Tuesday, 2 March 2021

100 clay pots in 100 days by Anna Whitehouse

Pottery is back in vogue at the moment thanks to TV shows like The Great Pottery Showdown and Grayson's Art Club. And we do have some amazing potters here in the UK. 

Back in January 2018 UK-based ceramicist Anna Whitehouse set herself a goal to create a new bottle each day for 100 days. By limiting herself to a single form, she was able to stretch her creativity to formulate new designs previously unexplored in her practice. Each white ceramic bottle was uniformly shaped, but the designs she created on the surface differed each day. Some bottles were punctured with tiny repetitive holes, while others were covered in leaf-like applications or floral motifs.
'I tried pressing and scraping any tool I could get my hands on into the clay,' Whitehouse explains. 'From my standard clay tools to pen lids, tweezers, scissors, and even a string of beads! I also started making my own tools from bits of broken pen, wire, and aluminum to create particular marks.' 

The artist compares the 100-day-long exercise to journaling or filling a sketchbook, as each new object was like a brand new sketch that could be learned from for the next day. 'I’ve kept the work unglazed, like white pages from a sketchbook, highlighting the mark making through the contrast created by shadows,' she says. 

After the completion of her project Whitehouse created a 'clay calendar' which you can visit on her website here. The interactive portfolio outlines each bottle she made from January 1st to April 10th 2018 and includes her unique titles which are based on something that happened during the day they were made.
Her website is here and you can see more of her creations on her Instagram page too.

Yinka Shonibare's global mannequins

Through life-sized sculptures, artist Yinka Shonibare CBE considers the grasp of colonialism and its lasting effects on modern conceptions of identity. Each faceless figure is in the midst of an action, presented shooting a mass of cherry blossoms from a rifle, lumbering forward with a hefty mesh sack, or balancing a towering stack of cakes. Evocatively posed, the figures are topped with globes and astronaut helmets, which simultaneously gestures toward movement in the form of travel and exploration while obscuring individual identities.
Known for using patterned textiles across mediums, the British-Nigerian artist outfits his surreal sculptures with Batik fabrics, which have a history rooted in colonialism. Originally practiced in Southeast Asia, the wax-dyeing method was adopted by the Dutch, who commercially produced the patterned textiles and sold them to West African colonies. Since the 1960s, the vibrant fabric has come to signal African independence and identity.
His website is here

His Artsy site is here and his Instagram is here.

The exquisite paper art of Calvin Nicholls

Paper is an underrated medium but, in the hands of someone as skilled as Calvin Nicholls, it can sometimes transcend ink and paint and clay. His sculptural forms are meticulously crafted from small pieces of white paper. When viewed up-close, their texture resembles the fullness of a wintery landscape, but in full form, the Canadian artist’s animals are so vivid that they appear as though they could leap, fly, and spring out of the canvas. Nicholls seamlessly examines and sculpts every detail of an animal’s body, from the difference in plume texture in doves to the strained muscles of a giraffe to the intoxicating stare of a tiger stalking its prey.
Every work is crafted from archival cotton paper that prevents yellowing and fading. Nicholls uses minuscule amounts of glue to secure the individual pieces, employing knives and texturing tools to precisely sculpt each delicate part. For the artist, crafting fur and feathers are equally challenging, and how long a piece will take is difficult to predict. 'The largest sculptures I’ve done require several hundreds of hours while the more modest pieces keep me busy for two or more weeks,' he says. 'Familiarity with the subject is a big factor as well. My love of birds often propels me through pieces much faster than when sculpting subjects with (an) emphasis on musculature and structure.' 

Nicholls’s fascination with paper as a medium stems from graphic design classes in college, in addition to later collaborations with a colleague. These experiences further forged his interest in experimenting with various materials and papers that he had become familiar with through the graphics trade.
His website is here.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

The insanely detailed artwork of Ikeda Manabu

The task of Japanese artist Ikeda Manabu is seemingly impossible: a blank paper canvas larger than a person spread before him, a small acrylic pen in his hand, and hundreds of days to fill with faintly imperceptible progress from a mind brimming with explosive creativity. Manabu works in areas measuring roughly 4″ square, spending eight hours a day, often for years, on a single drawing that can eventually dominate an entire wall. Traditional Japanese architecture clashes with giant mangled tree roots, while swarms of birds and fish dart through the water or atmosphere in a complete visual cacophony that somehow results in a single cohesive image. The most unbelievable aspect being that Manabu has no idea what the final artwork will look like, but instead explores each work organically from day to day as he progresses inch by inch.
While Ikeda sketches broad details in pencil on the canvas beforehand, he primarily works with pen and acrylic ink using various forms of cross-hatching and brushwork to fill areas so dense with details, the true nature of the artwork isn’t revealed until staring at it from only a few inches away. Mountains of vehicles, gnarled tree branches, and train tracks sit tangled at the base of a tree, and flower blooms comprised of umbrellas and emergency tents fill the sky above. Everywhere a collision of humankind and nature, for better or worse. 'My goal is to faithfully express my view of the world in my composition, but I don’t intentionally depict detailed images,' he says. 'Because I see details when I observe things, rather than the whole, I find pen and ink to be the best tools to express how I see them.'
No website as such but there is a great film by Clayton Adams on Vimeo here that shows the artist at work. 

And there's a short YouTube video of his work here that gives you a real sense of the scale of his paintings.

J C Leyendecker - the man who made the magazines

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 – 1951) was a German-American illustrator and is considered to be one of the preeminent American illustrators of the early 20th century. He is best known for his poster, book and advertising works, the trade character known as The Arrow Collar Man, and his numerous covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Between 1896 and 1950, Leyendecker painted more than 400 magazine covers. 

During the Golden Age of American Illustration, Leyendecker produced 322 covers for The Saturday Evening Post alone,  as well as many advertisement illustrations for its interior pages. No other artist, until the arrival of Norman Rockwell two decades later, was so solidly identified with one publication and it is said that he 'virtually invented the whole idea of modern magazine design.'

J C 'Joe' Leyendecker was born in Montabaur, a tiny village 18km east of the Rhine, and, with his family, emigrated to America in 1882. Settling in Chicago, he began work at an engraving firm - J Manz & Company - upon leaving school. He sought formal artistic training at the school of the Chicago Art Institute. After studying drawing and anatomy under John H Vanderpoel, he and younger brother Frank then enrolled in the Académie Julianin Paris for a year, where they were exposed to the work of Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Chéret, and also Alphonse Mucha, a leader in the French Art Nouveau movement. 

They returned to the USA in 1899 and set up residence in an apartment in Hyde Park, Illinois. They had a studio in Chicago's Fine Arts Building at 410 South Michigan Ave. On May 20 of that year, Joe received his first commission for a Saturday Evening Post cover – the beginning of his forty-four-year association with the most popular magazine in the country. In 1900, Joe, Frank, and their sister Mary moved to New York City, then the centre of the US commercial art, advertising and publishing industries. During the next decade, both brothers began lucrative long-term working relationships with apparel manufactures including Interwoven Socks, Hartmarx, B Kuppenheimer & Co., and Cluett Peabody & Company. The latter resulted in Leyendecker's most important commission when he was hired to develop a series of images of the Arrow brand of shirt collars. Leyendecker's Arrow Collar Man, as well as the images he later created for Kuppenheimer Suits and Interwoven Socks, came to define the fashionable American male during the early decades of the twentieth century. 

Leyendecker often used his life partner Charles Beach as his model. Of course, they never made the nature of their relationship public as homosexuality was illegal back then but it was an open secret and he and Beach were together for decades, Beach outliving him. Without question, Leyendecker excelled at depicting male homosocial spaces (locker rooms, clubhouses, tailoring shops etc.) and extraordinarily handsome young men in curious poses or exchanging glances.
In 1914, the Leyendeckers, accompanied by Charles Beach, moved into a large home and art studio in New Rochelle, New York, where Joe would reside for the remainder of his life. The 1920s were in many ways the apex of Leyendecker's career, with some of his most recognisable work being completed during this time. Modern advertising had come into its own, with Leyendecker widely regarded as among the preeminent American commercial artists. 

This popularity extended beyond the commercial, and into Leyendecker's personal life, where he and Charles Beach hosted large galas attended by people of consequence from all sectors. The parties they hosted at their New Rochelle home/studio were important social and celebrity making events. Due to his fame, Leyendecker was able to indulge in a very luxurious lifestyle which in many ways embodied the mood of the Roaring Twenties. However, when commissions began to wane in the 1930s, he was forced to curtail spending considerably. While Beach often organised the social gatherings that Leyendecker was known for in the 1920s, he apparently also contributed largely to Leyendecker's social isolation in his later years. Beach reportedly forbade outside contact with the artist in the last months of his life. By the time of his death, Leyendecker had let all of the household staff at his estate go, with he and Beach attempting to maintain the extensive estate themselves.
Leyendecker's last cover for the Saturday Evening Post was of a New Year Baby for January 2, 1943, thus ending the artist's most lucrative and celebrated string of commissions. New commissions continued to filter in, but slowly. Among the most prominent were posters for the United States Department of War, in which Leyendecker depicted commanding officers of the armed forces encouraging the purchases of bonds to support the nation's efforts in World War II. 

Leyendecker died at home on July 25th 1951 and left a tidy estate equally split between his sister and Beach.