Category: Art

The Shed at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards

The Shed at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards

Monday, March 12, 2018 | By | Add a Comment

The Shed at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards

Many people who stay on top of the world of the performing arts, especially performing artists living in Manhattan have likely heard of the Shed.  The Shed is an art and performance space that wants to become the latest spectacle along New York’s High Line and the next big thing in city attractions and architectural awe.  When first announced, the project was vaguely conceived.  Located where the High Line runs smack into the massive West Side development project called Hudson Yards, the Shed seemed hardly more than an architectural trophy, with no obvious reason for being, other than to appease a skeptical public with the promise of some “cultural” amenity on the site of one of the largest and most valuable real estate deals in New York.  People are still skeptical about it, as anyone should be about such an expensive venue on valuable property in an often highly criticized and uncertain industry such as the entertainment industry, and with unknown future prospects.  It is, however, an interesting and monumental idea which combines technology, architecture, and movement/transformation into a major city attraction which has the ability to draw in crowds not only for its own sake, but also for the sake of the entertainment venues it supports.

The Shed, an ambitious, flexible performing and visual arts facility, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSR) in collaboration with the Rockwell Group was But aspects of the unusual design of the 200,000 square foot structure have already been visible, emerging as construction continues on a New York City-owned site next to the High Line, in the new Hudson Yards development on the west side of Manhattan. The project, with a planned opening in 2019, has just received a $75 million gift from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg toward a $500 million capital campaign, of which $435 million is construction costs. The donation brings the total raised so far to $421 million.

The 8-level building’s most striking feature will be its translucent shell, composed of a steel diagrid frame and clad in pillows of ETFE, that can be rolled out over the adjacent plaza to form an enormous space for showing almost any imaginable performance or art installation. The vast 17,000 square foot “room”—which would become 30,000 square feet when combined with a floor of the base building—will allow for climate, light and sound-control.

According to Elizabeth Diller, founding principal of DSR, the Shed was inspired by Cedric Price’s Fun Palace—an unbuilt design for a vastly versatile building-as- machine.  So, the idea is not an original one and it has also been attempted before without completion.  To whom credit should be given for the design and how this revision of the original idea will succeed is yet to be discovered.

The building’s shell, with a primary structure that weighs 2,400 tons, moves using gantry crane technology on 6-foot-in-diameter steel wheels, or bogies, on rails, with a motorized sled drive on the base building’s roof.  The base building will contain two immense column-free galleries, a flexible black box theater space, as well as rehearsal space, a multi-purpose event space, an art lab, café, and bookstore.  Offices and back-of-house operations will be on the lower floors of a new residential tower (also designed by DSR with Rockwell) to which the base building is linked.

While the idea sounds like an interestingly new and modern concept, it may yet still be early to discern if this design will be worthwhile in the end, or if more could be done with the area in terms of something more necessary and mutually beneficial to the public.

Studying Vermeer’s painting style with a Macro-X-ray Fluorescence Scanner

Studying Vermeer’s painting style with a Macro-X-ray Fluorescence Scanner

Thursday, March 1, 2018 | By | Add a Comment

Studying Vermeer’s painting style with a Macro-X-ray Fluorescence Scanner

Beginning on February 28th 2018 and over the next two weeks, a team of international experts will study Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in a specially constructed studio in The Hague’s Mauritshuis museum.  The institution has conserved Girl with a Pearl Earring in public before, but never have the canvas, pigments, oil, and other materials that Vermeer used to create his most famous portrait been studied using a variety of scientific techniques and with minor physical contact.

The project, called “Girl in the Spotlight,” will be a kind of exhibition unto itself.  Visitors who would like to take selfies can still do so in front of a new 3-D-reproduction of the painting now hanging in the Golden Room where the “operation” is taking place.  The reproduction is the result of another research project at the gallery, this time in partnership with Océ-technologies and a researcher from Delft University of Technology.

Emilie Gordenker, the US-born director of the Mauritshuis, compares the project to “a really serious medical research team.”  Like a medical TV series, “Girl in the Spotlight” is being played out in episodes, broadcast via daily blogs written by the project’s team leader, Abbie Vandivere, the painting’s conservator at the Mauritshuis.

In Vandivere’s latest post, she explains that in 1994 conservators restored the painting, but this time all techniques will be non-invasive.  Testing began this week when a macro-X-ray fluorescence scanner was switched on. “It allows us to ‘peel away’ each layer of paint,” Gordenker says. “This is the first time we will be able to see how Vermeer built up his paint. We don’t know if he did much underpainting,” she adds.  Further tests will hopefully reveal where the artist got his pigments from.  “He could have got them from across the world or more locally,” she says.

In 1994, conservators discovered that a second highlight on her famous pearl earring was not by the artist’s hand but rather a flake of paint that had become detached, flipped over and reattached on the jewel.  “We are not expecting anything as dramatic,” Gordenker says.

A group portrait posted on the museum’s website shows the team ready to begin their intensive work in the Golden Room, an operation that will continue until March  11. The following Monday, the Girl with a Pearl Earringis due to be back on display in its usual location in Room 15 looking as if nothing had happened. But the research team’s work will have only just begun; after the painting is returned, they will need to analyze all the new data gathered.

The Mauritshuis’s partners in the “Girl in the Spotlight” project include the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science, the Rijksmuseum, TU Delft, and Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Other institutions involved include Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam, Maastricht University, the University of Antwerp, the National Gallery of Art Washington and Hirox Europe.

Dark Art

Dark Art

Monday, February 27, 2017 | By | Add a Comment

Théodore Géricault Dois justiçados

Théodore Géricault Dois justiçados (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dark Art

In the world of dark art, if one can create a surreal piece of artwork that is creepy enough to have some or any degree of interest to their audience, then they should feel a sense of accomplishment indeed.  In modern times, with the advent of internet, mass media and advertising dedicated to showcasing and selling art in all its forms, it may seem like an impossible task to make a living or even to have a recognizable name in the world of art.

Art that gives us the feelings of foreboding or dread, or what I will call “dark art”, is meant to have the same effect upon people as it’s originators, although the theme is commonplace and the ability to turn heads and captivate people has become something of a miracle.  The underlying feeling that the artist is attempting to portray in this form of art is fear.  Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger.  If we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.  But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason.  Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell.  Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.  Therefore, dark art can be used in therapeutic ways.

In an attempt to induce the feeling of fear, the dark artist transmits his thoughts in a very mysterious way and, occasionally, combining surrealist elements.  These horrible acts and macabre scenes make us stop and think about ourselves and this unpleasant, yet often overpowering side of the human mind that still arises in all of us from time to time.  But in order to create truly inspiring works it often becomes essential to have some instruction as well as inspiration to set as the foundation of the artist’s motif.

It is good to be inspired by historical artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Francisco Goya, Bouguereau, Caravaggio, Théodore Géricault, Salvator Rosa, Francis Bacon, Henry Fuseli, Salvador Dalí, Zdzisław Beksiński or H.R. Giger, among many others.  I have included above a photoshop tutorial on how to create a morphed image of a skull and a woman’s face along with some other dark elements included.  It is not particularly necessary to have or use photoshop in order to be inspired by this video.  My underlying goal is to show my audience some tools and tricks of the trade in order for aspiring dark artists like yourselves to begin or continue to create your own delightfully macabre creations.  So, please take some time out of your busy day and enjoy these morbid little tidbits to your bloody hearts content!  To the darkness!

Anatomy in Figure Drawing

Anatomy in Figure Drawing

Sunday, June 26, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

Anatomy in Figure Drawing

You need to become somewhat familiar with human skeletal structure when drawing people or anatomy in figure drawing.  It doesn’t take long to acquire the basic knowledge needed to locate and “see” the bone structure as you work with models.  A common way to practice sketching the outline of the human figure is to purchase a pad of newsprint and fill the pages with one, three, and five minute studies.  Ideally, you will find the perfect anatomy class with the perfect drawing teacher.  In case you don’t, the next step is to obtain an articulated artist’s manikin from an art supplier along with a few anatomy books and how-to-art books from the nearest library or bookstore.  Drawing from anatomy books and manikins, while adhering to human canons, will introduce you to the human form.

After many hours and days of practice, you should be ready to try your hand at “fleshing out” your drawings by drawing nudes and clothed figures.  Anatomy books, again, make good reference tools when learning to draw muscles and cartilage.  Working with nude models is a basic requirement for acquiring the necessary skills to paint and draw the clothed figure later.  So, if no figure drawing classes are available nearby, you can try organizing your own sketching group and take turns modeling.

Once you have a model and are prepared to draw, set a timer and have the model change poses every few minutes.  Rapidly depict the model in a skeletal way, drawing only the skull and spine for the first hour or so, then adding the rib cage, then the pelvis.  It’s important to study the angles at which they are set.  Finally, add the limbs for pages of matchstick figures.  Purchase several big pads of newsprint and draw hundreds of figure studies in this manner, adhering to the ordinary canon.  At the end of each session, date the first and last drawing so you can chart your progress over time.

When placing the spine and skull, begin with the “teardrop” of the head as it relates to the spine.  Ask the model to move about so you can fine the “line of action” in the back.  Work swiftly, spending only thirty seconds or so on poses of this nature.

Understanding the basics of the shapes of the body will make it easier to add the rib cage and pelvis to your studies.  Take note of how the angle of the shoulders, rib cage and pelvis relate to one another and to the spine and skull.  The spine supports the cranium just behind the ear hole and mandible.  It has a pronounced S-curve leading down to the tailbone.  The rib cage seems to cantilever or hang from the front of the spine.  Typically, there is one hand’s width, or less, between the rib cage and the hip.  Note that the pelvis is heart-shaped, and the rib cage is like and egg with a horseshoe negative shape at the base.

Using Divine Proportion in Art

Using Divine Proportion in Art

Wednesday, June 8, 2016 | By | Add a Comment
Illustration from Luca Pacioli's De Divina Pro...

Illustration from Luca Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione applies geometric proportions to the human face. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using Divine Proportion in Art

The concept of the golden ration is, “The whole is to the larger as the larger is to the smaller.”  The golden ration = 1:1.61803399.  The golden ration is also known as the golden mean, the golden section or the divine proportion.  The geometry of the golden ration can be found everywhere in nature including snowflakes, shells of invertebrates, the growth pattern of plants, geometric molecular and atomic patterns of solid metals, fingerprints and even DNA.

Throughout history artists have recognized the golden mean in anatomy and nature and were taught to utilize the ratio 1:1.618 as they designed their drawings, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, utensils, and buildings.  Musicians and writers also learned to apply it to their compositions.

The number is represented by the greek letter phi (not to be confused with another famous number, pi).  It’s a numerical constant that relates to mathematics, biology and art.  It’s an irrational number that cannot be expressed as a fraction, and goes on forever without repeating.  The ratio of 1 to 1.618 is the simplest form of the acclaimed divine proportion.

Used by the ancient Greeks to design buildings and monuments, and by painters like da Vinci, Seurat and Dali to compose their paintings, the golden ratio reflects a balance of symmetry and asymmetry.  Aesthetically pleasing works of art are often defined by the golden mean.  In fact, studies show that works of art that agree with the golden mean are far more preferred.  In other words, if there are two similar landscapes painted, one with a boat exactly in the middle and the second with the boat on one of the “sweet spots” as determined by the golden ratio, viewers will invariably prefer the later.

To find the golden ratio of a line, divide a line into two unequal segments so the shorter segment is to the longer segment what the longer segment is to the whole line.  Create a golden rectangle from this by extending the long line segment into a square and extending the short segment into a rectangle beside the square.  The sides of a golden triangle (an isosceles triangle with a vertex angle of 36 degrees) are in a golden ration to its base.  You can use the golden ration to divide your paper and find the natural focal points, or “sweet spots” as illustrators call them, on your paper.  These sweet spots are a natural place to put your center of interest or other supporting points of interest.


The Canons in Figure Drawing

The Canons in Figure Drawing

Friday, June 3, 2016 | By | Add a Comment
So-called “Apoxyomenos” (“the Scraper”). Marbl...

So-called “Apoxyomenos” (“the Scraper”). Marble, Roman copy of the 1st century AD after a Greek bronze original ca. 320 BC. From the Trastevere in Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Polykleitos' Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer), an ear...

Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer), an early example of classical contrapposto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Canons in Figure Drawing

Classical artists made it their business to apply established anthropometric systems of measurement, or canons, when depicting the human form.  The ancient Greek and Roman artists, as well as Renaissance artists, depended on such canons to determine the proportions and dimensions of the human figure.  In a canon, each unit of measurement is called a module.

Two of the most famous canons, the canon of Polykleitos (circa 450-420 B.C.) and the Apoxyomenos of Lysippos (circa 370-330 B.C.), used the head as the unit of measurement, or module.  In the canon of Polykleitos, the ratio of the head to the body was 1:7, so the body was seven heads tall.

Various canons were used through the Renaissance and later to depict people in different perspectives.  The three most frequently used canons were the heroic canon, the ideal canon, and the ordinary canon.

In the heroic canon, the human figure is eight and a half heads tall.  To this day, this canon is often used by comic illustrators to create “larger than life” superheroes.

The ideal canon was often used by painters creating allegorical works or commissioned portraits of powerful people.  This canon shows people as eight heads high.

The ordinary canon, which is seven and a half heads high, is used for lifelike portraits of real people and is the preferred approach used by realists drawing in a naturalistic way.  The early Realists popularized this canon in the eighteenth century as a reaction against the formulaic, idealized canons used at European academies.

Please return again soon for more posts about portrait and figure drawing techniques, tools, and standards.