Sketch While You Wait | The Artist’s Answer to Airport Boredom

How to Sketch without Being Sketchy

Just imagine that’s what all of the people are saying while waiting to board a flight this summer. (Which will probably be delayed.)

Waiting for your trip to start is a tedious experience we’ve all shared, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve to help you (creatively) pass the time. Michael Chesley Johnson explains in The Artist’s Magazine‘s July/August issue how to sketch people at the airport without seeming, well, sketchy.

 

"Gold and Violet" by Michael Chesley Johnson

Knowledge gained from sketching helped Michael Chesley Johnson capture the subject’s gesture and her clothing’s drape in Gold and Violet (pastel on paper, 18×12).

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Tools of the Trade

I like to keep my travel materials simple and small. In the past, I’ve taken wood-cased 6B pencils, a sharpener and any sketchbook that fit in my traveling backpack.

Lately, I’ve taken mechanical pencils so I can leave the sharpener behind. I have two mechanical pencils that I like. One is a Paper Mate ComfortMate Ultra with a 0.5 mm HB lead. It’s great for fine lines and anatomical studies.

My second pencil is a Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder with a 2 mm 4B lead. It’s softer and broader, so it’s great for massing in form quickly and making dark marks.

 

sketch

The fewer and simpler your travel tools, the more accessible they can be for sketching.

 

Since I use soft lead, I need to keep my drawings from smearing. The best way to do this is to use a small sketchbook with a sewn spine, rather than a spiral-bound book.

Moleskine’s Art Plus Collection has some good options. Pages shift easily in a spiral-bound book so, if you do use one, stretch a rubber or elastic hair band around the covers when the sketchbook is closed; this keeps the pages from rubbing together and smearing your work. When you get home, give each page a spray of fixative.

Choose Your Subject

People in airports are typically one of three things:

  • The runner
  • The walker
  • The sitter

The Runner

This is the person hurrying to a gate, running as fast as the carry-on luggage will allow. You may have 30 seconds—or less—to sketch. There’s no time to do a detailed study of form; instead, all you can capture is the gesture.

I like to make quick thumbnail silhouettes. A lot of artists worry about being caught in the act of sketching from life. The scurrier doesn’t have time to pay attention to you, so sketch all you want!

 

sketch

The Runner: Making quick thumbnail sketches is the best way to capture a traveler on the move.

 

Pay close attention to posture. I mentally drop a plumb line from the subject’s abdomen (where the center of balance is located), and observe how the arc of the spine and legs relate to this line. I just mass in the form with shading.

Also, note the way carrying luggage changes posture. Often an arm carrying a bag creates a pleasing opposing arc to the figure’s overall gesture. Sometimes I even start the sketch by noting the weight and position of the bag—it can be an anchor around which you can build the figure.

The Walker

This person has plenty of time between connections to stop by shop windows and think about a gift. You, too, have more time—and the opportunity to study physical types, walking styles and the way carry-ons and personal items affect the figure. The stroller probably won’t notice you sketching either.

 

sketch

The Walker: People casually walking through the airport give you time
to analyze gesture and movement.

 

I observe the way the walkers carry their weight. If they’re standing still, they’re most likely carrying the center of balance over one leg.

The faster they move, the farther the center of balance will be ahead of the trailing foot. I may drop a plumb line from the center of balance and build the body around that line.

Again, I look for how luggage is carried. Shoulder bags, backpacks and carried bags all affect the body’s posture in different ways.

The Sitter

This person is “shopped out” or maybe patiently waiting for the gate call. If you can work discretely, you can sketch these types for an extended period.

You can study a variety of seated postures as well as the anatomy of the clothed figure. This person also provides a great opportunity for a head study.

Sometimes the sitter is a sleeper so you won’t have to worry about getting caught. You’ll probably even have time to erase and correct the sketch!

 

sketch

The Sitter: Drawing travelers at rest is easy. At your leisure, you can study the way furniture holds the figure, the way clothing drapes and even the basic anatomical shapes that construct the figure.

 

When I’m sketching the sitter, I have a lot of fun. The positions are almost limitless—slouched, perched forward on the seat, sitting upright or leaning with head held in hand. Sitting at a cafe or bar, this person may be eating or drinking; at the gate, the sitter may be reading, texting or watching TV.

Any of these airport personas is worth studying. I observe folds in the shirt or pants and the way clothes hang on the body. If the head is interesting, I sketch it.

***

You can read more articles like this one, as well as peruse through artist advice, art inspiration, instruction and more by subscribing to The Artist’s Magazine.

What’s Next? Try Your Hand at Urban Sketching

Get excited about drawing and painting your new favorite places with urban sketcher, Marco Taro Holmes. In this preview of Drawing & Painting in a Travel Journal, you’ll get an introduction to Holmes’ three-step process: pencil, to pen, to brush.

Let the pencil capture the composition, the pen provide the fun details, and the watercolor add the harmony and life to your subjects. Happy sketching, artists!

 

The post Sketch While You Wait | The Artist’s Answer to Airport Boredom appeared first on Artist's Network.

If You Are Ready to Sell Art Online Read This

Selling your art online is all about price point, price variety, and letting your audience get to know you, the artist! Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Selling your art online is all about price point, price variety, and letting your audience get to know you, the artist! Photo courtesy Getty Images.

You Don’t Have to Be a Business Mogul to Make a Living from Your Art

I love the fact that we live in a day and age when artists have so much control over their careers. Making a living through creativity and artistic output is not only possible, but it is very likely if you do a few things right. Even more, I’m especially thrilled to see how we can sell art online. Putting artists in the drivers seat!

Know Your Price Point–Or Points

If you want to sell art online, industry standards tell us that $5,000 is a cap for the high end of what collectors and buyers are willing to pay to buy a work online. That’s not to say you should mark all your works for sale at this price. I recommend offering several different price points. That way you begin to groom young patrons who may not have a lot of money–but really like your art. More affordable price points or purchase plans are a great way to do that and, with the latter, you can set up online options that make this relatively secure and easy.

Imagery Is Key

Granted, looking at art online is not the same as viewing it in person. But the fact is that thousands more eyeballs can view your work on the web and that means you have to put presentation first. Get good photos of the work you plan to offer as well as a variety of shots. A shot in situ, a photo that is tight to the image, and several close-ups if possible–so patrons can get a real sense of the surface and any possible texture that exists on the surface.

Often Is Key

Sell art online and soon your paintings and drawings will be framed and on collectors' walls all over the world. Or at least that's my dream for you!

Sell art online and soon your paintings and drawings will be framed and on collectors’ walls all over the world. Or at least that’s my hope for you!

If you decide to offer art for sale online, try to give your audience–whether through email or through your social platforms–a schedule they can get familiar with. If you offer a landscape painting every Monday, patrons will start to anticipate seeing a landscape–and that builds excitement and interest for you.

Your Personality Is Key

If you sell your art online, your work will stand for itself. But you as the unique artist is a big part of the equation and not to be underestimated! Show your personality and slices of your life. It allows your patrons to get to know you and excited about you–and your art. Artists often think collectors just want to make the transition and go, but collectors often really respect the artists they follow and are curious about them. If you are comfortable sharing of yourself, I guarantee your audience is going to really respond.

And Don’t Forget the Paperwork

I know. We all hate it. That’s why I left it for last. But when you sell art online, you definitely want to consider insurance during shipping and a contract that protects you. Wherever you sell art online–whether through your own eCommerce store or an online art selling hub–make sure you are protected and you consult a legal professional and or CPA beforehand.

Make Your Next Move!

If you want to sell art online, you definitely can! But do you feel like you need to know more to confidently take the next step? Good! That means you are on the right track. ArtistsNetwork is in a position to offer you exactly what you need to accelerate your art career. Take our 60-second survey and sound off about your unique situation and interests. That way we can best equip you to make your art career a success starting now–and on your own terms. Everyone who answers the survey will automatically be entered to win a free $50 Gift Card to the North Light Shop. Click here to take the survey and let us start tailoring your art career for you!

Courtney 

The post If You Are Ready to Sell Art Online Read This appeared first on Artist's Network.

Taking Measurements, Drawing Torsos and More: 5 Figure Drawing Tips

Are you wanting to take your figure drawings to the next level? We want that for you, too. Here are five figure drawings tips straight from the experts. Enjoy!

1. In the Beginning, There Was a Rectangle

Start by drawing a proportional rectangle into which your subject exactly fits. You want to ensure the correct proportion of height to width, based on your point of view. This enables the subject to be scaled and placed onto the paper exactly where you wish.

A rectangle is easier to move, resize and revise than an entire human figure. A rectangle also supplies a valuable framework for the drawing. Reference points can be created and located relative to the rectangle to confirm the figure’s proportions. The first reference point is called the anchor, and all other reference points are made relative to it.

–Jason Franz, “The Three-Layer Figure”

 

Jason Franz | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

2012_1_24, by Jason Franz, 2012, colored pencil, 14 x 11.

 

2. Draw First, Measure Second

There is a belief among some artists that measurements are to be placed before the marks representing the body are made. I’ve always felt that this is problematic, it makes one inhibited in his or her approach. It means an artist is being driven not by natural means but by adherence to a grid.

I think a measuring mark is meant to be in support of a drawing mark. If you draw first, then measure, you eventually may not have to measure as much. If you draw without measurement, you’ll draw naturally, and that natural way of drawing will get more refined as you grow to appreciate that the eye is the final judge.

–Dan Thompson, “A Many-Sided Approach to the Figure”

 

Dan Thompson | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

Dan Thompson conducting a figure drawing demonstration at the Art Students League of New York.

 

3. Draw With The Entire Arm

I sharpen pencils to needle-sharp points, then I hold them with thumb and forefinger and draw with my entire arm, not just with my fingers and wrists. You need to sit well back.

All your measurements should be made with an arm’s length extension so that every time you make a sight measurement, the pencil is the same distance from your eye.

–Mark Tennant, “Beauty, Balance and Accuracy”

 

4. Avoid ‘Balloon Torsos’

Try not to automatically make one side of the torso equal to the other, like a balloon. There is nothing worse than drawing a balloon torso—unless, of course, that is your goal.

A common problem for beginning artists is to fall into the trap of thinking the figure is symmetrical on all sides, something that even many advanced artists are ensnared by when drawing heavy or muscular models. To help free yourself of this mindset, try to draw the model from the skeleton outward.

–Dan Gheno, “The Core Figure: A Source of Power and Accuracy”

 

Bernini | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

Daniel, by Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1655, red chalk on paper, 14 3/4 x 9 1/4. Collection Museum der Bildenden Kunste, Leipzig, Germany.

 

5. Consider The Clavicle

The clavicle is a great landmark for artists because it can be seen just under the skin for its entire length. There are distinct variations in the clavicles of men and women—so much so that forensic experts use it to determine gender when examining skeletal remains.

In men, the clavicles are thick, rough and stout, with pronounced curves. From a frontal view, the bones appear relatively level or even angle up as they move out to where they articulate with the shoulder blade.

In women, the clavicles are slenderer, smoother and have shallower curves. In a frontal view, the female clavicles are either level or angled slightly downward.

–Larry Withers, “12 Anatomical Differences Between Men and Women”

 

Larry Withers | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

Distinct variations are often visible in the clavicles of men and women. Illustration by Larry Withers.

 

***

These five pieces of figure drawing advice were first featured in “The Figure: The Best of Drawing,” a special issue from Drawing magazine devoted entirely to the figure.

To learn much more from the artists and instructors quoted here, you can Be sure to check out this special Drawing issue in the North Light Shop. Happy reading and drawing, artists!

The_Figure_SIP_Figure_Drawing

 


 

Interested in more figure drawing techniques?

Below, instructor Maureen Killaby shares her advice for creating skin textures in portrait and figure drawing. More video instruction from this artist–and many others–can be found at ArtistsNetwork.tv.

 

The post Taking Measurements, Drawing Torsos and More: 5 Figure Drawing Tips appeared first on Artist's Network.

Your Art Should Feel Like Play–Not Work

Blue Danube by Nancy Reyner, acrylic painting and gold leaf.

Blue Danube by Nancy Reyner, acrylic painting and gold leaf.

Nancy Reyner Leads an Acrylic Revolution

Sometimes we just need a little revolt. Just a little push or change to make us take nothing for granted. It’s that way in art and in life. For life…I’ll leave your personal revolts to you, lol. But in painting, you never want the work to feel like anything other than play. I look to Nancy Reyner to see where she leads in this regard. An accomplished acrylic artist, Nancy creates incredibly powerful paintings by playing through techniques that aren’t taught in any class I’ve taken before. Instead, she pushes the medium and experiments with gesture and layers, and the results are kinda wondrous. You can almost feel the joy they are steeped in.

Play with Your Tools

Nancy stress that you can paint with acrylic on so many different surfaces. The same is true about the tools you paint with. Here are a few to try:

Feathers

Toothbrushes

Combs

Straws

Coins

Branches, leaves, or flowers

Hidden Rainbow by Nancy Reyner, acrylic painting.

Hidden Rainbow by Nancy Reyner, acrylic painting.

Playing with Your Surface

Nancy is also a big advocate of playing with your surface. It is your starting point and can yield a lot of inspiration. So consider staining it beforehand. An underpainting allows for subsequent layers of color to really pop. Add texture. If you are using a panel, scuff up the surface. If you are using canvas, abrade it. You can also paint on paper. Or mold that paper to a three-dimensional shape and paint a literal sculpture. Or you could crumple the paper before you start and allow the creases and folds to carry you through.

When Your Painting Is Done — Quick Tip

Acrylic has a two-part drying process. The first part, known as “dry to the touch,” means the top layer of the paint skin has dried due to the evaporation of the water in the paint. The second part involves the polymer or acrylic in the paint, which takes several days to several weeks to fully cure. The actual curing time is dependent on the layer’s thickness and environmental factors. During this curing time, it is important to not tightly wrap or store the artwork in a closed environment and to avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures.

Ready for the Revolution?

Nancy Reyner is an artist who, I would claim, never worked a day in her life…at least when it comes to painting. The joy and freedom of play and rule-breaking is an essential part of who she is as an artist. Let her show you the way to revolution with the video download of her Acrylic Revolution workshop. Nancy shows you how to take basic exercises like painting skies and trees and turn them into creative powerhouse moments. And right now, we are having a super sale on video downloads, where you get 2 for 1! Double up on your resources now and enjoy!

Courtney 

The post Your Art Should Feel Like Play–Not Work appeared first on Artist's Network.

Harry Potter and the Art of Inspiration | 20 Years of Magic

 

artist spotlight digital artist amanda penley harry potter

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry (digital) by Amanda Penley

Twenty years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in the U.K. The U.S. was next with a title change to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and publication on September 1, 1998—which happens to be the first day of term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ten points to Hufflepuff! (I’m a proud Hufflepuff, and nothing will change that!)

 

Now, the series has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide has been translated into 73 languages. We met Amanda Penley last year thanks to her magical Harry Potter digital illustrations. Get to know Penley below, and hear how the world of Harry Potter has impacted her artistic expression.

Harry Potter Art Inspiration

Amanda Penley

Making Art Magic with Digital Art

I studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Georgia, and graduated in June. I love the Harry Potter series. This might sound terribly cliche, but Harry is my favorite character. We share the same birthday, and while I don’t share his absolutely terrible past, I did lose my father when I was very young. He became a character that I could really relate to since we shared similar issues.

 

artist spotlight digital artist amanda penley harry potter

The Burrow (digital) by Amanda Penley

 

I was sitting at home one day in October and Harry Potter was playing on ABC Family (now Freeform), and that feeling of old parchment and warm Butterbeer helped me realize it was time to pay homage to something that was so near and dear to my heart.

For the Harry Potter Illustrations, I start off with a reference photograph, then get to work on Adobe Illustrator and start blocking out shapes of the buildings. I also work with a limited color palette, and I create all the scenes of the locations at night for contingency. For example, with Malfoy Manor, I decided to create Malfoy Manor with a blue tone because Malfoy is described as loving Peacocks. I wanted to subtly hint to that.

Once I flesh out the building, I start to add shadows and figure out how I want the piece to animate. From there I bring it into photoshop where I add textures and halftones, among other elements.

 

artist spotlight digital artist amanda penley harry potter

Malfoy Manor (digital) by Amanda Penley

 

With digital art, opportunities are endless. Firstly you have the ability to completely correct your mistakes as if they never happened. Secondly, once you know how to use the tools, it becomes the only toolbox you need.

With Photoshop Brushes, you can create realistic looking gouache paintings and overlaying textures. Other than digital illustrations, I really enjoy just using pen, ink, and gouache paint. They help keep me grounded from all the technology.

The best advice I can give is to create art that you love, but also art that will inspire and capture others. I wanted to create fan art to share my love for Harry Potter, and from there you never know who will be looking–say an editor for a magazine!

 

artist spotlight digital artist amanda penley harry potter

Gringotts Bank (digital) by Amanda Penley


This inside look into Amanda Penley’s digital art first appeared in a past issue of The Artist’s Magazine.  

The post Harry Potter and the Art of Inspiration | 20 Years of Magic appeared first on Artist's Network.

Cookbook Art Worth Breaking Your Diet For

Cookbook art is the perfect blend of our two favorite things: food and art. What better way to kick off the start of summer than indulging our eyes and our taste buds all at the same time? Let’s dig in!

365 Days of Delicious Foods — David Meldrum

cookbook art

Collage, acrylic, watercolor, pen and ink on paper, 11 7/10 x 16 1/2) by David Meldrum

 

We’re all too familiar with the dreaded food resolution. Don’t eat fun things: cake, butter, choose-your-weakness—David Meldrum’s resolution was of a different nature. “One evening whilst waiting for a bowl of noodles to cool,” he says, “I started drawing them. I thought, perhaps, a day’s food intake would be interesting, then perhaps a month’s before deciding that a year’s would be really interesting and challenging!”

That’s how the Food Illustrator Project was born; and at the end of it, he would land a gallery show to display each of his 365 finished works. His favorites are less associated with the food and more with the memories of the day. That being said, look out for frogs. Meldrum ate 122 Cadbury Freddo Milk Chocolates over the course of the year.

 

cookbook art

Acrylic, pen and ink on a paper menu, 8 1/4 x 11 7/10) by David Meldrum

 

A Little Still Life with Your Entree — Mollie Katzen

cookbook art

Broccoli on Chinese Silk from Still Life with Menu (pastel on paper, 9×13) by Mollie Katzen

 

Among the ranks of classic cookbooks, Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook is the cherry on top of a literary sundae that gives little room to vegetarians. It’s been more than four decades since the book was self-published by Katzen, and still, the book reigns supreme, selling 20,000 to 30,000 copies each year, complete with her charming black-and-white illustrations and hand-lettered text to accompany the recipes.

Although her original success in Moosewood is going strong, she finds success, too, in art. “After making two black-and-white books with decorative illustrations and hand lettering in pen and ink,” she says, “I wanted to expand to color and full compositions, so I could bring my love of painting into the process.” What resulted was Still Life with Menu Cookbook, in which pastel vignettes, more fully formed and with bright color, accompany the menus laid out by Katzen.

 

cookbook art

Vegetable Heaven (pastel on paper, 18×24) by Mollie Ketzen

 

Olive John Burgoyne’s Food Drawings (get it?)

cookbook art

Ollives, Cook’s Illustrated (pen, ink and watercolor on paper, 19 1/2 x 16 1/4) by John Burgoyne

 

Scientific and classical, the food drawings that John Burgoyne creates highlight the ingredient itself as pure, unadulterated–the pinnacle of man’s cultivation. You might recognize Borgoyne’s work from the back page of Cook’s Illustrated, a page he’s been creatively executing for nearly two decades.

The page is typically of a single food item in its many iterations: varieties of heirloom tomatoes, types of French cheeses, even more playful food groups like hard candies. “In 1998, Amy Klee redesigned Cook’s Illustrated,” says Burgoyne. “Part of the redesign was to illustrate the back covers, and they brought me on board. Cook’s has been so passionate about the magazine and its artistic personality.” That passion has translated into 108 back covers for Borgoyne in his signature bold, academic style, and he says collectors are starting to take notice.

 

cookbook art

Cherry Tomatoes, Cook’s Illustrated (pen, ink and watercolor on paper, 13 1/2 x 11) by John Burgoyne

 

We think art + food = delightful. Do you? Let us know your favorite food-inspired art in the comments below! And, be sure to watch the preview below of Capturing Light & Form: Still Life in Pastel with Alain Picard to learn how light and shadow create the form of an object, and apply those lessons to a still life of three apples on a table.

 

If you enjoyed this preview, head to ArtistsNetwork.tv to stream the full-length video workshop.

 

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New York Academy of Art Loses Main Employer

 Jeff Koons: Art vs Fabricated Product

Koons lets go of half his production staff | Artists Network

Jeff Koons attended The Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden at MOMA on June 5, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Museum of Modern Art)

 

Jeff Koons has built a blue-chip art career on the project manager model; without doubt, he is a brilliant designer and stylist. He is to fine art what Madonna is to pop music—a lot of style and biz smarts. Actual artistry—in the traditional sense of having skill in painting and drawing—not really.

Koons came of age during the heyday of “appropriation” — a fancy art world term for copying someone else’s work. Since the 90s, Koons has perfected plagiarism: surfing the net, scooping up imagery at will, and generating falsified objets d’art for two- and three-dimensional fabrication. But maybe we give him too much credit. A personal assistant could definitely have been involved.

But an age gets the art it deserves, yes? Koons rightly predicted that a largely uneducated art consumer, impulsive and flush with cash, would dive straight for art that referenced porn, pop culture, kitsch and spectacle. His production house bet correctly that his targeted customers wouldn’t like art that had “arty” conceptual underpinnings nor would they like art that looked “arty.”

They liked photographs, cereal boxes and ceramic statues that looked mass produced and factory fresh. They didn’t like the telltale signs of one-off, hand-made objects with idiosyncratic brush marks or expressive paint drips.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Koons’ fabrication studio while working as an administrator for the New York Academy of Art. When I arrived, Koons was stationed at a computer composing clown faces. Assistants worked on large canvases screened with topographic shapes reminiscent of paint by number kits. With color chips matched to Koons’ computer print-outs, they painted and blended the shapes, aiming foremost for imperceptible color transitions and suppressing brushstrokes for a “Look, Ma, no hands” finish.

Assistants worked on large canvases screened with topographic shapes reminiscent of paint by number kits. With color chips matched to Koons’ computer print-outs, they painted and blended the shapes, aiming foremost for imperceptible color transitions and suppressing brushstrokes for a “Look, ma, no hands” finish.

The Academy’s students were, up to very recently, ideal studio workers for Koons. Trained realist painters, they could paint with precision. They were dependable–being hungry and in need of employment breeds such. They were also somewhat lost: The greater art world had not yet figured out how to embrace representation again so the budding artistry and native talent of these students lay fallow as there was no viable market for their work.

Skip ahead to the here and now. Last week, amidst a lackluster market for Koons’ more recent work and an effort on the part of his studio staff to unionize, Koons cut his production team by half. He intimated the change reflects the next evolution of his process whereby image transfer and creation will move into a digital mode, from human hand to push of button.

Il Paradiso by Tintoretto

Il Paradiso by Tintoretto

Ruskin, Where Are You

The irony of truly earnest, well-trained artists working as laborers in the fabrication of irony-laced post-modern art objects is cringe-worthy. Koons’ studio production is a modern day extension (perversion?) of the Renaissance studio, where teams of artists working to support the vision of a master artist led to the creation of sublime masterpieces such as Tintoretto’s Il Paradiso. We get  Koons’ Gazing Ball ( El Greco’s View of Toledo).

Gazing Ball (El Greco, View of Toledo) by Jeff Koons.

Gazing Ball (El Greco, View of Toledo) by Jeff Koons.

 

Let me be clear. I am no fan of the sort of pricey art-world merchandise Koons produces. Or at least not insofar as it has become a standard of contemporary art, codifying creative success. He is a brilliant product designer. But he is no artist.

The Academy, on the other hand, has fought an uphill battle to preserve the spirit and skill of gifted practitioners. I suppose it is the romantic in me, but I, too, champion artists who rely solely upon their own powers of mind, hand and spirit to create objects of intention and meaning. Their works are not meant to be art as toy, to entertain rather to enlighten. Their underlying symbolism and aesthetic grace is revealed slowly over time and with sustained observation and contemplation. It begs, yet again, the question of how that level of artwork can ever hope to compete with objects that play to a viewing public looking for a premium thrill and big splash?

On a larger cultural note, Koons’ ascendance in the art world and his exploitation of labor is a tale that speaks volumes of the times we live in as well as times gone by. During the Industrial Revolution, cultural leaders, among them author and artist John Ruskin, spoke out against mechanized mass production obliterating craft expertise.

Jeff Koons lets go of half his production staff | Artists Network

Piazza delle Erbe in Verona (Italy), 1841, watercolor by John Ruskin (1819-1900)

 

Ruskin believed mechanized labor robbed human beings of dignity. He longed for a return to the Gothic and the handmade, a stance that seeded the start of the Arts and Crafts movement among the artists and makers of his day.

Perhaps our antidote is similar. In our rapidly evolving, increasingly digital world, we set aside our smartphones, ditch the digital salt mines and return to the soul-enriching work we do with our hands and our hearts.

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