Sippican Cottage

Watercolors Are Impossible

Well, here is this fellow, Joseph Zbukvic, doing the impossible, and letting you watch him do it. He’s painting in watercolors and ending up with something other than a mess. John Singer Sargent could do it, but he was a magician, not really an artist.

How To Paint Like Michelangelo

It’s easy. First, get some paint brushes. Pawn your chisels if you have to. You can do all your chiseling on the bills from now on. Then, find a pope. Most any pope will do. The ducats are always the same color. Then, select a ceiling. It’s easier and more lucrative to figure prices for your work by the acre than the square yard, so get a big one. If you have your choice of several ceilings, choose the highest one.  No one can see the brush marks on a house from the curb, and the same sort of thing goes for ceilings. Buy bigger brushes if you have to. Have forty plasterers on speed dial, of course. They’ll do all the hard work. You just have to lay on your back and daub at the ceiling when they’re done. You’re up about 70 feet above the floor. No one can tell if you’re giving the Libyan Sybil bloodshot eyes, or napping at that distance.

Okay, now give all the women big muscles and prehensile toes. Popes love that shite.

Oil Paint And Lighter Fluid

Walt Disney is the only true genius I know of that has worked in Hollywood. Like most geniuses, not many paid any attention to his advice, probably because it sounded so trite. It was also at odds with his image. Disney’s a square telling the freaks to be different, not look different. They don’t want to hear any of that. That sounds like showing up on time and dressing like a bank teller and producing worthwhile work on a regular basis.

The term genius has been debased over time. Lots of brilliant people have worked in the entertainment industry, of course. Being brilliant isn’t the same as being a genius. The term has been dumbed down even further by the Intertunnel, where anyone that gets anyone else to pay attention to them by any means is called a genius.

So, what’s a genius? Napoleon said it was de fixer les objets longtemps sans etre fatigue. The ability to concentrate on objectives for long periods of time without tiring. That’ll do. Walt paid attention to his objective fifty years in advance. His only advice: be yourself, only works if yourself is notable. That’s why creatives shun it, and greenlight Batman XVI instead.

Beautiful Things. Beautiful People

(Lakeshore – Isaac Levitan)

Mizz E visits and comments here regularly. She’s an educator. She’s a generous contributor to the boys’ music fund for which I am grateful. She has a very sunny avatar picture. Brightens my day to see it.

She’s got a Tumblr page going. I’ve added it to my moribund and mostly obsolete blogroll. Look for it under Tail Feathers.

It’s ottist stuff, mostly. It’s from people I’m not familiar with much. Lends an air of discovery to it. I like looking at John Singer Sargent pitchas as much as the next guy — more, is more likely — but I’d like to see something different from time to time. But not bad. Some people just have a knack for curating Intertunnel collections. They’re coherent and interesting. I’m generally only one or the other of those things at a time, so I like to see them melded once in a while.

Tail Feathers


I can picture this poor schlub doing this act in a Ramada Inn function room for a Kiwanis convention in a few years, after the motivational speaker and the chicken and shells. And that’s if he’s a success. Otherwise he’ll be waiting for a callback after submitting his resume to a Blue Man Group franchise for the fifth time.

I know I’ve seen this act somewhere before. Hmmm…

I’ll see you all at the In-N-Out, after the what-have-you.

(Thanks to regular reader and commenter and all-around good guy Charles Schneider for sending that along)

Working In Plein Sight

My Intertunnel friend from the wrong coast, Casey Klahn, at work at his easel. He is a very fine artist. He exhibits a kind of bravery in his work. Boldness.

It is a solitary thing to make things, and it’s always piquant to get a look at people when they’re working at it.

See more of his work at The Colorist.

Working In Plein Sight

My Intertunnel friend from the wrong coast, Casey Klahn, at work at his easel. He is a very fine artist. He exhibits a kind of bravery in his work. Boldness.

It is a solitary thing to make things, and it’s always piquant to get a look at people when they’re working at it.

See more of his work at The Colorist.

Let’s Stop Mucking Around And Show You Someone That Knows What He’s Doing. Graham Rust

Most decorative painting is dreadful. Bad ideas, inexpertly done. I’d say amateurishly done, but of course the word “amateur” is derived from the Latin word for love. To do something for love is supposed to transcend the motive of filthy lucre. Everyone just loves making a mess to my eye. I stand by my assertion that there are few things in this world more dangerous than a gallon of metallic paint in the hands of a housewife. Only a professional could do worse, because they can do as bad a job faster. 

“Real”artists try their hand at murals and so forth to keep themselves in absinthe and Gauloises between “real” commissions. They hate the customers and their houses and their lives and their own lives and paint really small things all over a really big area. It’s not portrait painting, only bigger, so they fail miserably and expensively. Even if it was portrait painting, most “real” artists are totally flummoxed by any request to paint anything that’s a recognizable representation of life. They were absent that one day at college when that one teacher mentioned it, derisively, before returning to women with their nose to the left of their three eyes.

But every once in a while, someone knows what they are doing, and finds someone that knows how to pay them, and you get extraordinary results. Graham Rust is like that. Of course it took him fifteen years or so to finish Ragley Hall, pictured in the video. I had no idea England has a union for wall artists. Don’t kill the job! is on their coat of arms, I imagine.

Graham Rust books on Amazon.

Remember: Go big or go home. Graham Rust’s website.

More Fauxderol

I found another view, into the painted bathroom shown yesterday.

For the full effect, you have to understand that a toilet would be plopped down along the left-hand wall, as far in as it would fit. That’s a seven-foot-plus-high door, IIRC, and there’s three or four more feet of wall above it. It was a ridiculously proportioned room. The architect should have been maimed.

You can see the sandstone block walls effect. They had quite a lot of textural color variation when you got right up to them. The baseboard and doorframes are faux siena marble. I’d been doing work like that since the late seventies. I was fairly good, and quick, at that genre. It was a fairly common motif back in the day. Not sure if anyone’s doing it much now.

The effect is not that hard to achieve. The trouble with almost all of it, as executed, it the people doing it have no idea what a real rock looks like. They learn it from a style book, which has a little patch of it pictured, and then paint a mile of it somewhere. Veins that are supposed to look like lightning bolts look like vermicelli.

As I got better at stone techniques, I used fewer and fewer tools. After a while, I discovered you could use crumpled up newspaper, pressed into a glaze, to make the primary pattern. The owners of the houses generally don’t like to see you making six figures painting their houses using a newspaper that looked like a bum’s comforter, so you’d have to keep a box of expensive French badger hair brushes around for show. Back when I was single, I’d tickle their nannies with them to keep them limber. Keep the brushes limber, I mean.

There’s some competent instruction for stone and wood in The Art of Faux: The Complete Sourcebook of Decorative Painted Finishes (Crafts Highlights). It’s out of print, I think, but a used one will be fine. Yours will look plenty used plenty quick if you leave it open while you work anyway.

I have almost no pictures of my work from back then. I tell my children that you used to have to buy a reel of plastic film covered with metallic goo and keep it hermetically sealed in an expensive camera, and when you were done with 24 pictures or so, you’d take them out and drive to a store and leave them with a clerk and then go back a week later after they were done drizzling them with strange chemicals and printing them on shiny pieces of paper. They were all completely white or completely black, generally, when you finally got a look at them.

I tell them, but they figure I’m pulling their leg.

Tag: arts

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