Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Nomad Brush for iPad

My wife recently gifted me with my first Apple iPad, and I've been enjoying exploring the possibilities of this new tool.  Though I expect to use the iPad most often for reading, I could not help but download a few of the drawing and painting applications available, but not knowing where to start, I thought it best to approach someone with considerable experience on the device for recommendations - David Kassan.

Kassan, who purchased his iPad on the day of its release in 2010, made international news by using his considerable traditional painting skills to create digital portraits on the tablet's multi-touch display. Online videos of him "painting" from life on the iPad quickly went viral, and artists everywhere saw the potential for using this technology as an electronic sketchbook.  Although there are several talented people appearing online creating portrait work on the iPad, Kassan has been a standout on this device because of his textural approach to his digital art;  where others are creating slick, air-brushed, almost photographic images, Kassan has been making art that looks like conventional paintings and drawings.

Digital painting of Jasmine Commerce by David Kassan using Artrage

After watching several iPad demonstrations by Kassan, and reading online reviews, it was easy to decide which drawing and painting apps to download first, but I was still uncertain which stylus, if any, to purchase.  In discussions with Kassan, it became quickly apparent that he was very excited about a new product he had just tested - the Nomad Brush, a unique stylus made especially for artists.

The Nomad Brush is a paintbrush designed specifically for use on capacitive touch screen devices such as the iPad.   It was created by architect and artist Don Lee who had searched for the perfect stylus with which to digitally paint on his iPad, but finding that nothing on the market suited his needs, he decided instead to invent his own.  Combining highly conductive fibers with natural sable hair, Lee has produced 
a highly-responsive, virtually frictionless apparatus that mimics the look and feel of a regular paintbrush.

Each Nomad Brush is handcrafted to Lee's design specifications.  The brush, which is 7½" long overall, features a 5½" walnut and carbon handle with a soft grip, as well as the aforementioned flexible, natural and synthetic fiber tip.  Currently, it is available in only one size and color (black), but Lee promises more options in the near future.

I have read online where some people have criticized the look of the sketchy lines created by the splayed fibers of the Nomad Brush's tip, but I believe those people are confusing the aesthetic choices one artist used in a single painting, with the brush's full potential.  It must be remembered that the major characteristics of the digital brushstrokes are determined by the application software itself;  the brush does not posses an inherent calligraphic fingerprint.  What is most important in this new stylus design is the improved freedom of movement afforded by the longer handle and pliable tip, and how it interacts with the iPad's multi-touch surface.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to try the Nomad Brush for myself.  Pre-release reviews created such an interest in the $24 stylus/brush, that it quickly sold out, and is currently back-ordered.  However, if you visit the company's website, you can sign up for email notifications announcing when the brush is back in stock, or purchase the brush through PayPal with the understanding that order may take some additional time to fulfill.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flesh and Bone


Tho in Chair  55 X 43 inches

Next month, Arcadia Gallery in New York City will be hosting a significant exhibition of Colorado artist Daniel Sprick's haunting and psychologically charged paintings.  The works in this show, which are often disturbing, are technically beautiful examples of contemporary representational art, and although the artist makes no claims of imbuing his images with hidden meanings, one can not help but delve deeply into his art in attempts to decipher their mysterious symbology.  Sprick's recurring themes of death and decay are offset in this particular show by the presence of several figural works, a subject that is not as common in his paintings because the artist was previously less inclined to ask a model to sit eight hours a day for the several months it takes to complete one of his panels (From the demonstration Sprick gave for American Painting Video Magazine, it is supposed that the artist now applies a quicker method for his figure works than he does for his still lifes, enabling him to continue working from life without overly fatiguing his models).   The twenty-five paintings in the exhibition will be on view at Arcadia Gallery from March 19th until April 10th.  Please visit the show to enjoy this talented artist's aesthetically unique works of art.

Lilacs and Bird  28 X 22 inches

Red Amaryllis  30 X 24 inches

I am Dark but Lovely  84 X 36 inches

Dust  42 X 50 inches

Jasmine 23 X 41.5 inches

Laura Venus  30 X 22 inches

Through My Fingers  60 X 60 inches

Teaches to Number Our Days  30 X 24 inches

A preview of the interview American Painting Video Magazine conducted with Daniel Sprick

First and Last  30 X 24

Striped Amaryllis  26 X 28 inches

Distinctly I Remember  29 X 24 inches

Creation  10 X 20

Sea Bird  36 X 24 inches

Les Fleurs du Mal  20 X 16 inches

Night Hollyhock  12.5 X 9 inches

Sun Bird  12 X 9 inches

The highly contemplative Sprick is a wonderful subject for interview, and his
captivating words can be extremely inspirational.

Carcass No. 2  16 X 20 inches

Bird in Landscape  12 X 9 inches

Noelle  12 X 9 inches

Carcass  26 X 18 inches

Plum Blossoms  24 X 24 inches

Trompe l'oeil Bird  28 X 22 inches

Snow Bird  24 X 16 inches

Amaryllis  20 X 20 inches

Arcadia Gallery is located at 51 Greene Street, between Grand and Broome in SoHo. It is open from 10 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday, and from 11 AM until 6 PM weekends.

To see more of Sprick's paintings, visit the artist's website.


Fifty-Year-Old Schmid Painting For Sale

"Still Life with Apples"     21 3/4" X 25 1/4"    Oil on Canvas

A more-than fifty-year-old oil painting by master artist Richard Schmid is coming up for bid at Quinn's Auction Galleries early next month.  It is remarkable to see the skill in the then twenty-six-year-old Schmid's art, and to see how much his work has changed over the course of his career, and how much it has stayed the same as he has remained true to himself and his ideals.  Even in this early piece, much of Schmid's character and his dedication to his craft is revealed.  As the artist has written, "If what you choose to paint comes from the heart, and you are skillful enough, it will resonate somehow within someone else.  It is absurd to imagine that the magnitude of a work is somehow connected to the accepted importance of its subject (or the artist)...  Let your subject come from within you and be a simple act of sharing .  In a sense, every work you do is a self-portrait because your paintings always reveal more about you than about your subject.  Your experience of something, not the something itself, is the true underlying subject of every work you do.  Ultimately, that is how your work, or that of any other artist, will be judged."¹

¹ Richard Schmid, Alla Prima:  Everything I Know About Painting, (Stove Prairie Press, Manchester Center, 1999), p. 191.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Words of Wisdom: HRH Prince Leopold Albert

A wise prince you were, and well worthy of the name,
And to write in praise of thee I cannot refrain;
Because you were ever ready to defend that which is right,
Both pleasing and righteous in God's eye-sight.

~ William McGonagall, The Death of Prince Leopold

When Queen Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, was denied a military career because of hemophilia, he focussed his royal duties instead on his passion - the arts - of which he became an ardent and valued patron.  In 1881, just  a few years before his untimely death at the age of thirty, Prince Leopold gave the dedication speech for the opening of the University of Nottingham, in which he extolled the virtues of technical training and the value of being wholly invested in one's own work.  Though his speech was not directed specifically toward painting, Leopold's words resonated with artists, and within the year of his oration, those words found their way to the introduction of Philip Hamerton's The Graphic Arts : A Treatise on the Varieties of Drawing, Painting, and Engraving in Comparison with Each Other and with Nature (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1882).

'There is a great advantage in thorough technical training which must not be overlooked.  When a man learns anything thoroughly it teaches him to respect what he learns.  It teaches him to delight in his task for its own sake, and not for the sake of pay or reward.  The happiness of our lives depends less on the actual value of the work which we do than on the spirit in which we do it.  If a man tries to do the simplest and humblest work as well as he possibly can, he will be interested in it ;  he will be proud of it.  But if, on the other hand, he only thinks of what he can get by his work, then the highest work will soon become wearisome.'


Friday, February 18, 2011

Michael John Angel on YouTube

Il Professore (Portrait of Michael John Angel) by Juan Martinez, oils, 36 x 26
Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross

The Angel Academy of Art in Florence has posted on YouTube a three-part lecture on the process of training artists in the academic method.  In the films, Academy founder Michael John Angel gives a wonderful presentation on the history of organized art training, and an overview of what students can expect should they commit themselves to the rigorous course of studies his school provides.  Interspersed throughout the videos are examples of student work, and it is easy to see the brilliant results academic training can elicit from artists who train in such a manner.  Hopefully, the Angel Academy of Art will continue with this series and present more of these lectures by the charismatic Maestro Angel.

The Tuscan by Michael John Angel, oil on canvas, 75 x 60 cm


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Burnet, Loomis, and the Use of Intense Color

In his art manual, A Practical Treatise on Painting, nineteenth century author John Burnet compiled the then current principles governing the use of color in painting.  Burnet, a prolific writer on art technique, posits in one section of his manual that the most chromatic area on the painted form appears only in the light (natural light is presumed), and in the halftone - the region on the form turned farthest from the light without being part of the shadow.  "The proper situation of strong colour," says Burnet, "is neither in the high light nor in the deep shade, for it would destroy the character of either ;  but if it is made use of as an intermediate link, it will unite both ;  at the same time preserve a greater consequence."¹

Though this lesson was known to Burnet as late as 1830, it seems it was not a concept which had a lasting impact on art training;  more than a century later, artist and teacher Andrew Loomis expressed in his seminal art instruction book Creative Illustration his concern that the understanding of the use of vivid color in the light, and particularly in the halftone, were the least known and least practiced truths in painting.²  Loomis went on to explain in greater detail than had Burnet:

If the color in the shadow cannot exceed in brilliance the local color as seen in the light, then it follows that the purest and most intense colors belong to the light. ... All colors in their greatest intensity or tints of the pure color should be relegated to the lights or the halftones. When reaching the shadow these colors are reduced or greyed, or the color changed by influence of other color reflecting into the shadow.

It is not necessarily true that the color in the brightest light is always the strongest color.  Light, being white, can dilute color, just as can the white on your palette.  In order to reach the high value we may be forced to lighten the color.  Yet on the next planes, which are halftone planes, color may be more intense, being still in the light.  So then, the halftones may contain the most brilliant and pure color.  Color can greatly lose its local color in highlights, which become the white or color of the light source.  Working directly into or against the light forces us to put our most brilliant color in the shadow;  since the lights are so diluted with light, the shadows are our only chance.  But even here we are working in reflected light against the dominant light, and much color is apparent, though not as bright as it would be with the light behind us.³

Loomis, who also understood that nature was composed mainly of greys, and that those greys acted as a foil to make other colors look more bright, offered another method for retaining strong color without sacrificing the color relationships found in the visual world.  He suggested that the purest color should be reserved for edges, accents, and for other manipulations to enhance those softer greyer colors of nature.⁴

Here is one of the best ways in the world to obtain brilliancy of color:  Keep your color most intense on the edges of the lighted areas, where it merges into shadow.  This seems to cast an aura of additional color over the whole lighted area.  Just taking a local color of the light and rubbing it into a darker color of the shadow (which most of us do, most of the time) produces no brilliancy.  It is apt to be just color in the light, then mud, then reduced color in the shadow.⁵

Since light has a greater range of brightness and darkness than pigment, then color also has greater brilliance in life than we can reach in pigment.  Therefore we must work within the value limitations of pigment, or between white, color, and black.  There is nothing else we can do about it.  But the limitations are not as bad as they seem, once we understand what it is all about.  No color can be made brighter than its full strength.  It can only be made lighter or darker, or less intense by mixture.  It can be made to vary in hue by adding other colors, warmer or cooler, but nothing yet known can make it brighter than white paint or paper unless by actual additional light thrown upon it.  Purity of pigment is not the whole objective of the painter;  tone and harmony come first.  Vitality in painting comes from value relationships, not the untouched rawness of pigment.  Contrast between strong colors cannot be the whole aim, for contrast is greatest when the strong is pitted against the weak.⁶

Brightness is relative.  A color will be brighter against a greyed color than it will against a bright one.  Since nature is largely grey, don't be afraid of nature's greys.  ... we cannot paint nature from a tube or a pot.⁷

¹ John Burnet, A Practical Treatise on Painting ;  Practical Hints on Colour in Painting (James Carpenter and Son, London, 1830), p. 1.
² Andrew Loomis, Creative Illustration, ( The Viking Press, New York, 1947), p. 153.
³ Idem.
⁴ Idem.
⁵ Idem.
⁶ Loomis, op.cit., p. 154.
⁷ Ibid., p. 153.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

David Kassan- Live Webcast on February 15

Later today, artist David Kassan will be offering a free, live, drawing demonstration via his webcast site.  Sponsored by PanPastel, Kassan's demo will begin at 5:30 PM EST, and afterwards, the completed picture will be auctioned off to webcast viewers (bids start at five dollars).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Auction Preview: Christie's NYC American Art


Lot 91, The Silver Vase, 1905 by Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

Usually, when there is an auction of American Art at a major dealer, I am disappointed by the selection of artworks featured in the sale.  Too often, too many of the lots are pieces done after World War II, and rarely are those works representational.  I typically don't bother examining the catalog of these particular auctions, but I had heard that the upcoming sale of Fine American Paintings, Drawing and Sculpture at Christie's contained a few paintings by George Inness and a couple of landscapes by contemporary realist Marc Dalessio, so I decided to take a look.  What I found was a sale containing mainly representational works, including illustrations, Western art, and several pieces by living realist artists.  Perhaps it is a sign that the current interest in representational art is now influencing the auction houses:  either sellers are seeing the trend, and are hoping to cash in on the renewed popularity of the works, or the auction houses are seeing the popularity and are more actively seeking these types of works to sell.  Either way, I am happy to see these beautiful pieces coming to light.

Previews for the sale of Fine American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture at Christie's will begin later this month at the auction house's Rockefeller Center location.  The lots are available for viewing from 10 AM - 5 PM February 26th and 28th, and also on March 1st;  from 1 PM until 5 PM on February 27th; and from 10 AM until 2 PM March 2nd.  On March 3rd at 10 AM the sale of the nearly 200 works of art will go on sale.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Painting Skies with Grace


In his book, A Course of Lessons in Landscape Painting in Oils (1881), author Alfred Fitzwalter Grace (1844-1903) gave several suggestions on how to attain the proper looking sky using contrasting colors in the underpainting.  "To get the quality of intense blue seen in a summer sky, let your ground be brilliant yellow;  for a cool, grey sky, light red, with perhaps a slight addition of yellow, will be found a suitable ground." (p. 53).  He also suggested that to achieve a luminous grey sky, "... an excellent way to get it is by painting over a good, solid, white ground a thin wash of yellow ochre, and over this again when dry with white and a little cadmium." (p. 53)¹

¹ Carlyle, Leslie, The Artist's Assistant, (Archetype Publications Ltd., London, 2001), p. 201.