Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adrian Piper

Adrian Piper is a contemporary first-generation conceptual artist and philosopher who confronts the issues of gender, xenophobia and most particularly race head on in her work.
Piper’s artistic journey began at a young age. She attended the Art’s Students’ League for high school, and she began to publicly exhibit her work at the age of twenty. She graduated with an A.A. in Fine Art from the School of Visual Arts in 1969. As a young artist she was heavily influenced by Sol le Witt, from whose conceptual installation comprised of three boxes she learned the art of “taking reality, or taking a physical object apart, in terms of its attributes, and combining those attributes one with another, systematically, until you have exhausted all possible combinations” (Art Beat 1992). For Piper, Sol’s representation of the complexity of physical reality provided the impetus for own work in which she intended to represent the unpredictability the complexity of human beings in all their singularity.

The first piece of Piper’s work that I saw was the Vanilla Nightmares series, which use newspaper articles on racism and apartheid as a background for her drawings depicting subjugation, confrontation, eroticism and vulnerability in a series of figures in poses. The first message that was brought home to me in Piper’s work was brutality of racial stereotyping and the objectification of women, particularly black women.

Vanilla Nightmares #2

Vanilla Nightmares #9

Vanilla Nightmares #8

While I greatly admired the bravery in her art and the message that she was sending through these contorted bodies and shaven heads, I could not understand the intimacy of her work, and the obvious connection she had with the pieces. Upon first glance, one would say that Adrian Piper is white. Her "Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features" is part of Piper’s pivotal exploration of her own identity as a white-skinned African-American in a racist society.

Portrait Exaggerating my Negroid Features

While, based on society’s superficial conventions of racial classification she is considered white, Adrian Piper considers herself to be one of those white Americans that fit the “One Drop Rule” which essentially states that one drop of African blood is enough to classify you as black. Historically, Piper comes from a black family, and she associates with the black race.

Her appearance as a light-skinned woman meant that she often found herself interacting in exclusively white circles, which meant that perhaps her most infamous piece of art travelled with her to many a social occasion. Piper began to carry calling cards on her person when in white company, and should someone make a particularly racist remark, they would be presented with the following message from the artist:

Piper’s work is abrasive and confrontational, and leaves no room to tip toe around the uncomfortable topic of racial discrimination. This is why her art is so successful – it is accessible to all those who view it, in one way or another. Piper does not intend to address an audience made up exclusively of philosophers, intellectuals and black movement sympathizers. She is reaching out to an audience which she sees as being “very much like a recalcitrant lover” (Art Beat 1992) , and as long her audience is made uncomfortable and forced to think then her artwork has served its purpose.

I particularly like Piper’s work for several reasons. On a philosophical level I appreciate her agenda regarding racial stereotyping, which is something I have come across as a white African living on foreign shores, however, in terms of technique, I love Piper’s expressive method of working, and the different temperatures and textures of anger that come through in her drawings, particularly in the Vanilla Nightmares series. I admire the way she echoes the malleability of the human psyche in her choice of medium, and I especially love the way she represents the human form in her drawings – rounded, full and powerful.
I believe Adrian Piper is a revolutionary figure in the world of art and philosophy. Her work has greatly influenced my own and I have no doubt will continue to do so.

Works cited:

Art beat. (1992, Oct 13). The Village Voice, pp. S12-S12.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Picasso and His Many Passions

The legacies of Pablo Picasso are expansive and powerfully influential. The meanings and expressions of his artwork illuminate the immense influence Picasso’s environment and relationships had over his work. Over the course of ninety-one years, Picasso has lived through both World Wars, expatriation from his own country, and a series of wives and secret affairs. All of these experiences, especially Picasso’s explicit anti-war opinions and insatiable passion for women, are commonly expressed through his entire career, despite the wide range of art Picasso has participated in, from poetry to stage designing to paintings, which has led him though various themed eras like the Blue Period (19

01-1904) and Cubism (1909-1912).

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881 and went to art schools in Barcelona and Madrid. Picasso’s art career started very early, for his father, also an artist and art teacher, noticed his talents early and helped develop Pablo Picasso’s skills and schooling opportunities. However, Picasso

never appreciated strict discipline and formal instructions, and thus quickly dropped out of schooling at the age of six

teen and left on his own to Paris. For a long time, Picasso lived in poverty often having to burn some of his artwork to keep warm (poverty is a common theme is his artworks). However, Picasso had the luck of attracting wealthy collectors that started him on a rather successful and internationally renowned path.

Among his m

any styles and techniques, which include sculpting and woodwork, Picasso is probably most known for his work in Surrealism. He uses extreme distortion and symbolism left for the viewer to draw upon and “interpret them” (Picasso).

An early sketch and final painting of

The Guernica (1937):

This famous painting and its sketched rough draft are a good example of both Picasso’s anti-war opinions and his means of surrealism to express them. Guernica was painted in response to the bombing of Guernica by German forces during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso refuses to interpret the two prominent images in the painting, the bull and the horse. Nevertheless, the

painting’s obscure orientation and symbolism does illustrate the painful tragedies of war with its dark tone and imagery of people screaming and dying.

A stencil drawing of one of Picasso’s mistresses, Francoise Gilot:

Many of Picasso’s works revolve around the women that encompass his life. He has spent very few years as a single man, even though he has never been able to remain faithful to a girlfriend for any more than ten years. His generally needy nature and the rare number

of single years illuminate the possibility of a lonely aspect of his character. However, his history of infidelity also marks an insatiable and loose sense of passion, for he often falls into obsession for a woman, and falls just as quickly for another at the cost of his previous relationship. This portrait of Gilot is one of many portraits of his wives and girlfriends, and is thus a good illustration of his simple, yet passionate style of drawing. Although most of his portraits are not intricately detailed, this sort of simplicity allows for the focus of distinct features of that particular woman. In this case, focus falls upon the flowing hair and Gilot’s large eyes.

A painting of a Reclining Nude:

This is one of my favorite paintings, and is one I had the honor of seeing in person. This painting is, once again, of one of his affairs—a woman with whom he had a child. This scene portrays Marie-Therese Walter after sex, reclining and “radiating” in the sun. Like most of his drawings and portraits of women, they are simple and abstract in a way that illuminates the defining features of that particular woman. In this painting and in many others that present Marie-Therese Walter, the style focuses on her voluptuous features and the sense of passion and satisfaction (maybe playing to his own narcissism) after love-making, as illustrated by the flowing image of her position, the blushing in her cheeks, and the visible radiation coming from her body.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Miyazaki Hayao

During my 7 years of living in Tokyo, Japan, I grew up watching Ghibli Studio movies. They would eventually be known in America as the studio who created major motion animation movies such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. I would go to the movies every time the studio produced another movie. Director, producer, and art director Miyazaki Hayao almost singlehandedly wrote every story that Ghibli Studio produced whether it was a short motion picture or feature length film after he co-founded the studio in 1984. He produced numerous movies that climbed to the top of Japan’s film charts as the highest glossing films

again and again. The success of his movies, I believe, lies in the depth of plot and the quality of the artwork. Miyazaki’s attention to detail over every part of the film is evident, as there is not a single moment when the artwork is not the very best or the flow of the story is not smooth.

Miyazaki Hayao started out as a manga artist. After a few years of moderately successful manga career, he began to work for animation studios. After producing dozens of successful storylines for animation movies, he paired up with his longtime friend to find a studio of his own – Ghibli. There he welcomed enormous success. By producing films of top quality he established himself and the studio apart from other animation studios in Japan, which was quite a feat as animation studios are abundant in japan. The ghibli studio in japan could be called akin to pixar or Disney in America.

What captivated me about these movies were the artwork and plot. The simple yet expressive style of his artwork makes the characters relatable to audiences of all ranges. The artwork in these movies are that of Miyazaki’s. he personally review every single slide of the handdrawn animation cels in order to make sure his staff’s drawings are up to par with his. The fact he sticks to traditional hand drawn cel slides to make his films is admirable. He only relies on modern graphic technology to enhance hand drawn slides, not to replace them. He takes part in every step of the production, meticulously perfecting each and every slide. Contrast to other animators who compete to showcase the best use of technology. By remaining true to the traditional method all of the films have unity and continuity.

Works Cited

Cavallaro, Dani. The Animé Art of Hayao Miyazaki. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, 2006. Print.

White, Donna J. "The Art of Miyazaki." University of Buffalo: The State University of New York. University of Buffalo. Web. age.htm>.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peter Paul Rubens Sources


Baglione, Giovanni. Lives of Rubens. London : Pallas Athene, c2005.
Held, Julius. Rubens: Selected Drawings. Oxford : Phaidon, 1986.

Rubens, Peter Paul. Peter Paul Rubens. Ostfildern-Ruit : Hatje Cantz, c2004.

Scribner, Charles. Rubens. New York, Abrams, 1989

Being from Belgium, and being the daughter of an art historian, I have been surrounded by and taught to appreciate and love Flemish painters. My favorite of these is Peter Paul Rubens. I have loved Rubens so much because I love the way that he draws the human body, personally it is my favorite thing to draw and Rubens is the master.


Rubens was born in 1577 in Siegen, Germany but his family soon left Germany and moved to his mother’s hometown of Antwerp, Belgium due to the Counter-Reformation.

This may be a reason for why Rubens is widely know for his altarpieces, landscapes, and portraits that all are focused on the subject of Counter-Reformation. Early in his career, Rubens worked under Antwerp’s leading painters of his time Adam van Noort and Otto van Veen. Later he took a trip to Italy and became inspired by the Italian masters such as Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. Rubens died in a castle outside of Antwerp in 1640 of gout.

Drawings and Style

Rubens did many of his drawings with black or red chalk on paper. He often tinted his sketches with a “bistre” wash. I had to look up what bistre wash was but it is a brown pigment made from boiling the soot of wood.

It is spread at a transparent liquid over a drawing to create a brownish tint, which is typical of the “old master drawings” of the 17th and 18th century.

Peter Paul Rubens – Laocoon c 1600-1608

Here we can see an example of the bistre wash used.

Rubens also made many sketches with oil paint and black chalk as a way of doing an “under-painting” being very similar to what is an under-drawing or a study sketch.

Here is one of Rubens’ anatomical studies. We see how in depth he goes into drawing all the muscles in the body – although they are probably not visible on the live model.

This is a study that Rubens made after Titian, Studies of a woman. Something that I found very fascinating about Rubens is that since there were not many female models willing to pose nude during the time, Rubens used many male models and just made them female. This is why many of Rubens/ women and very muscular and broad.

Rubens “Judith Killing Holofrenes” c. 1609-10

Here is a little bit different than the previous drawings, Rubens uses pen and ink and a brown wash. This drawing also seems like it was made with a little less precision than his previous drawings.

Here we see “Battle of the Standard” by Rubens and this shows more of the characteristics of his paintings, which are very energetic, but also focus a lot of detail on anatomical precision and detail.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Rembrandt is a Dutch artist who has lived in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age. He was born on 15 July 1606 and died on 4 October 1669. He is mostly known for his self-portraits and paintings that carry Biblical themes.
His primary subjects are portraiture, landscape, and narrative painting. Besides from oil painting, his etchings are very famous.

His drawings were mainly made to record what he saw or felt, which sometimes evolved into his paintings; these are mostly unfinished. Today, there are over 1400 drawings that are said to be his; however, only 25 of these have his signature. Experts estimate the dates of Rembrandt's drawings by studying his style the way he used his favorite media: red and black chalk, ink and quill or reed pen, brush and washes.

His drawings give an idea of his unmatched range, depth, and human sympathy. It includes self-portraits, sketches of the activities on Amsterdam’s streets, studies of Jewish types, studies of landscape around Amsterdam, drawings from classical mythology, ancient history, and most importantly, narrations of the Bible. It is reported that the largest group depicts Biblical themes.

The Mill on the ‘Het Blauwhoofd’
145 x 115 mm.
File source:
The Mill
Oil on canvas.
87.6 × 105.6 cm (34.5 × 41.6 in)

The Mill on the ‘Het Blauwhoofd’” (drawing) and “The Mill” (oil painting) show how some themes that occur in his sketches have recurred in his paintings. In comparison to “The Mill”, which has taken him 3 years to complete, The Mill on the ‘Het Blauwhoofd’” resembles a fairly quick sketch. We don’t see the details of the sky and the focus is mainly on the mill.

A Woman Sleeping
c. 1655
The British Museum, London

In many of his drawings, he has used descriptive lines, and the drawings are not in detail; we can only see the form of a woman. There is very little shading, only when necessary.

Self Portrait with a Cap, openmouthed. 1630 (etching, 41 41 mm)
Rembrandt had approximately 290 plates and 79 or Rembrandt’s original plates are still in existence. None of these plates are larger than 21 by 18 inches. During his lifetime, Rembrandt was famous for his etchings, rather than paintings. Self Portrait with a Cap, openmouthed is an example of his etchings. Here, we can see that he has used a great number of lines, in comparison to the minimal lines that he has used in most of his drawings.

c. 1650-52
138 x 204  mm.
Louvre, Paris

Animals are also in many of his sketches and drawings. In this drawing, we can see that the lion’s face is very detailed when compared to his drawings of humans. Also, he has used darker lines to define the lion’s form; whereas in his drawings of humans the colors of his lines do not differ as much from each other.

I had previously known Rembrandt as a painter; I knew his famous oil paintings, which are mostly on canvas. However, I did not know that he had also produced etchings and drawings as well. Choosing him made me have a deeper understanding of his artistic abilities and interests. 


Longstreet, S. (Ed. 1). (1963). Drawings of Rembrandt. New York, NY: Borden Publishing Company
(2007). Rembrandt Drawings: 116 Masterpieces in Original Color. NY: Dover Publications 

Friday, October 7, 2011


Albert ("Al") Hirschfeld is one of the preeminent modern caricaturists. Despite the fact that he is most famous for his minimalistic black and white line drawing caricatures of Broadway actors, he also worked in a number of different mediums, subjects, and experimented with color.


Born in St.Louis in 1903, he began his art training at the Art Students League of New York in New York City.

Hirschfeld began working with with Samuel Goldwyn Studios on ads. Then he moved over to Selznick Pictures where he became the art director-- at the age of 17. After Selznick went out of business several years later, Hirschfeld traveled to Paris and then London where he studied an array of artistic mediums: from sculpture, to painting, and finally, drawing.

His career in theater caricature because with his portrait of Sacha Guitry, a French star, in 1926 (image on right).

Hirschfeld went to the theater with his friend Dick Maney, a press agent. He began to scribble a drawing of Guitry. His friend thought the scribble was good and asked Hirschfeld to redraw the image on a clean sheet of paper. Hirschfeld gave Maney the image and the next Sunday it was in The New York Herald Tribune. For the next 20 years, Hirschfeld made a weekly contribution to drama section of the Sunday edition of the Tribune. Shortly after his drawing of Guitry, Hirschfeld began drawing for The New York Times.

Early in his career, Hirschfeld was still trying to define his style. He "flirted" with pointlism (Florence Reed, 1926), shading, and line weight (Cafe Crown 1942). However, he eventually turned his focus towards clean, black and white lines.

In 1927, Hirschfeld went to Russia. Russia was undergoing a revolution. While there, he spent some time drawing Russian theater greats like Stanislavski. He also drew images of the Russian people in the first decade of Communism. He planned on creating a book out of these sketches. However, many of the drawings were lost and the book was never published.

Many of his drawings were of political figures or offered some sort of political commentary.
Art and History 1931

Inflation 1932

Politico-Erotica 1933
Peace in Our Time 1939

As Hirshfeld' name because synonymous with theater caricature, it became a right of passage for the theater greats to be drawn by him.
Zero Mostel

Danny Kaye - 1953

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton - 1977

Newspapers often tasked him with trying to capture the heart of a play prior to opening night.
Carousel - 1945

Rent - 1996

Process and "NINA"
While watching shows in rehearsal or at previews, he would make notes, understandable to only himself, on a small sketch pad or would draw with a small pencil on piece of paper taken out from his pocket. He would break the actors and shows into their most fundamental, basic pieces. "I would try to put down as accurately as I can the things that are visually exciting to me: certain movements of hands, the way the actors sit, cross their legs, or look at each other." He would also become grossly enthralled with the scenery. After a show, because his focus had remained mainly on these "details", when questioned about the plot he often would have no idea what the larger piece of theater was about. When he would return home to his studio, he would do his best to recreate the show/character from his notes. "To be sure of the actor's appearance when he made that gesture, Hirschfeld went to the mirror... Hirschfeld quite often cast himself as his own model, miming female as well as male roles in order to remind himself how performers look stage." When the drawings were basically finished, Hirschfeld would then add in his famous "NINA"s. After the birth of his daughter in 1945, Hirschfeld would secretly slip in the word "NINA," his daughter's name, into all of his drawings. It has become a "game" for Hirschfeld fans to find the Ninas in his works. He would sometimes write a number text to his signature that signified the number of "NINA"s to be found.

His "process" of creating is unique, to say the least, and speaks to both the interesting drawing form that is caricature but on a more general level to the many ways an artist can approach beginning a piece.

Why Hirschfeld?
I have always been passionate about theater and was interested in learning about its' intersection with drawing. I remember how captivated I was going to Sardi's (a restaurant in New York with hundreds of Hirschfeld's) and wanted to learn more about the artist.

Caricature also fascinates me. I am interested in how one can convey an idea in the simplest way possible. How does one capture the true essence of a subject? How do you break a person down into component pieces?

Also, in caricature, the physical form is stretched and mutated-- yet the human brain still understands who the subject is. I am also interested in experimenting with that idea.

Finally, in this class, we first started learning about line drawing. Line drawings are the most fundamental form of drawing and I wanted to examine an artist who manages to convey idea only with line.

Hirschfeld, Al. Hirschfeld on Line. New York: Applause, 1999. Print.

Joan Miro

Joan Miro 1893-1983

 “An eternal child mirroring our earliest dreams to the disenchanted adults we have become.”
      Bruno Racine

Joan Miro was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1893. Beginning at a young age, Miro was captivated by the arts. He spent much of his childhood drawing the scenes of Mallorca—an island in the Mediterranean Sea—where he felt a deep connection with the land. Drawing was his way of freeing himself from the pain of his loneliness. His parents were not close with him, and he did not receive much attention from anyone else either. He studied art at the La Llotija, and was heavily involved with the Dada and Surrealism movements. Critics did not receive Miro’s first exhibition at the Galeries Dalmau in 1918 warmly; however, Miro continued to embrace his unique style and “follow his stars” to become one of the most influential artists of his time.  
1949 - etching with color
As a representative of Surrealism, Miro developed and often used the automatic drawing technique which counter acted the traditional techniques artists were expected to follow at that time. Automatic drawing is a way of freeing the subconscious into a tangible form, and Miro often let his mind spill out on to the page without any reservations. 

The Farm - 1921(oil on canvas)
Miro moved to Paris where he gained prominence as a respected artist. His work was compared to poetry by the American writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway purchased this painting of Miro's parent's farm in Montroig, Barcelona, and said this of it: "It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there. No one else has been able to pain these two very opposite things." Miro possessed an invaluable gift of being able to connect with people by accessing their inner desires through his honest and sentimental work.

Pit Sawyer

I have always loved Miro’s work. The bright colors and his child-like character drew me in at a young age, and still continue to fascinate me. Miro was an individual thinker who followed his heart and never let go of his childhood dreams. The playfulness of his art is captivating, and always seems to make me happy.

“Joan Miro stands looking towards a point of light that nobody sees; he does see it and deciphers it; it is the marrow of the world, the peachstone that contains the luminous ultimate essence of life.” –Camilo Hose Cela
Tumbler with Guitar - Painting


Serra, Pere. Miro and Mallorca. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1984.

Lanchner, Carolyn. Joan Miro. The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1993.

De La Beaumelle, Agnes. Joan Miro. London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2004.