Art = Math

Pythagoras and Plato

A musical message in the works of Plato?


Michelangelo’s Brain

Concealed Neuroanatomy in Michelangelo’s Separation of Light From Darkness in the Sistine Chapel

pLog Pith

pLog Pith IV

Da Vinci tells us to take a 2 dimensional surface and make it 3 dimensional.

Modernism took a 2 dimensional surface and made it 1 dimensional.



More V for Vermilion & the “Beads on a Duck’s Back”

I just spoke with the Michael Harding himself.  First impression: a  most affable and generous gentleman.  Here’s what I asked… and what I’ve learned.  Note: I’m paraphrasing our conversation.  I would hate to try and quote him only to have someone call him and say “but I read some where that you said the following blah, blah, blah.”  He actually says quite a lot on his own website, so go there to get the words direct from the horse’s mouth.

Q: How quick will smudging the Vermilion kill me?
A: As with anything toxic, avoid contact.  The key thing with Vermilion (Mercuric Sulphide) is to avoid ingestion.  Skin MIGHT be enough of a barrier… but I’m thinking of using what I’m inclined to call a “finger condom” to see if the reduction of touch greatly affects my manipulation of edge.

Q: What to do about “beading”?  (This is what happens when you try and apply paint with your medium and it doesn’t stick… but instead looks like beads of water on a duck’s back.)
A:  Try cutting an onion and rubbing it on the surface.  Will do!  This response amused me as I have lately been using a potato.  The potato has seemed to work, but I am as yet undecided on the quality of surface it leaves.  (Note to self: just used it on the early stages of “Delfina.”)  If the onion doesn’t do it, Mr. Harding suggests the application of an egg yolk, only the yellow part; pass from hand to hand in order to remove the white part of the yolk.

Q: Is there a genuine odorless turp that I can use?
A: He mentioned W&N Sansodor, but by no means was it a mark of approval.  He noted that anytime you depart from the real thing, you’ve compromised the substance.  I have Sansodor… but no little about it.  Will research further.

Our discussion ended on color.  For flesh tones he suggested I try the Vermilion with a Yellow Ochre Deep (a semi-transparent color), and any lead white.  He also mentioned his Trans Red Oxide.  Final note on Vermilion: he says despite rumors, he has not had any success in “blackening” the Vermilion, i.e., it is his belief that it is a stable color.


V for Vermilion

Much to my delight, it arrived yesterday: Michael Harding’s “Genuine Chinese Vermilion”.  I never knew a 40 ml tube could be so heavy.

First Question: just how poisonous is Mercuric Sulphide?

More reports to follow…

pLog Pith

pLog Pith III

Socrates said you are only educated when you’ve understood how ignorant you are.  You can only find that out by questioning and doubting all the time.

– Christopher Hitchens, in a recent debate with Rabi David Wolpe.

pLog Pith

pLog Pith II

You can play bloodhound for months on end and always discover something new.

– Christoph Waltz during an interview with Charlie Rose, talking about his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds

Name a painting that has the same effect.

Book Notes Masters

V for Velázquez

I’ve begun reading the essays included in a catalog I picked up last May while visiting the Prado and so far the first one is truly fantastic (if only all art analysis were written with such grace and clarity!).

The catalog is called Velázquez’s Fables and the first essay is entitled “Velázquez as History Painter: Rivalry, Eminence and Artistic Conciousness” written by Javier Portús (I’m guessing that whoever translated should be given credit for a wonderful translation, though perhaps dear Señor Portús also writes in English?).  Please note, I’ve added this catalog to the Bibliography.

I’d like to share two excerpts, first an anecdote:

Antonio Palomino published the first in-depth biography of Velázquez in 1724.  This account, which promplty served to distinguish the artist as a unique figure in the history of Spanish painting, still proves an indeispensable reference work on Velázquez as an individual and on the context in which he developed his work.  One of the paragraphs in this Life that merits attention is the one in which the author elucidated the reasons behind the painter’s unrivalled position in the Spanish court: “He was very pithy in his remarks and repartee: His Majesty said to him one day that there were not lacking poeple who declared that his skill was limited to knowing how to paint a head; to which he replied: ‘Sire, they favour me greatly, for I do not know that there is anyone who can paint a head.’  What a remarkable reaction to jealousy in a man who had proved his universal command of the art….”

Second, a keen analysis:

… another crucial aspect of Velázquez’s career and of the history of painting itself, namely, that formal conquests advance narrative discoveries.  Hence, the more sophisticated the tools of representation the artist has at his command, the greater the means at his disposal to construct a complex narrative plot… whereas in the aforementioned early work the elements that can be imbued with meaning (the old woman and the young maid, the objects on the table, adn the background scene) are independent of one another and their integration proves somewhat awkward, in the Fable of Arachne there is a very fluid interrelation between the different elements and they all serve to make up a coherent whole.

Exceptional writing, exceptional insight.  Thank you, Javier!

pLog Pith

pLog Pith I

We each must choose our conversation… and with whom to have it.


Book Notes History Masters

Notes on “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling”

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King

P2 – Pieta’ – 1496, “a few years later”, “surpassing not only the sculptures of all of M’s contemporaries but even those of the ancient Greeks and Romans themselves–the standards by which art was judged.”

P3 – Julius’ plan for his monument: “…a memorial that was to be the largest since the mausoleums built for Roman emperors such as Hadrian and Augustus”, 34 x 50 ft, 40 figures.

P7 – Bramante = Ravenous


Discovery of a Velazquez at the Metropolitan

New York Times article, September 9th, 2009

Book Notes Materials Techniques

An Artist’s Bibliography

Listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

On Art Process, Techniques and Materials

  • Aristides, Juliette. Classical Drawing Atelier. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006
  • Aristides, Juliette. Classical Painting Atelier.  New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2008
  • De Boisbaudran, Lecoq.  The Training of the Memory in Art | The Education of the Artist. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1911
  • Eastlake, Sir Charles Lock. Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001
  • Speed, Harold.  Oil Painting Techniques and Materials. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1987

On Artists, Art and History

  • Alpers, Svetlana.  The Vexations of Art, Velazquez and Others.  London: Yale University Press, 2007
  • Clark, Kenneth.  The Nude.
  • Holland, Tom.  Rubicon.
  • King, Ross.  Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling.  London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2003
  • Parenti, Michael.  The Assassination of Julius Caesar.  New York: The New Press, 2004

On Deck – The Books On My Reading List

  • Farington, Joseph.  Memoirs of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Discourses on Art.

Books to Look For:

  • George Cooke and T.L. Busby.  The Cartoons of Raphael d’Urbino.
  • Leon Batista Alberti.  On Painting.