Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain
Watercolour, ink and crayon
©2011 Charlene Brown

My first painting of this spectacular water feature at the Peterhof Palace was done in 2007 just after we returned from a Baltic Cruise. I never liked that painting, completed while every detail was fresh in my memory, so decided to try it again in a much looser style.  I’m happier with this version, but, like most of my ‘abstracting’ attempts, it has even more detail than the original!
The large Samson Fountain was placed in the pool at the base of the Grand Cascade in the 1730s. It depicts the moment when Samson tears open the jaws of a lion, representing Russia's victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, and is doubly symbolic. The lion is an element of the Swedish coat of arms, and one of the important victories of the was with Sweden took place on St Samson's Day. From the lion's mouth shoots a 20-metre-high vertical jet of water.  Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another twentieth century flashback

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Watercolour and ink
©1997 Charlene Brown

Unlike my other ‘twentieth century flashback’ paintings, this shows a location I’ve never actually visited. It is part of an ‘alphabet of art’ I did for the Khaleej Times youth magazine, and it represents the letter ‘U’ – can you guess why? 
Here’s part of the text that accompanied the painting.
U is for Umayyad architecture. The Umayyads were the earliest dynasty of Islam. Their first major monument of Islamic architecture was the spectacular Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is, according to Muslim tradition, the place from which the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) ascended into heaven.
The Umayyads also built the Great Mosque in Damascus and many beautiful palaces throughout their empire, which extended from central India to the Atlantic. Traces of about fifty of these, with their mosques and majlis, have been found, mainly in Jordan.
In 750 AD, the Ummayyads were driven out of Damascus, but escaped to Spain, where they built hundreds of mosques of which the most important was the spectacular Grand Mosque of Cordoba.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Virtual Paintout in Cape Town

Table Mountain from Leeukloof Drive
Watercolour and ink
© 2011 Charlene Brown
The Virtual Paintout  is in the spectacular city of CapeTown this month. I was there once, about 14 years ago, and I remember a couple of places that have great views of Table Mountain… My first choice was the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront – but when I tried that on Google Streetview, I found the same problem I wrote about when the Virtual Paintout was in the Czech Republic  – sometimes the most picturesque locations are pedestrian areas, inaccessible to the Google cameras. So I tried the top of Signal Hill, but discovered that road had been filmed on a day the misty ‘Tablecloth’ had descended right to the base of the mountain! Nearby Leeukloof Drive was done on a much nicer day. Here’s the link to it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Making Art with Impact: Step 5

Designing art posters: Step 5
InDesign documents, with lettering, computer-painting, collage, annotated illustrations
©2011 Charlene Brown

Step 5: Give your ‘solutions’ to the objectives posed in Step 1 names. Remember it doesn’t have to be obvious how these things are going to work.
If you think the name isn’t poetic enough, try this unique method of transforming words. Use the Language tools in Google to translate a phrase into French, then German or Russian or maybe Japanese, then back into English. Sometimes you get your original phrase, and sometimes you get something much more profound!
The following names have been added to the poster series:

  1. design new forms of transportation:  gyro-maglev (the ‘bootstrap’ (or crack-pot) concept of magically holding itself up, might need some work)
  2. solve ‘new technology’ problems:  wind storage
  3. solve ‘old technology’ problems: Two wrongs making a right (I decided not to use the Google translation, via Japanese, of ‘Two mistakes, please turn right’ to describe this solution which turns a problem situation into an advantage)
  4. stop ruining the environment: cleanish coal (this poster background illustration is not meant to imply that coal-based operations could be located in National Parks)
  5. find a new source of power: space-based panels

The ‘solutions’ to 2, 4 and 5 have been incorporated into the ‘work in progress’ Energy Conversion Matrix in Lateral Thinking, Creativity and Invention.
You may recall the purpose of this poster project was to design posters that would make you think, by starting with unsolved problems, or puzzles with no answers.  In a similar vein, 1200 Posters  is a year-long poster series by Big New Ideas that describes itself as ‘speaking to the power of community, collaboration, and conversation.’ Have a look at it. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Making Art with Impact: Step 4

Designing art posters: Step 4
InDesign documents, with lettering, computer-painting, collage, annotated illustrations
©2011 Charlene Brown

Step 4: Transform the diagram.
Make it bigger or smaller, reverse or invert it by mirroring the image, take something out, combine two diagrams etc. whatever it takes to fit it into the poster.
Add annotations. This will incorporate another one of the contrasts between regular posters and art posters. In a regular poster, illustration labels would be succinct; whereas illustrations in an art poster can be annotated with as many of the pieces accumulated in Step 2 as can be fitted in. I had to steer myself away from putting together a montage, in which all the bits are more or less readable.  What I really wanted was a collage, which I think is more suitable for this concept of introducing relatively random ideas…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making Art with Impact: Step 3

Designing art posters: Step 3
InDesign documents, with lettering, computer-painting, collage, annotated illustrations
©2011 Charlene Brown

Step 3: Compose a very simple outline diagram of a possible solution.
This could be based on a few of the ‘labels’ identified in Step 2.  I’ve used an old-fashioned ‘typewriter’ font for these labels.  I started with another very appealing font that looked as if it was silk-screened, but it faded into some of the backgrounds… Perhaps I’ll use it in the next step where I add more detail, which doesn’t all have to be easily read.  
If you can’t think of what a solution might look like, try a Google Image search on any of the terms you have listed… but limit yourself to, say, five lines or shapes, so you won’t be tempted to just copy a design.
These diagrams were done in crayon on square-ruled paper.  I like the ‘look’ this produces, and the grid provides straight lines (always helpful) and facilitates scale drawings.
You can probably see where I’m going with these labeled first drafts…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Making Art with Impact: Step 2

Designing art posters: Step 2
InDesign documents with lettering, posterized computer-painting, collage
©2011 Charlene Brown

Step 2: Introduce some secondary objectives and possibilities or even tangential ideas.
Find new words in the three E’s – Energy Economics and Environment – from Lateral Thinking, Creativity and InventionThe additions to the poster shown here are collages of words from two sections of that page, ‘Economic Considerations’ and the ‘Alphabet of Green Tech.’  In compiling the patterns to be collaged, I used a stylized font that is quite structured and makes the letters look like they’re part of a form rather than individual words.
Continue Google Search, introducing these tangential objects, ideas and directions, and pick out additional words and phrases from the search results.  In the next step, you’ll be drawing a diagram of a ‘solution’ to the problem or objective you stated in Step 1.
  • Here are just a few of the fairly random words, phrases, opinions etc. that came up in the searches on the first objective, ‘design new forms of transportation’… solar planes, airships, blimp, unstable, segway, space elevator, magnetic levitation, linear synchronous motor, vertical lifting force + Bernoulli’s Principle = bootstrap>closed container propulsion, flying saucer, amusing spectacle, not terribly impressive, joke
Consider which of these could be labels on a diagram.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Making Art with Impact: Step 1

Designing art posters: Step 1
InDesign documents with lettering and posterized computer-painting
©2010 Charlene Brown

This project will use a series of environmental posters to illustrate each of five steps in poster design. These steps correspond to the process I’ve described in more detail on a new blog page, Lateral Thinking, Creativity and Invention.  You can have a look at this more detailed outline – or you can just start reading about how to put together an art poster.

Step 1: Print the title, or main idea of the poster. This should be attention-getting and clear in the case of regular posters, and attention-getting but perhaps a little ambiguous for art posters. This will apply to my posters, which are statements of problems or puzzles without answers…yet.  Here are my five titles.

  • design new forms of transportation
  • solve ‘new technology’ problems
  • solve ‘old technology’ problems
  • stop ruining the environment
  • find a new source of power

Do a Google search on each of these titles and pick up additional words and phrases from the results.
Although the lettering on art posters is often hand-drawn, I haven’t done mine by hand, but picked a whimsical hand-drawnish font I found at 1001 Free Fonts.  Have a look there – it’s a great website.  And they are free. Not surprisingly, they’ve also got 10,000 fonts they want you to pay for…

Add some background illustration, appropriate to the theme.  I’ve used posterized versions of the computer-painted landscapes on my March 2 Introduction poster. Posterization of an image entails conversion of continuous gradations of tone to a limited number of value levels and colours, with abrupt changes from one to the next.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Poster Project

Art with Impact
InDesign document, with lettering and computer-abstracted landscapes
©2011 Charlene Brown

The project, which begins next week, will show the steps involved in designing art posters. Solving environmental problems will be the theme of this series.
The purpose of posters is to get people’s attention and deliver a clear, concise message. They are used for advertising events or products, spreading propaganda or protest, and can be motivational and inspirational, or even straight-up educational.
A poster in one of these categories is easily readable, with a straightforward quickly understood message, and no extraneous words or illustrations… much like this one on the left.
But sometimes posters are supposed to make you think, and are intended as art…  Art posters are not easily read, may be ambiguous, and may contain all sorts of apparently extraneous stuff. The posters I put together next week will be art posters. They will be built on the landscape paintings shown here, all of which relate to environmental impacts such as disappearing ice and wildlife habitat.  

A little historical info about posters:  The modern poster dates back to 1870 when the printing industry perfected color lithography and made mass production possible. Popular poster printing styles have ranged from Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Cubism, and Art Deco to the more formal Bauhaus. In the case of art posters, the printing is not so formal, or even coherent, and is often hand-drawn.
The poster as an art form only began to be considered worthy of collection about a hundred years ago, when the Victoria & Albert began compiling their international collection of then-current and earlier, Industrial Revolution-derived examples. Though a Musée moderne de l’Affiche illustrée to preserve this important development in art was proposed in Paris in 1899, this didn’t come into being for many years. It is now the Musée de Publicité in the Louvre. More recently, many people have begun collecting and selling posters, and some famous posters have become quite valuable.