A painting's "aura": repost

This was originally posted in October 2008. With over 600 posts on The Flying Trilobite now, I've been re-posting a few from time to time. Incidentally, the artwork featured here is available for purchase in a variety of card and print formats.

Reprinting today because originals versus prints has been on my mind again lately. Make sure to check the original post for the insightful comments there. 
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Today, I'd like to touch on how the artist feels about their own work, and its "aura", and how that differs for the Fine Artist versus the Illustrator. And no, I haven't lost my skeptical, rational mind.

The idea of a painting's aura is one I remember being presented without judgment by the prof in university. The concept has stayed with me.It's the notion that original paintings have an "aura" that emanates off the paint & canvas surface. Almost as though the original painting has a soul, or a living presence you sense when looking at it. It adds to their specialness. You have not truly experienced the painting until you've seen it in person. Our teachers tried to impart that this is mainly a macho, modernist idea.

In Fine Art, the modernist period was something fairly specific. To sum it up all too briefly, modernism in 
painting was "paintings with the subject matter of paint". You weren't painting a still-life of an apple: you were painting red paint. As an example, think of something by Rothko, or Pollock. Giant humongous canvases, covered usually in a couple of dominating colours. There was a lot of baggage that went along with this type of work, including that they should not ideally be viewed as reproductions.
Post-modernism in the fine art world, was (again, gross oversimplification) about deconstructing those modernist ideals of pure paint and pure sculpture, and of overthrowing the unique. A post-modern piece of art could contain both a painting and sculpture adjacent asone piece. Take that, modernist!
To look at one example, modernist Charles Demuth created the painting Figure Five in Gold, (1928). Classic Modernism, interplay of colour over a familiar, somewhat random symbol (5) we all know. It's distinct, and certainly was in '28.

Post-modern painter Robert Indiana created this painting,The Figure Five, (1963) as a way of overthrowing the originality of Demuth's Five. He disrupted the original by Demuth's claim to importance by making it one of many instead of unique. I see it as kind of a fine art world version of "screw you".

So paintings may have an aura you can only feel in the presence of the actual artwork, not a reproduction? Not likely. This smacks of vague New Age-y feelings-as-fact. I wondered about this idea for a long time. An exhibit, entitled 7 Florentine Heads came to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I remember there was to be a Da Vinci drawing included. When I saw it, I anticipated the moment. I frickin' love Da Vinci, and his interest in science as well as hissfumato technique. I looked at each drawing in turn. Looked at one, read the placard, and saw it was his. I got an involuntary shiver down my back. Was it the aura?

Even back then in my proto-skeptical days, I knew there wasn't. I only felt it's "specialness" after reading who it was by. Looking only at the drawing, I saw another example of excellent work by a Renaissance artist. Context mattered to the aura, it seemed.
Which brings me to addressing the photos of posters peppered throughout this post. Is one of the differences between an illustrator and a fine artist -at least, a modernist one- how they feel about a painting's uniqueness and supremacy of being the original? 

Recently, the artist (and good friend of mine) Christopher Zenga took his artwork online for the first time. And when discussing how the first couple of posts about his Zombears looked glowing off of the computer screen, Chris remarked to me, that he just sat back and stared at them; he was entranced by his own artwork reproduced in a different medium. 

Chris is right. I was elated for months looking at my paintings and drawings online, and knowing others might see something of value there. Do I have a fondness for the originals? Of course. Some are hanging in my living room. And yet there is an undeniable thrill to walk down the streets of Toronto and see a poster up with artwork I laboured over.
Starting with a discussion on the nature of art over at Laelaps, author of Renaissance Oaf Sean Craven has had a lot of excellent points about whether how to judge if a piece of artwork can be deemed "art".

I would put forth there is a difference between art created for the purpose of Illustration, and Fine Art, and a small part of that difference is in how the artist feels toward reproductions. The tingly feeling is enhanced when the image leaps forth to new media and many eyeballs.

The photos throughout this post were taken downtown at the University of Toronto campus, and are of my posterfor the October 2008 lecture by PZ Myers presented by the Centre for Inquiry Ontario

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop

Religion in Science Education

© Glendon Mellow - glendonmellow.com. Under CCL.

Available as a card, print, framed print or poster in my online store.

Originally done for a PZ Myers - CFI event here in Toronto a few years back.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop

Slutwalk and Koran Burning

[Preamble: I'm a white atheist straight male living in Toronto Canada. So, except for the atheist thing, I'm speaking on these political, gender and religious issues from a position of privilege. This blog post represents my understanding at the moment.]

Today, here in my beloved city of Toronto a huge crowd rallied and marched and demonstrated in the first possibly annual Slutwalk. It was in response to an idiotic, insensitive hurtful, perpetuating-antiquated-stereotypes comment by a Toronto Police officer who said, "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized".

The SlutWalk encourages women to dress how they want to dress, and joined by their families if they wish, to march from Queen's Park (our Province of Ontario house of legislature for you non-Canucks) to Police Headquarters. The basic message is simple: it doesn't matter how a woman dresses, she is not asking to be assaulted or raped.

The SlutWalk Toronto site is here.
BlogTO.com has a great interview about it.
Our Lady of Perpetual Win comments about it on Almost Diamonds.
Some footage from the rally by Torontopia.

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Koran Burning
To shift gears, let's look at the actions of the Pastor in the USA who burned a Koran after threatening months ago to do so.  At first largely unnoticed by mainstream media, it was announced in Afghanistan by Hamid Karzai. After last Friday's prayers, a mob, possibly filled with Taliban infiltrators left a mosque, rioted and attacked a UN building, beheading two, and killing in total 15 people, revised upwards to 21 the next day.

New York Times.
Sam Harris's take on his new blog, with which I largely agree.
Josh Rosenau's response on Thoughts from Kansas, with which I largely disagree.
Notes and Comment.
Why Evolution is True.

Josh and I had a brief discussion on Twitter about it. If I may say, in the end I concluded, "Well it seems you and I agree the pastor is wrong to some degree, but murder is worse than book-burning to some degree."The rest of the conversation was a disagreement over the degree of blame lies at the Pastor's feet.

Basically, I find a lot of attention and blame in the media and some bloggers online are blaming the idiotic Pastor who burned the Koran for the deaths of the UN officials and other civilians in Afghanistan. 

What he did was provocative and idiotic, but hardly worth murder, beheadings and attacking an all-girls school (wtf, but yes really).

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Responsibility for Violence
I can see a parallel - and very very significant differences- between the Pastor's Koran Burning and Slutwalk. Saying the Pastor should expect and therefore be be blamed for fanatical Islamic violence is similar in some ways to saying a "woman is asking for it". 

The Pastor is an ass - I personally don't like book burnings. I once worked at a school library where I was asked to burn some beautiful old Andrew Lang Colour Fairy books in the incinerator, because they were unpopular. I took 'em home. Josh pointed me to this post by PalMD pointing out that book-burning can be an act of violence and not just expression. But book-burning by a denounced nutbar should not be conflated to responsibility for beheading and murdering. 

Women should absolutely dress however they want. I agree with Ontario not having a double-standard when it comes to toplessness (though the social stigma is mainly still there, the legal barrier was and should have been removed.) Standards of what constitutes "proper" dress are fluid with the times and with individual tastes. One person's conservative is another person's offensive. And no clothing choice should be conflated to responsibility for being raped. 

In both situations, the blame for violence falls with the perpetrator of the violence, not with anyone who may or may not have provoked them.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Sock Puppet Hydra!!!!!11!!

Oh the stench!  The Sock Puppet Hydra is not helping.

Click to enlarge - but IT MIGHT GROW MORE SOCKS!! OMG!!

But that's okay: today the socks finally had a long-overdue bath

Please feel free to use and share this image that I made in a brief fit of pettiness. (Different Creative Commons Licence than my art usually has.  It's a special occasion.  Licence here.)

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Painting-Erasing a Prophet

I know - I'm a day late.

It's taken some wrestling for me.  I utterly support the freedom of people to draw and say what they like about other people's ideas - and we need to be strong on this - really strong!- in the face of threatened violence.

I can't add a lot in terms of my words here. I completely agree with
Dale McGowan on this.  But I also share a lot of the trepidation that Melliferax has.  After all, I live in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world.  It's also one of the most peaceful and has low crime between cultures. I don't tend to paint things specifically to offend.  Though sometimes they do anyway.

So this one is not to specifically offend.

Is it a painting?  I've done this piece using digital media only. It is a depiction.   Under those layers, and then erased are an image -now largely removed- of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him if you are so inclined.

And peace be upon the artists depicting him.  Let no violence come from those who object to imagery.  All that does is make it more powerful anyway.

Edit: ****  In light of death threats against the originator, I took the non-image I had made down.  If we don't have freedom of speech and freedom of expression, we have nothing.

So here is a post of nothing.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

2010 Calendar - atheism months?

Here's a look at two of the more controversial months in The Flying Trilobite 2010 Calendar. Perhaps not controversial to some of the regular readers of TFT. Atheism can still be a charged subject in a crowded room.

May: Science-Chess Accommodating Religion is a painting I did this year inspired by the writing of many atheist bloggers, from Jerry Coyne and Ophelia Benson, to Mike Haubrich and Jason Thibeault. The whole thing actually started out as a tweet of mine, which Mike at Tangled Up In Blue Guy liked. You can read about that here.

October: October has an image called Education: Science Vs. Religion that was created as a poster for a Centre for Inquiry lecture in Toronto by PZ Myers of Pharyngula, in Octtober 2008. It had some interesting disagreements about symbolism at Pharyngula in the comments. You can see a bit more about it from me here, a making of here, and shots of the final poster here.

Both of my calendar collections, dated for 2010, can be found in my RedBubble reproduction shop.

Collection 1: Collection 2:

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art Monday: Lights portrait series

This is the series Lights I began for my drawing course at York. Our project was to draw between 5 and 30 heads. The idea and compositions I set for myself are fairly simple. Draw portraits of living biologists, each with a light source on their heads, and incorporating a double helix form.

I've shown Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter before here, and Jane Goodall here. This time I've included Eugenie Scott and Jerry Coyne.

Jerry Coyne.Eugenie Scott.
Jane Goodall.
Craig Venter & Richard Dawkins. (I couldn't resist one of my DNA Candles on Dawkins!)

I think of these more as sketches now. All I can see are their flaws.
-Richard Dawkins needs to be re-done, with his head turned to a three-quarter view.

-I made Craig Venter's face too interesting (though it was by far the most popular with my class.)
-Eugenie Scott's hair looks too dark. I tried to use the books to show education and poise.
-I think I need to re-work all of Jerry Coyne's piece. I like the firefly, kinda. The rendering is too rough.
-Jane Goodall's I am happy with the portrait - very happy - but it's hard to make out the helix-gorilla looking down behind her.

Damn, it was an arrogant thing to sit down and expect myself to polish off decent portraits (of people I admire!) in a couple of weeks, in my spare time. Not sure what I was thinking. It wasn't until the last one that I realized this was kind of a folly.

I'm posting these perhaps as some insight into my thought processes. The York University motto is "The way must be tried."

So, um, there.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Science Checkmate

Using my oil painting Science Accommodating Religion, I've been noodling around with the image.

This might look good on a t-shirt if I punch up the colours to a less painterly, more graphic cartoony look. Hmm. I saved the image with all the pieces in separate layers so I can move them around and resize them easily. Now that I look at it, perhaps the pieces should not be so evenly spaced.

Looking for opinions: how should I tweak it for a shirt in my repro shop?

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***