Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I have always dreamed of seeing Pina Bausch dancing on stage. Last year on the 30th of June Pina Bausch died, and an entire world died with her. Pina Bausch was a gentle soul who talked about love and tenderness with the same passion she described violence and brutality. Dance became life itself, just more real, more intense, strange and beautiful, the way only Pina saw it.

Bausch's oeuvre explores memories, questions of identity and the difficulty of human understanding. Frequently, she thematizes the difficulty of relations between the sexes.

"It is about life and about finding a language to describe life," she said. The choreographer, on the whole, usually avoided pinning down or labeling her creations, preferring to let her audiences make up their minds.

Her first works were criticized by traditional ballet fans. She became notorious for having her company dance on dirt, on leaves, in ankle-deep water, as well as for bringing them into direct contact with the audience.

Bausch was famed for her collaborative way of working. She would start by directing a barrage of questions at her dancers, who would respond with words, gestures, and improvised dance. "I'm not interested in how people move, but what moves them," she once famously stated.

"Even the restaurant in our hotel was highly interesting for me. My parents had to work a great deal and weren’t able to look after me. In the evenings, when I was actually supposed to go to bed, I would hide under the tables and simply stay there. I found what I saw and heard very exciting: friendship, love, and quarrels—simply everything that you can experience in a local restaurant like this. I think this stimulated my imagination a great deal. I have always been a spectator. Talkative, I certainly wasn’t. I was more silent."

"I was ravenous to learn and to dance. That is why I applied for a scholarship from the German academic exchange service for the USA. And I did in fact receive it. Only then did it become clear what that meant: traveling by ship to America, aged 18 years, all alone, without being able to speak a word of English. My parents took me to Cuxhaven. A brass band was playing as the ship was setting off and everybody was crying. Then I went onto the ship and waved. My parents were also waving and crying. And I was standing on the deck and crying too; it was terrible. I had the feeling we would never see each other again."

"For example, the curtain rises, a wall–the wall tumbles, a crash–dust: how do dancers react to this? Or you come into the auditorium: a meadow, smell of grass, mosquitoes; everything that happens is very quiet. Water: it reflects, it splashes, it makes noises. Clothes become wet and stick to the body. Or: Snow is falling; it might also be blossoms… Each new piece is a new world."

"It is a special and beautiful coincidence that I have been living and working in Wuppertal for over 30 years, in a town that I have known since my childhood. I like being in this town, because it is an everyday town, not a Sunday town. Our rehearsal room is the Lichtburg, a former cinema from the 50s. When I go into the Lichtburg, past a bus stop, then I see almost daily many people who are very tired and sad. And these feelings too are captured in our pieces."

"I once said, ‘I’m not interested in how people move but what moves them.’ This sentence has been quoted many times; it is still true up to the present day."

"I have travelled a long way. Together with my dancers, and with all the people I am working with. I have had so much luck in my life, above all through our journeys and friendships. This I wish for a lot of people: that they should get to know other cultures and ways of life. There would be much less fear of others, and one could see much clearer what joins us all. I think it is important to know the world one lives in."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein
I discovered today an interesting website on the life and work of Gertrude Stein, and I thought to share it with you. Gertrude was not an artist, but she was an artist at soul and through her art collections supported many artists at the beginning of their career, including the one who was to become a friend for life - Pablo Picasso.
She lived between 1874 and 1946 and was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, and the second with her partner Alice B. Toklas. Gertrude and Leo's home at 27 rue de Fleurus became a meeting point for all the literary and artistic avantgarde of the moment. Alice and Gertrude lived almost 40 years together till the death of Gertrude Stein in 1946.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Painting in oil is not easy, you need to invest some time and a lot of patience to practice, though the good news is that painting in oil just comes naturally once you get used to it. Here are a few things you should know when you start painting in oil. First, you shouldn't worry about technique when you start painting. Yes, there are some techniques, but they are not difficult, once you start painting they will just come naturally, and you will discover them by yourself. All you need to know for the beginning is that there are two important ways of painting: 
DIRECT PAINTING: Some painters prefer working in this technique also called alla prima or wet on wet. I like this technique because I can paint faster and spontaneously, preferably in one session or fewer sessions. Painters who liked this technique were Velasquez, Monet, Van Gogh, Singer Sargent, Chaim Soutine, de Kooning. 
INDIRECT PAINTING: Other painters work in layers, to obtain a more detailed painting. These layers can be thin, either the colours are smudged sparingly over darker layers of colours, and then we say that the technique is SCUMBLING, or the layers are transparent and cover entirely the layer underneath or certain areas, like a film. This technique is called GLAZING, and the layers are called glazes. Indirect methods of panting were prefered by Van Eyck, El Greco, Rembrandt, Modigliani, Rouault, Bracque, Paul Klee. 
More techniques can be combined in one painting, you don't need to work only in fine glazes, or only scumble colour everywhere.
For scumbling you don't need mediums, you work with dry hard brushes, while for glazing you need a glazing medium, which makes the paint more fluid and transparent. The most popular glazing medium is Liquin Original from Winsor and Newton. The brushes used are fine and soft, like watercolour brushes, more expensive sable brushes can be used by some painters. 
Here is an example of fine indirect painting of Lucian Freud:

Later on the artist ditched the fine sable brushes and gave up sitting while painting, for working standing and he started using harsh hog brushes. His new technique was IMPASTO, thick paint was applied for a sculptural effect:

Oil looks better
An oil painting certainly looks more beautiful and intense, and has more depth than an acrylic painting.
Time for blending
You have plenty of time for blending with oils, this is good if you want realistic curtains, shadows and portraits.
Consistency and coverage
Oil paints have a creamy consistency so the blending is easier, plus you will be able to cover a larger surface at the time with one brush stroke than with acrylics.
The palette doesn't dry
You don't need a stay wet palette for oils, you can do your palette in the morning and work with it the whole day. You don't have to worry about damaging your brushes either, because the paint on the brushes won't dry for hours.
Yes, nothing compares to painting in oil, and though there are some disadvantages too.
Slow drying
Oils dry very slowly, over two days usually, unless you use some fast drying mediums (I used Liquin Original glaze from Winsor and Newton). But the mediums are toxic and have strong odours, plus they can only speed up the drying time to about 24 hours, which is still not enough for many painters. The art works are wet for days and the storage and transport are a problem. If you paint for dead lines like exhibitions, commissions or exams, you need to be extremely organized and finish one week in advance to allow drying.
Messy working
Another disatvantage is the constant mess around the oil artist. A huge amount of cloths is needed for painting in oil, brushes and paint tubes get dirty. You can overcome this distavantage if you are organised. Cleaning the brushes is time consuming. Turpentine or other solvents damage brushes and are not recommended. Though I find that professional oils nowadays became easier to clean, I use only water and soap.
Toxicity of the pigments and solvents and mediums
Oil must be used with care, because of the toxic fumes of the solvents used and the toxicity of the pigments, but if you want to paint like the Old Masters the only choice is oil. So you may use it successfully if you follow the rules.
First open the windows often when you work with oils.
Do not eat or drink in the same room you paint.
Do not let the paints or solvents come into contact with your skin. Wearing some surgical gloves is recommended, because even if many natural pigments have been replaced, some of the most beautiful ones, like cadmium of cobalt, for example, can be quite nasty, and everything that gets onto your skin will go inside too.
Be aware that all mediums, solvents and turpentine have toxic fumes. The good news is that many painters nowadays succeeded in avoiding them. You don't need turpentine or other solvents to make your paints more fluid. I know many painters who use only raw linseed oil or other oils like poppy seeds oil, safflower oil or nuts oil (nuts oil must be stored properly as it gets rancid otherwise). Be aware that the more oil you add, the longer the drying time. The linseed oil has the bad quality of yellowing with time, so poppy seed oil and safflower oil is recommended for lighter colours. I use only the last two because they are light and fluid and slow the drying time, which helps me paint alla prima, wet on wet.The cleaning up can be done with old cloths and cheap vegetable oil, warm water, but not hot (take care of your brushes) and soap. I find that professional paints became much easier to clean in time, I use only water and home made laundry soap, while student quality paints seem still greasy and harder to clean. My home made laundry soap is made in the country in Romania, I don't think is made in other countries I am afraid. I also use an organic nontoxic cleaning medium for brushes.
The paintings in oil can be protected with varnish, but you have to wait ideally for a few months to varnish a painting, because it has to be completely dry. Be aware that varnishing paintings can yellow paintings in time. Look for quality non yellowing varnishes. Apply varnish outdoors or in a well ventilated space.
The fat over lean rule must be followed when painting with oils.
Fat over lean (flexible over less flexible)
When painting in layers, each successive layer must be more flexible than the one underneath.
Thick over thin
Thick layers of oil colour are best applied over thin under layers. Thin layers over thicker layers of impasto paintings are likely to crack.
Slow drying over fast
Slow drying colours should not form continuous under layers as any faster drying layers on top may crack.
It is good to know that oil layers dry at different times if you tend to make some layers thicker and others thinner, or if you add solvents or oils for thinning. You will figure out in time.

For use in the rooms with no proper ventilation, smaller class rooms, or for sensitive people, there are water mixable oils on the market. They are easier to use and you can keep everything clean because the brushes can be cleaned in water during work. Cleaning up brushes after work is a breeze as it can be done with just water and soap. But the watermixable do come with a compromise. In comparison to the artist quality traditional oils, they don't have the same high pigment concentration and the colours chart is limited.
For the ones who want their paintings to dry quickly, there are fast drying oils. They need to be used in a well ventilated space, and they require more attention to the fat over lean rule.


Prima clasa de desen dupa model la Centrul Cultural Reduta Brasov. 
Informatii cursuri desen Brasov:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Many of the still lives of Douane Kaiser are small still lives of the size of a postcard.
Here is what he says about direct observation painting: "We go through our lives with a perpetual cursory glance. We see but we don't notice. We simply aren't used to observing things firsthand, of investigating them, and I think we sense this--that we're missing something; that we have, to some degree, become spectators of our own lives. Cell phones, computers, TV, video, 24 hour news etc-- all of this information forms the visual equivalent of white noise. It is hard to see and appreciate the colors in a candle flame when it is seen against a fireworks display-- and if we are only looking for fireworks in the first place, we will not only not see the subtleties of that single flame, we won't notice the flame at all. In effect, the flame ceases to exist to us. Direct observation and the patience it requires has become less natural to us." Here is a small selection of his work. As you can see a large variety of everyday objects can become subjects for paintings. The way the artist sees them changes the ordinary into extraodinary. Happy painting!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Beginning painting can be frustrating, and unfortunately there are no tricks for becoming a painter overnight. Practicing and experimenting as much as you can, as often as you can, it is the only key to the problem. There are though a few things good to know to make the beginning easier. First of all the quality of the art materials you use is important especially when you are a beginner.

Paints Even if you are on a tight budget you should get at least your primary colors in professional colors and not student quality. There are professional brands that are not so expensive, anyway the lower series, I or II are quite accessible. You can buy only some neutral or basic colors, like white, black, sienna, ochre, in student quality range and your primary in professional ranges. When you buy paints, get two colors in each primary, this means you should get a cold and a warm primary. 

A basic color palette should include the following colors:
White (titanium is more opaque and has better coverage, zinc is more transparent, so better for transparent techniques)
Lemon yellow (cold)
Cadmium yellow (warm)
Alizarin Crimson (cold dark red)
Cadmium red (warm)
Phthalo blue (cold)
or Prussian blue (cold)
Ultramarine blue (warm)
Burnt sienna
Yellow ochre
Burnt Umber

Ivory Black if you want (many artists don't use black, or make their own chromatic black)

Hue means that the color is not pure, but an imitation, try to avoid any hues, they give dull and dark colors in combinations, and this can be a huge disadvantage for a beginner. For practicing with color combinations do the color wheel from this link:

Professional paints versus student quality:
-professional colors have a large variety of bright beautiful colors with a good pigment load that last longer in time; if you want your pantings to retain their original color it's better to use professional range.
-professional colors are usually made of one pigment only. This means that they behave better in color combinations than student quality paints which are made of a combination of pigments. 
-student paints have a lower pigment concentration, so you use more paint. I find them harder to clean too.

You can recognize artist quality paints easily from the student quality ones. Professional paints have the name of the pigment written on the tube, and have different prices for different series. They also have the lightfastness and the level of transparency written on the tube.

For studying I recommend in my classes Artisan from Winsor and Newton, which are water mixable oil paints, as they are easier to use in a class room and don't require solvents for cleaning. 

Acrylic paints - any professional quality paints will do no matter the brand. I saw beautiful artworks painted with more expensive brands like Liquitex or Lascaux, but I saw excellent results with Maimeri Brera, Chroma Atelier or Matisse as well. I don't recommend any student quality acrylic colors for the beginner, the student acrylic paint doesn't have enough coverage power and you will use more and more paint with poor results. 

The best professional oil paints are said to be Old Holland and Michael Harding. But any professional oil brands are good. I use Sennelier, LeFranc, Maimeri Puro, Winsor and Newton Artist, etc.

The quality of the support you are using is quite important. Unfortunately, the ready-made stretched canvas you find in the art shops is of low quality. Professional artists either make their own, or order custom made frames. If you buy your frames in the art shops though (try avoiding big warehouse shops like Hornbach which have the lowest quality frames), one thing to do is to prime your canvas with a good primer like Polycolor. Two coats are needed, sand after each coat. 

There are so many paint mediums out there, it can be confusing for the beginner artist. It's good to know that many artists use only some linseed oil to dilute their oil paint. I use safflower or poppy seed oil for my wet on wet technique, as it slows drying and allow me to work longer on a layer. 
There are mediums which speed up drying, the most popular is Liquin Original from Winsor and Newton. I used to like it, now I gave up all mediums and solvents because of their toxicity and I don't have to worry anymore about good ventilation in my studio. 
Mediums improve the flow and the texture of the paint. For example glazing mediums (like Liquin) can be added to paint realist portraits or still lives like the old masters. Glazes makes the paint less opaque, so thin semi-transparent layers can be added one after another. Impasto mediums are used to thicken the paint, if you want that sculptural quality. 

During the years I tried many brands, I stayed in the end with Rosemary which seems to last longer and have a wide variety. But every artist out there has his favourite kind of brush or brand. You have to experiment to see what you like. 

It is true that painting can be very difficult for the beginner, but as my professor said, the experimented artist has the same anxiety in front of the blank canvas as any of the art students. The painting process can be lengthy. Long and precise preparations could be involved. There are many artists who use complete charcoal or pencil studies before they begin painting. George Tooker has many charcoal studies for most of his paintings which look like beautiful complete drawings. Some contemporary artists prefer computer for sketching and experimenting before they actually touch the brushes and paints. Once the painting process is started, other issues could arise. Many great artists like Hannaford or Lucian Freud work for many months at one painting. Here is the story of a portrait which took 16 months for Lucian Freud to complete:

Edgar Degas was one of the artists who worked very hard to complete an artwork. He developed a unique pastel technique and made his own fixing spray for pastel which allowed him to work in layers, and made pastel behave like oil paint. He also used tracing paper, a very difficult medium to fix pastel on, but this allowed him drastic retouches when he needed them. If the last layers didn't come out well, he brought the drawing back to the previous layers and all the hard work of days was erased in minutes.

There is no fast way to master painting techniques, many artists develop their own techniques and style in years and years of experimenting. Here is what artist Kent Williams says about style: "Style (I hate the word really, used in the context of art) is not something one chooses and places upon oneself. Style, or one's artistic language is something that comes about as a by product of sincere effort and sweat equity in the pursuit of something better than you are capable of doing. I hear so often from students about wanting to 'find a style'. But in so many cases these students are not willing to put in what it takes for this to happen – to put in and discover the passion for observation, for drawing, for looking outside of their insular world. To feed and nourish the passion that will ultimately lead to a personal language. They think they can kind of just step in and choose a 'style'. The pursuit shouldn't be to find a style, but to look, to discover, to soak in, and then to transcribe as best you can. And through this most simple and complex WORK, one's look, or language, or style will develop on it's own."
I see many artists out there, after years of using ready made paints and mediums, that they come to make their own art materials. Sometimes other arts can come handy for the painter. Yes, photography was a good aid for many artists, like Degas in his later years or Francis Bacon. A complete album on Picasso's works, also solved for me some mysteries about some of his paintings. I saw some photographic references for some of his famous portraits. Did the great master use photos sometimes? If I compare the photos with the paintings, I see some of the portraits didn't even look like the persons they represented. Maybe something else than the resemblance was much more important for him... He always got the essence of the person right. He is famous for the speed he was working with, and though researching a bit, I found out that the portrait of Gertrude Stein took a very long time to complete even if Picasso was already an experimented painter at that time. After long and exhausting sittings from the model, 90 sittings actually, Picasso completed the portrait alone without Gertrude. Everyone was amazed as it didn't look like her too much, but years and years after, it did.

See also the article on painting techniques:

There is light out there and I know you will succeed one day, but it depends on you, and on how much time and effort you put into it. So please do your homework, which is a small composition with a fruit or any other object that inspires you. Pay attention to detail, and try to bring out some beauty. Once you learn the basics and get some experience, painting is the most amazing and rewarding experience.

Happy painting! As Picasso was saying, there is inspiration, but it must find us working.

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