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Posts by Karl Zipser

How are you shaped by your tools?


Sometimes when I am painting with brushes that are a bit worn out, I have the feeling that it doesn’t matter so much if the tips are worn away. But then if I take a brand new brush and start using it, my whole perception of what is possible, what is acceptable, changes. I know that I shape my brushes through use, but I also have come to understand that my brushes shape me.

There is a widely used saying (it goes like this)

If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

which I think is very deep. I think that when we pick up a tool and use it a lot, it actually becomes a part of us from the brain’s point of view. It becomes part of us in a simulated physical sense, like a violinist’s bow becoming an extension of his right arm; and it also becomes part of our psychology, this perhaps in a less obvious way.

I’m coming back to blogging after being away for more than a year. When I got back into it, I noticed with amusement that I tend to phrase my thoughts in terms of blog posts or blog comments. A blog is a sort of tool, isn’t it?

I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic of being shaped by your tools. Do you believe it happens? What are your tools? How do they affect you? And finally, what are the implications of this? How should we select the tools that will shape us?

Also by Karl:

How do you feel about gold in art?

Frame in process of being gilded

Frame in process of being gilded


Gilding is easy, though it requires attention to detail. Gilding is also fun. I gild when I make my own frames. I recently went into the gilding process in detail on my own site. Not many artists gild or use gold. I sometimes wonder why.

Does gold have a place in modern/contemporary art? Would you use gold if you knew how? Or is gold something of a symbol on being not-modern?

World Depression II: Great Time to Become an Artist — Bad Time to Be a Dealer?

dsc_0640-bw450

UPDATE!
What I am really wondering here is,

Will our Dealers Survive?

Every artist has a relationship with at least one dealer — even if it is only a one-sided voyeuristic relationship. So it is relevant to ask:

Are they all going to go bust?

And if so, what happens to us? Do we need the dealers, or is the Fall of the Art World (as we know it) the best thing that could possibly happen?

On the one hand, the idea of cataclysmic change is always interesting, especially if it is happening to someone else. On the other hand, if you have been cultivating good relationships with dealers over the course of years, as Hanneke and I have, then the prospect of these people going out of business is pretty distressing. Distressing from an economic standpoint, not to mention from a personal one, since dealers can be pretty nice once you get to know them.

But it certainly does not look good. The New York Times paints a grim picture of the current art market:

Auction houses have begun to report sales that are less than half their level a year ago. In November 2007, the Christie’s evening sale of postwar contemporary art in New York totaled nearly $325 million; in 2008, the same sale brought in just $113 million. A share of Sotheby’s stock, which peaked above $50 in late 2007, now trades in the $6 range. . . the prices of work by young artists . . . are falling like bank stocks.

more… »

Do you have a Problem with Turpentine?

Do you use turpentine? Do you wish you didn’t have to? I can use turpentine in the studio in winter, with the windows closed, but it’s not something I would like to do every day. Turpentine, even a small amount, can give me a headache. I am happy that turpentine (or some other organic solvent) is not a normal part of my oil painting technique.

Turpentine has two basic roles in modern painting: as a thinner for the paint to allow a flowing application, and for the purpose of cleaning brushes.

However, turpentine did not play that important a role in the history of Western Art. Certainly it was not much used before the 18th century, so painters before then (like Jan van Eyck and Rembrandt) must have gotten by without the turps.

But how could they work without turpentine? I learned, through reading translations of old manuscripts, and looking at paintings depicting artists at work, that the old masters used a different approach to cleaning and storing their brushes. For both purposes, they used linseed oil, the same oil they painted with. As to how to apply paint without using turpentine, I’ll write about that in another post.

Here is how I store my oil painting brushes in a tray of linseed oil.

various brushes stored in oil

various brushes stored in linseed oil

I discuss storing brushes in linseed oil in more detail on my own website.

Cleaning brushes with linseed oil is fast and easy (again, the linked page goes into more detail).

seven dabs of oil to clean the brush

seven dabs of oil to clean the brush

A big advantage to this approach: it permits me, in a crunch, to clean up a painting session quickly by putting the unwashed brushes back into the linseed oil. This is not the way to treat brushes well, because they will eventually dry under oil, so I make sure to clean them the next day, but it does buy me flexibility in my work schedule. This kind of flexibility sometimes is the difference between painting and not painting.

Safety tip: Keep in mind, linseed oil releases heat as it dries in the presence of oxygen. Keep rags with linseed oil on them in a sealed metal container.

Would you paint more if you didn’t have to use turpentine? Would you paint more if you could clean your brushes more easily?

Other posts by Karl:
What does it take to be a dealer?
Fall of the Art World
Art school controversy
Is Art School Worthless?

more… »

Art and Tango

Tango music: top line is violin solo, bottom line is piano left hand1413b-450.jpg

I’ve always liked this photo by Steve Durbin.

But what does it have to do with tango?

Let’s look more closely. The landscape has sharp and repetitive features. This regularity creates a structure through visual rhythm. The water is something quite different. It is a smooth flow, it is bold and bright, yet soft. Both the land and the water have motion. You might say, the water is moving and the land is still, but that is not correct. more… »

A bridge from drawing to painting


plein air landscape painting
Painting From Life vs. From Photos

dsc_8008crop2levels450.JPG

This is a painting resulting from searching. Outlines of different figures are visible behind the man and woman whom I ‘found’ in the process. The sketching use of paint is not the way I usually work. That’s part of what makes this picture interesting to me. It bridges drawing and painting which, for me, are usually sequential and distinct processes.

I made this back in April. Now I am returning to this limited palette and exploratory form of painting.

The Dutch have an expression, “fine painter.” I loath this expression, because it tends to force an artist into a position where “fine” (as in detailed, not loaded with spontaneous dabs of paint) becomes the goal of painting. “Fine” or “coarse” are of no interest to me as goals, only as means.

Do you sometimes switch between very different modes of expression, whether in painting, drawing, or photography? Do you think in doing so you are trying to find difference approaches to the same expressive goal? My feeling is that I am doing that, that there is an unity. This is part of what makes its so exciting.

Also by Karl:

How to Store Oil Paints

oil paint tube

  1. Tube Trouble?
  2. The Greatest Invention Since the Paint Tube


How to Care for Brushes

oil painting brushes

  1. Turpentine Trouble?
  2. Storing Brushes
  3. Cleaning Brushes
  4. Shaping Brushes
  5. Transporting Brushes

Things to Ponder

whatisart

  1. What is Art?
  2. How to Make Art Last?
  3. Is Art School Worthless?
  4. Why is it Difficult to be an Artist?


Frames and Framing


  1. To Frame or not to Frame?
  2. Internet as Frame
  3. In real life, the frame matters


Painting from Life vs. from Photos

plein air landscape painting

  1. From Life by Zipser
  2. From Photos by Bodner
  3. From Life by Bartman


How to Blog

  1. How to Write the Perfect Blog Post?
  2. “Bloggers have to Earn the Right to be Read”
  3. How Should Artists Blog?
  4. Can You Create in Public?

Things you Should See


How to Store Oil Paints

oil paint tube

  1. Tube Trouble?
  2. The Greatest Invention Since the Paint Tube


How to Care for Brushes

oil painting brushes

  1. Turpentine Trouble?
  2. Storing Brushes
  3. Cleaning Brushes
  4. Shaping Brushes
  5. Transporting Brushes

Things to Ponder

whatisart

  1. What is Art?
  2. How to Make Art Last?
  3. Is Art School Worthless?
  4. Why is it Difficult to be an Artist?


Frames and Framing


  1. To Frame or not to Frame?
  2. Internet as Frame
  3. In real life, the frame matters


Painting from Life vs. from Photos

plein air landscape painting

  1. From Life by Zipser
  2. From Photos by Bodner
  3. From Life by Bartman


How to Blog

  1. How to Write the Perfect Blog Post?
  2. “Bloggers have to Earn the Right to be Read”
  3. How Should Artists Blog?
  4. Can You Create in Public?
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