Visual Arts

Paint By Numbers

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I did paint-by-numbers work when I was younger. It’s a wonderful way to train yourself without getting bogged down in the details that would otherwise thwart you from doing something with art.

Dan Robbins, the inventor of the paint-by-numbers kits, has died aged 93. 

His kits inspired generations of budding artists to pick up a paintbrush and create multi-coloured wonders. Here, BBC News website readers share their artwork and stories about how the method helped them.

I would have guessed that these things were much, much older and dated from the Victorian era. But, no. Robbins invented them in the 1950s.

Here’s why I mention this:

Painting-by-numbers literally saved my life when I had a breakdown last year. 

I could barely function and my anxiety was through the roof. I was crying all the time and everything felt like an overload. 

Painting-by-numbers helped me to heal and gave me a break from the pain I was in. The act of painting each shape with a colour and being able to shut my brain off except for painting within the lines made such a difference to my recovery time, and I credit it with getting me to where I am today. 

I chose the image because I like animals and the colours were attractive to me. There is also a slight sadness in the deer's eyes which spoke to me. 

I believe this image took me about three weeks to complete, doing about one or two hours a day. 

It was my first adult paint-by-numbers kit. I used to do them as a child. I do a little bit of drawing and I like the idea of being able to paint but don't feel confident enough to start a picture myself from scratch. I like the fact that all the hard work is already done with a paint-by-numbers kit, and at the end you know the image will be beautiful.

Please click over to the BBC and read the rest. You’ll see things like this:

Nancy Pope

Nancy Pope

Wonderful.

Thanks again, Mr. Robbins.

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Frank Underwood

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Whatever happened to this?

Jonathan Yeo has painted the "fictional" portrait of Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood character for the Smithsonian, and this was in 2016. It hung in the National Portrait Gallery, and, for all intents and purposes, it's probably not even worth $50 in terms of real value. For people who love macabre, scandalous items, it's literally priceless.

 

Populism and Elitism in One Place

There's a fascinating magazine cover coming out soon, and it's for the New Yorker. You can see the Cyrillic lettering and the immediate joke--Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley is what it is called.

The scathing cover will accompany an investigation featured in the next issue that explores Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence on the presidential election, and the frightening return of a Cold War the United States is at risk of losing. The issue comes in the wake of a bombshell report on Thursday that cited White House officials requesting the FBI dispute evidence Trump aides communicated with Russian officials during the election. According to CNN, the FBI rejected that request.

This is a riff on the first cover of the New Yorker, and so it represents a little bit of highbrow satire and commentary, right down to the onion dome over the shoulder. The "elites" are contemplating Donald Trump as some sort of angry insect that should be disdained or kept safely at a distance. Trump himself is depicted as being in an impotent, volcanic rage as per usual. Oh well, they never did like me, or so says Trump.

I think this is important for a number of reasons. One, it's a view of the president that is being expressed in caricature that is becoming normal for people to see--Trump as something small, insignificant or annoying. He is rarely, if ever, depicted in a neutral or positive light. We see the buffoonery and the cartoon aspect of him, always in orange and always with his mouth open. He is never a man shown thinking.

Two, this is really a better example of populism than it is elitism. There isn't a huge audience out there for the New Yorker, but there is one for people who want information about what's going on so this amplifies the need to figure out what is the connection between Trump and Putin. The populist angle here is that it gets to the heart of the notion that the people who voted for him now want to know where his loyalties lie. This New York-centric publication is doing the work that used to be done by major American newspapers. I think it is important for people to read and hear things that inform them and keep them up to date on the latest scandals. At any other point in our nation's history, Trump would not only have not been the Republican president, he wouldn't even have been the nominee. People are still furious about this, and even a New Yorker cover can inspire and sustain their embrace of populism in the face of fascism.

Three, this chips away at the people stuck supporting Trump. These are the dead-enders. A good number of them believe this is all phony. What's astonishing to people who follow the news and read the New Yorker has been the fact that Trump got elected by rather overtly working with the Russian government.  Well, the magazine is about to do a deep dive into all of that. Will it change anybody's mind? Who knows? If you're a Midwestern Republican, this image just sails right past you without registering. But there are always people who peel away from madmen. There are many people who cannot roll with an incompetent banana republic president.

Four, the artistic renderings of Trump and Putin are now becoming too numerous to ignore. The constant refrain--the riffing and meme-ing if you will, are devastating. Presidents who are depicted in the popular day-to-day media in a negative manner have the impossible task of living these things down. Think George W. Bush as big eared and clueless. Think of Bill Clinton as always smiling, even when depicted by those opposed to him. Think of President Obama, cool and poised no matter what was thrown at him. In a little over forty days, the general impression of Trump is that he is a howling, braying old fool with his cake hole permanently set to spew.

The artful aspect here is invaluable. Want to bring Trump down? Draw a picture of him bellowing and fussing about nothing while on his phone. This is what defines him and keeps everyone else sane.

The Throng Below the Eiffel Tower

This is still one of my favorite photos.

In my opinion, the Eiffel Tower is plenty high enough. This was taken looking down from the first platform. At this time of the year, which was roughly November of 2011, there was a skating rink and some food vendors on that level. We then went up to the second platform. You would think, oh, that's not very high and of course, you have to go to the top.

Nope.

If you go up to the second platform, that's plenty high enough. You do not need to go to the top. I did not go to the top. Oh, hell no.

Birds on Frozen Water

This was shot from the driver's seat of my car one morning when I was stuck in traffic. The impossibly busy pond and the blue effect of the shore in the distance made this work when it really shouldn't have worked at all. I left much of the foreground in the photo because that also seemed to make sense. This particular pond is in Central Maryland, somewhere near Route 1, between Highways 100 and 175 or so.

Flooding at the Louvre

It would be the height of stupidity for the curators at the Louvre to "forget" to move the Mona Lisa:

The "Mona Lisa" will stay dry on her upper floor in the Louvre as museums in Paris scramble to protect their world-famous artworks and artifacts from deadly floods.

Flooding in France and Germany has killed 11 people as of Friday -- 10 of them in southern Germany and one on the outskirts of Paris -- and has caused chaos in the French capital, which shut down several busy train lines and part of its metro, adding to the congestion on its roads.

"Due to the level of the river Seine, the Musée du Louvre will be exceptionally closed to the public on June 3, 2016 to ensure the protection of the works located in flood zones. We apologize for any inconvenience caused," the museum said on its website.

I know that we live in an era where our elites are peopled with incompetent boobs, but this is just too much. The priceless artworks will be protected (barring some unimaginable wall of water that overwhelms the facility) but it's the lesser known stuff that could end up getting short shrift. Museums are, typically, in possession of vast amounts of artwork that never gets displayed. Much of this work is damaged when it is warehoused improperly. I hope they're not forgetting to check the basement.

The Moral Purpose of Art

Auguste Renoir, Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, 1873
Painting the Modern Garden explores the interstices between nature and ourselves as revealed in the cultivation of gardens, that most delightful and frustrating of occupations, and an almost obsessive subject for many artists. About 150 paintings from the 1860s to the 1920s, gathered together from private and public collections in North America and Europe are on view, amplified by letters, plans, documents, photographs and illustrated books on horticulture.
The exhibition embraces not only artists’ responses to gardens from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, but obliquely the new culture of the cultivated domestic garden that was becoming ever more significant. The show is uneven, and several of the less familiar names are probably deservedly so, but that is because the purpose is twofold: to explore a new interest and preoccupation of both the middle classes and the artists whom they patronised, and the art itself.
What happens to the garden? 

As we change the way we live, and as we deal with climate change, sprawl, and poorly planned public areas, how do we maintain a connection to the purpose of surrounding ourselves with green spaces and parks and gardens? 

We have already seen a transformation of public and private spaces because of the collapse of golf as a recreational activity. What if gardening is on the way out as well? How will our modern art reflect this change?