Your chance to help determine the timetable

Based on the comments, and implied commentary, we are officially reconsidering our galleries scheduling.

We only had 2 official comments, and they both suggested a reschedule. We also take the lack of overall commenting as implied evidence that this is a bad time of year for everyone, and as of such we want to reconsider the timing of our galleries due to this to. Finally in private discussions between the administration, it has also come up we have all been thinking about changing the time table independently.

As the Time Capsule galleries are our longest standing tradition and the biggest community feature on AE, we are giving all of you out there the final say on what our new timetable will look like.

On the right sidebar is a VERY important poll. Please vote you have or are interested in ever participating in one of our galleries!

Once the votes are in, our planned "reboot" gallery will be the Feathered Dinosaur gallery!

This is sure to be a popular topic and we hope it draws mass attention to our new schedule (if one is voted upon). As of such the we are giving everyone some lead in time before launching this gallery... As it stands right now we will be launching Feathered Dinosaurs early in the new year... UNLESS we get more than 15 comments/commitments of art from artists eager to launch this sooner.

We will announce the Feathered Dinosaur gallery date once the vote for the new schedule ends next week.

If you have completed or plan to complete a piece for our (defaulted) Forest gallery, we will still happily post them with all the fanfare they deserve (they just might not get a large gallery is all).

So please let us know what your preferred schedule for creating paleao-art is, and we'll try to accommodate...
"Sun+Moon" table lamp. Also available as a floor lamp
Designed and built by Art Donovan.
Email: donovandesign(at)


This woodcut by Lynd Ward scared the crap out of me when I was a boy:

Ward (1905-1985) became known in the 1930s for his "wordless novels" comprised entirely of woodcuts.  (His first, Gods' Man, a powerful story about the corrupting influence of money, debuted the week of the great stockmarket crash in 1929).

I discovered a battered collection of Ward's books on my father's bookshelf.  This illustration-- one of my favorites-- was from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

At age five, I was already expert at drawing scary monsters.  I'd figured out that the two most important ingredients for a monster were 1.) a scary face, and 2.) great big muscles.  Yet, Ward's monster had neither.  Ward succeeded in unnerving me without showing a face at all. 

That gave me plenty of food for thought.

Today you see artists straining to draw scarier faces and bigger muscles.  They'd do well to linger for a moment over the work of Lynd Ward.

ART Evolved's Galleries...

In theory the Forest Gallery is supposed to go up in 2ish weeks, and yet we haven't formally talked about at all... Oops

I sincerely apologize to any people really excited about this potential theme. I didn't mean to kill this gallery with neglect. Hopefully my excuse of moving to Hong Kong at the start of September (with 4 days notice) and jumping into a full time teaching position the day after arriving is sufficient excuse (Peter Bond has an equally valid excuse of acquiring his own full time teaching gig a week later!).

These delays may sadly be the new status quo on ART Evolved. We have been trying to juggle this site with our new heavy duty work loads, but sadly the work takes priority.

Now I don't bring this up to say ART Evolved is finished (far from it). Nor are we planning to pack in the galleries anytime soon.

I just see this as a great chance to discuss people's thoughts on how we've been running the galleries the past 3 years, and whether we wanted to shift the timing or frequency of them. (I note for example at least two of our previous November galleries had severe delays and schedule disruptions).

Do you think ART Evolved should stick to the six galleries every two months. Or should we make it four galleries every three months? Should we simply reschedule a few galleries to less busy times of the year?

In the immediate future we have two options. One we could carry on with a forest themed gallery, and simply push the due date to later. OR we could drop it, and go for the special end of year gallery Bond and myself came up with in the spring (your only hint is Dinosaurs and feathers... :P)

An actual prehistoric Palaeo-Artist?!?

By now I'm sure you've heard about the supposed Triassic Kraken, eater of whale sized Ichthyosaurs, and self aware artist using the marine reptile bones as its medium. If you haven't it was just presented at a conference last week.

While this would have been an amazing find, it sadly just sounds stupid based on the evidence (I heard was) presented. It was claimed that due to strange arrangements of many whale sized Ichthyosaur vertebrae, a giant squid was using the bones to compose a self portrait of itself. A basic examination of taphonomy and/or comparisons with modern sunken whales provides plenty of legitmiate ways for an Ichthyosaur to end up a in funny resting position. Read Brian Switek's review of it all for more detail.

Yet if if the squid was found to exist and it did indeed create such self portrait art (I am NOT advocating or supporting this claim though, to be clear!!!) this brings up a very interesting philosophic point for us palaeo-artists...

This post and the philosophic idea it presents were inspired and triggered by this great doddle by Nobu Tamura.

If there were a prehistoric creature that had created its own artistic reconstruction of itself or its world, that would have a significant impact on our own modern palaeontologic artistic efforts. It could call into question what is palaeo-art, and whether we are accomplishing our mission properly!

The mission of any (worthwhile) palaeo-art is to somehow capture the prehistoric world, and bring (part of) its essence up through the well of deep-time. Up until now we have only known humans to engage in this activity. Thus all of us humans have all been on an even playing field, we are all removed from our subject matters by millions of years...

Our art recreates these worlds through indirect and comparative observations. None of our art can claim to be directly influenced by the things it is trying to represent.

Yet if there were a prehistoric organism that had itself engaged in artistic recreations of anything directly from its time, that would render our efforts completely mute conceptually. Yes the squid's (or whatever's) art is not true palaeo-art, but rather contemporary art of its own prehistoric time. However that is the point. It is not pretending to emulate prehistory, it actually depicts prehistory!

To me, philosophically, this is a fascinating potential challenge to our palaeo-art. Not that it would stop me from creating it, or talking about it pretentiously like this :P I just think the concept of something back in deep time actually recording its world fascinating and somehow appealing...

Not that I think we've found it yet!

Your thoughts?

(Hat tip to the Palaeontography people I've been debating with in private emails for getting me to think about the old definition of "palaeo-art", which in the 1800's referred to art created by prehistoric humans. This definition of palaeo-art is the reason for their desire to push for Palaeontography as the new name for what this site acknowledges as palaeo-art.

A very interesting discussion, but I stand by the Dinosaur related art definition of Palaeo-art, given it has an accepted non-formal definition within palaeontology, and the cave painting meaning hasn't been used in ages. Wikipedia only has an article on dino-art as proof our definition of palaeo-art is the only one commonly accepted these days...

I'd be more inclined to accept Palaeontography, if there were a giant squid creating art in the Triassic! That would be real palaeo-art :P)


I love the wildness in these preliminary sketches by illustrator Bernie Fuchs:

They were done quickly, and with some violence:

They look completely unfettered.  Not a traffic light in sight.

 Yet, these are not random spasmodic brush strokes.  If you look closely, you can see the fruits of years of discipline and technical skill.

Fuchs spent his first years out of art school working in a small studio in Detroit learning to paint tight, highly realistic car illustrations.  Eventually he left that world behind, but decades later-- working with the palette of Bonnard and using free, spontaneous brush strokes-- Fuchs still retained all that hard earned wisdom about how to convey the weight and volume of a car. 

Fuchs' apprenticeship taught him lessons about form that Bonnard was never forced to learn.  Look beneath the apparent freedom of his brushwork to the subtle treatment of those purple hubcaps (with no wheels), or his reduction of the shapes of light and shadow, or his highlight on the corner of the fender, and you'll see that Fuchs was in full control the whole time.

There are a dozen subtle choices in that "freely" painted sunset.
Similarly, Fuchs spent two years in art school learning to draw the human form.  Years later, when roughing out a human form at lightning speed, Fuchs didn't need to pause and think about the way fingers bunch together, or the way an elbow works.

Look at the way his apparently free line captures the character of those wooden chairs.  This is a line that has definite opinions about its subject matter.

Some like to think they can save time by skipping over the long hours of basic exercises and turning straight to abstraction, or to copying photo reference, or scanning material into Photoshop.

But those dues we pay, they build up equity for us.  And they pay off not just when it comes time to paint that 100th car, or that 500th elbow, but also when it comes time to paint the nameless and formless abstractions as well.

T-Rex Hong Kong Ad

A very cute ad all over the place here in Hong Kong for the public transit system (MTR).
I really like it. Not that I could tell you what it says or is trying advertise mind you.

In unrelated news I'm about to put up a ton of posts about the random adventures of my first month in Hong Kong. So if you're not interested in this blatant self promotion, tune out now. If you are interested check them out at my blog Weapon of Mass Imagination. Sadly no Dinosaurs or palaeo-art, but lots of crazy unexpected things.

Happy Birthday T-rex and Albertosaurus!

Tyrannosaurus rex and Albertosaurus sarcophagus both celebrate their 106th birthday today! Wish them both a happy birthday!

Download the original 1905 Osborn paper here. (Thanks to Thomas Holtz on facebook for providing the link today!)


This is the second-- and I promise, the last-- excerpt from my recent talk at the Norman Rockwell Museum.  I submit the following thesis for dispute and contradiction.  Next week I will go back to showing really cool pictures. 
Over the years, many people have wrestled-- pointlessly I think-- with the difference between art and illustration.  The internet is riddled with silly theories on the subject:
The distinction lies in the fact that art is the idea (brought to life) while an illustration is a depiction (or explanation) of an idea.

Fine Art is simply art for art's sake. Even if you are doing a commission for a client, it would still be fine art.  But illustration is illustrating a story or idea.

In modern illustration the intent is most often the selling of a product.  When something noble is put to ignoble ends, there is a deterioration of value.
Even talented artists and illustrators have been tormented by the distinction. Illustrator Robert Weaver noisily agonized about the boundary line:
Until the illustrator enjoys complete independence from outside pressure and direction, complete responsibility for his own work, and complete freedom to to do whatever he deems fit-- all necessaries in the making of art-- then illustration cannot be art but only a branch of advertising.
With all due respect to Weaver's romantic illusion, it's difficult to think of a fine artist with "complete independence from outside pressure and direction" whose work was not worse off for it.  

Despite all this hand wringing about the difference between art and illustration, I think the question is a fake one, concerned more about social status than about the nature of art.

The real difference, it seems to me, has nothing to do with the talent of the artist, or the quality of the work, or its morality, or its intelligence.  It is far too easy to identify examples of illustration that are superior to "fine" art in each of these categories, just as it is easy to identify examples of fine art that are superior to illustration.  It hardly takes any effort to puncture categorical distinctions between the two types of work.

In my view, there is no inherent difference between art and illustration except the way in which  payment to the artist is processed.

Here's what I mean:  For the first 30,000 years of art, artists were able to earn a decent living working for kings, priests, pharaohs and popes.  Art was commissioned for temple walls and public spaces.  It adorned palaces and royal tombs and the homes of aristocrats.  Then kings began to disappear from the earth.  Popes stopped commissioning new art.  They were replaced by a new commercial class, fueled by the birth of capitalism and the invention of the corporation.  This class became the new patrons of arts.

It's important to emphasize that although art's sponsors and subject matter changed, the quality of the work did not. The same talented artists who once painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the walls of the Great Temple at Karnak simply migrated to the new bosses in order to feed their families.

Artists adapting to the new business realities found two paths.  The first was to produce what we now call "fine" or "gallery" art for the private moneyed class and corporate art collections.  The second path opened as a result of the newly invented printing press: rather than selling a picture to a wealthy patron,  artists could now make multiple copies of a picture and sell them for smaller amounts to larger numbers of (less-wealthy) purchasers.  If this option had existed during the golden age of Greece or the early Italian Renaissance, you can bet some of the greatest artists would have taken full advantage of it.  In fact, when this business model first began to emerge with the invention of etching, some of the greatest artists, such as Durer and Rembrandt, quickly embraced it:

Rembrandt turned to etchings as a way of selling multiple copies of a single image to Dutch merchants.

The story of that technology is the history of illustration. There would be no modern illustration without two key developments:
  1.  The ability to create and distribute quality copies to large audiences; and
  2.  The ability to collect small, proportional payments for that art from large audiences.
Because of these developments, the most talented artists (who we could never afford to hire individually under the old business model for art) could now create beautiful pictures to entertain and delight the public.  They are paid with a tiny fraction of the price we pay for a magazine or book or video game or movie ticket.  By aggregating tiny payments from vast audiences, we paid handsome sums to great magazine illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and J.C. Leyendecker, just as we pay handsome sums to the talented creators at Pixar today.   Similarly, commercial artists who design products for mass consumer markets get paid very well when a penny or two from each sale goes into the manufacturer's design or marketing budget. Michelangelo never had the option of getting paid that way.

For a snapshot of how this new opportunity opened up for artists, look at the pirate illustrations of Howard Pyle, the father of modern illustration.  As the technology for reproducing his pictures gradually improved over his career, the public became more enthusiastic and the demand increased dramatically:

The earliest Pyle pictures were printed in magazines after talented wood engravers carved Pyle's images into wooden printing blocks. The engraver even signed the recreated image (see highlighted portion). 

Crude color was added to enhance the early images.

Later, audiences grew as the invention of photo engraving captured the subtler and more sensitive aspects of Pyle's originals .

Improved printing technology finally reproduced the full colors and technique of the original, leading to the golden age of illustration and a proliferation of illustrated books and magazines.

As we scan Pyle's pictures, we see how the quality of reproductions, and the newly sophisticated vehicles for delivering them to the public,  transformed the economics of art and inspired new bursts of creativity.  A handful of black and white journals, such as Scribners and Century, evolved into dozens of splashy, well designed, full color magazines.  It was the Cambrian explosion of modern illustration.

In short, the twin pillars of modern illustration are 1.) quality reproduction, and 2.) the ability to collect marginal payments from large numbers of viewers.  These two developments created a robust opportunity for talented artists.  They are the core of the economic model for illustration, and the only categorical difference between modern illustration and fine art.  

Does the method of payment affect the character of the art?  Yes, but perhaps the better question is: does it affect art for the better or worse?  It is undeniable that because of its wider audience, illustration is often broader than fine art.  But as Shakespeare proved definitively, broad appeal to a popular audience is not incompatible with greatness.  Even more importantly, the broadness of the illustration audience combined with the relentless scrubbing of the commercial marketplace seems to have inoculated illustration from the narcissism, decadence and irrelevance which has now infected the "fine" art model.

Last Stand

Ludwigsburg, Germany

It has been a while since I updated the blog, but I have been hard at work on a few new projects. First up is  The Big City, a show opening in Ludwigsburg, Germany on 23rd October at Kunstverein Ludwigsburg. The solo show, my first in Germany, will feature a combination of past work and installations as well as some new work shot on the streets of Berlin, Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg.


Fantastic Voyage

Death and Taxes

Grottaglie, Italy

The image above was another street installation from last year's Fame Festival in Italy. This one had a miniature speaker and mp3 player hidden inside the cigarette box, playing sounds of coughing. We moved in to a busier area where Angelo (founder of Fame Festival) and I filmed reactions to the installation as people passed by. We would have liked to have shot more, but it was right before a big festival at the church (right behind where we placed the installation) and they kept ringing the church bells. And then the brass band started up. I think that is why every parent tries to shoo their child away - "Come on, get to church!"

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