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Art Students at Work

For the first time I encountered (ten) art students drawing something or other on a road that my dog and I were biking on this morning. I tried to be quiet and non-intrusive. I wonder what objects they were drawing.

The area has an austere attractiveness, rather than the "postcard prettiness" that you'd expect to attract an art class. That's why it started me thinking. Were they there for the variety?

What if somebody had walked up to the teacher and asked, "Have any of your students chosen to draw the sheer terror of a ground squirrel, scurrying for his life, with a hawk circling in the background?"


She might have liked the idea. Or do they draw only pretty things? And what if they did draw something more out of Darwin or Jack London than out of the tourism industry -- would they automatically get a poor grade in this art class, regardless of how effective their drawing was at transferring emotion to the viewer? I don't really know.

Success at an "Art Booth"

I have long accepted that I am artistically challenged, in the sense that visual arts have no effect on me. Rather than taking that issue on by direct frontal attack, I prefer an indirect, flanking movement. That is, it seems preferable to stretch the definition of what "art" is.

The other day, my dog and I were bicycling by the Rocks. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a dog and a half dozen small children frolicking on the rocks. Talk about the indirect approach! There is a lot to be said for catching things on the edge of your vision.




Something about it fired my imagination. It made me turn in to the campsite and give the parents a compliment. Then the magic moment fizzled: the campers didn't know I was the host, and they thought I was intruding. The dog was said to be unfriendly. Then there was an awkward silence. I looked for a face-saving way out of this embarrassing situation.

In an ordinary folding chair around the campfire, sat an ordinary camper -- a mother and …

A Bourgeois Philistine at an Art Show

Somewhere in Ben Franklin's Autobiography he rises to the defense of Pride as a Virtue, rather than Humility as a Virtue. I see his point, for I have just finished going to an art show that my friend invited me to, and am feeling like a Big Shot because I actually enjoyed looking at something there.

In fact I came perilously close to even buying something there. It is hard to believe. 

There was one table full of ceramic bowls, plates, and mugs. The colors appealed to me, even though I am usually indifferent to colors. Perhaps it helped that the colors were somewhat muted earth tones instead of the garish and girlish colors that are more usual at an art show.

Or maybe it was the possible functionality of the ceramic work. If only my brain didn't automatically go into "optimize the equations" mode, and block any kitchen receptacles other than melamine, the lightest and most durable material for a traveler.

Another way of looking at art is to de-emphasize the end result an…

If Only There Were More Artists!

The title of this post seems facetious, considering I am located in a small town that appears to have too many artists.

But what kind of art? It is 'pretty' stuff that is bought by well-heeled matrons from the big city, to cover white spaces on the walls of their new McMansion. Cyootsie-wootsie and useless.

And then, by chance, I ran across another type of art that really affected me. Recall Tolstoy's essay, "What is Art?", wherein he defines art as sounds, words, and pictures that transfer emotions from the artist to the viewer/audience.

The cartoon was lifted out of LivingStingy.blogspot.com. I am not sure where he lifted it from, but at least the cartoon is signed.

What an under-rated artist a cartoonist can be! Expect to see this cartoon show up again on Fourth of July and Veteran's Day posts.




Natasha Dances for the American Deep State

How nice that I have managed to appreciate art in 'this lifetime.' Although music and comedy were two forms of art that were easy to appreciate, the visual arts left me yawning, in the past.

I refer to "art" in the Tolstoyan sense. This is quite different from Beauty, which most people confuse with "art."  Tolstoy thought that art was anything that transferred emotional experiences from the artist to the viewer/reader/listener, by means of words, pictures, sounds, or stories. Beauty is a another matter, according to Tolstoy.

Movies should be good at providing "artful" experiences in this sense of the word, and, one would think, the Russian movie version of "War and Peace" should be good at it, too.

I watched the first third of the three-disc movie, and couldn't make up my mind if I liked it. The star of the second third of the movie was "Natasha," the young Russian noble-girl who came of age during the lead-up to Napoleon'…

A Photographic Manifesto

Sure, it is bad news when you drop your digital camera with the zoom out, and kill it. But maybe the longer-term result can still be good. In the past I resisted rushing out to buy a new camera, and instead, took a vacation from dragging a camera along. The appetite will return after awhile.

Better yet, why not use the hiatus to reevaluate what you are trying to accomplish with a camera.  It is not as obvious as it first seems. It is a "nice" thing to have an excuse to pause on a mountain bike ride, and soak up an especially pretty little snack. 



These flowers caught my eye, the other day. The photo is mildly pretty, but I don't see what the viewer can get from this photo that they couldn't get from millions of other pretty photos already on the internet. And there will be more next year.


That prettiness is trivial and mostly useless does not make it EVIL. But it does mean the photographer hasn't gone as far as they could have. Notice that there is only one thing a …

Taking Sensual Pleasures to a Higher Level

The other day, I sat out on the porch of the "Chatterbox" cafe. It was noon on an unseasonably warm day. Already I felt a mild dread about warm weather returning, and on top of that, I was drinking hot coffee.  But the porch was shaded. The gentle breeze felt so cool and reassuring.

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that I would pop my insulated bib overalls on and lie out on the 'patio' (ramp) of my cargo trailer, with it facing the still-valid Arizona sun. Then, I was asking relief from the wintry air. 

These two experiences were as pleasant as they could be. They were mirror images of each other. Today's pleasure was even more piquant because of the contrast with the oh-so-recent mirror image.

But the pleasure didn't stop there. Recently I posted about the visual metaphor from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," with the ugly Creature swimming upside down while stalking the beautiful girl swimming on top of the water, with the sunlight rippling t…

Conversations with Strangers in Coffee Shops?

I stand before you today to announce a great and newly discovered truth: that it is possible to have an interesting and useful conversation in a coffee shop. With a stranger. Do you think I am exaggerating? Consider just one feature of this conversation: it was 10 or 15 minutes before he fell back on the old 'Soooo, whar ya frum?' If you wanted to be scientific about it, you could easily correlate how late that question arrives with the interesting-ness of the person. I am used to it being the second thing out of their mouths, and I have been known to literally groan out-loud when it happens.

But maybe you are going to tell me that this kind of thing happens to you all the time, and the fact that it has never happened to me is my own fault. Indeed, it is easy to misjudge people. Perhaps I don't ask people who look sufficiently available, are the right age, or are displaying the right body language. Perhaps they take one look at me and say, "How could such an over-opini…

Why Bother Photographing the Mountains?

Earlier I expostulated on Tolstoy's idea of Art: that Art is really NOT about Beauty, but rather, is anything that conveys emotion from the artist (who experienced it directly) to an audience.

Now that we are all agreed on that, let's move on to conquer the issue of Beauty. Even the most dissolute and stubborn optical sybarites -- and I know a few, personally -- would be willing to correct the old adage about 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder', to 'the brain of the beholder.'

But we should really say 'the mind.'  Somebody needs to convince the optical sybarites that Reality and Beauty actually exist in Ideas, of which photographs (paintings, sculptures, etc.) are merely the concrete representations.




Yes, I said 'merely'.  Shapes and colors, or textures and contrasts, no matter how well they tickle the eyeball, can only be "beautiful" in the same sense that gooey lacto-globular confections at a Dairy Queen can be "delicious" …

Falling in Love IN -- not WITH -- Tombstone

It has always been a noble and unselfish thing on my part to leave the tourist kitsch of Tombstone AZ for others to enjoy. I've never set foot in the place until yesterday. But I offered to take a woman to dinner, and we knew there would be some places open in Tombstone on Easter. Under the right circumstances even a ridiculous place can be enjoyable.

Naturally, after lunch, there was the obligatory and painfully slow tour of so-called art galleries, aka, bauble and trinket shops.  What is this perverse fascination that colorful junk holds for women?

Now a music cue should break in. The romantic music should swell, as the two lovers run to each other in slow motion from opposite ends of a flowery meadow. This is no April Fool's joke. And I even have a witness. On the far wall was a large painting that wowed me. This was only the second time in my life that a painting appealed to me. This seems odd, so naturally it must be explained.

In Arizona it's hard to believe that some…

The Great Charnel Houses in the Cloud

I want to follow up with some suggestions about conquering the Uninterrupted Prose Syndrome, by making verbiage "breathe" with some kind of pictorial illustration, gotten somewhere. (Let's ignore the fact that music might be even better for this purpose, since it's probably more technically difficult to get it into the blog post.) 

So off I will go, searching for shareable photographs in the great charnel houses for internet photographs, such as publicDomainPictures.net, Picasa, or Flickr. Blogs that have a Creative Commons License, such as a commenter's blog, are also worth a serious look.

Oops. There is a likely problem that we must address before rolling up our sleeves. Recall the controversy that good ol' Leo Tolstoy got into in the Colorado arts scene, one summer not so long ago. (grin) By invoking his arguments on "What is Art?" (free on Google Books), I am not trying to con you with an "appeal to Authority," as it might appear at firs…