The internet makes it possible to discover cool art. Here’s a sampling of Pixel Jeff‘s work, from Taipei, Taiwan.
I’m reading Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s Van Gogh: The Life, and enjoying every page. A year ago I took an art class with Chad Hines, who has an infectious love of Van Gogh.
Naifeh and Smith detail Van Gogh’s religious influences. His father was a Dutch minister. His work in London as an art dealer brought him into contact with Charles Haddon Spurgeon and his Metropolitan Tabernacle. Van Gogh was a close reader of Thomas A’Kempis. His depictions of the sower were inspired by his experiences in the countryside, but also by his father’s favorite parable. Before he discovered his calling as an artist, Van Gogh wanted to be a minister. During a period which brought him back to Dordt, Naifeh and Smith write:
Vincent spent every Sunday going from church to church in a marathon of devotion, ignoring differences between Lutheran and Reforemd, Dutch and French, even between Catholic and Protestant, sometimes logging three or four sermons in a day. When Görlitz [his roommate at the time] expressed surprise at his ecumenism, Vincent replied, “I see God in each church . . . the dogma is not important, but the spirit of the Gospel is, and I find that spirit in all churches.” For Vincent, only the preaching mattered. In letters to Theo [his brother], he described how the Catholic priest lifted up the poor, cheerless peasants in his flock, while the Protestant preacher used “fire and enthusiasm” to sober the smug burghers in his.
Inevitably these Sunday tours rekindled Vincent’s ambition to preach. At home, he began studying the works of the most inspiring preacher he had ever heard, Charles Spurgeon, and drafting sermons during his late-night study sessions. He regaled his scornful fellow borders with impromptu inspirational readings, even as they laughed and made faces at him. He tested everyone’s patience, even Görlitz’s, with interminable dinnertime prayers. When Görlitz urged him not to waste his time on his housemates’ souls, Vincent snapped, “Let them laugh . . . someday they will learn to appreciate it.”
Van Gogh later abandons his pursuit of religion, of theology, and of ministry. Following a family conflict, he abandons belief in God. I knew of Van Gogh’s disagreeableness and his declared atheism. I did not know about his early religious pursuits and that they were informed by figures like A’Kempis and Spurgeon.
But now I know. And so do you.
I share this video largely to put down a marker for myself, to allow myself to stumble upon this again at some point in the future. I’ve read Roger Scruton and admire his work. He is a philosopher. In this video presentation, Scruton argues for beauty while critiquing modern art and architecture which, according to Scruton, represents a cult of ugliness. Scruton believes that we have lost touch with the meaning of beauty and have abandoned our quest to create it, much to our impoverishment. He seeks to persuade us to recapture something we have lost, to establish anew the importance of beauty, to inspire courage for those that might name ugliness in art as ugliness, and to encourage the creation of something beautiful.
Beauty can again capture our imagination. Art is no less art if it is ugly, random, purely provocative, and cynical. But if it is ugly, it should be named as such, and in its place beauty should be elevated and celebrated, lifted up as a model, and held forth as an example worth emulating.
The absurdity is largely the point.
Family sent me this CBS News report. MSCHF took a pair of Nike Air Max ’97, obtained water from the Jordan, had a priest in Brooklyn bless the water, injected the holy-fied water in the soles, added a few additional flashes to the shoe, and then sold them for $1,425. The buyer then listed the pair on an auction site for $4,000.
The shoes reference Matthew 14:25, the starting point of one account of Jesus’ walking on water. The heels feature the name of the company on the left, and “INRI” (Latin for Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum) on the right. There is a single drop of blood on the tongue, a golden crucifix affixed to the laces, and the insoles are red, featuring again the company name and “INRI” arched above a cross across the top of a circle which is completed below by a partial crown of thorns. Look at this ridiculous website.
Why did they do this? To poke fun at other collaborations? To make us think more carefully about cross-promotion (a play on words?), like the moment we discovered Rob Lowe, star of 9-1-1: Lone Star, was a big fan of the NFL?
Yes and yes. But let’s hear from MSCHF’s Daniel Greenberg, as quoted in the CBS News article:
“We set out to take that to the next level,” Greenberg said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What would a shoe collab with Jesus look like?’ Obviously, it should let you walk on water. ‘Well, how can we do that?’ You pump holy water into the pocket of a pair of Air Max 97’s and with that, you get Jesus Shoes — the holiest collab ever.”
But is it the holiest collab ever? Or the most profane?
James Hobbes, via Urban Sketchers
A wonderful slice of life presented by Murray Dewhurst, via Urban Sketchers.
One of the best pieces of advice was from my Year Two teacher, on how to draw a bicycle: “Spend twice as much time _looking_ at it than drawing it”.
I apply that to so many areas. More time listening than talking. More observing than doing. The outcome will always be better.
This bit of wisdom appeared in a newsletter I receive. Drawing, classically defined, is learning to see. Before putting graphite to paper, before making a mark, when the page is blank, whether in the mind’s eye or in the reality resting fifteen feet away, we must look, and not only look, but see.
My drawing instructor, Chad Hines, would have us put what we see in boxes. He would have us break down what we drew into its constituent parts. To see the lines, see the curves, see the ellipses and circles. He would encourage us to hold the pencil lightly, differently, to make marks that were easy, light, and then to look, and to look again. He observed that sometimes the false lines reveal the true. What you thought you were seeing was not actually what was there. As you draw, you look upon your object, and then you look upon your sketch, and you compare. You adjust. You try to draw what you see, so others can see it too. Drawing is always illusion. The drawing is not the thing that was seen. But the drawing can be true. It can accurately represent a moment in time, an object in reality. But only if first you really look, and really see.
I agree with Anna. We’d all be better off, I think, if we spent more time observing than doing. Looking. Listening. Slowly. Patiently. With thought. With intention.
Next time you are ready to act, next time you jump to speak, pause. Look. Observe. Think. Let a beat or two pass. Then, make a mark. Speak a word. Be truthful.
The icon for this image has been sitting on my computer desktop for weeks. My six year old son, sitting in my lap and observing it asked, “What’s that?” I opened it and said, “What do you see?”
He said, “Those people are sitting on a phone!” I then asked him what he thought the artist was trying to convey, which led to a discussion of interactions with technology. Our exchange boiled down to this: “People spend so much time looking at their phone that they miss a lot of what is beautiful in life.”
So, as you likely are reading this from your phone, turn it off. Put it away. Look at the ocean, the mountains, the sunrise (all three appear in the image above). Hopefully in the company of a friend. Have a conversation. Climb. Go on an adventure. Or sit still.
Don’t miss it.