Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Studio Visit: Jasper Johns

 Jasper Johns Is Smiling

Jasper Johns, contemporary American artist.  Jasper Johns was born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in South Carolina. He began drawing as a young child, and from the age of five knew he wanted to be an artist. He moved to New York in 1953. 

Jasper Johns liked to paint subjects "the eye already knows," everyday objects, like beer cans. BEER CANS?? Johns wants us to think about what art is, what we can call a painting or a sculpture. So he smiled, and made quiet little jokes, like beer cans.

Johns was probably smiling when he created his "Beer Cans" sculpture. Most people throw empty beer cans in the garbage, but Johns had two beer cans cast in bronze. And then he painted them to look EXACTLY like real beer cans. The "Beer Cans" sculpture was Johns's little joke, but it was a very beautiful little joke.

When Johns did this amazing bronze sculpture of his paint brushes soaking in an old Savarin coffee can, he was definitely smiling. Johns had the brushes and the Savarin can cast in bronze, and then painted them to look real. It was brilliant. This is one of Johns's most famous art works.

Johns liked to do drawings and prints of his paintings and sculpture. Here is his black and gray print of the Savarin sculpture. 

Johns began a series of flag paintings in 1954. This painting is titled "The White Flag." It is the largest of Johns's flag paintings,  78" x 120." It remained in Johns's own collection until the Metropolitan Museum bought it in 1998. 

In 1955, Johns painted this red, white and blue flag...  

Johns painted his flag paintings with "encaustic," color mixed with wax, like melted crayons. It's lovely to use, dries fast, doesn't smear, and the color can be painted over and over itself in many layers. He painted it over small bits of newspaper he had glued to the canvas. The paintings were fabulous. You could see a little bit of the newspaper showing through the color. It was a completely new way to use encaustic. Very "modern."

 Johns's flag paintings and drawings were exciting. His friend, the artist Robert Rauschenberg, invited the gallery owner, Leo Castelli, to visit Johns's studio to see his flag paintings. Castelli's often showed the work of new young artists in his gallery. Castelli was impressed with Johns's paintings and offered to give Johns a "one-man-show."

This is one of Johns's flag drawings. Castelli used it as the poster for Johns's exhibition at the gallery.

Next, Johns did a series of  paintings and drawings of "targets."

Here is one of Johns's extraordinary "target" drawings.

Then came Johns's paintings, and drawings of letters.

Here is Johns's elegant drawing of letters one over the other.

Johns did paintings and drawings and prints of the numbers 0 through 9.

Here is Johns's drawing of the numbers 0 through 9 drawn one over the other.

In 1966, Johns painted a series of maps of the United States.

Johns painted a series of "hatching" paintings. They remind me of "finger painting." prints.

He explored the idea of hatching in many paintings and drawings. They are some of his most beautiful, and serious, work.

Johns included his "Savarin Can" in this painting, many years later. Note the hand prints in the hatching.

Later in his career, Johns painted some more mysterious images, like this four-panel painting called "The Four Seasons."

In 2011, Johns's show at the Matthew Marks Gallery, returned back to his idea of numbers from 0 to 9, but he explored them in sculpture. 

Here is one of the numbers sculptures.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has called  Johns one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. See the link to Johns at the Metropolitan Museum, below.

Here are some Johns-inspired projects you can try at home.

Numbers: You can buy stencils for the numbers one through 9 in an art store (letter stencils too.) Do some paintings and drawings using numbers (and or letters). 
Letters: You can buy an alphabet of rubber stamps in a toy store. Buy an ink stamp pad. Or, you can use some paint. Do some prints using the letter stamps.
Maps: You can photocopy maps of the states of the US. Paint over them with tempera paint. Then, add the names of the states with stamps, on them.
Encaustic: You can iron a sheet of paper to heat it up. Draw on it with a crayon while it is still warm. It will melt the crayon a little. 
Grid: You can fold a paper into rectangles. Fill in each rectangle with color to create a colorful background grid. Draw or paint a number in each rectangle. Or, using colored paper, cut out letters or numbers, and glue them on the grid.

Here are some links to more information about the artist, Jasper Johns.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

At Gagosian gallery:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Studio Project: Kids Love Shakespeare

Who’da thought Shakespeare could touch the imagination of a 4 year old? Here is a little story about "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

While I was waiting for my granddaughter at school, I chatted with a young woman, who was a sitter for one of the kids. I discovered she was a drama major. When I asked her who her favorite playwright was, she replied, “Shakespeare.” 

A mother sitting nearby, mentioned that kids naturally speak in iambic pentameter. She felt they would love Shakespeare’s rhymes. She explained that she was in fact, a Shakespeare scholar, and had been studying Shakespeare’s life and work for many years. She thought kids would enjoy discovering Shakespeare’s plays. We spoke about how parents might introduce Shakespeare's plays to their young children. She suggested they could memorize part of a Shakespeare speech. I was intrigued.

Afterwards, my granddaughter and I headed for our weekly visit to the Ottendorfer New York Public Library. We went into the children's reading room and asked the librarian if she could find us a book of Shakespeare’s plays, perhaps as stories. She found the perfect book,  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream," and we sat down to read it.

Here is how it begins:
People love certain people but cannot tell them. They go to the woods where fairies live. There is a fairy queen and a fairy king who enchant things. There is a flower with a magic love potion. If the potion is put on the eyelids of a sleeping person, they will love the first person they see when they awake. We stopped reading here, before we reached the part about the lovers' silly mix-ups.

Soon, it was time to head for home and Mom. Outside, it was raining lightly. My granddaughter was tucked into her stroller under a plastic rain shield. Suddenly she poked her head out, and said, “Nana, if I had a love potion, I would put it on Mama’s eyes, and when she woke up she would see me and love me forever.”

Who’da thought?

Project: "The Love Potion," based on "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

 Make a "magic" flower out of some paper and a few pipe cleaners. Find some silky scarves, a tutu, and some fairy's wings. (Believe it or not, some kids have them.) Let your child dress-up as a fairy. Put the flower in a vase. Make a drawing of "the woods." Put it near the flower. Let your child create a story about fairies and people who wander in the woods and find a 
magic flower. Use drawings to help you tell the story.

Here is a link to a nice site called: "Kids Love Shakespeare."

Links to things "Shakespeare:" 

This link will give you a scene-by-scene description of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Royal Shakespeare Company Theater at the Park Avenue Armory

Below is the theater the Royal Shakespeare Company is building for its Festival at the Park Avenue Armory. The Festival will present of five of Shakespeare's plays and a number of seminars and talks in July and August 2011.

The drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory today becomes a new stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company as it begins performances for its five week residency.

“King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Julius Caesar,” “As You Like It” and “The Winter’s Tale” will be performed in repertory throughout the run, which ends Aug. 14.

See the performance calendar for precise matinee and evening dates.

The 41-member troupe will perform on a full-scale replica of its Stratford-upon-Avon stage.

$25 rush seats will be available each week through an online lottery that opens Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and closes Thursdays at 11:59 p.m.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Studio Visit: Pop-Up Studio: Utrecht Art Store

One Saturday morning, the Utrecht, Art Store in NY, held an art event on the sidewalk in front of their store. Everyone was invited to stop by and splash a painting.

The studio was just a small table with some pots of paint and some brushes.

New Yorkers, creative and enthusiastic, stepped right up to paint their own bright images.

Thank you Utrecht. You made a lot of New Yorkers very happy.

Pop-Up Project

Soooo simple. Make a pop-up art studio in your playground. You'll need a few pots of paint. Some brushes, maybe 1" foam brushes, and some paper, maybe 11 x 14," some good sticky tape to hold the paper down. Don't forget the old towels and a bucket to help you clean-up. Invite everyone, children and parents, to join you making wonderful paintings. You can find everything you'll need at Utrecht, 111 4th Avenue (near 13th Street).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Studio Visit: Seurat's Dots

If you look at Seurat's painting "A Sunday on the Ile de La Grande Jatte" you'll see people from every social class, enjoying themselves in a public park. The "Ile" is an island in the Seine in the middle of Paris.

If you look at the painting very closely, you'll see it is made of dots, lots of dots. Seurat was scientifically exploring how we see. He believed that when we see colors, we are actually seeing small dots of red, blue and yellow, and that by putting these dots very close together, your eye will mix them and make different  colors. This idea, is called "pointillism."

Above, is a small section of "La Grande Jatte." This is what it looks like very close-up. You can see the dots and the colors.

To compose "La Grande Jatte," Seurat did many drawings of the people in the park. He used a crayon called Conte crayon, on bumpy paper, to make his drawings look like they were made of dots:

You can create some drawings with Seurat's "dots" effect.
 Buy some conte crayon and some rough paper in an art store. Trace your hand and fill in the shape with the conte. Does the crayon work better on its side? Practice making some shapes and filling them in with the crayon. Try tracing some things. How about some leaves? Try drawing some people. Keep them simple like Seurat did.

George-Pierre Seurat, 1859-1891, was a French Post-Impressionist painter and draftsmanA Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886), is his most famous painting. It changed the direction of modern art and is considered one of the most important paintings of the 19th centurySeurat made several studies for the painting including a smaller version Study 1884–1885, that is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Studio Project: Class Pictures

A photographer known for her wonderful portraits of families and their children. took these photos of a pre-k class at the school's Book Fair. The school sold the photographs to parents at an auction to raise money for the school. 

Here are the 11"x14" prints mounted at the entrance to the school. The exhibition was a wonderful statement of the joy and energy of  the school and its young students.

Project: Set Up a Photo Booth

Have you ever thought of taking portrait photos of the kids in your class? Here's how: Mount a point-and-shoot camera on a tripod. Tape a piece of foamcore 24"x24" (approximately) to the wall at a child's height. Set up an inexpensive photographers light on a chair next to the camera. Pose children in front of the foamcore. Click away. You can photograph your friends at school, or at a birthday party, or photograph the entire family at your Thanksgiving dinner. Ask an adult to work as your assistant.