My previous posts about the “Find of the Week” have always been about clothing. But today’s post is all about a wonderful book I discovered. The Art Spirit by Robert Henri is a collection of the artist’s beliefs, theories, and teachings on painting. I can’t tell you how excited I was to accidentally discover this book!
Robert Henri (1865-1929) was an American artist, primarily know for his portraits, and the leader of the Ashcan School. Around 1900, this group of painters focused on depicting scenes as they were (Realism) instead of in the dreamy, staccato way of the American (and French) Impressionists.
Henri attracted droves of students to The Art Students League of New York, including George Bellows. (New to my site? Please take a moment to read my previous post on George Bellows) Henri was an excellent communicator, mostly because of the passion which drove him to create art. He saw no separation between art and life, constantly stating that art is a matter in which everyone is vitally concerned. Why? Henri opens the book with the following:
“Art, when really understood, is the province of every human being. It is simply a question of doing things – anything – well. It is not an outside, extra thing. When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching , daring, self-expressing creature, He becomes interesting to other people.“
Current course catalog for The Art Students League
The Art Students League is still in operation. After finding Henri’s book, I took a trip to the school. There classes are extremely flexible and affordable. You simply select the type of class you’d like to take, and pay for a month of enrollment. Classes offered range in price from $80 to $240 for the month, and meet either once, twice, or five times a week. The Art Students League also offers workshops, as well! I’m hoping to enroll in a class or two this summer.
Classroom storage at The Art Students League.
The book is so inspiring. It is no wonder to me that Henri had so many students. When I read his words now, so long after they were written in the 1920s, I can feel this dormant creativity in myself waking up. A particular passage in the book really touched me:
“There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his visions by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Signposts on the way to what might be. Signposts towards greater knowledge.”
Jessica Penn in Black and White Plumes by Robert Henri, 1908.
That is what made Henri such a great artist. He could observe daily life in such extraordinary detail. Looking at his portrait of Jessica Penn, I imagine that he captured her likeness very well. Penn seems very self-assured with her bold pose: shoulders back, hip thrust back and jutted out to the side, arms positioning the fabric of her skirt to show her silhouette more closely. She has that s-shaped silhouette so typical of the time period. But look at her face: doesn’t she look a bit, well, bored? Maybe she is just tired – those extreme corsets of the day certainly made daily activities, like walking and breathing, difficult.
Her outfit is really skillful depicted. It really reminds me a lot of this dress by Jaques Doucet from 1903.
Dress by Jacques Doucet, 1903. Image courtesy of The Kyoto Costume Institute.
It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the kind of week when your to-do list is a mile long and you’re running on fumes. I’ve been juggling multiple projects, commuting, and grading for the end of the term. After carefully finishing all my requirements, I needed some time for myself. Having quiet time is really essential for me to stay balanced. So what did I do?
Earlier in the week, I found this great vintage illustrated dictionary. It was the first volume in a set of six, and covers A to Ch. There was something so compelling about the illustrations that I had to buy it. There were so many wonderful pictures that I knew would inspire me to draw.
The catalpa is a tree with heart-shaped leaves. I’ve seen trees like this before, and marveled at them. A tree full of hearts! What a perfect plant for me. But I’d never know the name. Of course I was inspired and made this little drawing:
The illustration that really made me purchase the book was of a bluff along the sea. It has a little sailboat hugging the shoreline. I thought it was really darling, and reminded me of Monet’s seascapes. (Maybe I will post about those paintings tomorrow!)
I changed the color of the sails to purple, but kept the passenger.
Then, a chestnut tree caught my attention:
I’m not sure if I liked how this one came out, but it was still fun to do!
Every page I turned brought more inspiring images. I sketched a few more things, but was most happy with this canyon.
I could easily entertain myself this way for much longer. I only wish I had the entire volume of this dictionary! There must be so much more to see.
(Like my drawings? I used a thin tip Sharpie marker and Crayola Twistable crayons. I highly recommend these items!)
I voted today because not that long ago, women were not allowed to cast a ballot. They protested so my voice could be heard today.
Today’s post is filled with gratitude for three of my favorite things: friends, libraries, and museums. I never tire of good company and things that stimulate the mind. Thankfully, I never seem to be lacking any of these! I’ve been writing a lot about collaboration between creative people in the 1940s recently: Marcel Vertès, Wesley Simpson, and John Little. My dear friend Lizzie Bramlett collaborated with me for this post. She read the aforementioned posts and sent me these images from the January 1946 edition of American Fabrics:
January 1946 edition of American Fabrics. Image courtesy of Lizzie Bramlett.
American Fabrics was a trade magazine. It focused on the all of the interesting aspects of the American textile industry: artist collaborations, fashion designers, manufacturers, industrial uses of fabric, automobile interiors, and furniture. It was an oversized periodical, sort of like W Magazine of today, and featured lavish artwork and real textile swatches. I was first introduced to this magazine at the FIT library. Seeing artwork paired with real textiles filled me with joy and excitement. I literally couldn’t stop looking at the magazines. I spent hours and hours paging through volumes of these precious magazines. It was endlessly entertaining, and all for free! (Libraries are really good sources for free entertainment. You can rent movies, cds, and books with your card. All you have to do is fill out a form and return the items on time.)
January 1946 edition of American Fabrics. Image courtesy of Lizzie Bramlett.
The article that Lizzie sent me is about the same Marcel Vertès print in my pervious post that is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. Here is what the article says:
“I was bowled over when I saw what American fabric and dress designers did with museum objects as inspiration” . . . from an article by Cora Carlyle in Women’s Reporter
“One of the most exciting fashion events of 1945 was undoubtedly the descent of 22 famous designers on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of design inspiration. When the finished fashions were show to the public, it was obvious that the designers had unearthed a pot of gold. Combing the rooms and archives of the Museum, they had come away with sketch pads crowded to the edges with precious ideas.
Thus they glamorized fabric and fashion in the finest sense of the word, and on the highest level. The demonstration contributed materially to the fashion industry . . . to the public . . . to the Museum. It delineated the living qualities of Museum art in practical form. It educated the public to an appreciation of art as it can be applied to everyday living.
So let’s go to the museums more often . . . let’s encourage our designers to closer rapport between art and industry . . . let’s have art IN industry . . . to the mutual benefit of both. Over $780,000,000 worth of design ideas are waiting to be tapped. Let’s profit by the world’s great art in museums.“
(I couldn’t agree more!!!!!!!!!!)
January 1946 edition of American Fabrics. Image courtesy of Lizzie Bramlett.
Vertès was inspired by the Flemish Angel painting above, which he turned into a textile print for Wesley Simpson, used by Hattie Carnegie for a dress.
Marcel Vertès textile design for for Wesley Simpson, 1944. Used for dress design by Hattie Carnegie. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I don’t believe in coincidences. If you pay enough attention, things that happen seemingly “at random” are part of a bigger pattern. Everything happens for a reason. A few weeks ago, I received a comment from a reader. Chris Simpson, an artist, loved my posts on Vuillard and Bonnard. He said the nicest things about my blog, and I wanted to check out his art. I was on vacation when he wrote me, so I filed his site as something to visit when I was back to my regular schedule.
Then, I received two presents in the same week. (Lucky me!!) One was the exhibition catalog on Alex Kanevsky, the other was the book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence, and Spirit.
- Everyone has a creative talent: Seriously. Every single person has creative talent. It may be dormant, lurking somewhere under the surface. But it is there! Don’t stop yourself before you begin by believe that you’re simply not creative. Your talent may be drawing, or poetry, or carpentry. Don’t compare yourself to others – discover your unique gift and get at it.
- Don’t be attached to the results: Not everything is going to be a masterpiece. That doesn’t mean your attempt has no value. Often times, several failed attempts lead to a great work. Practice does make perfect. Recognize that there is room for growth.
- Have a rhythm, not a schedule: Really good ideas are formulated over time. It’s important to show up and do creative work. However, inspiration is sometimes a fleeting thing. Don’t lock yourself into a ridged schedule if the ideas aren’t there. (For example, every Monday from 1-3pm I will paint no matter what. This never worked for me) Go for a walk. Do something you enjoy. Just be sure that you’re attempting to show up and do the work more than you’re avoiding it.
- Avoid negativity, even your own: People that discourage you from being creative are not worth the time. Avoid them at all costs. Sometimes, there can be a nagging little voice in your mind telling you “you can’t do that”. Stop listening. Or just replace the thought with:, “I can’t – RIGHT NOW. But soon enough, I will!“
- Create from a place of enthusiasm: I find that the best things I make, whether a photograph or a post, come for a place of enthusiasm. When I’m excited and want to share an experience or bit of information with someone I care about, it comes out beautifully. It’s when I get caught up in impressing others or trying too hard that it gets messed up. If you like what you are doing, it will always turn out great.
- Know when to stop: Don’t overdo a good thing. There is such a thing as overkill. If you are having doubts about something being finished – walk away. Come back to it. Give yourself some clarity before ruining a good thing by overworking it.
Today was a great day. When I was checking my students’ work, I was delighted to see a pop up book! Then another! Two of my students transformed their journals into a 3D work of art. What an extra special surprise.
The first student made a design for their very own runway show, complete with models and an audience:
The second student showcased their favorite time period of fashion, the 60s. Look at the fashion figures in the middle! When you move the page they look like they are dancing:
These make me happy. Hope you enjoy them, too.
My new journey has been that of a commuter. Driving to LA can be strenuous, especially in the early morning. This morning, I was very tired. I was thankful I didn’t have to drive.
Traveling by train has fascinated me since I went to college. Where I grew up, there were no train services. When I attended college, there were train services that went everywhere. I loved not getting stuck in traffic, and the seamless ride. I wondered why the entire country was not equipped for train travel. It’s efficient, environmentally conscientious, and it decreases stress levels.
Riding a train gives you such a unique vantage point of the cities you are traveling through. Today, I felt especially inspired by the urban landscape I was viewing on the way to work. Driving, there is never time to notice the changing landscape around you. I felt inspired to photograph different fleeting moments I found to be beautiful and interesting. While the industrial landscapes may be unappealing at first, there is something quite extraordinary about the creativity and genius of modern man.
Take a moment to enjoy the photographic journey:
Here is a synopsis I wrote back in college for a philosophy of physics class. Enjoy!
According to Kuhn, normal science is based on a collective assumption of the scientific community that the world functions in a specific way. This assumption is a paradigm, or a model, for the rest of the community and their successive theories, experiments, and basic way of perceiving the physical world. The scientific community relies on paradigms, and measures all successive theories and discoveries to these pre-existing beliefs. This ridged concept of reality and science makes it difficult for new theories and discoveries to develop, as they endanger the tradition of science and prove the paradigm as erroneous.
Generally, a discovery of some type of anomaly causes a shift in the scientific community, which Kuhn labels a “scientific revolution“. As the term revolution implies, the scientific community is thus held responsible for correcting and reconstructing the entire history of science prior to the new discovery. This is a huge and arduous task, and is met with strong resistance.
Several paradigms exist, creating a school of thought or point of reference. This helps to create questions, methods of evaluating and determining areas of relevance, and help to find meaning in data. These paradigms are crucial in evaluating theoretical models, as well as scientific history, as they are the tools of interpretation and allow its followers to develop a professional discipline.
As I see it, Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions is a logical theory which proves science to be provisional, or in a constant state of flux. Paradigms are crucial in refining and evaluating scientific discoveries, but they also tend to limit and constrict new theories and knowledge of the physical world. Paradigms are historically based, and extremely hard to challenge as they are held to be self-evident and infallible to scientists. However, it is important that people continue to challenge this history and to find and explain anomalies manifest in the physical world. These radical and unusual theories based on anomalies further our understanding and advance our society.