Friday, 31 January 2014

Alice in 1941 by Marx Ernst

Alice in 1941 (Oil on paper mounted on canvas - 15 3/4 x 12 3/4" - 40.0 x 32.3 cm)
by Max Ernst - James Thrall Soby Bequest; MoMANumber:1220.1979 

This painting uses the technique called Decalcomania. This process was developed by the Surrealist painter Max Ernst. You first spread thick paint on your support and then cover the paint with a sheet of paper or a piece of glass while the paint is still fresh. When you peel away the sheet of paper (or lift the pane of glass), it creates patterns in the paint.

I suspect that Ernst chose the particular support (Oil on paper mounted on canvas) because of the decalcomania technique. It is easier to obtain a good effect with the decalcomania technique when the support is laid flat on a hard surface. It would be hard to achieve a satisfactory result with a springy canvas on a stretcher.

Alice in 1941 - Detail

Alice in 1941 - Detail

The decalcomania created a wonderful effect of vegetation very close to moss, something that would be difficult and take a long time to paint. The randomness of the pattern adds to the natural effect.

Max Ernst then reverted to traditional technique and painted the sky a creamy white, as well as Alice’s face, neck, hand and leg. The way Ernst took advantage of the decalcomania technique brings a mistic edge to the subject. Alice seems to emerge from the vegetation in the background, yet still being connected to nature in an intimate way.

“Alice” is a reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the character created by Lewis Carroll. The story has inspired another painting by Ernst (The Stolen Mirror).

Details for the MoMA museum

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497

Related resources

Friday, 17 January 2014

Creative Exercises eBook among the top 1% most viewed on SlideShare in 2013

This was a nice email to receive at the start of 2014. My free eBook Creative Exercises for Artists and Everyone Else has been viewed by 30,556 people in 2013. And it has been viewed by 85,166 people since its publication.

Thank you to everyone who read it and passed the link to their friends. Here is the direct link to the Creative Exercise for Artists eBook on SlideShare.

I have been working on a expanded version of this book with many more creative exercises... but more on this later.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Photo or no photo at the museum?

With smartphones and digital cameras so widely available, it becomes easy to take pictures in museums (when it is allowed). But is it a good idea?

In recent study published in Psychological Science, Linda Henkel of Fairfield University explains, based on a rigorous study, that people who take pictures of objects or specific details of objects have worse memory of them than participants who just looked at the exhibits.

In the article “No Pictures, Please: Taking Photos MayImpede Memory of Museum Tour” about this study, Henkel calls this the “photo-taking impairment effect” and is quoted explaining:

“When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences”

Because we think we will be able to look later at the photos at our leisure, in the comfort of our home, we don’t focus… we are not in the moment.

Is that Diderot? - Oil on canvas panel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

So, photo or no photo?  Let see the positive and negative points

Positive points

  • I have taken photos of paintings for this blog, because it is a great way to share and give a sense of a museum or an exhibition.
  • Photographs are a great way to complement the notes I take in my notebook about the composition, colours, texture. Because I take notes, I need to concentrate and really look at the painting. I may also draw a quick thumbnail with annotations (see: Taking notes at the museum).
  • I can photograph interesting details showing the artist’s technique or texture that would normally not show on pictures posted on the website of the museum.
  • I always take a picture of the label. This saves time when I rename the picture files of the photographs. Also, with the exact title, I can find more information on a particular painting on the Internet. It is frustrating to look for a painting and struggle to find it because you don’t have the exact title.
  • I also like to take picture of people looking at the paintings. I find they make interesting subjects. You can see some of these paintings on the blog (Polka dot 2; Louvre-Lens meditation; Watching The blind girl)

Negatives Points

  • The main one is that you don’t enjoy the exhibition the way you should: you rush through, taking one picture after another and you don’t stop to admire any of the works on display. The reason you go to see “the real thing” is because a photograph will not give you the same feeling as the original…
  • The other potential drawback is that, if everybody starts taking photographs, it becomes distracting.

Check before your visit

Not all museums allow you to take photographs. It is best to check the museum website before you go. Another reason to check the website is that their online catalog may be so good that it does not make sense to take any (or many) photograph.

If you can’t find the information on the museum website about their policy for taking pictures, ask when you buy the admission ticket.

For museums allowing photographs, make sure you understand the rules:
  • You may need a permit (sometimes for free, other times for a small fee).
  • No flash and no tripod seem the rule.
  • Generally, not for commercial use.
  • Taking pictures may still be prohibited in some sections for copyright reasons (contemporary works, temporary exhibitions, works on loan from another museum, etc.)

Related resources

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Pixar Exhibition, "25 Years Of Animation" in Paris

I went to see with my family the exhibition on Pixar at the newly opened Art Ludique Museum (the first museum dedicated to the art of entertainment) in Paris — France.

Art Ludique Museum

The Pixar exhibition was the first one in the museum, but this touring exhibition was inaugurated at the MoMA in New York in 2006.

This exhibition is very popular, hence the long queue. So, first recommendation: if you can, plan ahead and buy the tickets online.

Strictly no pictures inside the exhibition because of copyright issues.

One of the posters advertising in the exhibition in the Paris Metro

The exhibition contains over 500 drawings: storyboards, character studies and background sketches, digital paintings, as well as resin sculptures.

My impressions from the exhibition:

  • I had forgotten how many great movies Pixar has made over the year.
  • It’s interesting to discover how much low-tech, traditional art goes into making the Pixar animation movies, from initial sketches to storyboards.
  • All techniques are welcome: pencil, ink pens, charcoal, markers, acrylic paint, oil paint, soft pastel, digital paintings (which are sometimes hard to distinguish from traditional paintings) and collage.
  • It is hard to pick favourite pieces, but some of the small pastel paintings for “Cars” and “Finding Nemo” are really beautiful; the resin sculptures are also really good; and the collage are inspiring.
  • I found fascinating to see the preliminary studies for the characters and how they evolved towards their final forms. It is also good to see differrent takes on the characters by different artists.

Pixar’s philosophy is that, to have a successful animaiton movie, you need 3 equally important elements: A good story, memorable characters, and a universe.

Have a look at the videos around the exhibition

Exhibition details

16th November 2013 - 2nd March 2014.
Art Ludique Museum
34, quai d'Austerlitz, 75 013 Paris – France

Related resources

Presentation of the exhibition on Pixar’s website 

If you cannot see the embedded video above , click on this link: John Lasseter - The golden rules for a great film (YouTube video)

The companion book for the Pixar exhibition

  • If you are in the US (Amazon affiliate link):

  • If you are in the United Kingdom (Amazon affiliate link):