Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category
Known Unknowns and Unknown UnknownsHere, then, are thirteen ways of looking at Balla's Hand of the Violinist. They range from the dead-on to the what-the-heck.
“A man playing the violin (or his arm anyways)… the violin is drawn multiple times, rising from the middle up to the left margin of the work, becoming ‘clearer’ as it does so. The hand also clears as it moves up, its fingers crisscrossing multiple times as the multiple perspectives from different moments in time overlap in his wrist.”
“The subject matter appears to be stringed instruments. A violin is either being brought up or put down. The rest of the painting emulates the vibrations of strings, almost as if there is a harp in between the viewer and the violin.”
“Looks like the subject matter is the dynamism of someone playing the guitar—the beginnings of the interest in cinema, study of motion… To be moving around this much, the upbeat music must have been what influenced him.”
“I’m not sure about the subject matter, kind of looks like a fiery setting sun.”
“The image kind of looks like a duck flying but it definitely portrays motion.”
“When I first look at it, it looks like an abstract painting. Then I squint I can see there are dogs lined up on the track as they are [illegible] to race. Some have their heads down and some have their heads up. The gold makes it hard to tell what’s happening in the foreground.”
“Subject matter is difficult--maybe it is a dog of some sort or a farming field.”
“It appears to show someone working in a field—perhaps a farmer of some sort.”
“This unknown seems to test the boundaries of time in space by depicting what looks to be a figure running diagonally from the top left to bottom right.”
“A war piece; I say this because the picture looks as if it’s a struggle between some people which puts me at a mind of war.”
“You can see in the painting what seems to be praying hands and what seems to be people dancing within the background. The hands also seem to be reaching for something, so instead of praying, they’re grasping for the dancing figure infused into the painting.”
“It is of folded and unfolded hands, unfolding”here to comment.
Scott McCloud’s new and wonderful graphic novel, The Sculptor, follows the fortunes of David Smith. This is a David Smith who is not that David Smith--not the famous American 20th-Century sculptor whose works can be found in MoMA, the Guggenheim, and Tate Modern. Rather, he is just David Smith, a young sculptor who, it so happens, shares his name and vocation with that other guy. And, as we discover, they both share the name with a whole herd of other David Smiths. The phone directory, which David Smith consults, confirms the unsettling news.
You should, of course, buy a copy of The Sculptor after today’s talk, and immediately increase its value by asking its author to sign the words “Scott McCloud” within it. I am here to say a few words about this Scott McCloud. For he is not, let me be clear, the bassist-slash-musician Scott McCloud, or the Scott McCloud from Spring Valley High School, and nor is he Scott McCloud the tow truck driver from Accurate Auto Attention. (Thank-you, internet, for the research assistance.)
Today we will be lucky enough to listen to another Scott McCloud—one of the comic world’s foremost practitioners and thinkers. He is, among other things, the author of gripping and beautiful stories, like the Zot! comics and The Sculptor; he is an explorer and champion of webcomics and of the “infinite canvas;” he is one of the creators of the 24-Hour Comic, in which certifiably insane artists attempt to make a 24-page comic book in a day; he is the editor of the Best American Comics: 2014; and he is the author of the trilogy Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics, three brilliant and mind-opening books that use the language of comics to explore the comics world.
Understanding Comics turned me onto comics. It taught this art historian that comics are an art form, too, and that I should pay attention to them and teach them. In the book, Scott McCloud (and his cartoon alter-ego) provided me with a model for the kind of lecturer I wanted to be: instructive, philosophical, and serious, yet also engaging, funny, entertaining, and generous.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never managed to live up to this. But I did somehow persuade the authorities to allow me to teach a class on comics and the graphic novel. When I set my students Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, I know that this is a book that will speak to them. It’s a book they read and reread—a book that changes them. And many of these students are, I note, here today to experience, at long last, the real McCoy.
All the other Scott McClouds are, I’m sure, very fine Scott McClouds, but if you were to ask them today “Are you that Scott McCloud?” they would, I like to imagine, be obliged to say: “No. I’m here. And he’s giving a talk at Mississippi State.”
So without further ado, please join me in giving a warm welcome to Mr Scott McCloud.Suffice to say, it was a wonderful day and Scott's talk left the audience buzzing and, as it happens, thinking about monkeys. Want to comment? Click here. 4/2/2015: Hels, from Art and Architecture, mainly, writes: "You acknowledged the issue with comics and academe clearly. "Understanding Comics turned you onto comics. It taught this art historian that comics are an art form, too, and that you should pay attention to them and teach them". Even then you still had to "somehow persuade the authorities to allow you to teach a class on comics and the graphic novel". Has not it ever been so! Proper art history dealt with paintings, sculpture and architecture! Decades ago when I was wanting to write a post-graduate thesis on Huguenot silver art during the late 17th century, I even found it difficult to find a supervisor within the Art History Dept at my uni. Comics? I think I would never have found a supervisor back then!
I chose to do an artwork based on Gustave Caillebotte's painting The Floor Scrapers. In this painting there are three shirtless workers refinishing a floor in an apartment. When planning for this sculpture, I knew that I wanted to focus on the workers' bodies. Because of the years of work, the muscles in their bodies are particular to their work.
I decided to focus on one part of their body. I felt like the hands were the most important. I wanted to sculpt one hand from each worker. I paid specific attention to the placement of the hand, how it held the tool, and what angle the wrist and top plane of the hand created. I could have been more specific using a hand model of my own and recreating the positions in real life, but I wanted my hands to reflect Caillebotte's research.
I chose to use clay with this project. I began with the right hand of the worker on the far left. I cut basic triangle, rectangle, and square forms out of the clay. This allowed me to get the basic gesture of the hand. After I let the clay sit and harden, I was then able to carve knuckle, tendon, and fingernail details. When placing the elements together for the finished piece, I originally planned to display the hands upright as though they were completing the task only without the tools.
As I worked on the hands and completed them one by one, I began setting them aside, resting some parts on another so that I would not mess up the fingers. I liked how the hands were then working together to complete my piece. I chose a clay base on a short back pedestal. I cut the clay slabs into strips and placed them beside one another. I was hoping that this, as well as a few clay shavings, would hint back to The Floor Scrapers painting.2. Writing
And here's my second piece of Caillebotte news: later this year, I'll be giving a paper on the artist at SECAC 2012, which is being held in Durham, North Carolina. The paper will deal with issues of legibility and illegibility in the artist's paintings, and especially in his depictions of shop and business signs. I'll be talking mostly about three paintings: Interior (1880, top detail, above), The Shop Painters (1877, bottom detail), and Paris. Rainy Day (1877).Years ago, when I was visiting the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time, I spent a long time staring at Paris. Rainy Day. I eventually noticed something that wasn't at all obvious from reproductions of the painting. While one of the shop signs in the work is just legible, and identifies the shop as a "PHARMACIE," another sign in the work cannot be read (see the centre two details, above). We can tell that the marks represent the gold lettering of a sign, but can decipher neither what this lettering spells out, nor what kind of business it is identifying. For some reason, this intrigued me. Further thoughts followed from this rather modest observation, and now the ideas have accumulated into a paper, and the paper will lead me to Durham. Or rather, since I used to live in the city, back to Durham.
Alexa Werling: "I selected a movie I had not watched (Trainspotting), analyzed the artwork posted on Netflix, watched the movie, and created a new, more fitting poster. Judging only by the cover art provided on Netflix, Trainspotting is a candid film about five friends or acquaintances.... Upon actually watching the film, I found a number of discrepancies between the movie and the assumptions I had made from the artwork. My suspected main character (Sick Boy) was not the protagonist at all; Mark Renton, the leftmost figure, was the real central character. The 'intelligent' looking Spud was, in fact, enduringly dimwitted. Diane, the sole female, is a precocious teenager who, while not promiscuous, certainly pushes boundaries. Begbie, on the far left, was the only character I nailed, save for the hypothesis that he held 'more responsibility' than the others. Most of all, I missed on the subject of the movie itself--it was all about drugs! Rather than starting their lives, most of the characters were destroying their chances at life. Using this information, I created a more fitting poster, based on drug use and the chaos of the film."
Hal Teasler: "My poster is a bit of a knock-off of Drew Struzan and Tyler Stouts' styles.... The first step was to come up with a general layout of the poster with a list of all the actors that I wanted to use in the poster. The next step was to watch the movie and take pictures. If I saw a scene or a moment that I thought might be good in the poster, I would pause the movie and take a picture.... After I had all the pictures I would organize the photos, picking the best ones. I composited the pictures in photoshop. I lowered the opacity of the layout and printed it out on drawing paper. I redrew the poster with pencil and ink. I then scanned the image in and colored it in Illustrator. I wanted to keep a minimal color palette. I made the image low contrast to give it a washed-out or vintage look because the movie takes place in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I chose to set the type in Helvetica because it's used on many older movie posters."
Bethany Johnson: "I began by brainstorming and researching the film, looking for one image in particular that could represent the entire film. I chose the tail/tie that the meanest farmer, Bean, shoots off Mr. Fox in the film. It has two meanings, the first being the scene it is from in the film. The second, however, is a much deeper meaning. The animals in the film appear to be classy, well-educated animals. They wear slick clothes and participate in human activities such as school and work. Only for brief moments do they reveal their wild roots to the viewer."David Kyle Newton: "The Water for Elephants poster does not work for me. For my poster, I thought I would change it around a good bit. Rather than go and photoshop the 'A Listers' faces into a poster, I thought it would be more interesting and much more original to hand work the poster.... I chose to add Rosie, the elephant that would save the Benzini Brothers' Circus. However, I did not want to add her entire body. The head would get my point across.... Rather than just having a straight trunk for her, I thought the subtle shape of a water drop would be nice. This may not be noticeable at first glance, but I feel it adds more to the poster. It also incorporates the movie title into the imagery. Lastly, something else was needed. If I were to leave it just with the title and the image of Rosie, it wouldn't feel complete. Something else from the movie was needed. In my opinion, a circus tent was a little generic. After viewing the film, I felt that the train was much more suitable. More of the movie takes place on the train that in the circus tent. However, I did not just want a train. I wanted it to be more interesting with a bridge." And a New Release! Several students also decided to make their own films for their final project, and some went so far as to create DVD sleeves and promotional posters. Such was the case with Corey. You can view his film, C4, here. As his poster suggests, it's about a deadly game of Connect Four. Corey Childers: "For my final research project in this class, I chose to do a short film--a mockumentary about a competitive Connect Four player who hopes to defeat the current, undefeated champion of the CFUC (Connect Four Underground Championship). I'm not really sure how the idea came to me; it just popped into my head toward the end of class one day. I titled the film C4 and made a poster before I actually ever started shooting (or even writing the script).... I used the basic design theme from the original poster for the DVD packaging and the onscreen menu.... I was pleasantly surprised with how the entire project turned out, and how much fun it all was, despite being a good bit of work. I've definitely gained a new appreciation (and a new fascination) for film-making and how DVD and Blu-ray releases are created." "
- 22 June. The Neighborhood
- 1 August. Zola + Cézanne + Manet = The Masterpiece
- 3 August. Retrospect: Recommendations and Regrets
With thanks to Jennifer Aldridge.