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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bear Art

Grizzly Bear and Cubs, artist unknown (to me, at least).
One of my most popular series of posts continues to be paintings of wildlife. The most recent post dealt with Giraffe Art, but others have included elephants, tigers, zebras, fish, birds, deer, and probably some others I can't bring to my seventy-two-year-old mind at the moment. And those are just the wild animals. Today we'll take a look at one of the oldest and most popular denizens of the zoo--the bear.

Even without a bottle of Coke, these guys are so...refreshing.
Before we talk about "bear art," perhaps we should watch an exceptionally talented artist actually paint some. His name is Marcel Witte. The Dutch artist calls his painting Migration. The video details the painting process of a life-size polar bear mother with two cubs. They are floating (migrating) on an air mattress in the shape of an ice floe. At the current rate of Arctic ice melting, this somewhat strange idea might not seem so strange after all. Could a few hundred (claw-proof) air mattresses be the answer to climate change for the polar bear?

Migration, 2011, Marcel Witte

Koala Bear,  Ivy Michelle Berg
Biologists tell us that there are eight existing bear species of bears, all descended from the canine branch of the ancient Carnivora family tree (as opposed to felines), with the giant panda and the apparently nearsighted spectacled bear being the oldest living close relatives of the clan. The sloth bear, and sun bear are senior to the Am-erican and Asian Black bears. The brown bear and his pale cousin, the polar bear, bring up the rear as the newest and most recent develop-ments in the Ursine family. The polar bear is a mere 400,000 years old while the Giant Panda dates back some 19-million years. Australia's Koala Bear (above, left), despite it's name and appearance, is not a bear at all, but a marsupial.

Of all the bears, only the Giant Panda is a vegan. With few exceptions, all other bears prefer their meat very, very rare.
Hunting bear, faithfully copied
from a cave wall by a Disney
animator for Brother Bear.
So, what about "bear art"? Historically, from the earliest days to those of the present, art content has always been related to that which important to the artist. Bears have been hunted for sport, food, and folk medicine. Their meat is dark and stringy, like a tough cut of beef. In Cantonese cuisine, bear paws are considered a delicacy. Bear meat should be cooked thoroughly, as it can be infected with the parasite Trichinella spiralis. You probably could have gone all day without knowing that. Bear images are as old as art itself, dating back to the linear paintings on cave walls (roughly 20,000 years ago). Bears were an important part of the cave artist's diet; thus they were an important element in their subject matter. (Artists tend to paint their food before they kill it.)

Fish are an important part of a grizzly bear's diet; but though they still live in caves, they seldom paint fish on their walls.
Beware of the Bear, Gail Finger.
In more recent centuries and cultures bears have been wor-shipped (from afar, no doubt). In a similar manner, artists during such times worshipped them in their paintings, likewise from a safe distance. Today, even with the advent of zoos, few artists paint bears "in plein air." A few might try to sketch them from life; but reportedly bears are not very cooperative models, and sleeping bears tend to prefer dark places. Thus the bear painter is at the mercy of the much braver (and adventurous) bear photographer for the wooly content of his paintings.

The American Black Bear, Al Agnew.

In literature, bears are mentioned in the Old Testament Bible. the 2 Kings relates the story of the prophet Elisha calling on bears to eat the youths who taunted him. Bears are popular in children's stories, including Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear, and Gentle Ben. The Brown Bear of Norway was an early version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, was published as The Three Bears in 1837 by Robert Southey, and illustrated in 1918 by Arthur Rackham.

The Three Bears, 1918,
Arthur Rackham

Ted Spread, 1994, by Ditz
The cartoon character Yogi Bear has appeared in numerous comic books, animated television shows and films. The Care Bears began as greeting cards in 1982, and were featured as toys, on clothing and in film. All over the world, many children—and some adults—have teddy bears, stuffed toys in the form of bears, named after the American President Theodore Roosevelt when in 1902 he had refused to shoot an American black bear tied to a tree. Smokey Bear has become a part of American culture since his introduction in 1944, with his message "Only you can prevent forest fires."

The Bear Dance, William Holbrook Beard
Bears, like other animals, may be symbolic as to nations. In 1911, the British satirical magazine Punch published a cartoon about the Anglo-Russian Entente by Leonard Raven-Hill in which the British lion watches as the Russian bear sits on the tail of the Persian cat. The Russian Bear has been a common national personification for Russia from the 16th century onwards. Bears in captivity have for centuries been used for entertainment. They have been trained to and were kept for baiting in Europe at least since the 16th century. There were five bear-baiting gardens in Southwark, London at that time; archaeological remains of three of these have survived. Across Europe, nomadic Romani bear handlers called Ursari lived by busking with their bears from the 12th century.

The Bear Party, Stella Violano


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Chris Tatam

Copyright, Chris Tatam
Old Mill (on the island of Anglesey), 2003, Chris Tatam
Copyright Chris Tatam
Bird on a Branch, 2016, Chris Tatam
Every so often I meet an artist who, like myself, is not famous nor even well-known; and quite frankly, probably never will be. However, the Welsh artist, Chris Tatam, has a much better chance of achieving some degree of creative notoriety than I in that he's thirty-four years younger than I am. He's also talented in two distinctly different art media--painting and goose eggs. He works in oils, acrylics, and watercolor, each about equally well (nothing unusual about that). What is unusual as to his talent is that Chris carves and decorates his eggs in a manner reminiscent of the famous Russian Faberge eggs (which were not made from egg shells, by the way).
Painting copyright, Chris Tatam
Menai Suspension Bridge (upper image), 2009, Chris Tatam; photo of Menai Bridge to Anglesey (lower image).
Watercolor instructor aboard
the Queen Mary 2.
Chris Tatam was born in 1979 on the island of Anglesey just off the coast of Wales. According to his resume he's been carving eggs since 1989, which would have made him about ten years old at the time. At ten I was drawing horsies and cowboys. Chris had another distinct advan-tage over me in that his grandparents were both profess-sional artists. Then, while watch-ing a TV program about Peter Carl Faberge and the imperial eggs, he began researching various techniques in cutting the eggshell including the use of a hacksaw blade and a compres-sed air dentistry drill. From the ages of 14 to 20 he entered and won numerous arts and crafts competitions, which led to exhib-itions and seminars throughout the U.K.

Copyright, Chris Tatam
Bejeweled egg by Chris Tatam (untitled).
Copyright, Chris Tatam
As so often happens when young artists are faced with anxieties of making their way in the "real world," Chris chose what appeared to be a safer path to success. He chose to study psychology and law in college. Later he began working in the field of legal aid. Even so, Chris continued to paint and teach art and craft classes in the evenings. He has been teaching throughout the United Kingdom for a number of years and more recently in the United States and onboard cruise liners. It was on board the Cunard liner, Queen Mary 2 that I met Chris. He was the watercolor instructor on the return leg of our round-trip to England.

One of his most
elaborate eggs.
I'm the bald guy in the black shirt just left of center. The upper image is that of the student art exhibit on the final day of classes.
Copyright, Chris Tatam
Dusk, 2016, Chris Tatam
Tatam has a wide range of experience and knowledge in the painting of landscapes and seascapes, using all painting media. Primarily Chris is self-taught. More recently he has adapted his painting skills to other crafts that incorporate a range of materials from decoupage and enamel to creating Faberge style eggs using real egg-shell. Chris’s work has received many awards and prizes over the years in-cluding a first prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and a highly commended (honorable men-tion in American English) at the Crafters Guild of Great Britain. To date his work has been promoted and published across various mediums. Chris cur-rently resides in Orlando, Florida, but spends his summers in Wales on Anglesey where he conducts seminars and exhibitions of his work. He is proud of his Welsh heritage and takes much inspiration from the natural scenery of his homeland as reflected in his creations. More of Chris Tatam's work may be seen at: . He can be contacted by e-mail at: .

Copyright, Chris Tatam
It's not a Faberge, but close.

Copyright, Chris Tatam
Snowdonia, 2013, Chris Tatam

Copyright, Chris Tatam
Cosmas Augustus, 2016,
Chris Tatam


Friday, October 20, 2017

George Lois

The "What's the big idea?" man.
If you are, or want to be, a doctor, bricklayer, electrician, or engineer, and you've never in your life heard of George Lois, you'll probably do just fine. But if you plan to be a photographer, designer, illustrator or virtually any other kind of artist, you need to know who this guy is. George Lois, though now retired at the age of eighty-six, was an artist who managed magazine covers. During his long career as an commercial artist he created an amazing and innovative style which led him to become the art director of Esquire magazine, where he created over 92 covers between the years 1962 and 1971. There is no one who works for a magazine design who does not know of him. The legendary George Lois is very simply the most creative, prolific, astute advertising communicator of our time.
A guy whose job it was to make people famous--people like Tommy Hilfiger, for instance.
George Lois was born in the Bronx in 1931, the son of Greek immigrants. Upon graduating from high school, he received a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, but he chose to attend the Pratt Institute instead. Lois attended only one year at Pratt, before he was drafted by the Army to fight in the Korean War. After the war, he worked for a time at CBS and then several different advertising agencies. In the years to follow, he developed what he called "The Big Idea." He claims to have created the “I Want My MTV” campaign; helped create and introduce VH1; named Stouffer's Lean Cuisine frozen food line; and developed marketing and messaging for Jiffy Lube stations.
Though Lois' actual contribution to the design of many product and corporate logos has been disputed, there's pretty solid evidence for his hand in these and dozens of others.
George Lois also created the initial advertising campaign to raise awareness of designer Tommy Hilfiger ($200,000 and twenty days). Other clients have included: Xerox, Aunt Jemima, USA Today, ESPN, and four U.S. Senators: Jacob Javits of New York, Warren Magnuson of Washington, Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, and Robert Kennedy.
George Lois' first ad at an advertising agency came in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers decided to move to the west coast. However no player had the guts to pose for his American Airlines ad. So, Lois donned a Dodgers cap and became a baseball athlete.
"Must" reading for any
would-be graphic designer.
In the mid-1950s, New York was traumatized by rumors that Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Walter O’Malley, would soon move the franchise to La-La land. It’s always advantageous when you can tie an ad with some-thing happening in the news. So for an American Airlines destination ad, Lois showed a Dodger peering west with the headline "Thinking of going to Los Angeles?" He tried to get one of the players to pose for the ad, but every-one chickened out. So he posed for it himself, casting his eyes westward. He plastered an airline logo over his lower face to keep the message authentic. Within days, bookings on American to Los Angeles took off the very next day. Alas, the treacherous O’Malley did, indeed, depart for the west coast taking with him (among others) Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Gil Hodges, and Duke Snider. No one remembers which airline they took.
Virtually all George Lois Esquire covers had a current events tie-in.
A whole library on how to use
friends to influence people.
George Lois was the great master of the conceptual magazine cover, especially Esquire in the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his heavyweight boxing title, Lois depicted him as the martyred St. Sebastian, with arrows sticking out of his body (above). Lois also persuaded celebrities such as Richard Nixon, Andy Warhol, Sonny Liston, Jack Nicholson (nude, no less), Tom Cruise, and Dustin Hoffman. Between 1962 and 1971, Esquire featured one remarkable cover after another, each conceived and designed by Madison Avenue’s 'king of covers'," George Lois. Esquire covers are icons of the age, acidic critiques of contemporary society, politics and manners that subverted the conventions of mainstream magazines. It was a chronicle in its golden age, a critical period of American social and political turmoil, and the legacy of a remarkable graphic designer and communicator.

Controversy sells. Richard Nixon looks as if he were being prepared by a pit crew of morticians for open-casket viewing.
The period when Harold Hayes was the editor of Esquire was called the "Golden Age of Journalism." George Lois recalls, "Everyone said I had the {guts] to do the covers. The covers were easy to do. Harold Hayes had the [guts] to run them. Every few covers we'd lose five or six advertisers. But we'd pick up other advertising. I'd say, 'Harold, this one is going to get us in big trouble.' He would smile and gleefully nod, 'Yeahhhh'."

The controversial New York logo. Did he or
didn't he name the magazine and design its
distinctive logo?


The conceptual phase of an
Esquire's Warhol cover.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Francesco Borromini

Nothing could better symbolize the peculiar relationship of these to talented architects better that the Barberini Palace staircase. Borromini designed it, Bernini saw it to completion after his competitor's death.
Every once in a while as I'm writing on another artist or work of art I decided to link to a previous artist or topic I thought I'd covered only to find that, damn, there's nothing to link to. An outstanding artist has slipped through the cracks to be unceremoniously neglected. A few days ago, I was writing as to how one major artist so dominated a given era or medium from that virtually all others got crowded out. In this particular case I was referring to the Italian Baroque sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Like Michelangelo, a generation or two earlier, everything the man touched quite rightly fell into masterpiece territory. Bernini was both sculptor and architect, and despite the fact he is probably more remembered as a carver of marble, he was the reigning architectural genius of his time as well.
Bernini's Shadow
See the resemblance?
Pity his chief competitor in that relatively new profession for its time, Francesco Borromini. I should point out that due to the similarity of their surnames, it's easy to get them confused. They even looked somewhat alike (above and left). To add to the confusion, they were born just a year apart, Bernini in 1598, Borromini in 1599. Bernini died in 1680, outliving his friend and colleague by thirteen years. Two of their churches, Bernini's San Andrea al Quirinale (left) and Borro-mini's San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (below) are on the same street in Rome (Via Quirinal,) and less than a block apart. It's amazing seeing one right after the other and to compare the different ways these contemporaries created majestic places in such small spaces. Both are oval, but that’s where the similarities end.

As any artist will tell you, the more limitations, the more difficult the work. Borromini had dozens of them to contend with, not the least of which was costs.
Though Borromini and Bernini, were the two stalwarts of 17th century Italian architecture, were both masters of the Baroque style, they were very different in their approach to work and artistic expressions. Bernini, suave and charming, sought drama and theatrics in his works. His flamboyance oozed out through his creations. Bernini knew how to play with the audience’s emotional and spiritual responses. Borromini, on the other hand, was cold, melancholic, and somewhat lacking in the social graces of Bernini. He depended heavily on his studies of geometry and classical architecture. Borromini’s work was idiosyncratic with a modest approach towards purposeful dramatization, distancing the audience who failed to fully comprehend it even though they were unanimous in accepting its superiority. The great act of providence had both of these artist’s path intertwined for the rest of their career.

Baroque? Yes, but with Borromini's restrained drama and elegance to temper Bernini's overindulgence.
Four Rivers Fountain,
Piazza Navona, Rome,
Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Perhaps, no example would better exemplify the intermingling of Bernini and Borromini's careers than the story of the Four Rivers Fountain, the visual centerpiece of Rome's elongated Piazza Navona. It is one of Bernini’s most famous works taking him four years to complete. The base of this structure, which supports a Roman version of an Egyptian obelisk, topped with a dove holding an olive branch in its beak--the Pamphili family symbol. It is decorated with four large allegorical figures, representing the major rivers from the four regions of the world: Danube representing Europe, Nile representing Africa, Ganges representing Asia and the Rio de la Plata the Americas. Ironically, this was Borro-mini’s original suggestion, yet the commission for which after many fateful shifts and papal inter-ventions, went to Bernini.

To add further irony, Borromini got the commission to complete the Church of St. Agnese in Agone which forms the backdrop for Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain.
Francesco Borromini was born Francesco Castelli in 1599. He grew up in Bissone, Switzerland (which was then part of the Old Swiss Confederacy). The son of a stonemason, Francesco grew up listening to a constant lullaby of stone cutting pouring out from his father’s workshop. Thus, it surprise no one when he chose stonemasonry as his career later on in his life. Borromini was influenced by the work of Michelangelo and, in turn, influenced the work of late Baroque architect Camillo-Guarino Guarini. The boy was about 10 years old when he went to Milan to study and perfect his craft. Around 1619 he migrated to Rome where he started working for his distant relative Carlo Maderno, often considered one of the fathers of Baroque architecture. Together, Francesco and Maderno, worked at St Peter’s and then on the Palazzo Barberini. Under Maderno’s guidance, his protégé developed excellent technical and drafting skills that would become one of his greatest asset.

A modern day student notebook featuring different aspects of Borromini's version of the Baroque style.
Out of a high regard for St. Charles Borromeo, or his mother’s new family name Brumino from her second marriage, Francesco Castelli changed his name to Borromini. Meanwhile, Maderno passed away in 1629 with the work at Palazzo Barberini still to be completed. It fell to Borromini and Bernini, Borromini’s greatest rival, but also a friendly collaborator on many projects, to complete the task. In beginning his own career as an architect, in 1634 as he was asked to design the church, cloister and monastic buildings of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. It was his first "neighborhood" church, but certainly not his last.

Borromini went on to design the Church of St. Ivo alla Sapienza (left), working on the Dome and Facade periodically from 1640 through 1660. At the same time Borromini designed the church of Maria dei Sette Dolori starting in 1642, the Palazzo Pamphili (Piazza Navona) in 1645, St Giovani in Laterano, and the Villa Falconieri, Frascati during about the same time. And finally, in 1653, near the end of his life, came the commission from the influential (and wealthy) Pamphili family to work on the Church of St. Agnese in Agone, located just down the street on the Pizza Navona from his earlier Pamphili Palace.
Church of St Ivo alla Sapienza
1640-60, dome and facade

Copyright, Jim Lane
Church of St Agnese in Agone, Rome, 1653, Francesco Borromini
Borromini was one of several architects involved in the building of the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome. The decision to rebuild the church was taken in 1652 as part of Pope Innocent X’s project to enhance the Piazza Navona, the urban space onto which his family palace faced. The first plans for a Greek Cross church were drawn up by Girolamo Rainaldi and his son Carlo, who relocated the main entrance from the Via di Santa Maria dell'Anima to the Piazza Navona. The foundations were laid and much of the lower level walls had been constructed when the Rainaldis were dismissed due to criticisms of the design. Borromini was appointed in their stead. However, not only were some of his design intentions changed by succeeding architects but the net result is a building which reflects, rather unhappily, a mix of different approaches. In 1656, Innocent X died and the project lost momentum. The following year, Borromini resigned and Carlo Rainaldi was recalled. He made a number of significant changes to Borromini’s design. Further alterations were made by Bernini including the façade pediment. Further large scale statuary and colored marbling were also added. Once more, these were not part of Borromini’s design repertoire.

Tomb of Pope Innocent X, Gian Lorenzo Bernini,
Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome
Always a forlorn man, and despairing of his own underachievement, not to mention a growing conflict with Bernini, Borromini succumbed to deep depression. In July, 1667 after learning that Bernini had been commissioned to design the tomb of Pope Innocent X, Borromini burned all his writings and designs then locked himself into his house. In a fit of despair he threw himself on a ceremonial sword and committed suicide. He lingered in agony an entire day before dying. He was sixty-seven.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Inna Orlik

Bull, Inna Orlik
It does my heart good to come upon a former public school art instructor from time to time who has, as they say, "made it." After years of childhood art exploration, more years of public school art, college, teaching while producing, and finally a seeming eternity of dogged self-promotion, to finally land representation in one or more galleries allowing regional, national, and (with as much luck as determination) international recognition, is a path not for the faint of heart. With all that, comes frequent shows, sales, and respectable prices. I tried. God knows I tried. At times I almost "made it." But I apparently didn't try quite hard enough. To teach is not to fail, but it does represent a "safe" pathway to creative and financial success. Even in the worst of times, I was never a "starving artist" (as my waistline will attest). But, at the same time, I'm not likely to ever see my face on Wikipedia.
Memories, Inna Orlik
Inna Orlik has "made it." Not only has she achieved international gallery representation, she, in fact, owns her own art gallery, located in Athens, Greece, at the foot of the Acropolis, no less. The Orlik Gallery is an elegant contemporary fine art gallery established in 2013. The Gallery is housed in a neoclassical building, located in Plaka, the historic center of Athens. Though the gallery specializes in the exhibition of innovative contemporary art and sculptures of international artists from all over Europe, it mainly represents the work of Inna Orlik.
A picture of determination, talent, intelligence, and beauty.

Inna Orlik was born in 1964 in Tbilisi, Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union). She studied painting in the National Academy of Fine Arts in Tbilisi from 1982 to 1987. For the next three years she taught high school art in her hometown. However, in 1985, while still in college, she had her first solo show in Tbilisi, followed in 1988 and 1990 by shows in Moscow and St. Petersburg respectively. During that time she also participated in various group exhibitions. Since 1991 she has lived and worked in Greece. (I might add that, like myself, Inna Orlik is not listed in Wikipedia either.)
Reef, Inna Orlik
Jesus, Inna Orlik
Since the dawn of recorded history, Greece has been known for great philosophers and myths. The city of Athens is embedded with much of this rich cultural heritage centered upon its art. Art is a mark of the existence of human beings on earth, passed down from generation to generation. In creating any work of art there is a sense of complete confluence with current culture and a past heritage. For Inna Orlik, there is a feeling of beginning a new life, of breathing through illustrations, walking imaginary streets, lighting lamps, looking out windows of fairy-tale house, an art like swinging boats blown by the winds.
Midday, Inna Orlik
Bee, Inna Orlik
Inna sees the same things applied to colors. Each has its own sound, each its own mood. In the imagination, art is blessed with a soul, with a character, often with a life-like image. Seasons of the year, rain, wind, stones, birds, lost worlds, myth-ical images, all have soul. Completed work brings satisfaction, happiness, surprise, and aesthetic pleasure, which is the most valuable element of creativity. As an artist, what's most important is not to rest on past laurels, but to feel the constant necessity to move forward and see new icons, new forms, new amalgamations. That is the meaning of inspiration.

Jacques de Molay, Inna Orlik