Category Archives: Design

Artist Richard Notkin

Richard Notkin

Richard Notkin

Artist Richard Notkin recently lectured at the Renwick Gallery (part of the Smithsonian family of museums) on the role of the Artist in Society. He asked us what is the ultimate purpose of art and can the human species live on in a world with out it? Richard cited the Lascaux Cave paintings, early Greek art and architecture as examples of our need to have art and beauty around us.

He believes the artist serves as both a visual and social link, that the best work of an artist ‘stimulates those who view it to ask questions’. Notkin has chosen to embrace the role of an artist as a social critic, that he celebrates new ground and quoted Andre Malraux saying, “All art is a revolt against man’s fate.

All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness, by Richard Notkin

All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness, by Richard Notkin

Notkin made it clear throughout his lecture that for him the word artist was a broad term, encompassing painters, sculptors, ceramicist as well as musicians, vocalists and composers from different eras.  Notkin cited that for his generation, Dylan’s ‘Blowing in the Wind’ served as an anthem; a call which spurred them action. His need to protest the war and destruction in Viet Nam was a direct result of Dylan’s song.

A protest against war and destruction is a central theme in Notkin’s work. While discussing nuclear weapons he states that nations continuing to seek them, add them to the ranks of the axis of evil. He then asked, “Do we sleep more soundly at night knowing we can incinerate the families of our enemies many times over?” His work has borrowed from Michelangelo (Pieta). One of the themes that he referenced several times in several series was Goya’s revolution etchings along with Picasso’s greatest work Guernica that these works were protests against war.

Detail from All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness

Detail from All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness

He stated that he has no messianic beliefs about himself, rather he views his work as something similar to the artisan working on a cathedral. The artisan/craftsmen know that their work will not be completed during their lifetime, yet they labor proudly, content to be part of a larger purpose. When he said this I thought about the time I wandered around marveling at the still incomplete Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi. This cathedral has been under construction since 1882 and still isn’t completed. In this age of instant everything-it’s hard to understand or accept that your role of a social commentator may be to only be that small stone in a larger movement/avalanche.

Creation and Destruction. Notkin returned repeatedly throughout the lecture to his concerns with destruction. He stated that mankind’s issues are far too complex to solve with explosive devices.  Notkin believes the fulcrum of creativity lies midway between creation and destruction. Art is the physical manifestation of our hopes and our dreams. Without art, what can hold our destructive capabilities in check?

Stopping the Godless Aggressors

Stopping the Godless Aggressors

Listening to him speak, I had several quick thoughts that I jotted down which I wanted to ask him about.  If he feels that mankind’s issues are so complex that they can not be solved with the use of weapons of mass destruction, how does he reconcile that they are a necessary part of his creative equation (i.e., the fulcrum of creativity lies between creation and destruction).  I wondered what would happen if you removed the threat of destruction from the equation.  I think he touched on the answer briefly when he joked that if the threat of destruction went away he would happily paint nudes.

Works. While speaking about his work Richard Notkin stated that he has found more questions than answers. The major themes of his work center on art and war.  Notkin wants to understand why an artist continues to create for a seemingly indirect or disinterested audience.  Notkin found a partial answer to this question in these two quotes.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw

Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

Detail from And they Shall Beat Their Swords into  Plowshares

Detail from And they Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares

Richard Notkin works small.  If you look at the mural All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness you will see a portrait of former President George Bush.  Notkin created this using 3×3 tiles. Each tile was formed and then carved.

Notkin said he can spend 50-60 hours carving on less than one cubic inch. He said he was trying to surpass the type of carving seen in a Japanese netsuke. This can be seen in the both ‘Stopping the Godless Aggressors’ and ‘And They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares.’

Detail from ...Plowshares

Detail from ...Plowshares

The work Stopping the Godless Aggressors is about Viet Nam and Nixon and the horrors of war.  The scale is small but Notkin stated this work was far more about context than scale.

And They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares. This work originally began as a maquette for a larger piece but became the actual piece. There are a multitude of weapons (including civil war cannon) as well as a variety of building materials. At the top of the piece (with grass) is a horse drawn plow going through a fecund clod of earth. He was trying to show the earth’s ability to heal and show us that we have that healing ability as well. To get an idea of scale, the plowshare is carved out of clay and is about two cubic inches.



All Nations Have Their Moments of Foolishness. I liked this piece.  Richard said he made his murals with 3×3″ squares of clay that he formed and then carved.  Frankly each tile is a work of art in itself.  They feature skulls, a horse screaming in mortal agony from Picasso’s Guernica, Jesus’ limp feet from Michangelo’s Pieta, the iconic figure of the hooded figure standing with his arms outstretched from Abu Ghraib.  Murder, torture, war all the heinous acts that have been committed within the last two centuries are memorialized in this work.  Notkins fired these tiles in sawdust, which allowed for the range of light and dark.  He used these tiles with a grided photograph to recreate former President Bush’s portrait.  More specific information can be found at this here which provides the artist’s statement about the piece as well as the specifics of his techniques used to fire the clay.  He said that he struggled for a while to find the title for the piece.  Eventually he felt that the title was a statement that best fit this piece because it explained why the American people voted for President Bush for a second term.

There were many other pieces that he spoke of during his lecture that I haven’t covered.  His heart vessels, his yixing teapots, or his wondrous ‘It’s no Use Shouting (After Goya)’.  I will hopefully cover these in a few weeks.  I also have to state that my pictures were photographs of the 35mm slides Mr. Notkin’s used.  Most had to be cropped to remove other people’s hair, hats etc from the view.


Irvine Contemporary Opening

Hello Hope II 2008, by Leslie Holt

Hello Hope II 2008, by Leslie Holt

I browsed through several Art Galleries in the Washington DC 14th Street art corridor today.

Curator’s Office. My first stop was at the Curator’s Office. Andrea Pollan has a small but wonderful gallery and her current show, Potential Energy-A Collaboration, features works on paper by Ann Tarantino and Kate McGraw.

Ann Tarantino has two works which were featured at Jan Beckman’s 20×200 site this week. Both at beautiful, I particularly loved her print Far and Wide but Flying Colors is wonderful as well. Both are still available but moving briskly at the site.

Regime Change Show at Martin Irvine, from Irving

Regime Change Show at Martin Irvine

Jan Beckman’s site sell large, medium, and small editions of the same print in edition sizes of 2, 20, and 200 respectively. The small size limited edition prints are very affordable at $20.00 each.

While I was there, Andrea showed me two new Leslie Holt Hello Kitty paintings, Hello Hope and Hello Change. Both paintings featured different riffs on Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama poster. Both were wonderful but only the Hello Hope was available so I quickly snagged it. Lucky me!

Irvine Contemporary. I ended up at Martin Irvine’s gallery, Irvine Contemporary. There was an amazing show that opened tonight, Regime ChangeStarts at Home features the works of Shepard Fairey (The artist behind the tricolor Obama poster), Al Farrow and and Paul Miller (DJ Spooky).

Rose Girl, by Shepard Fairey, Image from the Irvine Contemporary Website

Rose Girl, by Shepard Fairey, Image from the Irvine Contemporary Website

Shepard Fairey’s work is phenomenal, it is a combination of a collage, stencil and acrylic paints; this is street art at it’s best. Fairey has a strong graphic design background and it really shows in his work. According the his bio at the Martin Irving Gallery Fairey graduated in with a BA 1992 from the Rhode Island School of Design. His work reminds me of some of the intense and graphically powerful socialist party posters I used to see in Germany during the early 1990s. Sadly most of the work was far out of reach for me since it was priced at $16,000-17,000 but the impact of seeing it up close was incredible.

Fairey created a limited edition poster of his larger work, China Girl (original China Girl is shown on the left). the collage background looked like newspapers and the type of thin paper with intricate pattern that reminded me of the delicate wrapping papers available from India. The image is large and powerful.

Rose Girl Limited Edition Print, Irvine Contemporary Gallery

Rose Girl Limited Edition Print, Irvine Contemporary Gallery

The limited edition print (450 total) lacks some of the depth of the original. Understandable because there is no collage involved; it’s a sexy image anyway. Although I love the original the print was very inexpensive at $100 each. The graphic image was amazing and yes I did buy one; how could I not?

The alley behind the gallery featured numerous posters that had been pasted to a wall. As a cohesive whole they were amazing. Beside thin posters featuring images by Fairey, there was also some of the paper he’d used in his collage works. Many of the posters were blocked together and there were also a few unique ones. Gallery guests were welcome to photograph them.

Obey Poster Wall (segment/fragment)

Obey Poster Wall (segment/fragment)

I spied a large Obama poster of Fairey’s which had been pasted on the third story wall of a building near Whole Foods. There were also several freshly pasted posters plastered up on different surfaces throughout the 14th Street corridor.

Overall it was an amazing show. The first time I’d seen Fairey’s work was the Obama poster (which I love). I was lucky enough to have a friend give me the Obama poster when they returned from the Democratic Convention in Denver.

If you live in the DC area make sure you stop by the Martin Irving Gallery to this show; it’s amazing. They are located at 1412 14th Street NW, Washington DC 202-332-8767.

Note- there are several great blog posts about this show and Shepard Fairey as well.  checkout Adventrues of Hoogrrl.

Some Silly Photos

I have an iPhone which I love, but it has drawback. The camera takes great pictures if the lighting is good and I am not trying to shoot a really up close macro shot. i wanted to post a few shots that I really liked that came from the camera…

So here goes

This first shot was taken from an Amtrak train window as I was speeding south to North Carolina from Union Station in Washington DC.

View from a South Bound Train

View from a South Bound Train

I love the sense of speed, movement and the bedazzlement of the sun in this picture. It makes me feel like I am a child again on the merry-go-round spinning as fast as I can.

This next picture is from further down the line on the trip.

Southboud Tree Tops

Southbound Tree Tops

This shot was I was biking along the Potomac River last summer.

River Trees

River Trees

This next picture is the silly one. I saw this notice on the terracotta painted walls at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. I think I loved it because of the blue one orange background it really jumps out at you.

Which Way?

Which Way?

The final picture was taken on 14th Street NW in Washington DC right outside of Plan B Art Gallery. I believe it was some type of asphalt paving equipment, but I loved how worn and colorful it was.

Street Sign

Street Sign

There are times I am tempted to go out and buy a really good camera since I love to take photographs and I believe I have a good compositional eye (except I should crop the last photo a bit.

Santa Fe Trees 3

Santa Fe Tree

And here are a few of my favorite from New Mexico.
There is some thing so beautiful about the color of the sky in New Mexico. I shot these near the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. The tourists probably thought I was drunk because I had to lay flat on the ground to get the shot of that beautiful sky between the branches.
Santa Fe Tree

Santa Fe Trees 3

This is the Sandia Peak at sunset. It’s beautiful as always. Albuquerque New Mexico sits at just over 5.000 feet above sea level, the peak is at close to 10.000 feet. My favorite time of the day was leaving the office and driving home. I lived on the east side of the city so in the fall this is what I would see every day driving home.
Sandia Peak at Sunset

Sandia Peak at Sunset

Rosslyn Building

Rosslyn Buildings

Rosslyn. And here are a couple of shots I took about 3 or 4 years ago when I was in Rosslyn Virginia. I took them from the window of my hotel and there was something very attractive to me about the patterns reflected in the glass

Rosslyn Buildings 2

Smithsonian Craft Show

The Smithsonian Craft Show opens this weekend (April 10 – 13) at the Smithsonian Building Museum.  This will be the third show I am attending and I am psyched as usual.  I’d considered going to the preshow on Wednesday evening.  But the admission to the gala is $175 per person (I know but at least there is a free valet!).  I finally realized as much fun as that would be, I could spend it on thursday (and the profit goes to the event which is worthwile) or I could directly support the artist by buying their lovely things.  I decided buying art and fine crafts would be the better option for me.

Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors/military/Smithsonian Associates and employees. 

The hours of the show are:

Thursday 10:00- 8:00PM

Friday – Saturday 10:00 – 6:00PM

Sunday  11:00-5:00PM

There is a small sandwich shop on the first floor that has some great food that is fairly cheap, they sell decent coffee too.

How to get there:

If you are on the Metro, take the RED LINE to Judicary Square.  The national Building Museum is located on 401 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 if you are driving there are parking garages nearby but I am a metro gal so check the show link for that information.

For those of you who are out of town and can not attend, you can still participate!  The Smithsonian Craft Show hosts and online auction as well!  The auction opened on 6 April and continues until 15 April.



Gocco Printing

I’ve been lurking on a lot of graphic art, design and decorating blogs lately.  Several of them feature amazing art created with a Japanese screen printing machine called a Gocco.  Mind you, the only printing I’ve ever done involved a potato in 2nd grade (results weren’t memorable); but Gocco is easy!

This little sucker is a very compact table-top system.  It’s about the size of the yellow pages (well it’s narrower than that but it gives you a good idea).

Here is a picture of my original drawings.  I placed two on the screen so that I could use either end to make my stationary/print. 

Gocco Print Masters

 So last Friday I tried my hand at designing/printing using a Gocco that I recently purchased.  Here are the results.

                         Cat and Mouse Stationarystationary-2.jpg

The paper is a pale blue Cranes.  I will post a close up of the original drawing tonight.   

Using the Gocco was fun and very easy.  I created two different sized versions of this image, for use with larger stationary or for smaller cards like this.

People do an amazing amount of design (four color with registration etc) and the work is so very beautiful.  I won’t be making anything to sell, but I think this is a great way to make and design my own stationary.

Springtime in DC


 Snowdrops have arrived

I took this near the Library of Congress, Washington, DC this morning. Springtime has arrived!


I just received these pictures of the newest edition to my home.  A friend of mine, Vicki is one of the owners of a wonderful japanese antique store, Ishihama Antiques  in the Los Angeles area.

She found this Sendai Tansu for me on her last trip to Japan! The tansu and very similar to another one I purchased from her last year.  This one measures 36″wide x 35 1/2″ high and 16″ deep. 

I plan on seperating the two units and placing them side-by-side to form a longer console table.  I may keep it together as a stacked chest, but having the stand made and shipped gives me a few more options.  Vicki can have a stand with metal legs added to make it the height I want.  I’ve done this with a merchants chest I bought from her last year,  I wanted it to be high enough for a side table to a chair or couch. 

Sendai Tansu 1

Photo by Ishihama Antiques

A Way to Collect Art, Inexpensively

I wanted to write a post about how it is possible to collect affordable art.   

I believe most people like the idea of surrounding themselves with beautiful and attractive things.  I’ve written several posts on collecting art but many of the artist I love or have discussed (e.g., Robert Liberace, Annie Dover, Duane Keiser -his larger works, Leo NeufeldSonya Skarloff, et al.) may be out of the reach of most budgets.

My background

I started buying artwork several years ago, I was-and still am- on a shoestring budget.  I initially bought only what I loved and could afford but I had no idea how to go about selecting what to buy.  I was fortunate enough to start an email conversation with Gregory Peterson of NYC who is an avid contemporary art collector.  Throughout our correspondence, he was very helpful explaining how he went about buying art and building his extensive collection. 

What I found was that if you want a larger or more expensive work, most galleries will work with you by allowing you to make credit card payments (usually three or four automatic ones) and once it’s paid for, they ship it to you or you pick it up.  Mostly it depends on the gallery and your relationship with them or how much they want to sell that particular work. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be shy about telling them what you can afford.  In fact, if you don’t tell them honestly what your price range is, it’s doubtful they can steer you towards work you  are confortable about purchasing, I strongly recommend that you never buy work you can’t afford (i.e., don’t say you have to have something so you use your rent money).  Gregory suggested starting a savings account to use for your art purchases.  I think it’s a wonderful idea but I am simply not that disciplined I guess.  So, I am writing this post to help those of you who, like me, love art but are on a limited budget. 

Get Educated

Attend as many openings and art shows as you can.  Many museums have lecture series to teach members and the general public about different types of art.  Often times very well known artists will give presentations about their work, inspiration, and motivation in conjunction with the opening of a show. In addition, there are many galleries who who court new collectors and provide venues where a collector can learn more. 

For example the Arlington Virginia Arts Center will host a “Collector’s Talk.” which features well known DC area collectors such as Tony and Heather Podesta, Phillip Barlow and Philippa Hughes.  These individuals will discuss their collections on 8 March at 4:30.  They are well known for their impressive and extensive collections, in fact they have co-curated a show which features each unique collection.

I recently attended a lecture by Paige West (click here to read my the blog post) at the Corcoran Museum, in Washington DC.  Paige West owns the Mixed Greens Gallery in NYC.  She discussed collecting contemporary art and talked about who was at the apex (read super hot and  super expensive) and those who were up and coming as well.  She also made some recommendations on places to shop for art that is relatively inexpensive, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

A common theme for many lectures and panel discussions about collecitng art is urging folks to consider limited edition fine art prints (lithography, monotypes etc versus greenwich village workshop type genre) and photographs.  The contemporary prints and photographs by emerging artists and even some well known artist are usually not as expensive as oil paintings.  But they are still not inexpensive. 

I’ve also found that many inexpensive works are by either emerging artists or established artists who are selling smaller works.  This is the group that I focus on. 

Inexpensive/affordable art

There are some phenomenal sources available for purchasing great quality relatively inexpensive art (say $20 – $500) and one that I know of that is even FREE

Recommended inexpensive sources are, Daily Painters, 20×200, Tiny Showcase, and Cinders. The free one is the Fine Art Adpotion Network  (FAAN).  Both Tiny Showcase  and 20×200 place new works at their site on Tuesdays and 20×200 also places works on their sites on Wednesdays as well.  Daily painters work is self explanatory.

How they work handmade art, accessories, crafts, beautiful and funky furniture, ceramics and books.  A great article that gives a far more in-depth explaination about etsy can be found at the Real Simple magazine.    According to their website mission statement

“Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.  Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.  our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice….” 

A great example of the type of art you can purchase at etsy is the work sold by the Los Angeles artist The Mincing Mockingbird.  This guy’s paintings are hysterical and really well done and very inexpensive at $40 for a 6×6″ work.  I found this artist through a link at Decor8’s great design blog.  Here is an example of one from the Mincing Mockingbird’s store, the title is too funny. The second print, based on a watercolor, is by Desert Canyon.

 Whiskers The Cat Strikes Terror In The Hearts Of The Residents Of The Lilac

Whiskers The Cat Strikes Terror In The Hearts Of The Residents Of The Lilac, by the Mincing Mockingbird 

Almost Squash Time by Desert Canyon

Almost Squash Time, Desert Canyon

Poppytalk Handmade.  According to their site, Poppytalk Handmade is a monthly virtual/online street market to showcase, buy and sell handmade goods of emerging design talent from around the world.  They have some amazing work that is very reasonable.

20×200 20×200 is the brain child of Jen Beckman.  The site places two new works per week at their site, one photo and one work on paper.  They offer the work in three editions based upon size; the smaller the work, the larger the edition.   The largest edition (200) is the smallest size available and is sold for $20, there is also a medium size (edition of 20) sold for $200 and a larger sized edition (edition of 2) which sells for about $2000.  The goal of the site is to make art high quality affordable art available to everyone. 

Daily Painters Gallery-is a juried gallery of daily painting artist.  According to the site, the gallery was founded by artist Micah Condon in 2006 and has over 20,000 paintings available.  I have found the work to be extremely varied.  There are only a few artists whose work really appeals to me there but it’s mainly a matter of personal taste.  Kim Roberti is one artist at the Daily Painters Gallery whose work I like (I own one of her paintings).  Many of  the paintings begin around $35 and go up from there.  It takes time to browse here but once you find someone whose work you like you can click on the link to their gallery and find additional works there. I believe I paid around $35-40 for this adorable Kim Roberti oil painting.


Me and My Shadow by Kim Roberti

Me and My Shadow by Kim Roberti

Cinders Gallery – is located in Brooklyn, NY.  According to their site, Cinders Gallery focuses on drawings but sells other handmade objects as well.  Their goals is to sell affordable art to average person. 

Fine Art Adoption Network.   There are a variety of mediums available for adoption at FAAN:  sculpture, paintings, drawings, photography and even installation work.  FAAN’s stated goal is to create an online network

…which uses a gift economy to connect artists and potential collectors. All of the artworks on view are available for adoption. This means acquiring an artwork without purchasing it, through an arrangement between the artist and collector. Our goal is to help increase and diversify the population of art owners and to offer artists new means for engaging their audience.

How FAAN works, you view the available works and then you decide which works to apply to adopt.  Make no mistake it is an adoption process, you apply for it by answering questions about yourself and why you should be the owner of the work.  Some artwork has no strings attached and some have conditions for adoption (e.g., the artist wants it framed or displayed a certain way).  There are some wonderful contemporary works here and it’s definitely worth attempting.  I haven’t had any luck but I’ve only applied to adopt two works in the past. I liked this one so much that I applied to adopt it and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Peggy Cyphers Sidewalk Subway

Subway Sidewalk by Peggy Cyphers 

This is an example of a recent painting up for adoption at FAAN.


Trying to sort through the art available at can be an effort worthy of Hercules.  The best thing I can recommend is that you find someone whose work you love adn who uses eBay to sell their works (such as Duane Keiser, and Neil Hollingsworth).  As always with eBay, shop the seller and not the product…that means make sure the seller has as close to 100& positive feedback as they can get. 

I usually look at the following artists at eBay Karin Jurick, Duane Keiser, Neil Hollingsworth, and Michelle Tully.  Speaking of Michelle Tully and Duane Keiser.  Michelle sells work by herself, Tim Stolz and occasionally other artist (Tony Ryder for one) through their eBay store.  Michelle and Tim Stolz run the Studio Escalier in France.  According to the site, they use the

…proceeds go to help our young scholarship students in France, who come to our art school from all over the world. (North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia.)

I’ve written several posts about artist Duane Keiser which can be found throughout my blog.  Suffice it to say that Duane started the Painting A Day movement and his smaller works are sold through his eBay store.  Depending on subject matter (eggs, food items,  and floral seem to go for between $350-$500) some of his other subjects a little lower.  He also sells very tiny paintings (usually 2.5″x3″) he calls oddments at his site for $100.  He only puts the oddments up occasionally so you need to check his site daily if you’re interested.

I will go ahead and post this for now, I expect to do several edits before I am happy with it. If you have another source for art that you love which is under $400 or $500 dollars please let me know via a comment.