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Old 04-08-2016, 07:20 PM   #1
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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The Next Rembrandt




The Next Rembrandt

Australian brick laying robot video - 1:37:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V72Hm3PIM3Q

Copy writing Algorithm article:

http://www.copyblogger.com/algorithm-writing/

The following sports story was written by a machine. Can you tell?
“Tuesday was a great day for W. Roberts, as the junior pitcher threw a perfect game to carry Virginia to a 2-0 victory over George Washington at Davenport Field.

Twenty-seven Colonials came to the plate and the Virginia pitcher vanquished them all, pitching a perfect game. He struck out 10 batters while recording his momentous feat. Roberts got Ryan Thomas to ground out for the final out of the game.

Tom Gately came up short on the rubber for the Colonials, recording a loss. He went three innings, walked two, struck out one, and allowed two runs.

The Cavaliers went up for good in the fourth, scoring two runs on a fielder's choice and a balk.”
The link above to the article discussing the copy writing algorithm closes with the following:

"Let me close with this: don’t panic.

Machines might take over every single dirty, dangerous, dull, and decision-making task in the world, but you can and will adapt.

That’s what makes you a human.”


Dirty, dangerous, dull” what percentage of the world’s jobs fall into these categories? “But you can and will adapt.” This seems good advice for the bright, imaginative, well resourced, less than middle aged individual. What about the ill-prepared, the middle-aged, or the any-aged dumb ass?

These copy writing algorithms are first cousin to the robot brick laying machine. Both are robbers of opportunity for humans. And not just for the human manual laborer placing bricks all day in the sun, this now goes to those humans working in air conditioned cubicles.

And now, coming closer to home, comes the 3D printer and “The Next Rembrandt.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuygOYZ1Ngo

I have been asked many times: Why should I pay for a painting when I can make my own photograph? I can make an argument against this kind of thinking (you can reference one such argument below); however, with this new technology my logic is being taxed more and more.

I think the only question is – how much time is left?

************

A person unknown to me emailed me out of the blue and asked this question:

"I'm writing to ask if you could forward information explaining the aesthetic value of an oil portrait, as compared to a photograph of the subject. In other words, what is it about an oil portrait that elevates and justifies its higher price?"


Dear Sir,

Given the fact that there are lousy photographs, as well as bad painted portraits, I speak here only of quality work.

As you probably know people have been taking photographs for well over a hundred years, and yet, during that time the photograph has done little to replace the painted portrait as one of the highest forms of human expression.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that a photograph is the product of a mechanical device done in a split second. The hundredth copy is just as good as the original. Anyone with a finger and quality equipment can snap off a dozen in a tenth of a minute. A photo is a recording, a documentation of an individual. This comes in handy for all manner of projects such as passports, yearbooks, weddings and the like. If what you want is documentation then a photo fits the bill very well.

A painted portrait, however, is much more. A painted portrait is at its least a hand made original, a one of a kind. But it’s more; it is the sitter as seen and recorded painstakingly through the artist’s eye. In these modern times, for a variety of reasons, an artist will use a quality photograph as inspiration for his work. Such was the case with the famous painting of JFK by Aaron Shikler. As in this case a skilled artist breathed life into the image and took it many measures beyond the ordinary.

I would, however, distinguish between those artists who merely render a photographic finish to their painting. In my humble opinion this style leaves me wondering – why the effort?

Maybe you’ve had the privilege of seeing really great art in a museum. On more than one occasion I’ve stood before a great work of art and marveled at the energy, the intelligence and the skill that was brought to bear. These great works of art (and many are being created today) are magnificent human achievements that will last for hundreds of years. At their very best they capture the likeness of a fortunate individual and surround them in splendid artistic expression.

At our Ringling museum in Sarasota we have a pastel portrait of Marie Antoinette which was created in the late 1700’s just before the sitter lost her head to the French revolution. I get all wobbly standing before this painting that was once touched by Marie Antoinette and executed (maybe an unfortunate word) by one of the great portraitists of her time, Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. I don’t believe a photograph can evoke this kind of emotional response. It is human to human, without the cold calculus of mechanical intervention.

I don’t deny that some photographers bring an artful expression to their work. I love photography and marvel at what the camera can do in competent hands. I myself do my level best to create artful images through my photography, but from one who has sought to do both, I can tell you that a good photograph will always bow down to a painted portrait. This is borne out every day in auction houses all over the world. At this level the greater aesthetic will always be reflected in dollars spent.

Unlike a photograph a painted portrait is much more a human labor, such a thing that is grown up organically from the mind and spirit of the artist. Ask any portrait artist and they will tell you of the eyes, mouths, and noses that have been painted, wiped off and repainted time and again because their effort was deemed wanting by two percent. Is their no value in the months, and in some cases years of effort? In most cases the artists barely receive a minimum hourly wage for their effort. In many cases their prices are argued down like a sack of onions at a street market.

There will always be those who cannot comprehend the difference between a photograph and a painted portrait. There will always be those who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. As you can see you’ve touched on a subject that is near and dear to me.
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Old 04-16-2016, 02:53 PM   #2
John Crowther John Crowther is offline
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My good friend Nicholas Delbanco, a prolific author and the Robert Frost Distinguished Professor of English Language and Literature at the U. of Michigan, wrote in a recent book about artists who died young that essential to the portrait painter is the ability to be self-effacing. It's one of the few things Nicholas has ever written that I disagree with, and strikes at the heart of your excellent observations, Mike, about the distinctions between painted portraits and photographs. To me the painted portrait is as much about the artist as it is the subject. And whereas a photograph captures an instant of the subject's life, the painting is a record of the relationship between artist and subject over the period of time it takes to complete the work. We the viewers get to observe the subject through the artist's lenses and filters, as opposed to those of the camera.
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Old 04-17-2016, 12:37 PM   #3
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Hi John,

That self-effacing business is getting pretty deep into the collective psyche. Maybe your friend has that keen an insight. As for the portrait artists that I've met - they all look like their coming at it from a varitey of angles.
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Old 04-17-2016, 04:01 PM   #4
John Crowther John Crowther is offline
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Perhaps a part of the problem - and it's worth a discussion on this forum - is the tendency for artists to try and emulate the photograph, amplified by the use of reference photos as opposed to working from life. This is particularly in evidence with commissioned work, as much if not more the fault of the client as the artist. It's not even a necessarily conscious choice as it is the tacit acceptance of an ingrained archetype. (One need only look at the majority of the presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian.) The result is a subject whose only thought is to hold still, and possibly project an air of power and gavitas that usually comes off as forced.

Mike, I share your leaning toward painted portraits, for much the same reasons as you, though I don't dismiss photoraphed portraits (I think Cecil Beaton, Annie Liebowitz, and Diane Arbus among many, many others). Both are valued and valuable art forms (in an aesthetic while not necessarily monetary sense). But in the opening decades of the 21st century we should perhaps be moving away from portraiture that too often attempts to compete with photography and instead stands by itself as a genuinely personal work of art in its own right that goes beyond presumably objective external likeness and is a reflection of the artist's response to the subject. There are precedents: Lucian Frued, Elaine de Kooning, Andrew Wyeth, Philip Pearlstein, Alice Neel, Robert Henri, Egon Schiele come immediately to mind. Undoubtedly this is more a matter of educating portraiture clients than artists, most of whom would probably embrace a paradigm that celebrates their individuality.
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Old 04-18-2016, 10:29 AM   #5
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Over the 15 years that I've been posting on this forum there have been plenty of discussions regarding photo vs life. And I've stated my preference for the record: from near life in an open field at midnight during a thunderstorm.

My point above is that all these arguments may soon become moot with the relentless approach of technology. We painters may soon go the way of the bricklayer and the passenger pigeon.

Of course this fate is not a certainty. As I argued in my essay paintings have fended off the camera for all these years. It does tend to push me more toward the more painterly approach, which is difficult to avoid with all that rain and hail hitting the canvas.
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Old 04-18-2016, 12:35 PM   #6
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Mike, I may not have been as clear as I would have liked. I didn't intend a reference photo vs. life argument, and indeed have followed many of these discussions with interest over the years. No, I was commenting on the widespread tendency, particularly with commissioned work, for painted portraits to have the same look as photographed portraits. It's almost as if there's a series of templates: sitting or standing, slight turn of the body with the face staring forward, hands a certain well-established way, eyes glazed over (communicating "how much longer do I have to stay like this?"), etc. As you aptly noted, it's part of the "collective psyche." I recall a discussion a while back about the tendency for some people in the art establishment to insist that the painted portrait should not be considered a true art form at all. It's precisely the ubiquitous frozen pose and deer-in-the-headlights look that leads to this misguided idea.

For portrait painters to avoid extinction, I think we need to keep ourselves "in the picture" as it were, moving away from self-effacing objectivity and allowing our personal responses and feelings toward the subject to be communicated. I like to define art as the metaphors with which we share our unique experiences with others. This should extend to portraiture as well.
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Old 04-20-2016, 10:38 AM   #7
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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A path of some resistance

Though at one time caught up in the “painting vs. photography” kerfuffle, as if the distinction were grounded in a true dichotomy or meaningful difference, I’ve spent the last many years paring a good deal of trouble out of my life practices, and showing up for this rumble has been largely relegated to a back page on the to-do list. I say “largely”—apparently I still like to watch—because my thinking has evolved from a philosophy (and a borrowed one, if not to add, youthfully and sometimes recklessly polemical) to simply a personal preference: paintings that look like photographs just don’t do it for me any more. I've stopped trying to paint them, and I've stopped purchasing them.

This is a portrait artists’ site, and so I acknowledge and then gently set to the side the portraitist’s commission to verisimilitude. It doesn’t matter if I put the “wrong” number of windows in a barn that I include in a landscape, but Suzie in the white dress had better have the correct number of eyes, in precise orientation, and even her smile probably shouldn’t be “not quite right.” I no longer seek out portrait work, though I will do one if asked. I accepted that I simply don’t have the personality, confidence or stamina for portraiture as a focus or a business.

In an ever-receding previous life, I went through atelier training in the classical realism style, and I spent years getting smiles right. It was the grail we were all seeking. Whether depicting a portrait subject, a cast drawing or painting, or a still-life from afternoon work, I once craved the accolade, “It looks just like a photograph!” Now that assessment—and it is one I make in reviewing my own work from years ago—results in at least a small sense of another kind of “not quite right.” It is certainly not wistfulness, and yet certainly not failure. All the technique is there, but I can no longer see the art in it. Speaking only for myself and of my own work, some of it hits like the milligram of dopamine from having completed gold-level Sudoku. The thrill is soon gone, the juices extracted.

As time-available shortened, I decided that the world didn’t need—at least not from me—any more highly-finished (“photographic”) paintings of dollar bills and grocery lists thumbtacked to richly-grained paneling. I do not say so at all derisively. I remember most well a single phrase from the brochure for the studio I eventually joined: “This work is not creative and is not intended to be.” We were wet-behind-the-ears wannabe painters and draftsmen who did not yet know how to “see.” “I’m being creative” would then have been the tyro’s uninformed excuse for not being able to see form and value design and hue and color temperature, and then translate and transfer it with fidelity to a two-dimensional surface.

I was privileged a couple of weeks ago to visit yet again a favorite gallery in Tucson (“Medicine Man Gallery,” which I cannot recommend too highly, in addition to the nearby “Settlers West” gallery), where I spotted across the room a desert landscape that I couldn’t look away from. It was so “real,” but I had no sense that I was looking at a photo. The light almost made me squint, and I could feel the heat and taste the dust from the arroyo. So I of course did what we all do—approach the painting to within inches to see how it was done, to steal a few licks if possible. And of course it was a seeming hodgepodge of direct, brush-marked strokes of clean pigment, each stroke and its placement presumably a choice manifested, yet signifying nothing in particular (or, as eastern thinkers might more aptly phrase it, no thing in particular). Yet walk away and turn, and there was the light and the heat and the dust again. And this: there was the particular artist, evident in that work, as no other person could be.

And that’s the way I want to paint, now. I also can take pretty good photographs (which are, not incidentally, informed greatly by what I learned in the drawing-and-painting studio.) These things aren’t the same, and they aren’t in either-or or best-of competition, to my eye and, as I said earlier, evolving preference.
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Old 04-20-2016, 12:10 PM   #8
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Quote:
I accepted that I simply don’t have the personality, confidence or stamina for portraiture as a focus or a business.
You said it good for me as well, Steven. We've read it hear on the forum that to be successful (monetarily) as a portrait painter you need to have at least five characteristics and maybe the least of them is talent. I've concluded some years back that I lack more than one of the listed ingredients.

Quote:
It doesn’t matter if I put the “wrong” number of windows in a barn that I include in a landscape, but Suzie in the white dress had better have the correct number of eyes, in precise orientation, and even her smile probably shouldn’t be “not quite right.”
And in those times when I was making money at it I was bound and determined to make Suzie right, because there was a concrete expectation that "this is the exercise," even as you splash all around the likeness, the likeness must be there. I never wanted to have to explain away as “quaint” that which comes from my inability to achieve no more than 90%.

My preference now is to paint those that look interesting to me and then give them away. I find that I am well suited for this and it makes me happy. It also frees me up to speak my mind on any subject and as foolishly as I wish; without the need to run to my business manager for approval.
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Old 10-11-2021, 10:10 PM   #9
Ngaire Winwood Ngaire Winwood is offline
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Mike, you letter lacks nothing, beautifully written, thank you.
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Old 10-11-2021, 10:11 PM   #10
Ngaire Winwood Ngaire Winwood is offline
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Thank you Steven, I always enjoy your intelligent insight.
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