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Showing posts from October, 2008

TALENT WHICH IS DEATH TO HIDE

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In 1655, the great English poet John Milton wrote in despair how, halfway through life, his blindness prevented him from fulfilling his god given talent:
When I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account...
If he couldn't make maximum use of his gift, Milton felt he would not be able to present a "true acount" of himself to his maker. 

Beethoven, too, was tormented because the gods who gifted him with genius perversely thwarted him from achieving his full potential.  Robbed of his hearing midway through life, Beethoven despaired over his inability to use his gifts. 

The artist Noel Sickles was not able to use his own talent when he worked as a ghost artist for the comic strip Scorchy Smith. He had to conceal his ability in order to earn a steady living imitating the awful drawings of cart…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

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NOEL SICKLES, ZEN MASTER

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Those of you who are sick and tired of hearing how much I love the drawings of Noel Sickles are in luck, because today I'm going to talk about how much I love his paintings instead.

Sickles was one of the best natural-born draftsmen around. He earned the respect of his fellow artists for his almost supernatural ability to understand and draw what he saw.



Although Sickles is respected for his drawing, a recent excellent collection of his work reminds us that Sickles also painted with the wisdom and control of a zen master.

Zen painters believed in long, slow meditation before a brush touches the paper. Only after the artist understands the essence of the subject and reduces it to its most profound simplicity does the artist proceed to paint--quickly, decisively and with the minimum number of brush strokes. The following enso is a classic image for ink brush painters: a circle painted in a single breath, accompanied by vigorous and confident calligraphy.



I admire how Asian brush paintin…
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Mike. Charcoal and white carbothello pencil on strathmore charcoal paper. . .
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Here's a color rough and the finished scene painted in acrylic for the animated film The Road to El Dorado (2000).Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

PICTURES OF SOMEPLACE ELSE

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Last week's story about Martha Sawyers reminded me that many women's magazines in those days lured readers with tales of romance on a tropical island.







Here we see an uninhibited island girl inviting a western dignitary in for a dip:



Thousands of housewives in places like Kansas and Ohio turned regularly to Redbook, Cosmopolitan and similar magazines for stories of love under a tropical moon. These women never travelled overseas-- in fact, many would never travel more than a few miles from home. Their fate was to raise their children, cook, clean and manage the household. If they were lucky, they found a chance to express themselves once a week in the church choir.



Here we see how the tropical moon magically unleashes the inhibitions of American girls.



Perhaps in another lifetime these housewives might skinny dip under a lotus scented bower while brilliantly plumed songbirds trilled soft praises to their beauty. But in this life, Redbook was as close as they would ever come.

These i…
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Photoshop roughs.
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MARTHA SAWYERS (1902-1988)

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If you graduated from high school in Cuero, Texas during the 1920s you could look forward to a long career working at one of the local turkey farms. Martha Sawyers sized up the situation and decided instead to run for her life.

She packed a bag and made her way to New York City where she took classes at the Art Students League and supported herself doing theatrical illustrations. But Sawyers wasn't done running.

Late at night in her small apartment she read stories about the exotic islands of the south Pacific and resolved to see them with her own eyes. She saved enough money to book passage on a slow Dutch freighter headed for the south seas. The ship steamed around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean, and with each new port Sawyers became more entranced by the sounds and colors and cultures. When the freighter arrived at the island of Bali, she decided to stay. She quit the ship and rented a small place on the beach looking out across the Straits of Bali.
The first nights a…