Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The School of Athens (in depth)

The School of Athens, 1508-11, Raphael
Raphaello de Sanzio,
Self-portrait, 1506
Just about everyone has heard of the Renaissance, the period in Italian art of some forty years from roughly 1480 to 1520. And anyone familiar with the arts is no doubt familiar with the half-dozen or so landmark painting masterpieces produced during this period (or shortly before or after it). They would include at least one each from what I've termed the "big three" of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael--artists so prominent their first names alone should suffice. Two of the three lived long, productive lives while the third, Raphael de Sanzio died young. Born in 1483, he died suddenly (on his birthday, no less) in 1520 at the age of thirty-seven, his lifetime perfectly coinciding with the Italian High Renaissance. We're all too familiar with Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling and Leonar-do's Mona Lisa. But Raphael's comparable fresco, The School of Athens (top), located in the Vatican's Stanza della Segnatura is as underexposed as the other two are overexposed.

A "Who's Who" of Greek philosophy with likely names in black and Raphael's possible models in red.
The School of Athens shows Plato and Aristotle in conversation. Plato, on the left, upwards while Aristotle, on the right, points down. The here and elsewhere, heaven and earth are the subject of these discussions. The fresco, painted between 1508 and 1511 (dates vary) conveys an impressive synthesis of the world-view of the two great Greek philosophers that was formed in the course of the 15th-century and would have been completely inconceivable just a century earlier. This was the result of the rediscovery of Plato which took place in Florence thanks to the efforts of the Platonic Academy and the activities of Marsilio Ficino and his circle. Restored to his master's side, Aristotle, who had never suffered the same neglect, could now speak, and his words took on a new significance.

The elder Plato walks alongside Aristotle.
School of Athens (detail). Leonardo is said
to have served as the model for Plato.
Plato lived in Athens during the 5th-century BC. He was a disciple of Pythagoras' school of philosophy which interpreted the universe as a mathematical system. Plato believed that a link existed between mathematics and music, and understood the heavenly bodies as entities separated by rhythmic intervals similar to those found in music. The heavenly spheres followed the same principles of harmony as those applied in music--heavenly music (so to speak). According to Plato, the entire world of creation, which we perceive with our senses is merely the shadow of the real world--a world of godly causality--the world of music. Further, he believed that only those minds which have been trained in the contemplative use of reason could know the only true world, a world of pure harmony. If that sounds pretty "deep," it is, and Plato's teaching was as much a lost cause in Europe during the Middle Ages as the study and knowledge of the Greek language itself. Apart from individual quotes used by Latin authors, all that was known of Plato's work was the Latin translation of the treatise on mathematics, the Timaeus (an anachronistic bound edition which Raphael depicts Plato holding under his arm).

Zoroaster, Ptolemy, Raphael as Apelles, and Perugino or Timoteo Viti as Protogenes, are arrayed on the right as followers of Aristotle.
Plato was Aristotle's mentor, but he moved away from his teacher's ideas in that he believed it possible for man to understand the laws of the universe with his senses and study them with the help of logic. Aristotelian mind is not contemplative in itself. The main doctrine of the medieval church was based on established Aristotelian thinking, which influenced biblical interpretation and the understanding of the relationship between God and man. Logical mind games were something of an intellectual passion among the medieval schools of theology. Moreover, they were completely comparable to those we know today, which have led to the invention of the computer. The problem was, having been engulfed by logic, left a degree of uncertainty with respect to the body of Aristotle's teaching. In an attempt to explain the world, Aristotelian reason tended to lose itself in a roomful of mirrors.

Cosimo de' Medici, 1545,
Agnolo Mariano
The revival of Platoism began its slow spread in the city of Florence when Manuel Chrysolaras from Greece was invited to give a series of lectures at the University of Florence sometime in the early years of the 15th-century. Chryso-laras' student circle included the young Cosimo de' Medici (right). He and others who were interested in the study of philosophy, gathered around Ambrogio Traversari in the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The young Cosimo was also a member of that group. Traversari, the general prior of the Camaldoese monks was one of the few men of his time who was fluent in both Latin and Greek. He set about trans-forming the Monastery of Camaldoli, high up in the Casentin mountains, into a workshop for the translation of classical authors. Cosimo withdrew from his phil-osophical studies at the age of forty following the death of his father, Giovanni de Medici in 1429. He was obliged to take over the family business. However, he continued to buy books and spend part of his vast fortune on the support of humanists and their work. One such project carried out with Cosimo's financial aid was a search by Poggio Bracciolino and Niccolo Niccoli of Europe's monastery libraries for the ancient classical texts, which had been preserved for centuries thanks to the efforts of the Benedictines. In 1437, Cosimo de' Medici was present at the Council of Ferrara which brought representatives of the two great Christian churches--Greek and Roman--together in a last-ditch attempt at reunification. There Cosimo met the Greek scholars from the Byzantine delegation and the Emperor of Constantinople, John VIII Palaiologos.

And on the left, the school of Socrates (in the tan robe, a follower of Plato), The School of Athens (detail),  Raphael.
When the town of Ferrara was no longer able to accommodate the Council, Cosimo offered to foot the cost for it to continue in Florence. This single, magnanimous, yet seemingly incidental gesture was enough to change the course of European intellectual history. The Greek scholars who moved to Florence with the Byzantine delegation were the main impetus for "the new Plato." There followed a series of memorable lectures by Georgis Gemisto Plethon at the University of Florence, which was attended by all the humanist scholars living in the city at the time. The importance of the lectures by Plethon, who was over eighty years old at the time, was connected with the fact that Plato's dialogs had already reached Italy a decade earlier thanks to the efforts of Giovanni Aurispa. Aurispa, a humanist, was a bibliophile antique dealer who was constantly on the road between Constantinople and Rome. He had managed to save a considerable number of classical works.

Raphael's School of Athens (right) as seen in the Stanza della Segnatura.
The Cardinal Virtues, also by Raphael, is on the left.

Raphael's rival, Michelangelo,
depicted as Heraclitus,
School of Athens (detail).

Cosimo de' Medici commissioned a young man named Ficino with the task of translating Plato and hence starting a Plato Academy. Ficino translated the Hymns of Orpheus and several other Greek works into Latin. In 1464, he be-gan translating Plato's dialogs. Cosimo was first able to read Plato's words from Ficino's translation while on his deathbed. The Platonic Academy (Euro-pe's first modern academy, was truly es-tablished through the efforts of the small group gathered around Cosimo's death-bed listening to Ficino's translations. It's hard to overemphasized the influence of the Plato in 15th-century Florence on the fine arts and their flowering during the golden age of the Tuscan city. The works of Sandro Botticelli such as his Adoration of the Magi (below), from 1475, are not generally intepreted as a rendering of the Platonic mythology in painting. However, the art of Domenico Ghirlandaio (bottom), who reached the summit of his artistic career in Florence, appears to be based on the philosophy of Plato. Yet the sublime tranquility of the figures rendered by both artists with their imperturbable calm mark them as "ideal" in the Platonic sense. A generation later, Raphael's The School of Athens was one of the direct results of the birth of Cosimo de' Medici's Plato Academy.

Adoration of the Magi, 1475, Sandro Botticelli
Zachariah in the Temple (detail), by Domenico
Ghirlandaio, depicts four humanist philosophers
under the patronage of the Medici.








































 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fox Art

Frogs for Breakfast--Red Fox, Bonnie Marris
Vulpes, Danny
Bilsborough
In painting wildlife, there are several directions an artist may go. There is, of course, the natural, wild environment demanding a realistic rendering (above). On the other end of the scale is the symbolic, in which the artist strives only to capture the "essence" of the animal, usually with as few strokes as possible strategically placed to merely "sug-gest" the animal being depicted (below). Expressionistic renderings (right) have much the same qualities. All of this is especially true when that animal, though wild, is as familiar to viewers as a domestic canine lounging on the couch. It's easy to forget that such a beautiful dog-like creature as the red or silver fox is, in fact, a vicious predator, albeit one unlikely to be a threat to humans. A hungry fox, particularly one with up to a half-dozen pups to feed, can be as lethal to smaller animals as a hungry lion would be to us. Moreover, a fox will eat about anything from frogs to other canines, felines, or asinine rodents--with the exception of skunks, virtually anything smaller than it is.
 
Fiery Fox, Apofiss
 
In between these two extremes are any number of degrees of realism, expressionism, even abstraction (right). In large part these make up the greater part of the artist's "style." Add to that the differences in techniques and effects of var-ious painting media and you quickly realize all the variables which slice across the entire realm of modern-day painting, but seem es-pecially not-able with regard to wildlife art. The fox, being the highly intelligent (sly) yet exquis-itely grace-ful creature it is, makes it a highly desirable subject worthy of the painted image.


Mr. Fox, Yhodle
of Yhodesign



Eluding the Fox, Bruno Lilejfors
The fox is a very social creature which lives a very flexible life. They are found all over the world—in North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa—and utilize a wide range of terrains as home. As much as we tend to stereotype wild animals, the fox is one which defies the practice. Most foxes are around the same size as a mid-sized dog. Yet, since foxes are smaller mammals, they are also quite light. They can weigh as little as 1.5 lbs. and as much as 24 lbs. The fennec fox is the smallest living fox and doesn't get any bigger than the common housecat. It weighs in at about 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. Other species can grow to 34 inches from their head to their flanks. Their trademark bushy tails can add an additional 12 to 22 inches to their length.

Culpeo Fox gives us a lesson not so much in how to
draw foxes, but how to think of them.
Given the penchant artists and others possess for gravitating toward babies of virtually all animals (well, not so much flies, perhaps), it should be noted that unlike many wild mammals, even those which have been domesticated, raising fox pups is a family affair. Foxes are usually monogamous, having only one mate for life. Strangely, they also sometimes take on nannies to help with their pups. The nannies are female foxes that are not breeders. Sometimes, a male fox will have several female mates. Females that have the same male mate are known to live in the same den together--apparently the foxy ladies are not the jealous type. Divorce is rare and alimony is unheard of.

The Chase is on--Red Fox, Pat Pauley.
Foxes can run up to thirty miles per hour.
After mating, females make a nest of leaves inside their burrow upon which to birth their pups. This special room in the burrow, called a nesting chamber, has a fairly short period of preparation in that the pregnant female only carries her pups for about 53 days. It must also be rather roomy since the mother fox may have a litter of from two to seven pups. Add to that the fact that both the mother and father share the care of pups. Even older siblings (from the year before) will help take care of their younger brother and sisters by bringing them food.

Full House, Fox Family, Carl Brenders
In the wild, foxes live surprisingly short lives. They often survive only about three years. In captivity, they can live much longer, as many as ten to twelve years. Carl Brender's Full House, Fox Family (above), was obviously not drawn from life, nor even from a photo. Fox puppies are never that cooperative. And like most mothers, Mrs. Fox is overly protective of her brood. Despite an excellent sense of hearing (they can hear the low-frequency sounds of rodents digging underground), in the wild, fox cubs can easily fall prey to eagles, coyotes, gray wolves, bears and mountain lions.

Silent Grace, Tim Donovan. Like humans, foxes can identify each other's voices. Despite the title of the painting, the red fox has 28 different vocalizations consisting of various yips, growls, and howls.
 
For the benefit of artists, coloration of red foxes ranges from pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white, ashy or slate gray on the underside. The lower part of the legs is usually black and the tail usually has a white or black tip. Two color variants commonly occur. Cross foxes have reddish brown fur with a black stripe down the back and another across the shoulders. Silver foxes range from strong silver to nearly black and are the most prized by furriers.



Say What?, Isaiah Stevens,
the silver fox.

As with most "how to draw" charts this one renders a stereotypical, symmetrical front view, which is rather static for a hyperactive creature like a fox.
There are two typical errors artist sometimes make in drawing wild animals such as a fox. They center on posing and composition. If working from a photo taken in the wild, neither are likely to be a problem. But when working from memory or other sources, the temptation is to treat the fox like any other canine, even to the point of posing a long-nosed dog such as a collie then attempting to convert the dog to a fox. In fact, any head-and-shoulders pose takes on a posed, artificial quality removing it one step from its true nature as a wild animal. Marcia Baldwin's Red Fox Head Study (below), with its natural background coloration, three-quarter pose, and avoidance of eye-contact is about as good as it gets, allowing for the limitations of a close-up study.

Red Fox Head Study, 2009, Marcia Baldwin


Cute, captivating, yet natural.























































 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Josh Harker--3D Printing

Crania Somothrace, Josh Harker

It takes one Burning Man, some steampunk, and one pioneering artist to set new limits of what it means to be one of the best 3D printing designers in the world. As an instigator of the #1 most funded sculpture project in the history of Kickstarter, Joshua Harker is the proud owner of this title that comes with the artistic ownership of an impressive high-tech skull sculpture located in the fields of the uber-cool festival, and, at the same time, an aggressive evidence of the possibilities of art in tech.
 
MIT Lotusbrain, Josh Harker
For artistic explorers, the time of 3D printing is ripe with potential. By accumulating more than a 20-year experience in the area, Josh Harker has been immersed in exploring the skills with the idea of letting the world know just how tangible 3D sculptures can be. His groundbreaking tech art is a way of showing how 3D printing work can be subtle and sublime as a technology, yet aggressive and complex in the message.
 
3-D printing artist, Josh Harker
Harker was born in 1970, an apt time for growing up in a post-hippy childhood, learning software and testing the mix of a formal art education with individual learning dedicated to materials engineering and 3D tech. His formal education includes the Kansas City Art Institute, the School of Representational Art in Chicago, the Evanston Art Center and Northwestern University, as well as several other prominent art schools in the country. As a lecturer, advisor and consultant, Josh Harker has been active for more than 25 years on a worldwide level, including teaching and speaking events in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Paris, London and Vancouver, BC. He authored more than 60 exhibitions and a dozen public art and large-scale installations, including the one in Black Rock City for the 2017 Burning Man.


3-D Transcendental Permutation or not, it's
something you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.
The Tangle collection is a culmination of the public recognition for his efforts invested during a quarter of a century of testing the possibilities of 3D printers. He was learning software and fabricating filigree-fit materials that can be turned into the amazing world of 3D sculptures glowing in full glory only at a place such as the Burning Man--full of three-dimensional skulls, buffalo horns, desert winds and eagle wings.
.
 

Some of Harker's best works.
Joshua started his landmark skull sculpture work with a Kickstarter campaign, proving that he is not only a talented sculptor, but also a motivated entrepreneur. Having a good start in the tech industry in the nineties, where he was surrounded by innovative tech companies helped Josh make the decisive move toward experimenting with 3D printing. While he was enjoying the CEO position as late as 2008, the fascination with art took over and he turned to 3D printed sculptures. You can find more about Josh Harker final transitioning process from business to art in the video below:
 
Making the Unmakeable - The 3D Industrial Revolution: Joshua Harker at TedX Binghamton University

Digital sculpting enables complex dimensionality, one that can not be attained with traditional methods. Nowhere else can an artist work with dynamic 2D and 3D media, using image mapping and sculpture animation to bring the fourth dimension of time, as he can in 3D sculptures. And he is right--the journeying with static and kinetic sculptures that change over time offers unique stories to the captivated audience.
 

Mazzo di Fiori 16, Josh Harker
The experiential installations of this visionary sculptor go way over 3D printing basics and well into radical contemporary art, with a hint of abstract new-surrealism. The discernible filigree twists are combined with the experience collected with his beginnings in 2D automation and resemble (in his own words) the work of ”André Masson and practiced notably by Miró, Breton, Dalí, Arp, and Picasso.” The depth of his work is not only due to the lyrical aesthetics of the printed filigree and the homage to the great masters of painting, but also due to the one-of-a-kind polarity provided by the wireframe construction and the dynamics of time.
 
Serpente Anatomica, Josh Harker
Josh Harker is, without doubt, an artist of the future. There is nothing like a personal artist’s statement to tell the story of his revolutionary tech art. In Josh’s own words, this is his vision:
 
 “Bolstered by the advent of organic modeling software, 3D printing technologies and material engineering, my visions are now able to be realized sculpturally in archival materials. Never before have forms of this organic complexity been able to be created. This boon of technology is a revolutionary time for the arts and one which will be boldly marked in history. I am honored to be considered one the pioneers in the medium.”
Quixotic Divinity Headdress
 --3D printed polyamide, Josh Harker
























Till Death Do Us Part,
Josh Harker



















































Monday, January 1, 2018

John Wagner and Maxine

Meet John Wagner's crabby Maxine.
Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. I'm as guilty as anyone of making and breaking such promises to myself. This year, my New Year's resolution is to write less and paint more.
That is, starting today, Monday, January 1, 2018, I'll be posting new items here only once a week on Mondays. For once, that's a resolution I think I can keep. I've made that decision with the advice and consent of a friend of my wife's, John Wagner's Maxine. She's my spouse's favorite cartoon character, probably because they have so much in common. They're even starting to look alike. Don't worry, it's safe to say that--my wife never reads what I write. She thinks I only write about art. Of course, today, momentous as it is, I continue writing about art, just not as often. Today we take a look at Hallmark Greetings' favorite artist, John Wagner--not to be confused with the British writer by the same name who write's (but does not draw) the adventures of Judge Dredd.
 
Meet John Wagner, Maxine's creator, whom she refers to as "Arty-Boy."
Maxine takes on any issue fearlessly, from New Year's resolutions, to work and driving. “How long will my New Year's, resolutions last? Got a stop-watch?” and, “I’m willing to put in longer hours at work, as long as they’re lunch hours,” and “Caffeine is for people who feel they aren’t irritable enough on their own,” are a few examples of John Wagner’s clever sense of humor through Maxine. Wag-ner created Maxine in 1986 as a new character line for Hallmark's Shoebox Greet-ings™ card division. He came up with a brazen older woman with a stooped back, a mop of curly gray hair, and most of all an abrasive personality little short of sandpaper. He patterned her after his mother, grandmother, and an unmarried aunt, who provide inspiration for his comic creation.
 


John Wagner has always been a cartoonist at heart, even as a young child. He remembers doodling as a preschooler. As he got older, Wagner was encouraged by his mother and grandmother to be artistic. His grandmother bought him art lessons when his skills developed beyond grade school art classes. Later, he attended the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, then began work as part of a new Hallmark artists’ group following graduation. (The Vesper George School of Art closed in 1983.) Since her inception some thirty years ago, Maxine has become a bit of a celebrity. She (and John) have been the subject of media stories, including People, USA Today, Good Morning Amer-ica, The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, and Las Vegas Journal-Review, and they have been included in a major Associated Press story.

It was the birth of the humorous Shoebox Greetings (a tiny little division of Hallmark) in 1986 that added a new dimension to John's professional life. The Shoebox way of seeing the world unleashed the talents, of John Wagner, spurring the creation of Maxine. She took on an individuality of her own, taking sheer delight in making high-spirited, crabby remarks about almost everything. Though she was truly funny, the character had the staff at Hallmark™ concerned. A spokeswoman for the company noted that, when Maxine first came out, they were worried that older people might be offended. It turned out to be just the opposite; they loved her.

Some of Wagner's worldly wise wit and witticisms of Maxine (no last name).
Wagner points out that, "Cartoonists are sensitive to the insanities of the world while trying to humanize them. If Maxine can get a laugh out of someone who feels lonely or someone who is getting older and hates the thought of another birthday, or if she can make someone chuckle about stressful interpersonal relationships, then I'm happy. Putting a smile on someone's face is what it's all about." The character was so popular with card-buying customers that Maxine jumped from greeting cards into comics syndication in the 1990s through Universal Press Syndicate, a first in cartooning. It’s usually the other way around, the comic first and then the greeting cards. The strip, titled Crabby Road, was soon published in over 100 newspapers across the United States. It was withdrawn in 2002. Though no longer in syndication, fans can still chuckle at the character’s acidic wit, now featured in five books of cartoons.

































 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Most Popular Posts of 2017

This is where each "Art Now and Then" post begins.
One of the features I like best about Google's Blogger has to do with its statistics page. I've not checked, but I suppose other blog service platforms also have much the same feature. In any case Blogger allows me to keep track of the number of readers (often called "hits") that a given post may have over a period of time (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and what they call "all time.") Inasmuch as a write on a fairly broad range of art related subjects, this statistical page allows me to keep track of which content areas readers are most interested in, as well as how many readers follow my posts on a daily basis.
 

Go for it! While you're still trunk enough to dry.
Inasmuch as this is New Year's Eve I thought it appropriate to post feedback as to which posts have been the most popular this year. For the most part they have been those dealing with relatively unknown artist "now and then." In general, however, posts dealing with art from various decades, art involving wild animals, and in one particular case, paintings of a famous celebrity (more on that later). So, starting with number eight on the list, they are:
 
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 (Click on the artist's name for the full posting.)
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Virtually all George Lois Esquire covers had a current events tie-in.
George Lois was the great master of the conceptual magazine cover, especially Esquire in the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his heavyweight boxing title, Lois depicted him as the martyred St. Sebastian, with arrows sticking out of his body (above). Lois also persuaded celebrities such as Richard Nixon, Andy Warhol, Sonny Liston, Jack Nicholson (nude, no less), Tom Cruise, and Dustin Hoffman. Between 1962 and 1971, Esquire featured one remarkable cover after another, each conceived and designed by Madison Avenue’s 'king of covers'," George Lois. Esquire covers are icons of the age, acidic critiques of contemporary society, politics and manners that subverted the conventions of mainstream magazines. It was a chronicle in its golden age, a critical period of American social and political turmoil, and the legacy of a remarkable graphic designer and communicator.

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Nothing could better symbolize the peculiar relationship of these to talented architects better that the Barberini Palace staircase. Borromini designed it, Bernini saw it to completion after his competitor's death.
Though Borromini and Bernini, the two stalwarts of 17th century Italian architecture, were both masters of the Baroque style, they were very different in their approach to work and artistic expressions. Bernini, suave and charming, sought drama and theatrics in his works. His flamboyance oozed out through his creations. Bernini knew how to play with the audience’s emotional and spiritual responses. Borromini, on the other hand, was cold, melancholic, and somewhat lacking in the social graces of Bernini. He depended heavily on his studies of geometry and classical architecture. Borromini’s work was idiosyncratic with a modest approach towards purposeful dramatization, distancing the audience who failed to fully comprehend it even though they were unanimous in accepting its superiority. The great act of providence had both of these artist’s path intertwined for the rest of their career.
 
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6. Derold Page:
  
Fat Marbled Cat, Derold Page
When we speak of Folk Art, people primarily (and perhaps exclusively) tend to think of landscapes. Moreover we also tend to think only of American Folk Art. Of course, virtually every country in the world has its own folk art. In fact, in some countries, it's practically the only art they know. I've no idea if Folk Art is as popular in European countries as it is in the U.S.; but I do know that it's not got the same "look" to it we've come to know on this side of the Atlantic. I'm not sure the designation "Folk Art" is really the best tag for such work. Some writers and critics have come to refer to it as "naïve" art or "untrained" (that is, the work of self-taught artists). Derold Page is British, completely untrained, and seldom paints the usual nostalgic landscapes from memory we're so used to seeing from his American counterparts.
 
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5. Chris Thunig:
 


 
I'm not positive, but I'm guessing this piece was done by
Thunig in preparation for The Da Vinci Code. It appears to
depict Leonardo, secretly working in the dead of night studying human anatomy by performing a cadaver dissection. (Such
activities were illegal at the time.) His assistant is probably
a grave digger. 
An artist working in the motion picture industry is only as good as his or her resume; and is often paid accordingly. That of Chris Thunig includes his current position as 2D Art Director at Bliz-zard Entertainment (producing and coordinating art and artists for video games); Senior Digital Matte Artist/Concept Artist Digital Matte Artist at The Moving Picture Company (London), and Digital Matte Artist at Duran Cinematics (Paris). In his first major motion picture, Immortal, (right) working for Duran, Thunig was just one of eighty other visual effects artists. Today, depending upon the complexity of the project, Thunig often supervises up to one-hundred such concept artist, who not only design visual effects, but are also tasked with figuring out how to create them on film (and on schedule, and on budget).

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In Tune, 2007, David Uhl (for Harley Davidson) 

Artists have a tendency to turn famous men (and women) into myths. In no case is this more prevalent than in the literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands of portraits of Elvis Aaron Presley in virtually every art medium known to man. Even forty years after his death, Harley Davidson artist, David Uhl, contributes to this myth. Elvis purchased Graceland, seen in Uhl's painting, In Tune (above), in 1957. He was twenty-two at the time. Uhl depicts him as an adolescent teenager with the mother of all pompadours. Even Ronald Reagan would be envious.

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3. Óscar Domínguez:

Dominguez's surreal protest of "progress."
Óscar Domínguez was born on the Canary Island of Tenerife in 1906. (The seven island chain is located just off the northwest coast of Africa.) There the boy spent his youth with his grandmother devoting himself to painting at a young age. He suffered from a serious birth defect which affected his growth and caused a progressive deformation of his scull, frame, and limbs. The family was quite wealthy inasmuch as his father was a large landowner of extensive agricultural properties. Dominguez moved to Paris in 1927, where he learned of the Surrealist movement. Picasso and Yves Tanguy became a great source of influence. He has often been criticized for painting too much like Picasso (a valid criticism).
 
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Cabela's Pony Express Rider outside their Sidney, Nebraska, headquarters store.
Although Cabalas handles a smattering of art-related items, the real art is outside, between the store and the parking lot in the form of independently commissioned monumental bronze sculptures of (you guessed it) wildlife. Although the company has made its fortune facilitating the killing of wildlife, they are to be congratulated for their support of talented sculptors whose work is aimed at the preservation of the spirit of animals in the wild. Each store has a different bronze sculpture, some quite dramatic, some even including the human element from the past such as that outside the company's largest store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania (above), and their Pony Express Rider on the grounds of their headquarters complex in Sidney, Nebraska (above, right).

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1. Pieter Claesz:   
 
Still Life with Musical Instruments, 1623, Pieter Claesz
Pieter Claesz was born in Berchem, Belgium, near Antwerp around 1597. He joined the Guild of St. Luke in 1620, also the year he moved to Haarlem where his son, the landscape painter, Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem, was born. Claesz and Willem Claeszoon Heda, who also worked in Haarlem, were the most important exponents of the "ontbijt" or dinner piece (not to be confused with the somewhat more well-known Dutch breakfast pieces, above). They painted with subdued, fairly monochromatic palettes, employing a subtle handling of light and texture as their prime means of expression. Claesz generally chose more homely objects than did Heda, although his later work became more colorful and decorative. Claesz's still-lifes often suggest allegorical purposes, with skulls, short candles, spilled ink, etc. serving as reminders of human mortality. Between them, the two men founded a distinguished tradition of still life painting in Haarlem. By the way, it's awfully easy to confuse the work of these two artists, not just because of their similarities in color and style, but taking into account their names as well. I just made a correction to an earlier posting where I had them confused.

Kitchen Duty, 2012, Bonnie Annee