Creatives and their art forms

English for Artists should highlight different art forms, e.g. profiling artists expressing themselves in the various media. The Thrash Lab vlog and YouTube playlist include a profile of Saber, a graffiti artist who has branched out. In this profile he describes the work that made him a name, similarities to typography, and how he reacts to young people today who engage in the illegal art of graffiti.

manifest something through the creative process
maintain a level of inspiration
my artist name is
I’m based in… and have been painting for X years
I knew that art was what I wanted, and graffiti was the venue that I chose.
Picture diving headfirst into your signature and making it your number one mission
Typography is held at a high level of design
We are master typographers
I was willing to risk my life and freedom
Something made me go do it
We were one of the first to use housepaint
I just took it from there
26 gallons of bucket paint were used
It just so happened to be the biggest piece in the world – the biggest illegal piece ever painted.
It became a home plate for graffiti
It takes years and years to stumble into those processes
My paintings represent 22 years of intense art-making

“Art gets a bad rap because it’s considered something that’s elite, and something that only an elite person can understand, when that’s not true. ’cause every single kid in the world picked up a crayon once and had that little spark.”

“There’s two kids I meet in the world. And there’s the kid who says, ‘Hey Saber, I’m so happy to meet you, and take the Facebook photo’ and I’m nice and I do it all, and then they say ‘Yeah, I’m a’go bombing tonight’ And I go ‘na, you should go on a computer, you know, you should do graphic design, you should get into school, that’s what’s your path is.’ And then I meet the kid who says ‘Wassup Saber’ and I go, ok, I feel it in him, and I go, ‘You know what, go crush those freeways’, because you know what, that’s all he has, and the alternative is a lot worse.”

Painting from Life

Videos on painting from life by The Art Students’ League of New York would be useful in an English course for Artists. Here I would focus on how an artist, Sharon Sprung,  describes her process as she paints. Notice how difficult it is to multitask, producing both visually and verbally, and both commenting on the process and beginning a new action, This involves associative holistic and analytical faculties at the same time, and makes the artist sound slightly distracted.

On the receptive side, as you watch, you’re filling in what the artist shows but doesn’t explicitly say – or can’t express in words – which adds a completely different dimension of understanding. In these videos I find it’s almost impossible to listen without watching, or to watch without listening, to understand what is going on at any given moment.

Explore The Art Students’ League of New York YouTube channel.

Rob Ross: The Joy of Painting

No series of posts on English for artists would be complete without mentioning Rob Ross and his PBS TV series, The Joy of Painting (’83-’94). I’ve been fascinated watching the shapes emerge, and have laughed tears listening to the painter, all down-homey, talking about his little old messy brushes – but that’s ok – just sort of touching the canvas – see how easy it is? – that easy – have a good time deciding where those little rascals the trees or the snow are going to live – and build a happy little cloud – just have fun and drop it in – you can do it – relax – let it flow – and we don’t make mistakes, they’re just happy accidents – we’re not worried – we can do anything and we’re doing ok here – all kind of beautiful little things will happen…
Smiling? Yeah, me too. Wide open to parody, and very much to his credit, Rob Ross participated in a sweet mashup poking fun at him and his show.

John Myatt: Forger’s Masterclass

John Myatt is known as “the master forger” and the perpetrator of the “biggest art fraud of the 20th century”: “The crime: In 1986 John created a painting for (Professor) Drewe in the style of Cubist painter Albert Gleizes. Drewe called Myatt to tell him Christie’s had valued the piece at £25K…” which resulted in Myatt producing some 200 fakes up to 1993. When the fraud was uncovered, he went to prison on a relatively lenient and brief sentence. He has since had two TV series, one of which was called Mastering the Arts or Forger’s Masterclass – the latter name is used in the videos I’m sharing from YouTube, yet the former name is mentioned in John Myatt’s website. It involves him teaching amateurs how to paint in the style of  a different great master each lesson. I find the series highly engaging. It’s wonderful to watch people rise to the challenge and leaving their comfort zones, and to talk about painting in this very hands-on way. It may be standard painting class, but it’s fun to watch a forger share insights. Each episode is about 28 minutes.

I could see basing an English course for Artists and Art Historians on these videos. What I like about them is that each is a springboard for the history of the artist and his times, each has three different art students from a wide range of backgrounds discussing what they want to get right, and they’re responding to their teacher encouraging and cajoling them. What do you think?

Episode 1: Edward Hopper
Episode 2: Alain Derain
Episode 3: Vincent Van Gogh
Epidode 4: Claude Monet
Episode 5: David Hockney
Episode 6: Georges Braque
Episode 7: Pierre August Renoir
Episode 8: John Singer Sargent
Episode 9: Amadeo Modigliani
Episode 10: Paul Cézanne

exec. producer for Granada: Jeremy Phillips
for sky arts
executive producers John Cassy + Barbara Gibbon
producer/director Emma Jessop
series producer Amanda Starvi
A Granada Production for Sky Television
British Sky Broadcasting Limited 2007

English for Artists: Virgina Peck’s Buddha paintings

I would love to write a course for English for Artists and Art Historians. Art was my first love, before I decided to go into history and then later into language teaching, and I still go to art galleries every chance I can.
To realize my dream, I’ll need to win some artists as clients first.
Today: Virginia Peck’s process for painting the Buddha.

start with a white canvas
apply the underpainting
let loose and have fun
make a gestural, abstract underpainting
inform all the successive layers to come
use a statue for reference
take charcoal to sketch in the face
heavy (or light) on the canvas
brush away the charcoal
“until there is just a faint indication of the face, so the charcoal won’t be mixing with and dulling the paint.”
(Use future continuous to anticipate and preview future processes)
indicate the shadow areas
depending on whether I use oil or acrylic
I add marble dust or modelling paste into the paint
give it volume and texture
layer complementary colors on top of the underpainting
use pallet knives of different sizes to apply
the paint sits up on top
show through in places
decide what marks to keep or get rid of
enhancing or distracting from the overall effect
glaze parts with thinned-down paint
define or pull together an area
later go back in and add
give it more life and interest
use a belt sander to take off the highest peaks of paint
reveal interesting colors or patterns
the painting is done
give the painting a title

Meg Rutherford: The Beautiful Island

My favorite book, Meg Rutherford’s The Beautiful Island (1969), has been filmed as a video. Can you sight-read it as the text pops up?

Language points:

  • isle – island
  • memorials – memory – memorable, memorize / remember
  • towers, cathedrals, palaces, church
  • lone – lonely – alone
  • crippled – cripple – crippling
  • enchantment – enchanting – enchantingly / chant
  • courage – courageous – courageously
  • contentment – content – contentedly
  • excitement – excited – excitedly
  • windswept gorges – the wind swept across the gorges
  • sun-beaten deserts – the sun beat down on the desert
  • the sun-weary = those who are weary of the sun
  • passives:
    to mislay, to be mislaid
    to strew, to become strewn
  • to linger and rest
  • alliteration:
    drifted down
    wind whipped the waves
    cool caverns
    the sea became strewn
  • alas! (literary exclamation)
    at last (more literary than ‘finally’)
  • some crossed by tunnel and some crossed by balloon (ellipsis)
  • rhythmic meter = anapaest: till they came one by one
  • Beautiful Island (capitalization of proper nouns)
  • word partnership: bowers for lovers – lovers’ bower
  • shade vs. shadow

Bob Ross’ happy little paintings

Whatever this man was taking, I want some. Helmut thinks his paintings will be valuable one day. I’m not so sure. But his boundless optimism and general spaciness will go down in history. Bob Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995) was absolutely priceless.

He repeatedly stated on the show his belief that everyone had inherent artistic talent and could become an accomplished artist given time, practice, and encouragement, and to this end was often fond of saying, “We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents.” (From Wikipedia)

Link: Bob Ross

How to sound like Bob Ross:

Let’s just do a happy little painting
happy little strokes
just sort of let it happen
see how easy it is
I’m just an absolute fanatic for water -… love it!
That makes it sort of pretty
thought today we’d put in some happy little clouds
take out all of your frustrations and hostilities
Decide where your big ole clouds are going to live
clouds are very, very free
it doesn’t matter
happy little bushes
don’t want this little tree to be left out
all kinds of happy little things
Isn’t that super?
And it works so well
the squirrel hilton
We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents
There it comes…
Whatever, just sort of scrub it in

PS: What, spaciness isn’t in the dictionary (OED)?!?
spacy (or: spacey):

1. very eccentric or unconventional
2. spaced-out: not in touch with reality; flighty, irresponsible, neurotic
3. with lots of space, roomy
4. connected with the extraterrestrial
1. ditziness (dumb innocence); state of being off-beat