Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Kubla Khan

I thought this was a fitting post for a Blog revolving round my creative thought and inspiration...
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty mountain momently was forced :
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! 
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Yves Klein

The average steps taken to produce a piece of art...

I saw a post on somebody's Blogpage about this artist, Yves Klein and I had to check him out for myself. His style, although I have never envisaged them together, combines two aspects of my favourite styles of Art and the results are as I would have hoped had I pondered them...stunning! Having blogged furiously about my love for Life Drawing, as well as discussing my admiration for the work of Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock, Yves Klein's style has provided me with a perfect conclusion as my blog comes towards an end. I said in a comment I made on the post where I saw his work that it reminded me of "Mardi Gras meets Howard Hodgkin"! I havn't spoken about Hodgkin but I love his attitude to his canvas, so carefree and wild, yet the outcome seems structured and well thought out. Klein has the same grasp but instead of brushes or tin cans he uses naked women. It is odd, it is extraordinary, it is fun, it produces great results...it is great art. As I have stated before, I have always seen myself as a fairly traditional reviewer of art. I think it is just paint that I get a bit carried away with!

David Loftus Photography - What of the Subject?


I am not particularly passionate about photography, nor am I at all talented in the field. I know very little about it, other than what I do and do not like. There is obviously so much more to it and I am curious as to why people, who are well-informed on the subject, have their preferences and what counts. Obviously it is personal, much drawing and painting, but how does a photographer make a name for himself taking snaps of food?!

Because David Loftus has. Yes, he has taken many different genres (some examples above) but predominantly, it is his career as a food photographer that made his name. He has worked alongside Jamie Oliver for a few years now and it has been said that he makes "still life works of art, where the food is just begging to be picked off the page and eaten." Quite a compliment, I would say. And a true comment, I would add too, having looked at his work on his website (two tasty samples above). So basically, alongside magnificent photos of moments captured in the wild, enormous views or portraits, can pictures of lunch be the business?

NHM...Boring but worth a Blog.

I know it is a very old, traditional-style building but every time I drive past it it always takes my breath away. And my Great Grandfather helped lay the bricks so I also feel a hint of pride!

"Work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. The new museum opened in 1881, although the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883.

Both the interiors and exteriors of the Waterhouse building make extensive use of terracotta tiles to resist the sooty climate of Victorian London, manufactured by the Tamworth-based company of Gibbs and Canning Limited. The tiles and bricks feature many relief sculptures of flora and fauna, with living and extinct species featured within the west and east wings respectively. This explicit separation was at the request of Owen, and has been seen as a statement of his contemporary rebuttal of Darwin's attempt to link present species with past through the theory of natural selection.

The central axis of the museum is aligned with the tower of Imperial College London (formerly the Imperial Institute) and the Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial further north. These all form part of the complex known colloquially as Albertopolis."


Is Banksy Getting Old?

I saw my first Banksy the other day, at least I think I did. It was in Oxford City Centre and I know he has marauded around there before now to "decorate" the city streets. Obviously there are hundreds of copies and it is almost impossible to tell the difference if they are done well, but I just had a feeling that this one was genuine. It was a member of the 'Rat' collection and it was in a location that I am sure Banksy would have chosen. I don't think he would have missed this one, nor do I think a fraud would have discovered it instead. I could just visualise the hooded Banksy crouched down, casually making his mark down this crooked little alleyway. It wasn't hard to spot at all but you had to be lucky to see it. It was at an awkward angle to the direction people would be walking but clearly visible to anyone who takes a glance in the general direction.

I do like alot of his work and find some of it fascinating and amusing but recently I have met more critics than fans. I am beginning to think people are getting bored of Banksy's style and that maybe he is starting to feature more under the label of 'VANDALIZER' than "GRAFFITI ARTIST'? Does he need to step up his game and break another huge boundary, like his paintings on the Palestine/Israel Border Wall (below).

The question is...has Banksy got old?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Army Men Vs IEDs

I saw the other day that the US Army are proposing a new Ad Campaign focused on the threat of EIDs (Improvised Exploding Devices). They are now the number one threat to troops out in Afghanistan, killing 36 in the past month! That, to me, is a shocking statistic. 
"The over arching objective of this media and advertising campaign is to influence the Afghanistan people at all levels (strategic, operational and tactical) [that] will directly translate in the reduction of the number of IED devices used against the Afghanistan people and Coalitional Forces.” (Information Operations division of the Army’s Combined Joint Task Force 82). 
In order to make it more effective than previous campaigns they want to use locals as extras and even as the face of the campaign, for “religious and cultural subject matter expertise.” (General Stanley McChrystal)
I think this is a great idea but I don't think a dramatic action-packed advert is necessarily the answer. After a similar campaign in Iraq, Newsweek described the series of adverts as exploding cars, flying Matrix-style stuntmen and… messages like ‘Don’t Suicide Bomb.'" It is too obvious, too insensitive and lacks emotion and reality. It is interesting that they want to use local Afghani people as it will appeal to the Afghan public more. Good luck to them...

Shu Konishi

Konishi's work both disgusts and intrigues me...I don't know what to do when I see it. I find myself really enjoying his work, yet I cannot look at it for too long. Although this is only a small section of his work, his favoured subject matter is the naked female form and that is what initially grabbed my attention. Not because he creates realistic representations of breasts but that he finds it an appealing and successful basis for these works. I too, love to draw and sculpt the female form as it presents wonderful shape and tension, no matter what size the female is. His additional paint washes over the top make the pieces less mundane and realistic and, as a result, I personally think more successful (less weird).
I know nothing about this guy but he provides us with some bizarre artwork to look at.

Balyhoo Advertising

Another interesting example of creative typography that I saw whilst searching the web...

"Good Typography Is Invisible"...

Two Examples of Ambient Media

these examples, one for an IWC watch and the other for KitKat, demonstrate the opportunity ambient media provides and the creative humour you can create if you think outside that box...

Affecting the Subconscious...Subliminal Messaging

The idea of being able to influence somebody without them consciously knowing is undoubtedly intriguing. 

"The two most famous types of alleged subliminal messages are:

  • Spoken messages which are recorded backward onto a track that is meant to be played forward, called backmasking
  • Written messages which are quickly flashed during videos, sometimes called 25th frame"
These two examples are rather crude but they does demonstrate a very popular subject in subliminal messaging; sex.

"Used in advertising to create familiarity with new products, subliminal messages make familiarity into a preference for the new products. Johan Karremans suggests that subliminal messages have an effect when the messages are goal-relevant. Karremans did a study assessing whether subliminal priming of a brand name of a drink would affect a person’s choice of drink, and whether this effect is caused by the individual’s feelings of being thirsty.

His study sought to ascertain whether or not subliminally priming or preparing the participant with text or an image without being aware of it would make the partaker more familiar with the product. Half of his participants were subliminally primed with Lipton Ice ("Lipton Ice" was repeatedly flashed on a computer screen for 24 milliseconds), while the other half was primed with a control that did not consist of a brand. In his study he found that subliminally priming a brand name of a drink (Lipton Ice) made those who were thirsty want the Lipton Ice. Those who were not thirsty, however, were not influenced by the subliminal message since their goal was not to quench their thirst.

Subconscious stimulus by single words is well known to be modestly effective in changing human behavior or emotions. This is evident by a pictorial advertisement that portrays four different types of rum. The phrase "U Buy" was embedded somewhere, backwards in the picture. A study (Key, 1973) was done to test the effectiveness of the alcohol ad. Before the study, participants were able to try to identify any hidden message in the ad, none found any. In the end, the study showed 80% of the subjects unconsciously perceived the backward message, meaning they showed a preference for that particular rum. Though many things can be perceived from subliminal messages, only a couple words or a single image of unconscious signals can be internalized. As only a word or image can be effectively perceived, the simpler features of that image or word will cause a change in behavior (i.e., beef is related to hunger). This was demonstrated by Byrne in 1959. The word "beef" was flashed for several, five millisecond intervals during a sixteen-minute movie to experimental subjects, while nothing was flashed to controlled subjects. Neither the experimental nor controlled subjects reported for a higher preference for beef sandwiches when given a list of five different foods, but the experimental subjects did rate themselves as hungrier than the controlled subjects when given a survey. If the subjects were flashed a whole sentence, the words would not be perceived and no effect would be expected.

In 2007, to mark the 50th anniversary of James Vicary's original experiment, it was recreated at the International Brand Marketing Conference MARKA 2007. As part of the "Hypnosis, subconscious triggers and branding" presentation 1,400 delegates watched part the opening credits of the film PICNIC that was used in the original experiment. They were exposed to 30 subliminal cuts over a 90 second period. When asked to choose one of two brands 81% of the delegates picked the brand suggested by the subliminal cuts.

Studies in 2004 and 2006 showed that subliminal exposure to images of frightened faces or faces of people from another race will increase the activity of the amygdala in the brain and also increase skin conductance.

In 2007, it was shown that subliminal exposure to the Israeli flag had a moderating effect on the political opinions and voting behaviors of Israeli volunteers. This effect was not present when a jumbled picture of the flag was subliminally shown. "

Parson School of Design, New York

I have an interest in Interior Design, yet know very little about it. I also have very limited experience and I am keen to get some...
"With an eye to understanding design and the design process for habitation, this course will examine the tools, methods, and aesthetic considerations of interior design. For those seeking to explore the multiple components that make up the interior, this experience will serve as a comprehensive overview of the field. Students spend a large portion of class time in the studio, developing spatial solutions and learning the methods designers use to express their ideas, such as drawing and model-making. Studio work is supplemented by weekly on-site visits and lectures. Please note: This is not an interior decoration course. While decorative components are carefully considered, the primary focus is on the design process and designing complete environments."

"Venus Pudica"

Expulsion of Adam and Eve by Masaccio, 1422-26

Birth of Venus by Botticelli, (c.1485)

I adore this highly renowned pose in Renaissance art and sculpture. Whether reclined or standing, the female form is presented in such a delicate, modest fashion. This relates to my passion for life drawing (earlier post) and this trend from the Renaissance created a visually pleasing pose that I cannot get enough of drawing. A smooth sway flows through the female form and it was depicted best in these works when women's "rolls" were portrayed in all their glory! As they should be...

The Gherkin, London City

It's an impressive vision, protruding high out of the City landscape. A fantastic piece of architecture too and almost an optical illusion, seeing as there is only ONE piece of curved glass in the entire construction. The piece at the very top! 

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Shawshank Redemption

A film that needs no introduction. I felt this film for a while after having seen it. The plot from Stephen King is very moving and the acting from Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins is second-to-none. It is huge credit to King and the rest that it has finally been transported to the stage, in London's West End. I am yet to see it but I defintiely intend to.

National Portrait Gallery

I always enjoy venturing through the NPG when I am in London with time to kill. Recently I was walking through when I came across a portrait of a family friend of mine. It was very odd seeing such a familiar face mounted on a prestigious gallery wall. The artist, Elena Baranoff said she wanted to "capture his ‘elegance and ability to engage the audience’ through gesture and gaze." I think she has, well done Mark.

Euan Uglow

I like Uglow's work very much, and not just because of his preferred subject matter (see last post). He has a very basic, bold style of painting where he concentrates on shadows and perfect form. I love the precise nature of his work and he often accentuates a linear aspect to the round form of the naked body. The poses are very beculiar and unnatural too, which suggests he has chosen them because they provide the best shadow and most interesting curves and lines to daw or paint. His work seems rough, almost unfinshed but it is still very accurate and I love the outcome this provides.

Any kind of Life Drawing...

It doesn't matter what medium is used, what style it is, which gender is drawn, I am passionate about life drawing. I am particularly interested in charcoal, such as the female torso directly above. I haven't done it properly for a couple of years but I am very keen to get back into it. I find nothing more artistically satisfying than drawing/moulding/carving out the human form. A two minute sketch or an hour...I don't know why it is but I honestly look no further in a gallery if there is life drawings mounted on the wall.


Did you know that 1 in 10 Europeans are conceived in an Ikea bed?

Shell Logo

I always used to admire the Shell logo but never really gave any thought to it's history as there is no obvious tie between a shell and a service station. So I vaguely looked into it a while ago to understand the very basic history but here is the entire plot, quoted from the Shell website. I thin k it's very interesting as it is undoubtedly one of the most renowned logo's in this day and age, yet nobody knows why:

Exploring the Origins

"The choice of a shell as an emblem was not surprising, as it was the company name. Also, each of Samuel’s tankers carrying kerosene to the Far East had been named after a different seashell. But why specifically was the scallop or Pecten chosen as the company’s symbol in 1904? It was certainly not the simplest shape to reproduce in printed form.
There is some evidence that the Shell emblem was taken from his family coat of arms. The ‘St James’s Shell’ had been adopted by the Graham family after their ancestors made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Whatever its origins, the original design was a reasonably faithful reproduction of the Pecten or scallop shell.
The form of the Shell emblem has changed gradually over the years in line with trends in graphic design. The current emblem was created by the great designer Raymond Loewy and introduced in 1971. Thirty years on it stands the test of time as one of the world’s most recognised symbols."

Why red and yellow?

"The exact origins of the Shell red and yellow are hard to define. True, Samuel and Company first shipped kerosene to the Far East in tin containers painted red. But the link, once again, could be with Spain.
In 1915, when the Shell Company of California first built service stations, they had to compete against other companies. Bright colours were the solution, but colours that would not offend the Californians. Because of the state’s strong Spanish connections, the red and yellow of Spain were chosen.
As with the Pecten, the actual colours have been modified over the years, most notably in 1995 when a bright, fresh and very consumer friendly new Shell Red and Shell Yellow were introduced to launch Shell’s new retail visual identity. The Shell emblem - or Pecten - remains one of the greatest brand symbols in the 21st Century."

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The most moving book I have ever read, by far. It doesn't take long to read but it hits you hard. It is a translation of a french memoir by journalist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, describing his life after a stroke that left him completely paralysed. When he awoke from his coma his only movement was his left eyebrow. Through a clever method using the number of blinks to match each letter of the alphabet, he wrote this detailed account of his life both before and after. The average word took about two minutes to write! Throuhgout the book I could not understand Bauby's patience with his life, considering what it had thrown at him and the patience of those who helped him write this unbelievable account of a shocking yet incredible situation.

"St Mary of the Flower", Florence

Vasari frescoes inside the dome

The view over Florence

Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo, is one of the most magnificent constructions I have visited. Built in the early 13th Century, the vast dome defies so many "architectural rules of thumb" and now stands as the largest masonry dome in the world. The view it offers over Florence is fantastic too.
It withholds so much history too and, having studied the complex's history at school, I felt very privileged to stand on the site where Brunelleschi and Ghiberti battled it out in the 'Competition of the Baptistry Doors'.
The Baptistry itself is beautiful. The ornate detail that cover the facade from head to toe and the colour and elegance of each individual portal is extraordinary. This is probably my favourite building in the world.