Artists

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April 2018: Paul Gauguin

Born: June 7, 1848 in Paris, France

Died: May 8, 1903 in Atuona, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

“No one is good; no one is evil; everyone is both, in the same way and in different ways. It is so small a thing, the life of a man, and yet there is time to do great things, fragments of the common task.”

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Paul Gauguin, 1891
Oviri figure on Gauguin's grave in Atuona.
Oviri figure on Gauguin’s grave in Atuona

Paul Gauguin is best known as a French painter and wasn’t appreciated until after his death.  In fact, he was talented in many art forms: painter, sculptor, print maker, ceramist, wood-carver, drawer, and was also a writer.  Born to liberal parents in Paris, his childhood was fairly normal, but illegitimacy ran on his mother’s side.  His father died when he was an infant and shortly lived in Peru with his mother and sister before being forced to return to Paris.  It is here Gauguin grew into a young adult, joining the French army and later becoming a successful stockbroker and businessman.  He tried his hand at selling tarps, but this was not successful.  His lack of providing for his family ultimately helped end his marriage.  It was when the stock market crashed in 1882 that he took painting seriously, and never let up until he was physically unable to do it. 

The Artist's Mother, 1889
The Artist’s Mother, 1889
Gauguin's maternal grandmother, Flora Tristan (1803–1844) in 1838
Gauguin’s maternal grandmother, Flora Tristan, 1838
Women Bathing, 1885
Winter Landscape, 1879
Winter Landscape, 1879
Still-Life with Fruit and Lemons (c. 1880)
Still-Life with Fruit and Lemons, 1880
Still Life with Profile of Laval, 1886,
Still Life with Profile of Laval, 1886
Bord de Mer II, 1887
Bord de Mer II, 1887
Martinique Landscape 1887
Martinque Landscape, 1887
Four Breton Women, 1886
Four Breton Women, 1886
Among the Mangoes (La Cueillette des Fruits), 1887,
Among the Mangoes (La Cueillette des Fruits), 1887

Gauguin is probably second most remembered for his stay in Tahiti and how it influenced him and vice versa.  Part of the reason for him traveling there was to get away from European civilization and spent considerable time in Papeete.  He again was broke with health issues, and returned to France.  It was during this time he had a falling out with Paul Durand-Ruel and Ambroise Vollard, both art dealers.  Gauguin was miserly with his money and selfish in his actions and never saw Europe or his children again when he left for Tahiti in 1895.  He survived from art sales and support from friends, later becoming a newspaper editor until 1901.  This didn’t mean some of his artwork wasn’t sold in Paris.  Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? sold for 2,500 francs (about $10,000 in year 2000 US dollars) in 1901.  With a steady flow of income, he was able to make Marquesas Island his home.

Vahine no te tiare (Woman with a Flower), 1891
Vahine no te tiare (Woman with a Flower), 1891
The Midday Nap (1894)
The Midday Nap, 1894
Te aa no areois (The Seed of the Areoi), 1892
Te aa no areois (The Seed of the Areoi), 1892
Nave nave moe (Sacred spring, sweet dreams), 1894
Nave nave moe (Sacred spring, sweet dreams), 1894
maternity 1899
Maternity, 1899
Christ in the Garden of Olives (Gauguin's self-portrait) 1889,
Christ in the Garden of Olives (Gauguin’s self-portrait), 1889
Annah the Javanese, (1893),
Annah the Javanese, 1893
Arii Matamoe (The Royal End) (1892)
Arii Matamoe (The Royal End), 1892
Nave nave moe (Sacred spring, sweet dreams), 1894
Nave nave moe (Sacred spring, sweet dreams), 1894
maternity 1899
Maternity, 1899

Other painters during that time, Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne, initially helped him further his artistic vision.  He moved to Copenhagen with his family, but it wasn’t what he had hoped. He returned to Paris in 1885, took low-end jobs, and held contempt for Georges Seurat (known for pointillism) and unfriended Pissarro.  He found new energy at Pont-Aven, an artist’s colony, in Brittany, France in 1886.  He found new friendships in Émile Bernard, Charles Laval, and Émile Schuffenecker.  It was here he became disinterested in Impressionism and found vigor in folk art and Japanese print work.  He experimented in other painting styles during this time.  His visit to Panama in 1887 was the introduction to non-European women in his paintings and affinity for them in relationships.  He continued having strained relationships with artists and this time it was the brothers, Vincent and Theo van Gogh.  Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir had no problem expressing their distaste for his work. On the opposite side, he found a lifelong friend in Edgar Degas. 

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Gauguin playing a harmonium at Alphonse Mucha’s studio at rue de la Grande-Chaumière, Paris, 1895
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Maruru (Offerings of Gratitude), 1894
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Paul Gauguin, Alfons Mucha, Luděk Marold, and Annah the Javanese at Mucha’s studio, 1893
The Universe is Created (L'Univers est créé), from the Noa Noa suite, 1893–94
The Universe is Created (L’Univers est créé), from the Noa Noa suite, 1893–94

Gauguin is probably second most remembered for his stay in Tahiti and how it influenced him and vice versa.  Part of the reason for him traveling there was to get away from European civilization and spent considerable time in Papeete.  He again was broke with health issues, and returned to France.  It was during this time he had a falling out with Paul Durand-Ruel and Ambroise Vollard, both art dealers.  Gauguin was miserly with his money and selfish in his actions and never saw Europe or his children again when he left for Tahiti in 1895.  He survived from art sales and support from friends, later becoming a newspaper editor until 1901.  This didn’t mean some of his artwork wasn’t sold in Paris.  Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? sold for 2,500 francs (about $10,000 in year 2000 US dollars) in 1901.  With a steady flow of income, he was able to make Marquesas Island his home.

Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going, 1897
Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going, 1897
Le Sorcier d'Hiva Oa (Marquesan Man in a Red Cape), 1902,
Le Sorcier d’Hiva Oa (Marquesan Man in a Red Cape), 1902
Two Women (1901 or 1902)
Two Women (1901 or 1902)
Still life with Exotic Birds, 1902,
Still life with Exotic Birds, 1902
Riders on the Beach, 1902
Riders on the Beach, 1902
Landscape with a Pig and a Horse (Hiva Oa), 1903
Landscape with a Pig and a Horse (Hiva Oa), 1903

He had a love and hate relationship the church.  He sided with them in some respects, but felt the institution was hypocritical when it came to sexual matters.  He had no shortage of being revengeful, and fought against what he felt were injustices done to him whether it come from his family, institutions, or military.  His health had deteriorated, mainly his legs and heart, and wasn’t able to paint.  He engaged in writing and wrote his autobiography, although choppy, and letters to his friends.  It was a review of his life.  He died on May 8, 1903.  All but three of his children outlived him.  He had five children with Mette: Émile, Aline, Clovis, Jean René, and Paul Rollon.  He had three children from two different women: Germaine Huais, Émile Marae a Tai, and a daughter that died in infancy.  He had one daughter with a fourteen year old girl, Vaeoho, who left him shortly before giving birth. 

Jules Agostini's 1896 photograph of Gauguin's house in Punaauia.
Jules Agostini’s photograph of Gauguin’s house in Punaauia, 1896
Père Paillard (Father Lechery), 1902
Père Paillard (Father Lechery), 1902
Paul Gauguin, 1894, Oviri (Sauvage), partially glazed stoneware
Paul Gauguin, 1894, Oviri (Sauvage), partially glazed stoneware
Paul Gauguin, 1893–95, Objet décoratif carré avec dieux tahitiens, terre cuite, rehauts peints
Paul Gauguin, 1893–95, Objet décoratif carré avec dieux tahitiens, terre cuite, rehauts peints

There is no doubt that Gauguin left a mark in many places, some good and some bad.  HE was an artist, father, and husband who struggled throughout much of his life. I would say he was his own worst critic and enemy.  He loved women and wasn’t afraid of it.  His works sell in the millions and Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) sold for 210 million in 2014. 

Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry), 1892,
Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry), 1892

 “Don’t copy nature too literally. Art is an abstraction. Derive it from nature as you dream in nature’s presence, and think more about the act of creation than the outcome.”

Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

March 2018: African Sculpture

I’m carrying the tradition of focusing on a certain country or continent instead of a particular artist. I’ve made a few clay masks in my life during various art classes. They are fun to make.  African sculpture was first made from wood and other organic materials. You can deduce most of the earliest ones did not survive. Those that had a better chance were made from clay for religious ceremonies in West Africa. The earliest known sculptures in this region are from the Nok culture in Nigeria. These people lived between 500 BC and 500 AD. As time progressed, the sculptures included bronze casting for reliefs. Central Africa masks had features such as heart-shaped faces with dot and circle patterns. East Africa was known for their pole sculptures that had human shapes with geometric decoration. These poles were associated with death and the ancestral world. South African clay sculptures date from 400 to 600 AD. These sculptures had cylindrical heads with human and animal features. Here are some examples of the beautiful masks and sculptures from the the past.

February 2018: Korean Ceramists

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Porcelain Bowl (15th century) by Prix (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I took a few ceramic courses, and let me tell you, ceramists have some of the most sculpted and muscular arms when you’re talking about artists.  I was strongest when I threw clay.  Weights would do the same thing, but for it to be a natural thing without thinking about it, wheel work does the job.  Centering clay and raising it up defines your muscles like nothing else.  You definitely need to know your craft to be a good thrower and hand builder.  I hope to get back into it at some point.  Without further delay, it’s time to discuss the greatness of Korean ceramists. 

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Vase with red cranes (12th century) by the original uploader was Korea history at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
China permeated much of Asian art forms and ceramics is no exception, but over time Korean ceramists created works with a style all their own.  The moon jar is one example and celadon (green glaze) was often used.  Korean mainly used earthenware and porcelain.  I’ll let you know right now porcelain is extremely difficult to work with, but when you are good at throwing it, you’ll get some amazing pieces.  I wasn’t one of them, but I watched one student with glee that definitely excelled at creating beautiful pots. 

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Celadon incense burner from Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) by Steve46814 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The primary religion in Korea is Buddhism with its principles deeply rooted in its culture.  This provided a need for celadon wares with animal and bird motifs.  Around this time, iron powder was also added, which made the glaze shinier and more durable.  The inlay technique started during the early 12th century. This meant that designs were incised into the clay: foliate designs, geometric or scrolling bands, elliptical panels, stylized fish, insects, and birds.  The inlays were often in white and black. 

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Blue and white porcelain jar from Joseon Dynasty (15th century) by Korea Copyright Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

As with any country that is ruled by kings and queens, white wares became synonymous with nobility and royalty.  This high quality of work still survives from the Joseon dynasty from 1392 to 1897.  Ceramics arising out of this period is primarily divided into three periods: 1300 to 1500 early period, 1500 to 1700 middle, and 1700 to 1900–1910 late period.

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Blue and white porcelain jar with pine and bamboo designs from Joseon Dynasty (1489) by Korea Copyright Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

This served as a turning point as Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910.  When Japan surrendered during World War II, the 1905 and 1910 treaties between the two countries were no longer in effect.  The Korean ceramists’ influence of that period remain today, and continues to be as relevant as it did back then.

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Celadon water dropper exhibited at the National Museum of Korea by ddol-mang (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ysjjhfox/116147562/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Blue and white porcelain jar with plum and bamboo design from Joseon Dynasty (15th century) by Korea Copyright Commission, via Wikimedia Commons
Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

January 2018: Carel Fabritius (born Carel Pietersz)

Born: February 27, 1622 in Middenbeemster, Dutch Republic

Died: October 12, 1654 in Delft, Dutch Republic

Carel Fabritius was one of three brother painters.  His younger brother, Barent, was a painter of biblical subjects, mythical scenes, and expressive portraits while Johannes, also younger, was a still life painter.  Carel was trained under Rembrandt.  He developed his own artistic style and experimented with perspective.  He was interested in complex spatial effects.  He died early in life due to an explosion at a gunpowder store, which also killed hundreds of people.  This destroyed most of his paintings.  A very gifted painter, he was 32 when his life ended.

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Young Man in a Fur Cap, a 1654 self-portrait
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A View of Delft, with a Musical Instrument Seller’s Stall, 1652
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Portrait of a Seated Woman with a Handkerchief, 1644
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Portrait of Abraham de Potter, 1649
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The Goldfinch, 1654
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The Sentry

Barent Fabritius (born Bernard Pietersz Fabritius)

Born: November 16, 1624 in Middenbeemster, Dutch Republic

Died: October 12, 1654 in Amsterdam, Dutch Republic

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Young Painter in his Studio, 1655-1660
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The Slaughtered Pig, 1656
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Ruth and Boaz, 1660

Johannes Fabritius (born Johannes Pietersz)

Born: November 16, 1624 in Middenbeemster, Dutch Republic

Died: Sometime after 1693 in Hoorn, Dutch Republic

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Still life of fish, eels, and fishing nets, 1650-1700
Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

August 1, 2017:  This will resume again in 2018

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July 4, 2017: Mary Cassatt

Born: May 22, 1844
Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, United States
 
Died: June 14, 1926
Château de Beaufresne, near Paris, France

Mary Cassatt is an American painter and printmaker although she lived most of her life in France.   Her mediums were pastel, oil, gouache, watercolor, and graphite.  Her upbringing is what you would call privileged as she belonged to the upper/middle class.  Much of her influence came from her mother who was also well-educated and read.  She never married and dedicated her life to artwork even in the years when she was partially blind, had rheumatism, and other physical ailments. 

She was what you would also call a pioneer as she sided with women’s rights, but did not like to be viewed as adhering to one particular concept or thing.  She consistently demanded the same treatment as her male comrades in the art world and did not compromise herself.  Her subjects ranged from family members to Parisian models. 

She formed an intimate friendly relationship with Edgar Degas, as they had common interests and backgrounds.   It was in France she felt most at home although she returned to the East Coast out of necessity.   She was resistant to change in her later years and struggled to find a place in the art world.  Her work would later be recognized for their brilliance especially after her death.  No one can say she was not great at capturing the human subject in her intimate portraits.  Many of her works are in notable galleries and have sold for as much as four million dollars. 

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Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

June 11, 2017: Katsushika Hokusai

Born: October 31, 1790

Died: May 10, 1849

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There’s an eerie thing when you read about an artist, and recognize certain elements of yourself in him or her.  The main one being I often wanted to change my name.  I have less of an urge to do this now, but I think about it from time to time.  Would I pick a Korean name?  Would I pick a more Western name?  Would I pick a fictional name?

Hokusai, as he was called, attached various names to himself throughout his career.  He had chosen around thirty different names, often mirroring changes to his artistic styles, and overlapped at times.  A woodblock artist, he creating prints and paintings using subject matter of people, landscapes, and flora and fauna.  He also produced erotic pieces, which was used by all classes, and known as shunga.

During the height of his career, he produced brush paintings, known as surimono, and two collections of landscapes, Famous Sights of the Eastern Capital and Eight Views of Edo. This was also the time when his skill was recognized, partly due to self-promotion and taught students thirsty for his knowledge.  He paid equal attention of his work in published books as with his actual works.

His most famous work, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, includes the recognizable Great Wave off Kanagawa.  There were 36 prints in total, and included ten additional prints later.  The longevity of his work can also be seen in his twelve manga volumes (9 published before 1820 and 3 published posthumously).  He created the series in between the years 1830 to 1832.

As is the occurrence of artists finding influence in others, he served as inspiration to Impressionist painters.  He cultivated and reinforced the path for Western countries and artists to view Japanese artistic contributions as legitimate.  He desired to live into his hundreds, but died at the age of eighty-eight.  What more could he have possibly achieved?  Probably a great deal, but with everyone and everything, it must all come to an end.

1760 Childhood Name: Tokitarō

1779 First Name Change: Shunrō

1793-1797 Name Change: Tawaraya Sōri

1798 Name Change: Hokusai Tomisa

1811 Name Change: Iitsu

Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

June 6, 2017: Jan van Eyck

Born: c 1380-1390 in Maaeseik/Belgian Province

Died: July 9, 1441 in Bruges/Flemish Region

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Portrait of a Man, 1443

Jan van Eyck was a Netherlandish Renaissance painter.  His subject matter had religious figures and overtones including the Madonna and baby, Jesus’s crucifixion, and was also a successful portrait artist.  I remember being amazed at his level of detail in his paintings.  His most iconic piece being the Arnolfini Portrait.  Painters of his caliber at the time were much like the current painters of photo realism today.

His securement in the artistic world was equally due to his court painting and commissioned portraits.  This brought him financial stability, and in turn, he was able to not feel the strain of producing work to feed himself.  He worked alongside his brother, Hubert van Eyck, on some paintings. 

He was a meticulous painter, leaving nothing to chance, including his unique way of signing his name to his works and how he used frames to enhance the worlds unfolding on the canvas.  Whether you view his signature and dating of his work as condescending or spirited, he dared to affirm what he already knew about himself.  He was a permanent influence during his time, and by him creating no doubt about the authenticity of his works, he protected his legacy.

Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

May 14, 2017: Wassily Kandinsky

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A Russian painter and art theorist, Wassily Kandinsky, was born in Moscow in 1866.  He was all encompassing where he taught design and painting classes in his later years, as well as educating about the importance of spiritual connection found in artistic mediums.  He was fascinated with color and what it represented.  This led to his enrollment into Munich Academy at the age of 30 in 1896.  He was also influenced by Monet during this time, furthering his connection to color, which led to his own in depth exploration.

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Odessa Port, 1898
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Akhtyrka, 1901
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Murnau, train & castle, 1909

Kandinsky was also fascinated with abstraction especially in the years between 1911 to 1914.  I view him as a type of sponge much like myself.  I want to gain more knowledge and learn it all. 

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The Cow, 1910
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The Rider, 1911
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Squares with Concentric Circles, 1913

There was a transition to his later work where circles become an integral part of his paintings.  He became enamored in geometric shapes and their representations as can be seen during the time he taught hungry students about design, color theory, and elements of painting.  What I wouldn’t have given to attend a class of his or live in any major thriving artistic community during this time.

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Circles in a Circle, 1923
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Soft Hard, 1927

Kandinsky was what you might call an independent: politically and culturally and artistically.  He laid roots where his heart felt was right as he left Germany and Russia for good, settling in France where he lived until he died in 1944.

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Brown with Supplement, 1935
Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

April 9, 2017: Vincent van Gogh

Fine Artists can be described in many different ways.  They can be categorized with personality traits only they seem to have.  A popular theory is any kind of artist has to be a little mentally unstable because what else drives him or her to create artwork.  The first painter I’m discussing is a perfect example of what happens when you don’t set creative boundaries.

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Self Portrait, 1887

Vincent van Gogh really needs no introduction.  People know him because he cut his left ear during one of his many bouts of depression.  He was a Post-Impressionist painter with his most obvious work titled The Starry Night, 1889.  Have you ever gotten as close as possible to a van Gogh painting?  Man, those brush strokes.  Damn, those vibrant colors.

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The Starry Night, 1889

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Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888

He was born in March 1853, and died in 1890 due to complications from a self-inflicted gun shot.  He was a smoker and drinker.  He suffered from insomnia.  Oh, the problems of a creative person.  His vast collection of works included landscapes, portraits, and still lifes.  I wonder if somewhere in another parallel or perpendicular universe, if van Gogh knows how influential and inspirational artist he became.  I sure hope so as it would be a shame if he didn’t.

Old Man at the Fireside, 1881
A Pair of Shoes, 1887
Painter on His Way to Work, 1888
Wheatfield with Crows, 1890

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Pictures/Information by Wikipedia

April 1, 2017: Reflections on Art

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The words “art” and “artists” is as expansive as the words “war” and “warriors.” There are many different kind of art and artists as there are different methods of warfare and those who do the warring. The underlying principle where people take the role of artist or soldier or any kind of profession that entails you are in it for life until your last breath is needing over wanting.

This page will be dedicated to the artists admired for all their genius artwork and recognized for all their conflicting attributes.  It reminds me of the privilege of visiting museums within an arm’s reach.  My skill and fortitude was never that of the masters or even when they were novices.  I hold no illusion I’m a decent artist because frankly it serves more as an emotional outlet.  This doesn’t stop me from the occasional dabbling in painting, drawing, ceramics, weaving, and photography.

Well-known artists succeed on grand scales and on more private levels.  Artists have the overwhelming need to create all hours of the day and night, and if not with their hands, then with their brains.  Sometimes, this is all an artist knows and does within any 24 hour span of time.   Creation is equal to comfort.  Form is equal to familiarity.  Few artists attain great wealth in their creative endeavors, but all artists understand the importance of actualizing something from nothing including myself.

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