Tag Archives: art


The two most resonant quotes from this article include:

“A painting must not be a battlefield it must be a statement. Set out with something to say and not with the vague desire to say something. Things never simplify themselves they always complicate themselves on the way from the brain to the canvas. Set out, taking your precautions.”

“To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer.”

— Louise Bourgeois on Art, Integrity, the Trap of False Humility by Maria Popova

Read more at brainpickings.org.


What is an Artspouse? I want an Artspouse!

I’ve never had a partner who reads my work, or has taken an active interest in my writing. This used to make me sad.

Then I discovered there are many writers whose partners actively discourage it, saying it’s a waste of time, it would never go anywhere, that they should be doing something “productive.” They can never work in an environment free from judgement and criticism.

I am so thankful, every day, that while I’m not always helped by my family (chosen or otherwise) they have never stood in my way.

As much as I am grateful, I find that my most favorite authors thank their partners or spouses first and foremost. Those partners work with their writer, around their writer, applying their shrewd minds, asking good questions, and pushing their writer to be the absolute best they can be. As a mushy example, the writer in Stephen King’s “Bag of Bones” had his wife type out the last line in every story. I’ve been giving it some thought, and come up with a word to describe this person:  Artspouse

This might be your husband or wife, this might be your best friend. This might be someone you absolutely cannot stand on a personal level; but when you come together to collaborate on a project, the results are absolute magic. This is the person who knows what you’re going through as an artist, as a creative, as a person trying to meet a bloody deadline — and knows when it’s time for chocolate and tissues; and when it’s time to kick the door in, turn the lights on, and yell at you to get your fucking act together.

Within this sphere of your life, on this particular path, they are your partner, your ally, your battle-buddy, your greatest nemesis, your soulmate, and anything in between. They are the constant measuring stick that says you can do better, and the little voice in your ear that helps you get there.

As a test request, here’s what I would look for in an artspouse. You may assume that these wishes are expressed with an intent of mutuality (I would provide the same support I ask for):

  • Interest in the same medium — a reader to my writer, an audience to my show, a hunter to my bladesmith.
  • Complementary strengths — if I’m good at structure, you’re good at emotional resonance. If I’m good at sculpting, you’re good at interior design. If I’m a lighting guy, you’re a sound guy.
  • Matching goals — whether it’s a quest for excellence, or commercial success, or attaining a certain level of mastery.
  • Seriousness of intent — less blah blah, more pew pew. We’re always aiming for the next level.
  • Commitment to your own work — different goals on the same path. It makes sense to run together for a while.
  • Enjoyment of each other’s work — I’d buy your stuff because it’s good, not just because I know you.
  • Fearlessness —  we can argue, we can risk, we can fail, we can get up and try again.
  • No man left behind — I’m speaking at this con, and so are you. I’m getting published, you’re putting on your show. I’m climbing this fucking mountain, and you’re coming with me. And in that vein…
  • On the level — we’re about the same skill level, or same stage of our artistic  careers. Maybe one of us is slightly ahead, but will be outpaced in a moment. They might piss you off a little because they’re so talented, and you have to hustle to catch up. There’s always something to learn, always something to offer.
  • Aw, buddy — we maybe, just possibly, actually like each other. It’s 2am. Let’s get tacos and talk about that weird dream you had the other day.

What do you want in an artspouse?
Do you already have an artspouse?

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Baroque Paintings – Debunked!

Found on Tumblr. I am putting this here because I don’t want to lose it. xray Susanna and the Elders: Restored (Left)  /  Restored with X-ray (Right) Kathleen Gilje, 1998 For those who don’t know about this painting, the artist was the Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656). Gentileschi was a female painter in a time when it was very largely unheard of for a woman to be an artist. She managed to get the opportunity for training and eventual employment because her father, Orazio, was already a well established master painter who was very adamant that she get artistic training. He apparently saw a high degree of skill in some artwork she did as a hobby in childhood. He was very supportive of her and encouraged her to resist the “traditional attitude and psychological submission to brainwashing and the jealousy of her obvious talents.”   Gentileschi became extremely well known in her time for painting female figures from the Bible and their suffering. For example, the one seen above depicts the story from the Book of Daniel. Susanna is bathing in her garden when two elders began to spy on her in the nude. As she finishes they stop her and tell her that they will tell everyone that they saw her have an affair with a young man (she’s married so this is an offense punishable by death) unless she has sex with them. She refuses, they tell their tale, and she is going to be put to death when the protagonist of the book (Daniel) stops them. So that painting above? That was her first major painting. She was SEVENTEEN-YEARS-OLD. For context, here is a painting of the same story by Alessandro Allori made just four years earlier in 1606:  image Wowwwww. That does not look like a woman being threatened with a choice between death or rape. So imagine 17 year old Artemisia trying to approach painting the scene of a woman being assaulted. And she paints what is seen in the x-ray above. A woman in horrifying, grotesque anguish with what appears to be a knife poised in her clenched hand. Damn that shit is real. Who wants to guess that she was advised by, perhaps her father or others, to tone it down. Women can’t look that grotesque. Sexual assault can’t be depicted as that horrifying. And women definitely can’t be seen as having the potential to fight back. Certainly not in artwork. Women need to be soft. They need to wilt from their captors but still look pretty and be a damsel in distress. So she changed it.  What’s interesting to note is that she eventually painted and stuck with some of her own, less traditional depictions of women. However, that is more interesting with some context.   (Warning for reference to rape, torture, and images of paintings which show violence and blood.) So, Gentileschi’s story continues in the very next year, 1611, when her father hires Agostino Tassi, an artist, to privately tutor her. It was in this time when Tassi raped her. He then proceeded to promise that he would marry her. He pointed out that if it got out that she had lost her virginity to a man she wasn’t going to marry then it would ruin her. Using this, he emotionally manipulated her into continuing a sexual relationship with him. However, he then proceeded to marry someone else. Horrified at this turn of events she went to her father. Orazio was having none of this shit and took Tassi to court. At that time, rape wasn’t technically an offense to warrant a trial, but the fact that he had taken her virginity (and therefore technically “damaged Orazio’s property”. ugh.) meant that the trial went along. It lasted for 7 months. During this time, to prove the truth of her words, Artemisia was given invasive gynecological examinations and was even questioned while being subjected to torture via thumb screws. It was also discovered during the trial that Tassi was planning to kill his current wife, have an affair with her sister, and steal a number of Orazio’s paintings. Tassi was found guilty and was given a prison sentence of…. ONE. YEAR……. Which he never even served because the verdict was annulled. During this time and a bit after (1611-1612), Artemisia painted her most famous work of Judith Slaying Holofernes. This bible story involved Holofernes, an Assyrian general, leading troops to invade and destroy Bethulia, the home of Judith. Judith decides to deal with this issue by coming to him, flirting with him to get his guard down, and then plying him with food and lots of wine. When he passed out, Judith and her handmaiden took his sword and cut his head off. Issue averted. The subject was a very popular one for art at the time. Here is a version of the scene painted in 1598-99 by Carivaggio, whom was a great stylistic influence on Artemisia: image This depiction is a pretty good example of how this scene was typically depicted. Artists usually went out of their way to show Judith committing the act (or having committed it) while trying to detach her from the actual violence of it. In this way, they could avoid her losing the morality of her character and also avoid showing a woman committing such aggression. So here we see a young, rather delicate looking Judith in a pure white dress. She is daintily holding down this massive man and looks rather disgusted and upset at having to do this. Now, here is Artemisia’s: image Damn. Thats a whole different scene. Here Holofernes looks less like he’s simply surprised by the goings ons and more like a man choking on his own blood and struggling fruitlessly against his captors. The blood here is less of a bright red than in Carrivaggio’s but is somehow more sickening. It feels more real, and gushes in a much less stylized way than Carrivaggio’s. Not to mention, Judith here is far from removed from the violence. She is putting her physical weight into this act. Her hands (much stronger looking than most depictions of women’s hands in early artwork) are working hard. Her face, as well, is completely different. She doesn’t look upset, necessarily, but more determined.  It’s also worth note that the handmaiden is now involved in the action. It’s worth note because, during her rape trial, Artemisia stated that she had cried for help during the initial rape. Specifically she had called for Tassi’s female tenant in the building, Tuzia. Tuzia not only ignored her cries for help, but she also denied the whole happening. Tuzia had been a friend of Artemisia’s and in fact was one of her only female friends. Artemisia felt extremely betrayed, but rather than turning her against her own gender, this event instilled in her the deep importance of female relationships and solidarity among women. This can be seen in some of her artwork, and I believe in the one above, as well, with the inclusion of the handmaiden in the act. So, I just added a million words worth of information dump on a post when no one asked me, but there we go. I could talk for ages about Artemisia as a person and her depictions of women (even beyond what I wrote above. Don’t get me started on her depictions of female nudes in comparison to how male artists painted nude women at the time.)  Extra note: Back in her time and through even to TODAY, there are people who argue that Artemisia Gentileschi’s art was greatly aided by her father (either he helped her paint them or just painted them himself). There are a number of works only recently (past several years or so) that have been officially attributed to Artemisia because people originally saw the signature with “Gentileschi” in it and automatically attributed it to her father. Not only was Artemisia Gentileschi an amazing artist and amazing historical figure, but I don’t want it to be ignored that there are people over 400 years later who are still unsure as to whether or not a woman could paint like this. Via The Brooklyn Museum

Addendum: It seems I have misled you. While the assertions above regarding the erasure of female artists has merit, this particular piece was a modern creation. The restorer, in her own words, explains that she painted and xrayed this work to make a statement; it was not a discovery. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq2bmbPL7rA&sns=tw

How Irony Is Ruining Our Culture

Irony is ruining our culture

Twenty years ago, Wallace wrote about the impact of television on U.S. fiction. He focused on the effects of irony as it transferred from one medium to the other. In the 1960s, writers like Thomas Pynchon had successfully used irony and pop reference to reveal the dark side of war and American culture. Irony laid waste to corruption and hypocrisy. In the aftermath of the ’60s, as Wallace saw it, television adopted a self-deprecating, ironic attitude to make viewers feel smarter than the naïve public, and to flatter them into continued watching. Fiction responded by simply absorbing pop culture to “help create a mood of irony and irreverence, to make us uneasy and so ‘comment’ on the vapidity of U.S. culture, and most important, these days, to be just plain realistic.” But what if irony leads to a sinkhole of relativism and disavowal?

The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

Shortly after “The Real World” spawned dozens of other reality shows, the format reminded me of the coliseum in Rome. American Idol was the worst of the lot, where the first episode is a blooper reel of the worst auditions. Mass media encourages us to feed on each other, savoring the humiliation of others who could have just as easily been us. Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll’s article is an excellent analysis of the intersection between irony and sincerity in art at the nexus of fiction, television, rebellion, and commercial interests.

12-year-old Doodles Self-Portrait as a Demon

A doodle I did at 11 or 12, which my dad recently unearthed from his office.

I took a Predictive Index (PI) test recently, and one of the aspects we discussed is that your core self never changes. I take some comfort in having the same concerns then as I do now. Self-aware child, or immature adult, that is the question…



Little bat wings, circa 1997

Narrow Range of Passion vs Wide Range of Passion

Passion drives artists to create. Whether you’re sketching, sculpting or writing there’s a drive behind your creation. Urgency and intensity spark the initial act of creation — like the first outline, first draft, or first few sketches. The artist finds within themselves a burning need to tell this story — for it steals their sleep and demands to be wrenched from the soul like a tumor that will eat them alive if it remains where it is.

Or, maybe the artist just had a neat idea they thought they’d scribble down. You know. Whatever.

It’s interesting to see how different people deal with their passions — especially because it doesn’t correlate to being introverted or extraverted.

Some folks have a narrow range of passion. Happy or sad, it never gets too intense. If a family member dies, or there’s a setback at work, they’ll shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh. How sad.” If they come up with something really great, or their kid gets a scholarship, they’ll nod and say, “Oh, well, that’s great!” It’s not that they don’t feel. They’re not boring people, they just have a narrow range of passion. These folks might have a more intellectual grasp on life that gets mistaken for stodginess.

Those with a broad range of passion are much more expressive. When the store’s out of the right brand of chocolate, it’s a tragedy. When their kid has a bit part in the school play, it’s a triumph of which they’ll sing for a thousand years. Bad news will lay them low for weeks. They express their feelings with the utmost extravagance — even if they’re introverted. No matter what they feel, they feel it deep into their bones. These folks (and oh boy am I one of them) fit the Tortured Artist stereotype, and can be needlessly dramatic at times.

These two types often find each other unrelatable and frequently clash. To pick a musical example, Demi Lovato popped up on my Pandora this morning. She’s got a loud, powerful voice. When someone sings a well-known song the way she does, there’s always a backlash. Folks with a narrow range of passion would prefer to hear “Over the Rainbow” or “The Star Spangled Banner” in a more traditional, less vocally acrobatic way. As someone with a wide range of passion, this response irks me. Let her do what she wants. Not everyone needs to rein it in to the degree of, say, Blossom Dearie.

There are times — rare, precious times — when the two ranges overlap. Ella Fitzgerald can slip a needle directly into your heart and fill it with longing. A song doesn’t have to be bombastic to achieve intensity. It’s subtle and understated which satisfies one group; yet overflowing with passion that could make a grown man cry… if he were the type to do so.

It’s interesting to think about where you fit on the spectrum of these two types. How much intensity do you infuse into your life? Do you prefer an even keel in your life and your entertainments; or do you want to ride the full height and depth of each wave? For myself, I find that I have such a broad range of passion that I must compartmentalize my life into ‘safe’ places and places where I have to keep it in. I constantly try to identify which type someone is when I meet them, in order to figure out if they’re “safe.” I want to know the best way to relate to others.

In art, as in life, it’s vital to consider why the Other behaves as they do, so we can hear and be heard with the greatest clarity.


I heart you.
I heart you? What is that? ‘I love you’ for pussies?
– Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black



Monster Artist Now Drawing Humans!

I met Dordji through a mutual friend, and found out he draws some spectacular monsters. A gallery of these strange beasts appears in American Fantastic, and he recently launched his debut web-comic, Icon.

In order to practice caricatures, he asked for volunteers. This baby came back to me within the hour.

Ball of sunshine!

And then this one.

“Setsu can’t not look like a supervillain, I guess. Maybe we like her that way.” – Dordji

Polish your wisdom… study the ways of different arts one by one.”
― Miyamoto Musashi

I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject, rather does the person grow to look like his portrait.”
― Salvador Dali