Friday, April 07, 2006

Art IS work...

This afternoon I received the new issue of Smithsonian in which there is an article (also online HERE) on a painters palette that may have belonged to American master painter James McNeill Whistler (think Whistler's Mother if you're unsure of this name). It's not so much the famous owner which made me take note here or the palette itself or how the way the paint was arranged. Nope. It was the opening sentence of the Owen Edwards article: "Those of us who love to look at paintings for the sheer pleasure of it tend naturally to think a lot about the end result and very little about the means to that end. We forget that a work of art is work." How true is this for those who are not artists? Many people haven't a clue how much work is involved in the process of creating art. People who first lay eyes upon Da Vinci's Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) see a simple portrait of a woman painted by a master. What they may not realize is that the style in which Da Vinci painted was time consuming.

Da Vinci made extremely thin brush strokes, some say small strokes combined with very tiny "dots" (a precursor to pointillism perhaps?), in layer upon layer until he was satisfied that the forms had sufficiently blended...a technique he termed "sfumato", sfumato meaning "smoke", as Da Vinci said: "light and shade should blend without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke..." It took Da Vinci several years to complete the 20" x 30" painting.

Artists tend to work quicker now, if they like eating and having a place to live, but the work is still time consuming and labor intensive...don't be fooled by an artist's love for what they do, the supposed ease of their technique, their chosen medium or genre (comic, fine, sculpture, etc., etc.) it is still work.


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