The job you get after you graduate
You might become a high school art teacher and teach a bunch of talentless
miscreants and hoodlums who won't listen to a word you say to go out and
vandalize box cars with spray paint. A job in advertising, you say? HAH! Forget
it. Marry someone whose dad owns an ad agency instead. Advertising is a field
where they want to know who you know, not what you know. They don't care
if you graduated Kindergarten. Can't you tell from looking at ads? The only
talented person ever in the advertising field was Andy Warhol, and he hated
it. You want to be an atriste' and have your crap hanging in fine
gallerys? Marry a gallery owner or an art critic. You want to make a lot
of money? "Look at Van Gogh", you say, "his paintings sell for millions!"
As your will learn in Art History, poor Vincent only sold one painting in
his entire life, to his brother, for about five dollars in today's money.
Lesson 1: The Critique
The ultimate in masochism. Your grade depends on the critique. In the critique,
everyone in class exhibits their work, and comments on all of it. How good
yours looks depends on how bad theirs looks. Each work is scrutinized and
ruthlessly shredded by your competitors, whose grades depend on how good
their work looks compared to yours. These people are mostly talentless losers,
not unlike yourself, who desperately want their work placed somewhere where
someone might see it, just like you and Vincent.
To survive this ordeal, keep your work covered until nearly
everyone has their work displayed. Place yours prominently next to the worst
piece of crap in the room. While everyone is ripping each other to shreds
with pompous, empty, multisyllabic phrases, translate what they say into
plain english, which will demonstrate to the instructor that you, unlike
they, actually understand this gobbledygook. Praise everyone's work with
backhanded compliments in such a way that the teacher knows that you know
it's crap, while the other students think you're complimenting their work.
Beat everyone to the punch by being merciless about your own
work, especially if you've outdone yourself and have actually produced something
that doesn't suck. The teacher knows what you've done right; show him/her/it
that you know what you've done wrong.
Smile smugly when you're ripped. Let your face say "HA! It worked!
They HATE it!" (See Insulting an Art Student and Art History,
Lastly, be an attractive woman with large breasts. The heterosexual
men and the lesbians will all be trying to get in your pants and won't be
hard on your work, the homosexual men will be afraid of being thought of
as misogynistic, and the heterosexual women will dismiss you completely as
a total, talentless airhead. This is the only place they won't think of you
as a threat.
Insults for the art student (see The Critique, above)
"Gee, that's really nice"! "Nice" is the worst insult
you can give to an artist (See Art History, below).
Call a sculpture a "statue". Besides "nice", "statue" is the
worst thing you can call a sculptor's work. The only person who hates "statue"
worse than a sculptor is an actor.
Call a painting a "picture". Go ahead, show your ignorance!
Call the work "pretty". This is an insult to every artist except
Those of you who are art students or have been art students
understand this. Those who aren't have probably hit the "back" button (or
the "get me the hell out of here right now" button) already.
For those of you non-art students who've stayed with me (i.e., so stoned
out of your mind that even this is entertaining even though you don't understand
a bit of it), although the original purpose of art was decoration, it no
longer is. "Decorative art" is considered by those who know and understand
art an Oxymoron. Art stimulates the mind, the brain, the senses, or better
yet, all three at once. If it doesn't make you think and/or feel, it isn't
art. See Art History, below
Art History, or "Who the hell is this Vincent guy, anyway?"
In the beginning, some ignorant savage discovered that a burned
stick made marks. After he discovered that spoiled grapes and some kinds
of poisonous plants made him feel really funny without actually killing him,
he discovered that sometimes those marks could look like more than marks.
Somewhere around the same time, some other ignorant savage discovered that
the spoiled berries she was gathering also made marks, and these were in
color! WOW, look at the colors! These two got together, smoked
some poisonous plants and drank some spoiled berry juice and procreated some
more ignorant savages. These two ignorant savages became "medicine men" and
"witch doctors", known to us who live tens of thousands of years later as
Politicians. Bill never inhaled. Oxygen deprivation does weird things to
Later, the biggest and baddest of each group of ignorant
savages beat the bejeebers out of everyone else, took their stuff and declared
that everything they could see for as far as they could walk was theirs and
if anybody had anything bad to say about this they were going to take a real
long nap under the dirt. Nobody complained much, at last nobody with much
sense. These jerks were known as "kings", and some of the less unenlightened
ones let those who could make marks that looked like something other than
marks make marks instead of working. Note that the German currency is known
as the "mark".
Some four to ten thousand years (the figure is disputed by those
who don't know for sure, meaning everybody) before a
guy got nailed to a cross for not stealing an ass (go figure),
one of these incestuous Egyptian kings decided that he wanted a really
nice grave. Prehistorians (or "archaeologists") claim that it really had
something to do with the economy instead of the fact that the guy was stupid
and crazy because his father was also his uncle. Anyway, this prehistoric
era is know as the dawn of post-prehistoric art.
After this civilization (run by people who called their dad
both Dad and Uncle) perished (see the Old Testament for details; hey,
it's documented, if you don't believe witnesses you probably think Elvis
is alive and the moon landing was a hoax), the Greeks (Sodom wasn't in Greece
but don't tell that to a Greek) built a civilization of their own. These
folks (Aristotle, for one) kind of figured stuff out without the benefit
of modern science, much like our present day politicians. They brought art
to a high not seen since the Egyptians, even without all that gold. About
the time their civilization bit the dust, the Romans rose (at least the male
Romans), famous for their drunken orgys. The poor Jews still weren't over
what the Egyptians had done to them.
the early part of the Greek civilization there was another culture, the Minoans,
who produced stunning works of beauty and grace, and are thought to have
been wiped out by an explosive volcano. It is also believed that this same
explosion caused a tidal wave that caused the parting of the Red Sea, just
in time for the Jews to get across and drown a bunch of mean guys that were
chasing them with big knives.
Meanwhile, my ancestors were painting themselves blue and worshiping
trees. Funny what spoiled berries will do! When they were a little more sober,
if not completely sane, they were building the world's first PC, known to
us as "Stonehenge". The hardware was fairly simple, but programming it wiped
out their culture completely (the YzeroK problem; they were too stupid, cheap
and shortsided to use more than one digit for date calculations).
Of course, after the Romans built their famous roads, Visigoths
used those roads to come for a visit. Civilization as we know it came to
A thousand bloody and pestilence filled years or so later, give
or take a couple of centuries, after the visigoths paid their nice visit
to the Romans, the Renaissance began. Art and Science started to be reborn,
and we actually know some of the artists' names. Artists were known as artisans;
well, not really, since English as we know it wasn't spoken, but that's what
the art historians teach so I'll repeat it here. They weren't superstars
like the artists of the twentieth century, such as Pablo Picasso, Andy
Warhol, or O.J. Simpson. They didn't get paid much, (Except that brown noser
Leonardo) even the ones who were well known in their time.
The people of this time had discovered the ancient Romans and
Greeks and said "Wow, this crap is pretty good! How
the hell did they do that?"
Some of them got pretty good themselves. Michelangelo Buonarroti
nearly went blind painting some pictures on the Pope's ceiling (wasn't that
Pope guy really nice?) and carved a bunch of statues of naked men with small
penises (the Greek influence) out of big rocks. Jan Vermeer invented oil
paint, making art theft much easier. Leonardo Da Vinci made a few bucks painting
pictures while trying real hard to be Orville Wright.
Then, as now, only the rich or boring had access to fine art.
A "Library" was any building with a book in it. Books were chained
to the walls of these buildings. So were people (usually not in libraries,
Not content with ruining things in Europe, the Europeans sent
their worst politically connected criminals to Australia.
While all this was going on the Asians and Americans were building
civilizations, inventing computers (The Mayan's computer, like our own, stops
at the end of the 20th century, but it didn't matter nearly as much to them
as to us, since they're all dead) and gunpowder, and, of course, destroying
their own civilizations again and again in the process. Aren't computers
and gunpowder fun?
A couple of hundred years later, the peasants were revolting.
"I could have told you that", the aristocracy said; but they
pretty stupid, and didn't know that what was meant was that revolution was
brewing, not that the peasants weren't pleasant. The Queen of France, when
she heard that the peasants had no bread, said "let them eat cake". The King
of England, when he heard that the colonists were unhappy with taxes, raised
the taxes on tea and passed a law making it illegal not to drink tea. In
France, then considered the "art capital of the world", Neo-Clacissism (meaning
that painters and sculptors were still in awe of the Romans and Greeks) was
all the rage. The French revolution was blamed by some art historians on
some of this neo-classical art (Example: Marat In His Bath). In the English
colonies, nothing was blamed on art, since all the homegrown stuff was really
crap, and they were too busy growing hemp and plotting revolution, much like
the hippies of the 1960s. They had long hair, too.
I have completely glossed over the Victorians, like Renoir,
Titian (honest, that was really his name), etc., who liked to paint obscene
pictures of fat naked women swinging on swingsets, laying on couches, and
doing other silly things, and some of the art from Holland, including
whats-his-name, who painted dark, gloomy pictures of ugly and/or dead people.
In the late nineteenth century, the galleries were
filled with some real sucky crap that is considered crap even today. You
won't see any of them in any museum, and may be unlucky enough to see one
or two in an art history class as a good example of what art isn't. The painters
that you will recognize weren't being hung; they were too busy getting big
red "R"s for "rejected from this art show" stamped on the back of their paintings
so nobody would dare offend the art establishment by trying to sell one.
We will go into some of them in detail here.
Art as we know it was being born in this period; art for art's
sake (yeah, like they would have been offended if you offered them money)
which explored light, color, form, abstraction, and all of the elements that
make the average layman say really lame things like "my five year old could
do better than that" and "but what is it?"
There were several different "schools" (meaning kinds of painting,
not where they learned to do it). The first were the impressionists, such
as Renoir, who I lied about earlier, well, it was the Victorian era but he
was known as an impressionist, with such greats as "child with a whip", "Head
of a dog", and "Bather arranging her hair". Mainet painted such memorable
works as "The queer musician" and "Fruit on a table". Edward Degas painted
"After the bath" and "Woman Drying Herself". Claud Manet painted the "Luncheon
on the Grass" picture, famous for its big red "R" stamped on the back, "Lady
in the Garden at Sainte-Adresse", a nice picture, it's really pretty, and
"Poppy Field", which may give you an idea of where some of their inspiration
The impressionists were trying to "catch the light", the way
a scene looked like in an instant that the light was unusual, which explains
why so many of their paintings look fuzzy and/or sketchy. Pretty avant-gard
for the time, but if you try to do it they'll say it's real lame.
Then there were the post impressionists, who painted pictures
of posts. Well, ok, that's a lie, too. They were Post
Impressionists because by the time they found out they weren't
ever going to be hung in the fancy high priced galleries Impressionism was
already starting to be passe', so they painted pretty much the same way and
gave it a new name. Two of the most infamous were Vincent Van Gogh (So
that's who Vincent was) and Paul Cezanne. They were "roommates" at
one time, and Cezanne hated Van Gogh's guts. Nobody except a few other artists
ever heard of Van Gogh at the time, and all of them thought his stuff
Gauguin is known for spreading syphilis in Tahitin and having a penchant for thirteen year olds. He is also known for some of his primitive looking pictures of unclad
and scantily clad ugly women, one of whom was his wife. Gaughan
used bright, garish, clashing colors, much like I was criticized for in
critiques. Thes colors are now widely used in advertising by dimwits who don't
know any better or care.
Van Gogh was a real nut case, a homosexual alcoholic drug abuser who
cut off his ear and mailed it to Gaughan as an indication of his affection.
Limp-wristed Vincent only sold one painting in his entire life, to his brother,
for a pittance, as payback for some money his brother owed him. This loser
painted some incredibly stunning paintings that must be seen in the flesh
to be appreciated. Actually, all of the paintings mentioned here must be
seen to be appreciated. Most of them are really huge, and there's no way
the detail and color can be reproduced in an obscenely expensive art book,
let alone on a computer screen. One of Van Gogh's paintings is of a branch
of a blooming dogwood tree. Up close, it is completely abstract, and you
can't tell what it's a picture of. From across a very large room it stands
out in stunning detail, and appears to be a real branch with real flowers
standing out about three feet from the canvas. His last three works were
of the same corn field. The first was very detailed, using a very small brush
and must have taken forever to paint. The second was much sloppier and painted
with the kind of brush most people use to paint window trim with. The last
is a finger painting. After he painted the third version, he sat down in
the cornfield he had just painted and shot himself in the head.
The opening of the twentieth century brought even
wierder stuff. The cubists attempted to portray four dimensional images on
a two dimensional surface. The most well known of these was Pablo Picasso,
whose early work wasn't cubistic at all, but quite realistic. Laymen who
see Picasso's early work say "That's Picasso? When did he learn
The Surrealists Attempted to make sense of their dreams, or
what they would like you to think were their dreams. Surrealism was first
invented by German writers, and visual artists, always looking for something
different, stole the idea.
The most famous Surrealist was Salvador Dali, a Spanish guy
who was nearly as nutty as Van Gogh, although he had better reason to be
out of his tiny little mind. Dali's older brother was also named Salvador
(Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl).
Salvador is Spanish for "savior", as in "Our lord and savior Jesus Christ".
After the older brother died, Dali was born, and his parents, obviously at
least as nutty as their offspring, named the second baby Salvador, also,
the second baby was the reincarnation of the first baby. Salvador
was led to believe that he was Christ, or at least the AntiChrist. This loony
tunes is most famous for the picture of
melted clocks hanging from dead tree limbs. Another of his paintings has some very photorealistic
images of dead flies on it - no, wait, they're real flies stuck on
the canvas! Dali had himself hung from a flying airplane by his mustache.
Even Van Gogh wasn't crazy enough to do something like that.
Some of Dali's works are disturbing; hell they're all
nutzo. This guy was downright weird. This guy, who you definitely
wouldn't want your daughter (let alone your son) to date, painted some beautiful
stuff, none of which makes any sense to anybody except another lunatic. Terrified
of dying, he found religion in his later years and painted huge religious
pictures that are as crazy, weird and beautiful as the early stuff. When
you go to
Florida to see Mickey Mouse and try and get a job making cartoons
for the kiddies, be sure to go to Tampa and see the Dali museum.
In the 1920s another school of artists sprung up, this bunch
also rejected by the art establishment. If you're starting to get a clue,
well, good for you. This art is known as "Dada" (Note that there is an art
museum in Chicago known as MOMA). Dada was anti art art (Huh??), a total
rejection of the art establishment. Marcel Duchamp hung a urinal from the
wall as a statement about the art establishment, and critics praised it for
its color and form. A dada exhibit featuring a woman reading poetry wearing
nothing but a hat was busted by the local constables.
By the end of the twentieth century, things were changing at
such a rapid pace that I would get way too bored to get into all of them
with even the most cursory examination, but some of the folks that may or
may not be remembered by art historians include Andy Warhol, the shoe salesman
turned pop culture icon, Jackson Pollack, who made nice pictures; well,
actually he did it by splashing paint on canvasses from usually about six
feet away, Audry Flack, Robert Rauchenberg, Lets see, that guy that
made that one picture, you know the
There are only three of them. They are not the same three
you see on your monitor. In painting, the only three colors there are are
red, yellow, and blue. At least, they are the only colors that matter, since
you can theoretically make all the colors from those three. Theory is often
wrong in art.
There are theoretically an infinite number if colors, some of
which you can actually see. Light bounces off of things right into your eyeball
through the part that isn't opaque, called the pupil. A lens focuses the
light through this apurture where it lands on what is known as "that movie
screen thing on the back of the inside of the eye, or TMSTOTBOTE, also known
as a retina.
The retina falls on microscopic rods that can detect brightness,
and on microscopic cones that detect certain wavelengths, roughly corresponding
to magenta, cyan, and yellow. These cones send signals through nerves to
the brain, where you actually do all the seeing. Nobody has the faintest
idea of how the brain works.
There are an infinite number of colors, but you can only see
about four thousand of them. You can make all four thousand of them with
just red, blue, and yellow. At least, if also use black and white. Anduse
warm and cool versions of each of your three colors.
Your first assignment is to make a color wheel using only black
and red. And you have to be blindfolded.
There are three kinds of design: Good design, bad design, and design that
everybody argues whether or not it's good or bad design. You should strive for the third.
You will not accomplish it unless you understand both the principles of good design and bad
design. For an example of bad design, see "
The very worst page on the web" and
Learn the "Golden mean". It was good enough for Leonardo and Michaelangelo, it's
good enough for you. Unfortunately, it's a mathematical concept which is way too boring for art
students. Infoseek lists 902 pages discussing it, if you want to get really bored, look
it up. Hey, you have a computer, use it!
After learning how to use burned sticks and spoiled berries, my attention turned to more modern
(and postmodern, and postpostpostmodern) media, such as acrylic polymers, airbrush, and pixels. Art is art. Since the newest art form is electrically stimulated glowing phosphors, further discussion of design will use (yawn) HTML.
Here are a few less uninteresting design principles:
If it's boring, it sucks.
Heavy things fall and light things float. Somehow, the untrained seldom realize this.
Keep your audience's eye on the media (see "the golden mean" and "If it's boring it sucks",
Yellow on white is very hard to read. Use it if you wish to induce insanity. Yellow on black
is readable, but not until the background loads.
Yellow on black is ugly, unless your ancestors came from Mars or Stroggos.
If you go far enough back in prehistory, everybody's ancestors came from Africa. At least, that's the prevailing theory. They may even be from Mars.
Frames usually make paintings suck less. Frames usually make web pages suck more.
Tables are often useful in sculpture. They are also often useful in HTML.
Never, EVER, make a web page as long as this one.
In painting, Java is often useful to make a nice brown color, or to stay awake. In HTML design,
Java can be used to drive viewers away from your page. Never EVER make that "There is a possible
security risk" window come up unless you don't want anybody except the violently insane to see
To plagarize, uh, I mean "quote" one of my instructors (John Adkins Richardson) from his book
"The Complete book of CarTOONing", which we had to buy or flunk, so I'm finally going to get my
"I do not for one minute believe that Milton Caniff laid out the composition by any procedure
as organized as this, but he might have." and "The way in which such relationships actually
develop on paper is made clearer when they are seen in working drawings. Gil Kane's preliminary
layout for his book Blackmark is uncommonly coherent..." (page 169)
I would have quoted some of my more serious (painters, sculptors, printmakers) instructors,
but they didn't make me buy anything but art supplies, and not from them.
Next: Perspective, color, and a bunch of other junk nobody will read
Originally published at my own web page in late 1997