Archive for September, 2014

Museums Amusements

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Have you ever walked into an art museum and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of works on display? Where should you start? What should you look at? What should you look for? How can you get the most from the limited time at your disposal there?

140912w Venus

It might help to answer these questions if you first consider why you decided to go to the museum in the first place. Do you simply want to expose yourself to good artwork in general? Or do you want to see examples of work by certain artists or from a specific era or locale? Are you most interested in paintings or sculpture or some other art form? Or if your interest is more focused than that, where do your specific interests lie?

If you already know which works you want to spend time with, head first for those (or schedule them for times when they are not surrounded by tour groups and other distractions. If your subject is blocked by a crowd, don’t fight the mob but look for nearby alternatives of interest until the bulk of the throng moves on, then take your place to enjoy what you originally came to see.)

I find that it helps me focus my time better if I know what aspects I want to make note of—say, compositional structures or effective color harmonies and how various artists have used them. If you’re interested in textures, you may want to consider how some artists achieved visual textural effects on a 2-dimensional surface or how others created physical textures with their medium. In other words, home in on your purpose for perusing the collection so you can spend time with the works that will help to satisfy your search.

The less time you have available, the more important it is to identify and narrow down your focus so you can use your time effectively.

If your interest is as general as simply getting an overview of works in the collection, your time can be spent by walking through the collection, room by room, following the suggested layout, and pausing briefly to consider any specific works that particularly catch your eye.

If you can focus your visit to a narrower field within the general collection, you will be able to spend less time walking and more time studying the works of particular interest to you. In many museums you can refer to a museum map or brochure to locate individual rooms or floors that may feature works of specific artists, time periods, geographical areas, or stylistic approaches. Although you will probably miss much of the collection by bypassing areas of less immediate interest to you, this approach can help you use your limited time more efficiently.

Join me next time as I look in at the Louvre.

A Corking Good Opportunity… Part 2

Monday, September 1st, 2014

As I wrote last time, when the tour of Ireland we had signed up for was canceled only a month before our anticipated departure, our tentative plans appeared to be falling through. Greatly to our relief, we were able to find an alternative coach tour, which, though not as extensive as the original one, seemed like a suitable substitute. Like the original one, we would disembark from our cruise in Cobh, take a train to Cork, and after a night’s stay there, proceed to Dublin to join our tour group.

140603a Through Irish Mist,

The day we arrived in Cork, my camera’s viewing screen suddenly stopped working properly. Although the camera continued to record images (as confirmed when I tried to upload them to our computer), I couldn’t see either the preview or the confirmation image to verify the picture or its alignment. And in order to minimize both weight and bulk in our packing, I had decided against carrying my usual backup camera. So for the remainder of the trip, I would be shooting blind, hoping to obtain enough usable photos to satisfy my needs in the studio through the coming months.

As it turned out, I managed to get very few display-worthy photographs with the pray-and-shoot method, but because I was later able to edit and reconfigure with the help of Photoshop, and adjust compositions during the painting process, I did wind up with a usable supply of adaptable reference material. What blessed relief it was to realize that!

Our one “free day,” during which I had hoped to meet my Virtual Art Academy colleagues, was no longer on the schedule. Instead, we were left with only a few evening hours available for visiting. But one of my friends made a special effort to join me for dinner that evening, which I appreciated. The other was unable to coordinate with us.

Ireland was indeed picturesque and full of landscapes well worth painting. The cool, moist weather contributes to that beauty but not much to the comfort of painters working in the open air. And although mist and fog provide lovely atmospheric effects, as in “Through Irish Mist” (#140603), above, they can also obliterate one’s view of otherwise promising landscapes.

This was the case when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher—a towering shoreline of sheer precipices overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The churning water was just warm enough in relation to the cooler air above it to create a fog so dense that, even from the path along the cliff top, we were unable to see beyond the very edge of the cliff and could get no perspective of the distance down to the ocean water we knew lay almost 1000 feet below. With the magic, once again, of Photoshop, I was able to pull out a ghost image from a photograph I had shot through the fog. This was enough to paint from.

The result, as you can see in “On the Cliffs of Moher” (#140607) below, is more of the atmospheric conditions of the trail along the top of the cliffs than of the cliffs themselves.

140607a On the Cliffs of Moher,

I’m glad we went to Ireland. I’ve gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the land as well as the resilience and resourcefulness of its people. And that’s what traveling is all about. If I can express even a fraction of that appreciation through my paintings, the trip will have been a success.