Tag Archives: drawing

Why NFTs Are A Financial Fad, Not An Art Movement

It doesn’t matter what the art is. It doesn’t matter who the artist is. The only thing that matters is a digital file that has a verified identity and ownership. It’s called a “non-fungible token” or, more commonly, an NFT.

Using blockchain technology, a system that marries mathematics and cryptography (aka crypto) to make something unhackable, NFTs use a digital ledger to secure the value of an asset, like a piece of art, that has been tokenized. (Tokenization is a process where an asset is converted into a token that can be moved, stored, or recorded on a blockchain).

The digital artwork is uploaded to an auction market. Its ownership is stored as a decentralized, open-source block-chain that anyone can check. As NFTs are not mutually interchangeable, enthusiasts’ would like to convince us that NFTs or crypto art is as collectible as the fine art that grace our walls.

With the sale of the Beeple NFT that sold at Christie’s for 69.3 million in May, we may infer this may be the new direction of art. It’s important to know that the piece was comprised of one digital painting a day created over 14 years by Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple.

That theory goes out the window when a lot of 9 CryptoPunks pixelated portraits sold for 17 million as NFTs at the same auction house. The message was clear. It’s not about the art, it’s about owning an asset, albeit a unique file, that can live on blockchain sold or traded by a verifiable owner. It cannot be duplicated or tampered with. All that matters is having the ability to securely value, purchase, and exchange a digital image using a digital ledger. Non Fungible Tokens are not about loving the arts or supporting artists; they are about moving around money.

In full disclosure, I have always seen digital art as an advertising or film tool, not fine art. I am not a tech geek but I am married to one. (Ironically, an expert in Blockchain). My apprehension about using computers as an art medium comes from multiple experiences with digital obsolescence. The software needed to access a digital file becomes obsolete.

People, especially those raised on tech, think everything created on a computer exists forever in the “cloud”. In reality, everything created using virtual technology is ephemeral. An oil painting can survive over 400 years; fresco’s for even longer. Try getting images off USB PCI cards, floppy discs, or zip drives if you are not an expert.

We live in a corporate climate that continuously devalues the arts while profiting off the work of trained artists. Computer games topped $159B in 2020 and artists continue to be paid a fraction of coders. As long as we live in a culture that devalues the arts, artists will continue to be exploited for financial gain.

I’ve written many articles on why right-leaning governments remove the arts from schools. It’s important to understand that digital manipulation does not train the eye in the same way artists learn to draw with paper and pencil.” Traditional fine art develops the part of our brain that not only creates but helps us creatively solve problems. It’s the same part of our brain that helps us see through manipulation. This is why historically one of the first actions taken by fascist governments has been to shut down the fine arts. Is there a correlation between what is happening politically right now and NFT’s? Perhaps.

Are NFTs the future of the art market? I seriously doubt it. Art collectors are in it usually for the love of what they collect. They are often as educated on their subject as the best curators. Collectors often know more about the art they collect than they do their own children. Owning a digital file token just doesn’t seem to fit the profile of most of the collectors I’ve met in my 38 years as an artist.

NFTs fit the profile more in line with the financial scandals over the last few decades. We all remember the exaggerated assets, false accounting, pump and dump stock schemes, inflated revenues, and the insider trading of the last few years.

Auction Houses and Brokerage Firms will sell anything that can make a profit. Let’s not pretend it’s about the art. The people who are buying NFTs appear to be the same people that have a vested interest in creating a market from the technology involved.

Uriél Danā on Film ShootUriél Danā has been a Professional Fine Artist 38 years and is a Contributing Editor on the arts and other subjects for two online arts magazines.

She is an Air Force Veteran and former USIA (State Department) Ambassador to the Arts. She is a graduate of the 2016 Writers Guild of the West (Los Angeles, CA) Veterans Writing Project.

A Contributing Editor on the Arts, Buddhism and Culture, Uriél contributes regularly to online and print magazines in addition to international journals. She has won many awards for her poetry and has been included in two anthologies. For National Poetry Month, April 2020, her poems will be featured on San Francisco’s public radio station, KPFA.

A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Uri has lived on three continents and visited 44 countries.

Écorché: The Art and Science of Seeing Through Others

Écorché is a word coined by the École Des Beaux Arts to describe a figure that is drawn, painted, or sculpted without skin to reveal the muscles and bones below. It literally translates to “flayed or skinned”.

Écorché Woman
Écorché Woman

In Western Europe this teaching practice went back to the Italian Renaissance. Long associated with masters such as Leonardo da VinciAndreas Vesalius & Honore Fragonard, it is used today as a form of study for the human form at many top art schools including the New York Academy of Art, the Art Students League of New York and the Florence Academy of Art in Italy.

Without mastery of the human figure, its skeleton and muscle masses, figures in art look rubbery or the portrait equivalent of the clay humanoid animation Mr. Gumby.

Écorché, Antonio Durelli 1837 red chalk and pencil
Écorché, Antonio Durelli 1837 red chalk and pencil

Occidental anatomy is the structural foundation for realism in drawing, painting, or sculpture, but also for medical treatment and forensic facial reconstruction.

Christians believed the body and the soul were connected and forbade doctors from viewing (much less dissecting) the human body.

Écorché - Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci

It was not until the election of Pope Boniface VIII (d.1303) was the practice allowed. Even so, it was not until a century later during the early Renaissance for these studies to be embraced. Leonardo da Vinci (b.1452-d.1519) emerged as a major contributor and became known as the artist-anatomist to the new science of “anatomy”. He was the first to draw a fetus in utero but unfortunately got many of the female reproductive organs incorrect. (Female corpses were difficult to come by).

Finding cadavers to develop this practice is as interesting as the drawings themselves.

A sketch by Michelangelo di Buonarroti
A sketch by Michelangelo di Buonarroti

When Michelangelo was seventeen he stayed at the convent of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito in Paris after the death of Lorenzo de’Medici. Its hospital regularly practiced dissection on its bodies. Michelangelo traded his sculpting abilities to make a crucifix for their Basilica in exchange for access to their corpses.

Many cadavers up to 200 years ago have been hanging victims.

Jiwoong Cheh, Sculptor
Jiwoong Cheh, Sculptor

Medical schools advanced quickly when painters and sculptors began working with doctors. By the 17th and 18th century, dissections became a standard practice in medical schools. A few doctors were also artists.

Doctor Paul Richer (1849-1933) sculpted the Living Ecorché to stress the significance between the interior and exterior forms of the body.

In the East, écorché is known as Jing-Shui and it was mastered 1500 years before the West. During the Chinese Han Dynasty (16 C.E.), Emperor Wang Mang ordered the body of a criminal to be slowly deconstructed from skin to bone. Everything was recorded and drawn systematically. Bamboo rods were inserted into blood vessels to discover where they began and where they ended. It was the foundation of what we now know as acupuncture.

Repin State Academic Institute "Anatomical & Figure Drawing"
Repin State Academic Institute “Anatomical & Figure Drawing”

Today artists and healers use écorché models made from plaster, wax, wood, wax, resin, bronze, ivory, and even apps on their phone.

Medical schools still dissect bodies for their training. Bodies donated to science are given to nonprofits such as The Anatomical Gift Associationwho embalm and transfer them to institutions. (Only bodies with all their organs are accepted).

As of 2018, member medical schools pay about $1300 per corpse, non-members $2300.

Thank you for reading this article. For more articles on what galleries look for in an artist and other art eccentricities, please click through to the articles below.

Cover image:  Scott Eaton Anatomy Course