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Showing posts from 2018

George Drummond Mansfield (1920-2008) American Artist/Louisiana

G. Drummond Mansfield, American artist known for his paintings of the French Quarter in New Orleans. He painted at the “Slave Quarter Studio” located at 631 rue Chartres, in the heart of the French Quarter. It was an exotic and sensual neighborhood, with dawn-to-dawn jazz, crawfish and etouffee, part bizarre and part beautiful.

This painting depicts a colorful sunset with a silhouette of a horse and buggy touring the French Quarter. The balconies covered with their lacy iron scrollwork adds iconic structural elements to the buildings and street scene that says Vieux Carre. He was known for painting New Orleans scenes, signed "Mansfield" and “Drummond”. His middle name was a family name, the same as his father, Thomas Drummond Mansfield, MD. This explains why he used two different names as his signature.

"The French Quarter"  Oilon Canvas,  Signed:  Mansfield,   G. Drummond Mansfield
George Drummond Mansfield was born in 1920 in Seoul, Korea; his father was a Medica…

Peter Kasudluak (1906-1982), Inuit Sculpture Artist

Kasudluak was born, raised and lived in a northern village on the Hudson Bay next to the mouth of Innuksuak River, called Inukjuak, Quebec.  The cultural magazine of the Nunavik Inuit, "Tumivut" (Edition 12, 2000) published:  "The Encyclopedia of Peter Kasudluak, Excerpt from Notebook 4."  The extended article told the tales of hunting and butchering caribou, seals and foxes on the Arctic tundra.  These animals were used for food and clothing and were important sustenance during the long winters.  Therefore, Kasudluak had a first hand knowledge of the animals he carved.

Kasudluak frequently used indigenous serpentine stone that is very heavy and connected to the iron silicate family, as in the case of the Walrus Seal below.  Kasudluak, a part-time and self-taught artist, captured the stylized curvilinear abstraction mixed with elements of primitive carving.  In this regard, Kasudluak takes on the same elements as Britain's most famous sculptor - Henry Moore.  K…

Japanese Sake Holders, Cups & Flasks - Pottery and Porcelain Arts

Once you have lived in Japan, your world view changes.  It seems that Japanese sake should be simple enough; you buy a bottle of rice wine - sake, open it and pour it into a glass and drink it; right?  Well NO!  This blog will hopefully clarify the Japanese objects that surround sake and traditions of drinking sake in Japan. 

Haidai and Choko are simple Japanese terms for items used when drinking sake.  Haidai, is the most rare, and is only used during the most formal festivities.  An haidai is a sake cup holder.  When attending a formal occasion where you are sitting on the floor and served on a small tray (o-zen) with numerous dishes; a dish for soup (miso), a small dish for pickles, a dish for the fish, a dish for vegetables, perhaps a dish for a desert, and your tray is overflowing.  In this case you are sitting on the floor, the tray is full, which makes it difficult to find the diminutive sake cup among the plates and dishes.  Additionally, it is bad manners to…

Helen Burling Ottaway (1938 - 2000), Celebrating Halloween Art

Ottaway, a Virginia artist, was a aquatint etching master, and is the designated artist for Halloween this year.  Her etching, “Kitchen Window” reflects a cross between her fantasies and her nightmarish imagination.  The print draws upon the tradition of beast, monster and death. There are small bat-like beasties with human bodies that are swarming, and angels falling from the sky with horror, the angel wings are represented by leaves.  In the middle of the composition, red demons are demonstrating their sorcery.
Fantasies lurk; there is an elephant, a monster man, an angry dog, with many of the images intertwined.  In the lower section of the etching, there is a birdman with seed-pod eyes and a hook beak, and a human skull connects to a tree trunk.  The entire print is a symphony of damnation where wickedness lures souls away from paradise. The great modern French poet, Baudelaire catches the print’s mood in his poem:
Who but the Devil pulls our walking-strings! Abominations lure us…

Madeline Belmont, and the Durgin Covered Bridge, North Sandwich Village, NH

Belmont, a Geneva, NY, artist, yielded signature bold strokes with a strong emotion, creating an evocative landscape in her painting of the "Durgin Bridge". Using a loose painterly style, the trees are exuberantly colorful as she mixes bright yellow with black to create different shades of green. The shadows are shades of blue, which provides shocking electric clarity of the New Hampshire summer sun. The bridge is historically brown where she demonstrates her artistic impulses right on the canvas. 

Belmont creates the composition with an on-the-spot response to the scene. There is spontaneity as she records the 1869 covered brown bridge. Each brush stroke comes live as her palette is limited to just about five colors each mixed with black. She uses the mixed colors right on the canvas board that push the composition more and more to emotion response. We might have never visited the Durgin Bridge near Sandwich, NH, but we know scene. The bridge is old, the dirt road is dusty, …

R. J. Newhall - Livingston, MT Artist

Just outside Butte, Montana, the Continental Divide looms large, the sign at Homestake Pass says it is 6,393 feet above sea level.  The Continental Divide provides a high point for the North American Continent and creates the hydrological divide where water flows in several different directions including:  The Pacific, Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.  In these high points, the rock formations cover the mountain sides where batches of rubber rabbitbrush and silver sagebrush grow through the alkaline cracks and craters of the rock.  The gray-green shrubs grow into a rounded bouquet, each two to five feet tall, and when the sun is just right, the brush takes on Montana texture with shadows and shades that give it a dark purple glow.  In these higher elevations, the treeline is the edge where the tree habitat is capable of growing, creating stunted or dwarf pines.  Bob Newhall knows and captures these Montana scenes with a brisk pen and watercolor brush as in the painting below.

Robert J.…

Ryan Parker, Landscape Photo Prophet

Photographers have been combining art and documenting the landscape since the invention of  the first cameras. During the 1930’s Great Depression, a New Deal Agency, the Farm Security Administration was created. The FSA was created to combat rural poverty, today it is known for its highly influential photography program, now these photos are considered national treasures.

These photos documented the drought and the misuse of the land. Today, Ryan Parker is serving as a modern landscape photographer. Part prophet, part photojournalist, he creates minimalistic photographs to warn us about transforming the landscape for profit. He is not a fire and brimstone preacher or activist, instead his understated photographs with subdued graphic content remind us of the desolate landscape.  Parker's images of nature or industrial sites could be compared to the famous Danish photographer, Per Bak Jensen.  They both photograph unusual subjects, like twigs and bushes in the snow and strange con…

Charles Bear, Montana Western Artist

Bear has dedicated his artistic life to historic American Indian imagery. His work is a cross between historic documentation and modern interpretation, capturing tribal rituals that held mystical appeal to the white man settlers. Artists can either dramatize or romanticize the American Indian subject, nevertheless, it is a truly an American subject that Bear understands.

Artists like Charles Russell, and current American Indian artist, Kevin Red Star, as well as Bear, have been living with this subject matter in Montana. Russell, Red Star and Bear are not painting allegorical myths, instead their works are of daily tribal life or tales of horror that includes massacres of American Indians or of Custer's defeat.

Bear (b. 1950) aka, Charles Bear Weiner, has participated in the C.M. Russell March Art Auction in Great Falls, Montana for at least 30 years. Most of his work submitted for the Russell Auction depicts an 1850s vanishing era of spiritual life on the Northern Plains.…

Bruce Barton Penney (1929-89) Magic Realism

Penney, a New Hampshire artist is frequently compared to Andrew Wyeth. Where Wyeth never wanted to pigeonholed into any one style, many art critics and commentators would describe both, Penney and Wyeth as Magic Realism Artists.

They both loved compositions that included rural landscapes, with strange and uncanny perspectives complete with micro-details. For example, both artists could paint endless blades of grass to heighten the drama. With these details, they created texture within their paintings.

In Penney's painting; "Rural Mailbox" there is a high gauge stainless steel mailbox sitting on a weathered three-prong wooded post. The mailbox takes left center stage, along side the road. The tall grasses sweep the flat landscape, where children play. We are not sure if the children are Penney's children or if it is a memory out of his childhood. The kids running in the tall grasses are wearing summer tee shirts and the sky is a muted color of  warm hazy. With this s…

Hal Maddox (1933-2015) Redwood Master Artist

Okay it is vacation season -

Grants Pass Oregon is located at the major crossroads to the Redwood National Forest.  You take Highway 199 going south and then connect up to 101, the Coastal Highway.  On 101 you will find your way to a magical rain-forest where there are the tallest and most massive trees still left on earth.

Southern Oregon, northern California was the home of Harold Peter Maddox.  He was born and raised in this area.  His father served as a bookkeeper for a logging company.  These early influences would create the master tree portrait painter, documenting his surroundings.  Maddox does not paint a single portrait, instead he painted the matriarch and the extended family.  This family is rooted, possessing character, ambitions and idiosyncrasies that celebrate the aged bark and new spiny branches. 

Maddox knows the trees, sees their whims; understands their struggles; the struggles with the wind and weather.  He records their rhythm and all that is going on in the for…

Wendy Thon - Narrative Artist

Wendy Thon explores the gradations of sepia brown, moving from almost black to white.  It is the power of shadows and light that makes this print come alive.  In the print below; "Afternoon Shadows," her technical skills and artistic instinct makes up a story for us.  If I could show you a close up detail you could see through the fine lace glass curtains in the far side of the room.  What you would see is the neighbor's house.  The glass curtains lets the light shine in creating shadows that extenuate the rocking chair's spindles.  The late afternoon sun creates elongated shadows on the wooden plank floor. 

The interior spaces are filled with wooden trim work that outlines the doors, a case opening, and mop boards.  In the distance we see containers that sit on top of the window frame, and in the forefront we see an antique cabinet and a marionette with a broom stick.

"Afternoon Shadows" Artist Proof Signed Lower Right:  Wendy Thon, 1988 (in pencil)
Thon wor…

Donald L. Dodrill (1922-2017), Ohio Watercolor Artist

It will soon be time for hunting season.  During pheasant season, (when I was a child) my dad would take a shotgun with him to church on Sunday's just in case there was an opportunity to bring home a bird.  I don't ever remember my mother cooking a pheasant, but I knew several families that would make pheasant into a delicacy, perhaps Pheasant with Orange-Saffron Sauce.  Sounds like something straight out a James Beard cookbook, Right?
Donald Lawrence Dodrill's "Pheasant Season" watercolor below, seems right out of Field & Stream magazine, or perhaps an advertisement for Remington.  In this late autumn scene, his color palette explodes as he paints the male ringneck pheasant escorting his hen.  He captures the subtleties of light, shadows and reflection upon the snow, within the dormant grasses, shrubs and trees.     

Dodrill was a watercolor aficionado, having a BFA from Ohio State University and a MFA from Syracuse.  He was a signature member of the American,…

Gianna Marino, Illustrator - Artist

Ms. Marino is known for many things:  illustrator, storybook writer, designer, as well as an artist.  While she has many talents, it is her flower portraits that give me pause, they are soft, sophisticated, realistic and tenderly executed.  Many of her flower portraits remind me of the famous floral artist of the 1970s, now deceased, Lowell Blair Nesbitt, whom accomplished over-sized singular flower(s) on canvas and in screen prints.  

Nesbitt's flowers were widely collected and are included in numerous museum collections.  He was frequently described and grouped with the photo realists.  Unlike Nesbitt, Marino works with gouache that she frequently washes out to almost watercolor consistency.  Yet, the both of them claim that they are not interested in capturing the botanical/scientific details of a flower.  

Nesbitt's flowers captured the entire canvas and he used a flat colored background.  Likewise, Marino's flowers capture the entire space of her artworks, the differenc…

Don Swann (1889-1954) American Master Etcher

Samuel Donovan Swann, AKA Don Swann was born in what was known as Fernandina, FL, now a northern suburb of Jacksonville.  He studied extensively; Maryland Institute College of Art, St. Johns College in Annapolis, as well as in Munich and Rome.  He documented numerous Washington, New York and Baltimore buildings.  He was co-author of a famed collection "Colonial and Historic Homes of Maryland" which included 100 etchings. 

In the etching below is a view of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Treasury Department looking toward the U. S. Capitol in about 1910.  The streets are filled with Model T cars and trolley cars.  Many of those same buildings are still along the avenue today.  The Capitol serves as a focal point in the distance for the composition.  You can't see the details of the Capitol, but our mind fills in the details, because we all know what the iconic U.S. Capitol looks like.

On the left of the etching, we see the Willard Hotel with the American flag blowing in the b…

Kanban - The Art of Japanese Shop Signs

When looking at the word "Kanban" today, we normally think about a Japanese manufacturing system that might include a phase of advertising, but not the concept of "Old World Japan Signage,"  the literal meaning of the compound is kan "see" and ban, "board."  Kanban's were traditional shop signs used by merchants to advertise and give shop identity to those that might be illiterate.  It is the integration of pictorial, graphic and craftsmanship that communicates everyday commerce. 

The signboards were designed to advertise the businesses, and to encourage the passerby to drop in and browse.  In the Tokugawa and Meiji periods of Japan, signs were created by craftsmen, frequently carving, painting, and lettering the signs that were mounted outside the store.  These signs had to be more than great graphic design, they had to be created to withstand the weather.  Some craftsmen used crushed shell in their paint to provide a more resilient surface.…

Charles A. Nicolai (1856-1942) Indiana Artist

Charles A. Nicolai, (C.A. Nicolai) is part of Indiana art history royalty.  In William Gerdts' colossal book edition, "Art Across America," Gerdts' chapter on Indiana discusses Nicolai.  Gerdts points out that Nicolai was part of the Brown County art group, the last living member of the Bohemian Club (Bohe Club) and was a member of the prestigious Portfolio Club that was instrumental in bring modern art lectures to Indianapolis.  Beyond this famous publication, Nicolai was listed in the 1925 edition of Who is Who in American Art and now resides in Who Was Who in American Art.

Nicolai studied under John Washington Love.  Love was extensively trained, including; National Academy of Design (NYC), and Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Paris).  His cosmopolitan education was influential upon returning to Indiana, where he worked on setting up the first Indiana School of Art and was instrumental in forming the Indiana Art Association, which held the first Indianapolis art exhibits.  L…