Art Journal 9

The second week of art class at the Art Students League of New York. I’ve signed up for a critique of my paintings tomorrow, Friday February 18. Looking forward to some good advice. I continue to work with oil paints, which I quite like, despite the slow pace of the work: often a day, two days, three days between stages to let the paint dry. I love the way one can blend and work color with oils.

The first painting below started out as something completely different, with large irregular areas in pastel colors. I didn’t like where it was going and so changed course completely, painting a few rectangles, then adding the vertical and horizontal lines. At this point it was still too static, so added some diagonal lines and started to bring out the triangular shapes. By this time, the second session, a structure had emerged, and I continued to work with it. Three or four sessions in all.

Untitled, oil on canvas 24×30 inches

In the painting below, I began with some large irregular areas of color, then began to add rectangles of color. At some point I added the horizontal and vertical lines. Clearly I was using lessons of the previous painting. One point of difference: left areas of white.

Untitled, oil on canvas 18×24

Art Journal 8

The first week of my art class with Peter Bonner at the Art Student League of New York. The class is on-line with student concentrated in the New York area but scattered everywhere. Peter spends the first hour of class discussing paintings — the majority abstract, but some from earlier times. He talks about what makes a painting work — value, rhythm, etc. Very valuable, both for looking at paintings and making one’s own. When paining, I spend a lot of time looking at what I’ve done so far, trying to figure out what is missing, what makes me uncomfortable, etc. Peter’s comments really help with that. He is both analytical and kind. A big range of ages, tending towards senior, with more women than men. Some really great work.

Interaction, Oil on canvas 24×30 inches

Untitled oil on canvas, 18×24 inches

Art Journal (6) Tracings


For this study I used the same sgrafitto technique as with #5, but with cool instead of warm colors and combining both Australian aboriginal symbols (meeting place, campsite/waterhole, human and kangaroo tracks, people sitting, spears) with images from a bubble chamber, where one sees tracks coming from the collision of 300 GeV proton in the 30 inch hydrogen bubble chamber at Fermilab (credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Art Journal (4) Matisse Study

Matisse Study

This was a study in using an existing image as a starting point. The goal was to have the figure barely emerge from the background. There are ten layers in this digital piece, all with varying degrees of opacity which I “tuned” by trial and error. Most layers are normal, but some have a non-trivial blending mode, e.g., multiply. A very partial success, but a good experiment and experience.

Art Journal (2) Rhomboidal Rain

January 20, 2022

Rhomboidal Rain

In this exercise I tried for much more value contrast, of which there was not so much in exercise #1. Also: both hard and soft edges, blended and unblended shapes. I think the final blended – unblended ratio is is out of balance. There should be more of the latter. The descending rhombus shapes, then the circles, were a late addition which finally made the composition come to life. (Made this with Procreate; need to try real paint soon).

Today, a big step forward: I signed up for a class at the Art Students League of New York: Bonner-Abstraction. Hope to learn lot.

Art Journal (1) Gravity’s Pull

January 19, 2022

This is the beginning an art journal for 2022. Getting serious for the new year!

Gravity’s Pull

Constructed using Procreate. (1) Sketched a few lines and shapes in blue pen, with a focus of small shapes near the center and larger elongated converging to the focus. (2) worked with color: lay down a first layer, some blending, then worked related colors into the base to make them richer and more varied.

Champagne and the Experimental Method

winebottleThere is a belief, common in France anyway, that the fizziness of an opened bottle of champagne can be preserved by placing a metal spoon, handle down, in the mouth of the bottle.  Both my wife and brother-in-law, both French, believe that this a sure way to better enjoy an opened bottle the next morning, or even the morning after that.

But is this belief true?  Examining it critically is an excellent, non-technical way of understanding the experimental method.  In brief, the method is a way of separating the possibly true from the definitely false.  We, as citizens, need to do this just as much as does the scientist in the laboratory.

So let’s have at it.  What arguments pro and con are there for the spoon-the-bottle hypothesis?  On the pro side of the ledger is that people I know and respect believe the hypothesis. Also in favor is that the belief is shared by many others, and has been around for a long time.  This is a version of the Argument from Authority.

What about the con side?  When I first heard about this use of a spoon — after half-finishing the second bottle of champagne with friends — I objected that “it just didn’t seem right.”  Pressed to explain, I questioned the mechanism: how could the spoon stop bubbles from forming in the liquid below, then escaping though the neck, passing around the spoon, which “obviously” did not form real barrier.

We argued back and forth, but these theoretical arguments failed to convince my drinking companions. To decide the issue, I proposed an experiment.  We would half-drink two more bottles of champagne so as to have three identical bottles, A, B, and C, then proceed a follows:  re-cork bottle A, put a spoon in the neck of bottle B, and do nothing to bottle C.  All would be placed in the refrigerator.  We would test the three bottles the next morning and for two mornings thereafter.

My proposal was accepted, and we set about preparing the experiment.  The next morning, not so many hours after putting the bottles in fridge, there was not much difference among the bottles.  I thought B and C were a bit stale, but my companions disagreed.  The next day there was a considerable difference, with bottles B and C definitely stale, definitely lacking in that bubbly tang.  B and C seemed equally stale. The day after it was clear to all: B and C were quite flat, while A retained its fizzyness.  The spoon had done nothing.

This little tale illustrates the essence of the experimental method in science: formulate a precise question, then design and carry out experiment to answer it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Simple, effective, and useful in everyday life.

One more thing

There is one more thing.  You do not have to accept my judgement of the spoon-in-the-bottle hypothesis.  Rather than accepting my authority, you can carry out the experiment yourself.  If you get the same results, or similar once, this confirms the hypothesis.  A good experiment is repeatable.