Wednesday, June 29, 2016

last best of

After two years of performing moderator duties on a specialty watercolorists gallery at Deviant Art, I'm retired from that post as of the last day of June. I should probably explain that since the group allows anyone who uses water based media to show their work there are big gaps in quality of the work accepted for general display. While we have no criteria regarding skill and professionalism some artists are far better than others.

Over the course of my term there I've been responsible every other month or so to choose ten favorites for our regular feature. As I just finished making the list and having written brief comments about each image (for the last time) I thought you might enjoy looking at the:

Best of June 2016 at dA Watercolorists!

Comic by Martidy
Proving the point that comics are a vibrant art form, we have this fine example of narrative art that needs no words to further its story. The layout is beautifully balanced and the colors and forms a visual delight.

Spices by jackfox2008
The white background of this elegant still life forces us to focus our  attention on the objects. Timeless and unattached to a specific location their subtle colors and shapes show us a meaning beyond the ordinary.

Between Dreams and Reality by beyondpat
 Free association unrestricted by reason can produce surprising, unexpected imagery. With a clever and whimsical disregard for tradition this artist has produced an imaginative and intriguing image.

Night owl by 0618623
 By envisioning the essence of a nighttime city, rather than its exact parameters, the artist has presented us with a dreamlike landscape of shadow and light. Whether it's a place in reality is left to our interpretation.

Wooden church from Kotan by GreeGW
 The strong colors of this watercolor entertain the viewer with a  wonderfully fresh, luminous style that transforms an otherwise ordinary scene into a unique surrounding full of deep meaning.

Another Wednesday Walk by Odditorium
Watercolor and fantasy have always been a good match. This fine illustration shows a the artist's skill and restraint in its elegant arrangement and subtle coloring as the open spaces pull our eyes toward the main figures. It'd definitely a painting that tells its own story.

Shire hills by SarkaSkorpikova
The graceful verdant hills of this beautiful and evocative vision of Tolkien's Middle Earth make it a magical landscape. While there are no hobbits, elves, dwarves, magicians or any other mythological characters in view, the picture is full of their presence.

Watercolor22 by Viktosa
This is a beauteous cat, a cat of character, a cat of determination, a cat with dignity, a cat whose tiny prominent teeth make me want to give him a home. The fine design and subdued palette almost make me forget my preference for dogs.

Red Squirrel Painting by EsthervanHulsen
I'm never quite sure where the boundary lies between realistic and photo-realistic but I do know painting realistic watercolors takes time.   This wonderfully detailed painting shows the spark of personality and character that makes even the smallest creature a unique being.

Rose garden by eiger3975
Using high contrast light and shadow, clear and uncompromising colors, and strong design, this artist is skilled at mixing contemporary images with an art deco style. This is just one example from his fine gallery of images.

I hope you enjoyed seeing them and the links if you felt like looking at more of their work. Now I'm no longer responsible for going there every day I may just get on with some of my own work. Maybe..

current events

I missed posting last week so I'll put up two today - this one because Matt Stoller described something in a series of Twitter posts I'd never heard of before. Come to think of it you could write a book about the things I never heard of (Crow agrees).

(1) The basic dynamic re: #Brexit and #TPP is that post-WWII we stretched multinationals around the globe to keep nation-states from warring.

(2) National industries and nationalism were seen as causal factors in two recent wars that killed tens of millions.

(3) Some, like George Ball, were explicit.

(4) "to fulfill its full potential the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries..."

(5) " - or, in other words, for restrictions imposed by individual national governments"." Ball helped create the post-war trade agenda.

(6) Ball was a huge proponent of the EU. Opposed Vietnam War, seen as very liberal. Supported multinationals over national sovereignty.

(7) By late 60s Nixon opposed free trade. Maurice Stans negotiated textile controls w/Japan/Taiwan/Hong Kong, was called racist for doing so

(8) The Ball generation sought to prevent war, understood the multinational as a responsible actor constrained by antitrust and regulation.

(9) Lifting of restrictions on multinationals in the 1980s/1990s led to monopolies, financial disasters, w/no sovereign capacity to govern.

(10) Sovereign state power to make war originally would be checked by corporate supply chains, free trade, orgs like IMF

(11) But the cure for nationalist warfare - multinationals - mutated. And multinationals unfettered do not meet human needs.

(12) So people are crying out for some sovereign aside from the corporation (which is a grant of sovereign power). And nationalism is back!

(13) But this is not a right-wing phenomenon. Many on the left, though not socialists, want localism. Nation-state is more local than IMF.

(14) But the old DNA of George Ball is still there. If you do not see the virtues of free trade and multinationals, then.. warmonger!

(15) For globalizing elites, it literally is unthinkable to stop stretching corporations around the world. They cannot imagine it...

(16) ... because they see it as restarting World War II. They think they are peaceniks.

(17) That is why Germany, France, etc want to punish UK or Greece for bucking them. Don't these people realize that WORLD WAR will come?!?!

Next is Professor Mark Blyth of Brown University regarding Brexit. This is quite entertaining.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

getting it right

One of the more frustrating things that can happen when attempting to get a true image of a painting is the result you see here. The tree trunks have almost no yellow when I look at the painting, but no matter what settings I used for the scanner or how I tried to manipulate the colors with my rudimentary PhotoShop program, I simply couldn't get it any closer to how the picture looks in reality. So this is it - pretty enough that I wanted to share it with you, but hardly satisfactory when it comes to a real translation of the image. If you've ever looked through Google images of famous paintings you'll see I'm not the only one to have had this kind of problem.

Recently,  I came across some words in languages other than English that describe things familiar to all of us. The more words we have about the natural world, in my opinion, the better.

Mangata (Swedish): The road-like reflection of the moon in the water.

Ammil (English, old Devon): The thin film of ice that lacquers the outdoors when a freeze follows a partial thaw, and that in sunlight can cause a whole landscape to glitter.

Komorebi (Japanese): The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees.

Gurfa (Arabic): The amount of water that can be held in one hand.

Poronkusema (Finnish): The distance a reindeer can comfortably travel before taking a break.

Eit (Gaelic): The practice of placing shiny stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and attract salmon in the late summer and autumn.

Murr-ma (Wagiman): The act of searching for something in the water with only your feet.

Kalpa (Sanskrit): The passing of time on a grand cosmological scale.

Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods, an easy solitude and a connectedness to nature.

Kintsukuroi (Japan):  the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver joining the pieces and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Quote of the week:
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

~ Bertrand Russell

Thursday, June 9, 2016

now and then

Although I didn't take this picture the lady slippers are in bloom in our favorite park again. I didn't know they were a kind of orchid until today. Aren't they pretty?

I've also been thinking about the future and how the ideas of experts have often been wrong:

'I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.'
~ Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com and inventor of Ethernet, writing in 1995. In 1999, addressing the Sixth International WWW Conference, Metcalfe put a copy of his infamous column into a blender, pureed it, and drank it.

'There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States.'
~ T.A.M. Craven, Federal Communications Commission commissioner in 1961. Needless to say, Mr. Craven is no longer the commissioner of the FCC.

'I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.'
~ Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM in 1943. Of course, Watson was referring to room-size mega-machines filled with vacuum tubes. But still..

'The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.'
~ Sir William Preece, chief engineer, British Post Office in 1876. Messenger boys?

'This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.'
~ Western Union internal memo in 1876. Western Union sent its last telegram in 2006.

'Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.'
~ Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox in 1946. He was right. Now we've moved on to aluminum and plastic televisions.

I kind of like this girl's idea about the future of robots. Only time will tell if she has the right idea:

'It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.'
~ Yogi Berra

Thursday, June 2, 2016

elephants and oliphaunts

I've not been having an easy time these past months actually finishing pictures. I'll get so far and then stop for some (or no) reason. The one above is a case in point. My first plan was to draw an old fashioned  circus parade with animals and people in all their finery gaily tramping along a modern street while a distracted child looked elsewhere - maybe at his hand held game machine. After several tries the background buildings looked boxy and boring and the kid made me sad.

Next, I drew an elephant that I liked just to see if that might inspire me to continue. He was okay but the adult riders just looked too strange, maybe I didn't draw them well enough. Then it occurred to me to place a howdah on the elephant's back with a little girl riding inside, the image you see here in it's initial stage. I liked the idea of her waving at someone and the little boy holding flowers appeared in a sketch - and what's a little boy without a dog? You can see I was venturing far along the path of childhood fantasies here.

Anyway, there I was with some main elements and preparing to draw in the background - probably an old village street or a cottage doorway, something bucolic. Then I came across some stories about how badly elephants are treated in Thailand and other countries in SE Asia where hundreds of them are rented out to carry and generally entertain tourists. In particular, I read that elephants can only safely carry 150 kilos (330lb) on their backs, and howdahs alone weigh 100 kilos. More than that can make them suffer debilitating back injuries. I read more awful things as well that I won't tell you but the end result was I didn't feel like working on this picture anymore.

It seems to me there are things that are fun to imagine that don't work out quite so well in the world as it is. We've all watched chase scenes in movies that have kept us so caught up with excitement we didn't allow ourselves to realize that if this had happened in the real world then we just watched passively as a whole bunch of people were maimed or killed. I'd like to think that somewhere a little girl can ride inside a howdah and wave to a little boy who has brought her flowers, or that people can ride on elephants without hurting them, or that somewhere lions are lying down with lambs. In the meantime I'll put that particular image on the back burner while I think of something even more fantastic.. and much less painful for any of our fellow creatures.

On a happier note, last month The Ringling Bros circus sent its performing elephant troupe into early retirement with their friends and relatives in Florida.