Category Archives: abstract

The Life and Work of Abstract Expressionist Artist Helen Frankenthaler

Beloved New York artist, Helen Frankenthaler, recently passed away at the age of 89. This post is a tribute to Helen Frankenthaler; to a life full of beauty and creativity.

“Mountains and Sea”

Frankenthaler initially caught the attention of many due to her unique style of pouring thinned paint onto canvas from coffee cans.  The process is commonly known as “soak- staining.”

Jackson Pollock’s “drip- painting” method was the inspiration for Frankenthaler’s style.  She is known for being a little more deliberate that Pollock with her pouring style.

“One of her most well known paintings is “Mountains and Sea.”  This painting demonstrates the similarities between soak staining and watercolor.  Both styles share a certain lightness and pliancy.

Frankenthaler’s style of abstract expressionism worked to propel the world of art in new and interesting directions.  The 1950’s and 1960’s Color Field Movement was largely influenced by this stain technique.

Helen Frankenthaler, 1952, Color Field paintin...

Frankenthaler is also known for her graceful public presence.  For the most part, she was able to avoid the limelight.  However, when the situation arose she proved competent and capable in expressing herself.

While serving as a presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts, Frankenthaler had the opportunity to advise the National Endowment for the Arts.  She had strong beliefs about the relationship between government and art.  She felt that the government should be given no opportunity to interfere with art or employ censorship.

As a presidential appointee, she worried about the National Endowment for the Arts and their grant giving process.  It was important to Frankenthaler that the NEA not give grants based on their collective likes or dislikes of individuals or styles.  She feared that government grants promoted censorship and government interference.

Frankenthaler confidently spoke about her opinions and as a result was able to help shape ideas and practices where art and government were concerned.

She will continue to be remembered as a phenomenal abstract painter, a trailblazer of abstract Expressionism, and a creative woman who lived a beautiful life.

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Art in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian art is highly symbolic and merges abstract style with naturalism. This post serves as an overview of the many phases and transitions of ancient Egyptian art, mostly concentrating on styles of art between 3000 BC and 300 AD.

At this time, art was not just a compliment to function. The main motive for art creation was to assist survival. In this sense, it was a tool for explaining life and teaching survival skills to those who lived in a time before written words.

One of the best examples of survival art comes from ancient Egypt. Painting, sculpture and architecture mostly originated along the Nile River, where quality of life was dictated by the river. To simplify this: life was good when the river flooded and bad when it dried up. The effects of these conditions were evident in various art forms of ancient Egypt. Stories about prosperity and famine were told through hieroglyphics that were either carved or painted onto walls.

Painting

Hieroglyphics are also called pictographs. They were carved into walls, sandstone, quarts, and granite. In other circumstances they were drawn onto papyrus, the Egyptian form of paper.

These markings were symbols of the unfolding history in Egypt. In fact, artists worked with the intention of preservation, in addition to making survival tactics known.

However, these pictures were unique in the sense that they often merged animals and people. For some time, ancient Egyptian art showed humans as stick figures but put much detail into depicting animals. This heighten state of symbolism allows researchers and historians to better understand the  psychology of ancient Egyptian culture.

Sculpture

One insight about art from ancient Egypt is that there is a “form follows function” mentality. While detail was important in engravings, works of sculpture were abstract. Objects of focus were more geometric.

For instance, in some of the earliest sculptures, women were often shaped round because of their status as “child bearers.” Men took on a more true-to-life look because of their ability to hunt, gather and lead.

In both types of sculptures, a subtractive method of carving was used, meaning the objects had no faces or just simple features. This is especially apparent in later sculptures which made men and women indistinguishable.

Ancient Egyptian sculptures weren’t about the represented object; they served as history records as well as symbols of eternity. In fact, the “ka statue” was crafted with the intention of being a resting place for the spirit of an individual after he (which was more common than she) past onto the next life.

Architecture

Ancient Egyptian ArchitectureMany Egyptian artifacts exist today, but one of the most significant surviving masterpieces of ancient Egyptian art are the pyramids. They were built during the time of the Old Kingdom, but lacked a stability necessary to keep thieves away. However, not only were the structures fascinating, they were also decorated with symbolic carvings on the outside walls.

Another form of architecture after the pyramid was the funerary temple. Because of it’s geometric form and use of columns, these were considered innovative works of art. Also, many temples had frescoes painted on top of dry (and sometimes wet) plaster to make the art and structure more durable.

Aside from that it was a place where the pharaoh would go to worship his (or her) god. When that individual passed away, others would go to that temple to worship the late pharaoh.

The art of ancient Egypt ushered in a time of reigning power in Greece, which continued to influence art in culture, allowing paintings, statues and architecture to further evolve.

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Romare Bearden and Abstract Expressionist Art

Romare Bearden was an artist whose personal style went against the “mainstream” of art in the post World War II era. Overtime, Bearden’s style did not change as other artists’ did. He remained consistent in his abstract and expressive approach.  This is evident in all of his paintings and even more so in his collages.

Being an abstract expressionist, Bearden’s individual style developed over time.  At first he drew cartoons for magazines, then he began to paint and finally he started making collages.  All of his art was influenced by locations, people, and culture. His many travels along the east coast of the United States influenced his art work, along with his loyalty to his heritage.

The culture of African American life was a large focus for him. He shed much light on the oppression of African American people from the time of the Great Depression, through the Civil Rights Movement and onto their advancements toward equality.  He also concentrated on his heritage, depicting slaves and their migration to the north.

In addition to this, another common theme of his art was jazz music.  This greatly advanced his individual style. His art relayed one common theme but his style was advanced by his personal interpretation of jazz music.  Bearden constructed collages in the same way jazz musicians created a song — with many staccato notes played by multiple instruments. In the same sense, Bearden cut and pasted many small excerpts of paintings and photographs to create a larger work of art.

He also added paint to his collages making many pieces a hybrid of two art forms; half of the piece was painted and the other half was cut and pasted. Such creativity earned him the title of an abstract expressionist artist. While abstract elements were painted, the collage portions were realistic images taken from photographs.

The reason Bearden used this technique was because he felt that art portraying the lives of African American’s did not give full value to the individual.  This is why he used collages. In doing so he was able to combine abstract art with real images so that people of different cultures could grasp the subject matter of the African American culture: The people. This is why his theme always exemplified people of color.

Through the work of Romare Bearden, many lives were affected and individuals were better positioned to understand the struggles that African Americans faced throughout the 20th century.  The heritage of African American’s influenced an entire movement that advanced human equality.  Their struggle produced freedom.  In effect, the outside the box thinking of Romare Bearden created his unique style. A freedom all of its own.

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Did you love this Segmation blog post? If yes, great! Here are a few more posts you will enjoy:

— How the Father of Abstract Expressionism Forsook Fame to Pursue Art
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— The Beauty of Abstract Art
https://segmation.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/paint-by-number-kits-create-thousands-artists/

— Knitting Is More Than an Art, It Is a Cause
https://segmation.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/knitting-more-than-art-cause/

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Abstract Beauty

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Photography is generally used to capture a realistic view of objects and scenes. However you can also capture beautiful and abstract images with a bit of creativity. These amazing art forms show little resemblance to the original subject. Photographers use tools such as macro and zoom lens, colored lighting, cropping, off-angle vantage points, shutter speeds, film speeds, and exposure to produce artful images. Our collection of patterns in this set were created from photography taken of everyday scenes – apples, rain puddles, piles of paper, swirling lights, swimming pools, peeling paint, metal benches, and fan blades.

This set contains 30 paintable patterns.

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Bauhaus Art School

Are you impressed to learn about the invention of Op-Art?

The modern art style, best associated with the art and theory of Josef Albers, influenced an artistic evolution throughout the 20th century, and continues to impact the 21st century as well.

But did you know that this trendy new art form started in Germany in the early 1900’s? Even more, it was created and taught at a school that was also a forerunner for architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

The famous school of art, called Bauhaus, existed in three different parts of Germany between the years of 1919 and 1933. This seems like a short period of time to have such a strong influence on the world. However, the principal thoughts and practices that encouraged artists at Bauhaus traveled with them and spread throughout the world when many of the practicing students and teachers had to emigrate during Nazi control.

The Bauhaus art school was known as a “House of Construction” or a “School of Building.” Even though studies in architecture were not implemented until later, the school built its values on the idea that creating a “total” work of art incorporates multiple elements of art.

A good example of this is optical art’s use of three types of elements: optical illusions, canvas painting, and color. Perhaps it was this concept of completeness that catapulted the Bauhaus style into success, becoming one of the most influential styles in modern art, design and architecture.

Another thought that contributed to the success of Bauhaus was the founding philosophical principle of constructivism. This term originated in Russia and commonly associated with the idea that art could contribute to a better society. With major political and economic shifts happening all over the world, especially in Europe, people learned they could express themselves and propel a positive message with art. Even though there was a negative atmosphere in the world during the time of World War I and leading up to World War II, individual artists knew that art had the power to carry the significant message of peace.

In a war-torn society, Bauhaus school had much to teach. Here are some common art forms that excelled and were mastered by artists at the school between 1919 and 1933:

  • Woodworking
  • Cabinetmaking
  • Work with Metal
  • Ceramics
  • Weaving
  • Printing and typography
  • Theater
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Architecture
Bauhaus art school existed at a poignant time in history. It’s location in the world and foundational European thought are two of the many reasons why it is still a reputable resource for art history today. The other reasons are artists, styles and creations that were consistently produced by the school. These are the pieces that influence modern art today, and will continue to do so evermore.

The Op-Art of Josef Albers

Josef Albers, photograph by Arnold Newman, 1948. © Arnold Newman

In a recent post, a popular art form of the 20th century was introduced. Op-Art puts thought provoking optical illusions onto a flat canvas. During the early 1900’s, the art form flourished with the creative use of lines and patterns. At the start, artists used black and white paint or ink to create captivating images; color was incorporated later. One artist and theorist at the forefront of this art style, who also pioneered the technique of adding color, was a man by the name Josef Albers.

German-born American artist, Josef Albers studied at the Bauhaus school for arts and crafts in Germany. The school existed at the time of Nazi dominance in Germany and, subsequently, closed in 1933. After spending decade at Bauhaus as an art instructor, Alber’s emigrated to the United States, where he continued his career as an artist and teacher.

After spending some time in the United States, Albers accepted a position at teaching at Yale University. It was there that Josef Albers was able to advance the graphic art program before retiring from teaching in 1958.

In the early years of his retirement, as a fellow at Yale, Albers received funding to exhibit and lecture on the art form he had done so much to advance. By this time, Albers had catapulted many artists into successful careers. The list of notable students includes Richard Anuszkiewicz and Eva Hesse. Both artists are considered major forces in the Op-Art movement that swept the world during the 1960’s and 70’s.

Aside from his artwork and teaching, Josef Albers added another form of art to his long list of talents: In 1963, his book, Interaction of Color detailed the theory behind colorful op-art. This writing built upon a foundational thought of Albers — that colors have an internal and deceptive logic all-their-own.

Albers continued to paint and write until he died in 1976. However, the impression he left on the world of art, especially as an abstract painter and theorist, continues to live and influence abstract art today. Even though much of his work is well known and recognizable, it continues to thrive because of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. To this day, the organization supports exhibitions featuring the work of Josef Albers and his wife Anni, who was a textile artist.

The contribution Josef Albers made to the world of art is undeniable. He was successful at merging traditional European art with modern American art, to create an abstract style all his own. While his roots were grounded in the type of constructivist thinking that allowed Bauhaus school of arts and crafts to flourish, his experiences in America allowed him freedom to explore patterns and colors that are now the signature of optical art.

Op-art and graphic art continue to advance while consistently affirming Josef Albers influence. The world renowned teacher, artist, and color theorist is very much alive in the work of abstract artists today. Whether it is through his written words, paintings, or students who survived him, Albers will influence young artists for years to come.

No words can conclude a story about the life of this great man, except, perhaps his own. Alber’s was quoted as saying, “Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. I prefer to see with closed eyes.” Others are happy to have their eyes opened by the influential life and art of Josef Albers. May his legacy and art been seen for years to come.

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Optical Illusions Create Art and Provoke Thought

Art is subjective. Individuals find themselves attracted to a certain artist, style, or theme when looking for art to inspire positive thought and decor. Upon finding the piece they consider, “just right,” one may seek to understand more about the particular picture or genre of art. However, they contrive their thoughts from a combination of what they already know, research, and see with their own two eyes.

In the early 1900’s this thought process was used to develop a new kind of art — completely subjective in form. It received the title, “op-art,” or optical art. This fresh form of art, not seen before the 20th century, used paint to create an interaction between a lively illusion and a picture plane, which is the flat canvas. Much of the art first produced in this genre (and some of the better known pieces) use only black and white paint or ink. As the art form expanded throughout the century, other elements of color and design were added.

This genre quickly evolved but remained true to its core: op-art is a perceptual experience that derives from manipulating typical visual functions. By painting an illusion onto a flat canvas there is a juxtaposition between what the eye expects to see and what it actually takes in. This is known as the figure-ground relationship.

Such a relationship exists because of edge assessment. For instance, when the boarderlines of one shape can be applied to both the outside of the shape and inside of another, an illusion is created. When placing this illusion on a flat, two-dimensional material, like a canvas, a human’s eye is especially baffled and the individual is likely to see the painting from more than one perspective.

But not all optical illusions are works of art. When an artist strives to deliberately challenge an observer’s eye with this figure-ground relationship, op-art is the goal in mind. In fact, the foundational elements of creating an artistic illusion are simple lines and patterns. With the use of color, op-art expanded because it used certain colors to change how the retina perceived an overall image.

This did not happen until the mid 1900’s, even though many artists trained in the op-art technique showed interest in applying color to their contrasting figure-ground paintings much earlier. Artists like Josef Albers, Bridget Riley, and  Julian Stanczak were eager to implement this element. Some time after color was introduced to op-art, photographers also became determined to produce op-art, in black and white, and in color photographs.

Op-art photography became popular in the 1970’s. However, this form of digital manipulation (that became easier with technological developments) lacked the foundational elements most important to op-art: Lines and patterns. For quite some time there was not enough subject matter for photographers to produce artistic illusions; lines and patterns were much easier to paint than capture.

This simplicity is what makes op-art a stroke of genius. It cannot be overlooked that the founders of this art, German artists who studied constructivist philosophy, believed thought provoking art could positively influence society. At the school of Bauhaus, where op-art first originated, great thinkers like Josef Albers developed a new way of seeing the world; by looking on both sides of the same line.

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Sea Urchins have left the Beach to Inspire Art

Inspired by mythology, animals and Ernst Haeckel, Jennifer Maestre has created a beautiful, intricate and somewhat dangerous art design .

This talented artist builds 3-dimensional art with colored pencils. In fact, the South Africa native is internationally known for her creative use of these and other objects like beads, nails, and pins too.

Her color pencil designs are especially captivating because of her unique interpretation of familiar animals and plants seen in nature. She reveals how she builds the sculptures on her website. In short, she uses hundreds of pencils that are cut into 1-inch sections. Then she drills a hole in each piece, making them resemble beads. After sharpening the points she sews them together with a peyote stitch.

While this is all very interesting, there is another element to Jennifer Maestre’s art that is astounding: Her inspiration. In a statement about the sculptures, Maestre notes that the form and function of sea urchins sparked and fueled her idea. She talks about the paradox that exist between the beauty of a colorful sea urchin that invites an individual’s touch and the danger of the sharp points on its shell. With this in mind, she set out to create art with that same tension.

Maestre dose a wonderful job with this because sea urchins are dangerous yet alluring, and have sharp but beautiful shells. In fact, did you know that every ocean has sea urchins? They are known to travel in groups, with other sea urchins and those in the same echinoderm phylum family. This kin has a lot of room to move around ocean waters, considering they travel as low as 13,000 feet below sea level.

Visually speaking, the most catching characteristic of a sea urchin is its spiny shell. An interesting fact about these creatures is the name “Urchin,” which was once a common name for hedgehog. But the sea animal has dull colors and a globular form. This is makes for a clear distinction from the shrew.

In the same fashion, Jennifer Maestre’s pieces are quite different from her original source of inspiration.  Perhaps the reason why this is so, is because, as the artist says in her own words, “I’m inspired by animals, plants, other art, Ernst Haeckel, Odilon Redon, mythology. In fact, it isn’t easy to specify particular sources of inspiration. Sometimes one sculpture will inspire the next, or maybe I’ll make a mistake, and that will send me off in a new direction.”

Get a better view of Jennifer Maestre’s work on her website: www.jennifermaestre.com

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Colors Change What is Beautiful

What is beautiful? The term is a bit subjective, don’t you think? After all, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?

It most certainly is, but one undeniable quality about color is its ability to make all things beautiful!

This is why color-field painting, with its abstract merging of vivid colors, is responsible for some beautiful works of art.  In this post we will look at how color-field painting evokes emotions and has the ability to change an environment.

By now we know how color impacts art and also stirs emotion in people. Recent posts discuss color therapy, known as chromotherapy and the psychology of color, offering insight into how color can impact an individual.  As artists, we know the emotional impact art can have on us. Vivid colors can stir emotions and hold an observers heart once they pass.

Sometimes, color makes beautiful what was not beautiful before. This is the case of color-field painting; color, shape, composition, proportion, balance, style, and scale change a blank canvas into a brilliant work of art.

This style of art is very abstract and those who are best known for its development are considered Abstract Expressionists.  Color-field painting emerged in New York in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. It was a type of art inspired by European modernism and made popular by artists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

What sets color-field painting apart from other types of abstract art is the artist’s regard for paint.  With the main focus being color, shape, composition, proportion, balance, style, and scale, there is less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and consistent actions that create form and process.  In fact, the entire work of art is created by the artist who determines what elements he or she will add to convey a sense of place, atmosphere, or environment. In other words, what makes color-field painting beautiful, is its subjectivity.

Like most art, the beauty of color-field painting is in the eye of the beholder.  These colorful pieces are nice accents for decoration and fun to paint too! But don’t let the look of simplicity fool you.  This style is not easy to perfect and contrary to how it appears, cannot be replicated by a 6 year old!

Have you splashed your art palette with color today?  Try it and see how color changes what you see as beautiful.

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The Healing Power of Color (www.segmation.com)

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As an artist, you are probably aware of the effects that different colors can have on your state of mind and emotional well-being. In fact, in a past article we discussed the psychology of color and provided an overview of how each color can impact your mood.

In this article, we’ll take a look at color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, and how you can apply the basic principles of chromotherapy in your art.

Color therapy involves using, or meditating upon, specific colors to help you find balance and harmony, both inner and outer. There are many forms of color therapy, such as:

  • surrounding yourself with a color that represents characteristics that you feel are lacking in your life, to achieve balance
  • immersing yourself in a color that represents characteristics, or states of being, that you aspire to
  • using colors to “cleanse” your physical body and achieve physiological harmony (such as practiced in Chinese therapy)

While color therapy was once regarded as a New Age fad, today the effects of colors on a person’s mind, body and spirit are well-documented. Even commercial paint manufacturers recognize the connection; some offer a specific range of paint colors that are designed to promote healing and wellness.

To utilize the healing power of color in your art, you can create paintings or drawings based on specific colors to bring about a certain adjustment in your (or someone else’s) mental, emotional, or physical state of being. You can use a combination of colors to evoke a certain state of mind. Experiment with different patterns and compositions and take note of how the paintings affect you.

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