It has long been suspected that some of the old masters may have relied on optical devices such as the camera lucida to help with scale and proportion in their paintings, leading to more lifelike interpretations of landscapes and portraits. Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor and computer graphics specialist, became obsessed with one such painter: Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, who created such realistic paintings that they seemed to have more in common with photography than paint. Could Vermeer have created a system for replicating scenes in front of him using lenses and mirrors?
Jenison embarked on an experiment to recreate one of Vermeer’s most famous paintings, The Music Lesson. It’s an obsession that would consume five years of his life involving the actual construction of the entire room seen in the painting down to the most minute details, the (re)invention of a 17-century optical technology using period-appropriate tools and materials, and then seven months spent painting.
The entire endeavor was filmed and turned into a documentary titled Tim’s Vermeer, the trailer of which you can see above. The film began its theatrical run in January, but just became available as a Blu-ray combo pack and digital download today. Jenison also wrote a detailed article about the entire step-by-step process that was published yesterday on Boing Boing.
Philadelphia artist Kim Alsbrooks recreates historial oil portraits on flattened beers cans and fast food containers. Titled “My White Trash Family” the series was conceived while Alsbrook was living in the south and found herself grappling with prevailing ideas of class. She shares via a statement about the project:
The White Trash Series was developed while living in the South out of frustration with some of the prevailing ideologies, in particular, class distinction. This ideology seems to be based on a combination of myth, biased history and a bizarre sentimentality about old wars and social structures. With the juxtaposition of the portraits from museums, once painted on ivory, now on flattened trash like beer cans and fast food containers, the artist sets out to even the playing field, challenging the perception of the social elite in today’s society.
Filmmaker Jesse Brass recently caught up with Alsbrook to interview her for his Making Art series. Watch it above.
Our friends over at the Sketchbook Project recently launched their latest global art endeavor, the Pen Pal Painting Exchange. Based on criteria you provide, the project pairs you with a like-minded artist and you’re both provided with a pre-gessoed 4″ x 4″ canvas, a custom canvas bag, and loose guidelines. After finishing the artwork, the paintings are then swapped in the mail. The first theme, “flight,” proved wildly successful, and the next theme, “classic,” is up for registration through September 1st.
When looking at Swiss painter Conrad Jon Godly’s mountainous paintings, it takes a moment to truly appreciate the incredible skill behind what seems to be such an effortless application of paint. Up close the landscapes appear to be a thick, almost random mix of blue, white and black, the result oils mixed with turpentine to create a thick impasto that Godly often leaves dripping from the canvas. Take a few steps back (or just squint your eyes a bit) and miraculously you might as well be looking at a photograph of the Swiss Alps. It’s a visual trick that the artist has perfected in both small and large-scale paintings over the last few years.
Godly studied as a painter at the Basel School of Art from 1982 until 1986, but then worked as a professional photographer for 18 years. He only returned to painting in 2007 and it would seem his photographic work has had a subtle influence on his abstract painting. The artist most recently had exhibitions at Gallery Luciano Fasciati and Tony Wuethrich Gallery in Switzerland, and you can see many more paintings on his website. (via OEN, A Wash of Black)
Born in Hanoi, artist Phan Thu Trang paints decorative landscapes inspired by images of the city and Northern villages of Vietnam. In her colorful yet minimalistic paintings she works with limited colors and textures, focusing on only bare essentials to create each piece centered around billowing, pointillistic trees. See more of her work over at ArtBlue Studio in Singapore, and if you enjoyed these also check out Lieu Nguyen Huong Duong. (via Art of Animation)
Equally versatile in medium, canvas, and subject matter, Spanish artist Pejac seems comfortable working on the smallest drawing to the largest outdoor mural. While his ideas and motivations are often crystal clear, it is his minimalism and subtractive techniques that make his work truly stand out. His figures are often rendered only in silhouette or fine lines and familiar patterns like bricks or the folds of the human brain are transformed into flocks of birds or the branches of trees.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
Inspired in part by the 8-bit graphics of old Atari and Nintendo video games from his youth, artist Adam Lister paints quirky watercolor interpretations of pop culture icons, art world happenings, and famous paintings. Trying to describe his style can be difficult as it’s not quite digital and it’s not quite Cubism (though maybe it’s a tad Etch A Sketch?). While all of Lister’s works are distinctly humorous, many are also strangely nostalgic, recalling moments from the recent past including comic book characters, Star Wars references, and even numerous interpretations of iconic TV painter Bob Ross.