Skeptical Artist http://www.skepticalartist.com Looking at art and making my own Fri, 16 May 2014 11:29:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 48712804 Polanski, Gill and Morality; Should we look at Artists or their Art ? http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/11/03/polanski-gill-should-we-look-at-artists-or-their-art/ Sun, 03 Nov 2013 21:46:12 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=274 Artists and Creators often put so much of themselves into their work that it’s hard to separate their personal lives and views from the work [...]

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Artists and Creators often put so much of themselves into their work that it’s hard to separate their personal lives and views from the work they create. If personal views or lifestyles are revealed that we don’t agree with or that we even find abhorrent should we still be allowed to enjoy their creations ? Does the amount of time that’s passed make a difference and if the part of them that we dislike is not an influence on their work does that make a difference ?

Ender’s Game

Ender's GameThere’s been a lot of controversy recently about the author Orson Scott Card’s views on gay marriage and calls for a boycott on the new movie adaptation of his most famous work “Ender’s Game”.

The book has won numerous awards and is considered a great work of Science Fiction. Should there be a conflict because of his personal and political views ? The view that gay people shouldn’t have the same rights as anyone else is becoming more and more outdated.

Harrison Ford recently had to defend the movie adaptation  “I think none of Mr. Card’s views on gay marriage are part of the thematics of this film.” It’s an interesting point and very valid. Orson Scott Card may have views which you might not agree with but he’s not breaking laws. Enjoying his work isn’t directly approving of his views but as he’s still around to profit it might just make him richer.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest-HemingwayErnest Hemingway is one of the most respected authors of the 20th Century but he was notoriously racist, homophobic, sexist and anti-semitic.

Was he a product of his times ? I don’t think there are many people who would argue that his books should be disregarded because of views he held. His views did slip into the thematics of his novels with a lot of anti semiticism appearing.





Steve Tyler

Steve Tyler JuliaAs a singer with Aerosmith, Steve Tyler could be classified as an artist but if he was British I think the Yewtree detectives could be having a closer look. In 1975 he became guardian to a young girl (Julia Holcomb, pictured left) and he was in a romantic relationship with her for 3 years until she became pregnant. Although it appears she was 16 when she met him the whole story doesn’t cast him in a great light.

This seems to have been overlooked because it was consensual and he had her parent’s permission. You might not approve of his behaviour but isn’t it all part of his rock and roll image.



Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski is undoubtedly an amazing movie director who with “The Pianist” created one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. He’s had a tragic life in that as a youth he survived the holocaust and later on his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family. He went on to create some amazing movies.

This doesn’t excuse the fact that he also drugged, raped and sodomised a 13 year old girl.

What’s particularly surprising about this case is the fact that he has so much support and so many apologists in mainstream society with over a hundred members of the film community petitioning for his release. Even Whoopi Goldberg came out to state that it wasn’t rape, rape. If he had been locked up when he had plead guilty and not fled the country he would not have been in a position to have gone on to create some of his masterpieces.

Eric Gill

Ariel_between_Wisdom_and_Gaiety by Eric GillOn a different level is Eric Gill. He was a fantastic sculptor who in the early part of the 20th Century was commissioned to create some of the most high profile sculptures and carvings in London. He was a devout catholic and at the heart of a thriving artistic community which he founded.

He also happened to have bizarre and awful sexual practices. He abused his children, had an incestuous relationship with his sister and had sexual relations with his dog.

These disturbing facts weren’t revealed until a biography in 1989 forty years after his death and it wasn’t practical to remove his sculptures which weren’t just embedded in the nation’s culture but were also physically embedded within some of the buildings that his work adorns. He’s been gone a long time so there would be little benefit in this anyway.

Conclusion

When the depraved truth about an entertainer like Jimmy Savile comes to light it’s easy to denounce his work as well him as a person. He didn’t have critical acclaim and repeats of Top of the Pops or Jim’ll Fix It with him as the star won’t be missed.

I think we have to try and separate Artists from their Art and understand that the part of them that creates isn’t necessarily the same part that controls their thoughts and actions. There may be reflections in their work but we can’t deprive people of the benefit of their art because of their actions. The challenge is to make sure this isn’t taken as tacit approval.

Let me know what you think.

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Cushing’s Disease and how a brain tumour made me fat. http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/09/13/cushings-disease-and-how-a-brain-tumour-made-me-fat/ http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/09/13/cushings-disease-and-how-a-brain-tumour-made-me-fat/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:17:18 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=248 This is definitely a period of my life I’m never going to forget. I’ve read that you shouldn’t write about yourself in blogs as people [...]

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This is definitely a period of my life I’m never going to forget. I’ve read that you shouldn’t write about yourself in blogs as people aren’t usually that interested and I usually stick to that. In this case I’ll make an exception as it’s really been quite a year for me.

I’d been feeling a little off colour and had put on a bit of weight so went to the doctor at the beginning of last year (2012). In September 2011 I’d been running and blacked out. Through the rest of the year even though I was careful about what I ate, was swimming 80 lengths of the pool everyday and running pretty regularly I was still gaining weight. It’s weird that I found it hard to climb the stairs at work because my thighs felt so weak but could still swim a couple of km. I found it difficult to sleep and bruised pretty easily.

It was a bit of a shock to be told I might have a very rare brain tumour releasing the hormone cortisol that affects 10 in a Million people. Things went downhill and Cushing’s Disease really started breaking apart my body. My muscles wasted and I carried on putting on fat. Joints skin and feet were all affected. I’ve heard Cushing’s Disease called the ugly disease so yep not great.

My girlfriend at the time was amazing and stuck with me, spending nights in the ER when my blood pressure went off the scale and at times like that.

This is my brain and I think that green bit on my pituitary is the tumour. I’m fascinated by medical imagery and it is interesting to see what’s inside you. I asked for the CDs with my MRI from the hospital and used a free bit of software to interpret it in 3d.

Anyway to put it briefly I had neurosurgery last September to remove the microadenoma on my pituitary and it was a total success.I know the NHS gets a lot of stick but everyone, from the Endocrinologist and Surgeon to the nurses who looked after me, were great and I couldn’t have asked for more.

I immediately began feeling better and recovering. My girlfriend and I became engaged and I asked my doctors if I would be able to be a dad. As we were both 36 and wanted children it was quite important. I was told that in the long run I should be okay and I should be able to be Father.

Great news ! Within a month my fiance became pregnant. At the beginning of the year we flew off to Florence and got married. I’ve carried on recovering and have lost about 3 1/2 stone and am pretty much back to full fitness.

In August my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He’s healthy and I couldn’t be more proud.It’s amazing, but without those lows I’m not sure the highs would be quite so good.

TomMorrocco2011July
Me in Morrocco in July 2011 before Cushings Disease
TomJan2012
Me in January 2012 when I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease
TomEdinburghJuly2013
Me in July 2013 recovering from Cushing’s Disease

Leave a comment if you have any questions !

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Good artists borrow; great artists steal. http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/07/18/hide-your-sources-painting-from-photographs/ http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/07/18/hide-your-sources-painting-from-photographs/#comments Thu, 18 Jul 2013 13:00:03 +0000 http://tomclive.com/blog/?p=9 Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” but in this new age of information and technology this is becoming increasingly difficult [...]

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Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” but in this new age of information and technology this is becoming increasingly difficult and that’s probably a good thing.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but if your work and ideas are being used by others for gain that that’s obviously very negative.

Copyscape is a service that allows you to check text and see if someone has duplicated it on the internet and published it elsewhere. If you search for SkepticalArtist.com on Copyscape it flags up the Streisand Effect quote I used for an earlier article that has been used elsewhere. Otherwise I’m happy to say that everything in this blog is original and no one else has copied it. I believe that Google uses a similar method to see if people are copying other websites or simply creating duplicate websites/articles to create more backlinks.

In a similar way Reverse Image searches allow you to use an image to see if something similar can be found on the internet. Tineye is the one I use the most and can be very handy for photos and drawings. Actually when I’ve found people using my creations I have been more flattered than outraged but it’s still good to get in touch and make sure you get the credit.

The problem is that when blocks are put in place to stop people from doing things there is almost always a way to get around the block. Somebody came up with the idea that if you want to copy an article and not get it flagged up then all you have to do is copy it to a different language automatically and then copy it back again. In this elaborate technological version of Chinese whispers the end result will be quite a different article and will usually be fairly unintelligible. If our aim as content creators is to enrich the web with original content then this should be anathema to us.

Pablo Picasso went a step further than Albert Einstein and a saying that’s often attributed to him is “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.”

Many artists use photographs as a basis for their work and if you’re taking the original photograph you’re controlling the lighting and composition and this can be a handy tool in the creative process. This image shows the famous Norman Rockwell Painting and the photo on which he based this painting. He staged the photo and put his own spin on the painting so I don’t think this devalues his work in any way.

Norman Rockwell Cop Kid Diner Painting and it's original Photo Source
Norman Rockwell Cop Kid Diner Painting and it’s original Photo Source

I was being taught some of the techniques of Sight-Size drawing a few years ago by Anastasia Pollard and asked her about this. She’s a very talented artist who’s had paintings displayed multiple times at the BP portrait awards and even though she can draw very skillfully from life often completes paintings from photographs due to time constraints and the difficulty in getting a subject to sit for the period of time needed to complete a painting.

In September 1888 Van Gogh – answering to a letter of his sister Wil who had told him of a recent photograph of their mother – asked for a print. About a week later he received it, but – “troubled by the black” – sat down to paint a copy based on this likeness:Van Gogh’s initial introduction to art was through his mother, an amateur artist. This is photo that he was sent by his sister and his interpretation of it.

Van Goghs Mother and Photo Source
Van Gogh’s Mother and Photo Source

Okay but what if you’re using somebody else’s photo as the basis for your own painting. Is that justifiable ? You might be surprised to find out that some of the most famous painters from the 20th Century based their paintings on photos. Here are some famous examples.

Two Women by the photogarpher Henry Lemasson
Two Women by the photographer Henry Lemasson

Does this look familiar ?

Gauguin Mother and Daughter Painting 1890
Gauguin Mother and Daughter Painting 1890
Cezanne Figure and Photo Source
Cezanne Figure and Photo Source

I’m not sure if Cezanne was involved in the original photograph.

Here’s a video of Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk. He argues that all culture is based on the indirect or direct (majority of time) repurposing of existing cultural artifacts. Really fascinating and well worth watching. More of his short films on a similar theme can be found here.

If we are influenced by the world around us and this ignites our creativity then with easy access to a wider variety of sources on the internet does this mean that we will become more creative or will we just copy more work ?

Looking further into this it appears that many artists aren’t just influenced by others but directly plagiarise but that’s something for another article.

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Damien Hirst, Pippa Middleton and the Streisand Effect http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/07/17/damien-hirst-and-the-streisand-effect/ http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/07/17/damien-hirst-and-the-streisand-effect/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:41:08 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=216 How are Damien Hirst, Pippa Middleton and Barbara Streisand related ? It’s down to a couple of stories that have been pretty popular over the [...]

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How are Damien Hirst, Pippa Middleton and Barbara Streisand related ? It’s down to a couple of stories that have been pretty popular over the past week.

Pippa Middleton’s been in the news again and this time it’s because of a Twitter account and book that parodies her book Celebrate. In fact, the spoof book When One is Expecting: A Posh Person’s Guide to Pregnancy and Parenting (Creators of Pippatips) has now actually surpassed Celebrate in sales.

It’s actually fairly amusing and is full of inane tips such as this one from the Twitter account:

However, it looks like she now thinks this has gone beyond a joke and according to this article in the Huffington Post, Pippa is now planning on suing the book publishers and getting the Twitter account shut down.

Hasn’t she heard of the Streisand Effect ? It’s the phenomenon where trying to hide a subject actually draws attention to it and gains it far more publicity. It always makes me chuckle when I read the details of how this came about. Here’s a synopsis from Wikipedia.

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.

It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently generated further publicity. Similar attempts have been made, for example, in cease-and-desist letters, to suppress numbers, files and websites. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored across the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term after Streisand unsuccessfully sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for violation of privacy. The US$50 million lawsuit endeavored to remove an aerial photograph of Streisand’s mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs.Adelman photographed the beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the government-sanctioned and government-commissioned California Coastal Records Project. Before Streisand filed her lawsuit, “Image 3850” had been downloaded from Adelman’s website only six times; two of those downloads were by Streisand’s attorneys.As a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased substantially; more than 420,000 people visited the site over the following month.

Streisand Estate that led to naming of Streisand Effect
Streisand Estate photo that led to the naming of The Streisand Effect

Other people who have fallen foul of this effect are Ryan Giggs, Beyonce Knowles and Argyll and Bute council.

I may be overly suspicious here, but some people appear to take advantage of The Streisand Effect and use it to create publicity for their ends. They realise that by appearing to create controversy about a subject they create a viral interest in it and can therefore profit. I can’t see any evidence that Pippa really is suing the authors of the spoof, Mat Morrisroe and Suzanne Azzopardi. All I can find are quite vague statements like, “The younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge is thought to have taken offence over the novelty book”. Could the publishers be creating a bit of publicity for themselves ?

Another story that caught my eye is about the master publicist and manipulator Damien Hirst. I’m not a huge fan of his work but he knows how to attract attention. The latest story in the news is about a photo of him from 1981 as a 16 year old grinning whilst he’s posing with a severed head in a morgue. The body had been donated to science and for me it’s pretty tasteless and disrespectful. As Professor Tarlow from the University of Leicester puts it:

“The image is shocking. I don’t think it should be on public display. It deserves a place in Hirst’s archive, but not in a gallery.”

“It is a betrayal of trust to the deceased man, who has evidently donated his body to medical science – a philanthropic act. His body has not been used for a serious purpose.”

“To make it worse, his face is potentially recognisable – a family member of neighbour might look at it and recognise him.”

Hirst’s arguement is that it makes people talk and promotes discussion which means that it’s art. I don’t agree that this alone qualifies it as art. If you look at the front page of the news there are plenty of gruesome stories but just because they create discussion this does not make them art.

This Exhibition has been on since last October but this debate has only come to light this week. Could it be that the gallery’s or Hirst’s media team has stirred things up for a bit of publicity ? Could ticket sales be dropping and they need a boost from The Streisand Effect ?

As the saying goes. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

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Artistic influences ? Spielberg, ET and Michelangelo http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/07/07/artistic-influences-spielberg-et-and-michelangelo/ Sun, 07 Jul 2013 17:51:25 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=183 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one Steven Spielberg’s most famous most famous movies and I still think it should have won an oscar instead of Gandhi. [...]

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Creation of ET
Did you know that ET’s famous movie poster was based on Michelangelo’s creation of Adam ?

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one Steven Spielberg’s most famous most famous movies and I still think it should have won an oscar instead of Gandhi. Doing a quick Google search shows that Sir Richard Attenborough who won 8 Oscars ( Including Best Picture and Best Director ) for Gandhi agrees:

Steven Spielberg’s ET was an “an infinitely more creative and fundamental piece of cinema” than Gandhi.

Critics of the movie immediately picked up on Christian themes like the resurrection and the finger touching scene which is so reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel.

It was even spoofed in the Simpsons:

Rev. Lovejoy: I remember another gentle visitor from the heavens, he came in peace and then died, only to come back to life, and his name was… E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. (cries) I loved that little guy.

Steven Spielberg has joked about it and denied there was any kind of religious undertone to the movie. “If I ever went to my mother and said, ‘Mom, I’ve made this movie that’s a Christian parable,’ what do you think she’d say? She has a kosher restaurant on Pico and Doheny in Los Angeles”

According to Spielberg biographer Joseph McBride, Universal Pictures tried to appeal directly to the Christian market, when they made the poster reminiscent of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel and a logo reading “Peace”.

 

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Art Everywhere but is it really for everyone ? http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/06/30/art-everywhere-but-is-it-really-art/ Sun, 30 Jun 2013 21:32:25 +0000 http://tomclive.com/blog/?p=14 Over the past few weeks there’s been a lot of publicity over the new Art Everywhere campaign. Longlist nominee Damien Hirst said: “Art is for [...]

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Over the past few weeks there’s been a lot of publicity over the new Art Everywhere campaign.

Longlist nominee Damien Hirst said: “Art is for everyone, and everyone who has access to it will benefit from it. This project is amazing and gives the public a voice and an opportunity to choose what they want to see on their streets.”

Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst – Entrepreneur, Art Collector and Artist ?

“Everyone will benefit”. I’m not sure how. The public will pay for it and won’t really be able to select it. Already successful artists will benefit from raised profiles. It is true that the art on display will be from national collections rather than from private collections but I’m quite glad to see that as of the 26th June 2013, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst are not in the public’s top 50 selection. Maybe the average person with an interest in art prefers traditional art. The most popular selections seem to be 19th century paintings.

Damien Steven Hirst (born 7 June 1965) is an English artist, entrepreneur and art collector. He is reportedly Britain’s richest living artist, with his wealth valued at £215m in the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List.

How democratic is it ? According to their website the list of 100 works was drawn up by four people: Bob and Roberta Smith, Richard Reed, Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar and Tate Britain Director Penelope Curtis. That doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Okay, the public get a chance to pay for it but they still get told what Art is.

Who defines what art is ? A while ago Tracey Emin came out with the following quote.

They were asking me questions like, ‘Is it art?’ And I was saying, ‘Well, if it isn’t art… what the hell is it doing in an art gallery and why are people coming to look at it?’ – Tracey Emin

Art is everywhere but not all of it deserves or needs to be displayed in a gallery. Wouldn’t it be a more legitimate experiment if along with the works already well known and accessible to have unknown work that you wouldn’t normally find in galleries. This might not however be commercially viable.

Who decides what art is and where it should go ? Artist ? Viewer ? Curator ? Buyer ?

It’s been said that Michelangelo didn’t really consider the Sistine Chapel art and Hitchcock didn’t think that his films were art but there must be many cases of great artists creating great art without that being their initial intention.

I think the art world needs to be shaken up every now and again by a Duchamp to stop it from taking itself so seriously but when we’re told that everything is art doesn’t this mean that the word has no meaning and nothing is art ?

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Sight-size method. Pencil sketch of female nude. http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/06/29/life-drawing-of-female-nude-in-4-steps-using-hb-pencil-and-sight-size-method/ http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/06/29/life-drawing-of-female-nude-in-4-steps-using-hb-pencil-and-sight-size-method/#comments Sat, 29 Jun 2013 12:15:02 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=175 This is an HB pencil sketch I made a couple of years ago during a workshop at The London Atelier of Representational Art. They teach [...]

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4 step pencil sketch of female nude
Life drawing of female nude in 4 steps using HB pencil and sight size method

This is an HB pencil sketch I made a couple of years ago during a workshop at The London Atelier of Representational Art. They teach the sight-size method which is a technical way of drawing that involves careful observation and making sure that you draw exactly what you see on a one to one scale.

To do this you have to stand in exactly the same position and by building up a drawing starting from broad shapes you can then slowly build up detail.

Attention to detail is the key and there are a number of methods that are taught to make sure that your drawing is accurate. The aim is to get to the point where using plumb lines and other measuring tools aren’t necessary as you are so used to accurately measuring that you don’t need to do it consciously.

I don’t believe that accurate representation is the only thing that’s important for an artist but I do believe that to understand art it helps to gain as much experience as possible using a variety of techniques.

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Artists making money. Is it wrong to make a profit ? http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/06/27/selling-out-is-it-wrong-for-artists-to-want-to-make-a-profit/ Thu, 27 Jun 2013 11:54:41 +0000 http://tomclive.com/blog/?p=12 Art at the top level is a commodity more than anything else but what about most artists who make very little money and often rely [...]

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Art at the top level is a commodity more than anything else but what about most artists who make very little money and often rely on financial support from friends and family. Why isn’t their art valued as highly ?

Cezanne's Card Players

This painting by Cezanne is warm, emotive and certainly a masterpiece but is it really worth the $250 million that in 2011 made it the most expensive work of art  ever sold ?

Here’s an article from the Guardian entitled The Art of Selling Out and as Damien Hirst puts it:

“Warhol really brought money into the equation. He made it acceptable for artists to think about money. In the world we live in today, money is a big issue. It’s as big as love, maybe even bigger.”

Are you an artist ? Do you ever sell your work ? Why not ? Isn’t it good enough ?

I think a lot of artists see other art selling well and think “My work’s better than that” but never actually get around to doing anything about it.

Are the successful artists out there better at creating than anyone else or are they just better at selling their art ?

If it’s not a lack of confidence that stops artists from selling their painting, sculptures or illustration then it’s the view that artists should be concerned with more cerebral things than money. Their contribution to society goes deeper than that.

I saw this article in the Scotsman newspaper that has the headline Artists forced to survive on £100 a week

THREE-quarters of visual artists in Scotland are earning less than £5,000 a year, according to a new report.

Just five per cent of artists surveyed for the study said they were earning more than £15,000 after tax and expenses.

When it came to actual turnover, 70 per cent of those who took part in the study for the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) were generating less than £10,000 a year.

This is sad and the figures are shockingly low but as beneficial as it is to have artists around it’s hard to argue that they should be subsidised by society. If their aim is to be professional then a realistic business model should be developed that allows them to earn a decent income. Many artists teach, run studios or have a different career that allows them to create until they reach a level where their art can support them.

I spent four years at a prestigious art school in London and very few of my friends I’ve stayed in touch with are artists. These are all extremely talented artists but who were better at making art than selling it.

Writing this reminds me of something I saw on Twitter a while ago and it stuck in my mind:

It appears that she was referring to some guy who’d aimed a few tweets at her.

Molly Crabapple is a New York based artist who used her experience as an art model to create Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School which is based on making drawing fun has been hugely successful and has spread around the world. This has raised her profile and created a wider audience for her artwork. No doubt if people hadn’t liked her work she wouldn’t have got as far even with a wide audience. It has still brought resentment and perhaps professional jealousy.

Is there really a reason why people can’t make good art and promote themselves as artists and does marketing make your work inferior and doing well from it devalue it in anyway ?

“Do well, but not too well” – I’ve heard that there is always a deliberate flaw by Muslim tapestry weavers, who add one flaw because only Allah may be perfect. Should artists restrain themselves so they don’t become the target of professional jealousy ?

On a fun note here’s an artist who prided himself on being commercial – it’s a Salvador Dali chocolate advert. Selling out ?

What do you think ?

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Claude Monet and Ultraviolet Light. Did the Master Impressionist painter have UV supervision ? http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/06/25/claude-monet-and-ultraviolet-light-did-the-master-impressionist-painter-have-uv-supervision/ http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/06/25/claude-monet-and-ultraviolet-light-did-the-master-impressionist-painter-have-uv-supervision/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 13:34:25 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=93 Everybody sees the world around them in different ways and although this is usually down to interpretation, some people can physically see more of the [...]

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MonetsGarden
Did the ability to see UV lead Monet to paint with a more blueish palette ?

Everybody sees the world around them in different ways and although this is usually down to interpretation, some people can physically see more of the world around them. It’s claimed that Monet was one of them.

Monet and Ultraviolet vision

I’ve often heard that Monet had Ultraviolet vision and examples of how widespread this is thought can be found in this article in the Science section of the Guardian and in this article in the Daily Mail. It’s stated as fact all over the web but I’m still skeptical. It’s very easy to read something that’s repeated often and believe it especially when there are examples like the one above. Recently I’ve been taking more of a critical approach. Where do these claims come from and is there evidence to back them up ? There are many specialists who are pretty easy to locate by doing a few Google searches. Have they been consulted or quoted by the authors of these pieces ?

In this article I’m going to be doing some research on whether this is possible and whether this is probable. I’m entering this investigation with an open mind, a background in Art History and an interest in the facts.

I created a composite below of some of Monet’s paintings of Water lilies. This doesn’t have the same dramatic impact as the image at the top of this article as it doesn’t indicate any great change. He only lived for 3 years after his cataract operation and there are relatively few paintings that can be attributed to that period. It also appears that he was using a fairly blue palette before his operation. It is possible that he went back and corrected his paintings at a later date.

MonetsLilies
An image showing Claude Monet’s paintings of water lilies before and one after cataract surgery.

Background

From early on in his career Monet rejected traditional methods of painting and didn’t want to paint what he knew was there but what he actually saw. In Paris at the Charles Gleyre academy he’d been taught to paint the sea as blue and the bark of a tree as brown but as he advised another painter:

When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you — a tree, a house, a field. . . . Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape.

He wanted to create an impression of a scene at a particular time and capture what it was like at that particular moment. From 1900 onwards Monet had problems with his vision and complained to his friends that everything he saw was a fog. Although cataract operations had been performed for thousands of years they were still a risky business at the time. He agreed to surgery to totally remove the lense in his left eye in 1923 at the age of 82 and the operation was a success. There were no replacement implant lenses at the time and he had to wear thick glasses but his vision was transformed.

However, the operation had an unexpected side effect; as mentioned before it’s claimed that he began seeing the world with UV vision. His palette which before the operation had been red, brown and earthy took on a more bluish hue.

Water Lillies by Monet
Water Lillies by Monet – painted in 1926 3 years after his cataract operation

There are plenty of myths about artists so how do we know that this is true ? People often claim that Monet’s blurred style was a result of cataracts in an aging artist but this appears to be false in that he painted in this style from a young age.

What kind of light can we usually see ?

This diagram pretty clearly shows how how small the spectrum of light as part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation really is. The typical human eye will not respond to light below 390nm. The rod and cone cells in our retina have the potential to detect light down to 290nm, but our lenses block out everything below about 390nm.

Visible Spectrum of Light
Visible Spectrum of Light

From what I’ve read it’s possible that if you remove or replace the lense of your eye then these rays are no longer blocked and if an individual’s retina is sensitive to ultraviolet rays then they will be able to see Ultraviolet rays.

Does anyone in the 21st century have Ultra Violet vision ?

A retired Air Force Officer and Engineer called Alek Komarnitsky underwent cataract surgery in 2011. This is a pretty common operation which according to wikipedia is performed on over 2 and a half million people a year in the United States.

After undergoing this operation he appears to have become more sensitive to the low end of the visible light spectrum. On his website he puts across a very convincing case that he has Ultraviolet vision. By testing with a Monochromator at Hewlett-Packard, Komar was able to see purples at around 350nm and tiny bits of brightness down to 340nm.

The team at The Skeptics Guide to the Universe also seem convinced and if you listen in about 17 minutes into podcast 413 from June 15th 2013 they also mention Monet and his UV vision.

Not entirely relevant but just as exciting are experiments currently being performed to create retinal implants that could be used to cure some kinds of blindness. These implants would enable users to see a full spectrum of light rays that are not ordinarily visible.

Ultraviolet Photography

Digital cameras are generally manufactured with a filter over the sensor that stops them from recording Ultraviolet and Infra Red Light. It is however possible to have this filter removed so that you have a “Full Spectrum Camera”. By then using different filters on the front of your lense you can make sure that your camera only takes photographs which record a certain spectrum.

Ultraviolet beauty by Cara Phillips
Ultraviolet beauty by Cara Phillips

Many portraits taken using only UV light between the wavelengths of 335 and 365 nanometers to create images with a similar stunning effect.

Animals with ultraviolet vision

Although people can only see certain wavelengths many animals can see a broader spectrum. Insects including bees can see Ultraviolet and this can help them navigate and find flowers. There are also certain Butterflies where both genders look exactly the same to us but to each other (or someone who can see UV) the males have bright patterns which may help them to attract mates.

Conclusion

Monets-glasses
These are Monet’s thick tinted glasses it seems unlikely that UV rays could pass through these lenses.

Did Monet have Ultraviolet Supervision ? It’s certainly possible but I’m still not convinced. I hadn’t realised how much information there was on the subject but come back soon as I will continue to look into this.

Please leave a comment if you have any more information or think I’m wrong. I’d love to hear from you.

Further Reading

  • http://www.extremetech.com/computing/118557-the-eyes-have-it-seeing-ultraviolet-exploring-color
  • http://www.komar.org/faq/colorado-cataract-surgery-crystalens/ultra-violet-color-glow/
  • http://www.naturfotograf.com/UV_IR_rev01UV.html#top_page
  • http://singularityhub.com/2010/11/09/retina-implant-restores-vision-lets-cyborgs-see-ir-light/
  • http://ask.slashdot.org/story/11/10/02/1937232/ask-slashdot-how-to-exploit-post-cataract-ultraviolet-vision
  • http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111126225836AAfGYmn
  • http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3069650
  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2080438/Why-DID-scorpions-evolve-glow-UV-light-The.html
  • http://www.lakeshorevision.com/cataracts-lasik-ilasik-blade-free-lasik-restor-len-implants-toric-implants-contact-lenses/premium-lens-implants-no-stich-cataract-surgery-multi-focal-lenses-toric-lenses/monet-and-cataracts-by-dr-martha-jay-milwaukee-area-ophthalmologist
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_vision

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Creepy camera guy http://www.skepticalartist.com/2013/05/12/creepy-camera-guy/ Sun, 12 May 2013 18:06:36 +0000 http://www.skepticalartist.com/?p=49 A lot of photographers adopt a persona when out and about taking photographs because quite often people just don’t like having their photograph taken. If [...]

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A lot of photographers adopt a persona when out and about taking photographs because quite often people just don’t like having their photograph taken. If you let yourself become embarrassed taking a photo then the whole thing becomes awkward.

There are surveillance cameras everywhere so almost everything you do is captured on camera. An anonymous guy in Seattle has been out just getting in peoples faces with his camera and it’s interesting to see how people react. In a fast food joint you have multiple cameras on you at all time and this is ignored but as soon as someone carrying a camera points it in their direction they almost all get very aggressive.

Are they reacting to the camera or the guy holding it ? What was he wearing ? Would this have made any difference ?

He does push it a bit far with harassing people and entering private property but the points he raises are pretty interesting.

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