Fleischer Studios (1936)

Training Pigeons is a 1936 Fleischer Studios animated short film featuring Betty Boop and Pudgy the Pup.

Betty and Pudgy are on the roof of their tenement building, trying to get her pet pigeons back in their cage. One stubborn bird refuses to return to the roost, despite Betty’s pleas. Pudgy, imagining himself a might hunting dog, attempts to catch the bird, with little success (at one point, Pudgy spots the pigeon on top of a flag pole, and as he tries to climb up the pole, the flag spanks Pudgy). When the pigeon gives Pudgy the slip, the little dog eventually wanders into the forest, where he falls asleep from exhaustion. The pigeon takes pity on Pudgy, and flies him back to Betty’s home. When Pudgy wakes up on the roof, he tears up the picture of the hunting dog in frustration.

Animated by Myron Waldman and Edward Nolan

Mae Questel as Betty Boop

“You come on down! I said come on down, you nutsy-doopsy!”

Betty Boop

Unlike other studios, whose characters were anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers’ most successful characters were humans. The cartoons of the Fleischer Studio were very different from those of Disney, both in concept and in execution. As a result, they were rough rather than refined and consciously artistic rather than commercial, but in their unique way, their artistry was expressed through a culmination of the arts and sciences. This approach focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements, and sexuality. Furthermore, the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Great Depression as well as German Expressionism.

Andy Warhol (1962)

In celebration of Andy Warhol’s birthday, born on this day in 1928, I wanted to share this interesting short documentary about him and his most famous creation the Marilyn Diptych. Enjoy!

Andy Warhol made Marilyn Diptych in 1962, right after Marilyn Monroe’s death. By the 1960s Marilyn’s film career as a sex symbol was all but over. Warhol would effectively immortalize Marilyn as the sex symbol of the 20th century. The seductive blonde Marilyn with the heavy-lidded eyes and parted lips is frozen in time. She is transformed into the personification of the allure and glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Marilyn would make Warhol a household name, and Warhol would make Marilyn an icon.

Marilyn Diptych is perhaps his greatest canvas, bringing together celebrity, death and exposure. It is both a warning and a love letter to America. Warhol, who is often criticized as vacuous or superficial, produced art, that is profoundly subversive and quite simply a perfect mirror of our times.

Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe were both the embodiment of the American dream. They also, both projected a vacant persona that made sure nobody knew the real person behind the mask.

The Marilyn Diptych is a silkscreen painting by American pop artist Andy Warhol depicting Marilyn Monroe. The monumental work is one of the artist’s most noted of the movie star. The painting consists of 50 images. Each image of the actress is taken from the single publicity photograph from the film Niagara. The underlying publicity photograph that Warhol used as a basis for his many paintings and prints of Marilyn, and the Marilyn Diptych, was owned and distributed by her movie studio. Marilyn Diptych was completed just weeks after Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962.

Silkscreen printing was the technique used to create this painting. The twenty-five images on the left are painted in color, the right side is black and white.

The Marilyn Diptych is in the collection of the Tate.

It has been suggested that the relation between the left side of the canvas and the right side of the canvas is evocative of the relation between the celebrity’s life and death. The work has received praise from writers such as American academic and cultural critic Camille Paglia, who wrote in 2012’s Glittering Images lauding how it shows the “multiplicity of meanings” in Monroe’s life and legacy.

In a December 2, 2004 article in The Guardian, the painting was named the third most influential piece of modern art in a survey of 500 artists, critics, and others. The artwork was also ranked ninth in the past 1,000 years by Kathleen Davenport, Director, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston.

Richard Rich (1996)

A youthful Leonardo da Vinci studies art under his master Andrea del Verrochio in Florence, Italy in 1473. While working as an apprentice Leonardo learns about color, shading, sculpture, and painting. In 1498, Leonardo is under the service of the Duke and Duchess of Milan. He is commissioned to sculpt a statue of the Duke’s father and paint The Last Supper. The Duchess asks Leonardo to produce a play about stars, planets, and space. During the play, Leonardo sees a young boy, Salai, steal some money from the stagehands. Salai tells Leonardo that he is homeless. Leonardo invites Salai to live with him and teaches him how to paint. Leonardo then meets a young Michelangelo and it becomes apparent that their thoughts about training in the arts are very different: Passion and creativity versus discipline and rules.

Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, and architect. He was a true genius who graced this world with his presence from April 15, 1452 to May 2, 1519. He is among the most influential artists in history, having left a significant legacy not only in the realm of art but in science as well, each discipline informing his mastery of the other. Da Vinci lived in a golden age of creativity among such contemporaries as Raphael and Michaelangelo, and contributed his unique genius to virtually everything he touched. Like Athens in the age of Pericles, Renaissance Italy is a summit in human history. Today, no name better seems to symbolize the Renaissance age than Leonardo da Vinci.

Matvey Rezanov (2021)

A rare example of a music video made for a modern classical piece. This watercolor animation is made for Arvo Pärt’s world premiere recording of “Estonian Lullaby for Violin and Piano”. Arvo Pärt is one of the most celebrated and performed composers today. Multiple watercolors were painted and filmed to achieve the artistic look for this animation.

Skazka was founded in Portland, Oregon in 2016 by established artist Matvey Rezanov. Matvey is captivated by the beauty of paint movement and the power of brushstrokes to tell a story in a unique way, using different styles or strata. He has combined his fine art background with technical skills in photography and videography to create a unique form of animation that blends cinematic language with art and brings two dimensional paint to life.

Matvey started his journey into film on the sets of Coraline and Paranorman, with five seasons on the production of Grimm. His vision, though, was to create an independent studio that would blend Art and technology, so Skazka was born.

Through both high quality artwork and digital skill, Skazka uses the inherent emotional quality of watercolor imagery, captures it “live” and creates an immersive story in motion. As the paint flows across the screen it reveals the inner world of a character and their emotions, bringing painting gloriously to life.  Skazka excels in its ability to communicate the distinctive feel of a story, and the individual qualities of each character, through the skilled use of colors, brushstroke and painting style.

With fine watercolor art and live and animated film background, Skazka studio has worked on multiple projects including Kid Cudi’s headline performances at Coachella and Rolling Loud music festivals,  world premiere recording of Arvo Pärt’s  Estonian Lullaby and upcoming feature documentary about Prince.

To learn more about Matvey Rezanov and Skazka Studios visit his website at: http://skazkastudios.com/

Pete Beard (2020)

This video takes a look at the life and work of British illustrator and author Mervyn Peake.
He was one of the most unusual and distinctive 20th century British illustrators, and although he could be considered more of an acquired taste than others I’ve featured I hope this will create some new enthusiasts among those who’ve never heard of him.

Mervyn Peake was an English writer, artist, poet, and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books. The three works were part of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, the completion of which was prevented by his death.

Richard Gilbert (1964)

On Canada’s Pacific coast this film finds a young Haida artist, Robert Davidson, shaping miniature totems from argillite, a jet-like stone. The film follows the artist to the island where he finds the stone, and then shows how he carves it in the manner of his grandfather, who taught him the craft.

Haida are an Indigenous group who have traditionally occupied Haida Gwaii, an archipelago just off the coast of British Columbia, Canada for at least 12,500 years. The Haida are known for their craftsmanship, trading skills, and seamanship. They are thought to have been warlike and to practice slavery. Anthropologist Diamond Jenness has compared the Haida to Vikings while Haida have replied saying that Vikings are like Haida.

David Hockney (2019)

In this short and uplifting video, the influential British painter David Hockney talks about looking and painting for more than 60 years – and shares a story that made him reflect on our time.

In the video, you also get to experience the world premiere of an animation technique, which Hockney himself calls “time-based brush painting.”

David Hockney is a British painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer, who is considered among the most influential and versatile British artists of the 20th century. Hockney is a notable contributor to the pop art movement in Britain, both in its foundation and growth, beginning with his participation in an annual exhibition called ‘Young Contemporaries’ in 1960, which also marked the start of his recognition in the art world. Hockney is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Praemium Imperiale for Painting (1989), and the Lifetime of Artistic Excellence Award (Pratt Institute) in 2018. His work can be found in numerous collections worldwide, including National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery in London, Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, De Young Museum in San Francisco, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

David Hockney was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his home in France in March 2019.

Many thanks to David Hockney for providing the works and the animation shown in the video.

Richard Curson Smith (2017)

Francis Bacon was the loudest, rudest, drunkest, most sought-after British artist of the 20th century. Twenty-five years after his death, his canvases regularly exceed £40million at auction. Bacon’s appeal is rooted in his notoriety – a candid image he presented of himself as Roaring Boy, Lord of Misrule and Conveyor of Artistic Violence. This was true enough, but only part of the truth. He carefully cultivated the facade, protecting the complex and haunted man behind the myth. In this unique, compelling film, those who knew him speak freely, some for the first time, to reveal the many mysteries of Francis Bacon.

Kasper Bech Dyg (2017)

George Condo was part of the 1980s wild art scene in New York. In this video, recorded in his New York-studio, the iconic artist shares his life-long love of drawing and thoughts on his artistic expression, which he describes as “artificial realism.”

”I kind of draw like you’re walking through the forest, where you don’t really know where you’re going, and you just start from some point and randomly travel through the paper until you get to a place where you finally reach your destination.” Condo studied music theory at college, but soon realised that it was too formal and rigid for him, and that he needed an art form that would give him more freedom. However, he still approaches his art like a musician, working fast and following the rhythm of the drawing or painting without “missing any of the notes.” The tempo, he feels, is very important when it comes to art.

Condo wants his work to contain clear references to the different artists – from Picasso to Velasquez – they’re inspired by, but with a twist. His painting or drawings are about finding a way in which one can capture a person’s humanity through a portrait – capturing not just the outside but also the inside. Moreover, Condo aims to “turn negatives into positives”, portraying “the ordinary characters that make up our lives, whether it’s the janitor or the bus driver or the school teacher or the principal or the mailman or the truck driver. These are not the glamorous people that you see on the cover of Vogue Magazine, but they are what the world is composed of. And to give them a spot in the world is what I always admired about Rembrandt to a certain degree.”

“I love drawing as much as painting, so why not make your paintings from your drawings, but literally have there be no defined sort of hierarchy between the two mediums?” Condo started making “drawing-paintings”, where you can’t distinguish paint from pastel, or a line made with a paintbrush or a line drawn in from and thus making the two mediums equal: “There’s no real difference between figurative painting or abstract painting, ‘cause it’s all painting to begin with. You don’t have to follow any rules as a painter. If you’re making an abstract painting it doesn’t mean eventually it can’t morph into a figurative one.”

When a famous art historian asked Condo what he called the form of work he did, Condo thought of the description “artificial realism”. Artificial realism gives the painter the opportunity to go back and paint something in a realistic way while still portraying all that which is artificial in our world. In continuation of this, he finds that now everything seems to be “artificial realism” with the fake news that is all around us: “Art is the truth, and everything else is a lie.”

George Condo is an American contemporary visual artist working in the mediums of painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking. Condo mixes input from art history’s masters – such as Velasquez, Manet, and Picasso – with elements of American Pop Art. He distorts and renews this material so that it stands out and becomes his own: a kind of strange hybrid that blurs boundaries between the comic and the tragic, the grotesque and the beautiful, the classic and the innovative. As part of the wild art scene in New York in the early 1980s, Condo was close to painters such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and worked for Andy Warhol’s Factory, applying diamond dust to silkscreen. Condo’s work is in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, Tate Gallery in London, Centre George Pompidou in Paris and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, among others. He is the recipient of an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999) and the Francis J. Greenberger Award (2005). Condo lives and works in New York City.

George Condo was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at his studio in Soho, New York City in September 2017.