Tag Archives: art education

Color And Energy: What Our Preferences Reveal To The Trained Third Eye

My Mother was a product of color conditioning. She believed “pink was for girls, blue was for boys”.

About the time I was ready for my “big girl bed”, she hired a decorator to outfit a canopy bed, complete with matching dust ruffles, pillows, and drapes, in pink and white checked gingham.

I stood looking at the fabric samples in horror. “I don’t like pink”. They ignored me. “I don’t like pink” I tried to insert once again into their dialogue. Each attempt to communicate was ignored. I was only four years old after all, what did I know?

After a few weeks furniture was delivered. An elated decorator dashed about my room completing all of its finishing touches for its big reveal. I walked into my room and politely told her I did not like pink and please take it away. She ignored me, of course.

An hour later she and my Mother were celebrating their mutual gain over coffee in the kitchen. I was invisible. I went to the drawer next to the stove, and took out a box of matches, and marched right up to my bedroom.

With the first match I torched the drapes above my desk. I then torched the canopy, the shams, and the dust ruffle. Fabric fire codes were barely in existence at the time and everything seemed to burn quite nicely. I was satisfied.

I walked downstairs and placed the matches on the table between the two women. Looking directly into my mother’s eyes I declared, “I do not like pink”. You could smell the smoke by then. My mother grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran up the stairs. I have no idea who called the fire department.

The house was fine, but my new bedroom was damaged beyond repair. The decorator looked horrified. Her knee was even with my eye level. I gently touched it to comfort her. She looked down at me. I softly reassured her, “I was thinking, something in a yellow?” I couldn’t work out if she was laughing or crying.

Color and Energy - Dylan John Lisle - Tutt'Art
Dylan John Lisle – Tutt’Art

I promise you I have not torched another property since that time. However, with hindsight, that finely tuned sense of color that made me do such a thing has actually been an asset all of my working life.

Color and Energy - Anne Marie Kornachuck
Anne Marie Kornachuck

People think of color in terms of dyes or pigments but perceiving color is an illusion.

In the book Color, The Secret Influence, Kenneth and Cherie Fehrman document how the world is actually, completely colorless. “Colors are wavelengths and part of the same electromagnetic spectrum of brain waves, body heat, light, television, and radio signals.

Color and Energy - Kamille Corry
Kamille Corry

These signals are measured in meters ranging from several hundred meters to light waves that are so short they must be measured in nanometers (1-millionth of a millimeter).

Humans can only perceive a small amount of this spectrum.400 nanometers looks like indigo to our brains and 700 nanometers looks like a deep red to most of us.”

Seeing the colors around us is an interactive visual process that only exists in the observer’s brain and our interpretation of it. Although our perception of color is influenced moment to moment by light, we respond individually to their electro-magnetic vibrations.

Our bodies respond to these electromagnetic frequencies also. When practitioners of Eastern Medicine talk of chakra’s they are referring to vortices in our body that allow energy to flow in and out of our body.

In 1975 the UCLA Rolf Study was begun to measure electro-physical activity of muscles when receiving deep Rolfing massage. Placing electrodes on the major chakra/acupuncture points they were able to make the color, shape and movement of these fields observable. Simultaneously, the frequencies of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the subject’s body were recorded on an oscilloscope.

Color and Energy - Nadine Robbins
Nadine Robbins

For the first time, the electro-physiological recordings described for centuries by psychics and healers as the 7 colors of the chakras were able to be connected to waveforms and bandwidths.

Rosalyn L. Bruyer, a trained engineer, worked 8 years on the UCLA study. She wrote extensively about their results in her book, Wheels of Light: Chakras, Auras, and the Healing Energy of the Body. “The primary colors were found to be red, yellow and blue correlating to the first, third, and fifth chakras. Their respective frequencies were waveforms with bandwidths of 640 to 800 Hertz (cycles per seconds), 400 to 600 Hertz, and 100 to 240 Hertz.

Color and Energy - Ione Hunter Gordon
Ione Hunter Gordon

The patterns and sounds of the colors were also very distinct. Red waveforms demonstrated themselves as irregular groupings of short spikes and sounded like a siren.. Yellow resembled a smooth round sine wave and sounded like a musical tone, and blue had large sharp peaks and troughs with small deflections riding upon them. The color blue had a sound like a rumble.”

What does all of this mean? It means humans and nature are electro magnetic in form and our bodies, minds, and spirits can be negatively effected by man made electro magnetic fields such as wifi, cell phones and cell towers.

People are repelled from colors they have too much of in their aura. They are also drawn to colors they need in their aura.

Color and Energy - Rachel Bess
Rachel Bess

For example, Yellow is a mental color. Research has shown if you study in a yellow room or take notes on a yellow pad you will have better test results.

Yellow is also the color of the third chakra where the body begins to move from the male energy of the first and second chakras into the feminine energy of the body. Not male and female as in sex, but as in the energy fields of the body.

Male energy is to conquer, compete, & to control. The Female energy is nurturing, balanced, doing things for the benefit of the greater good, empathy,compassion.

Each of us has both energies within us and we are at peace in the world and with others when they are in balance.

If your male energy is out of control, all you will care about is sex, making money and getting what you want. If you have lost your empathy for humanity, the earth, and other species, you will be repulsed by yellow.

Male energy manifests itself as an abundance of red and orange in the body.

On the other hand, if you are studying and learning full time, being forced to spend all of your time in the mental realms, you will be repulsed by yellow because your aura is flooded with it. You will probably crave purples for spiritual satisfaction, blue for creativity, or greens to awaken your heart.

Color and Energy - Laura Krifka
Laura Krifka

Every society has its own cultural associations and stigma’s around color. Color conditioning can influence our choices also. With that said, by paying attention to the colors we are drawn to or repulsed by can inform us to what may be going on physically, mentally and emotionally with us.

Color and Energy - Hunter Eddy
Hunter Eddy

Art Credit: Header Image by Stephanie Rew.

The Female Artist Model: Malice In Wonderland

Coming off the Women’s March and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, I would be remiss if I did not address the darker side of how female art models have been viewed and treated in history. As in all things professionally, there seems to be separate standards for men and women.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Marshall Jones
Pigeon Plumtree III, painted by Marshall Jones

In Sarah Phillips book, The Modeling Life, she says, “Standing at a unique juncture–between nude and naked, between high and low culture, between art and pornography–the life model is admired in a finished sculpture, but scorned for her or his posing….”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Aron Hart
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Aron Hart

She goes on to say, “throughout history, people have romanticized life models in an aura of bohemian eroticism, or condemned them as strippers or sex workers.”

As a female artist, this has never been my perception of an artist’s model. Sadly, after 35 years as a painter, I still occasionally have someone project some nonsense from a book or movie onto me. Just because someone is an artist does not mean they are a starving artist, bad at business, or egotistical.

The passion of an artist is often projected into a fictional version of themselves.  In these fairy tales, it is control over another, not passion, that is portrayed.

In fact, artists are in a business that requires being treated as such. It is a labor-intensive discipline that takes years to master. Finding an artist’s model that can work synergistically with you is a great rarity.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by James Edmond
Pigeon Plumtree III, James Edmond drawing in progress (L) and finished drawing (R)

San Francisco Bay Area Models like Carla Kandinsky became the face and body associated with The Bay Area Figurative Movement in the 60’s and modeled over 50 years. “It was before the feminist movement, before topless dancers had taken over San Francisco’s North Beach nightclub strip. It was far from respectable work. She feared telling people what she was doing for a living”.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Adam Miller
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Adam Miller

When Carla Kandinsky was modeling at the San Francisco Art Institute she was approached about swimming topless in a large glass tank at Bimbo’s and to pose for nude photographs. She declined both. She said she realized art students did not see her as naked. It was form and shadows. It was like looking at a Coke Bottle.

Kandinsky wrote a poem once about her experience of modeling. In one poem she describes, “old men who draw their fantasies, making you years younger with thighs the likes of which you’ve never seen; cruel younger women wielding crayons like razor blades to hack lines deep into your face and draw the droop of breasts with merciless accuracy and older women dabbing in in delicate watercolors, their own lost youth and sex reflected in your painted eyes.”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Kevin Moore
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Kevin Moore

Barbara Tooma modeled over 4 decades regularly with the California College of the Arts. In Peter Steinhart’s book, The Undressed Art, Why We Draw, Barbara tells us how often “artists project themselves onto the model without even realizing it.”

The Bay Area Models Guild was established 72 years ago by Florence Alan (a.k.a. Flo), herself an artists model over 47 years. Her face and body are familiar to fans of Diego Rivera, Wayne Thiebaud, and Joan Brown. Although Mrs. Alan died in the late 90’s, she left a legacy protecting models from work related risks. Both artists and artist models are screened heavily.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Robin Smith
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Robin Smith

The Guild determines the length of time of poses, breaks, establishes guidelines for both the model and the atelier. Models must hold poses for long periods of time and return to those poses after breaks which is quite strenuous on the body. They must contend with the coldness of most studios and trespassers in university settings.

Longtime model Ginger Dunphy reflected on this recurring problem in The Undressed Art: why we draw by Peter Steinhart. “Crazy people walk into the studio at the Art Institute with cameras and take pictures.”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Other models, like Marianne Lucchesi, experienced a creepy stranger sneak up on her at an evening session at San Jose State University and try to have a conversation. She had to stop posing, put on her robe and have the man removed.

Art models are so linked with their painters that we can forget we are looking at real people. Chosen for their deportment and stamina as much as their face, models are chosen for their other worldly quality, sensuality, a look of intelligence, or attitude.  An example of an “other worldly persona” would have to include the infamous Lizzie Siddel who was adored by the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood for her beautiful auburn hair.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Elizabeth Zanzinger
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Elizabeth Zanzinger

An artist and poet in her own right, Siddel posed for Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti.She was infamous because a bout of pneumonia left her addicted to laudanum (which she died at age 33 from an overdose). Most of all, she was infamous because Rossetti exhumed her body 7 years after her death, to retrieve a book of his poems he had placed in her grave!

Gustav Klimt sought a model that would mirror the eroticism of Art Nouveau. Viennese fashion designer, Emile Floge was his favorite muse. A sibling of his sister in law, her side parted natural Afro makes her image instantly recognizable.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Today’s artists often look for a model with attitude to reflect the feelings of women tired of being repressed financially, emotionally, physically and politically.

Pigeon Plumtree III is by far the most recognized female artist model in the USA. She is the embodiment of a 21st century woman of attitude. Even her name has attitude. She renamed herself after a Madeline Kahn character. In Road to Avonlea, Pigeon Plumtree was known for her beauty, fame, and selfishness. (Another woman with attitude).

Pigeon has been modeling for 19 years. A friend asked her to sit for her drawing class at a local senior center. “As soon as I settled into the quiet, and the stillness I fell in love. I can still remember the sound of the breeze through the trees and the birds outside. It was a magic place to find within yourself.”

A dancer and an artist by training, artist modeling was a natural evolution to her skills. She moved to New York and spent a decade immersed in modeling for art ateliers, established artists, and attending art openings. It was a long way from the non racially diverse small town in California’s Central Valley she had grown up in.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Harvey Dinnerstein
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Harvey Dinnerstein

Art modeling for pigeon has taken her to ateliers coast to coast. They included The Art Students League of New York, The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Painted, drawn, and sculpted by many of today’s leaders in Figurative Art, Pigeon has been the subject of Elizabeth Zanzinger, Sharon Sprung, Adam Miller, Zhaoming Wu, Marshal Jones, Oscar Peterson, Harvey Dinnerstein, Mario A. Robinson, Aaron Coberly, and Judith Peck among many others. Several have given her practice sketches or other work of herself over the years. Although Pigeon prefers collecting the Gallery Announcement Cards that features work she is in, she is partial to a small bronze sculpture gifted her by an sculptor she posed for. She feels great gratitude that after years of modeling she can find her work reflected in books, galleries and museums.

I initially contacted Pigeon about writing this article shortly after the second San Francisco Womens March. We both live in the Bay Area and she is such a recognizable face in contemporary art it felt important to include her. Like women across the nation, we discussed our #metoo feelings and experiences and how they have impacted our professions.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Robin Smith
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Robin Smith
Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Clarissa Payne
Painting by Clarissa Payne

Pigeon shared how she was sexually assaulted by a well known atelier student in Seattle several years ago. It was a 4 week pose. The painting she sat for is now well known and that student now is very well known. The original atelier was very professional and she met many artists she worked with for years. Like all women, we are learning to process our anger but not shoot ourselves in the foot professionally. We want to protect others from what we have been through. It only takes one drop of ink to darken a glass of water.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Michael Elsasser
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Michael Elsasser

Pigeon told me that over the last two years she has been phasing out any nude modeling for her own reasons. We both love human anatomy and love the endless blocks of shapes and shadows the nude is capable of.

As an artist I can tell you a body is never the same two days in a row, nor in the afternoon is it the same body it was in the morning. It is one of the most beautiful and challenging subjects for an artist to duplicate. We also discussed our growing unease with how nudes are mis-used in a social media context.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Sharon Sprung
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Sharon Sprung
Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Marshall Jones
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Marshall Jones

Pigeon eventually removed any nudes featured in artwork from her social media pages. Sometimes poses that are not sexual become sexualized in another form by others. Pigeon and I have both have received creepy friendship invites from around the world from people who were seeing something different in the art that was posted. She as an artist model, and me, for the work I paint, but also for the figurative artists stream I curate and write about.

Judith Peck met Pigeon in 2011 at an Odd Nerdrum workshop in New York. Since that time she has completed many paintings featuring Pigeon. Three have been sold already, including one from a Purchase Grant from the D.C. Commission Of The Arts and Humanities. The others will be exhibited at the Gallery at Penn College opening March 15, 2018.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Aron Hart
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Aron Hart

I asked Judith what quality Pigeon has as a model that makes her paint her over and over? “ Pigeon represents every woman and I can project emotion with her body language and expressions”.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Oil Wash by Susan Jansen
Pigeon Plumtree III, Oil Wash by Susan Jansen

Artist models, in the hands of the right artist, can be immortalized through their work. They become the silent voice for the time they live in. Pigeon is one of our voices.

We left our conversation in the mutual hope that society as a whole will evolve out of the sexualization of women. Over the next 8-10 years perhaps girls with selfies will stop turning themselves into masturbation fodder for boys, that toy dolls will not be designed look like hookers. Social Media has created a distortion of our purist creative endeavors.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Drawing by Shana Leveson
Pigeon Plumtree III, drawing by Shana Leveson

 


Featured Image: Artist Model Pigeon Plumtree III at a workshop for Sadie Valeri Atelier.  Photo by Sadie Valeri, featuring artists David Jon Kassan and Shana Levenson.

The Artist Model: The Muse Behind The Magic

An interview with model John A. Carrasco

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 1 - Rita Romero
Rita Romero

In North America there is a romanticized image of the professional artist’s model. Movies and books are inclined to feed that image by projecting sexy nymphets and oversexed painters. The reality is modeling requires intense concentration in addition to immense physical and emotional control.

Artist’s models are not the same as a photographer’s model. Cameras are forbidden in a drawing class. Also, if the model is to be nude you must book a life model or a figure model rather than an artist’s model. Asking specifically for an artist’s model tells the agency or guild the model will be clothed.

As a painter and sculptor for 35 years, I can attest there is nothing sexual when we work from a live model. A drawing class collectively pays a model to master their skills in anatomy. An inexperienced model will charge $20.00 to $30.00 an hour and a skilled model is often twice that. Privately, we are trying to capture as much down on paper before the light changes or the model gives out.

Art modeling is demanding. Models must know how to transition into a hundred classic poses. Holding the position for long periods is not easy. Think how hard it is to hold a yoga pose. Temperature is a factor: it can get cold at times and at others the lights can get quite hot, or at least hot enough to make them sweat.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 2 - Daniel J.Keys
Daniel J. Keys

There are three categories of poses: Standing, Seated, and Reclining. Poses are held 5 to 20 minutes. Longer poses are reserved for the more experienced model, as the body can cramp. Poses that expend more energy, such as the asymmetrical contrapposto or standing twists, are also reserved for the experienced model.

Models at modern ateliers are sitting for the best and the brightest talent in the world.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 3 - Elizabeth Zanzinger class
John modeling in an Elizabeth Zanzinger class

One of the most recognizable San Francisco Bay area artist models is John A. Carrasco. Coveted for his soulful eyes, the silver beard of Dumbledore, and his illustrated limbs, he is immediately recognizable in drawings, paintings and sculpture. John is a legend to museums, artists and academics.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 4 - Kelvin Chen
Kelvin Chen

I recently had a great chat with John about his modeling career. He lives in the South Bay but travels to various studios including: Academy of Art (San Francisco), Golden Gate Atelier, (Oakland), Triton Museum (San Jose), Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier (San Carlos), NUMU Atelier (Los Gatos), Sadie Valerie AtelierJustin Hess Studios & Safe House Atelier (all in San Francisco). John has also modeled at universities such as Cogswell Poly Technical College (San Jose), Stanford UniversityNotre Dame, and Santa Clara University.

When did you become an artist’s model and how did you get into it? How long has it been? Do you do it full time?

About 4 years ago I answered an ad for Carl Dobsky’s Safehouse Atelier, San Francisco. It just took off after that. I’ve been doing it full time ever since.

Have you received any training as far as poses go or do you just allow yourself to be posed like a human mannequin by the artist or teacher?

I’m self taught and made up my poses.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 5 - Jie Gao
Jie Gao

How long do you hold a pose before a break?

The norm is 20 minutes before a 5 minute break.

What’s the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you in a modeling situation?

I doubled up with another Model for figure, surprised it went very well.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you modeling?

I thought a particular class was nude figure. It wasn’t and I was naked! I laughed, laughed and laughed!

I think we’ve all had some dreams like that!

Who are some of the artists that have drawn or painted you that really stand out in your mind?

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 5 - Jie Gao
Charcoal from Gorilla Brigade session in Toronto, Ontario

There are so many. In San Francisco there was Carl Dobsky, & Justin Coro Kaufman at Safe House Atelier. Justin Hess and Alicia PonzioSadie ValerieElizabeth ZanzingerIliya MirochnikJacob HankinsonEmilio VillalbaDaniel KeysTeresa Oaxaca and David Jon Kassan also in San Francisco.

That’s quite a Who’s Who of painters, and I know there are many more. I post many contemporary figurative artists on my twitter.com/Uridev stream and I’m sure many people have come to recognize many of these artists through my posts.

Yesthere is a wave of talent emergingI’ve been fortunate to also sit for David GrayFelicia ForteCarol RaffertyZoey FrankRobert Semans, and Youming Cate. At Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier I sat for Noah Buchanan and Sean Cheetham in San Carlos. There was also Zin LimJacob DheinHenry YanOliver Sin, and Zhaoming Wu at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Many more, too many to list really.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 7 - Elizabeth Zanzinger
Elizabeth Zanzinger (Charcoal and white chalk)

How many paintings, drawings or sculptures of yourself have been featured prominently in major exhibitions?

So far over ten have been have been featured and over ten more in sales. There are many more coming up in the near future I believe.

Do you attend the exhibitions and if you do, hang around the paintings?

I do try to attend the exhibits. It’s a privilege to be featured.

I’ve noted you have quite a collection of exceptional portraits of yourself. Did students give you that artwork?

I mostly get to keep artwork from Instructors. Sometimes I’ll trade modeling for the art.

Do artist’s models have groupies? I was shocked that you have more followers on Instagram than I do either on Twitter or on Linked In!

I don’t believe I have groupies, but I do have followers.

Does the general public recognize you either by your beard or tattoos from artwork?

Yes they do. People often tell me I’m plastered everywhere.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 8 - Cuong Nguyen
Cuong Nguyen (oil)

How do ateliers or artists hire you if they do not know your name, just your face? Do schools have you listed as a model for them?

They find me through Facebook, Instagram, or Model Mayhem. There are also local Guilds for artist models.

Most Ateliers, Academy of Art and other Universities have me listed.

You’ve been modeling full time now a few years, have you become friends with any of the artists you pose for?

I believe artists and models develop a connection either figurative or portraiture.

Are you surprised by anything revealed in the artwork about yourself that you never realized as seen through someone else’s eyes?

Yes I was, very humbled by it.

A good studio model can become immortalized in history. Paintings will last 400 years or more whereas film deteriorates; digital photos are ephemeral, and singers become forgotten. The face and the body of an artist’s model lives on through the work.


Featured image: Augie LaRue Sculpture

Colored Pencil: A New Look At An Emerging Medium

In the world of art, colored pencils as a medium continue to be regarded as the new kids on the block. They’ve got the attention of a lot of people but still sit alone at at the drawing table waiting to be joined.

Colored Pencil - Jesse Lane
Jesse Lane

Colored Pencils for art were introduced in 1924 by Faber-Castelland Caran d’Ache.

There are three types of colored pencil. There are thick, soft leads that are waterproof and lightproof. They do not smudge or erase easily (Derwent/Eagle)

The second type are thin, non crumbling, lead pencils. They are are waterproof and great for detail, but come in limited colors. They do not smudge or erase easily but can be removed with a blade. (Verithin/Venus. The Venus brand can be erased).

The third are the water soluble leads.These can be used in combination with water to produce washes of color (cross between colored pencils and watercolors. The most common colored pencils are wax based because they are easily accessible, offer a large color selection and are easier to erase. They have a tendency to bloom (get a milky appearance) if they have not been sealed with a fixative.

Oil based colored pencils generally have a lighter appearance and can require the artist to repeat applications many times to get the richness he desires. They also can smear but a fixative usually is not required.

Colored Pencil - Brian Scott
Brian Scott

Colored pencil artists layer 3, 5, up to 20 layers of pencil to layer and mix colors. In addition to using crosshatching or other techniques to get the pencil into all of the nooks and crannies of textured papers, finishing techniques often include using solvents to blend the colors further.

Colored Pencil - Kerry Brooks
Kerry Brooks

Dry blending uses tools like tortillon’s (paper stumps), tissue, silks or other dried cloth. Additional color can not be laid down again after dry blending.

The U.S., Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom now have national colored pencil societies.Their professional competitions are beginning to attract the professionally trained artist to the medium.

Colored Pencil - Tanja Gant
Tanja Gant

Perhaps there is hope we will see the end of the plethora of puppy paintings along with sentimental children imagery that has become the hallmark of Social Media Censors.

The art most people are exposed to on social media distorts our perception of art. Classic art or the work of the classically trained, are often censored out by low paid home based operators. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition.   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws. For more on this subject, please see my article here.

Colored Pencil - Ann Kullberg
Ann Kullberg

Art Credit: Header Image by Christopher Pugliese (b.1968)

Drawing: The Line Between Real And Illusion

Maria Kreyn (b. 1985, Russia)Learning to draw trains us to see the world through our own eyes and not through the filters of the mind. Our minds delete, distort,and generalize through processing filters.

People who can’t draw have not learned to see what they are looking at. Drawing is a skill set that can be taught. It is not so much about what you do with your hands as it is what you see when you look at something.

In art school many drawing exercises quickly revealed to each of us how the mind lies. Our drawing materials were in one room and the model was in another. We were allowed only 5 minutes to look and remember as much as possible before returning to our easel and draw for ten minutes. After each quarter hour journey we learned quickly what our minds had shut out.

A major problem was that few teachers had the skills to teach drawing, especially the technical drawing needed in the design of textiles, industry, and science.

I see a technological parallel happening in the 21st century. So many tech “creations” are not “creations” at all but more akin to mental innovations. Many people see tech as the high priestess of design, but to those who actually create it is seen as derivative. Every reference of a CGI screen can be easily spotted to the trained eye.   I have said that art done in the digital world is a bit like compact fluorescent light bulbs: the color feels off and the energy is considered dirty. The emotions are stripped in the same way humor or sarcasm do not translate well in text messages.

 

Shane Wolf (b.1976, American)

There is an expression, “great artists steal.” Sadly it has been adapted and distorted from a quote by TS Eliot. People have heard so many versions of it, that is often taken at face value. I will get back to that later.

Junghoon Lee (South Korean)

The original quote, “the immature poet imitates and the mature poet plagiarizes”, has been parodied by artists, composers and writers such as Picasso, Stravinsky, and Faulkner.

Pablo Picasso changed the quote to, “Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.”

Igor Stravinsky changed it to “A lessor artists borrows, great artists steal”.

Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner, added his version with “Immature artists copy, great artists steal”.

Stealing in each of these cases refers to not copying someone else’s work, but taking it in what you love about it and making it a part of your self. It does not mean copying.

Someone who copies is confusing mental ideas with creativity. It is coming from fear, not creativity.

Competitive people believe only a few good ideas exist and there is not enough to go around. Competition is the opposite of creativity.Creativity manifests itself uniquely to every individual. It is unlimited.

So how did the USA get to a point where basic drawing skills are no longer taught to everyone? In 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act was passed. For schools to receive federal monies or what is known as Title I Funding, schools would have to administer standard based assessments.

Elizabeth Zanzinger (b.1980, American)

Schools began to focus on test results through memorization. Although it technically included the arts, they were not tested for Title I funding. If the students did not pass rigorous tests, schools lost their funding and teachers lost their jobs. Teaching kids to think or to create was no longer financially worth it.

The No Child Left Behind Act was replaced with “The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015. Although modified, it did not eliminate the requirements for periodic standardized tests given to students. It has left generations of visually illiterate adults and the non development of the part of our brain that helps us creatively solve problems.

Drawing with computers does not train the eye in the same way we learn with paper and pencil. Digital manipulation does not replace the skill of learning to draw anymore that cut and pasting from what is online is writing a novel.

I am not suggesting that everyone receive the rigorous training as a professional artist at an Atelier. Learning to draw in this way takes 2 years (graphite, charcoal, pen and ink, washes), It includes technical drawing (perspective and human anatomy. I am suggesting we take the lead from the French and take away cell phones from students during school hours.

Steven Assael (b.1957, American) Shana Leveson (American)

 

When drawing was initially required to be taught in our schools we had to use Britain’s school system to know where to begin. Art Master Walter Smith was hired and brought to the USA as the Art Education Supervisor Of Massachusettes.Walter Smith wanted to teach children how to draw, not make drawings. He wanted to give them an understanding of technical drawing that could be brought into design of products, incorporate science, and an understanding of how to see.

Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)
Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)

Jamie Hudson in his paper, Industrial Drawing in America in the 19th Century describes Smiths plan as follows:

  • “Smith separated the public into three sections:Children,skilled artisans,and general public. Children would be taught drawing in schools as part of their general education, artisans would be taught in night schools, and the general public would be able to have lectures in museums if they wished.
  • Smith educated teachers who had previous knowledge of drawing. He did this so in turn they became knowledgeable enough to teach normal teachers how to incorporate art in the classroom.
  • Smith devised a plan for incorporating drawing skills in grade schools. For younger students, they would be taught, “free-hand outline drawing” and when they were old enough they would eventually learn “model drawing”. “Memory Drawing” and flash cards were also included in his method (used in all grades).”

 

Many studies show technology is effecting our attention span and memory. It is literally re-wiring our brains differently. According to a new cognitive research out of Germany, “the production of visual art improves effective interaction” between parts of the brain.” Drawing skills benefit our ability to contribute to dozens of skill-sets and contributes significantly to how efficient our brains age and work over all.

Colleen Barry (b.1981, American)

I post a figurative art stream on Twitter featuring contemporary artists. The gratitude I receive from artists and art lovers is my reward. So many people do not realize we are living in a renaissance of classically trained artists. If you would like to visit it please go to Twitter.com/Uridev.


Artists Work by order of appearance

  1. Camie Salaz (b.1977, American) drawing for the painting of “Orion”
  2. Maria Kreyn (b. 1985, Russia)
  3. Roberto Ferri (b.1978, Italy)
  4. Shane Wolf (b.1976, American)
  5. Junghoon Lee (South Korean)
  6. Elizabeth Zanzinger (b.1980, American)
  7. Left: Steven Assael (b.1957, American)
  8. Right: Shana Leveson (American)
  9. Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)
  10. Colleen Barry (b.1981, American.)

Gage Taylor, California Visionary Artist and My Art Master from a World before the Internet

Tropical Dream has been part of my private art collection for over two decades. I apprenticed as a painter with Gage Taylor for 4 years, served as an USIA Art Ambassador with him for the US State Department, and we collaborated professionally on canvas for many years under the signature Taylor Dana.

In his lifetime, Gage’s work was exhibited nationally in the Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum in NY, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Huntsville Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The National Museum of American Art, The Haggin Museum in Sacramento and the Oakland Museum.

Internationally it was exhibited with the Paris Biennale, the India Triennale, and Ortona, Italy.

Our collaborative work was featured in The Egyptian Rosicrucian Museum In San Jose, Ca and what is now the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle. Internationally Taylor Dana was exhibited at The National Museum of Art in Jamaica & the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.

Gage Taylor (1942-2000) was considered one of the six originators of an art genre known as California Visionary Art. (Visions, Walter Hopps, Pomegranate Press). California Visionary art followed the poster art craze made popular by record covers. These artists made history and changed the course of art. Twelve of Gage Taylor’s early works were printed as posters by Pomegranate Publishing; including ”Mescaline Woods” and ”The Road”. Artweek’s David Clark estimated that Taylor’s reproductions (and those of his compeer Bill Martin) “are on millions of walls throughout the western world.” They were profiled in publications as varied as Newsweek & Omni Magazine.

Visions by Walter Hopps
“Visions” featuring Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. This book was about the original California Visionary Art Movement.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas as Dennis Gage Taylor, he received his BFA from University of Texas, Austin (1965). Gage graduated with an MFA from Michigan State University (1967) where he later taught sculpture and drawing.

In 1969 he married his high school sweetheart and moved to California. He started working at the San Francisco Academy of Art. San Francisco was still in a post-coital summer of love phase and Gage spent hours smoking pot, dropping mescaline, and communing with the Nature Spirits. He was an avid meditator, and loved hiking and painting in nature every week. This is the time that most influenced his early work.

Ironically, Gage could not sell one painting as long as it was signed “Dennis Taylor.” In meditation, he was guided to legally drop his first name. He did, and within a year, Gage Taylor was internationally known as a painter.

Gage had his first One Person Show in 1970 at the San Francisco Art Institute. (He taught there in 1971 for one year). He also published the first of 14 posters (The Road, Pomegranate Press). In 1974 Taylor became a biographee in Who’s Who In American Art and Who’s Who In the West.

 

The Road Gage Taylor
The Road by Gage Taylor (from the book Visions). Oil on Canvas.

By 1975 he was featured in the Paris Biennalle at the Museum of Modern Art (“Mindscapes From The New Land”) in Paris, which went on to tour Germany. His “Baja” exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was also in 1975 as well as his participation in “Hanson Fuller Gallery Pays Tribute to the Art Institute”, San Francisco.

In 1976 Gage’s work was included in the National Collection of Fine Art in Washington DC. (“California Painting and Sculpture”). This exhibit had traveled from The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.(California Painting and Sculpture,1976).

1977 brought his work to the Huntsville Museum of Fine Art in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Modern Era-A Bay Area Update”) and he was featured in the July 11,1977 issue of Newsweek.

Gage’s paintings were also included in the India Triennalle (“California Visionary Art”) and his work then travelled as a group exhibition through Nepal and Japan.

In 1978 he began a two-year project painting California’s Endangered Landscape Series under sponsorship of the Oakland Museum of Natural Sciences Guild. His work was also featured in “Vision Quest” at the Hall of Flowers, San Francisco.

Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor
Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor, Oil on Canvas, Part of the California Endangered Landscape Series.

In Sept of 1979 Gage Taylor’s “Holy Grove” was the first art centerfold featured in Omni Magazine. “Holy Grove” was later included in the touring exhibit “Artists of Omni Magazine” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City in 1980.

Holy Grove by Gage Taylor
Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In 1981 his work was included in a group show at James Atkinson Gallery in Houston, Texas and later in the year Gage’s work traveled to Ortona, Italy in an exhibit called “The Soft Land”.

Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor
Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The Nasty Bits: In 1982 Marin County was declared a State Disaster Area as rainstorms devastated the area. The irony of this was it was the very day Gage and his first wife decided to divorce. Unknown to Taylor, a swollen mountain stream by his home had created a dam of debris, turning a forest of Bay Laurels into battering rams.

The dam gave way and destroyed the house with Taylor, his wife and their two children inside. They all survived, but his wife was left a quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care for the rest of her life. Gage and his children never recovered from survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress from the event. It was a physical and financial blow that Gage Taylor would never really recover from. It was this single event that eventually led to Gage and I painting together years later. It also began a more spiritual path for Gage in his art.

Part two of Gage Taylor’s life begins when we meet and I became his apprentice. (He had many apprentices that went on to have very successful art careers).

In 1983 Gage was invited to participate in an exhibit the San Rafael Civic Center in CA called “The San Geronimo Valley Artists”. He was also invited to participate in a similar themed exhibit at The College of Marin Gallery (Kentfield, CA) called “Artists of the San Geronimo Valley”. I was a student studying Sculpture and Museum Management and helped launch the exhibit. Gage and I met when I was receiving artwork and filling out insurance information for the exhibit. I had been a huge fan of Gage Taylor from his cards and posters going back to when I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany in the 1970’s. I invited him to participate in an upcoming exhibit I was curating at the College of Marin Gallery called, “Crystal Energy”. He invited me to be his student. (1983-1987)

Crystal Energy (1983) was a major exhibit about rare quartz crystals that heal from the Scientific, Metaphysical and the American Indian points of view. Many internationally known artists and speakers were featured. I took a chance and included 3 small pieces of my art in the exhibit.

Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor
Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The owners of The Illuminarium Gallery discovered my work and invited me to exhibit in their galleries. (They also cloned my exhibition in several of their future galleries).

Long before adding me, The Illuminarium represented Gage’s individual work from 1978 to 1988. Gage and I both exhibited regularly in their galleries in Marin, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.

Gage and I began collaborating together in 1984. We painted in his style on the same canvas. We were both only children and working together was an effective and pleasant way for me to learn. It allowed him to teach me and increase his income with our additional work. (Our gallery represented both of us and people liked the collaborations). Although it was an intense way to learn, I retained my own distinct voice as an artist.

In 1985 Gage Taylor’s work was in the Hall of Flowers exhibit “Bay Area Regionalists” in San Francisco, “Artists of the Bay Area -1945 to Present” at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, and  “100 Vows of the Sun” at the Southern Exposure Gallery in San Francisco. (My work was also included in this exhibit).

At this time our collaborative work was featured in the gallery scenes of Shirley Maclaine’s mini series based on her best selling book, Out on A Limb (1986). It was also the first year our collaborative work was listed in the Encyclopedia of Living Artists (1986) and in Art Diary, Perugia, Italy (1986).

Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana
Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana. Oil on Canvas.

By 1988 Gage and I decided we wanted work that would be a synergy of our mutual interests. Both of us had studied all the world’s religions and mythologies, we both were meditators that honored the unseen worlds in our work. Based on archetypes that repeat in the East, the Middle East, and the West, Taylor-Dana was born.

Enlightenment and Purrsuasion by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana
Enlightenment and Purrsuasian, Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriel Dana) Oil on Canvas.

These collaboration took on a life of their own at the Art Awards 88 (1988) National Competition in Bellevue, Washington (now Bellevue Art Museum).

Nocturne by Taylor Dana
Nocturne by Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriél Dana) Oil on Canvas. Entry into Art Awards 88 Competition.

Later, an exclusive retrospective of the Taylor-Dana work was given in 1993 at the Rosicrucian/Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA named “The Mythic Image”. (A limited edition poster of the painting “Honoring the Goddess” was printed for the Exhibit).

The Mythic Image by Taylor Dana

Our collaborative work was sold at the Illuminarium Gallery & Isis Rising Galleries in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Santa Monica, and Tampa; Center Art Galleries in Honolulu, Hawaii & multiple locations on Maui, Hawaii. Dyansen Galleries, Maui, HI. Our work was also sold through Addi Galleries on Maui, HI & Fine Art Collections in Kona, HI.

Valley of Light by Gage Taylor
Valley of Light by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In Hawaii the Taylor-Dana work was commissioned for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kauai, and Gage Taylor was commissioned to paint 15 watercolors for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikoloa, Hawaii in 1988. During this time we became Art Ambassadors for the Arts America Program for the USIA (part of the U.S. State Department) (1987). We toured and exhibited work through the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, & Guyana) in this invitational post assisting the creative community. We also had an exhibition of our work at the Brazilian Embassy as it was near Guyana. One of our gouache paintings (Two Tigers) was acquired for the International Collection of the Jamaica National Gallery of Art in Jamaica.

We moved our studio to Sausalito, CA in 1990. Our work was represented at Hanson Galleries in Sausalito, LaJolla, & Carmel, CA., Eaton Galleries (Sausalito), Sierra Galleries, Tiburon with work represented on Maui, HI by Addi Galleries.

From 1991 Gage Taylor and I were represented by Conacher Galleries on Maiden Lane in San Francisco until Don Conacher’s death.

Conacher Galleries brochures for Taylor Dana
Conacher Galleries (Maiden Lane, San Francisco) brochures for Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana)

In addition to Gage’s dozen posters with Pomegranate Press, Taylor’s work was published on 75 Art Cards (50 with myself) with Visionary Publishing, Queens Cards and Milk and Honey Publishing. Taylor cards were published by Pomegranate Press as well as one billboard for National Tire Company (I had a billboard for Relax America Music label). His work was also used on a National ad for Boise Cascade Company, several magazine covers, and other creative works and prints.

Gage Taylor wrote one children’s book Bears at Work (Chronicle Books) and had written 4 young adult books & their screenplay adaptions that were unpublished at the time of his death.

Bears at Work by Gage Taylor
Bears At Work by Gage Taylor, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Late in 2000 Gage Taylor, who had never been ill, was diagnosed with 4th stage Prostate Cancer. Four months later he was gone.

Photo of Gage Taylor by Uriel Dana
Photo of Gage Taylor taken by Uriél Dana in Sausalito 3 months before his death.

It’s hard to describe what its like when you lose someone who has touched every part of your life for 17 years. My 3 oldest friends suddenly died during the same time period. I went into a traumatic shock and grief kept me from painting a long time. Tropical Dream was Gage’s idea of Heaven. For me to move on to my own version of Heaven I am letting go of his. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in adding this painting to your collection.

How To Sell An Old Or Valuable Painting

They were once known as the Three D’s of the auction world: Death, Divorce, and Debt. Auction houses have traditionally obtained their best merchandise as a result of these three disasters. Unfortunately, due to the economic times we live in, the Three D’s have evolved. We now have The Five D’s of Auction Houses and Forclosures: Death, Disease, Drugs, Divorce, and Denial.

For years I’ve modestly cleaned or repaired artwork found at auction as a way of conserving our heritage. It is common for people who visit my art studio to mention paintings they’ve inherited from a bereavement. They often want to sell their painting but have no idea how to go about it.

Recently someone mentioned a painting they had inherited. They believed it to be by the French Rococo painter and printmaker, Jean Honore Fragonard. The process to sell a Fragonard painting is the same step by step directions that I would recommend to anyone wanting to sell an older painting.

The most important thing required for selling any artwork is compiling its history. Known as the Provenance, it is the paperwork that confirms the authenticity of a piece. It is the history of how you came to own the painting. It may have been through an inheritance or a purchase from an auction or a gallery. However you came by it there will be a paper trail.

Provenance can also be in the form of exhibition or gallery stickers, newspaper or magazine articles, original sales receipts, a photo of the artist with the painting.

Having a written statement from an established authority on the artist or subject will help authenticate a painting. Sadly, the more common Certificates of Authenticity floating about on places like E-Bay mean nothing. They can be bought by anyone walking into a chain office supply store.

One of the best things you can do before attempting to personally sell your painting is to consult with an auction house. Every major auction house has a free appraisal day once a month. Find out what that day is for the Sotheby’s, Bonham’s, Christies or other auction houses near you.

Confirm that there will be someone available during the free appraisal day who specializes in the work you want to sell. For example, you would want to see the person who specializes in 18th Century paintings if you owned the Fragonard. On the free auction appraisal day bring your painting with you along with everything you have on the painting’s provenance. This greatly adds to the legitimacy of the work.

You may believe the paperwork on your art is already legitimate and feel defensive about having an auction house examine the piece. No one thinks your grandparents would lie to you, but whomever you inherited your art from may not have acquired their art from someone trustworthy.

Remember, auction houses hire experts in their field. They often know something that others may not. ‘The Fountain of Love’ featured with this article actually had two versions painted by the artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. One version of the painting was a bequest in 1897 to the Wallace Collection in London. An untrained eye might think the second version that surfaced in the United States in 1996 was a fake. It wasn’t, and was later purchased and restored by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The auction house art historian will either verify a painting or tell you that it is not authentic. It is in the best interest of the auction house to find authenticated pieces of art. No one benefits from fakes. The artwork is tracked and documented every step of the way. They will also give you an auction estimate.

Auction houses will also give you a high and low auction estimate of what the piece is expected to sell for. They do this for you because they will want to sell the art for the commission. (You will pay a percentage of the sale and the buyer also pays a premium). For most people this is a better choice than selling privately. An auction house will catalogue & index it, and attract a large group of buyers that may be interested in your painting. They are set up to receive money in any amount from any country. They also have expertise in shipping, storage and insurance.

If you want to avoid an auction house, you’re going to probably require a little more than paperwork to sell directly to a dealer or private buyer. If your painting does not have its provenance, you will have trouble getting the high value everyone would like.

For a fee, you can sometimes hire an art broker who will occasionally research and acquire paperwork on a painting. Like auction houses, art brokers are always looking for inventory for their client’s wish lists. For this reason, do not have the work cleaned or repaired until your painting has been authenticated; art brokers will sometimes use trusted conservationists at a new owner’s request.

The next question people usually ask is, “who pays for a painting’s authentication?” In the case of the Fragonard example mentioned above, an expert or a gallery that specialized in 18th century art would have been contacted. The expert may ask for microscopic paint scrapings to be analyzed by a lab for date identification.

If the paint analysis comes back correctly dating your painting they may also take on the added expense of an X-ray, depending on its potential value. I’m referring to art brokers with high end clients who have wish lists for their collection.

If your expert has a collector in mind, they may have you bring the painting with them to a hospital for an X-ray. This is an expenditure of few thousand dollars out of pocket for the gallery.

I’d like to add that most art brokers will not go to this expense unless they have a contract with you. If you back out of that agreement you will get a bill for not only their expertise but the lab and X-ray expenses.

The price an art broker offers you will not be the price he sells it for, nor will you meet any of his clients. A broker is hired not just to help you but because they are a treasure hunter for collectors. Their job requires years of knowledge, is labor intensive and high risk. Without that expertise you would get a fraction of the price that may be offered.

An auction house will sometimes buy a piece to restore and sell at a later date if it is a high demand item that has not been cared for properly. They may have it restored and save it for an Old Master’s sale.

As a painter and an art collector, I’d like to add this final thought. Never keep a piece of art out of a false sense of history or loyalty. Art holds an energy that effects people whether they are conscious of it or not.Think of how tagging can make a neighborhood feel unsafe or how a sculpture in a garden can hold a feeling of peace and tranquility. If you do not love looking at it and look at it every day it serves no one.

Of further interest on this subject:


Featured Image: Jean Honore Fragonard ‘The Fountain of Love’ (Detail)

In Art Or Music, Never Fight Your Materials

A few years ago a 30 year old friend of mine told me he was finally going to buy a guitar and take lessons. He went on to add, “it would just be a cheap one in case he didn’t like it or wasn’t good at it.” As an avid supporter of the arts, I am sure he did not expect my reply. I told him not to bother if that was how he intended to start his new hobby.

I am a firm believer in using the best quality art materials you can afford. If you use poor brushes or paints making art will become a drudgery. You do not ever want to fight your materials, or your musical instruments for that matter.

The materials you want to use are a personal preference depending on what and how you paint. It is important for artists to do their research, to look up different brands and the reviews by artists that use those brands. They must always keep in mind what they like to paint.

For example, I apprenticed for four years with a landscape painter who loved Winsor Newton for their greens and yellows. However they are not my favorite oils for portraits, they made my subjects look sallow.

When I moved away from landscapes, I started to prefer Sennelier Oils from Paris which I still use. Sennelier oils have this wonderful buttery texture. They also use a safflower oil that does not yellow. Their colors are luxurious but not garish.

Now I use Rublev Colours in addition to the Sennelier Oils. Rublev uses the same formulas as the Old Masters (ground from natural minerals and earths) in a linseed base. They are wonderful for portraits.

When artists start creating and selling their work, I’ve noticed they often resist spending money on supplies. What if the painting isn’t good enough to sell they ask? I ask back, “What if it turns out to be the best piece you’ve ever done and launches your career?” No matter how poor you perceive yourself to be as an artist, I always recommend setting aside ten percent of your sale for new materials. 

Setting aside 10% for your materials keeps your studio replenished but also sends a message to yourself that you are a professional and that you take your business seriously. When you own your art as a serious profession, you work harder. You’ll find yourself keeping more disciplined hours, better records, and less tolerant of interruptions.

My friend who finally got serious about learning guitar took my advice to heart. Rather shockingly, he spent as much on his guitar as some do on a small car. He loved the way it looked, he loved the way it felt when he picked it up. It became the perfect lover when he leaned it into his body. He loved the sound it made when he touched it. He practiced every free moment.

Four weeks later my friend was playing music for me over Skype from Singapore. In a year he was writing music. After two years he performed a solo at his company’s huge corporate holiday party. Girls finally paid attention to him. He loved making music. He told me how grateful he was for advising him to buy a good instrument to learn on. He said it was the best advice he had ever received!

Art Copyright: Image Protection For Artists In A Land of Digital Thieves

How many times have artists been told that our art is protected by copyright as long as we sign it? Perhaps you’ve heard it will be safe if  it is signed with a copyright symbol? A favorite urban myth is that we are legally protected if we send the image by certified mail to ourselves and leave it unopened. None of these are true if your art has been scanned and used by a corporate entity.

Unfortunately, we live in a time where images are lifted and manipulated and passed off as original daily. The movie “Avatar” was the first time I was actually distracted by the imagery I could easily identify in spite of the software used to obfuscate what was obvious to the visually literate.

I am not a copyright attorney. As a fine artist for more than three decades I can only share my experience when one of my painting images appeared on the Microsoft Home Page without my permission.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of people seeing your art every day on the Internet. Now imagine that instead of your signature under the painting, you saw the name “Corbis” written under it. This is what happened to me. The web was still relatively new at the time and most people had no idea that “Corbis” was an image licensing company. It looked more like the artist’s name.

The Seer is my most recognized painting. It has been in print nearly non-stop since it was first painted in 1988. The model was the artist Gage Taylor’s daughter from his first marriage. Her name is Deva Taylor. I designed the costume and used an Amethyst from a collection of quartz spheres I use to own.

Around the time Gage died in 2000, people began e-mailing me about an image that looked like one of my paintings on the Microsoft Home Page.

Instead of my name and copyright notice it said, “Corbis”. A yellow filter, a Tarot card, and a candle were overlaid with computer software. At the time I wasn’t fussed about the image being used. I did mind, however, that it looked like someone named Corbis had done the image.

I contacted Microsoft and said, “This is my oil painting. I can tell you who the model is; show you my photos and preliminary sketches, the amethyst and even the Oscar del la Renta Scarf. You don’t need to pay me, just please put my name under the image.” Microsoft blew me off and to contact Corbis.

Next I contacted the licensing division of Corbis. I said, “This is my oil painting. I can tell you who the model is; show you my photos and preliminary sketches, the amethyst and even the Oscar del la Renta Scarf. You don’t need to pay me, just please put my name under the image.Corbis blew me off too.

Every attorney I contacted was afraid to take on Microsoft. (Apparently Microsoft retains a huge team of attorneys to frighten people off).

A friend and patron was a recently retired successful attorney. He began to advocating on my behalf with some of San Francisco’s major law firms. He located an excellent first amendment attorney. For legal reasons I cannot mention her name.

I will say she was the only lawyer at the time that had ever fought Microsoft on copyright violation and won. As an attorney, she was hesitant to take on Goliath a second time.

Fortunately, whatever one may think of my art, I look very good on paper. I mention this only because it was a huge contributing factor to my case. I had just been nominated for the 4th time for International Woman of the Year as well as for Who’s Who of American Art, Who’s Who of American Women, and for Outstanding Achievement in the Fine Arts (a category of The Twentieth Century Award for Achievement).

As a courtesy, the attorney made a call to Microsoft on my behalf. The gist of their response was, “we’re not accountable to some woman artist”. Fortunately, it was their arrogance that made this particular woman attorney angry enough to represent me.

We did not go to court. In a meeting Microsoft said it was not their problem it was Corbis’s problem. Corbis said it was not their problem but the photographers’ problem. The photographer hung his head and said, ”I did not think I’d get caught”.

Microsoft and Corbis guarantee the copyrights of their images in their contracts and were instantly accountable. So it was a photographer, not Microsoft or Corbis that had actually scanned one of my images, manipulated it, and deceptively passed it off as his own.

We settled. Most of the money went to my attorney and expenses, and I did not get rich. I had to sign a statement saying Microsoft had done nothing wrong and that I would never say how much I was paid.

Suing over copyright violation was never about money for me, but about seeing a noble and difficult profession increasingly marginalized by tech. Without artists video games would not exist and yet “talent” is consistently the lowest paid jobs in the industry. When behemoth tech companies are required to participate in percentage for art programs, they add insult to injury by paying for graffiti installed indoors. It is not to be young and contemporary. It is a value judgement against art and its place in the tech world.

I am sharing this experience because it was eye opening. Although as artists are told we own the copyrights to our work by rights of doing it, this is not quite true. Unless you fill out the actual paperwork and pay the fee to the US Copyright Office, you cannot sue anyone for violation.

Artists fear the costs of registering their artwork. Although it is only $35.00 per image by mail and $45.00 online, if you create dozens of images your expenses can quickly accumulate. What many artists do not realize is that you can group copyright under one fee if you are producing a catalog or a book under a theme. With the technology we have today you can print an inexpensive catalog or calendar at Fed Ex/Kinko’s and pay a single copyright fee.

I was fortunate to actually have registered it, although it was a few years after I had finished the painting. This made Microsoft only financially responsible from the actual date I received my copyright; not from the time the painting was signed.

Another corporate snare (designed to avoid responsibility) was to imply I did not have a “model release”. Guess what? I did! Years ago I paid a copyright attorney $88.00 to write a professional model release. It was one of the best investments I have ever made, and was tax deductible. (You can now buy books with legal contracts for artists ready to go). The point I’m trying to make is, all I really wanted was my name identifying my own painting. It says so much about our culture when a tech company that pays out millions to charity chooses not to pay a small licensing fee to a female artist. They chose to remove the image from their site.

Many young artists feel uncomfortable using contracts. Caroll Michels sums it up perfectly in her book, How To Survive & Prosper As An Artist, Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul.…most artists who resist using contracts are struggling with the issue of psychological leverage and erroneously believe that they have not achieved a level of recognition or success that permits them to ask for what they want. Requiring art dealers, art consultants, exhibition sponsors, and clients to use contracts is not a sign of mistrust. Rather, it shows that you take yourself and your work seriously,, and you are demonstrating good faith in wanting to maintain a smooth working relationship by ironing out in advance any possible conflicts or misunderstandings.

My experience with Microsoft has made me think hard and often about the disassociation of images from their creator. In a time where smartphones give us immediate access to a camera and video, the currency of the image has been devalued. They are too easily accessible. The concept that photography is a skill or an art is lessened. People endlessly post mundane images on social media sites. We are increasingly forgetting boundaries or that we have dishonored the rights of others. It’s maddening when I see an unidentified painting on Pinterest, when I know the artist but there is no way for me to add that identity. Using Google Image or Tin Eye to identify artwork is easy and to not do so irresponsible.

Social media posts are not the only violations of copyrights. Many artists are not any better. Have you been told if you change 25% of an image you are not violating someone else’s copyright? This is false. Although the copyright laws say the image has to be transformed, it is the purpose behind your change versus the original that will be the topic of discussion in court.

We should never assume anything created prior to the 1930’s is in the public domain either. If you do not create your own sketches or photographic references, images can be licensed for as little as $10.00. We should not do this to avoid a lawsuit, but because it is in alignment with universal law.

On this note, a tenth of my life has probably been spent in museums looking at art. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that in the early days I rarely paid attention to the artist’s name accompanying the painting. It was the imagery, colors, and technique that held me. Only when I started to remember the name of the artists I admired that the art public started to remember my name. Apparently we do get what we give.

(Note: This was originally a much longer article. I have divided it into two parts for easier reading. Part II is called, Dolls Gone Wrong: The World’s Warped Perception of Women in the Arts).

——

Artwork: The Seer, Oil On Canvas, ©1988, by Uriél Dana. This image has been published as a card in 12 countries on 4 continents.

Art And Auctions: The Battle For The Bronze

Auction houses are my secret passion. The pull of finding and rescuing a painting in distress lures me. Cleaning decades of grime; removing yellowed varnish; or repairing the puncture wounds of the careless matter to me.

Art Auctions - Ariadne
Ariadne, Artist Unknown, Compagnie des Bronzes de Bruxelles, late 1800’s.

I recently rescued a Belgium bronze of the Greek Goddess Ariadne. Like all Goddesses, all she needed was two hours of special care and a good massage with restorative oil and she was her old self again.

When I began visiting auction houses years ago it was to see paintings from private collections that would be viewable perhaps only once in my lifetime. They can be a private museum for those who refuse to be intimidated.

Auction rooms attract the same mix of people you find buying cars. There are those that just want the flash, others where money is no object. There are also the “must have good bones and I can fix the rest” people; the resale value bidders; and those that just want something because someone else does. There are also buyers who have more money than sense, and those that have done their research. The more you attend auctions, the more familiar you become with the regulars and their motivations.

One of the auction houses I frequent has a regular bidder that does not seem to fit into any of those categories. He seems to enjoy passive aggressive bidding and does not care what he bids on. Many times this person has driven the price up on an item I was bidding on. As I am a regular customer and I’ve come to know the staff, I once asked if he worked for them to drive the prices up. It turned out they did not like him anymore than I did, and no one could work out his story.

It’s important to do your due diligence on any type of purchase. I rely on years of continued study (formal and private) of art history, and my skill set as a restorer. I also draw on my purchasing skills as Head of the Interior Architecture division of a multi-national construction firm in my 20’s, before becoming an artist. I never purchase anything that I wouldn’t keep for myself after it is restored.

I bid on Ariadne and so did Passive Aggressive Man. I bid, he bid. I bid, he bid. I bid (my limit) and the bid went to him. He lifts her up and announces to the room he intends to melt her down for scrap value. The look of shock and disgust on my face that someone would do this to a century old bronze must have been obvious. The auctioneer looked at me and whispered, “Don’t get mad, get even!” BAM! I had bought myself a bronze. A gift really. Her marks, from a famous foundry in Brussels, buried under decades of dirt, revealed that I had purchased a treasure.

Art is the soul of a place and we are all guardians of our own culture. Like Ariadne, the Goddess of Labyrinths, we must all find our own way to save what is sacred to us.


Artwork: Ariadne, Artist Unknown, Compagnie des Bronzes de Bruxelles, late 1800’s.