Thursday, November 5, 2015

Vincent van Gogh on Fear, Taking Risks, and How Making Inspired Mistakes Moves Us Forward [feedly]

Vincent van Gogh on Fear, Taking Risks, and How Making Inspired Mistakes Moves Us Forward
// Brain Pickings

"However meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth … steps in and does something."

During our recent conversation at the Boston Book Festival, the wise and wonderful Amanda Palmer spoke about the harrowing experience of watching her best friend die and reflected: "Everyone in this room is going to be gone pretty quickly — and we will have either made something or not made something. The artists that inspire me are the ones that I look at and go, 'Oh my god — you didn't have to go there. It would'v been safer not to — but, for whatever reason, you did.' And every time death happens, I'm reminded that it's stupid to be safe… Usually, whatever that is — wherever you don't want to go, whatever that risk is, wherever the unsafe place is — that really is the gift that you have to give."

As the words poured out of Amanda's mouth, I saw a kindred hand reach across space and time to catch them. A century and a half earlier, Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853–July 29, 1890) had articulated the same sentiment in a beautiful letter to his brother Theo, found in Ever Yours: The Essential Letters (public library) — the same treasure trove that gave us the beloved artist on talking vs. doing and the story of how he found his purpose.

'Self-Portrait with Straw Hat' by Vincent van Gogh

In a particularly impassioned letter to Theo from October 2, 1884, Van Gogh writes:

If one wants to be active, one mustn't be afraid to do something wrong sometimes, not afraid to lapse into some mistakes. To be good — many people think that they'll achieve it by doing no harm — and that's a lie… That leads to stagnation, to mediocrity. Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility.

You don't know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can't do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves.

Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares — and who has once broken the spell of "you can't."

Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn't let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, "violates"…

Ever Yours is an infinitely enlivening read in its totality. Complement it with Van Gogh on art and the power of love, depression, and his little-known sketchbooks, then revisit the great social science writer John W. Gardner on what children can teach us about taking risks.

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Ross Tran [feedly]

Ross Tran
// lines and colors

Ross Tran, concept art
Ross Tran is a concept artist and illustrator based in Southern California. He studied at the Art Center College of Design, and his credits include work for Walt Disney Studios, Psyop and Tyler West Studio.

Tran's lively, energetic digital painting technique combines areas of detail with passages that are gesturally suggested.

In addition to the professional work on his website and blog, there are a number of personal pieces, many of which were done for tutorials. His YouTube channel contains a number of short instructional videos, also available on his blog.

A number of his images are reproduced as prints, available from InPrint.


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John Bauer (update) [feedly]

John Bauer (update)
// lines and colors

John Bauer was a Swedish illustrator and painter, active around the turn of the 20th century, who I first wrote about back in 2006.

Since then, I'm happy to report, resources for images of his charming, wonderfully realized illustrations have become more widely available.

Though not as well known outside of Sweden as some of his Golden Age English, French and American contemporaries, Bauer was an influential and much beloved illustrator, known primarily for his fantasy illustrations for the popular Swedish fairy tale annual, Bland Tomtar och Troll (Among Elves and Trolls).

Bauer combined a delightful, personal drawing style with renderings in muted, textural watercolor. Though his trademark trolls — which influenced both contemporary and generations of subsequent illustrators — were portrayed with a dose of humor, his forest landscapes were dark and open to suggestion, leaving much to the imagination of the reader as to who or what might lurk in the receding darkness.

I particularly love his stylized tree forms, the way he used reflections in dark water, and the magical glowing light effect he achieved for his princesses by using contrast against his dark backgrounds.

Bauer was particularly influential on his successor at Bland Tomtar och Troll, Gustaf Tenggren, who is actually better known here in the U.S.

Among the resources I've found, the highest quality images on Bauer's work are on Animation Resources and The Golden Age Site; the most numerous are on Artsy Craftsy and Art Passions. I've listed other image resources below.

The Jönköpings Läns Museum near his home ha a large collection of his work, though only a few images online.

There is a translated collection of Swedish Folk Tales from Bland Tomtar och Troll that features Bauer's illustrations.


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Why Limit Your Palette? [feedly]

Why Limit Your Palette?
// Gurney Journey

The new issue of International Artist magazine (#106, December/January) has a four-page feature that I wrote on extreme limited palettes—palettes that have four or fewer colors plus white.

One rhetorical question I pose is: Why limit your palette?
1. Paintings from limited palettes are automatically harmonious, but they're very often eye-catching and memorable too. 
2. Old masters used limited palettes by default because they just couldn't get the range of pigments we have now. Using older, quieter colors can give a much wanted mellowness. 
3. A limited palette forces you out of color-mixing habits. If you don't have that standard "grass green" color, you'll have to mix it from scratch, and you're more likely to get the right green that way. 
4. Limited palettes are compact, portable, and sufficient for almost any subject. In fact you can paint almost anything in nature with just four or five colors.

In case you missed it, here's a recent video showing a painting made with just two colors plus white (Link to YouTube video):

International Artist magazine has been successfully using the cross-media strategy of printing QR codes next to paintings for which there is an accompanying YouTube video.
Previously on GJ: Limited Palettes 
"Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50


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