Thursday, July 28, 2016

Photo Licensing

Sunset at Harbor Island, SC

  We are all so careful these days about using photographs (the above photo is one of mine and you are welcome to use it!  no bill will arrive from me!) from the internet and I know several people who have been threatened by photograph agencies and billed significant amounts of money even though their use of the photograph was educational only.

Therefore it was with great interest I read an article on the website  (lots of interesting articles about art), about  Carol  Highsmith, the famous photographer who over time has donated nearly 19,000 thousand photographs to the Library of Congress for use by the general public at no charge.  This has been her life's work.

Highsmith only discovered that a certain agency had taken the photographs from this source, added their own watermark and sold them, when she herself received one of their threatening bills for its use!  And she is not the only one,  2013, Daniel Morel was awarded $1.2 million, after the agency pulled his photos from Twitter and distributed them without permission to several major publications.
The agency was trying to charge the photographer a large fee, a very large fee, for the use of their own photographs, photographs they had donated to the public domain!

In the comments in this article, it was evident that several people had paid the agency in questions large sums of money, having been totally mislead by them as to who had the ownership and copyright of the image.  The agency affixed its own watermark AND frequently did not attribute the photographer with the credit.  Quite likely they have already snitched my sunset, and soon I'll be getting a bill for using it!!

Let's hope that Highsmith wins her billion dollar lawsuit against them for doing this, but my guess is that these agencies will simply consider this "the price of doing business".     Clearly - there will be more....and the old saw "the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour" is certainly going to be proven true yet again.  However, it is good to know that sometimes the artist comes out on top!

If you have been, thanks for reading!   All comments strongly welcomed by the way!! Have at it!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Self Critique: first steps

Unexpectedness is a great way to attract attention!

The last time I taught a class I asked for suggestions for an upcoming blog.  When later I read through the suggestions I was surprised by how many people mentioned self-evaluation as being important.    This is one time when the mote in the other person's eye is probably more helpful than the beam in your own!

As a first step, I'd suggest really training your eye by critiquing other people's work.  The problem with critiquing your own is that it's really hard to be objective.  When we look at the piece on the wall we see not only the actual pattern of shapes in cloth but also all our hopes, beliefs, intentions, inspirations etc.  It's very difficult to shut off those.  Especially if you're learning how to evaluate the strength of a piece.

  Therefore, I suggest getting together with friends and bringing examples to the get-togethers of Truly awful work (in your opinion) and fabulously brilliant work.  Take images from the internet, or from books or magazines.  You're not going  to be publishing these, your comments will go nowhere but the group!  So don't worry about that...but when you show the others the work and make your comments you have to totally justify and say why you think the piece is Awful, or boring, or exciting or fabulous. Gradually you'll learn ways of expressing these things...and you are training your's like wine tasting!!  you've  got to have the wine!

The most important thing about a work of art - which you'll notice immediately you go out surfing on the 'net - is whether or not it attracts your attention.  D'you want to look at it for more than the standard 3 second glance that most images create? d'you lean forward, and hit Ctrl + to see it better?  D'you want to "pin it" or save it in some way?  D'you want to come back to it later to look at it again?  These are the key hallmarks to a successful piece.

All the rest is the nitty gritty of how the artist achieved a succesful work...those "principles" we've all heard about?  They are the means by which the artist caught and held our attention.  They've been derived by critics and teachers looking at artwork that has stood the test of time figuring out what characteristics  those artworks have in common.

Some are technical: unity/harmony, variety/tension, rhythm/movement, balance/proportion, economy.
Some are more emotional: does  the work make us feel? Is an emotion created within us?  whether it's delight, or despair - does the work affect us?  what is the artist communicating?  
or is the emotion we sense one of boredom?  this piece is boring, it's empty, it's been seen before.  As human beings we are definitely hard wired to be attracted by something novel.  If the quilt is the 17th, or 70th or 700th iteration of something we've seen before, it's not going to have much effect on us.

If the piece is interesting but somehow doesn't feel quite right, the problem is likely to be something technical.
If  the piece is boring, the problem is likely to be that the artist is not able to communicate something  to us...possibly because they have nothing to communicate...or that they are so inarticulate that they have failed to do so but more likely the former.

As a group or an individual once you've developed your critiquing  skills on other people's work, it becomes easier  to see your own and judge it.  BUT to aid the transition, put your work into the same format as that which you used for others' work. ie. if you looked at all the images on line - on your computer monitor, then put your work up there.  If you printed it out...then print it out.  Also I strongly recommend having more than one piece to look at at a least 3 is good.  And that has the added benefit of having you make more work!!  More work is always one of the best ways of improving in anything.

And now I shall go and make yet another cup of tea, I'm sure it will be better than the last one!
If you have been, thanks for reading!
And do - please! - comment!      Elizabeth

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The joy of everyday life

So what have I been getting up to?

........posing for our local - brilliant - photographer, Chuck Murphy.  He mainly photographs birds...but then, I guess, I would count as one ancient old bird!!

It's always good  to get your work out in public 
Although I'm very leery of hanging quilts in restaurants since I don't like artwork that smells of food,  I was very happy to take some work to the OLLI office at the university.  OLLI stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and is an organization of folk 50+ who are interested in learning new things.  Curiously, the branch in our town is attracting a lot of attention from people looking for a nice place to retire because it's an amazing way to meet new folk and immediately get involved in (far too much!) stuff!

The left hand quilt, Bluebeard's Castle (named after the opera) is one of my Hamilton steel mill series, the quilt in the center is a view of Athens.  As you can see I'm color co-ordinated!!

Apart from that frisky pup, the paintings are watercolors - the two on the right are views of the pond in our neighborhood - I walk round there early most morning and it's fascinating to see  the same view over and over in different lights.  I've done a couple of quilts based on this pond too:


.....and there are a lot more paintings of the pond, which I won't bore you with....

I find that nearly all my art work is about things I see or experience every day....I'm currently engaged on a series of quilts - abstract - that are about what my day feels like rather than the actuality of physical detail - it's quite a challenge  but it's so worthwhile to be really in touch with what you're experiencing...instead of just racing through things...
well...on with the day!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading...and commenting!  I do appreciate the comments very much.


Friday, July 8, 2016

The juror vs the critic

 I've a lot of experience critiqueing (mainly in my online classes) and some (limited) experience as a juror and  I began to wonder about the role of the juror vs the role of the art critic.  Too often when faced with the yes/no response from a juror we tend to think of the juror as a critic…but there are actually many differences between the two.  The juror has only the y/n binary response sorting the quilts presented into two (metaphorical!) piles only...also we never know why one quilt was chosen, another rejected. Whereas the critic has a much broader role which may or may not (according to the critic, they vary) include indicating whether or not they think the art is “good” or “bad”.    Unfortunately, there are many jurors but few critics in the art quilting world.

Critical reviews are valuable to both the general public and the particular artist.  although some artists choose to disregard (or  consider invalid) a poor review, in fact, a thoughtfully written review, can help the artist gain insight into their own work,  and enable them to see it in both a wider  historical and  geographical/cultural view.  It’s hard to step back from an individual piece and see how it fits in with both one’s own body of work, and that of work being produced by other artists.

One of the goals of art criticism is to introduce the work to a wider audience – not just the art going intelligentsia, or the magazine-buying quilter, but everyone – all classes, ages, occupations and levels of society.  A lot of people out there still think of quilting as a bedding medium, not an art medium – they are truly surprised when it’s suggested that a quilt can hang on a wall! An art critic would act as a public educator: art can be paint on canvas, clay formed into vessels, glass hanging in light, fiber on a wall.  I met a well educated woman just yesterday who told me that quilting was a lost art because nobody hand quilted anymore!

Today there are many journals of art criticism offering a wide variety of reviews about art from many different angles.   We can learn so much about ourselves as well as increasing our art knowledge from looking at art, examining our reaction to it, and reading about the critic’s (hopefully more broadly educated) reaction.     I enjoy reading the short critical reviews in  magazines like Art in America, for example.   Some writers focus on describing the work – perhaps in ways I had seen, or perhaps not.  Others compare the work to other artists..which can lead one to follow a trail that broadens and has many side trails!  Some offer value judgments with which one might agree or disagree – but all the reviews make you spend more time thinking about the art.

Most critics feel that the phrase “art should speak for itself” is a cliche.  They suggest that art is strongest when it forces the viewer to engage with the artist.  The work should entice one into conversation, but not  be a direct obvious advertising-like statement that leads one to put up the shutters, rather than peer in through the window! (o yes the glory of the closely stitched mixed metaphor!)  Stay tuned!!!  I don't want to be hit in the face with the obviousness of your image,   I want to be intrigued enough to want to stay and figure out what is going on for myself…intrigue me, entice me, question me and pull me in…

A critic, of course, may have his/her own agenda.  Clement Greenberg was famous for his desire to drive a revolution bringing change and progress to the contemporary art world – he has been called the “Moses of the art world” – feeling that he was the one with the vital set of rules on stone tablets tucked under his arm….but today’s critics are less didactic though alas, often very dense in their writing.    Greenberg felt that one couldn’t intellectually determine one’s response to art: that one should follow one’s automatic response with bravado and nerve and then work hard to “determine the difference between good and bad”.    One of the exercises I have done in my workshops is to show very good and very bad art - (IMO of course!) - not stating what I think of  the work, allow a discussion to take place - if you think it's good (or bad), then tell us why....

 Other critics have sought to show the public the connection between a society, its culture and its art.   They feel that the art should communicate about that culture rather than adhere to specific aesthetic goals (which can often render the art as dated by “fashion” within the art world).   All seek to educate us, and to encourage us to spend more time with art.  I think that this is very difficult for today's quilters - how to hold onto the tradition and at the same time make one's work relevant to today's culture?  I find myself doing one thing or the other, and entering the work into different shows bearing in mind the particular bent of  the juror.

Criticism has been defined as using language to explore visual images: trying to clarify one’s thoughts, emotions and understanding about a particular work.   It should help us to see why we respond to this landscape, and not that one – when they may both be views of the same river.  Why is this one more effective than that?   From this kind of criticism, we can learn how to strengthen design, how to make better art, as well as how to understand and enjoy good lasting art – rather than art that is like candyfloss, a quick cheap flick of sweetness that soon grows stale. 

  The critic’s task is to put into words the effect that a work of art can have upon us.    Thus the importance of the dance of communication between artist, the critic and the viewer.  
I wish  we had more art critics writing about art quilts, and didn’t have just those yes/no responses, all of us -   art quilt makers, and viewers and collectors  - would be better served.
So, what d’you think? Can the emphasis be switched from sport (running races with people coming in first, second, third etc) to education (leading us to a broader understanding of what the medium is about and what it can do)?

If you have been.....thanks for reading…. all comments Very Welcome!    Elizabeth