Pencil Power

There was a famous book in the 1960’s by Marshall McLuhan called The Medium is the Message. The point of the book was to explore how the medium used shapes the message. The medium discussed was not medium as we use to refer to materials used in painting but rather in a broader sense: radio vs. magazine, TV vs. newspapers, movies vs. TV, et cetera.

Robert Cenedella – Impeachment is Off the Table
Recently, I have realized that the medium that most of us choose to write with tends to dictate the way in which we express ourselves. In my opinion, the creation of the ballpoint pen has limited much of our expressive power. How uninteresting is the ballpoint pen when you consider what can be done with the old fashioned ink pen, quill pen, or fountain pen? We are talking about the expressiveness of the line. It was the invention of line that truly enabled humans to make art from the very beginning. As George Grosz once said to me when correcting a drawing, “Line does not exist in nature, it is an invention of man.” Continue reading “Pencil Power”

The Fly in the Ointment

The name James Harvey probably means as little to the Art World as it does to the world of soap-box-packaging design. Yet if present standards for judging American art have any validity at all, James Harvey should be considered the most important and influential figure in Pop Art Sculpture. It was James Harvey who created one of the most widely publicized works of art in this century, the Brillo Shipping Carton, Brillo Shines Aluminum Fast and still in spite of this, he remains virtually unknown. What is even more curious about him is that he made his living designing shipping cartons from nine to five every day, while with a much greater devotion he continued to pursue a second career as an abstract artist. He never gained recognition for either.

Andy Warhol

It would be too easy to dismiss James Harvey as simply a loser. The real problem with Harvey is that he was just a painter trying to make a go of it without any understanding of the art of publicity, promotion, or possibly, the great merit of his own commercial package design. He died at the age of 36 before he could come to terms with a confusing world that overlooked him in favor of Andy Warhol, who was blithely referring to the Brillo box as his own masterpiece. The name Andy Warhol was already a household word. Harvey had to ask himself that if it had been he and not Warhol who had stormed the galleries and proclaimed the Brillo box to be a work of art, would the response have been the same? The question is purely academic since it was the famous Warhol, after all, who discovered the Brillo box. But it posed another question for Harvey: Does the ultimate success of Art today depend on the way it is promoted? And what is the mysterious process that enables a man who discovers a work of art to simultaneously become its author?

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Oil Painting

Which form of canvas is best ?
Much depends on the quality of canvas itself. Most of the so-called canvas panels have nothing to recommend them – they are unsatisfactory. Canvas by the yard is usually the painter’s first choice. It comes in a variety of weaves, some coarse, some fine.

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