visual sensitivity, not with Rockwell's methods. He's a genius, you're clueless. Get used to it.

7/01/2010 11:50 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Richard, do a little more research before you post such nonsense about Rockwell."
I posted nothing about Rockwell that is not factual.

All information provided above were recent bits of Rockwell's history that came to light when Clemens Kalischer went public with his connection as one of Rockwell's major photographers.

True, he was working quite a bit more with the Camera in the 50s and 60s and this is when Kalischer found him tracing his photographs.

Could it be that he only started doing this later on? Maybe, maybe not.

That doesn't mean you all need to get so defensive. This was merely in response to David's statement that with digital programs you can't work from photographs very easily. I was merely trying to point out that one of your own canon has been recorded tracing from photographs -- so to debase digital art because you can do that is pretty silly.

7/01/2010 12:08 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Sorry, *can work from photographs

7/01/2010 12:09 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"If you don't have the sensitivity to notice what (and how much) Rockwell is altering reference to get what he is after, the problem is with your lack of visual sensitivity, not with Rockwell's methods."

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I don't see that he altered references. Maybe you didn't read the full thread but this was about digital art programs and how it is somehow cheating or wrong that they let you work from photographs with such ease.

I don't think it's terrible that they allow you to do that anymore than I think it's terrible that Rockwell worked with photographs.

Sure, I'm always more impressed by someone working exclusively from life, and even more impressed by someone working from their imagination yet having it look like they worked from life.

This is not to say that I think Rockwell isn't great because he doesn't work from life or his head, just to say that there is no reason to debase digital artists for utilizing photographs anymore than traditional artists, Rockwell included.

7/01/2010 12:19 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard,

I'd like to read the exact quote where Kalischer said Rockwell traced photos (rather than traced up his composition sketches and used photos as reference.) If you can't produce the quote, odds are you misremembered or misunderstood.

For instance, Kalischer is quoted online about Rockwell's "tracing techniques" in the context of complaining that Rockwell didn't begin his canvases freehand.

This accusation doesn't mean that Rockwell traced photos.

Rockwell's late compositions were complicated and often included machine-produced items and therefore required linear precision in order to get right, so he designed them and drew them before-hand. And then he scaled up his master composition sketches and traced them off onto canvas with line.

Thus his late pictures were not begun "freehand" in the manner of a "pure" painter. But they weren't traced from photos either. They were traced from his own drawings.

In this context, it seems, Kalischer is really carping about Rockwell being meticulous and a craftsperson... which, let's face it, is just a stupid thing to carp about.

7/01/2010 1:46 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Jump to 6:10

7/01/2010 3:49 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Mr. KALISCHER: Yeah. And here's his - this big projector. Big cameras stretch out and the projector projects my photograph. Oh, I said, but so what do you do with it? I trace it. I thought he just took the information to do his own thing. No. I said, oh, that's pathetic.

7/01/2010 3:52 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Also interesting;

Mr. KALISCHER: He smiled all the time in public. Yes, yes, yes to everybody. But underneath, I think he was lonely and bored and compulsive about having to do this over and over and over, the same stuff. But it's always, pump, smile, hi, how are you? Fine. Fine and dandy. Suddenly he took the door and slammed the door, totally out of character. I said, what's the matter? He said, oh, damn it, damn it, damn it with it all. Thirty-five years of Boy Scout calendars. I've had it. So I said, well, why don't you stop? I can't.

Mr. KALISCHER: His wife was not an artist, but she painted all the time. And he would say, I don't know, Mary, she just sits down, takes a brush and paints. How does she do this? I said, why don't you do that too? He said, oh, I can't. I can't.

7/01/2010 3:59 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

In regards to his death, as I gave the story of it;

LYDEN (the colmunist): On the day that Norman Rockwell died, Clemens Kalischer slipped into his studio and took some photos: an easel, a pipe, the sun coming on to an unfinished painting. They're quiet and beautiful images. Kalischer contends the reason the painting on the easel was unfinished is because this time Rockwell was trying to paint without using photographs. It's almost a story a Rockwell painting might've told without making a distinction as to how he'd be regarded.

7/01/2010 4:01 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/01/2010 6:08 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard,

Rockwell changed methods over the years. In particular there is a clear break between the effort involved before and after his studio burned down, which coincided with WWII. It is widely understood that he came to rely more on the camera as he aged and styles and prices changed. (His best painterly painting, I would say, was done between 1925 and 1940, a time when he was working from the model as well as from photos.)

Re: Mr. Kalischer... Something doesn't smell right. Possibly, what we have here is an 88 year old with a bit of an axe to grind paraphrasing a 50 year old conversation in order to tell a story that makes him look good. Personally, I think the old boy is confused.

Or a bit of a prick.

Do you really think he called Rockwell "pathetic" to his face?

Did Kalischer really "reluctantly" help Rockwell through the years... like when he went to the White House with Rockwell? (Poor fellah, forced to go to the White House against his will!)

Is there any evidence that Rockwell ever traced a composition from a photo?

A figure or a face, now and again, if it happened to come out perfectly aligned to the sketch and perfect in expression, or a piece of complicated background... but a whole composition? No way.

It is simply impossible to blow up a photo of reality and make a Norman Rockwell out of it. In every example I've seen of Rockwell's use of reference, it would have been impossible to just project the photo to get what he achieved just in terms of line and form. (Not to mention that all the photos are in black and white, and Rockwell painted in full color.)

7/01/2010 6:10 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

It IS possible that Rockwell projected a portrait photo for one of his quick portrait cover assignments where there's no real composition involved and only the proportions matter. Especially with a sitter like a president who simply doesn't have the time to give to a portrait artist.

Maybe that is what Mr. Kalischer was talking about when he mentioned going to the white house to take photos of Lady Bird Johnson. (I'm pretty sure Rockwell's President Johnson triple portrait was also done from photos, as it would be impossible to accurately capture the moods of Johnson's face AND all the form, lighting and color, in a live situation. Furthermore, Rockwell would have been 70 years old at the time of Johnson's presidency, so maybe he can be excused for being long past his prime and passion, and less than sure of his skills as a draftsman under time pressure.)

So, my guess is, either Kalishner was recalling a reaction to a projected portrait, or he misunderstood something and never checked it.

And this idea of Kalischner's that Rockwell was painting poorly at the end because he wasn't using photos... that really rings the alarm bells about the reliability of Mr. Kalischer. Given what we know, the far greater likelihood is that Rockwell was painting poorly at the end because he couldn't see his hand in front of his face due to old-age-related vision loss.

The only way to sort this out is to use common sense and all the info available. Relying on some crusty source with an idée fixe, 50 years after the fact... dunno about that. I'll stick with what Rockwell himself wrote in the various how-to articles he did for the Famous Artist's course in the 50s and his My Adventures as an Illustrator. Those are damn good articles which make perfect sense and openly discuss the use of photo reference.

7/01/2010 6:10 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"And this idea of Kalischner's that Rockwell was painting poorly at the end because he wasn't using photos... "

Oh, I don't think he meant that the painting was bad, just unfinished. Kind of a last hurrah before the grave sort of thing, a hurrah that didn't finish because death beat him to it.

7/01/2010 6:14 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard, I've seen that last unfinished painting in person. And I was told by the curator the issue was that Rockwell could no longer see because of old age.

A poster named "Ron" adds on Jim Gurney's blog the following: The last canvas left on Rockwell's easel was "John Sergeant and Chief Konkapot." The speaker in the NPR piece got it wrong: there are indeed reference photos for the work.

7/01/2010 6:29 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

(The few Rockwell's completed near the end of his life in the 1970s, from what I've seen, are also shaky, understandably.)

7/01/2010 6:33 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Another says that one of the greatest draftsmen in history sucks and holds up his early work, before he came into his own, as proof... Imagine? And then somehow thinking that Rockwell came into his own merely because he started using photos... as if photos are magic items. Forget that Rockwell was also working from the model... ugh!"


Kev, i didn't say he 'sucks'. i actually used the word brilliant. my point was to show the difference between paintings made without photographic reference and with. you can clearly see how the increased use of photographic reference moves his work onto another level of realism. there's no 'merely' about it. the decision to use precise photographic reference or not is a big one and one that will change the look of your art. the progression you see in Rockwell's work has a DIRECT correlation to the way he used photos. your suggestion that the photos were just by and by sounds like unnecessary excuse making. they were CRUCIAL.

more on that exhibition:

http://tinyurl.com/33ny3xb


anyway, to try and return to the original point if there was one...

David, if you're going to try and deride a whole technology by pitting Rockwell against amateurs who pixel-push a scanned in photo that's not fair. you're going to have to at the very least choose modern examples of strong draughtsmen creating a digital drawing/painting from ground up, such Michael Kutsche or Ashley Wood.

7/02/2010 5:10 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John wrote: "David, if you're going to try and deride a whole technology by pitting Rockwell against amateurs who pixel-push a scanned in photo that's not fair."

Laurence, I agree with your point; in fact, I think that both sides in this discussion have for rhetorical purposes been shooting fish in a barrel at the extreme ends of the spectrum. The hard cases are in the middle, and that's where I think we have the best chance of educating each other.

I originally cited the example of pixel-pushing scanned photographs because I believed it was the clearest example of how digital media can help to conceal a lack of fundamental drawing skills. You have taken that off the table, and I respect that.

Moving forward, I agree with you that digital media don't conceal a lack of ability in the best digital artists. In fact, I think that little of what we have discussed applies to the top of the pyramid in either digital or traditional media. I did not intend to "deride a whole technology." I am a fan of a number of digital artists.

But for a real test of where the "pixel-pushing" phenomenon ends, let's inch up the totem pole a little. You wrote, "there are almost certainly more depressingly bad amateurish oil paintings in existence than there are bad Corel digital paintings." I would respond that there is a reason for that: with oil painting it is easy to tell. With digital paintings, not so much so. Digital media seems to provide a whole class of people who would be conspicuously untalented in oil paint a certain minimum level of competence. It does not make them brilliant or even get them across the finish line but it perhaps starts artists on first base. People who might never be taken seriously as an illustrator in previous generations can now do at least superficially respectable work. I don't think we are at a "john Henry" scenario yet, but I think we can begin to see the outlines of some tantalizing possibilities.

To tell the truth, I didn't think my original point was all that controversial. If software didn't empower people the way I described, it wouldn't have transformed the business model of the illustration industry the way it has. Now art directors (and even editors) use photoshop to remove an unwanted dog from an illustrator's picture, or change the color of the background. These are not people with any technical ability; they would not be attempting this with oil paint, let me assure you. But the computer covers up their lack of skill and empowers them to get away with such stuff.

Finally, I find it amusing when people argue that photography made all the difference to oil painters but Photoshop or Painter don't augment the skills of digital illustrators. Both are technologicial aids, embraced by the artists of their respective generations. To argue that Norman Rockwell couldn't draw or paint as well without photographs but that digital painters get no comparable bump from software seems pretty silly to me.


Now I have to run for a plane-- won't be able to join in for another 24 hours.

7/02/2010 6:34 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Sorry for the repetitive comments-- #@!!$%#!&? airport wifi indicated that my comment did not go through. There is absolutely no way to carry on these conversations from the road in a civilized fashion.

7/02/2010 6:42 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"To argue that Norman Rockwell couldn't draw or paint as well without photographs but that digital painters get no comparable bump from software seems pretty silly to me."

I think we all agree with this.

7/02/2010 9:18 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

(and that was never our intention)

7/02/2010 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great discussion, i ask for a conversation on using photographs/projectors and one inadvertently begins..
then i spend 30 minutes typing my thoughts and the computer crashes (sigh)

..realism, time, accuracy, feeling, skill, money, commitment, expectation, expression, style..
..ambiguous words (except MONEY)..
when "They" pay$$$ for it, the ambiguity ends...

everything outside of sales begs the question,
What is Art? why make it? who needs it?

http://www.manchess.com/

http://www.ericfortune.com/

http://www.surovekgallery.com/youngss.html

http://www.commarts.com/fresh/greg-betza.html

http://www.flickr.com/photos/37892495@N08/sets/72157623549120333/show/with/4050991430/

http://www.askart.com/AskART/artists/search/Search_Repeat.aspx?searchtype=IMAGES&artist=7223

photos? projectors?
who's "better" at It?

Derrick H.

7/02/2010 9:42 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence, the issue about those Rockwells you linked to is that they are early works. Early works tend to look ignorant, lazy, and weak compared to works completed at the peak of an artist's career. This goes for every great artist you can think of.

You simply cannot know if Rockwell's early work is weak because he didn't use photos because, for one thing, we do not know when he first started using photos, and for another thing, there are fantastic paintings by Rockwell from 1925-1940 that may very well be all from the model. We just don't know.

Either way, thousands of artists have tried to duplicate Rockwell's style and failed, even with all the photo reference in the world at their disposal. Something else is going on with Rockwell that makes him great. Of that, you can be sure. Photos, by themselves, are dead. Rockwell's work lives.

7/02/2010 9:56 AM  
Blogger liebesreime said...

happy 4th, have fallen behind with daughter graduating etc etc!
Lovd the Mt Rosalie story
gE

7/02/2010 11:36 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"People who might never be taken seriously as an illustrator in previous generations can now do at least superficially respectable work."

there are lots of superficially respectable oil painters who stand the same chance of success as the hypothetical digital fakers. you're saying that it's easier to fake it in digital than traditional. maybe, but not by much. i hope laziness in any area will go unrewarded.

"Now art directors (and even editors) use photoshop to remove an unwanted dog from an illustrator's picture, or change the color of the background."

that's just retouching really. you could just as easily retouch an area of on oil painting once it's scanned in to photoshop. most retouching goes on in the cosmetics/fashion world and has little to do with wether the original was created digitally or not.

"I find it amusing when people argue that photography made all the difference to oil painters but Photoshop or Painter don't augment the skills of digital illustrators"

as i said earlier it's all just drawing. a photograph could be interpreted in any way by an artist in oil or digital. personally i like to see what a draughtsman can do without photographic reference because i think it takes the work closer to the 'minds eye' and makes it more urgent and personal. if i can see that a painting (trad or digital) has been traced i can't get so thrilled by it. but that's just me. i'm a drawing freak. (that's why i can't get excited about Jeff Koons or others of that ilk... i don't see any good drawing there).

7/03/2010 8:47 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Chad wrote: "I've always thought Searle's wartime drawings were the best work he ever did. It has an authenticity his commercial work never achieved."

Chad, I suppose it all depends on how much weight you put on authenticity, as opposed to skill or talent or originality or other ingredients of a drawing. These drawings are certainly authentic, just as a howl of pain is authentic. They are deeply moving for what they represent. But for me, their greatness depends on understanding their back story, not on the visual object.

Tom wrote: "I think you are going to have to give post modernism a break if you think Norman Rockwell is a great draftsman."

Tom, I do think Rockwell was a pretty great draftsman-- not in the same league with Degas or Carracci or Robert Fawcett, but excellent nonetheless. I think he proved himself over decades. Is there a post modernist of comparable quality you would like to commend to me? I'm always interested in expanding my repertoire.

Leibesreime-- Congratulations on your daughter's graduation!

Kev, I have to agree with you about the sad Mr. Kalischer. I listened to his recording and read the quotes and articles, and it is apparent that Kalischer (who claims to be "an artist-photographer himself") is unhappy about being an 88 year old artist who never amounted to anything while that talentless prostitute Rockwell found fame and fortune transforming American culture in the 20th century. Kalischer has his own fixed notion of how art works ("Good artists have total control over their work and express their own vision, while searching for truth") and it is so unfair that some philistine who doesn't follow that formula could have his very own museum.

Kalischer obviously is not the first angry old buzzard who, at the end of his life, wishes he could renegotiate the deal that the world dealt him. We could probably have done him a favor by averting our eyes. Ultimately, Rockwell's drawings, studies and paintings have to speak for themselves. There is certainly an abundance of material from which to judge. It would be hard to think of a more dedicated painter.

7/03/2010 10:54 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard wrote: "I don't think there is a normal person alive today that without the right teachers and amount of work could become the equal or superior of any artist you hold dear to you"

Oh, Richard...

7/03/2010 11:04 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John wrote: "there are lots of superficially respectable oil painters who stand the same chance of success as the hypothetical digital fakers. you're saying that it's easier to fake it in digital than traditional. maybe, but not by much."

Laurence, I think this is a genuine area of disagreement between us. I frequently see spot illustrations in magazines that are montages of photographed heads, flat colored backgrounds, and special effects taken right off the shelf. Digital software gives high school students the building blocks that can be assembled into a presentable image in a way they could never have done with oil paint. (Again, these digital illustrations aren't the top of the pyramid work we both admire but they do get published in magazines such as Golf Digest).

That's a major reason why illustration in Rockwell's era was the highest paid profession in the country-- if anyone else could have done it, Rockwell and Charles Dana Gibson and and James Montgomery Flagg would not have been paid so much. Illustration was an intensely competitive field and artists were known for skills that were not easily imitated. Even the mid-level illustrators made a far better living than they do today when technology has helped to level the playing field. With the democratization of basic skills, you have the rise of stock houses and the decline of pay and working conditions for illustrators.

Whether the new liberties that art directors and editors take with digital illustrations is "just retouching" or something more, the point is that Photoshop empowers laymen to do it. In previous years, editors could never use oil point to move a figure or extend a background or change a color or deepen cleavage. Their lack of skill was an insurmountable barrier. But they certainly do it now.

I'm not bemoaning progress or suggesting that photoshop is inherently evil. To the contrary, it's a splendid thing; I use it, and would love to become more proficient at it. But going back to my original theme, it seems to me that previous generations had to learn to use bamboo the hard way.

The contrast between the price Searle paid and the ease and convenience touted by Painter is quite stark. Corel's web site promises us "art and passion" and it is not impossible, but the elements of Searle's art were forged in fire.

7/03/2010 12:28 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Personally, I would place Rockwell among the greatest draftsmen of all time...
without reservation.

That Rockwell has a Damon Runyanesque love for human character in no way diminishes the quality or artistry of his work. Degas's soul is just different, not better. All fruit does not need to be round to be delicious.

---

I love the irony that Kalischner's definitions of himself as an artist (and his definition of a true artist as "expressing his own vision") fails to recognize that he, as a photographer, is utterly and entirely dependent upon reality to provide him with everything in his pictures.

The problem with "creatives" that have no imagination, like Mr. Kalischner and many other photographers, is that their lack of imagination prevents them from understanding just how much more talented artists with actual imaginations are, by comparison. (I would bet dollars to doughnuts only a small fraction of "creatives" have any idea why, just in terms of draftsmanship, the Rockwell heads I linked above are phenomenal. This, again, is an instance where only those who have tried with all their heart and intelligence to do something, (poeticize form) can truly appreciate those who can actually do it.)

7/03/2010 1:08 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev, I understand why you feel the way you do about Rockwell as a draftsman. I prefer Fawcett, for example, because I like his rougher, more vigorous, more abstract line. But then again, Fawcett couldn't hold a candle to Rockwell as a painter.

7/03/2010 1:47 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I don't separate abilities with drafting form from drawing abilities associated with line or edge.

An equally small group of artists are able to abstract form at the level that the group that includes Fawcett, LaGatta, Briggs, and Sickles abstracts edges into lines.

The thing about line, (besides that it is bold, decorative and beautiful), is that it sits on the surface of the paper to be inspected. So the stunning quality of Fawcett's draftsmanship is front and center. (No dummy, he!) Poetic form, however is harder to see, and thus it draws many less appreciators and aficianados and, thereby, less practitioners.

Be that as it may, it is also rarely noticed just how much fantastic "line work" is present in a Rockwell, Leyendecker, or Cornwell painting. Problem here being that the lines are almost wholly sublimated as edges of various contrasts and qualities (generally categorized as hard, firm, soft, and lost). Which is the very reason why this facet of the work of the masters of painterly illustration rarely gets the attention it deserves.

Edge quality is sort of the final frontier of line work. Yet, by its nature, it does not publicize itself and remains a rare area of appreciation.

7/03/2010 2:48 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard said...
"I don't think there is a normal person alive today that without the right teachers and amount of work could become the equal or superior of any artist you hold dear to you"

Pure politically correct, hyper-egalitarian naivete.

7/03/2010 2:56 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Just hit the mailbox to find tomorrow's New York Times... which just so happens to have a large, well-illustrated Norman Rockwell article.

Lucky you, David, the Speilberg and Lucas collections opened in Washington yesterday.

The article, though it is prominent and well-illustrated, (which is a first for an illustrator in the Times' hallowed pages), is a typical begrudging mainstream article about Rockwell that saws the same ol' rotted wood.

Enjoy such proclamations as...

Rockwell's The Connoisseur "isn't humorous", "its meaning is elusive", and that the painting being observed by the dignified gentleman is "a Jackson Pollock" (doh!) rather than Rockwell sending up Jackson Pollock... (and not only showing he could learn abstract expressionist methods in a mere few weeks time, but he could raise the bar with a beautiful use of color to boot!)

We also learn, once again, that Rockwell's characters and his version of "small town America" were all "purely imaginary".

News to me, as I grew up around these people, both in my family and out. For every jerk I knew, there were two adults who sacrificed themselves until the day they died to make the life of everybody around them better... all without losing their sense of humor and playfulness. We also had a family doctor who loved gaudy jewelry and was a sharpshooter with a BB rifle, and a family dentist who sang opera while he drilled.

The hubris to declare that the only reality that exists is cement, skyscraper, and the bitter souls that navigate it... shows just how much like trash the "paper of record" is even before it is thrown away. Myopic isn't the word.

We also mis-learn that Rockwell's picture of Gary Cooper, "The Texan" is a "brilliant deconstruction of the frontier myth" rather than a joke about the "leading man" myths created by Hollywood's star system.

And finally the Times tells us that it was the piety-bashing of postmodernism that allowed Rockwell to be appreciated as a draftsman... (as if postmodernists give a crap about draftsmanship)... which led to Karal Ann Marlings' 1997's Monograph on Rockwell, which then PRESTO! opened the floodgates of critical acceptance.

And, wouldn't you know it, that's why prices rose on his work!

Even though the article itself takes pains to discuss how much money Spielberg and Lucas had been spending since the 1980s to obtain Rockwells... before any critical appreciation of his work (by the arses in charge of correct taste) had come to pass.

Oh... and about that U-turn of critical reassessment...

I can't wait until Fechin comes to New York... then we'll learn that Fechins are now selling for a million a piece because of a passing pan in ArtForum in 2006.

The stupefaction of the reading public continues unabated.

7/03/2010 5:12 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi David

Dismissing Kalischer opinion about Rockwell’s work because you believe he is an old and unhappy artist does not tell us why Rockwell is a great draftsman. Kalischer like everyone else is entitled to his or her own view on things. It is just like Normal Bean dumping on Richard instead of sharing why he thinks Rockwell is a genius.

There are plenty of people who are “successes” in our culture, (and remember most of our ideas of success are given to us by our culture) who are absolutely miserable. If Rockwell was so happy he might not have protested when his own sons wanted to be artist. Look at Hollywood, Rock and Roll, sports, and how much success will it take for Wall Street to be happy? One only has to look at how the earth is treated to see how happy people are successful or not.

Much of the complaints about post modernism found here sounds just like Kalischer comments about Rockwell. Koons is a success while people who can draw are not, and “it’s unfair that some philistine who doesn’t follow that formula…” should be so successful.

Giving Post Modernism a break means just exactly what you are saying about Kalischer views on Rockwell. Like Kalischer you are judging by the wrong criteria. Postmodern is not concern with what you and I have to admit, what I think is important in art, and that is why it’s defenders will never hear you, nor will you hear them. Like you say there is nothing pure about art it can function in all sorts of different forms and places.

Rawson makes a great point in his book, that modernism rejected realism, not because of photography but because as art grew increasingly realistic it became less and less spatial and more and more flat, the draftsman ability to analogize the forms of life became lost. Maybe it is why Renoir turned against impressionism so violently, he said impressionism was neither drawing toward painting.

The other great point Rawson makes is that commercial advertising co-opted everything we hold dear or love, mother and child, the landscape, flowers, dogs, cats, etc, and turned these things into images to sell us products and undermined our own healthy feelings. By our own time one becomes suspect of things, we are not getting the whole story, or someone wants our attention so they can get something from us, hence so much of post modernism irony and its standoffishness, its refusal to engage on predictable terms. Rawson feels that modern artist felt forced to abandon art’s traditional subject matter because of the way advertising co-opted it, even to responding violently to the subject matter through distortions and even actual violence, like dekooning’s Women Paintings, who must have been quite a shock to Betty Crocker, but how much Ozzie and Harriet can the world stand? Or the ultimate rejection, the complete retreat to abstraction.

Why was there such a violent reaction against Norman Rockwell’s America in the nineteen sixties. Something good was trying to come out it may not have worked but it seems people wanted something more authentic. Spirit can manifest itself in anything and it does.

7/03/2010 6:08 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Pure politically correct, hyper-egalitarian naivete."

That is not the case, the whole idea that talent is mostly genetic is a myth long disproved.

7/03/2010 6:12 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

It is like Leo Steinberg famous essays on the Sexuality of Christ. Christ was a human being, male human being who in art through time becomes increasingly vague and soften until by our time he is a benign smiley face “Hallmarked” into neutrality.

This seems to be what you are saying about art in a way. It loses more and more of it’s magic the more we find ways to avoid the difficulties it presents. But how many other skills have been crushed to save business money?

The camera is mostly copying, for all our justifications, it’s a tool or whatever you want to call it, but every high school kid knows drawing from a photo is a lot easier that dealing with the problems of life. Drawing from life or the imagination you have to face so many more internal questions, as life rarely conforms to our immediate ideas of what we think it is, and we gradually discover what it really is. I am not saying there is anything wrong with using a photo. After all photography pretty much has replaced most of illustration. The photos immediately edits for you, it conceals thorny issues like proportion and mass, unless you take Andrew Loomis advice and shoot your picture at the correct viewing distance. Illustrators who could really, really draw like Cromwell could not understand why you would use a photo. Doesn’t that say anything about photography? Sargent didn’t need a photo of Teddy Roosevelt or the dead Edward 7th. Victor Hugo refused to pose for Rodin he only give him access to his office when he was working.

Now seems more a time to experience our freedom. You can plan everything out or you can be like Matisse, who when placing a color on his canvas and found himself unsatisfied he would try to adjust the color with his next colour choice.

It would be much more interesting to hear why Rockwell is a great draftsman. Kev you have given us a bunch of posts on what you think was happening or not happening in Rockwell’s studio, and why Kalishcer is off base but not one formal reason, or aesthetic reason you think he’s a great draftsman.

I always like the story of the British archeologists examine the Greek sculptures from the Parthenon at night by candle light and going into convulsion of joy at the precision of the planes and the depth of the stone between muscle forms and genitals. Or the old Michangelo running his hand over the Belvedere sculpture with great joy. Or Cézanne declaring a moment of the world passes it must be painted. Great artist have never added to the worlds hopes and dreams for another or better life, but have always directed us back to the wonder of what is, right in front of us right now. Like the Veronese’s painting of the last supper, the clergy was unhappy with it, they wanted it changed they did not know why. Vernonese knew what was wrong with it, he change the name to the Feast in the House of Levi.

Why is there no discussion of perspective, or descriptive geometry. After all Maya and Google Sketch-up are perspective and descriptive geometry machines par excellence. Those programs are old ways of thinking about dimensionally that has been around hundreds of year. A camera is basically a perspective machine.

Anyway they are having a big Rockwell show at the Smithsonian Portrait gallery here in DC. I will be sure to check it out. They are the paintings that are in the collection of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Sargent nailed it in regards to the viewer and the artwork. He also revealed how much our experience of things depends upon us. “When I am in the MOOD Turner seems to me the greatest of all landscape painters.”

7/03/2010 6:14 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard said...
"That is not the case, the whole idea that talent is mostly genetic is a myth long disproved."

If you believe that "the right teachers and amount of work" is all it takes to equal or better the greatest art masters, then you'll get no arguments from me. Incorrigible ignorance is good enough for you as far as I'm concerned.

7/03/2010 6:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

"That is not the case, the whole idea that talent is mostly genetic is a myth long disproved."

Citation, please?

7/03/2010 7:03 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Tom, do you understand what the word draftsmanship means?

I really shouldn't need to define such a thing by rote (Mimetic integrity, spirit or gesture, quality of form and edge, graphic design, poeticization of form and line, color, texture, etc.)

If you can't see how great Rockwell is just by looking at the heads I linked to earlier, there isn't much point in discussing the issue with you. Rockwell's greatness as a draftsman is plain as day to anyone with sufficient sensitivity, who also happens to understand the meaning of the word "draftsman."

If you don't get it, you either don't want to get it, or you aren't sensitive enough to get it, or you've been miseducated about the meaning of the word "draftsmanship."

7/03/2010 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Nuhman said...

great blog,
keep it up

7/03/2010 11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talent is Overrated

7/04/2010 1:26 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tom wrote: "Dismissing Kalischer's opinion about Rockwell’s work because you believe he is an old and unhappy artist does not tell us why Rockwell is a great draftsman."

Agreed. For that we have a 60 year career of ceaseless work, including 40 years occupying the most competitive, highest profile spot in American commercial art (a spot which probably gave his work a larger audience than any other artist of his era, including Picasso). Richard seemed to offer Kalischer's quotes as some important revelation that might somehow cast a new light on that 60 year record. I thought about the substance of his comments and they struck me as petty and irrelevant to Rockwell's achievement. My speculation that he was a sour and envious old man only pertained to his motivations for behaving in such a low class way.

>>"If Rockwell was so happy he might not have protested when his own sons wanted to be artist."

Who said Rockwell was happy? He was depressed, and under psychiatric care, as were both of his wives, one of whom was reputed to have committed suicide. Can it be that people are mistaking Rockwell for his paintings?

>>"Much of the complaints about post modernism found here sounds just like Kalischer comments about Rockwell. Koons is a success while people who can draw are not, and “it’s unfair that some philistine who doesn’t follow that formula…” should be so successful."

I agree that people who take positions here about art and artists should be prepared to explain their views. In the recent post about Koons and post modernism, I tried to explain with some precision why I didn't like Koons' work. My reasons were nothing like Kalischer's view. Nowhere on my long list of reasons did I claim that Koons was unworthy because he didn't follow my rules for making art. To the contrary, I said that when measured by his own standards (and Koons seemed to offer several different versions) he still didn't seem to contribute much.

7/04/2010 3:35 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

http://projects.ict.usc.edu/itw/gel/EricssonDeliberatePracticePR93.pdf

and starting on page 38 of that document there is a rather extensive Works cited list that will provide plenty more reading material on the subject if you so desire.

7/04/2010 9:32 AM  
Blogger Richard said...



Oops

7/04/2010 9:34 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

David,

You sound like you think my comments were designed to debase Rockwell's work. You of all people should remember the context in which I brought up Rockwell and recall that I brought up Rockwell not in an attack against him but a defense for digital media.

Yes, I think he made some less than artistic choices, but I obviously see that he is a rather good artist -- that would be hard not to. I wouldn't put him in the same context of quality as the better late 19th/early 20th century realists, but I do think he is rather good.

His skill aside, my point remains--
There is evidence that Rockwell at least traced on one single occasion from an overhead projector, so, if that is true than you either should a. rethink how you look at tracing from photographs (and digital media may be forgiven) or b. rethink how you look at Rockwell.

Personally I'd rather a.

7/04/2010 9:50 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Corel Painter X art software simulates a Bamboo Pen... without the drawbacks of traditional pens, which can clog, spatter, or run dry.<<<

Thank goodness for Corel and Adobe, without which, Everyman would not have been able to express his mediocre ideas with a superb, machine-made finish. We've gone from pinxit to pixel (pun in Latin ...most won't get it).

We're inundated with manque Shakespeares now that everyone has a spellcheck and for those whose musical abilities ended at playing the radio, there are wondroud electronic devices allowing them to add to the cacphony. Automatic video cameras have Everyman transforming the once-boring out-of-focus slideshows of the family trip to Yellowstone to autofocus closeups of faces that should never see the light of day. But they're on YouTube and (judging by the volume) that's their fifteen hours of fame.

These marvelous tools have allowed Everyman to present higly polished turds as the new level of mediocrity.

The reality is that none of that crap can even aspire to the level of Jeff Koons...and that's the Koons of David's estimation.

7/04/2010 11:59 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard...

I recall that article. Its just one part of the debate, it isn’t THE WORD. And there is a lot to debate about the article, especially regarding methodology: is it even worth discussing the "findings" of the paper if at no point are any double blinded experiments done?

Essentially its a position paper, not a science paper. It relies on anecdotes and conjecture, not data. But it does provide a certain politically-indoctrinated mind with needed ammo... and here you are, Richard.

Its dumbest error is that the "deliberate practice" conflates pure technique with artistry by implying that practice is all about rote learning. But that doesn't make sense, since part of the sensitivity of the artist is an ability, not only to manufacture one's own training regimen to execute an imagined vision, but to find some way to more readily produce the vision in the mind's eye to begin with. There is no rote way to do this. And, of course, artists try to keep their vision personally meaningful as they work... which is to say, to make the vision personally meaningful to others. How is that done by rote?

Even further, the article completely ignores the innate nature of the Imagination and the role of innate sensitivity and innate memory as a precursor to a vision producing imagination. This is what sensible people mean when they use the word “talent.” And this imagination cannot be improved by rote, because its main source is the emotions. (I'm talking about the dramatic imagination which creates by intuition and epiphany, not the kind of imagination that comes up with a better wingnut or a slight variation in a carpet design.)

Such myopia isn't really the fault of the article writers. An understanding of what talent is has been under assault for a hundred years. Just as ambition has been under assault. And this is all part of the same populist political beast: Hyper-Egalitarianism (as etc, etc. put it)

The only way the hyper-egalitarian utopia can come about is if talent isn't real. And hard work is disallowed or is made obsolete.

That is, Talent is merely ambition and fakery masquerading as superiority. And a stance of superiority is really about advertising your product and yourself, you anti-democratic elitist pig!

So "talent" is just more evil bourgeoise sharp business practice designed to steal money from the proles by fakery.

And hard work is really just greed... an attempt to own, degrade, and embarrass your fellow man.

Thereby… If only people didn't work hard, life could be all rainbows and unicorns and we can all sit around a read books. La di dah!

Nobody is saying "deliberate practice" isn't important to the acquisition of craft. There is much to be learned in all endeavors before competence is achieved. But there is much that can not be learned, no way, no how... where real talent is involved.

Let's have a clueless arrogance check:

Do you really think you would ever have been able to jump as high and far as Michael Jordan? Could you ever have seen the rim as clearly from a distance as him? Would all the practice in the world give you his muscle memory? Could you twirl like a dervish under 4 pairs of arms grabbing at the ball and still have a sense where the basket is to double pump fake and then hit a fade-away jumper from a near horizontal position at the buzzer in front of 40,000 fans screaming for the opposing team?

Get real.

Could you have been Einstein if only you had been interested in math?

Could you have been Shakespeare if only you had studied playwriting?

Could you have been Mozart if only you had taken piano lessons?

Newsflash: Millions have tried. The answer is PROBABLY NOT. In any generation there is some small percentage of the population who have world class talent, and only a small percentage of those great minds actually put the time in to become what their talent had promised.

That's reality. Stop denying it.

7/04/2010 12:36 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard, you ignore the fact that humans are born with certain predispositions. physical prowess is the most obvious. but without training those predispositions won't amount to much (i've met many people i could hold up as evidence).


Kev, you ignore the fact that talent isn't an either you've got or you haven't got scenario. it's a gradient. a ramp up. at the bottom is the average person, completely disinclined to try their hand at anything. at the top are the brilliant ones, the ones who garner all the plaudits. but beneath them are vast numbers of equally 'talented' individuals in the arts, sports or science who were not only just short of the pinnacle to reap the acclaim (for whatever reason), but who did lots of the hard work that the few in the public eye built upon.

7/04/2010 5:31 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

" And, of course, artists try to keep their vision personally meaningful as they work... which is to say, to make the vision personally meaningful to others. How is that done by rote?"
That's not done by rote, but that does not mean it is genetic/innate.

What makes you think sensitivity and imagination are genetic?

And you hold that emotions are genetic?

"The only way the hyper-egalitarian utopia can come about is if talent isn't real. And hard work is disallowed or is made obsolete."
If this article is an attempt at hyper-egalitarianism as you suggested why would it suggest hard work as the primary alternative to genetic innateness -- as you suggest hard work is counter to said 'hyper-egalitarianism'?

"hat is, Talent is merely ambition and fakery masquerading as superiority. And a stance of superiority is really about advertising your product and yourself, you anti-democratic elitist pig!"
You know, this whole idea about hyper-egalitarianism is a red herring. We're talking about whether or not talent is significantly genetic. To suggest that x-silly group believes it and they say whatever silly statement you'd puppet their effigy to say does not debase the standpoint in the slightest.

7/04/2010 5:50 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/04/2010 5:50 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/04/2010 5:50 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"o you really think you would ever have been able to jump as high and far as Michael Jordan?"
Oh no, I believe that bodies have 'significant' genetic differences, if you consider an extra foot significant.

"ould you have been Einstein if only you had been interested in math?"
Not if you were 'only' interested in math. I imagine that it took Einstein some very peculiar brain state situations to give him such singular insight.

"ewsflash: Millions have tried. The answer is PROBABLY NOT. In any generation there is some small percentage of the population who have world class talent, and only a small percentage of those great minds actually put the time in to become what their talent had promised."
Anyone could have bought the winning ticket. It says very little of the person who did.
Sme have been lucky enough to recieve and most do not. Masters spend nearly every waking moment delving into their artforms, and fortunately meet up with highly serendipitous circumstances that shine lights on insights for them that they would never have learned otherwise.

7/04/2010 5:51 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/04/2010 5:51 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I think that people see what seem to be large differences in visible physiology. Tall, short, black white, skinnier, fatter. I think because they appreciate these as large differences and so when they see what are actually large differences in human thought they understand them as allegorically related. The fact is that the difference between a human with einstein's level of thought and a human that barely knows their timestables (like myself) are so sizeable that if it were genetic then we wouldn't even be the same species.
If it were genetic than albert einsteins and my people would end up showing even the slightest outward physical differences -- freckles, hair color, anything. These differences take a hell-of-a-lot shorter time to evolve than physical differences that have major effects on survival capabilities (like the exceptional intelligence of some individuals would). Otherwise meaningless mutations like freckles can mutate into a population with no serious effect in a short period of time. The ability to do astronomically more advanced maths (no pun intended) is something far more significant and cannot just appear/disappear in a generation and across all races and genders without any variance. If it were indeed genetic we would expect to see really significant racial or genderal differences in talent.
The fact that we don't is highly suggestive that these things are not innate but are instead the culmination of an internal and external life lived with all the various lessons it drops in your lap.

7/04/2010 5:51 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Even further, the article completely ignores the innate nature of the Imagination and the role of innate sensitivity and innate memory as a precursor to a vision producing imagination. This is what sensible people mean when they use the word “talent.”


Kev, how to channel your innate emotion/sensitivity/imagination/
memory into something tangible is learned by example... the language of other artists before you.


Richard, all excellent points.

7/04/2010 6:36 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard-- I wondered if we were going to hear from you on this issue. You are what lawyers call a "fact witness," having seen first hand how this software affected the industry and changed the talent pool.

7/04/2010 6:48 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard said...
"We're talking about whether or not talent is significantly genetic."

Then wouldn't the unequivocal answer lie in a more complete understanding of genetics than we currently have?

"The fact is that the difference between a human with einstein's level of thought and a human that barely knows their timestables (like myself) are so sizeable that if it were genetic then we wouldn't even be the same species."

Species require only the ability to interbreed, and you and Laurence think that's an excellent point?

7/04/2010 6:59 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

"Kev, how to channel your innate emotion/sensitivity/imagination/
memory into something tangible is learned by example... the language of other artists before you. "

Yes, and you can watch all the basketball moves you want on television... and it will be no help at all to a person without athletic talent.

There are certain principles in art that some artists can not process no matter how hard they try. I've encountered this fact time and time again. And I've met people who simply cannot draw well... who work on it for years, maybe even a lifetime, without quality results.

Anybody who has taught anything in reality knows that there really are major differences in the relative abilities among any population to develop, comprehend, or apply abstract ideas.

Marshall Vandruff says, "Teaching is like sharing fire, some students are like paper and some are like a solid log that burns for a long time. Some students are like rocket fuel."

7/04/2010 8:22 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"There are certain principles in art that some artists can not process no matter how hard they try. I've encountered this fact time and time again. And I've met people who simply cannot draw well... who work on it for years, maybe even a lifetime, without quality results. "

Sure, I don't disagree with that at all.

I just disagree that the differences are due to genetics.

7/05/2010 2:42 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

the number of times i've heard people say "oh i wish i could draw".

i think "well put 10,000 hours in and you might be able to".

most people don't actually WANT to do something that badly.

7/05/2010 6:00 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I often wonder about the role of will power in creative intelligence, whether it is a product of intelligence or a precursor. Certain kinds of intelligence hinder the poetic mind and other kinds comprise the poetic mind. And what is the origin of will power? The origin of vision? Or the energy to turn will into action? It is truly a tangle.

Since we are at the early stages of understanding genetics, (we don't even know how or why genes turn on and off in a cell, how epigenetics works, the role of junk DNA, how prenatal experience effects personality, where creativity or sensitivity or memory is "located" in the genetic code, etc.), assertions about genetics are just conjecture. There are a great many correlations between heredity and intelligence and talent, except in the literature controlled by the hyper-egalitarians who make their daily bread confirming their political ideology by pseudo-science.

This is why I have avoided the term "genetics" in this discussion. I have used the word "innate" instead because it is looser, yet descriptive enough to mean something. How our innate capacities develop, and just exactly when, nobody knows... so we shouldn't, in the attempt to be specific, pretend we know more than we do.

Talents seem innate when they appear at an early age in a few select individuals in an otherwise homogeneous population.

My experience as a child was that I was able to close my eyes and dream up stuff when the other, older kids around me couldn't. Yes, I received a lot of attention for this ability. I was about 4 years old when this talent first developed, the year before preschool, and I can still remember the pillow I would bury my face in to assist in the process. My older brother did not have this ability, although he was looking at all the same stuff I was, had the same mother and father, and loved to draw just as much as I did. This experience cannot be countermanded by a political position paper masquerading as science.

There are many other artists who had similar experiences at a very young age.

7/05/2010 11:00 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

Kev,

GREAT post to which I can totally relate. My (older) brother can't draw a decent stick person, however, I think he could learn to draw at a very limited level if he gave it due attention. However, he just doesn't THINK like I do. His mind doesn't connect things in the same way as mine (to which he would say, "Thank God"). And I'm not saying my brother isn't intelligent. He is. But, it's a different sort of intelligence completely, and this was apparent to me very early on.

7/06/2010 4:45 PM  
Blogger Kim Smith said...

Looking at this post weeks late, I just want to say that I'm fascinated with these drawings by Searle. I've collected a few books about artists at war, and these are my favorites (other than my Dad's, who had a completely different experience).
I COULD get involved with the discussions about materials and methods, but I haven't had time to catch up with the controversy here, so I'll leave it at the comments about the drawings.

7/16/2010 11:09 AM  
Blogger Matt J said...

Jesus people! We should never have brought up the subject of 'bamboo'!

7/16/2010 10:17 PM  
Blogger illustrationISM.... said...

Searle's Bamboo Pen - 10,000,000,000.
Corel's Bamboo Pen - 1.

7/19/2010 5:04 PM  

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