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» AnimationNation   » SideTopics   » "The Power of Art"

Author Topic: "The Power of Art"
Tobias A. Wolf
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So the PBS eries is over now, did anyone watch it? Schama came across as trite and an altogether stuffed bird at times, and at other times he got his complementary color commentary wheel spun wrong like in the Van Gogh episode (am I the only one that laughed?), but there was a kind of redemption in his love for Rothko and art in general.

Altogether it was a great watch, and made me feel much less alone in what it is I'm doing. It reminded me of the long chain I've decided to link to in becoming an artist, as that can be so easy to forget in the miniature of the personal struggle.

Unlike many other lines of work out there in the world, there is a dedicated class of people that call it their job to classify and contextualize what we do; the critic. Above all else it made me appreciate them and what they bring in our struggle to reach people. Sometimes I think they can sing our song better than we can.

One thing I took away from the series more than anything is that the Fine Art world is truly brave in comparison to the commercial one. Which can be such an easy thing to forget in the insular world of paychecks/work for hire. To lead people to your work and not be continually chasing after their fancy with it? What a f*cking concept. Not only that, but there is the possibility to live and thrive beyond anything ever attainable in the commercial world given successes.

It's not like I'm going to quit my job tomorrow, but in seeing the series it reminded me of a forgotten dream. One I gave up on out of practicality and fear of failure/starvation.

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Tobias A. Wolf
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I know it's August, and many are on vacation but I'm surprised at the lack of other reactions. But then again maybe I shouldn't be, this is a commercial art world forum after all. Still, the scenes with Andy Serkis playing Van Gogh were pretty striking.

I've heard of Van Gogh sucking on brushes like lollypops, but the scene with Serkis sucking down a tube of paint like tubed candy as if it was going to make a masterpiece out of his sh*t was a bit much. It struck me as an extreme amount of dramatic hyperbole. Never have I heard of his struggle with bi-polar disorder manifesting in such overt idiotic behavior, and actually, it made me kind of mad that he was portrayed in such a way.

I guess that's why I started this topic here, as I hoped others had seen the series and picked up on some exaggerations of history I might have missed in the artists covered. Although I can't say I was a fan of them all. Bernini, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Caravaggio, yes. Rothko, Turner, David, no.

Rothko never reached me, even after I was old enough to appreciate the context. Turner never seemed to be able to hold it down enough to speak clearly. And David has always been a lesser Ingres, for which there is no better example of the pupil surpassing the master.

He understood sculptural idyllic form in a much more profound fashion as far as I'm concerned. Ingres and Da Vinci are the only artists to get the long past of idyllic human shape as I like to see it most profoundly expressed through the millennia:


It's about the more beautiful round. Always. Not only that, but look at how Ingres uses reflected light in the shadows to reinforce the form. Look at the right side of her neck. I know he's an academician in every sense, but for me at least, he was the man. And how he mitigates the chin cast shadow beautifully across the cylinder of the neck...

it makes you understand what it was the romantics rebelled against. Irregardless though, Ingres talent is amazingly awe inspiring for it's pure virtuosity of technique in command of core principals. He is the Academy.

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You posted this to get a response. Here's my response.

While i can sympathize with your frustration I think you are acting more like a victim in some Shakespearean tragedy than a professional artist. This city (at least MY city LA)is full of "commercial " artists who do one or two paintings a year and show in galleries or collect months or years of work into self published books. I'm putting out a revised book myself this month. I was only able to add two pages but I did what I could do and emptied my account to publish it.

So do something about it. Even if its to decide your going to do nothing and accept your tragic fate. This is not some impossible herculean task. You can do at least one piece of "fine" art this year yes?

By the way were you implying "fine" artists are "braver" then everyone on this board who works in the commercial field?? Or just you? Also how would commercial artists who are also "fine"' artists (like say Andy Wharhol)fit into this bravery definition? I'm confused. Warhol was certainly trendy but brave? I'm joking but only because I think the distinction is merit less.

Lastly in defense of commercial artists Leonardo Da Vinci survived by doing commissions for his patrons. He did some pretty kick ass "commercial" art in his day.


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I missed the series unfortunately but I'm confident I'll catch up with it one day. An observation along the lines of commercial vs. fine art. I don't know the history behind the particular painting above but chances are Ingres was commissioned to do it, therefore classifying this work as commercial.

All art breaks down into commercial at some level or at some point in time. The seperation between fine and commercial art is that one involves the artist in creating what they're directed to create, the other involves creating based upon one's exclusive personal artistic vision without interference or control from others. Sometimes there's a fine line between the two or they blend together a little. In any case, whether it's commercial or fine, if it's executed with sincerity and skill it's still a thing of beauty for what it is.

I marvel at great academic work such as the painting above and believe that an artist is better enabled for creative expression through a strong academic foundation than otherwise.


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Tobias A. Wolf
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I started this thread about the series and my reaction to it Caracal. As I was curious about how it struck other artists out there.

It wasn't to illicit a personal attack about my reaction and self assessment. Did you see it?

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Greg B
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Tobias I didn't catch the series but I certainly will. Thanks for the heads up. I for one would like your pro opinion on the special and what it focused on and what it fell out of focus on.


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I saw several of them, but not all. I thought the dramatized bits were distracting at times, but much better than some of the stuff on the History Channel. I didn't realize that was Serkis, but even if I had it still wouldn't have redeemed it.
I kinda feel the same way as you, although I did like the Turner episode. The Rothko was overdone and the actor there was also a bit over the top. The Caravaggio episode didn't really present anything new (to me anyway, though someone who had never heard of him would have found it fascinating I'm sure).
I think the David episode was my favorite. It was very effective at summing up and putting him in historical context (though I think Ingres would have been great too).
You can't argue with the production values, and if dramatizations and an enthusiastic host is what it takes to get people interested in art history, I hope there are similar series. I would love to see this kind of attention paid to the Northern Renaissance. Durer, Van Leyden, et al.

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Tobias A. Wolf
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I had no idea about Turner's mother as revealed by the series ApeLad, and it was kind of a revelation about his painting to me as my mother suffers from bi-polar disorder. It certainly put me in his place in terms of how I related to his work. Never before had I known I had so much in common with the chaos of his work, and on such a profoundly personality shaping level. He let that into his work.

I don't feel like I can do that. It was an extraordinarily brave act of expression to pursue his vision like he did. It's a freighting thing to deal with it in those you love and say it aloud for history by what you do.

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IE # 200
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I half-watched the series.

The concept of focusing on each artist's definitive work was a good one though.

Some episodes were interesting...others...not-so much. The Rothko and Turner ones didn't grab me at all. Part of the reason some didn't get full attention was the host. While I realize he was making his point and fleshing out important parts of the artist's biographies...sometimes his role and his observations were off putting.

Not a big deal but it made me care less.

As for the tube gobbling scene in the dramatization: it was a nutty thing to do, wasn't it?
Some of the other dramatizations were engaging enough and did flesh things out in a nice way. I could see people who wouldn't normally watching such shows watching because of that approach.

PBS' site for the series

If you didn't see it, and you watch PBS once in a blue moon, it'll probably air again in the future. Otherwise, the DVDs are for sale on the site.
Oh yeah.
Toby can certainly defend himself. But, there is an addtional point which should be made on the difference between fine arts and commercial arts as both have evolved over the years.

While it is true that in fine arts prints and photos and other representations of the original work can and are sold, in commercial arts--especially the areas we work in--the end result, the final piece, is usually still just a prelude to replication.

Unlike, say a sculpture commisioned for a cathedral, the art we commercial artists make is intended to be copied and those copies are often intended to be what is sold.
The original? Why, that is just a master copy.

While it is fair enough to point out that fine artists were/are commisioned, they were/are usually making one thing for one place. Prep work notwithstanding.

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