Thursday, 28 July 2011

Fabiano’s sharpener for lead

Fabiano is an Italian paper manufacturer and they make a watercolour paper that I like. They also have developed some products for their Fabiano Boutiques. There is one in Munich airport (the only one outside of Italy) that I visit when I have a chance.

Most of the products are as stylish as they are expensive. I bought there a mechanical lead holder pencil  made of coloured wood and metal. It is small enough to carry around and the retractable lead means no messy lead marks in your pocket.

Bird's eye view of the Fabiano sharpener

The base of the sharpener

To go with it, I bought a sharpener for lead. It a beautiful piece of wood shaped like a flat pebble. The design is simple yet practical.

A groove on the top of the sharpener makes a craddle for you pencil when you are not using it.

The sharpener works very well and gives you a sharp point. The only downside of this sharpener is that you need to empty it through the opening. I do that by tapping gently the opening on a tissue paper.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Arriving at the Mark Hopkins San Francisco

Arriving at the Mark Hopkins San Francisco - Watercolour and graphite (16" x 12") by Benoit Philippe

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco opened in 1926 and is located at One Nob Hill (in tersection of California and Mason streets). The hotel was named after Mark Hopkins, a founder of the Central Pacific Railroad.

On the website of the hotel, it says: “The 19-story hotel's architecture is a combination of French chateau and Spanish Renaissance, embellished with elaborate terra cotta ornamentation.”

Arriving at the Mark Hopkins San Francisco - Detail. You can see the texture added with the graphite on the dark suit of the doorman.

I took the reference photograph I used for this painting while walking around San Francisco. What I really liked in the picture is the doorman caught in motion while he carries the suitcase from the taxi to the hotel’s entrance.

Arriving at the Mark Hopkins San Francisco - Intermediate stage with watercolour only.

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Friday, 22 July 2011

Art is not always about beauty

Monument to Balzac, Auguste Rodin - Photograph by Jeff Kubina (Source Wikimedia)

“And that which is considered ugly in nature often presents more character than that which is termed beautiful, because in the contractions of a sickly countenance, in the lines of a vicious face, in all deformity, in all decay, the inner truth shines forth more clearly than in features that are regular and healthy.”

Auguste Rodin, 1840-1917 in “Art”

More from Rodin

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Humour in visual art

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – June 2011. 

The Oxford dictionary defines “Humour” as “The faculty of perceiving what is ludicrous or amusing, or of expressing it in speech, writing, or other composition; jocose imagination or treatment of a subject.”
Humour is not often present in visual art compared to other forms of art like literature or cinema. In a painting, which is seen at once, it is more difficult to create the time laps between primary perception and meaning that trigger humour.

Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire by Salvador Dali (Source: Wikimedia)

Surrealist painters were good at introducing humour in their paintings. My preferred example is Dali’s painting titled “Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire”. He used a visual illusion with two women who look like nuns making up the face of Voltaire. The humour comes from the fact that Voltaire wrote against the intolerance in the church.

Other times, the humour I find in modern art is not intended… but that’s another matter.

Humour could be more present in painting. Playfulness is a good way to bring creativity to your work. If you are in a playful mood, you create a secure environment to experiment, to try a different way and push boundaries. “It’s just a game” opens a world of possibility. Crazy ideas do not seem so crazy anymore.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Manet: impressions from an exhibition

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – May 2011.

While in Paris (France), I had the chance to visit (although quickly) the Manet exhibition at the Orsay Museum, as it remains open until 9:45 pm on Thursdays.
The exhibition is organised around themes and different periods of Manet’s life. The artist’s works are placed in context with works of other contemporary artists on display on similar themes to show influences and contrasts.

The exhibition featured some of the well known large works: The luncheon (which never did it for me, read here why), the Olympia and The balcony. For me, one missing work I was hoping to see was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

Manet was a master of the grey: Manet’s deep grey backgrounds, as for The Fifer, are remarkable yet often overlooked. They create contrast while being more luminous than dark backgrounds used by chiaroscuro painters. The exhibition had a section on still life paintings. Of two vases of flowers, nearly identical, one was standing out: Carnations and Clematis in a Crystal Vase. The reason was the grey background in this painting made it luminous.

Le Fifre (The Fifer) 1866, by Édouard Manet - Souce: Wikimedia

Carnations and Clematis in a Crystal Vase, Musée d'Orsay, 1883 - Source: Wikimedia

A rich touch: Before he explored Impressionism, Manet maried classicism with the vigour of Delacroix’s brushwork. The touch was rich and forceful. Another signature effect of Manet’s during this period was the use of frontal light with very short projected shadows.
Impresionist period – The women’s influence: In Manet’s Impresionist work, you can feel the influence of Berthe Morisot. The touch is light, the brushwork weaves thin lines of colours and most of the works have a blue bias.

Related resources

Musée d'Orsay
Manet, the Man who Invented Modernity
5 April - 17 July 2011

Monday, 11 July 2011

Your Paintings - Oil paintings in UK museums

Your Paintings is a website which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings. It is driven by the BBC in association with Public Catalogue Foundation (a charity that catalogues works in museums in the UK) and many museums and art galleries across the country.

At the moment, they have 63,000 works online with a goal of putting 200,000 paintings on the website.

It is possible to search by Artists and by Galleries & Collections.

Another interesting feature of the project is that all visitors can help improving the search capabilities on the site by tagging pictures.

Visit Your Paintings website.

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Monday, 4 July 2011

Grass waves in the Lawn

Grass waves in the Lawns - Oil painting on canvas panel (8" x 6") by Benoit Philippe

Saturday morning was glorious and I went outside to paint in the park, at the end of our street in Swindon (England). At the moment, the overgrown grass has some purple grey seed heads.

I liked the path going through the long grass and the yellow opening in the background. The texture of the foliage offered a good contrast with the smooth grass waves.

I added two walkers to give a sense of scale and perspective and to provide a focus point. The figure in the foreground also helps to break the yellow pane of yellow.