Stolpersteine

Scattered throughout the streets of Germany (as well as in many other streets in Europe and in Russia) are so-called Stolpersteine:

 

12 Stolpersteine, with my shoes for size and layout reference.

12 Stolpersteine, with my shoes for size and layout reference.

 

These “stumbling blocks”, as they would be translated, are set in the ground in front of houses of victims of the Holocaust. They are not quite flush with the ground, but are instead raised a little bit higher, allowing one to stumble while passing by. Each mini monument is engraved with information about the victim and their fate. The 12 featured here are from Karlsruhe, and tell the stories of twelve representatives of Parliament who were forbidden from doing their jobs, arrested, deported, interrogated, sent to concentration camps, or any combination thereof.

I think these stones, designed and laid by German artist Gunter Demnig, are an amazing form of art. They are deeply meaningful, evoke many emotions, and preserve a dark history so that it cannot be obscured with time. They honor and commemorate. They bring about deep reflection in the viewer. You don’t have to go to a museum to see them; they confront you whether you want them to or not. I suggest reading the wikipedia article for more information. If you speak German, you can also read the Gunter’s site.

New Painting In Photoshop


I recently got the new version of Photoshop and decided to make a drawing using the Wacom Tablet. I asked Michelle what I should draw and she suggested a landscape. I had no idea where to begin, so I searched through photos that I had taken and arrived at one of our trip to Aruba that I found particularly striking. Then I tried to copy the perspective in the picture with the deep oranges of the sunset from a later picture. I was going for a realistic look, but it quickly became apparent that I didn’t have the skill to do so, so this is what I ended up with:

Digital Painting with Color


My latest piece on the Wacom tablet is a drawing/painting I did of my cat. I think it is the first time that I have drawn/painted anything (maybe digital or non – can that really be??) of anything in color!

I had always had the idea of painting our cat, Twix, and Michelle gave me the perfect excuse when I asked her to give me an idea for my next piece. She told me to paint “two animals that love each other”. Michelle and I have a deep love for our cat and for animals in general so I knew I could incorporate our cat in this piece. When I was looking through old pictures of Twix that were taken when we first got her I found one of my hand scratching her head. I knew that these were to be the two animals!

I built up my image using many different layers of detail in GIMP and stopped when I got here:

I say “stopped when I got here” because with this piece I really couldn’t tell when it was to be “done”. I think I should do more detail on the hand, but part of me likes that it is stylized. Also, I don’t know what I think of the background color – I just kind of arbitrarily picked it because I was anxious to share it. I don’t have any plans to revisit it, but perhaps I will someday.

Wacom Bamboo Create Tablet

I made an impulsive decision and got a Wacom Bamboo Create Tablet over the weekend as I have been wanting to draw more and figured a digital medium would be good. When I first started using it there was some disorientation, but after a couple hours or using it that has gone away and it feels very fluid.

My first piece was inspired by a book “Eat Your Way To Happiness”:

After that, I asked my friend for an idea and he said “make a dinosaur eating a hotdog”. That prompted this:

 

 

I still have a lot to learn about drawing in general as well as drawing on a tablet, but I have been having a lot of fun creating.

Owl Scratchboard

Over the holiday break, I worked on another scratchboard. I knew I wanted it to be an owl, so I searched around for owl pictures and came across this, which fit the image in my head:

 

First, I sketched the owl with pencil and paper, paying attention to important outlines, but only trying to get a broad sense for shading in other areas.

After this, I transferred the drawing to the scratchboard by placing it on top of the scratchboard and drawing the outline of important areas in pen. This made a soft impression in the scratchboard and gave me a sense of where to draw the dominant lines. After this, I looked at the original picture and started scratching, doing the lightest parts first. Here is the final product:

Context and Art

Throughout my life, I have never really been into “art” (it is hard to pin down what this word actually means, so I will put it in quotes). In fact, I thought it was a sham. Observing people in museums “taking in” abstract paintings made me want to throw up. People would tell me that I had to understand the history surrounding the piece to appreciate it. I obstinately countered that I wanted the piece to mean something to me in and of itself, context aside. Isn’t learning the historical context just filling your head with a bunch of facts? Isn’t art something that can/SHOULD transcend facts?

Over the past couple of years, much has changed for me and I have come to appreciate art more than I ever thought I would and I believe I owe it to the word “context”. I have come across the word “context” in many different areas of study, and I have succumbed to the fact that it imbues everything. Context fills each and every thing we “understand” with meaning. Context allows us to appreciate the richness of life. While I would still like to hold on to the idea that a piece can derive meaning “in and of itself”, I now find this idea to be meaningless. Surely even if a piece gives you meaning and you know nothing of the historical context, the meaning you ARE getting is from other contextual pieces of information in your brain (i.e. you are a structural engineer, so the structure of the piece seems to stand out to you; you are a staunch feminist and the fact that only male characters appear in the piece gives you an idea as to the underlying meaning of the piece).

Given all of this, I decided to buy some scratchboards, a medium that interested me because it is similar to the M.C. Escher, the only artist who up until this point, I had found provocative. I don’t even know the basics of art, but I experimented today. Here is my first attempt:

My First Scratchboard