July 12, 2017

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription


In this issue:

Five Decades of Courtroom Artists Capturing What Cameras Can’t
Banksy’s Real Identity May Finally, Actually, Seriously Have Been Revealed
Are You an Art Worker Drowning in Student Debt? This Congresswoman Wants to Help
In Surreal Twist, Court Orders Dalí’s Body Exhumed for Paternity Test
Andrew Wyeth’s Paintings Featured on New USPS Stamps
New museum to open on Canada's prairies puts artists first
Pearlfisher updates historic UK art brand, Reeves
An 18th-Century Botanical Coloring Book for Adults
Adobe Releases Digital Brushes Modeled on Edvard Munch’s
Artificially intelligent painters invent new styles of art
My View: Artists are footing bill for free entertainment

 

 

 

 

Five Decades of Courtroom Artists Capturing What Cameras Can’t
The Library of Congress selected examples from its collection of 10,000 courtroom drawings to show how artists are essential to public understanding of American trials.

Camera use has gradually been allowed in state and federal courts since 1977. Although the role of the courtroom sketch has diminished, the practice endures, such as at the recent trials of Bill Cosby and Dylann Roof, during which photography by the media was not permitted. Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration at the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, DC, features 98 examples dating back to 1964. The exhibition considers how courtroom artists visualize the trial narratives for the public, and also process emotional moments and pivotal testimonies beyond simple documentation.

“They are not cartoonists nor caricaturists, and their ability to work depends on capturing not only a portrait of those involved, but the gestures they made, their facial expressions, the way they interacted with those around them,” Sara W. Duke, curator of applied and graphic art in the LOC Prints and Photographs Division and the exhibition’s organizer, told Hyperallergic.

Drawing Justice is accompanied by an extensive online exhibition, through which users can explore themes like race-based crimes, terrorism trials, celebrity trials, and political activists on trial. The exhibition follow’s last year’s acquisition of almost 100 courtroom sketches. LOC states that their collection of 10,000 courtroom drawings is now “the most comprehensive in any American institution.”

The earliest work in Drawing Justice is by Howard Brodie of the 1964 trial of Jack Ruby, who was found guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald while he was in custody for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Brodie’s drawings range from detailed views of the full courtroom, with annotation for everything from the positions of the defense attorneys to an available spittoon, to isolated scenes like Ruby gulping at the verdict, his nervous face sketched in crayon on a vast emptiness of white paper.

This skill of representing some aspect of the courtroom that would be impossible to convey through photography or film is present across the decades of the exhibition. Bill Robles in 1970 distilled the chaos when Charles Manson leapt at Justice Charles H. Older with a pencil, his blur of sketched motion a contrast to the stoic Older, and Pat Lopez in 1999 froze the moment when the chain used to murder Matthew Shepard was stretched out in the courtroom, its haunting presentation contained on the otherwise vacant paper in a violet cloud of color. A 1984 illustration by Marilyn Church included members of the courtroom wearing face masks, showing the existing prejudice and fear against a defendant with AIDs, and a 2015 illustration by Jane Rosenberg featured the charred remnants of defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack, in which he carried a pressure cooker bomb to the 2013 Boston Marathon.

“While artistic styles vary, each artist brings the theater of the courtroom to life, capturing gestures, appearance, and relationships in a way that humanizes defendants, plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, and witnesses,” Duke explained.

In one 1984 self-portrait by Elizabeth Williams, even the courtroom artists are humanized. Her sketch shows Brodie with his opera glasses over his eyeglasses to better see the proceedings, alongside artists including Williams, Bill Robles, Bill Lignante, Walt Stewart, and David Rose, all with their paper pads and pile of pencils, crayons, and pens ready to swiftly document the trial of an automobile manufacturer on trial for cocaine possession with the intent to sell.

“Courtroom artists offer the American people, through the television news, newspapers and now the internet, access to the proceedings,” Duke said. “Whether it is a once-beloved celebrity or a reviled terrorist — Americans want access to the legal system. By acquiring, preserving, and making courtroom art accessible to researchers and the public, the Library’s courtroom illustration collection preserves an enduring record of American life and law.” Hyperallergic

 

Banksy’s Real Identity May Finally, Actually, Seriously Have Been Revealed
A friend of the artist’s accidentally slipped what could be Banksy’s real name.

In the real world, anonymous street artist Banksy is about as close to a masked superhero as there is. Only instead of saving the world, he critiques and satirizes the ugly truths of contemporary life with graphic imagery that will make you laugh before leaving you with an uneasy feeling in your stomach.

For years, civilians have fancied themselves amateur sleuths after his true identity, offering up one potential name after another, most of which were discredited after a short spurt of internet chatter.

Except this time, Banksy’s identity was alluded to by a slip of the tongue. And the accidental nature of the information coming out gives the impression that this grand Banksy reveal may actually be the real thing.

The news came during a podcast interview between English musician DJ Goldie and poet and musician Scroobius Pip on Pip’s podcast Distraction Pieces on Tuesday. Goldie, when discussing the street artist, said this:

Give me a bubble letter and put it on a T-shirt and write ‘Banksy’ on it, and we’re sorted. We can sell it now. No disrespect to Robert, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over.
The name Robert raised eyebrows, immediately recalling journalist Craig Williams’ theory, published in 2016, that Banksy was in fact Robert del Naja of trip-hop group Massive Attack, a friend of Goldie’s born and raised in Bristol.

To corroborate his theory, Williams traced Banksy murals and exhibitions as they popped up around the world, noting that most emerged just before or after Massive Attack performed at a destination close by. For example, when Banksy’s work appeared in Australia in 2003, Massive Attack was touring the country.

Further evidence: Del Naja was known to be a graffiti artist himself ― at least allegedly ― eventually leaving visual art behind to pursue music. According to Williams, Del Naja “is held in high regard as one of the pioneers of the stencil graffiti movement, helping to bring hip-hop and graffiti culture to Bristol in the 1980s. And his work has been featured on all of Massive Attack’s record sleeves to date.”

If Del Naja is indeed Banksy, he’s certainly an overachiever, being not only one of the greatest musicians of all time ― at least according to Rolling Stone ― but also perhaps the most hyped visual artist of the contemporary moment.

In 2016, Del Naja responded to the flurry of Banksy rumors by cryptically telling a concert crowd “We are all Banksy.”

We are still waiting for his response this time around. The Huffington Post

 

Are You an Art Worker Drowning in Student Debt? This Congresswoman Wants to Help
The American Arts Revival Act would offer loan forgiveness up to $10,000 for people like museum professionals and humanities professors.

New York Democratic Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez has introduced a bill that would assist arts workers nationwide in paying down their student debt, for as much as $10,000. If you work in art education or other professional fields within the arts and your work benefits seniors, children, or adolescents, the American Arts Revival Act could help get you out of the red.

Those who earned college-level degrees in the fields of art, music, or design borrowed an average of nearly $22,000, according to Velázquez’s announcement of the bill. The announcement cited statistics from a Wall Street Journal article based on Department of Education data. Moreover, the median debt for liberal arts college graduates is a little more than that accumulated by those who attended research universities, she says: $19,445 as compared to $18,100.

“Those working in the arts and related fields make invaluable contributions to New York City and to our entire nation,” said Velázquez in a statement to the press. “Individuals that dedicate themselves to these professions enrich our culture and my bill would provide many of them with relief from mounting student loan debt.”

Velázquez further aims to enshrine in national law the idea that those employed in cultural sectors such as museums and college arts and humanities departments are working in the public interest, and she seeks to amend the Higher Education Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, to that effect.

The bill comes with the blessing of more than 100 organizations, including some of the most prominent art schools in the country, such as the Pratt Institute, the Cooper Union, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Educating artists and designers and providing them with the skill set to succeed in life as creative professionals is critical, and we are proud to support the American Arts Revival Act of 2017,” Pratt Institute President Thomas F. Schutte said in a press release. With campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Utica, New York, Pratt offers degrees in art, design, and architecture as well as other liberal arts degrees.

The bill penned by Velázquez, who represents New York’s Seventh District (including Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and Queens) would offer a national complement to ongoing efforts by the City of New York to cultivate cultural jobs and ease the financial crunch on artists and other creative workers. Just last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the New York Works initiative, a program to help develop 100,000 well-paying jobs (the goal is $50,000 a year or a starting point to achieve that salary) over the next 10 years, with 10,000 of them in the creative and cultural sector.

Velázquez’s bill stands in contrast to President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which aims to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other cultural organizations, which offer financial support to some of the organizations, such as museums, where these cultural workers may be employed. artnet news

 

In Surreal Twist, Court Orders Dalí’s Body Exhumed for Paternity Test
A judge in Madrid has ruled that the artist’s body must be exhumed in order to carry out a paternity test.

MADRID, SPAIN: A Spanish court has ordered that the remains of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí be exhumed to carry out a paternity test. According to the BBC, a Madrid judge ruled that because there are no other known biological remains that could be used to carry out the test, his body would have to be exhumed.

“The DNA study of the painter’s corpse is necessary due to the lack of other biological or personal remains with which to perform the comparative study,” the decision read, according to the Guardian.

Maria Pilar Abel Martínez, a tarot card reader who was born in 1956, first publicly claimed to be Dalí’s daughter in 2015. She says her mother had been a maid for a family in Cadaqués in 1955, where the artist was living at the time with his wife Gala Dalí (the Dalís never had children). Martínez says her mother met Dalí and that they “had a friendship that developed into clandestine love,” according to court documents she filed in 2015. Martínez claims her mother repeatedly told her that Dalí was her father.

Though Martínez attempted to conduct two paternity tests in 2007 using hair and skin samples taken from a death mask of the artist, the results were inconclusive. Now, the court’s ruling has set the stage for the artist’s body to be exhumed from its crypt at the Dalí Theater and Museum in Figueres, possibly as early as next month. However, the Dalí Foundation — which runs the museum — plans to appeal the court’s decision.

According to the BBC, if the body is exhumed and the result of the paternity test is positive, Martínez would be entitled to not only use the Dalí name, but could also claim part of the artist’s estate, which he left to the Spanish state. Hyperallergic


Andrew Wyeth’s Paintings Featured on New USPS Stamps
Andrew Wyeth’s melancholic paintings of rural American life will soon be available as postage stamps, released on the centennial of his birth.

Andrew Wyeth’s melancholic paintings of rural American life will soon be available as postage stamps, released in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his birth on July 12, 1917. The United States Postal Service announced this week that the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Andrew Wyeth Forever stamps will be July 12 at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. This month, the museum opened a major retrospective showcasing over 100 of Wyeth’s paintings and works on paper, including some selected for the stamps, such as the 1967 “Spring Fed.” In it, cows are visible through an open window, snow dotting the landscape; inside, a sink brims with running water.

The details of 12 Wyeth paintings adorning the stamps concentrate on his quiet country scenes, which, although sometimes criticized as sentimental, have a haunting realism. They include his most famous work — “Christina’s World” (1948), now at the Museum of Modern Art — in which a woman paralyzed by polio crawls across a windswept landscape, and his 1960 “Young Bull” with the titular animal shadowed by the wall of a farmhouse. There are also more recent works by the artist, who died in 2009, such as the 1988 “Big Room” that recalls the living room of his childhood home in muted light, and the 2003 “The Carry” centered on the torrent of a river.

His more startling works, like the 1994 “Breakup” depicting his own hands reaching through an ice floe, and his eerie 1949 “The Revenant,” a self-portrait in a charred room, are not included. The complete set of 12 stamps is printed on a “selvage” sheet with a photograph of the late artist at his easel. While this March the USPS released designs featuring WPA posters, the Wyeth editions might be the most visually interesting artist-centric stamps since the 2015 series with work by self-taught illustrator Martín Ramírez. Along with the Total Solar Eclipse Forever stamp that was issued this month by USPS, incorporating thermochromic ink that reveals a luminous moon at the touch of a finger, 2017 is a promising year for more creative American postage. Hyperallergic

 

New museum to open on Canada's prairies puts artists first
Remai Modern will bring Picasso prints and contemporary indigenous art to Saskatoon

An ambitious new Modern and contemporary art museum is growing on the Canadian prairies. Remai Modern, which has been under construction since 2013, is due to open on 21 October in Saskatoon after a year’s delay. The museum, which is named after its leading patron, the local entrepreneur and philanthropist Ellen Remai, announced details of its opening exhibition today (27 June).

The 11,500 sq. m riverside building, designed by the Canadian architect Bruce Kuwabara, extends over four cantilevered floors reflecting the wide open spaces of the Saskatchewan region. Its size is “extraordinary for a small city”, says Gregory Burke, Remai Modern’s New Zealand-born director and chief executive, who previously led Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. The museum will charge admission and aims to attract around 220,000 visitors a year (the local population is 300,000). Originally budgeted at $71m, the final cost of construction is yet to be confirmed.

The museum has inherited the bulk of its 8,000-strong collection, including European Modernist and Canadian Group of Seven works, from Saskatoon’s now-defunct Mendel Art Gallery. The gallery was established in 1964 by the local authorities and Frederick Mendel, a meatpacking magnate and collector who had fled Nazi Germany. After a planned extension struggled to attract funding, the city council voted in 2009 to replace it with a new purpose-built gallery as part of a wider downtown regeneration scheme.

Burke hopes that the inaugural show, Field Guide, which he is co-organising with the chief curator Sandra Guimarães, formerly of the Serralves Museum in Portugal, will act as “a primer to introduce the programme’s direction”. Selected works from the collection will be interspersed with contemporary commissions by Canadian and international artists, including a live project evolving on-site by Thomas Hirschhorn and a collaboration between the Ontario-based indigenous artists Tanya Lukin-Linklater and Duane Linklater.

In line with the museum’s “artist-centred” ethos, Ryan Gander will turn curator to present one of the centrepieces of the collection: the world’s largest group of Picasso linocuts, donated by the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation in 2012. They have inspired a new addition to Gander’s own installation, Fieldwork (2015), another gift from the Remai foundation. The rotating conveyor belt of cryptic objects, ranging from a damaged teddy bear to a kitchen sink, will now include a skewered stack of drawings reproducing all 406 Picasso prints, while the originals hang safely alongside.

After Field Guide, the museum will be the only Canadian venue for the first US retrospective dedicated to the Cherokee artist Jimmie Durham, organised by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and now at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Opening in spring 2018, the show marks Remai Modern’s commitment to become a centre for contemporary indigenous art. The Art Newspaper

 

Pearlfisher updates historic UK art brand, Reeves

Prior to the year 1766, art was static canvases and fixed, messy easels. The artistically inclined were confined to paid-for studios, specifically reserved for painting and making, to develop their creations. Then the invention of the portable pain palette by brothers Thomas and William Reeves transformed the lives of not just professionals, but amateurs who wished to pursue creativity at home.
The Reeves legacy lives on in its distribution of art supplies to large retailers and specialist shops alike across the UK. And the brand, much like Thomas and William Reeves almost three centuries ago, continues to innovate – this time, with the aim of extending its customer reach

In a brand overhaul carried out by the London office of international design agency Pearlfisher, the new brief – ‘to reconnect with the contemporary creative consumer’ – signals Reeves’ recognition that the brand perhaps eludes a younger audience increasingly inclined to flex their creativity. While, for Pearlfisher, the rebrand included adapting and updating the brand’s website and other digital offerings, it was also careful to retain the authenticity which has for so long lent Reeves an edge over its competitors.

Yet this was not without its challenges. Developing a new visual identity to emphasise Reeves’ sector longevity, notes Pearlfisher, would appeale to an audience increasingly disillusioned with digital, often hailed as the sole innovative medium for artists. However, says Daniel Mark Carr, global brand manager at Reeves, ensuring a balance between Reeves’ history and the perception of traditional, perhaps slightly stuffy, ‘fine’ art, was paramount. Hence a decision by Pearlfisher to develop the future of Reeves as a lifestyle, rather than heritage, brand. "These days, creativity means so much more than ‘fine art,’ and while consumers are increasingly embracing their creative side, we want to be able to encourage more of that,” Carr explains.

While the imagery which leads the new visual identity relies on strong, colourful portrayals of the Reeves products, such as paint splashes, tubes of watercolour and oil paint, Pearlfisher has chosen a blocky, black font. In contrast to its bright backgrounds, its new two-tone ‘r’ leads the logotype as distinct from font of the other letters. This highlights the brand’s prominence in the art world by ensuring it stands out among competitors, as well as creating a much-needed consistency across Reeves’ extensive range – everything from its children’s ‘painting by numbers’ sets to tools for more serious artists.

Speaking about the rebrand to Designweek, associate creative director at Pearlfisher, Jon Vallance, says, “Where the old packaging was prescriptive, showing finished artworks and step-by-step guides, the new packaging is about sparking creativity and celebrating spontaneous creation.” Pearlfisher hopes this new brand direction will emphasise the flexibility of art and encourage more people to step away from their screens to engage with an activity enjoyed by amateurs for centuries.

Carr continues, “From 1766 when William Reeves invented the watercolour paint palette that allowed people to paint outside of the studio, Reeves has been at the forefront of enabling creativity. As we enter this exciting new period, Reeves will continue to empower consumers, harness creativity and inspire personal self-expression." transform

 

An 18th-Century Botanical Coloring Book for Adults
A scientist found The Florist, a coloring book printed in 1760, in the library of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Amy Pool was perusing a book on the history of botanical illustration when a citation for an 18th-century title caught her eye. A plant taxonomist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, Pool searched for the entry, Robert Sayer’s The Florist, in the garden’s library catalogue, curious to see if it had a copy. It did, and the book she found turned out to be a coloring book for adults — a centuries-old precedent of the ones being published today in a seemingly unstoppable trend. As it title suggests, The Florist contains engraved illustrations of flowers — 60 plates of them, from a demure-looking peony to a dancing iris.

Printed in London around 1760 by the publisher Robert Sayer, The Florist represents one of the earliest examples of coloring books found yet. It predates what some consider the first children’s coloring book, Kate Greenaway’s The Little Folks’ Painting Book, which the McLoughlin Brothers published in 1879. But it arrived over a century after the 1612 and 1622 two-part release of Albion’s Glorious Ile, a series of maps by engraver William Hole that nobles apparently loved to hand-color.

“My personal theory is that in this mid-18th-century time of worldwide exploration, ordinary people were very excited about natural history, and they wanted to participate in the creation of something not too dissimilar from the plates associated with new scientific discoveries,” Pool told Hyperallergic.

The Florist was intended, as its title page relays, “for the use and amusement of Gentlemen and Ladies.” But, unlike most contemporary coloring books, it wasn’t meant to soothe the mind or encourage limitless creativity; rather, it served more as a manual for those seeking to sharpen their artistic skills. The Florist was for serious adult colorists only, filled with detailed instructions on how to paint each flower strictly according to its natural colors. (Yes, paint — this was the pre-crayon and -colored pencil era, so aspiring artists would have used watercolors.) See the directions, for instance, for a gladiolus:

This flower is crimson, inclining to purple; begun with a string layer of carmine, and neatly shading with a mixture of carmine and prussian blue. The bottom of the flower is white, shaded with a greenish tinge, by a mixture of Indian ink and sap-green; neatly blending the carmine by it, by fine strokes of each color. The leaves and stalk, from the beginning of the flowers of the top, are a brown, made with sap-green and carmine.

The book also includes guidelines on how to mix pigments for flower painting, with mentions of flake-white, shades of red, blues like ultramarine and indigo, yellows, and even “gall-stone brown.” The owner of Pool’s copy, however, apparently never found the time to fill in its pages. She’s seen only one plate with “one smear of green,” though stains from pressed plants remain on some pages. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, fewer than 10 copies of The Florist exist in libraries, and the Yale Center for British Art does have a version that’s colored in.

Pool has also noticed that some of the book plates are signed by their engravers, including one Adam Smith and a Caspar Phillips. Far from the basic, black-and-white illustrations we’d expect to see in a coloring book, their images and the others resemble finished botanical studies, complete with careful shading — although the results are, as Pool said, “generally a little vague in floral anatomy.”

The library has since digitized and uploaded The Florist in its entirety to its website. Each page is available for download, so that you too can try your hand at coloring the spotted, drooping cups of a fritillary; the writhing, seaweed-like leaves of a Crown Imperial; or a soft-petaled rose, described in the book’s pages as “the favorite of the painters.” Hyperallergic

 

Adobe Releases Digital Brushes Modeled on Edvard Munch’s
Oslo’s Munch Museum and an “award winning Photoshop brush maker” teamed up to create a set of digital brushes based on seven real ones that Munch used.

For decades, Edvard Munch’s paint brushes sat in the archives of Oslo’s Munch Museum, their bristles hardened and handles still stained. But they’ve now been made available for public use, reborn for the digital age in the form of Adobe Creative Cloud brushes that precisely replicate their individual properties. They’re all available to download for free, for users of Photoshop and Sketch.

The museum recently partnered with Adobe to launch “The Hidden Treasures of Creativity,” a collection of seven digital paintbrushes modeled after Munch’s own. The new tools include the Filbert brush, the Short Flat Sparse brush, and the Round Ratty brush, which creates soft, smoke-like marks. Adobe tasked designer Kyle T. Webster, an award-wining Photoshop brush maker, with creating the brushes, and he worked closely with museum experts to replicate the shape of each paintbrush so they reflect the originals’ flexibility and bristle type, as well as art historians’s analysis of Munch’s brushwork. The museum has owned the artifacts since Munch’s death in 1944, as Munch willed all his work tools, artworks, and private library to the City of Oslo, which founded the museum two decades later.

Launched “to celebrate digital preservation of masterpieces,” as per Adobe’s press release, the project followed processes similar to those involved in digitizing paintings. Each brush was photographed in 360˚ with ultrahigh-resolution cameras to create a 3D representation, which Webster then referenced to build the digital brushes. The results are intended for use with a tablet, as the brushes react to the pressure, rotation, and even tilt of a pen. (The author’s attempt to recreate the 1893 version of “Der Schrei der Natur,” or, “The Scream,” with a desktop mouse can be seen at the top of this post.) The digitization is a creative way to engage the public with an artist’s archives in an accessible way; using the tools also allows you to appreciate and learn a little more about Munch’s brushwork from a new and intimate perspective.

To better acquaint yourself with the Munch-Webster brushes, you may want check out the handy set of tutorials Adobe has released on YouTube. The company has also launched a competition for artists interested in reinterpreting “The Scream” with the new tools. The winner of #MunchContest — the deadline to enter is July 14 — will receive a cash prize, a trip to Las Vegas, and have their digital masterpiece on display at the museum. Hyperallergic

 

Artificially intelligent painters invent new styles of art

Now and then, a painter like Claude Monet or Pablo Picasso comes along and turns the art world on its head. They invent new aesthetic styles, forging movements such as impressionism or abstract expressionism. But could the next big shake-up be the work of a machine?

An artificial intelligence has been developed that produces images in unconventional styles – and much of its output has already been given the thumbs up by members of the public.

The idea is to make art that is “novel, but not too novel”, says Marian Mazzone, an art historian at the College of Charleston in South Carolina who worked on the system.

The team – which also included researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Facebook’s AI lab in California – modified a type of algorithm known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), in which two neural nets play off against each other to get better and better results. One creates a solution, the other judges it – and the algorithm loops back and forth until the desired result is reached.

In the art AI, one of these roles is played by a generator network, which creates images. The other is played by a discriminator network, which was trained on 81,500 paintings to tell the difference between images we would class as artworks and those we wouldn’t – such as a photo or diagram, say.

The discriminator was also trained to distinguish different styles of art, such as rococo or cubism.

Art with a twist
The clever twist is that the generator is primed to produce an image that the discriminator recognises as art, but which does not fall into any of the existing styles.

“You want to have something really creative and striking – but at the same time not go too far and make something that isn’t aesthetically pleasing,” says team member Ahmed Elgammal at Rutgers University.

Once the AI had produced a series of images, members of the public were asked to judge them alongside paintings by people in an online survey, without knowing which were the AI’s work. Participants answered questions about how complex or novel they felt each image was, and whether it inspired them or elevated their mood. To the researchers’ surprise, images produced by their AI scored slightly higher in many cases than those by humans.

AIs that can tweak photos to mimic the style of famous painters such as Monet are already widely available. There are even apps that do this, such as DeepArt. But the new system is designed to produce original works from scratch.

Outside the comfort zone
“I like the idea that people are starting to push GANs out of their comfort zone – this is the first paper I’ve seen that does that,” says Mark Riedl at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

The results of the survey are interesting, says Kevin Walker at the Royal College of Art in London. “The top-ranked images contain an aesthetic combination of colours and patterns in composition, whereas the lowest-ranked ones are maybe more uniform,” he says (see image above).

Walker also notes that creative machines are already producing work for galleries. For example, two of his students are experimenting with AI that can learn from their drawing style to produce its own images. One, Anna Ridler, has used this technique to develop frames for a 12-minute animated film.

Art such as Ridler’s still relies heavily on human guidance, however. So will we ever value paintings generated spontaneously by a computer?

Riedl points out that the human story behind an artwork is often an important part of what endears us to it.

But Walker thinks the lines will soon get blurry. “Imagine having people over for a dinner party and they ask, ‘Who is that by?’ And you say, ‘Well, it’s a machine actually’. That would be an interesting conversation starter.” New Scientist

 

My View: Artists are footing bill for free entertainment

Buffalo News reporter Mark Sommer, reporting on the Allentown Art Festival, made a pithy observation when he wrote, “Yes, tens of thousands look at art in the hundreds of booths that line several streets. And they buy food from vendors.” True and true.

Artists, whose work does not usually provide enough income to live on, or even to pay for their art supplies, pay hundreds of dollars each to set up a booth at any of the several art festivals in Western New York. It is a lot of work to bring your paintings, photography, pottery, sculpture or jewelry, set up the booth and then, with hope in your heart, just watch people walk by, barely taking the time to look at your work, and rarely buying anything other than food. Fine artists, with more expensive works, very rarely, often never, sell anything. We offer a range of small things such as cards, calendars or plaques hoping to cover some expenses.

People flock to art festivals as a free, fun thing to do on the weekend. And the sales tell the story. People buy food from the many food vendors who do pay higher fees than the artists to be there. But artists, who actually provide the reason for the art festival, often sell very little art. I believe most of the artists do not sell enough to cover the cost of the booth space.

Essentially, artists are paying a hefty and increasing price to provide free entertainment for the public. We cannot afford to keep doing so. Festival organizers have used the funds to grow big organizations and to pay for other cultural events. Local businesses profit. People have a fun, free event. But artists pay for it.

Festival organizations that continue to increase costs for artists – without examining the effect on artists, considering profit sharing or asking the tens of thousands of visitors for an entrance fee or donation – should realize they have built an unsustainable house of cards on the backs of artists. Arguing that some of the booth fees go to cash awards to a small handful of artists is not persuasive. The cash awards are often awarded to the same artists, and often to that cadre of professional out-of-town, traveling art-festival artists.

Attendees who do not contribute toward the costs of the festival and who do not buy art from local artists should realize their free entertainment is not sustainable.

Artists are stuck. We need to sell our work. Art museums have no budgets, and sometimes no inclination, to buy the work of local artists. Grants are few and far between and usually offer less than $3,000 for a year’s work. Artists are supposed to be grateful for the exposure of being in an art festival, but exposure only pays the bills in very few, very shady professions.

Festival organizers need to cut booth rentals for artists by half. Yes, this will mean less money for your organization, and this reduces the funds available for other culture events, but you have built your organization on an unsustainable premise. Approach government and local businesses to increase sponsorship. Raise the rates for food vendors. Charge people $1 or $2 to attend. Allow artists to share booths to further decrease their costs. And for heaven’s sake, buy art from local artists! Buy your paintings, pottery, garden sculpture, photographs, jewelry, gifts, etc., for your home, office and family from local artists. If that isn’t possible, buy their cards, calendars or whatever.

Government funding organizations should gather data on sales made by artists to evaluate and report on the festivals to help improve artists’ incomes. Data about the economic spin festivals provide local communities is also needed. Don’t keep funding festivals that continue to raise rates for artists without making the fundamental business changes that will ensure sustainability for artists.

Michelle Marcotte is an artist in Lewiston. See her work at michellemarcotte.com. The Buffalo News