Friday, March 22, 2024


There's a long tradition of wars with-- and about-- ink:

 (The Ink Battle by Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1843)

Ink has left a trail of rivalry, braggadocio, hostility and sometimes just general commotion.

Ink as a weapon can be flung, spattered and scrubbed; it can be a tool for slapstick and a tool for marking rivals with an indelible stain.  

(Toshikage, 7 Gods Fighting with Ink, 1888)

(The Ink War)

There's no denying the yang in ink. Even when it's not literally ammunition, it frequently serves as metaphorical ammunition. It settles scores.  It inflicts harm.  It leaves a fossil record of violent action.  

(Ralph Steadman, the Malevolence of War)

But when it comes to the heart of ink, Alice Mollon may have a wiser understanding. 

Alice Mollon's illustration of ink slipping nude into the world

It's not that Kuniyoshi is wrong; it's just that there are more important truths in Mollon's delicious picture of ink taking form from the brush.

Look how smart this picture is. At first it seems simpler than the pictures above-- flat blank background, simple digital colors, one figure, few details, uncluttered.


But the few subtle details are so well chosen, anything more would've been less.  The toes turned inward, the brush that doubles as hair so effectively, the raised arms that help create a feeling of liquid flowing from the concealment of the brush, to take shape on the dry surface below.  This picture reminds me of Botticelli's Birth of Venus.   

Nicely done.

Friday, March 08, 2024


 "To live is to war with trolls." -- Ibsen

Anthropologists tell us that primitive cultures believed art had supernatural properties. Prehistoric tribes thought that striking a drawing of an animal on a cave wall would give them luck in the hunt. 

Diorama from the Field Museum in Chicago

Apotropaic images were believed to contain protective magic. Ancient Egyptians believed that images had the power to connect them with the gods, and that carvings in tombs would come alive in the afterlife.   

They also believed that a person would be destroyed if his cartouche was obliterated.

It's a measure of the lasting power and mystery of art that even in modern times, superstitious and ignorant people continue to believe that destroying an image will obliterate their enemies.

Moron destroying a painting of Lord Balfour in Cambridge.

The epidemic of primitive brutes fearful of art's magic seems to have spread from
the deserts of Syria to the learned halls of Cambridge.