Capturing privacy, without disturbing it

Anders Zorn - A Portrait of the Daughters of Ramon Subercasseaux
Anders Zorn – A Portrait of the Daughters of Ramon Subercasseaux



A quiet and private moment captured by Andres Zorn.

The kids seem not to recognize that they are observed. They just do their thing. This way of portraying and the unusual perspective give the painting spontaneity and honesty. Thats the way I like painting. Even when composed, i do not feel like it is composed.

Balance between specialization and generalization

Frang Brangwyn - Card Players.jpg
Sir Frang Brangwyn – Card Players

There are all kinds of opinions to this topic: From “Be a meaningful specific, not a wandering generality.” and “Find your niche!” to “Specialization is for insects.”

Making Sailors: The Gun c.1917 by Sir Frank Brangwyn 1867-1956

A great example for me is Frank Brangwyn who was an artist (specialization) and uses his skill and knowledge to expand in a broad range of artistic media (generalization). He was called a “Jack of all trades”, someone who is good at all, but not really a master of one.

Brangwyn did paintings, drawings, woodworks, illustrations for books and designs for furniture, ceramics, buildings, …. It is estimated that he has produced 12000 works in 89 years of living. That are 135 works a year, starting at 0 years old. Pretty solid. And the bigger chunk of his work is masterful.

The general questions behind this is how to spend the time we have and do we have individual potential that is worth using and developing. There is no right or wrong, just balance.

One step at a time

John Singer Sargent - Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.jpg
John Singer Sargent – Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

This is ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ by John Singer Sargent. Its hard to imagine that he painted it in many really short sessions (a few minutes a day) for two month? The story about his process is a lecture of control and patience.

In his book “Alla Prima” – Richard Schmid says that a painter should act like a climber: They never rush.

What makes a painting more “real”?

Adolph Menzel and Joaquín Sorolla
Adolph von Menzel – Balcony Door and Joaquín Sorolla – Valencian Boats

To make a painting feel more believable its a good idea to think about the hidden forces of our world. The wind that moves the curtain/sails or the gravity that gives these hammers their weight are “visible” because the artists paid close attention to the way they influence the world.

Frank Brangwyn
Frank Brangwyn – Blacksmiths

Which are the not yet painted paintings?

george bellows frederick judd waugh - open sea.jpg
George Bellows and Frederick Judd Waugh

In his book “The Inevitable” Kevin Kelly talks about artificial intelligence and how it will combine all human knowledge, thereby showing the white spaces where humanity has not yet gained knowledge. AI will show us what we do not know.

So AI could show us what has not been painted too. It will be very exciting to see how, for example, seascapes were not painted yet or which themes and subjects completely escaped the gaze of artists. I think we need a lot a white canvas to fill the white spaces we have.

Labours of work

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - Afternoon Sun.jpg
Joaquín Sorolla – Afternoon Sun

Great art distills complex themes in a simple statement, so we can get it easily.

In the picture above there are four guys doing really tough work. Dealing with animals,  mud, water, wind, all at the same time. But they are not shouting and cursing. They seem quite relaxed. They are just doing their work and they have no false expectations about it. The choose of color and the bright sun suggest, that there is beauty to find in the labours of work.

And Sorolla made this statement credible by painting this lovely fluid painting in size 299 cm x 441 cm or 9,8′ x 14,5′.

When computers (try to) make art …

Nicolai Fechin - The Wood Engraver
Nicolai Fechin – The Wood Engraver

… most people will not worry about this at first, like it was with clothing, food or furniture. But what do we like the most now?

A cozy scarf, made by a friend. 

Fresh warm cookies, made by mum.

An elegant chair, made by a real craftsman.

Humans like things, made by humans.

Can computers be artists?

The next Rembrandt
This Rembrandt isn’t a real Rembrandt, it’s generated by a computer.

I like the idea that art can help humans to lead better lives. Art can remind us of something important, rebalance us, teach us, make us empathic.

But what if a painting, sculpture, song or text is not created by a human? Is it less or no art if a machine does the work? Is it an requirement that artists have to be human?

The (human) creative process is a mixture of difficulty and uncertainty and it takes a lot of effort to walk through it. But someone who is still keen to create art, no matter how many hours it takes and how often one fail, makes the artwork credible. And only then it can stick in our minds and help to lead better lives.

Why we like very different art?

Andres Zorn   –   Mark Rothko   –   Edward Hopper

Each person has his own personal history, which has shaped our character very differently. None of us is “normal”. We are all a bit too funny, too mean, too nice, too boring, too upset, too silent. And because each of us lacks something else, we need, create and like the art that adds the missing part to our character.

It is not that someone likes only one kind of art, but we like different art at different times in our lives. We could also see art as a kind of medicine for our psyches. Feeling lonely? Take a Hopper. Are you sad? Look at a Rothko for some time. You think the water is to cold? Then…