Thursday, September 18, 2008

If You Like Art, Especially The Best Art,

and if you like talking, writing or reading about it, you might very much enjoy this site devoted to The Best Artists. I saw a link to it on another site I enjoy, this one devoted generally to drawing and painting birds and nature, Drawing the Motmot.

As anyone who has read this blog knows I do spend a lot of time thinking about art, probably more so than I do about birds and nature. But I think that there is a dearth of discourse on art today. I guess this is somewhat hard to believe given that with the internet and blogs it's unlikely that there is a dearth of discourse on anything! Nonetheless The Best Artists site is refreshing in that it offers the thoughts of one person on one artist or piece of art that they find striking. It's been a pleasure to read, and respond to occasionally. I'd really encourage anyone who has a love of art to take a look.

I especially like the fact that it seems free of art historical baggage that obfuscates so much art. This is a straightforward response of one person to the art he sees. Though I've studied Art History, and often enjoyed it, it can have a way of getting in the way of the art, interpreting it for you before you get a chance to interpret it for yourself. In my experience you never truly appreciate art if you don't interpret it for yourself. Art History might augment this but more often it prevents an honest response from the individual. I think this is especially true of the tapes packaged for art exhibits. Their intent may be good but they really disguise the art. It's far better to see an exhibit without any of this, experiencing it for yourself, seeing your own reactions, and then afterwards maybe going back and reading about it or using audio-visual aids. The Best Artists site allows you to read one persons direct observations of art. As I said I find it quite refreshing and enjoyable.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the link, Ken, and all the nice things you say about my blog. You have seen my aim: to talk about art without sticking in every fact that occurs to me and every association. Most histories—not just art histories—overload a text, overload a sentence, and by doing that they actually turn them into obstacles for the reader, who needs one clear thought at a time. Ten facts inside a sentence are ten interruptions. Of course that means the post may be weak on information for some, students mainly. Well, let them go to Wikipedia.

I'm like you. I have loved painting and sculpture all my life and it seems there is so much to say about them that no one else says, especially not the specialists. And it needs to be said now more than ever because knowledge of the great works is being lost. I'm always surprised to learn that many of my readers don't know basic history or Bible stories and so they can't understand the theme of a picture, let alone the aesthetics of it. So someone has to tell them!

Ken Januski said...

Hi 100swallows,

I'm very happy to link to your blog, and I'm very appreciative of it. I think that art to a certain extent, has been abandoned to scholars and theoreticians, leaving art lovers in the dust. But I believe most art is created out of love, for art, for life, for the object portrayed, for beauty, for whatever. But it is a part of it. And so it really is for art lovers. Your blog I think tries to expose art to people who are art lovers or potential art lovers.
It is a refreshing and really valuable site. I hope that people who feel that they might like art but are intimidated by the current art world will find their way to it. Art is one of life's great things. It's great that you are helping people to understand and appreciate it.

Good luck!

Peggi Habets Studio said...

I found your blog via Best Artists blog, which is one of my favorites. It's like having a short story to read on art very few days.

I like your artwork. Especially the watercolor you have in your header (I'm partial to watercolor). What is it about birds that draw you to them? (ha, no pun intended) Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,
I, too, need my frequent fix of Best Artist- it's enlightening and entertaining and always inspiring. And thank you for the mention and link.

Beautiful bird watercolor at the top of your page, by the way. Can you identify it for us?

Ken Januski said...

Hi peggihabets and drawingthemotmot,

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I have to thank Motmot for putting the link to thebestartists on her blog. That is what got me to investigate 100swallows' site.

I guess we're all art lovers and have found it to be a place for people like us. I don't spend as much time now as I used to reading about art or visiting museums. In fact often I choose to be outside, often birdwatching, rather than inside at museums or galleries. But when I came across 100swallows site I realized how much I missed seeing good art, reading about it and thinking about it.

Motmot, I have been a lurker of your blog for quite awhile. I quite enjoy it and I especially enjoy the bird-related drawings and paintings. I'm going to do a very rough paraphrase but I think you wrote something about needing to really understand the structure of birds if you wanted to portray them successfully. You seem to have a great grasp of that and it's very enjoyable to see that in your work. It's something I need to continue to develop myself.

peggihabets, I hadn't been to your site before your comment so I'm not as familiar with it. But from what I did see you have a great grasp of the difficult medium of watercolor. I need to keep going back to your site to investigate more.

My own work includes much bird art and a fair amount of watercolor. I did a little watercolor as a student but just picked it up again about two years ago. I do love its luminosity but it's a difficult medium so it's still quite a challenge. But the rewards are enough for me to keep pursuing it.

The work at the top of this page is a Blackburnian Warbler. My wife and I saw him at Shenandoah National Park in May, 2007. Though they are often what's called TreeToppers because they stay so high in trees this one, along with another TreeTopper, the Cerulean Warbler, both appeared at eye level in a Witch Hazel. I went back and forth between viewing him in my binoculars and trying to get some decent photos that I could later use as the basis for drawings/paintings.

I think this was one of the first watercolors I did where I told myself that I should treat it almost as an abstraction and not worry too much about the detail, not that I EVER pay that much attention to detail. But I think it paid off in a way, at least to me. There's something about it that made me choose to use it in the header of a number of my sites including this one. Of course it may just be that Blackburnian Warblers are so beautiful no matter how they're portrayed!!

peggihabets asks why I chose birds as subject matter. Part of this was an outgrowth of my interest in birdwatching but I think it's also a feeling long in the back of my mind, that the natural world has been given short shrift in what is often considered 'high art' over the last 100 years or so. Where artists like Gustave Courbet or Winslow Homer, who often used the outdoors as subject matter, were also considered the best of 'high art', that hasn't seemed as much the case for the last 100 years or so. As I became more interested in birdwatching and decided to return to artwork, which I'd had to drop for 10 years or more, I often chose birds as the subject. Right now these are mainly fairly quick drawings and paintings. But I hope at some point to devote as much time to them as I have to my abstract work of the past. In a way I guess it's like 100swallows says about art: someone has to tell the story of great art. For me I feel like someone has to tell the story of nature in art. And I have to say for that that I think Motmot is setting a great example.