Loving Vincent

Last month my mom and I saw the movie Loving Vincent at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The four-year project, directed by a Polish husband and wife team was brought to life by 120 artists from around the world. Together, they created the first ever hand-painted movie.

Vincent collage
Some of the Paintings Used In the Movie

Told through the eyes of the Postman’s son, the directors used Vincent’s letters and his incredible works of art to explore the mystery of why or even if Vincent took his own life at only 37 years old.

One-hundred-fifty oil paintings were painstakingly reproduced in Vincent’s style by the artists. Real-life actors, shot in front of a green screen, portrayed the characters in his paintings. In the end, the 90 minute movie used a total of 64,000 frames, each one hand-painted, to tell Vincent’s story.

If you have the opportunity to watch this incredibly unique and beautiful film, please do so. You will not regret it! 

A Brief History of Color in Art

The Art Genome Project

By Sarah Gottesman
May 20th, 2016
Originally found on Artsy.net

Artists invented the first pigments—a combination of soil, animal fat, burnt charcoal, and chalk—as early as 40,000 years ago, creating a basic palette of five colors: red, yellow, brown, black, and white. Since then, the history of color has been one of perpetual discovery, whether through exploration or scientific advancement. The invention of new pigments accompanied the developments of art history’s greatest movements—from the Renaissance to Impressionism—as artists experimented with colors never before seen in the history of painting.

Found in iron-rich soil and first employed as an artistic material (as far as we know) in prehistoric cave paintings, red ochre is one of the oldest pigments still in use. Centuries later, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the most popular red pigment came from a cochineal insect, a creature that could only be found on prickly-pear cacti in Mexico. These white bugs produced a potent red dye so sought-after by artists and patrons that it quickly became the third greatest import out of the “New World” (after gold and silver), as explains Victoria Finlay in A Brilliant History of Color in Art. Raphael, Rembrandt, and Rubens all used cochineal as a glaze, layering the pigment atop other reds (like red ochre) to increase their intensity. A non-toxic source for red pigment, the cochineal bug is still used to color lipsticks and blush today.

Ever since the Medieval era, painters have depicted the Virgin Mary in a bright blue robe, choosing the color not for its religious symbolism, but rather for its hefty price tag. Mary’s iconic hue—called ultramarine blue—comes from lapis lazuli, a gemstone that for centuries could only be found in a single mountain range in Afghanistan. This precious material achieved global popularity, adorning Egyptian funerary portraits, Iranian Qur’ans, and later the headdress in Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). For hundreds of years, the cost of lapis lazuli rivaled even the price of gold. In the 1950s, Yves Klein collaborated with a Parisian paint supplier to invent a synthetic version of ultramarine blue, and this color became the French artist’s signature. Explaining the appeal of this historic hue, Klein said, “Blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions.”

Few artists in history have been known for their use of yellow, though Joseph Mallord William Turner and Vincent van Gogh are the most notable exceptions. Turner so loved the color that contemporary critics mocked the British painter, writing that his images were “afflicted with jaundice,” and that the artist may have a vision disorder. For his sublime and sun-lit seascapes, Turner used the experimental watercolor Indian Yellow—a fluorescent paint derived from the urine of mango-fed cows (a practice banned less than a century later for its cruelty to animals). For brighter touches, Turner employed the synthetic Chrome Yellow, a lead-based pigment known to cause delirium. Vincent van Gogh also painted his starry nights and sunflowers with this vivid and joyful hue. “Oh yes! He loved yellow, did good Vincent, the painter from Holland, gleams of sunlight warming his soul, which detested fog,” wrote the painter Paul Gauguin of his friend and artistic companion.

While the color green evokes nature and renewal, its pigments have been some of the most poisonous in history. In 1775, the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a deadly hue, Scheele’s Green, a bright green pigment laced with the toxic chemical arsenic. Cheap to produce, Scheele’s Green became a sensation in the Victorian era, even though many suspected the color to be dangerous for artists and patrons alike. The French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom wallpaper even featured Scheele’s Green, and historians believe the pigment caused the revolutionary’s death in 1821. By the end of the 19th century, Paris Green—a similar mixture of copper and arsenic—replaced Scheele’s Green as a more durable alternative, enabling Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir to create vivid, emerald landscapes. Used as a rodenticide and an insecticide, Paris Green was still highly toxic, and may have been responsible for Cézanne’s diabetes and Monet’s blindness. Not surprisingly, it was eventually banned in the 1960s.

“I have finally discovered the true color of the atmosphere,” Claude Monet once declared. “It’s violet. Fresh air is violet.” The purple shadows and lavender specks of light that enliven Monet’s haystacks and waterlilies owe much to a little-known American portrait painter named John Goffe Rand. In 1841, Rand grew frustrated with the messy practice of storing paint in a pig’s bladder, which was the prevailing method for preserving pigments at the time, and invented a more practical and portable option: a collapsible paint tube made of tin. This enabled artists like Monet to paint plein air, easily transporting their color to outdoor locations to capture impressions of the environment, and in turn led to the production of nuanced, pre-mixed paint shades in tin tubes, such as Manganese Violet, the first affordable mauve-colored paint that meant artists no longer had to mix red and blue to make purple. The Impressionists—especially Monet—so adored the new hue that critics accused the painters of having “violettomania.”

Zambezi
Frank Stella, Zambezi, 1959

The darkest pigment found in Old Masters paintings is aptly named “bone black,” and is produced by burning animal bones in an air-free chamber. While the Impressionists avoided black paint—finding areas of darkness to be filled with color—American artists in the ’50s and ’60s returned to black with a vengeance.

Frank Stella, Richard Serra, and Ad Reinhardt all created monochromatic black paintings, stripping the canvas of any subject matter other than the paint itself. Taken together, these painters prove that black is as nuanced a color as any other, capable of many permutations, tones, and textures. Speaking about his practice in 1967, Reinhardt quoted the Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, saying, “There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.”

Robert Ryman
Robert Ryman, Series # 32, 2005

Of all the pigments—Chrome Yellow, Scheele’s Green, Paris Green—that have been banned over the centuries, the color most missed by painters is likely Lead White. This hue could capture and reflect a gleam of light like no other, though its production was anything but glamorous. The 17th-century Dutch method for manufacturing the pigment involved layering cow and horse manure over lead and vinegar. After three months in a sealed room, these materials would combine to create flakes of pure white. While scientists in the late 19th century identified lead as poisonous, it wasn’t until 1978 that the United States banned the production of lead white paint. In this era, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Ryman, and Agnes Martin turned to titanium and zinc whites to create monochromatic white paintings, while artists like Dan Flavin bypassed pigments altogether in sculptures that emitted white light directly.

Montmartre, Paris

It seems a million years ago that we were in Paris; so much has happened in the past three months. But I feel the need to finish writing about Paris, if only to relive my wonderful memories.

My most favorite day of the vacation had to be the day I visited Montmartre. In another life, Montmartre was a bohemian hilltop haven, home to some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and poets. The winding cobblestone streets, small boutique-style shops, infamous dance halls, and Place du Tertre, where local artisans paint en plein air, sounded like heaven to me and I couldn’t wait to spend the day exploring!

Abesses Entrance

After a 30 minute metro ride from Grenelle, I finally landed at Abbesses, which I later learned is the deepest station in the Paris Metro system at 118 feet below ground! The ground-level entrance is beautiful! It is one of the last remaining Art Nouveau glass-covered designs created by French architect Hector Guimard.

I Love You Wall

Upon exiting the station, one of the very first sights you come to is “Le mur des je t’aime” (I love you: the wall). Here the words are written  311 times in 250 different languages and dialects. People come from all over the world to see the wall and declare their love for one another.

Montmartre Street

As I navigated the cobblestone streets, I wondered if Picasso or Van Gogh had walked these exact streets before me. I stopped into a few little quaint shops. I really wanted to buy a piece of local art, but the prices were outrageous!

Next, I found a funky little resale shop and knew I stumbled onto something. How cool would it be to own something once worn by a Parisian? I tried on a few tops, but nothing fit quite right. Then I spotted an adorable little rain coat and voila, perfection! The best part? It was only 5 Euros! I had found my little memento for the day.

View from Stairs

I continued my journey climbing a series of steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings for what seemed like a mile to reach the “Place on the hill” (Place du Tertre). The square was covered by mostly portrait & caricature artists with their easels and surrounded on all sides by over-priced cafes and shops. Only a handful of people were actually painting.

Getting My Caricature Done

Most were just trying to make a euro by accosting tourists. I held out for quite, walking around the square admiring some of the art, until one gentleman with a kind face asked if he could do my portrait.

I was sure this wouldn’t end well for my pocketbook, but after climbing all those steps, I wanted to sit down and take a load off.  We struck up a conversation about art and family among other topics, and I actually enjoyed my time with him. When all was said and drawn, I came away with an adorable caricature, a twenty minute respite, a nice conversation, and only a minor dent in my wallet. It was well worth it!

Caricature in Montmatre

Just past the square is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The Roman Catholic church was designed in a Romano-Byzantine style inspired by sister churches of Italy and was completed in 1914. The exterior was carved from a type of travertine stone whose calcite turns white when it mixes with rainwater. It was a beautiful sight.

The entire city of Paris is visible from the front court of the Basilica. The dome sits over 650 feet above the River Seine and you can see for 30 miles. It is the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.

Museum of Montmartre

After wandering outside the Basilica for a while, I continued on.  I headed West on Rue Cortot and stumbled upon the Musee de Montmartre.

The building was built in the seventeenth century as The Bel Aire House and is considered the oldest in Montmartre. During it’s peak, it served as a meeting place, studio space and home for many well-known artists, such as Renoir and Émile Bernard. The museum houses many great works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, and her son Maurice Utrillo. I wanted to view the collections, but unfortunately, their credit card machine was not working and they would not take my American dollars. I was out of luck, so I kept on exploring…

La Maison Rose

Just around the corner at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir was the most quaint bistro, La Maison Rose. It’s bright pink exterior and green shutters stand out against the surrounding buildings and landscape. I was able to capture this wonderful image of a young couple dancing in front of the cafe. It is my favorite moment from the day.

Clos Montmartre
Montmartre Vineyard (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Just down the street I passed by Clos Montmartre – the last active vineyard in Paris. It covers over 1,800 square yards and contains 1,900 vines of 28 different grape varieties.

After sightseeing for a few hours, I was famished and it was getting chilly outside; time to take a break and warm up. I wandered into a small cafe called Chez Ginet and settled in for a hot cup of cappuccino and a goat cheese/eggplant salad. It was absolutely delicious and so pretty. I had to take pictures!


It was starting to get dark now, but there was one more check on my “To Do” list before calling it a day. Relying on my trusty iPhone GPS, I followed the main streets to my final destination. Along the way I passed over the Montmartre Cemetery where countless well-known artists, playwrights, authors, and dancers are buried.

Montmartre Cemetery

Making a left onto Boulevard de Clichy, I continued on. It was dark now, perfect for viewing the infamous dancehall. As I made my way, I passed by numerous “adult shops”. I clutched my purse a little tighter.  Not once did I ever feel afraid or threatened, but it was dark and judging by the shops, it may not have been the best place to be a lone woman. Finally, there she was, the Moulin Rouge, lit up in all her splendor. What a sight! You could almost hear the music from inside.

Moulin Rouge

Judging by the crowd of tourists taking pictures, I was not alone in my quest. I snapped several photos and then disappeared underground to catch the Metro. I settled in for the ride back, ruminating about all the wondrous sights, sounds, tastes, and memories of the day. Montmartre. My favorite day in Paris!

Photographic Portraits of Famous Artist’s Paint Palettes

via Colossal | An art, design, and visual culture blog... by Matthias Schaller

Since 2007 photographer Matthias Schaller has photographed raw, abstract paintings. The paintings however are not found on canvas, but rather smeared onto the tools used to craft each work of art—the palettes. His series, Das Meisterstück (The Masterpiece), claims these behind-the-scene objects as portraits of the artist, while also giving a direct insight into the detailed techniques performed by each painter.

Schaller was first inspired to begin his photographic collection during a visit to Cy Twombly’s late studio. During the visit he stumbled upon the artist’s palette, which he discovered to be an accurate reflection of the artist’s paintings. Encouraged to further discover the similarities between palette and painting, Schaller has gone on to photograph over two hundred of these historic portraits. His search has led him to collect palettes from all across Europe and the United States, finding the objects in major museums and private foundations and in the custody of artists’ relatives and collectors. The palettes he’s photographed so far in the series belong to seventy painters from both the 19th and 20th century, and include such artists as Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso. To accurately analyze the details from paint hue to brushstroke, Schaller presents the images in large format, each work existing at approximately 190 x 150 cm.

Through June 8, the Giorgio Cini Foundation will present Schaller’s Das Meisterstück alongside the Venice Biennale, an exhibition that will focus on 20 of Schaller’s palette photographs. (via Hyperallergic)

Paris in (Almost) Springtime

At the end of March my husband had to travel to Paris for work and guess who was able to tag along for a vacation? Before he had even finished telling me the plans, I emphatically said, “YES!” and had mentally packed my bags and made arrangements for the boys and the animals. Let’s just say he had me at, “Paris.”

Hotel Ares Eiffel (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

We left on a Friday redeye out of Detroit and landed in Paris about 8 a.m. Saturday, albeit tired, so ecstatic to be in “The City of Lovers”, “The City of Light“.

We stayed at Hotel Ares Eiffel a quaint boutique style hotel in the Grenelle neighborhood of the 15th Arrondissement. We stashed our luggage and quickly located the neighborhood Starbucks for some much needed caffeine and European croissant. Once our room was available we unpacked whatever would fit into the tiny hanging closet and crashed for a few hours.

In the evening we hopped on the Metro and headed out for dinner across town to the historic Brasserie Balzar located near the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter of the 5th Arrondissement.

Brasserie Balzar
Bordeaux & L’Onion Soup

The brasserie opened it’s doors in 1890 and has been frequented by philosophers, artists, and intellectuals ever since. The brasserie, according to Sandra Gustafson’s Great Eats Paris, “..remains a favorite of Left-Bank intellectuals and would-be bohemian’s of all types.” French existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were regulars at the Balzar. Actually, it is said that they had their last great argument here in the summer of 1952 which led to the demise of their friendship.

There was no such great drama in the air during our dinner; to the contrary, we met a nice family from California seated next to us and the L’onion soup and Bordeaux was delicious!


On Sunday we did a whirlwind tour of Paris. By the end of the day I was thoroughly exhausted and my legs were sore. I kept thinking about and thanking my surgeons. Without my new ankles and back, none of this would have been possible! I was feeling truly blessed and grateful.

After croissants and cappuccino’s, we caught the Metro and made our way along the Seine to the iconic Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arrondissement. It was much larger than I’d imagined and more beautiful in person.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

We followed the Parc du Champs de Mars East and wandered the nearby streets. I was on a mission to see the infamous building at 29 Avenue Rapp designed by French Art Nouveau architect Jules Lavirotte. On the way we spotted another one of his beautiful designs at 3 Square Rapp.

Next we headed over to view the Arc de Triomphe and shop on the world famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement. Around 9 p.m. we dragged ourselves into Pizza Pino for dinner and wine overlooking the streetlights of the boulevard.

Arc du Triomphe
Arc du Triomphe
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Musee d'Orsay
Musee d’Orsay

Tuesday was cold and rainy – perfect for touring the Musée d’Orsay. After waiting in the cue for over an hour in the drizzling rain, it was a relief just to get inside and sit for a few minutes. The building itself is a beautiful piece of art. Set on the banks of the Seine, it houses art collections from 1848 to 1914.

Musee d'Orsay Clocktower Cafe
Musee d’Orsay Clocktower Cafe

The museum, which opened its door s in December of 1986, was installed in the former Orsay railway station built for the World Exposition in 1900.

The museum is home to some of the world’s most famous sculptures. The entire ground floor was sprinkled with giant marble monoliths from the past two centuries. Since I didn’t have too long, I started with the Impressionists’ paintings. To get there, you pass through the back of the museum cafe which is gorgeous! At the end of the cafe is an enormous clock window overlooking the Seine.

After hours of walking around the museum, I jumped on the Metro towards ‘home’, grabbed dinner at a local brasserie, drew up a steaming hot Hermes bubble bath back at the hotel, and called it a day – and what a great one it was!

Stay tuned for my adventures in Montmartre, Saint-Germain du Pres, and Louvre-Tuileries. Au Revoir for now.

Tribute to Van Gogh

I took a break for about a year and a half to be with my boys. Eventually, I ventured back to art class with Kathy. I missed everyone and I needed to do something for just me again. However, this time would prove more challenging as I now had a 5-year-old and a toddler at home.

Dylan was in preschool and speech therapy and Ethan was into everything! I was having a lot of problems with my arthritis, not to mention the sheer exhaustion of motherhood! I believe I only took one or two semesters this time and had to quit. It was too much! By the time class came around on Friday, all I wanted to do was sleep!

I did complete a few pieces of art; one being this replication of a Van Gogh painting in oil pastels. It was my first experience with Oil Pastels. I liked the waxy feel of the finished product but oil pastels do not blend like soft pastels, so the application process is a little different.

Tribute to Van Gogh
12″ x 14″ Oil Pastel on Black Cardboard adapted from Van Gogh Painting