I’ve been busy recently designing a series of mugs with quotes on for sale on my Etsy store. The mugs feature quotes from some of my favourite books, TV shows and movies and they are an interesting exercise in product design and typography. Some of the designs are quite basic at the moment but I’m learning what’s possible, what looks good and what people like.
I’ll come clean up front and state I haven’t seen the whole series of BBC’s The Big Painting Challenge 2017, a competition for amateur artists using a similar format to The Big Pottery Throwdown, The Great British Sewing Bee and of course the collosal hit The Great British Bake Off.
The show describes itself like this:
Passionate amateur artists undertake an intensive, six-week, artistic boot camp in a bid to perfect their skills and be crowned the overall champion.
I’ve only seen a few bits and pieces of The Big Painting Challenge until last night when I saw the fifth episode, Movement. This episode’s challenge was for the artists to convey proportion and movement in their work whilst observing ballerinas in action.
The show had me almost incandescent with rage at several points. I have a BA Hons in Illustration and have studied Fine Art and Art History over the years and spent many, many hours drawing life models in many situations, including drawing during a theatre performance of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard from the stalls and painting horse racing during a race meeting as part of my illustration degree course. Our artists seemed completely lost as the ballerina performed her routine whilst the artists looked on agape and gasping “How are we going to paint this?” Surely lesson one in this “artistic boot camp” would have involved some sort of rapid sketching exercises to loosen the artists up? But I guess that’s not good telly. In fact I was so curious as to the contents of lesson one that I watched episode 1 on iPlayer and found that lesson one was a still life and Pascal described his teaching style as “alternative thinking.”
Needless to say I was spitting “Fuck you”‘s at Pascal, one of the mentors, as he denegrated the eventual heat winner’s charcoal drawing of the ballerina shown in the clip above as “my worry here is that it’s going to be an illustration. Don’t be afraid of your response as an artist to what’s here.” What the fucking fuck does that even mean? Why use illustration as some kind of dirty word? Why assume that because something is well observed, well drawn and executed that it’s not showing some kind of emotional response from the artist? Does he think that because illustrations are usually done as work for hire that this somehow makes the art less valuable? Most of the work by the greatest artists in history were commissions from wealthy patrons or institutions (usually the Catholic Church) and the techniques used in these pieces inform and influence the techniques and styles used to this day. Edgar Degas, who is mentioned in this episode, was famed for his paintings of ballet dancers but Degas’ later works were all painted to generate an income for himself as he had spent all his money and sold his art collection to pay off his brother’s business debts. Does this somehow lessen the emotion Degas imbued in his work? Of course not. Does the work of William Blake generate less emotion because he was an illustrator? Was he not creating the work for himself as well as an audience? Is that not precisely what the contestants in this show are doing? I’m sure that painting dancing ballerinas would not be on any of their lists of future projects unless the Beeb were making them do it.
From the BBC’s description above one would assume these amateur artists had at least been taught some basic techniques over the previous 4 weeks about observation and sketching. Pascal again attracted my wrath as he tried to get his 2 students to paint 100 moving figures on a busy London street using 1 stroke of a brush per figure. How about teaching them some basics? How about a quick lesson in proportions considering that’s what your students will be critiqued on? No, they just stood in the strret drawing lines with a brush.
During the final challenge of this episode the artists had to create a piece of artwork based on a live performance of Swan Lake that was performed several times for them. The ballerinas entered the room, performed and left and I was dismayed to see that not one of the artists was taking the time to sketch the ballerinas in action whilst they were in the room. The artists were not making preparatory sketches and the artists’ “mentors” were intent on getting the artists to paint their “observations” immediately and spend no time studying the figures in motion, preparing sketches, planning composition or working on proportions. Of course, as the artists worked these “mentors” subsequently ripped the artwork to pieces, complaining about lack of motion, poor composition and poor proportions. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance as the saying goes!
The artists final pieces were then judged by the usual motley crew of reality show judges and their feedback was generally fair and reflected more on the quality of their teachers than on the artists themselves.
The official Google, Yahoo! and Bing blogs have all published news of a new joint schema that these search engines have developed to enable content publishers and webmasters to mark up their content in a way that is readable to all these search engines without adding 3, 4 or 5 different types of markup or just choosing the one that Google wants. This joint markup, called Schema.org, uses microdata to allow webmasters to markup specific types of content such as reviews, movie information, tv series, people profiles and more that can be easily extracted from the page and displayed in the search engine results page. Google have already been experimenting with this type of thing with “rich snippets” for places, recipes, reviews, events and products. The problem was Bing and Yahoo weren’t using this data and it was hard to get Google to correctly display the data so it was often seen as an extravagance and an unneccessary use of a programmer or web designer’s time to implement it. With the introduction of Schema.org this all changes and sites with any of the content that the schema can handle should implement it as soon as possible. Early adopters will benefit from the increased exposure in the search engine results as their content is indexed quicker and correctly and the search engines promote their new shiny features. Contact Denial Design today to find out how we can help your site get the benefits of this new search engine friendly code!
Highlights of the Q & A session with new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz at the D: All Things Digital conference. Some interesting things said, looks like Yahoo! could be slimming down over the next few months. Good to see that they seem to know what the problems are (except for thinking that people use Yahoo, which most people don’t).
The Official Google Blog details how to truly find yourself on Google by simply performing a “Search for "me" on Google“
“It’s no secret that from time to time many of us have searched on Google for our name or someone else’s. When searching for yourself to see what others would find, results can be varied and aren’t always what you want people to see — whether it’s someone else with your name, or the finishing time from that 5K you ran back in 2002. We want to make that better and give you more of a voice.
To give you greater control over what people find when they search for your name, we’ve begun to show Google profile results at the bottom of U.S. name-query search pages. These results offer abbreviated information from user-created Google profiles and a link to the full profiles. We’ve also added links so it’s easy to search for the same name on MySpace, Facebook, Classmates and LinkedIn.” reports Brian Stoler, a Google Software Engineer.
As he says, it’s only available on US searches at the moment but I’m sure it won’t be long until it’s rolled out worldwide (unless the privacy nuts have something to say about it!)