Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Gifted Artist

You’ve racked your brain and strained so hard you popped a blood vessel thinking of what to get for all of your friends and family, and you've come up with the most brilliant, clever and delightful gifts known to man.

You’ve poured over your own works and selected the nicest, most creative things you’ve done and you are generously giving them to the people you love most…besides your dentist, doctor and accountant.

The works themselves would be worth considerable on the open market, but you’ve extended your artistic taste and aesthetic sensibilities and thrown in the frames, chosen with meticulous care perfect for each piece.

And you’ve packaged them up, hauled them down stood in line and paid the price so that the friendly guys in the brown shorts can drag them across the country in time for Christmas.

And you collapsed in a pile the minute you walked back through your own door and you’ve proclaimed for anyone who would listen that you might not move again until next year! Then of course you realized with New Year’s just four weeks away that was an idle threat and you pulled yourself together and crept off to the couch to martial your resources so that you could face the upcoming holidays with a warrior’s courage. Well done!

And just when you are starting to feel like you might just make it through the season with some dignity intact the phone rings or the spouse steps into the room and says the most dreaded phrase in the English language, “What do you want for Christmas?”

Your blood boils, your heart races, your vision blurs, how can you answer that simple question? Do you tell the absolute truth and say, “A Ferrari 599 GTO would be swell,’ or do you say what you think you can get away with, “I could sure use a Craftsman drill,” or do you go for the wimp special and say, “ anything you want to give me would be wonderful.”

What a Wuss! Face it you are not getting a Ferrari. Not the brand new shiny, 599 GTO, pale, mild, placid imitation of its greatest namesake, the immortal 250 GTO, the beautiful brute which destroyed competitors and conquered Le Mans and rightfully gained a hallowed place in MOMA, forget about it.

The drill answer went out with the bustle bud, no one, not even your cheap brother will buy that. He can get a case of Stella Artois and still have enough left over to get you that hand-painted tie. He won’t buy it and neither will anyone smarter which just about includes the entire world except for the sea squirt which eats its own brain, which come to think of it is a whole lot like you brother.

And while we are at it, the anything answer is almost guaranteed to get you New Year’s on the sofa. Spouses hate vague answers. They know you’re holding out on them and worse yet it makes them look greedy when the hint at what they really want which is a new Toyota Avalon, but now they can’t say it cause you wimped out and boy does that make them mad and you know what happened to John Wayne Bobbit when Mama got mad. That’s right it’s come up with a good answer or join the Vienna Boy’s Choir.

Fortunately I have an answer and I will share it with you right up until the stores close on Christmas Eve.

Every coupla days I will list some of the things that an artist could use and might actually want which will not cause a banking crisis like the Wall Street implosion, (Great word, I learned it from Hans Conried fifty years ago watching a silly SciFi movie and never called to thank him. He also taught me temerity, but that’s a story for another time.), and you actually could have a hope in heck of getting.

So to start the ball rolling, let’s take a look at a coupla books.

Discover Yourself Through Photography; A Creative Workbook for Amateur and Professional

So sue me, I’m a photographer. I read Ralph Hattersley's columns way back in time, yes it was just about the time the dinosaurs crawled from the sea and they were a huge help in forming my understanding of photography as a fine art and a vehicle for self-discovery.

Beginner’s Guide to Photographing People Ralph Hattersley

You know I have a thing about people and reading Ralph’s book will teach you all of the basics without any of the hurdles of occult words and strange rituals you will find in so many other books. And yes, the technical material is forty years out of date, but the understanding of the concept is not. Buy a new camera and read the book. (This is where being a painter can be a huge help. You don’t take pictures, but you do paint people so the information can be a help without making you worry that the camel’s hair brush you’ve been using has been made obsolete by the new and improved Microsoft Brush 2.0)
Light for Visual Artists: Understanding & Using Light in Art & Design Richard Yot

Light is what we all work with, like it or not, camera or brush or chisel, it all comes down to light and having a basic understanding of light is essential to making it work for you and not distract from the image you worked so hard to create.

Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit of Art Nouveau Arwas Dvoark and Brabcova-Orlikova

You’ve seen his work nearly every day; okay not necessarily HIS work, but someone’s exacting copy of his work. Isn’t it about time you had a look at the real deal? Alphonse Mocha was the heart of the Art Nouveau movement and we have followed in his footsteps ever since. Every poster, the whole Peace, Love and Frisbee in the Park crowd from the sixties and most of the sets of Laugh-in relied on Mucha as a starting point. Have a look at the master’s work and see if there isn’t something in it for you.

Yeppers that just exactly what it looks like, the Pin Up has been a part of western culture since shortly after man killed the first mammoth and wondered if maybe painting dead elephants on the cave walls without the benefit of booze which wouldn’t be invented for another seven hundred and fifty thousand years wasn’t a complete waste of time and maybe that strange man with the lumpy bear skin might be just the thing to spice up the old man cave. Now how to talk the bear pelt right off of her and that friends is where Hugh Hefner comes in, but that was a coupla years later so read the book and look at the pictures, no one will come into your room without knocking and you probably won’t have to hide it between the mattress and the box springs unless you’re still living at home or you married Lorena Bobbit and then maybe the mattress thing is a really good idea.

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