Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Inspiration: Experimental Music and Nam June Paik

My life revolves around music and art, both influence eachother and inspire me. I'm a big fan of experimental "noise" music and I find the art that influences it stunning as well. Happenings, Fluxus, and Video Art have made it possible for bands like Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance, and Black Dice to really become a revolution, a psychedelic art revival, and communicate visual information along with their music.
Artists like Fast Friends and the Paper Rad crew have gained a huge following in the underground noise scene on the West Coast. The pixilated, Pop, retro technology look is reminiscent of Nam June Paik's Video Art installations and Paik being one of my favorite artist's deserves much of the credit for the look of "noise art" videos. When you watch these videos back to back the similarities pretty easy to indentify. Some of the most amazing musicians of all time were close friends of Paik, in fact John Cage aka "The Godfather of Experimental music" was one of Paik's greatest mentors and influences. Just another reminder that art has the power to influence it's surroundings and inspire even the most brilliant minds.

Watch Nam June Paik's "Global Groove"

Now watch Black Dice's music video for "Kokomo" and Gore

What do you think?

If you are into the noise phenomenon, check out the book "Gore" by Black Dice and Jason Frank Rothernberg.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Photo of the Week

Angelica Huston wearing Alexander Calder's necklace entitled "The Jealous Husband" for the 1976 cover of New York Magazine.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Inspiration: David Downton

I think all watercolor artists have a healthy obsession with illustrators due to their mastery of the medium and David Downton is one of the most talented illustrators out there. I've had a love affair with his work since I first laid eyes on it and it's always exciting to see such successful, technical imagery in illustration. His work is featured in many major advertisement campaigns such as, Chanel, Tiffany & Co., various book covers including the cover of "100 Years of Illustration" as seen below.

His line work is beautiful and his floating imagery creates such interesting use of negative space. As a young artist I sometimes find myself wondering why my work looks so amateur, so ordinary, but I think the key to a really wonderful drawing is due mostly in part to variation in line and strong editing skills. The only real way to deal with this dilemma is drawing more, more, more and it seems as though that's exactly what Downton does. "For me this is the hardest and the most interesting thing. In order to leave something out, first you have to put it in, or at least understand how every thing works. I do dozens of drawings on to layout paper taking the best from each one as I go. When the drawing looks right I start to eliminate, to de-construct if you like. I keep working until it looks spontaneous."

I really enjoyed his answer when asked what the secret to becoming a successful fashion illustrator, "Fluidity, mastery of the medium - capturing a sense of the moment, layout and use of space and most important of all, strong drawing. You can't be too good at drawing." I couldn't agree more and I wish that drawing was pressed upon me more when I was attending art school. I'm still trying to make up for lost time but I do know that my most apparent growth spurts in drawing skill were achieved in my figure drawing classes. Working from life is the most difficult, embarrassing and mandatory thing artists can do.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

John Singer Sargent: Madame X

It seems like every artist I know is obsessed with one man, John Singer Sargent. I'll admit I was late to join the Sargent craze but after yet another visit to New York and the Met I can say that Sargent's work easily out shined all the other pieces in the room. Arthur and I walked in and we could see Madame X through the doors and without hesitation we made our way over to her. It's such a beautiful, extraordinary, stylish piece, and it was drenched in controversy.

It's funny that this piece caused such an uproar after Manet shocked Paris nearly 20 years before Madame X would enter the Salon. The sexual nature of her poise and the lilac undertones in her skin not only ruined Madame Gautreau's social standings in Parisian society but removed Sargent from his throne as one of Paris' favorite American painter of the time. Yet the painting was never destroyed and consequently the piece became one of the most celebrated pieces of all time for the same reasons it was denounced in 1884.

The original piece (Left) featured Madame Gautreau with one strap down but Sargent changed this detail when he took the painting back to his studio for safe keeping. He was afraid that Gautreau's family would destroy the piece so he took it down before the exhibition's completion.

I think this is one of the most incredible portraits of all time, her skin tone and clothing are that of a unique, avant-garde, nontraditional beauty. According to Vernon Lee "Sargent's outspoken love of the exotic [and the] unavowed love of rare kinds of beauty, for incredible types of elegance like his Mme. Gautreau" are what made him such an incredible painter. Sargent's studies for Madame X are equally as devoted and beautiful. Below are his graphite and watercolor studies.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Influence: John Gannam

I stumbled upon artist/illustrator John Gannam (1907-1965) a while ago and I was blown away by his watercolor paintings. His work is compositionally stunning and the emotional content is subtle yet powerful. Like Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer, Gannam's illustrations are praise worthy, even in the fine art world, yet serve as functional advertisements. These are some of the most beautiful and technically perfect watercolors I have ever come across and yet Gannam never made the jump from commercial illustration to fine art like Homer and Hopper did.

It was a little bit difficult to find information about Gannam but what I did dig up was that he was a member of the American Watercolor Society, was on the faculty of the Danbury Academy of Arts, and was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1981.

I just ordered, Lessons From a Lifetime of Watercolor Painting by Donald Voorhees, it features work by Gannam and other famous illustrators from the past, hopefully by studying his work I will be able to uncover a few of the tricks that made Gannam's watercolors one of a kind.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Interview: Diana Behl

Diana Behl lives and works in Brookings, SD. A recent recipient of a Bush Foundation Dakota Creative Connections grant, she has been teaching Printmaking and Foundations at South Dakota State University for three years. Her current body of work often assumes characteristics of diary or logbook, refrencing both memory and narrative. Personal iconography alludes to metaphor and humor, while the physical accumulation of collaged material and amassment of drawn marks suggest reflection on these themes. Her works on paper have been featured in the Western Edition of New American Paintings volume.66 and the 2004 MFA Annual. She has exhibited works at the Sioux City Art Center (Sioux City, IA), Lux Center for the Arts (Lincoln, NE), Soo Visual Arts Center (Minneapolis, MN) and the International Print Center New York (NY, NY). Her mixed media images are also featured in The Drawing Center's new online Artist Registry and Viewing Program.

Kristin Dalton: When did you first know you wanted to be a professional artist?
Diana Behl: As cliché as it may sound, as a kid.
KD: I love cliché!
DB: I was very interested in writing and art, even as a kid. So at first it was an ice skater and then in about the fourth grade it was an author, actress or artist. Too bad for me I am terrible with things attached to my feet. No skis or skates for me.
KD: Thank goodness for the art world, not so much for the figure skating world. I'm laughing just thinking about little Diana ice skating! I can see you saying Wooooooooooooo! as you glide along.
DB: Funny.
KD: Totally funny.
KD: Quotidian- extraordinary in the ordinary. Your work is flooded with quotidian references. Do you think living and teaching in the Midwest has affected your work?
DB: I think the idea of place plays an important role in my work. For example, I am very sensitive to space... especially the space in which I work. The idea of pulling from quotidian experiences came to fruition while living in Iowa City. Snippets of my immediate surroundings started appearing in my work. Shapes of buildings, old windows, old signage I started making drawings in my kitchen, sitting on a 1930's breakfast nook, overlooking a Laundromat, and a building which used to be a horse barn.
KD: You are a very articulate lady indeed, you can see it in your work.

KD: I don't know your immediate influences but two artists came to mind when reviewing your work. First the chaos of Cy Twombly.
DB: Cy Twombly is a genius with color. My work is very influenced by his oeuvre
and his own sense of space, and his compositions.
KD: The second, Julie Mehretu. You both are both interested in the layering of time, collection, and your work is very much a personal diary.
DB: Julie Mehretu has a wonderful use of line and variety of texture.
KD: You received a BFA in graphic design as well as printmaking from Bowling Green University, you work is saturated in design elements. Do you feel like your background in design has made your work stronger?
DB: My interest in typography has certainly influenced the visual characteristics of my work. I love using *text as image* and I don't necessarily think that my background in design made the work stronger. It just made the work what it is–it is imbued in, and woven into the work.
KD: It's funny, I feel strange asking that question because in the art world there seems to be this invisible barrier between graphic design and fine art.
DB: Maybe for some... but so much work these days share the characteristics of graphic design. So many designers are making drawings and other objects that I think the idea of a barrier is absurd.
KD: Functional or commercial art seems to be placed on a lower level than fine art. I totally agree that the barrier should be ripped down like the Berlin wall.
DB: Well, certainly a logo for McDonalds and a Cy Twombly painting are different.
KD: Well yes, I mean with graphic designers like Stephen Sagmeister out there, there really is no difference, brilliance is brilliance.
DB: I agree with your statement.
KD: Your work is spread out between printmaking, drawing, and installation pieces. Somehow you make a consistent body of work throughout changes in media. When you begin a piece what comes first for you; Content or Medium?
DB: I think different content calls for different media and no one wants to become bored, and so for me it is important to change media but within the different bodies of work there are similarities. The first one is the process whether it's the process of cutting out hundreds of snowflakes, toiling over copper plates, or very meticulously drawing dotted lines that is representative of a passage of time, or the diarist quality you mentioned before.
KD: All of your work is very time consuming in different ways, whether it be the printing process or collecting ephemera for your works on paper.
DB: Yes, there is a hybrid of delight and labor involved.
KD: Truly quotidian.
DB: It's quite delightful to come across this old "how to behave" "what is proper etiquette" books, yet quite laborious pulling an intaglio edition.
KD: Very true. Printmaking is hard labor!
DB: A mentor in grad school would often comment on my choice of media. "Why labor over these copper plates when you could so easily paint this image?". One must be enamored of their materials and methods.
KD: You have to be or else you aren't a printmaker, you are a painter. Printmakers are obsessed with the process painters are obsessed with the product. Your work has recently been added to the viewing archive of the New York Drawing Center, that's very exciting!
DB: Alth
ough I have not yet visited the drawing center, I am excited by their commitment to drawing as a viable medium.
KD: You have a forthcoming show at Music Saves, a independent record store in Cleveland, Ohio. I feel as though music is like carbohydrates for artists, we need it to produce. What music have you been listening to lately?
DB: Right now i am listening to Dead Meadow, Fleet foxes, and Bon Iver.
KD: Lovely.
DB: What about you?
KD: Well let's see, Santogold and France Gall for the most part, also Lots of Neko Case.
DB: Her use of metaphor is very inspiring.
KD: Very much so. What new projects have you been working on?
DB: Well, recently I completed a fun project for a small exhibition called OLD SCHOOL it will be at a place called UPPERCASE in Calgary. The proprietor of the shop sent out participant’s inspiration packets which contained old school ephemera such as flash cards, handwriting rubrics and textbook pages, each artist is asked to create a few pieces interpreting the theme. Next up is a themed exhibition called Safety Architecture, a friend of mine is curating, and we have been asked to interpret this theme as we wish. I have been thinking a lot lately about complacency in place, if that makes sense complacency is a false sense of security, therefore sometimes remaining in a place just because one feels "safe" can be detrimental.
KD: I live in rural Wyoming, it makes total sense to me.
DB: At the same time, there are so many pockets of hidden beauty. Most importantly, it is being aware of your surroundings. Hence, adverting danger.
KD: Yes safety is priceless, but we are all reminded that progress and safety cannot coexist.
DB: That is a great observation. Perhaps that is why we are always working towards a different place.
KD: I think artists are inherently forward facing, it's our nature, whether it's the next project or moving to a new place to create.
KD: Your work is part of a new wave of art on paper, how does that feel?
DB: I feel as though i need to make something innovative with this paper.
KD: Well so far you have impressed and intrigued countless viewers, including New American Paintings.
DB: It is fantastic when an audience responds positively. There is a whole world yet to be explored.
KD: Definitely. It seems as though you can create powerful work in the most obscure places, you teach in South Dakota, ideally where would you like to be in 5 years?
DB: I have no idea as far as location is concerned. It would be great if the work would travel more frequently outside of the Midwest. Most importantly, I hope to be productive in making meaningful work that reaches a broad and diverse audience.

KD: Wonderful.
KD: We all have an artist or a few artists that have just blown us away upon viewing their work, those artists that make our job worthwhile, and inspire us to create. Who are those artists for you?
DB: Cy Twombly, Squeak Carnwath, Ellen Gallagher, and my friends.
KD: What is your greatest art related accomplishment to date?
DB: Perseverance.
KD: Rock n roll Ladybug.
KD: You gave me Letters to a Young Artist, which is an inspirational book. What advice do you give your students about trudging through the art world?
DB: Work hard, know what you want, don't be lazy, go for it, and stop complaining. Ha!
KD: I still hear your voice saying, "Kristin! Create more, create more!" whenever I’m working.
DB: Sometimes it's very difficult to make more, but "art as experience", commitment to the work and to the process and research is extremely important. It's like training for a marathon.
Big thanks to the talented and delightful Ms. Diana Behl. Check out her work at!
Images courtesy of Diana Behl and *All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is this for real? Kara Walker is asked to share?


It comes as no surprise that controversy seems to surround Kara Walker's work wherever she goes. I have never understood peoples need to censor or stifle artistic expression but in Kara Walker's case the controversy has worked in her advantage and she has become the most well known female African American artists of our time. The latest attack on Walker is as empty and ridiculous as prior allegations. This seems more like a group of angry mothers at a PTA meeting, than intelligent art criticism. When has art ever been accused of being fair? NEVER. I think Kara Walker's work is important and her narrative extraordinary, for people to ask her to stop hogging the spotlight is absurd! She earned her position, and anyone who has ever experienced her emotionally charged work first hand knows it. I think that these artists who are upset about the iconic status that Walker has been awarded, need to readjust their criticism and aim it back at themselves. Jealousy is a useless emotion and they should use that energy to improve their own work. Anybody else agree?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Published! George Green Research Project

I received word from my art history professor Dr. Leda Cempellin, that our research essay about artist George Green was finally published! Leda is an extraordinary professor and one of my mentors. I was so lucky to learn from her and in my last semester with her she pushed my writing and research skills to new levels. I'm so proud of this project and I hope you will take the time to read it George Green is an extraordinary artist, he is represented by the legendary Louis Meisel Gallery in New York, NY

This is the email I received today:

Dear students of the ARTH 490 Seminar, the great moment has arrived: George Green's group project is now published online!!! Here is the information: Dalton, Kristin; Fritz, Katie; Klein, Dustin; Meyer, Rachelle; Schanzenbach,Luke (ed. Leda Cempellin). "Eye Deceptions: The Evolution of George D.Green's Painting from the Late 1970's to the Present". UndergraduateResearch Journal for the Human Sciences, vol. 7A, Special Edition, 2008.

I'm very excited! Sending a huge thank you to Dr. Leda Cempellin, the other students involved in this project and the Undergraduate Research Community for making this possible!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fucntional Fine Art

The genius of Richard Prince transcends art and now it has slowly leaked into music and fashion. When I bought Sonic Youth's "Sonic Nurse", I had no idea who was behind the album artwork but I knew that I needed to find out. Richard Prince had created the "Sonic Nurse", influenced by his Nurses series, especially for the bands album that was released in 2004. I then googled him and I became obsessed almost immediately. He is such a smart artist yet he doesn't take himself too seriously, he has dedicated his life to art in many different fields. (Check out this article, one of the best Richard Prince Q&A's My obsession and admiration for his work has grown over the years and when I heard that the incredible Marc Jacobs was collaborating with him on his new handbag series for Louis Vuitton I was enthralled! Two of the loveliest workaholics in the world coming together to create something beautiful.

Marc Jacobs has built a glamorous bridge between the fine art world and the fashion world. I admire his work so much and think people are finally realizing that there is no real difference between the two worlds. Fashion is simply wearable art and fine art sets the tone for fashion, they coexist together and Marc Jacobs was brilliant enough to understand that. By collaborating with artists like Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince, you can afford a piece of functional fine art. Genius! I'll probably have to set aside another blog in honor of the magical Marc Jacobs...

Even the advertisments were flawless, blending references from Prince's muscle car series and the vampy luxury that Jacob's has brought to Louis Vuitton.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Illustration time...

Cecilia Carlstedt is one of my favorite illustrators to date. Anytime I need new ideas dealing with line or composition I look through her work to find inspiration. She creates beautiful work and has been comissioned by some of the most stylish companies in the world (even Absolut Vodka! see previous blog). Absolutely lovely! Check her out at

I especially like the pieces she created for Stick Magazine (Above). In these photos you can see how she takes objects and patterns from daily life and uses them in her illustrations to make her subtle line work stand out and more compositionally intriguing. You can see why she's getting so much work, her drawing skills are amazing and she creates interesting work that still relates to her audience.

If you're not satisfied with Cecilia, check out the lovely work of Jenny Mortsell (bottom left) and Anna Higgie(bottom right)

If you want daily news on up and coming artists, illustrators, and graphic designers just frequent It's my favorite site and it's where I've found hundred of talented young artists. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Absolut Vodka Ads Are Absolutely Amazing

I was looking through a magazine today and I noticed Absolut Vodkas ad campaign "In an ABSOLUT world". I've always admired Absolut Vodka ads, as well as their quirky and intellegent product design. “In an ABSOLUT World” is a powerful campaign that provides a rich framework for the ABSOLUT brand that builds on the foundation established by ‘The Absolutes’ campaign last year. Our consumers are intelligent, and we hope they have a gut reaction that sparks conversations and challenges them to think about their vision of an “ABSOLUT World,” says Tim Murphy, Senior Brand Director, The Absolut Spirits Company, Inc. Their ads in print are wonderful and their new commercials are brilliant! I especially like "In an ABSOLUT world friends would get together more" comedians Zach Galifianakis, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim were commissioned by Absolut Vodka to create any sort of film that promoted their product. This is what they came up with... Absolut Vodka's publicity/advertisment teams are genius, this is a prime example of what smart, tasteful design and font can do for product sales. They have made advertising an art form. Check out this campaign and others at .

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Oooo Oooo!

I was introduced to this book by the fabulous and talented Ms. Diana Behl, who specializes in intaglio innovations . When I picked it up I couldn't put it down, it's a quick but vital read for ALL artists. It's real, it sucks, it's impossible, it's art! This isn't a sweet, "every creator is created equally" book, it explains and exposes actual worries you should have as an artist. I haven't found a more honest, "how to art" guide yet, and it's nice to hear the truth from people who have impacted the world you want so badly to be a part of.
One of my favorite letters...
Dear Young Artist,
I started my career as a young artist is 1957. Then, there was
not the money in art that there is today. Therefore, one made art because one needed to do so. I taught public school
five days a week and painted when I could. I got married and participated in having two children, which made it more difficult to make art. I lived in National City, California, not an art center.
My advice? Don't go into art for fame or fortune. Do it because you cannot not do it. Being an artist is a combination of talent and obsession. Live in New York, L.A., Koln, or London. As for money: If you're talented and obsessed, you'll find a solution.
Yrs in art,
John Baldessari
Vencie, California

Greeting and Salutations

I have decided to start a more grown-up, solely art related blog, to place my thoughts of visual culture and criticisms for all to see. I will also be posting my own work for you, (friends, enemies, and strangers) to criticize me as well. Let the battle of the wits commence!

It will probably take me a little time to get this monster project started, i.e. uploading photos, researching new ideas, etc. so please bare with me.

Since returning home I've been obsessed with illustration and trying to draw everyday. I've put down my paint brush for a while and decided to get back to the basics of line, shadow, and mark making in general. I guess I'm floating around waiting for my muse, my subject matter and while I wait there is lots of work to be done. When I find the idea for my new series I suppose I might go back to watercolor if it fits, as Richard Prince said, "The subject comes first, the medium second." and I could not agree more.