Art Blogs

19 February 2020

Art Blogs
  • ‘A Cure for Stress,’ by John Brown
    19 February 2020

    The following is excerpted from “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown” by Christopher Williams – the first biography of one of the most influential chairmakers and writers of the 20th century: Welshman John Brown.

    Author Chris Williams spent about a decade with John Brown in Wales, building Welsh chairs and pushing this vernacular form further and further. This book recounts their work together, from the first day that Chris nervously called John Brown until the day his mentor died in 2008.

    Alongside that fascinating story of loyalty, hard work and eventually grief, “Good Work” offers essays from the people directly involved in John Brown’s life as a chairmaker. Nick Gibbs, his editor from Good Woodworking magazine; Anne Sears, John Brown’s second wife; David Sears, his nephew; and Matty Sears, one of his sons who is now a toolmaker, all offer their views of John Brown and his work. Then, Chris shows you how he and JB built chairs during the later years together (differently than what John Brown showed in his book “Welsh Stick Chairs”). And Chris goes into detail that hasn’t been published before.

    Also included are 19 of John Brown’s best columns from Good Woodworking. Below is one of our favorites.


    When I had completed the chair (above) I sat down and looked at it. I always have a notepad nearby, and I felt I had to try to capture my feelings of the moment. Here, for what it’s worth is what I wrote. “This chair was completed on December 9th, a Friday. It is as good as I can do. Perhaps if I live a while longer and work, I will develop greater skills. My mystic self tells me that everything is just right, the angles and lengths of the parts seem to be in harmony. This chair marks the recovery of my powers. I have no pain of discomfort, my mind is active. My lighted candle and the flooded fields around me seem to balance my mind and spirit. I know I can work and make a good chair, nothing else matters and I am stress free.” For those with their feet more firmly planted on the ground here are the details: Chair No. 17/2000. Seat elm 2″ thick, 22-1/4″ width by 17-3/4″ deep. It is made from three pieces edge glued and dowelled. The legs and stretchers are from straight-grained oak. The seat pommel is 19″ from the floor. There are eight long sticks, again oak 30″ long, 5/8″ at base, and where they pass through the arm, to 1/2″ at comb. The short sticks, four each side, allow the top of the arm at the hand hold to be 10″ above the seat. The comb is oak, 2-1/2″ deep by 7/8″ at the base. The arm is steamed ash with swelling hand holds glued and dowelled, and subsequently shaped. The stain is Mylands Jacobean oak applied sparingly. There is one coat of Lacacote sanding sealer, a fine sand, then three thin coats of garnet polish finish with dark oak wax.

    Stress seems to be a fashionable cause for much of the ills of modern society. Stress – it used to be called worry, or anxiety – seems to be constantly blamed for a myriad of conditions. We all aspire to a good standard of living, and the advertising industry has not been slow to tell us of the wonders of the modern market. So we reach out for new motor cars, household appliances, and an awful lot of expensive goods we don’t need. People talk of houses without central heating as though the occupants were living in abject squalor. The many billions of pounds owed to credit card companies reads to me like more stress. Evidently Father Christmas delivered 5 million mobile telephones this year, to add to the 35 million already in circulation.

    My old pa in law, farmer Parker, used to say “A sheep’s worst enemy is another sheep,” the explanation being that if you put too many sheep in a field they will sour their own patch, and cause disease and parasitic infestation. Our population has not increased that much, but all this stuff we are encouraged to buy takes up a lot of room. The prime example is the motor car. Every house needs a garage, or roadspace for it to stand when not in use, then more roads to allow it to travel unhindered. More space is taken with single people living in large houses, a widow with three bedrooms. Many aspire to second homes in which to spend the odd week when on holiday. It’s wonderful to own all these things, but paying for them can be a hazard.

    Jobs for life are a thing of the past. There is always the worry of not being offered a new contract when the present one expires. Companies “downsize” at the drop of a hat, it’s the easiest way of saving money. The rest of the staff have to carry the load, thereby causing more stress.

    There is no one thing responsible for all ills, nor yet is one thing a cure. However, a large contributing factor in our own wild dissatisfaction is a feeling of powerlessness; we cannot do anything about it.

    Everyone must now go to university. Why? Education, education, education! Is this so we can occupy our minds while waiting for the next Giro? Many of the degrees issued by village universities are not going to drop us straight into a well-paid job. Some have academic minds that can make good use of a course at a proper university. Now every one is encouraged to apply, and three years later, equipped with a Mickey Mouse degree, take an unskilled job and feel very resentful. More stress and hence the huge growth in head therapists and social workers.

    A Return to Making
    As I said, there is not one cure for all these problems, but I know one that will help. People should start making things again. We should open more technical schools, teaching in a practical manner all those skills, the crafts which we will always need, builders, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, toolmakers, electricians, all the myriad jobs that will never be replaced by computers.

    We live in an age when the best machine is the one that leaves the operator less to do. Yet everybody seems to be in a rush. It is a mystery I haven’t solved. We were promised electricity that would be “too cheap to meter,” and that our biggest future problem would be to find things to do in our leisure time. Our industries have been destroyed, our railways first decimated, and then ruined by greedy tycoons. I no longer believe anyone, and more and more rely on my own experience.

    This year, for the first time in over 30 years, I had a few days in the hospital. It was not a major problem, but it took me a while to recover. Once I was back at work I made one or two fairly ordinary chairs that did not excite me. I was a bit down, and always tired. Then I made a rather bigger chair, did one or two things differently, and built what I think is a fine chair. I was intoxicated with the joy of this job and overnight I felt so good. I am always chasing the perfect chair, and every now and then I nearly get there, and this big chair was better than any medicine, I was my own therapist. At the time something gloomy was in the news, but I was unaffected, and I thought if only, if only, I could impart some of my joy to others. This chair, like all my chairs, was made entirely with my two hands and some good tools. It is handmade. I have been a long time acquiring the skills to do this. No set of plans – just the picture in my head. Doctor Brown really recommends this treatment. The only side effects are a buzz each time you see it, and when I can bear to take it to the gallery I will have a cheque, and the knowledge that someone has a fine chair. I cannot think of any drug that would improve on this treatment. I think it is now proved that the head is important in combatting illness or depression. Like a little boy tying his shoelace for the first time, “I’ve done it!!!” That is the best medicine.

    The Mendlesham Chair
    It is pure coincidence that we have a reader’s enquiry from Mr George Smitton of Southport, Merseyside. He writes “As a retired DIY hobbyist the joint between armrest and back supports on a Mendlesham chair are causing a problem. I believe they were dovetailed to be authentic. Can you advise?”

    Well Mr Smitton, I can answer that question easily – I don’t know. But, I know where you can find out. There are examples in the V&A, there are 15 in the Christchurch Museum at Ipswich (including a rare set of four side chairs without arms) and some in the Norwich Castle Museum. I have pictures and text on Mendlesham chairs in several books, but none of them mention construction details.

    The Mendlesham chair, or “Dan Day” chairs as they are often called, comes from a small area of Suffolk. Dr Bernard Cotton in his book, “The English Regional Chair,” has done exhaustive research, including parish records, to find the members of the Day family who could have been the original builders of this style. Basically the chair is a hybrid, the seat and undercarriage being pure English Windsor, while the back arms and curved arm rest are in Sheraton, or cabinetmaker’s style. Such a mix could be unsatisfactory, but this is far from the case. The legs and leg angles are more delicate than the average Windsor of the time, and the joined back, with squared posts and distinctive pairs of cross rails, joined with three small turned balls at the top and two at the bottom, finished with six sticks and a splat, makes this a most inviting and elegant chair.

    In the book there are 58 black and white portraits of these fine chairs, some looking identical and others with slight variations. Dr Cotton is asking whether all these chairs were made in the same workshop, and by different hands in that workshop, or by different hands in different workshops? There is a complicated “cluster analysis dendrogram” which probably has the answer!

    Ivan Sparkes, one time curator of the Wycombe Chair Museum, is easier for me to understand. He mentions that one of the Day family worked in London, where he may have picked up the idea for the Sheraton part of the chair.

    If you agree with me that the definition of a Windsor chair is that of a seat, into which are socketed the leg, the sticks, laths or pillars of the upperworks, then the Mendlesham chair is a true Windsor. But, in construction much more care must be taken. Firstly there are only four mortices into the top of the seat for the upperworks, that is the back and arms. In a normal stick Windsor there can be 20 or more. This means that the joints must be well made. The bottom of the curved arm pillar is usually cut into the side of the seat, and either screwed into the elm seat with a dowel to cover the screw head, or dowelled in. It can be dovetailed vertically into the seat edge. The arms, where they meet the squared upright pillars, are “birdsmouthed,” as they are shaped to protrude out wider than the seat. If I were making one of these chairs, I would house the birdsmouth into the pillar about 1/8″, making sure to have a snug fit. Then I would insert a dowel through the pillar and into the end grain of the arm, using good modern glue. The latter is something Dan Day didn’t have! One has to be careful not to weaken the upright post by cutting too much away.

    When making a replica of an old chair I am not sure whether I would use the word authentic. If the chair looks authentic, and the joinery is a good fit, and the whole is strong enough, does it matter if it isn’t the same as the original? Remember, the craftsman of old had probably made hundreds of similar chairs, that is his advantage. Mr Smitten has the advantage of modern materials, I am thinking of glue. All these joints, including the horizontal cross pieces must be as perfect as you can make them. These are very handsome chairs, and I am sure you will get great pleasure from making them, and then having them in your home. Good luck.

    – Johh Brown, The Woodworker, Issue 106, March 2001

    Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown,” by Christopher Williams, is currently at the printer and will ship in March 2020. If you order before then, you will receive a free pdf download of the book at checkout.

  • Let’s Play! Photography by Eva Balasi
    19 February 2020

    Home alone, in a different way. Being crazy, feeling comfortable in a new wave style of freedom. Photographer

  • Victor Von Schwarz – EL FÍN
    19 February 2020

    #Lookbook – Spanish designer Victor von Schwarz unveiled his 2020 collection inspired by an impending apocalypse. His brand

  • Tanjore Painting: The Rich South Indian Artform That Stood the Test of Time
    19 February 2020

    A classical artform from southern India, Thanjavur painting – also known as Tanjore painting – is a celebration of the region’s rich artistic tradition, named after the town of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India. Tanjore paintings are known for their extravagant depictions of deities using vibrant colours and gaudy embellishments, especially gold foil. Though the artform has undergone various changes over the years, it continues to be popular with lovers of art even today, and inspires many artists with its truly Indian style.

    Ancient Roots and Patronage

    Tanjore painting drew inspiration from Indian art of the 16th century, when the Vijayanagara Rayas administered their vast kingdom in southern India through the Nayaka Governors. The Nayakas were great patrons of art and literature.

    In 1676, Maratha rule was established in the region, and Maratha rulers encouraged the flourish of art and artists. It was during this time, that Tanjore painting truly flourished and developed into the form and style in which we recognise it today.

    Maratha palaces and buildings were adorned with large paintings of deities as well as Maratha rulers, courtiers and nobility. Almost all the deities were depicted with rounded faces, almond-shaped eyes and streamlined bodies. Flat colours were used to paint the figures, which were often compactly placed within arches, drapes and ornate borders. The dense composition was a distinct feature of Tanjore paintings, and faces were usually shaded to add a feeling of depth.

    A Tanjore painting depicting Nataraja and Sivakami, circa 19th century (Source: Wikipedia)

    The Company Style

    With the decline of the Maratha rule, the Britishers who had come into Tanjore in the wake of the Mysore Wars of 1767-99 patronised the Tanjore artists. In 1773, a British garrison was installed in Tanjore and it became a base for British troops. Indian artists in and around Tanjore, prepared sets of paintings for Company personnel throughout the next century.

    These sets were called albums or album paintings. They were collections of “native” or “Indian” subjects, painted in a manner that appealed to English sensibilities and tastes. The usual subjects of deities and episodes from Hindu mythology were joined in by others which piqued the interest of the English, like fairs, ceremonies, festivals, caste occupations and Indian flora and fauna. They were completed with little or no gold foil and avoided any glass or gem inlay. The paintings also carried short descriptions about the subject matter in English, and occasionally in Tamil or Telugu. Though these paintings were grouped under the Company style of painting, they were typically Tanjore in style and characterisation, and were executed by the same group of traditional artists.

    An album painting depicting Rama and Hanuman fighting Ravana (Source: Wikipedia)

    The Tanjore Technique

    Tanjore paintings are known as palagai padam – meaning “picture on a wooden plank” – as they are typically completed on boards made from jackfruit or teak wood. The use of vibrant colours and gold leaf embellishments are characteristic of Tanjore paintings, with cut glass, pearls and precious and semi-precious stones also used for decoration.

    In the process of creating a Tanjore painting (Source:

    While artists in the past used vegetable and mineral dyes as natural colours for these artworks, over time, chemical paints have taken over. The dazzling colour palette of Tanjore paintings uses vibrant shades of reds, blues and greens. This, along with the richness and dense compositions of these paintings, ensure that they stand out from other Indian artforms. Common themes in Tanjore paintings include Bal Krishna, Lord Rama, as well as other gods, goddesses, saints and subjects from Hindu mythology.

    A Tanjore painting depicting Bal Krishna; click to purchase on Artisera

    A Migrant Artist Community

    In the olden days, Tanjore paintings were executed by the Raju community of Tanjore and Tiruchy and the Naidu community of Madurai. These artists, who were originally Telugu-speaking and hailing from Andhra Pradesh, moved to Tamil Nadu after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. Patronage was of utmost importance to these artists, and even the size of the paintings varied depending upon the subject and the patron’s choices.  

    The technique of Tanjore painting demanded a great deal of perseverance and perfection from artists. Furthermore, the creation of the artwork, considered a sacred task, was to be performed with some degree of ritual purity and humility by the master craftsmen. Remaining true to the Indian artistic tradition, most artists chose to remain anonymous and never signed their paintings.

    An artist working on a Tanjore painting (Source:

    Diverse Stylistic Influences

    Tanjore painting not only drew heavily from the diverse cultural groups that patronised the artform – it was also influenced by other prominent painting styles which were under the Vijayanagara school, like the Kalamkari and Tirupati styles of painting. Tirupati paintings, produced in the famous temple town of Tirupati using different media and techniques, portrayed deities, and many were gilded and gem-set in a manner similar to Tanjore paintings.

    A bulk of reverse glass paintings – another genre of traditional Indian art – which were from southern India, were heavily influenced by Tanjore painting and depicted religious figures in vibrant colours, with metallic foils and details adding to the richness of the artworks.

    The popular artform of Mysore painting shares many characteristics with Tanjore painting, often leading to confusion between the two. They were both executed by artists from the Raju and Naidu communities, and have roots in the Vijayanagara period. Though the styles are remarkably similar, there are notable differences like the use of paper as the base for Mysore paintings and its limited use of gold foil, glass beads and precious and semi-precious stones. The themes in Mysore paintings are reflective of the contemporary style which was prevalent in the Mysore Palace, and also features more elaborate landscapes, in contrast to the dense composition of Tanjore paintings.

    A Mysore painting depicting Varamahalakshmi

    Thriving Against the Tide of Time

    The tradition of Tanjore painting is kept alive even today, mostly by a few dedicated artists based in Tamil Nadu. Along with the shift to the use of synthetic colours in the artworks, jackfruit and teak wood have also been replaced by plywood.

    Shivoham, a Tanjore Painting; click to purchase on Artisera

    Today, Tanjore paintings still have a broad appeal. In recent times, they have been commercialised extensively, and can be found being sold even in street markets. Although the artform has stood the test of time and continues to be popular, the general decline in quality is disconcerting to many art lovers. What is heartening though, is that workshops and training camps are being held to ensure that the artform continues to thrive, while retaining all the rich, traditional and artistic elements that make up the essence of the artform of Tanjore painting.

  • tim ferguson sauder
    19 February 2020

    “An art project exploring our American identity through the creation of flags built using marks collected from the different people and places that make up our country.”

    So beautiful in so many ways. This series, titled Americans Flags, is the brilliant, timely, and thoughtful work of American artist Tim Ferguson Sauder. Okay, I’ve basically copy/pasted his entire site, but I wanted to be sure I didn’t leave anything out! Here is the Why and How about this ongoing project:


    This body of work has been (and is being) created in response to an interaction I had with my students a couple years ago. It was the morning after an incredibly charged US election and my class was just starting. As soon as everyone showed up and grabbed a seat one of my students raised her hand and asked, “Since this is a communication course can we talk about how I’m supposed to communicate with my family about politics when I already know we don’t agree? Especially about what happened last night?”

    We talked that day about how difficult it is to be open to others’ points of view while staying true to your own beliefs when those two things differ. We discussed how it was our responsibility to work to find ways to broaden our own perspectives and share with others what we see. This work is an exercise in exposing myself to other people’s experiences in America. I’m exploring what this country means to them and deepening my own understanding of what America and its identity means to me.


    … we take the [cut plywood] boards out and “gather” marks on them. These are most often collected by spraying a thin layer of fixative onto the board and leaving it someplace where people will walk or ride over the board and leave marks.

    Some places/people from which we’ve “gathered” marks include: a U.S. border pedestrian bridge in Texas, American Indian craftspeople in New Mexico, workers at a strawberry farm in Massachusetts, fishermen working in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast and tourists visiting memorial sites in Washington D.C. 


    This project was done through his lab, Return Design, at Olin College. Tim is not only an artist, but also a designer and associate professor in the practice of design at Olin College of Engineering.


  • Leap of Faith: Delita Martin’s Calling Down The Spirits at NMWA
    19 February 2020
  • Tips on Learning Sign Language at Home (With Apps)
    19 February 2020
    (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); I have been trying to learn sign language with some friends of mine. It is not always easy to find the right tools, especially if you don't have time to take up courses. Then, my friend sent me a link to this article, and I was really happy with all the information that I found there. Best Sign Language Apps Check out this
  • Adorable Oil paintings by Russian Artist Vladimir Volegov
    19 February 2020
    I just loved this painters art work !!  The way he uses brush strokes is commendable. His vibrant and dexterous techniques can mesmerize any one. His name is Vladimir Volegov and was born in Chabarovsk, Russia and started to paint at the tender age of 3. He later attended an art school Krivoj Rog and Lvov Photographic institute in Soviet Union. Later on his paintings started to win entries in
  • The Big Lebowski & Inherent Vice - this Sunday at the Roxie!
    19 February 2020

    Spoke Art, MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS and the Roxie Theater are pleased to present a Double Feature of Surreal Neo-Noir this Sunday night in San Francisco.

    Join us for 35mm screenings of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" and The Coen Brothers' "The Big Lebowski" beginning at 5:30pm this Sunday, February 23rd at the Roxie Theater in SF.

    As always, we'll be debuting some stunning new artwork created exclusively for this event, stay tuned to see what artists Matt Taylor and Jeremy Fish have created for us!

    Big Lebowski Costume Contest! - Come dressed up as your best Dude for a pre-film costume contest! The three best costumes will win a free signed and numbered Big Lebowski screen printed poster by acclaimed San Francisco based artist Jeremy Fish.

    Buy your tickets here.

  • Ada Florek
    19 February 2020

    Originally from Poland, Ada Florek is a watercolor painter based in Thoiry, France.

    Though she also paints other subjects, she focuses primarily on architectural and still life subjects.

    I enjoy her textural approach and use of crisp edges.

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