Thursday, June 25, 2009

Up close - really close - at the Prado

In January, the Prado Museum in Milan introduced a feature on Google Earth that allows you to click on one of a selection of paintings that have been photographed in super high resolution ("14,000 million pixels, 1,400 times more detailed than the image a 10 megapixel digital camera would take") and view them close up. Not that anything is a substitute for standing in front of the actual painting, but oh my! Seeing the details of Durer's self portrait down to the individual hairs that make up each curl is thrilling. And it is quite fun to get a virtual sense of the museum itself. Gets that travel bug itching.

Below is a short video of the making of the images and how the feature looks in Google Earth (for a larger image, watch it here). 

To find out how to visit the Prado in Google Earth click here

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunday studio

This Sunday, four painters arrived at my studio to paint what I am dubbing 'the Eastlake Riviera' (float planes and all) from my windows. 

Our subject: Interior with Landscape View. As we discovered, that simple and common human experience of looking outside from inside presents challenges and endlessly surprising compositional possibilities - which is probably why it has drawn the attention of artists from Vermeer to Bonnard, Matisse to Diebenkorn.

And now, us.

Our time-frame: five hours, with one of those, importantly, devoted to lunch. This was a deliciously successful potluck involving fresh greens and vegetable stew, corn chips with guacamole (which I made from five avocados hand-smuggled by my parents last weekend from the garden of friends in Carpenteria, California), goat cheeses and bread, and last but not least, chocolate-dipped strawberries and fresh cream sauce. 

Post-lunch, a room full of strong drawings developed into painterly paintings that impressively incorporated lessons from some of the artists I mentioned, whose paintings we had looked at earlier. The resulting work was quite beautiful.

Thanks to all who came and especially to Diane for her impromptu suggestion to get together that started it all. 

I think we have a new tradition. Look for upcoming sessions with a bit more lead time, open to anyone wishing to draw or paint, on my Julia's Studio blog. There is room for five people per session. Bring your painting bikini.
Diane Schebel at work on her painting
Julia iPhone photo

Public art

Sometimes a joyful antic is in order. This video was made in Antwerp, Belgium's Central Station on March 23, 2009.

At 8:00am, with no warning to the passengers passing through the station, a recording of Julie Andrews singing 'Do, Re, Mi' begins to play on the public address system. As the surprised travelers look on, some 200 dancers begin to appear from the crowd and station entrances. They created the performance with just two rehearsals.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Michael Matisse for Team Seattle

Michael Matisse is a superb photographer. Currently he is in France supporting Don Kitch's Team Seattle as they venture to Le Mans. Team Seattle's goal is not just to race Ferraris in the most famous car race in Europe, but to raise money for Seattle Children's Hospital. 

From their site: "Thanks to corporate sponsors, including Global Diving, Guggenheim Partners, and Microsoft, among others, the team is moving closer to raising $1,000,000 for infant cardiac care at Children's Hospital". 

Good people racing beautifully designed cars for an excellent cause, documented by beautiful photography. The excitement that comes through in the posts is infectious. News flash: the team just qualified! Go, Team Seattle! 

Michael Matisse 
Don Kitch/Le Mans Day 2*
All rights reserved

* I just emailed MM to ask permission to use this shot, and to ask what I should title it. I will honor his response here, somewhat truncated : TEAM SEATTLE IN LE MANS WAITING PEACEFULLY IN THE CHURCH CARETAKER'S BACK YARD BEFORE FOR THE PRE-RACE PARADE THAT WILL BE A [MEDIA STORM] LIKE NOTHING ANYONE IN LE MANS HAS EVEER SEEN BEFORE.

Solo show downtown through June

Urban Perspective: City Views
13 pieces by artist Julia Hensley
Curated by Becky Brooks

Presented by

Sightline Institute
1402 Third Ave 
Fifth Floor, Suite 500
206-447-1880 ext. 100

Through the month of June

Visit on weekdays between 10am and 3pm
All 13 pieces are available for purchase. You may Contact me for availability. Affordably priced.
The work is a collection of my abstract urban landscapes in oil, acrylics, and gouache-on-pater collage. Most of the images are Seattle-area scenes, with a few of Boston, New York, and Las Vegas. 
Sightline Institute, Cascadia's sustainability think tank, is an important organization to the Northwest region and beyond as they research and communicate trends that are crucial to the region's future: health, economy, population, energy, sprawl, wildlife, and pollution. They provide the research and tools needed to make progress on a range of solutions to these issues. The now familiar term 'green-collar jobs' was coined at Sightline.
After viewing the art, you are invited to respond to the question, “What thoughts about sustainability are inspired by Julia's art - or by art in general?” 

A notebook to share your response is available near the artwork, or you can add your comment in the specially created Wordpress blog, Art and Sustainability. We invite you to stop by and just look, or write a few words. All thoughts are appreciated.
Julia Hensley
Miller Paint; Oil on Panel; 16" x 20"; 2006 
Photo: Michael Matisse

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book review: Art, chess and murder

A 500-year old murder, that is, with a young art restorer bent on solving the mystery she uncovers while working on a 15th-century Flemish painting. Here's a blog review of The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. 

I came across the review on Wordpress - the other Blogger - which apparently recommended the book to me since my name is the same as the heroine's. It's a slim recommendation, I realize, but the story sounds exciting. Let me know what you think if you read it. Might be good arty summer reading.

Here is Van Eyck's famously symbol-laden painting of the same era:

Arnolfini Portrait
Jan van Eyck
Oil on oak panel, 3 vertical boards
32.4 x 23.6 inches
National Gallery, London

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


On Sunday, Sue Danielson, Joan Cox, Peter and Jillian Hensley and I sat around my long table spread with books and postcards that related, obviously or obliquely, to narrative in art, drinking coffee and munching carrot cake. From the get-go, the ideas just flew.

One of my favorite moments was when Jillian wondered aloud how the all-white painting she once saw in a museum many years ago could possibly contain a story. She found the piece annoying in its blankness, so carefully and evenly painted, and couldn't see how it amounted to anything. 

After some discussion she surprised herself by musing that for one thing, perhaps the reason she saw only white was because she had zoomed in so far the subject couldn't be made out, and that if she could only draw back a bit it would begin to reappear...this imagining, she suprised herself further by realizing, created in effect a kind of content, and a story.

The eyes of the artists in the room glistened at the recognition of a potentially mineable idea. You could almost hear the little gray cells expanding, along with our definition of narrative. 

But before we got much further down that road, Peter began to express his experience of abstract art - a Mondrian grid painting, for example - as "arresting" his eye and further, his thoughts, because it presents no imagery that can be immediately interpreted. Thus for him, a purely abstract painting effectively interrupts the mind's search for a narrative. Aha. A view, then, in support of abstract art as non-narrative? Joni for one found this idea particularly compelling as a sort of Buddhist approach that enabled her to see the contrast between story and, at least initially, no story.

More expansion. More coffee.

We continued, engrossed, nibbling spanokopita and mushroom turnovers. I held up Mondrian and Velazquez, Asterix and Jacob Lawrence, and we followed our thoughts out loud, ultimately deciding, after three hours, that we had barely scratched the surface. A most satisfying Cafe. Thanks to all who were there.

Wish you had been? Look for Part Two of this topic, I have a feeling it will be back. Comments, thoughts? Post here or Email me.



Suprematist Composition: White on White

Kazimir Malevich (Russian, born Ukraine. 1878-1935)

1918 Oil on Canvas, 31 1'4 x 31 1/4"