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When inspiration attacks (and when it doesn't)

Everyone is probably familiar with this scenario. You're trying to draw something, but you can't find the inspiration. Or maybe you're trying to write a story, or an assignment for school, but you just can't find the right words. Or maybe you have to tackle a creative problem and you just can't figure it out.

So you rack your brain for the right ideas, but they're just not coming to you. Or maybe some of them are, but they're lousy ideas born (at least in part) from desperation. Either way, you're just not really happy with them.

That evening, when you're standing in the shower, you suddenly get a burst of inspiration. Suddenly, you know exactly what you want to write, or draw. Or maybe inspiration attacked when you were in the bathroom, or when you were jogging, or on your way to work or school. Maybe it happened when you were lying in bed, halfway falling asleep.

This is a well-known enough phenomenom that guides for writer's block suggest taking a nice hot shower if inspiration is low, to "wash away the stress". Other guides dealing with creativity often recommend sports, yoga, or other activities. Either way, it seems these ideas never come to you when you need them most, when you're actually trying to get things done. What gives?





The Left Brain and the Right Brain

Betty Edwards wrote a book titled "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" that approaches creativity and drawing from the perspective of the brain. The book was written in 1979, when the idea that the brain was divided in a left side (the side that's logical, analytical, and deals with words and numbers) and a right side (the creative side that deals with images, emotions, intuition and creativity) had become very popular. It was suggested that people have different "dominant" brains, and that people with dominant left brains are more analytical and logical, while right brained people are more creative and emotional. Other ideas sprung forth from this, for instance linking certain mental illnesses to the brain halves, or how the dominant brains (and the connection between them) is different between men and women.

These theories have for the most part been debunked: the brain is for the most part symmetrical (i.e. both halves are creative ánd analytical), but different parts of the brain do flare up when we perform a different task, or experience different emotions. 

Despite that, Betty's theories are still very useful and relevant. There's definitely a dominant part of our brain and a subconscious whose ideas don't spring to light when the dominant part is given a pause, like when you're in the shower.

But that is only one example.




You know too much

(or: How to draw what you see instead of what you know)

For many artists - at least beginning artists - the things you know tend to hold you back. When we draw a person (or things such as perspective or foreshortening for that matter) we don't draw the things we see as they are - which is hard enough on its own - but we dig into our brains and draw what it tells us certain things look like.




The sets of pictures are made by the same people, but several days apart (in which they had drawing lessons). The pictures on the left side show certain commonalities. The lips, the eyes and the nose are all outlined and have similar shapes. Hair is often drawn in individual strands.


Betty Edwards calls these things symbols. This is a stumbling block for many beginners. Drawing a face with these symbols tends to make them look amateurish or ugly. Worse yet, in drawing class you don't always learn how to draw things properly, you just learn to refine the symbols to be more accurate - but they're symbols all the same. Thinking this way prevents many people from learning to draw what they see, which Betty calls "the tyranny of the symbol".

[Sidenote, I personally believe this is a big reason why manga is a very appealing style to many beginners. It replaces one set of symbols with a different one, but it's visually more pleasing while not being much harder to draw.]

These "symbols" are stored in the part of your brain that deals with logic, words and numbers; the part of your brain that always talks over the unconscious, visual, creative part. So in order to bypass the symbol system, you have to switch to a different mode of thinking. This isn't as hard as it sounds, and there are even ways you can practise this shift (and with enough practise, can do on command). You've probably experienced it before if you ever drew or painted something and find out the next moment one or several hours have passed. It's a meditative state of mind that allows you to get completely lost in the creation of art.


Learning to draw

If you know how to write, you already have all the motor skills needed to draw.

Drawing is made up of component skills that together form a whole. The same way the ability to ride a bike or drive a car is made up of components (like steering, using the brakes, switching gears, and so on), drawing is not a single entity, even if it's often seen or experienced as one.

As you learn those component skills, they become integrated as a strong, solid whole. There are five "global skills of drawing" to master: the perception of edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and gestalt (or "the whole"). The last one technically doesn't even count, because it emerges after you've mastered the other four. But the more important part is that these are all cognitive and perceptual skills.

Learning to draw is mostly about the conversation between your eyes, your brain, and your hand. 

These things mostly apply to life drawing, and the book focuses on life drawing (portraits in particular) almost exclusively. This because portrait drawing is seen as one of the most difficult aspects to master, and being able to see that you can draw a good-looking portrait can be a huge self-esteem boost. It takes on a radically different approach from many other drawing courses that start off with spheres and cubes on a plane. 

Even if you're someone who doesn't really care about realism, it's useful to consider these skills. Because in the conversation between your mind and the hand holding your pencil there are two more skills added for truly imaginative, expressive art: drawing from memory, and finally, drawing from imagination. 

Like any other skill, drawing this way does requires practise, persistence, and a degree of frustration to get it right. But what this book tries to teach you more than anything is that it's not as hard as it's often made up to be, and it's certainly not a God-given talent bestowed on a lucky few. In the words of Betty Edwards, "Everyone can learn to draw".



Hundreds of free art e-books

Wed Apr 3, 2013, 1:38 PM
This was originally written by David J.C. Briggs on the Conceptart.org forums. (The original post can be found here.) All credit goes to him for compiling this list, I'm just passing the word on.

The Internet Archive is a massive digital library that stores all sorts of material in the public domain, from music and movies to images, webpages and nearly three million books. All of this is open-source and available to the general public free of charge. The books documented below cover all sorts of subjects from different eras, from anatomy to portraiture, fashion to architecture, from the works of Leonardo Da Vinci to the letters of Vincent van Gogh.

And this is only scratching the surface! If you head over to the Archive and search for whatever subjects catches your interest most you can find much, much more. Just select "Texts" in the search box at the top of the page.

---

Bridgman, George B., 1939. The Human Machine

Bridgman, George B., 1920. Constructive anatomy

Blake, Vernon, 1927. The Art And Craft Of Drawing

Crane, Walter, 1914. Line & Form

De Laszlo, 1934. Painting a Portrait

Eastlake, Sir Charles Lock. Methods And Materials Of Painting Of The Great Schools And Masters
Volume One
Volume Two

Guptill, Arthur Leighton,1922. Sketching and Rendering in Pencil

Holmes, C. J. 1920. Notes on the science of picture-making

Poore, Henry Rankin, 1903. Pictorial composition and the critical judgment of pictures

Ross, Denman Waldo, 1907. A theory of pure design; harmony, balance, rhythm

Ruskin, John. The elements of drawing (1920 edition)

Stone, Irving And Jean, 1962. I, Michelangelo, Sculptor (Michelangelo's Letters)

Whistler, James McNeill, 1909. The gentle art of making enemies, as pleasingly exemplified in many instances, wherein the serious ones of this earth, carefully exasperated, have been prettily spurred on to unseemliness and indiscretion, while overcome by an undue sense of right.

Ludovici, Anthony Mario, 1912 - The letters of a post-impressionist; being the familiar correspondence of Vincent van Gogh

Gauguin, Paul, 1919. Noa Noa. Translated from the French by O.F. Theis

Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors & architects (complete in ten volumes).
Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten

Mount, Charles Merrill, 1955. John Singer Sargent - A Biography

Marillier, H. C. 1912.
The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley
The later work of Aubrey Beardsley


Quennell, Peter, 1955. Hogarth's Progress

Clapp, 1916 - Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo, his life and work

Panofsky, Erwin, 1955. The Life and Art of Albrecht Durer

Strange, Edward Fairbrother, 1906. Hokusai, the old man mad with painting

Whistler (lots)

Clark, Kenneth. The Romantic Rebellion

Clark, Kenneth, 1949. Landscape into Art

Panofsky, Erwin, 1955. Meaning In The Visual Arts - Papers In and On Art History

10 works illustrated by NC Wyeth

30+ works illustrated by Howard Pyle (+ 10 on Gutenberg)

28 works by, or illustrated by Walter Crane


Pen Illustration

Maginnis, Charles. Pen Drawing - An Illustrated Treatise

Sullivan, Edmund J. 1921. The Art Of Illustration

Sullivan, Edmund J. 1922. Line - an art study


Imagination

Ribot, Th. 1906. Essay on the creative imagination

Rhoades, James, 1908. The training of the imagination


Composition

Dow, Arthur Wesley, 1913. Composition; a series of exercises in art structure for the use of students and teachers


Perspective

Loomis, Andrew, 1951. Successful Drawing (direct download)

Storey, G. A. The Theory and Practice of Perspective (direct download)

Watson, Ernest W., 1955. How To Use Creative Perspective (poor scans)

Longfellow, William Pitt Preble, 1901. Applied perspective, for architects and painters

Miller, Leslie William, 1887. The essentials of perspective, with illustrations drawn by the author.

Great collection of scholarly articles on history of perspective


Architecture

Robinson, John Beverley, 1914. Architectural Composition

Other architectural highlights include 50+ elaborately illustrated volumes of the journal known successively as Architecture, American architect and architecture, and Architectural record plus numerous volumes both on the history of architecture in general, and on specific styles including Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine, Norman, Gothic, Romanesque, Medieval, Muslim, Indian, etc.


Fashion

Ellsworth, Evelyn Peters, 1917. Textiles and costume design

Traphagen, Ethel, 1918. Costume design and illustration


Leonardo Da Vinci

Clark, Kenneth, 1952. Leonardo Da Vinci An Account Of His Development As An Artist

Hind, Charles Lewis. Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

Richter, Jean Paul, The literary works of Leonardo da Vinci (Volume 1 and 2)
The same illustrated edition of Leonardo notebooks that was reprinted by Dover.
Volume One
Volume Two


Books illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Vernon Jones, V. S.1916. Æsop's fables: a new translation

Gates, Eleanor, 1907. Good-night (Buenas noches)

Morley, Christopher, 1922. Where the blue begins

Ibsen, Henrik, [19--?]. Peer Gynt: a dramatic poem

Stephens, James, 1920. Irish fairy tales

Fitz-Gerald, S. J. Adair (Shafto Justin Adair),1896. The Zankiwank & the Bletherwitch

Evans, C. S., 1920. The sleeping beauty


Books illustrated by N.C. Wyeth

The throwback : a romance of the Southwest (1906)

Arizona nights (c1907)

Whispering Smith (1908 [c1906)

The song of Hiawatha (c1908 )

Susanna and Sue (c1909)

The long roll (1911)

Treasure Island (c1911)

Cease firing (1912)

The sampo; a wonder tale of the old North ([c1912])

Blackfeet Indian stories (c1913)

Letters of a woman homesteader (1914)

The drums of the 47th (c1914)

Nan of Music Mountain (1916)

The mysterious stranger: a romance (1916)

The black arrow: a tale of the two Roses ([c1916])

Robin Hood (1917)

The last of the Mohicans: a narrative of 1757 (1919)

Robinson Crusoe (1920)

The courtship of Miles Standish (1920)

Rip Van Winkle (c1921)

Poems of American patriotism (c1922)

Vandemark's folly (c1922)


Chapman's American Drawing Book

Chapman, J.G. (John Gadsby), 1847. The American drawing-book: a manual for the amateur, and basis of study for the professional artist: especially adapted to the use of public and private schools, as well as home instruction.
1847 edition (168 p.)
1847 edition (168 p.)
1858 edition (304 p.)
1870 edition (320 p.)


More Artists and their works

Heermann, Norbert, 1918. Frank Duveneck

Roof, Katharine Metcalf, 1917. The life and art of William Merritt Chase

Cox, Kenyon, 1914. Winslow Homer

Inness, George Jr,, 1917. Life, Art and Letters of George Inness

Hartmann, Sadakichi, 1910. The Whistler book; a monograph of the life and position in art of James McNeill Whistler

Macfall, Haldane, [1906?] Whistler

Furst, Herbert, 1920. Frank Brangwyn, R.A (woodcuts)

Sparrow, Walter Shaw, 1915. A Book of Bridges (illustr. Brangwyn)

Brooklyn Museum, 1921 - Historical paintings of the Slavic nations (Mucha's Slav Epic)

If you want to become a better artist and you find that your own "How to draw" books, or the tutorials on the internet are lacking in scope, then this article is for you. I'm going to talk to you about some of the best books on making art that have ever been written - and that's not an exaggeration.

These books were written around the WWII-era by a man called William Andrew Loomis.
He was a very accomplished and widely published artist at the time, but what he's currently more well-known for is a series of art books he created during that time. These books have stood the test of time and their contents are still commonly used and recommended to art students of a wide range of skill levels, and if you're looking to improve your drawing skills, particulary faces and the human body, these books are a good place to start.

The major strength of his books is that they're not a step-by-step guide or tutorial on how to draw a specific picture, portrait or pose. Many art books fall into this category, but Loomis' books go beyond that, and teach the actual process of creating art. On top of that, he comes across as very genuine and supportive, and it's obvious from his writing that this is a man who deeply loves his craft.

For a long time his books were out of print and practically unattainable. This is when initiatives such as "Save Loomis" were started, to make sure the books remain accessible. If you wanted to get a hardcopy of an original you had to be either rich or you were shit out of luck - some becoming collector's items entering the $100 -$400 price range. During the last three years however, Titan Publishing attained the copyrights to these books and as of writing this, republished all his books but one of them. They can now be found on Amazon for around $25 each.

The Save Loomis initiative (and many like it) still exist, so these books aren't that hard to find if you searched for them online. However, I can't in good conscience post the links here or recommend you download them, and I heartily recommend you buy a hardcopy of these books if it's at all possible for you. Getting a hardcopy of the books will do its contents justice more than a digital copy will, and you support both the publisher and Loomis' family.

That said, let's talk about the books themselves.





Fun with a Pencil: how everybody can easily learn how to draw



This book deals with the basics of learning to draw, and is useful for everyone of novice to intermediate skill. If you're looking to get better at drawing the human figure, this book covers damn-near everything.

The book starts off with simple drawing exercises where cartoony faces (which he calls "blooks") are created by combining spheres and other three-dimensional objects, but in later chapters we are taught how this applies to realistic portraiture as well. A similar method is used to "build up" the entire human body, starting off at the frame that resembles the human skeleton. Loomis alternates between making caricatures and realistic people and bodies, showing that this method is useful for both.

In later chapters he also covers facial expressions, the hands, folds of clothing, perspective, and shadow.

What else can you ask for?





Succesful drawing



This book deals with perspective, light, and how those two interact with eachother. It's very comprehensive: this book deals with the perspective and light on buildings, landscapes, reflections in water and mirrors, portraits, and bodies (both nude and clothed). Many of the techniques from Fun with a Pencil are reintroduced, and it shows how having a solid grasp of how light works can be used to draw natural light from heart.

This book is more advanced than the previous one, and already assumes you have some degree of knowledge and experience under the belt (at least the "building"-exercises from the first book). 






Figure drawing for all it's worth



This is pretty much the Bible of figure drawing. If you're serious about becoming a character artist of any kind (or you're not, but you just want to be able to draw decent-looking humans), this is one book you need to own. It's also fairly accessible for beginners.

In "Figure drawing for all it's worth", Loomis further elaborates on human anatomy and structure, such as the bones, the muscles and the difference between men and women. The models he uses aren't all static, he dedicates a lot of time to the figure in action; how the body changes when it's performing, how weight distribution and balance shift, and how you can translate these movements on a canvas or piece of paper to create something that's not just anatomically or structurally correct, but dynamic as well. He covers the human figure in perspective, as well as light and shading on nude and clothed figures. He dedicates some time to the ears, eyes, and lips. Lastly, he covers the hands and feet. 






Creative Illustration



This book deals with lines, composition, color and illustration. It covers illustration from beginning to end - starting off with a single line to indicate the line of action, or to set the composition. (Though, for this book you should already have some basic drawing skills.)

In addition to dealing with drawing techniques, this book also contains information on generating ideas and communicating a story with your art; some of the most valuable assets of good illustration that are often overlooked in other educational art books or art courses. The last chapter deals with the different fields of commercial illustration. 







Drawing the head & hands



This book consists of five parts, with the first four covering the heads of men, women, children and infants. He spends some time dealing with ears, eyes, noses and mouths, but his main focus is on the shape and proportions on the head. Only the last part deals with the hands, but despite that he still manages to put a lot of information in those last few pages.







The Eye of the Painter, and the elements of beauty



This book deals with painting, and contains many examples of other people's work. Loomis emphasizes the importance of creativity, vision and idealism in each of the works of these artists.

This is a pretty advanced book however, dealing with more advanced concepts of creating a composition than in his previous books. This is also the only book on this list that's in the public domain, so it can be downloaded for free. Finding a .pdf of this book isn't hard, but finding one that's in color is a bit more tricky. (Seeing as one of the subjects Loomis covers is color theory, that might be useful.)






Title sequences are to movies what appetizers are to food. Often underrated, they are not unimportant. A good title sequence leaves a good first impression of the film, and makes the watcher want to see more. Good title sequences can be found throughout history of film, and some have even left a profound impression on their franchise. One example of this is the James Bond series, where in the first film, "Dr. No" (1962) many of the iconic aspects of the James Bond movies were established in the first few minutes; the gun barrel sequence and the music in particular.



There is one man in particular who took the art of title sequences to a whole new, insane level. That man is Kyle Cooper.


Se7en


In the movie "Se7en", we are confronted with a serial killer who murders his victims in a way that reflects the sins they have committed in their lives. What seperates Se7en from many other horror movies is the source of these murders: normally we see one disturbed individual, with a mind so twisted that a normal sense of morality doesn't apply to him. The murderer, "John Doe" remains anonymous for the majority of the movie but despite that is still a powerful presence. It is this presence that is a powerful source of the movie's horror.

Kyle Cooper was asked to do the title sequence for this movie, and the result was nothing short of incredible.



The dynamic between the credits and the movie was perfect. It sets the tone of the movie and introduces us to the terrifying entity that is John Doe, without actually revealing him to us.

New York Times Magazine hailed Se7en's opening credits as "one of the most important design innovations of the '90s". It was this opening sequence that launched Kyle's career in a big way, and to this day he's still proud of it.


The Cooper Effect


The good book says "everything your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might." I try to do that.
- Kyle Cooper


Kyle has since become an established name in the film industry. His IMDb list is impressive: He has directed the title sequences of over 150 different movies, including all three Spiderman movies, Iron Man, Superman Returns, Dawn of the Dead, American Horror Story, and The Mummy.

With everything he works on he walks the extra mile, and then some. The opening titles for the second Spider-Man movie took a year to make, and Kyle had studied both the behaviour of spiders and octopuses for it (the villain of that movie was Dr. Octopus). For the opening credits of "Dawn of the Dead" he used real human blood. And for the opening titles of "The Mummy", he did extensive historical research and designed a new font that was part Roman lettertype, part hieroglyphs. His effort doesn't go unnoticed by the audience. One critic describes "The Cooper Effect" as follows:

"The opening and closing credits are so good, they're almost worth sitting through the film for."

Zach Snyder, "Dawn of the Dead" director, said that word in Hollywood goes that Kyle Cooper is so good, that some people refuse to work with him, because they're afraid his title sequences will make the actual movie feel like a let-down. Let the implications of that sink in.



Kyle Cooper doesn't have a signature style - and that's where his strength lies. Instead, he is asked to tap into the symbolism and the atmosphere of a movie and to reflect that in the opening credits. In his own words: "Each film is a different problem to solve so each solution is different."

According to Kyle's philosophy, the best design is concept driven. While new technology opens new doors, we shouldn't use that technology just because we can; it has to serve the concept. While he frequently uses the latest technology for a project, he also finds himself using old-school film techniques, if the project calls for it. Only using the latest technology, no matter how powerful, is just another way of limiting yourself, after all.











If you want to see more of Kyle's work (and others), check these sites out:

Prologue, the production studio founded by Kyle Cooper

Art of the Title

Forget the Film, Watch the Titles

Photography vs. painting

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 1:21 PM
The late 18th and early 19th century was a time of rapid social change, maybe more so than ever before in a timespan of a mere hundred or so years. Coming on the heels of the First Industrial Revolution followed the Second Industrial Revolution, which gave us the assembly line, the rise and fall of many markets, high unemployment rates, and the birth of the middle class. Advances in medicine lead to a higher life expectancy and lower child mortality rates, and Sigmund Freud shone a bright spotlight on the human mind, essentially marking the beginning of psychology as a serious science. Technology was rapidly changing and evolving, and with it so did social values.

It is this time period that sees the birth of abstract art. It started off with the paintings of Manet, whose technique involved painting in patches of color, rather than the layered technique that was common and accepted for the time. Monet (similar name, different guy) focused on the color and the way light plays with the scene rather than objects themselves. Many of his paintings had clearly visible brush strokes, which at the time meant you were either a hack or displaying unfinished work. One of Monet's exhibitions displayed a painting called "Impression, Sunrise", and one critic harshly condemned his entire gallery for being impressionistic. But the comment stuck, and became the new name of the Impressionist movement. (Probably not what the critic had hoped to achieve.)


Impression, Sunrise Claude Monet (1872)

Other movements sprung forth from Impressionism: Cubism, Neoplasticism, and Abstract Expressionism being the most notable examples. What seperates true abstract art from all else was the fact that what it was supposed to represent wasn't rooted in the material world.

Considering that this happened around the same time Sigmund Freud entered the spotlight with his theories about how our subconscious influences our behaviour, and how dreams reflect our subconscious, this isn't that surprising.


Sigmund Freud, here seen smoking a penis.

With many abstract painters we also talk of their own influences. Pablo Picasso was a prodigy who had mastered realism at a early age, and drew his inspiration for his progressively more abstract, minimalist painting from African tribal masks. The cubist painter Piet Mondriaan was in turn inspired by Picasso's work, and used cubism to paint, what was according to him, the barest essence of real life objects and landscapes.

These are all very plausible explanations for painting evolving the way it did, but one thing is missing.


The rise of photography


The precursor of photography was the Camera Obscura, which was invented in 1457 and was mostly used by artists as an aid to painting. It was a dark, room-sized box where light from outside entered through a small hole or lens, and was projected on a screen, where the artist could trace it on a piece of paper.



In 1839 Louis Daguerre managed to find a way to fix the projected image onto a silvered plate, a technique he called the Daguerreotype. This technique was time-consuming and expensive still, but it completely rocked the established art world.
A concise history of photography can be found in this article written by Kaz-D. The specifics aren't very important, other than this: The technique of photography improved rapidly and progressively, and by the time the 1888's rolled around, photography was made available to the masses by a company called Kodak.


The first Kodak camera - 1888

From that moment on, photography tried its hardest to kill painting. Or that's what it looked like, at the time.

"Photography is the mortal enemy of art"
- Essayist Charles Baudelaire, 1859


One of the things mankind has tried to accomplish since the dawn of time was to capture reality, or as close to reality as possible. Even the way painters made a living reflects this: They made their living painting portraits, landscapes, and still lifes.The quality of a painter could directly be measured by how well he could capture reality. Even science used artists for their ability to draw or paint realism. To take Charles Darwin's journey on the Beagle as an example: two of the crewmembers were artists.


This is what science looked like.

Everything trained artists could do was about to become obsolete because of this new medium, because it could do everything they could except it was better in every way. Photography was more realistic, it was cheaper, it was faster. The general public was enthralled and excited by this new invention, but it made established artists anxious.

The first victim photography claimed was the miniature painting, paintings of landscapes and architecture were next. Artists harsly condemned photography as not a legitimate art form, which made photographers all the more determined to prove that it was, and they did that by imitating paintings. By the turn of the century, artists realised that they were fighting a losing battle. They had to reinvent themselves, and so they abandoned realism for the photographers and moved into impressionism and abstraction. (Later on, photographers would also start experimenting with abstract photography).

What this also meant was that the definition of art itself had changed. Where the quality of art was previously about how close it was to being realistic, it had now suddenly gained new dimensions. Shapes that didn't represent objects, but feelings or other abstract concepts were considered art. Paintings could be appreciated for their aesthetic value alone, even if it wasn't what some would consider perfect. You could even say that what it meant for a piece of art to be perfect had changed. And this shift of values influenced other art forms as well, particularly sculpting.

All thanks to photography (and maybe Sigmund Freud).

How photography helped end a war

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 1:09 AM
It's said that a picture says a thousand words, but this isn't always true. Sometimes they say far more than that. Un-edited photography is the closest medium we have to capturing reality, and for that reason it's incredibly powerful. On a personal level, photographs help us capture memories of our loved ones, and of times gone by. On a larger scale, pictures can tell stories of hardship, suffering and hope in a language that transcends culture. Photography can evoke emotion - but more than that, it can move people to action.

The power of photography was maybe never clearer than during the Vietnam war (1955 - 1975).

There are three pictures in particular that became iconic. They showed the human side of war, and the inhumane side of it. They showed the true horror that people endure and what kind of brutalities it makes people commit to other human beings. As the war dragged on, there was a growing movement of people who opposed the war. These pictures served as a powerful catalyst, and undoubtly helped end the war.


The Saigon Execution




This picture, taken by Eddie Adams, shows the execution of a North-Vietnamese man by a South-Vietnamese general. The day after this picture was taken it was on the front page of the New York Times, and the picture dominated the media for weeks, even months after.
This picture, showing a somewhat scrawny man with his hands tied behind his back, contrasted by the authoritarian figure of the man shooting him, illustrated that it wasn't just the North Vietnamese who were capable of senseless acts of brutality.


The Kent State shootings




By the time 1970 rolled around, the war wasn't only fought in Vietnam, but also on American soil. Millions of students had started protesting against the war, and that sometimes caused conflict with the police, or in some cases, even the National Guard.
During one of those conflicts at Kent State University, a Guard member shot at a group of protesters, killing 4 and wounding 9. The photographer described the event as follows:

"Wounded and dying people are laying all around me. Other people are pulling themselves up off of the ground. No one is going near the body. And then this girl, Mary Ann Vecchio,comes running up the street and kneels down beside the body. I started walking toward her. Her body was shaking... she was crying. And then she screamed- a God-awful scream. My reflexes took over, and that was it.
One frame"

One frame that immortalized Mary Ann Vecchio's heart-wrenching grief. Suddenly the war coverage had changed: the media started to pay more attention to the protests at home, and in their coverage focused more on protester casualties and misdeeds by the police force. The protesters were no longer painted as draft-dodging hippies, unpatriotic cowards or vandalists, but as college-kids with a voice and with conviction, and they were getting shot and killed for it.


The napalm attack




On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese airplanes dropped Napalm bombs on a village that had been occupied by North Vietnamese troops. Several of those who were hit by the napalm bomb were villagers, and Kim Phuc was one of them. She had torn off her burning clothes, and suffered severe burns on her back. Nick Ut, the guy who took this picture, took Kim to an overcrowded hospital. Initially they didn't want to treat her they had their hands full with treating wounded and dying soldiers, but after Nick told them he was from the press, they helped her immediately. Kim's burns were estimated to be so severe that she would not survive.

The picture of the burned, screaming, naked girl would go on and become world famous. For Americans it was the final nail in the coffin for the public image of the Vietnam war. The war ended in 1975 and went down in history as the most disgraceful act of the American government.





Documenting truth


"The general killed the Viet Cong;
I killed the general with my camera."
- Eddie Adams


Just because a picture says a thousand words, doesn't mean it's the truth. The power of pictures comes from our ability to interpret them, and to be able to identify with the people and the situations they portray. But sometimes that doesn't tell the whole story. Sometimes it even tells the opposite.

What we see when we look at the Saigon Execution is a defenseless prisoner being executed in cold blood. What is lesser known is that the man in the civilian outfit was wearing a disguise. He was an officer of the Viet Cong who used that outfit to murder unsuspecting soldiers and Vietnamese. He was responsible for the murder of several people, including the wife and six children of one of this targets, and he was on a mission to assassinate more people (including the general in the picture who shot him). The disguise proved to be so effective that it didn't just fool the people he killed, it fooled millions of Americans.

It can be debated whether that was a bad thing or not (after all, it was a lie that helped end a terrible war), but the picture's legacy would haunt the other man in that picture, general Loan, for the rest of his life.


General Loan

A few months after the iconic picture was taken, general Loan became badly wounded in combat and has to have his leg amputated. After the war, he fled South Vietnam, and he was reviled wherever he went. An Australian hospital refused to treat him. When he fled to the United States, he was met with massive deportation attempts from Immigration Services, who used his picture as evidence of his amorality, although in the end they didn't succeed. He managed to open a pizza restaurant in Virginia, but after his identity became known it was vandalized and he had to close it. Loan was forced into early retirement and died in 1998.

The man who took the picture kept in touch with Loan and his family after the war. Despite the fact that this picture earned him fame and a Pulitzer, he says he regrets taking it, and he would have never sent it to the NYT had he known it would ruin this man's life. He apologised to Loan and his family for what he did, and they forgave him: he was only doing his job, and Loan was doing his'.


Kim Phuc


The story of Kim Phuc has a happier ending. She survived her burns, and is still alive today.


Kim Phuc and Nick Ut, one year after the attack

She and Nick kept in touch after the war, and remained lifelong friends. Kim calls him "uncle Nick", and they speak to eachother on the phone every week.

Kim Phuc went on and studied medicine, during which she met her husband. In 1992 they would ask for political asylum in Canada, and five years later she would pass the Canadian citizens test with a perfect score. She lives with her husband in Ontario and they have two children.

She ended up being a strong, positive force in this world.
In 1997 she founded the Kim Phuc Foundation, which provides medical services to child victims of war. Other foundations would be founded with the same name, under the umbrella organisation Kim Phuc Foundation International. She sometimes speaks in public about the power of forgiveness and how compassion and love has helped her heal. She has severe scarring and has suffered health complications from the burns for her entire life, but despite that she carries no contempt with her.


Kim Phuc and her son, Thomas.

"Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?"


This is going to be my first artist feature, so I wanted it to be about someone really talented. But because this is an art site with thousands of members, that doesn't really narrow it down by much! So I looked for other qualities, and ended up with Manon Delacroix, or WavingMonsterStudios

     

I came across Manon in one of the journals of imaginism. Bobby Chiu used to publish daily tips for artists on staying motivated and the importance of dedication and hard work. In one of those journals, Manon wrote about her love for art and the sacrifices she made so she could pursue it to the fullest extent. Reading that made me curious of her gallery, and what I saw struck me.

At heart, Manon is someone who loves fantasy and horror, and that fascination started when she was little.

Or, maybe better put: she had a very active imagination as a child, which lead to her frequently having nightmares, and getting the crap scared outta her by the monsters she saw on tv. This left a lasting impression on her. She has been drawing these strange creatures and monsters haunting her mind (for better or worse) ever since she was little. The nightmares went away after a while, but her fascination for the monsters in them, didn't.

 

There's a lot of variety in subject matter in her gallery, but not just in terms of what she draws, but also in which style, which can lead to some funny contrasts (like the skiing yeti vs. the monstrous one).

Manon is a self-taught artist. She has no formal education, but that hasn't stopped her from reaching out and garnering knowledge on her own, doing art studies and following a course on caricatures hosted by Imaginism Studios.

One thing I love about looking through galleries is seeing the artist's "journey", the way their art has progressed and the effort they've gone through to get where they are now. (And I think more people do, or at least enjoy seeing snapshots of the process). Even though Manon was already very skilled when she joined deviantART, there are a lot of examples of this process in her gallery.

     

Manon is one of those deviants who is talented, hard-working, personable, and a little underappreciated. So head over to her gallery and check her work out!

To end this feature, I asked her if she had a quote or inspirational phrase to live by, turns out she has several! But of all the quotes, this one stuck out:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?"

- Mary Oliver



It's a question worth asking yourself :)