Thursday, March 4, 2021

Karl Fredrik Nordström

Karl Fredrik Nordström (1855-1923) was a Swedish painter who studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Art. 

His early paintings are constructed according to traditional principles.

During a sojourn in France he was inspired by artists like Paul Gauguin and by Japanese prints and other modernist trends.  

This experience led him and a few dozen of his contemporaries to write a formal letter to the Academy requesting that they modernize their approach to teaching and exhibiting art. 

The Academy didn't agree, but Nordström allied with like-thinking artists anyway.

Nordström's own paintings become more concerned with broken color, pointillism, and flat fields of color devoid of obvious subject matter. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a website and book created by John Koenig which defines words that don't exist in English, but it feels like they should exist

Painting by Antonio López García (b. 1936)

For example, he defines Kenopsia as "the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs."

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Saved by A Piece of Charcoal

Filippo Lippi (1406-1469) and a few of his friends took to sea in a boat from Italy, but "they were all caught by the Moors who ranged about those coasts, and taken into Barbary (North Africa) and kept in slavery, each one being put into chains."

Standing woman (c. 1460–69), Fra Filippo Lippi 
(c. 1406–69) British Museum, London

"There he remained with great distress during eighteen months. But one day, being much in the company of his master, he had a fancy for drawing his portrait. Having taken an extinguished charcoal from the fire, he drew him full length, with his Moorish costume, upon the surface of a white wall." 

Painting by Frederick Bridgman, 1886

"This being told to the master by the other it seemed a miracle —neither drawing nor painting being practiced in those parts—it was the cause of his liberation from the chains that had so long confined him."
The story comes from Vasari's "Lives of the Painters," as quoted in "Winters in Algeria," by Frederick Bridgman (1847-1928).

Monday, March 1, 2021

Franz Defregger

Franz Defregger (1835-1921) was an Austrian painter. Above is his self portrait from 1880.

He also painted genre scenes with people in local costumes from his native Tyrol.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Route 209 in Kingston

Nothing to see here, just a state highway overpass seen from a parking lot. 

I'm pretty sure no one has painted this scene before. That is exciting to me, like being the first artist on Mars.

My friend Joe Paquet shared this quote with me: “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Saturday, February 27, 2021

W. W. Denslow, Co-Creator of Oz

If someone asks who came up with the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, most people think of L. Frank Baum, but the illustrator William Wallace Denslow helped to create the characters and the world.

Denslow was mostly self-taught, and he had experience creating colorful advertising posters and editorial cartoons. This background gave his work a different style from the book illustrators of his time.

It was a distinctly American fantasy, with characters who were flawed but lovable. 

The first edition of the book, when it appeared in 1900, was colorful and eye-catching, and it captured the public's imagination. 

Denslow and Baum shared the copyright and royalties in the first Oz book. They also worked together on a 1902 stage production where Baum wrote the script and Denslow designed the characters.

Income from these ventures made Denslow rich enough to buy an island in the Bermudas and build a mansion in the style of a castle. He dubbed himself 'King Denslow I.'

But he and Baum had a falling-out over who created Oz, and Baum chose other illustrators for the later Oz books.

Denslow independently adapted the characters of Father Goose, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman for comic-strip adventures. 

He tried to create his own separate world called "The Pearl and the Pumpkin" to rival Oz. He produced a book and an expensive Broadway stage version, but they weren't very successful. 

After three failed marriages, a drinking habit, and financial setbacks, he was forced to sell his Bermuda mansion, and died relatively poor, having made and lost his fortune.

The new issue of Illustration Magazine (#71) has a feature on Denslow, with 59 illustrations, mostly in color. You can order a copy here. It also has a feature article on Ken Riley. You can preview the issue at the link.

There's a facsimile copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Illustrated First Edition) with the Denslow illustrations.

William Wallace Denslow on Wikipedia 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Glazing in the Pits

A confused Lee Crabb from "Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara" is painted with a technique called “glazing in the pits” to bring out the impasto texture in his sleeves.
Glazing in the pits means dropping pigment into the hollows, nooks, and crannies of your impastos. To do this, build up your impastos either with acrylic modeling paste before you get started with the oil paint. Or you can build up impasto texture with some white oil paint mixed with a little cobalt drier to help it set up in a few days.

When it is completely dry, you can quickly glaze a thin layer of raw or burnt umber thinned down with turpentine. Most of that brown glaze will sink naturally into the pits.

When that layer is dry, you can lift off the hint of the umber layer from the tops by using a smooth cotton rag with just a hint of turpentine or a more gentle paint solvent. This will take away the glaze from the tops but leave it in the pits. But don’t try either of those last steps unless the surface is bone dry.

Glazing in the pits was used by Rembrandt, NC Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, and a lot of other painters. For illustrators, this method allows impastos to survive the flattening effect of copy cameras.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Confetti Strokes

Quick concept sketch in oil, tossing strokes around like a handful of confetti.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Gasoline Alley Explores Comic Abstractions

Comic artist Frank King was fascinated by the way comics translate reality into abstract 2D graphic conventions such as word bubbles and panels.

In this Sunday Gasoline Alley page, he had fun with the idea with characters becoming silhouettes. 

Walt and Skeezix become cutout people who eventually contemplate the holes in the paper they were cut out of. 

This page uses a high viewpoint where the background continues from panel to panel as Walt walks across the beach. The panels suggest changes in time as well as space.

In this one, they draw everything with a compass (even the word bubbles).

In a previous post I shared how comic artists satired the strange abstractions of modern painting all the way from the early 1900s to Calvin and Hobbes. In case you missed it, here's another Gasoline Alley page where Walt and Skeezix explore the distorted worlds represented in abstract painting.

In art school, I had a perspective teacher who critiqued our student artwork as if the worlds we portrayed were an objective reality that we had to inhabit. "I wouldn't want to live in that building," he'd say. "The floors aren't level and the walls look like they're going to fall down." 

These Gasoline Alley pages take that premise of living inside your pictures to its logical extreme.

Collector Mel Birnkrant says: "I was slow to appreciate the greatness of Gasoline Alley...It all seemed so polite and sweet, and the level of stylization was not extreme. It was not until I finally examined some of the Gasoline Alley Sunday pages that I tuned in to the understated genius of Frank King. I was amazed to realize that many of these Sunday pages are excursions into surreal fantasy. Such flights of fancy were to be expected in Winsor McCay's Slumberland, but they are stunning when encountered in what purported to be day to day domestic reality."

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Dinotopia Exhibitions

Photo by Chip Clark.
The entrance to the Dinotopia exhibition at Smithsonian's natural history museum in 2002, one of about 35 exhibitions of the original artwork in the USA, France, England, and Switzerland over the last 20 years. 
Here are some of them:
MUSEUM SHOW LIST (from recent back to 1992)
Stamford Museum and Nature Center, CT
Arkell Museum, Canajoharie, NY
The New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester, NH
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, CT
The Alden Dow Museum of Science and Art, Midland, MI
Palazzo Ducale, Lucca Comics & Games, Italy
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE
Festival International de Science-Fiction De Nantes, France
Centre for Life, Newcastle, UK
Maison d’Ailleurs, Yverdon, Switzerland
Oshkosh Public Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
The Alden Dow Museum of Science and Art, Midland, Michigan.
Oshkosh Public Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Palais Granvelle, Besançon, France
Maison d’Ailleurs, Yverdon, Switzerland
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
Carnegie Public Museum, Three Rivers, Michigan
Richmond Children’s Museum, Richmond, Virginia
Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio
Tiffany Windows, Tiffany & Co. Jewelers, Fifth Ave, NYC
Buffalo Museum of Science, Royal Tyrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta, New Mexico Museum of Natural History.