Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another Perspective on Van Gogh

V. Van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1889
CLICK on all art to enlarge!
No question that Facebook has been cutting into my blog writing, but here's a blog post inspired by an on-line discussion of Van Gogh, and I think it extends into the whole media perception of artists, visual and even musical and film: we love our artists tortured.

There's no better tortured artist than Van Gogh, and for a century, we've speculated on just how tortured he was. Certainly, he had issues. His depressions are well documented, and there's evidence that he was self destructive, possibly to the point of losing an ear (though a recent theory blames Gauguin for cutting it off!).

But does his art, with it's explosions of color and strangely tight, yet disconnected, strokes reflect the breakup of his wits? Some have suggested it's a reflection of his world breaking up around him. Some have suggested he suffered from astigmatism and couldn't see clearly (then how could he see the canvas well enough to put the pain on it?). Perhaps signs of absinthe poisoning?

If you follow the textbooks you know it's any or all of these things. BUT...

If you're an artist, you know that art is a discipline more than anything. To get better at expressing yourself, even unleashing your inner demons, you have to develop a skill and a technique and that can take years. Besides, Making art makes you feel GOOD. Even if you, or Vincent, are having a terrible time, spending a few hours just painting or drawing is a wonderful escape. It's calming and, as I like to say, it's like running a comb through your brain.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I saw the things you never see-- his beginning paintings, the art that influenced him, and he was placed within the context of HIS period, and not ours. And a very different Vincent emerged.
According to my friend: "...when you look at the development of his artistic style over the course of his career, his illness manifests itself very clearly in his brushstrokes and use of colors..."
To which I say: "Sure it would seem so, but when you go to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam you find a bunch of interesting things that dispel the myths. There's a wall of his paintings as a beginning artist. He starts out pretty average, but works with great discipline, producing up to three paintings a day, just to develop his skill. A lot of people forget that art is a skill that requires years to develop, both technically and strategically. 

Left, Woodblock print by the Japanese Master Hiroshige.
Right, Van Gogh's painting of the same

Secondly, Japanese woodblock prints (Hiroshige, et al) were taking Europe by storm due to the vividness or their colors and the use of broad, flat abstract areas of color, in contrast to the typical earthy European pallet (and consider how dark and moody the Dutch pallet had been prior to that modern age. There are paintings where Van Gogh copies Japanese prints, and paints in the style of those prints to learn how to use colors in that way. (you don't see those outside of the museum, much). The Asian influence, along with the desire to shock the establishment, were the biggest influences on impressionism. In that regard, he was just going along with the rest of the kids. And then there was the German influence. At the same time the Impressionists were horrifying the art world with their raw imagery, German chemical companies had discovered how to produce vivid colors that fueled the impressionists' madness.

And finally, he and his brother Theo owned an extensive collection of Gustav Dore's etchings, and you can find that illustrative style of strokes used by Van Gogh in both his drawings and in his paintings, where he was a pioneer of "non-painting" brushwork, but not the only one in his day (look at Seurat's pointillistic paintings).  
One of Van Gogh's drawings, utilizing the same kind
of strokes he used to apply paint.
Drawing of Montmajour.

Van Gogh may have suffered from debilitating mental issues, but he was also an extremely disciplined, dedicated pioneer."

I'd also go so far as to reiterate that
I'm not sure whether his art was the expression of the illness or an escape from it.  

Dore's original
"Prisoner's Exercising."

Van Gogh's painting of Dore's
"Prisoners Exercising"

Images from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Are you more curious? Check out the museum's website: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en

Special thanks to Carl Allen Salonen.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Jerry's Draw-mania! --a brand new weekly event in a brand new store

Starting on Tuesday, September 9th., we instituted a weekly figure drawing session in partnership with the Jerry's International Palette Shop!

The event is called Jerry's Draw-mania! and occurs every Tuesday, from 9-11pm. It's a fun, relaxed figure sketching session featuring one great model, for ONLY $5!!
Jerry's International Palette Shop is a great new art store in NYC at 111 Fourth Avenue (site of the original Utrecht Art store, for you old-timers). Jerry's offers a full range of art supplies, but it has a particularly full range of products for painters. More tubes of paint than you've ever seen in one place, I recon! They are the first New York outpost of the popular Jerry's Artarama chain. They also offer a number of exciting events and workshops in their store after hours. See their site for details: http://jerryspaletteshop.com/

DRAW-MANIA! moves to Thursdays!

First off, my apologies for not updating the blog more often. Not to sound corny, but with all the stuff we've had going on this year, I just wasn't able to devote the time to it.

"So, Jeff, what's been going on with the group?"
Out top story is that after several years offering Draw-mania! on the last Monday of each month, we've moved up to the THIRD THURSDAY of each month. This should make it a little easier for a lot of people who just couldn't free up Monday night.
Otherwise, it's still the same exciting Draw-mania! you've relied on for your creative needs. We'll still have a bunch of outstanding Figure models, both male and female, some familiar faces and some new ones. We still have Mike Ogletree for our DJ, offering an eclectic mix of tunes spanning all genres. We'll still be presenting live performances from some of the newest talent in New York City. And we're still in NYC's coolest rock and roll tiki bar! and the price is still the same--a mere $15 smackers for the whole kaboodle!
And did I mention the tiki drinks? If you haven't been to Otto's yet, you might not know they offer some of the best tiki cocktails and affordable beers! Imbibing is optional, of course, but if you are buying, they're there for you!

If you haven't been yet, COME! Our first Thursday event will be September 18th., 2014. 8pm.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Draw-mania! HOBOKEN!

April 3rd was our first real Draw-mania Hoboken event, and it was a resounding success! Our first event went as planned, but scary weather reports kept most people from attending. April's event was mostly smooth sailing! We has a great crowd in attendance, and people seemed to be really draing up a storm. We had 5 terrific models, including 2 new faces (but they will be back!) and entertainment provided by three outstanding comedians, Boris Khaykin (MTV, Bath House Brothers Variety Hour), Nathan Rand (Invitation to a Beheading), and Tim Warner (colleges and comedy festivals all over the place) and two musicians, Calem Ingram and Sho Handa, playing selections from their newly released album Making it Possible.

We'll be back at Teak on the Hudson May 1, 2013 for the next Draw-mania! Hoboken. You should be there!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A young Mona Lisa?

We all know Mona Lisa and her classic smile, but it looks as if Leonardo captured her once-in-a-lifetime smile TWICE! It was originally thought to be a later copy, but recent analysis is showing that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is proving to be an authentic portrait of the woman when she was much younger, as reported in the Huffington Post...

Read all about her here:

Draw-mania! Goes INTERSTATE!

Hi folks!
Sorry I haven't posted anything new in a while. The Summer Sketch group has been going strong, still meeting a couple of Sundays every month (all year long, not just the summer), and attendance has been terrific--enough people to get a fun sense of community but not so many that it becomes awkward or overcrowded.

Draw-mania!, our monthly draw-a-thon and variety show, has really taken off! We're approaching our 15th event, and we're going strong into the coming year. If you've never been to one, just imagine a space filled with over 30 artists of all skill levels, from absolute beginners to seasoned pros, sketching, chatting, and, should they so desire, drinking, as they draw from 6 of the top art models for four hours! There's a break for the models every 20 minutes, and that's when a comedian, storyteller or musician takes the stage for a 10 minute performance. It' a blast!
We've been going strong every last Monday of the month in the East Village, at the possibly legendary and always amazing Otto's Shrunken Head (538 East 14th st.). Well, Starting in March, we're adding a second monthly Draw-mania!, just across the Hudson river, in Hoboken, NJ! If you're not familiar with Hoboken, you should be! It's incredibly close to Manhattan (The Hoboken PATH Train station is about 8 minutes from Manhattan's 14th st. & 6th Ave PATH station), and in the 80s it was where all the artists went after Soho priced them out. Nowadays, it's a cool, cozy neighborhood that features a lot of unpretentious bars and restaurants. We'll be at Teak on the Hudson (16-18 Hudon Place), a rather upscale place with a fun, exotic vibe, great cocktails and food, and an amazing riverfront view! Our first event will be March 6th, 8pm to midnight, and I'm putting together a great lineup of models and performers.

Hope you can make it, it's gonna be a blast!

for more info:

If you're on Facebook:

And if you're on Meetup.com:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Looking for modeling work? Here's some guidelines...

Summertime is especially hard for a lot of models. A lot of the schools are out, and the artists who might be hiring privately are enjoying some rare time out of the studio or shopping their canvases around trying to get a sale. I certainly understand that it's frustrating for a model, and I certainly respect anyone's attempt to drum up business in our current crazy economy.

I run a few classes, but not that many, and I have a limited number of availabilities for models, nevertheless, being out there, models frequently contact me looking for work. But one thing that really strikes me is how badly a lot of models present themselves. I'm currently in the "self-improvement" field and I coach people is all sorts of business and goal related skills, and before that I worked in advertising for many years, where I often freelanced and had to promote myself, and just as frequently was in charge of projects where I did the hiring. So I've been on both sides of that coin.

Here are a few pointers in presenting yourself--your best self.

First Impressions are HUGE
Remember that the first impression you make will color everything else people will find out about you, so make a solid, professional first impression.

Present Yourself Professionally
The first contact you have with a prospective employer should give them the impression that you know your business and that you have a clear grasp of what the job entails.

Be Honest
You don't have to lie about your experience if you don't have a lot. But don't sell yourself short, either.

Do some research and find out what is reasonable to charge your clients. The fees a model gets vary widely in different parts of the country. You don't want to cheat yourself out of some bucks, but you also don't want to price yourself out of work, either. Call the kind of places you want to work and ask questions, talk to other models, and find out what's reasonable. Remember, also, that rates for drawing classes differ widely from photography. Some people will want to haggle with you for a lower rate, others can't afford to pay more than a certain rate, so know what you're willing to work for, and whether you're flexible on that point. In any case, don't start looking for gigs without an idea of what you'll be getting, and don't be shy about asking.


Send an email asking "Hey--need a model?" and wait for a response before sending more. You won't get a response. I get a lot of emails like this, and I no longer even respond. It tells me whoever sent it isn't really putting much effort into their modeling, and no particular pride in it. They may not have ever modeled before. There are plenty of models who take their job seriously and want the people they contact to know it. 

And don't forget to check your spelling. I'm a terrible speller, but I've discovered no matter how smart I am (or think I am), if I spell words wrong, I don't get taken seriously. So I found a free plug-in for my browser that checks my spelling.

Don't agree to take a job until you find out what they're paying!! I try to be very fair and upfront, but I'm surprised how many models will agree to take a job before I've even told them the particulars.

Don't stalk a potential employer! If they have a class that's open to the public, it's probably OK to drop in and say hello, and maybe (ideally) drop off a printed copy of your description and picture (see below). You should definitely follow up with everyone you've contacted for work maybe every 2-3 weeks, but for heaven's sake don't call or email every week, call several times a day, or any of those things you wouldn't want your ex to do.

Send a brief business-like letter, just one or two paragraphs, that describes yourself, the kind of modeling work you're looking for, your experience (If you've modeled for well known schools, artists or been in well known projects, let people know! Don't be shy, show off!),  areas where you're willing to work (how far you're willing to travel, for example) and anything else you think might be pertinent. Be sure to include contact information.

And definitely include a picture or a link to a web portfolio, if you have one. Your work involves inspiring artists with your appearance, so share it! Don't necessarily send  nudie pic, in fact, even if you're looking for nude work, I think it's better not to until you know more about who you're contacting. Do send a nice headshot. It doesn't have to be professionally taken, just nice and clear. It will help people remember you, give them an idea of your look and body type, and give you a huge advantage. If you've been modeling a while, you might want to put up a web gallery of your favorite pix. It can be very persuasive.

If you're comfortable with the price you want to charge, you can consider putting it into your email, though some people think it's better to discuss your rate only when you talk to the person on the phone or in email exchange. Personally, I always like to save the talk of pay until I talk on the phone with a person when doing any kind of job discussion. You can get a better feel for the kind of a person you're dealing with and what kind of a job it is.

I hope this info is both helpful and lucrative. There are a few older posts on this topic and other model-related information. feel free to read it, share it and comment on it. I'd love to hear what you have to say.