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Doc Martens featuring Hieronymus Bosch

February 28th, 2015

I was at the mall last weekend, and while looking in a shoe store, noticed these Doc Marten boots (below left and 2nd photo below) featuring the art of Hieronymus Bosch. I used to have a pair of the classic “oxblood” Doc Martens (below center and right) and liked them for their punk attitude and the fact that their soles claimed to be “acid resistant” – how tough is that? But while I love the art of Hieronymus Bosch, and kind of think it’s a cool idea to put it on Doc Martens, there’s part of me that thinks it’s not so cool, because it’s almost trying too hard to be cool. What do you think?

vintage Doc Marten boots and news ones featuring Hieronymus Bosch

the art of Hieronymus Bosch on Doc Marten boots


If the street artist Invader was an architect …

February 24th, 2015

“Invader” is the name of a French artist whose street art (below right) is based on the pixellated video games of the 1970s and 1980s. His work is not restricted to only images from the hit game Space Invaders, but it’s certainly a common motif and the one that he bases his name upon.

At any rate, when I saw this building in NYC recently (below left), it made me think: if Invader was an architect, would he design buildings like this?

architecture in NYC that reminds me of the French street artist Invader


Art Director’s ad work pulls from Lucas Samaras in the 1970s

February 20th, 2015

I saw this bold two-page ad for Max Mara in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, and knew right away where the inspiration came from … would you agree that it’s a safe bet that the art director for this ad campaign is a fan of Lucas Samaras’s polaroid photographs from the 1970s …? Scroll down to see two examples of Samaras’s art below the ad.

Max Mara ad borrowing visual ideas from Lucas Samaras polaroids


Outsider Art: Give the Dog a Bone

February 13th, 2015

Does the dog always get the bone at the butcher shop? This mixed media piece featuring carved wood is by artist John Bambic and is titled “Butcher Whirligig,” and was seen at the 2015 Outsider Art Fair. Having two dogs myself, I can attest to the fact that they’d love to hang around a butcher shop!

outsider art sculpture by John Bambic


Snow covered columns and George Condo

February 12th, 2015

If you read this blog on any sort of regular basis, you’ll know that I have a habit of seeing things when I’m out running around town that remind me of specific art works. It might be a puddle that reminds me of Takashi Murakami, or frost patterns that remind me of Mark Tobey, but I just seem to keep finding things that prompt memories of favorite artists or art works.

Well, it happened again the other night … I was walking back to my car after seeing the movie “Mr. Turner” (about the British artist J.M.W. Turner), when I happened to notice this snow-covered column (below left) near the front entrance to a home in Montclair on South Fullerton Street. The faceless round “head” with a little patch of snow on top and a “collar” of snow around its “neck” reminded of George Condo’s painting “The Objective Idealist,” below right. Can you see the resemblance? It amused me when I put them side-by-side to see that even the color of the sky in my photo is pretty close in color value to Condo’s background color … the only thing Condo is missing is the eerie tree branch floating overhead.

The Objective Idealist painting by George Condo


Artsology gets into a little Ornithology

February 11th, 2015

Sometimes I think I could start a separate blog just for the visual observations I make during dog walks … it’s a peaceful activity that allows my eyes to wander and observe, and here’s a few examples of what I’ve seen: melted snow that looks like a Matisse cutout; a fire hydrant topped with a skull, and sidewalks that look like Mark Rothko paintings, among many other things.

A couple days ago, I noticed these unusual-looking K-shaped footprints in the light dusting of snow that covered the sidewalks. As you can see from the picture below right, the footsteps had a relatively long stride, approximately 15 inches between footprints. It seems pretty clear that these are footprints belonging to a bird, but the weird thing was, the footprints went on like this for a full city block! What kind of bird takes 15 inch steps and would walk the full 600 foot length of a city block? It just seemed weird. Scroll down for more …

zygodactyl tracks

I decided to do a little research to see what I could come up with. The study of birds is called “Ornithology,” which explains the title of this blog post. My first search was for “K shaped bird tracks,” and I learned the following:

Many bird species have feet with three toes forward and one pointing behind. This type of bird track can often be difficult to identify. There are, however, certain groups of birds that have very unique, unmistakable footprints. Two of these groups are owl and woodpecker species.

All owls and woodpeckers have a unique foot structure known as, “zygodactyl,” which means that the foot has two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward. This foot structure creates a “K-shaped” track (see images below).

Zygodactyl tracks k-shaped bird feet

Okay, that seems to narrow our focus on these types of birds, but the mystery still remains, what kind of owl or woodpecker is big enough to take 15 inch steps? I can’t imagine any owl or woodpecker big enough to walk like that …

A little more research just revealed the following info: “Gait” refers to the method of movement and the distinct way the body moves to propel a bird forward on the ground. There is a relationship between the gait of the bird and the track pattern left behind. Walking is one type of gait, and it was the type of movement I originally assumed this bird was making. But then I read that if a bird is running on the ground, there is a moment in each stride where the bird is airborne and there is no foot contact on the ground – therefore, running strides are generally 2 to 5 times the length of a single track. If you look at the size of the tracks and the space in between them in the top picture, the stride looks to be just about 5 times the length of the track. So perhaps that explains our situation here: it’s not a huge bird walking down the street, it’s most likely an owl or woodpecker running down the street. It’s still a weird concept, as I can’t say I’ve seen any birds running on the ground around here, let alone the length of a city block, but that must be the answer.

It’s a good thing the bird wasn’t running down the street when I was walking my dogs, otherwise they would have pulled me in their fast pursuit of any such bird!


Painting in Painter, VA

February 10th, 2015

A couple years ago we were driving home to NJ after a family vacation in VA Beach, and passed through the small town of Painter, VA, along Route 13 North. We pulled over for a roadside food stand near the Post Office, and as I got out of the car to take a look around, I noticed a number of paintings on a corrugated metal wall that surrounded the Post Office parking lot. This first one, below, caught my attention – I liked the naive almost Basquiat-like style of the animal, but what is it? A cow, or a dog? And the white stuff coming out of its mouth … is it barfing?

Scroll down and check out another painting from this mural: we’ve got an elephant with tusks who is sticking his trunk up into the nostril of a dragon’s nose. What’s that all about? It makes me curious to see some more paintings in Painter, VA … they’ve got something funky going on down there!

graffiti mural done in a Basquiat style

an elephant and a dragon painting on a mural in Painter, VA


Smile, it’s Monday!

February 9th, 2015

We’ve got freezing rain outside, snow and ice all over, the kids are complaining that it’s Monday, meaning the start of another school week … yet this graffiti picture is guiding me to start my Monday with a smile – I’m ready for a good week! (seen in Chelsea, NYC)

graffiti seen in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC


Finding Matisse cutouts in the melting snow

February 8th, 2015

There have been no shortage of interesting visual things that I’ve found within the slate slidewalks of Glen Ridge (NJ), and it’s not the first time I’ve seen something Matisse-like in the melting snow … yesterday I was walking my dogs as I usually do in the afternoons, and saw a stream-like puddle from melting snow on the slate sidewalks in town, and it caught my attention.

Below left you can see the original larger-picture view, followed by a cropping around the “figure” that caught my eye (center), and a Matisse cut-out (right) that comes to mind when looking at this puddle. Who would have thought that daily dog walks would also include regular art history lessons?

a puddle from melting snow reminds me of a Matisse cutout


Clint Eastwood’s art history doesn’t add up

February 7th, 2015

I enjoyed watching a Clint Eastwood movie the other night called “Absolute Power” – it’s a 1997 American political thriller produced by, directed by, and starring Clint Eastwood as a master jewel thief who witnesses the killing of a woman by Secret Service agents. I liked the fact that the story included a number of art-related and art historical elements, but in the end, they just didn’t add up.

Let’s take a look at Clint’s character first: Luther Whitney is a master jewel thief, but at the same time, he has a strong interest and appreciation for fine art. The movie opens with Clint in a museum (below left, with the brown shirt on), sitting in front of El Greco’s “St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata,” circa 1585-1590, and he’s working on a drawing, copying elements of the painting.

Clint Eastwood sitting in a museum looking at El Greco

We later learn that Clint Eastwood’s character is so enamored of this El Greco painting, he’s been making sketches at the museum because he’s working on a full-blown copy of the canvas at his home (see below).

An El Greco original and Cllnt Eastwood's copy of it

All right, so early on, we’re introduced to the idea that this master thief, Luther Whitney (Eastwood), has a deep appreciation for art history and master painters. But soon after, we watch Eastwood as his character breaks into a mansion, outsmarting the high-tech security system, and he makes his way upstairs to look for some loot. We see a number of paintings lining the walls of the stairway going up to the 2nd floor, and Eastwood pauses briefly in front of Rembrandt’s “Lucretia” (below left) – at this moment, I get excited, thinking: “he’s spotted a Rembrandt, and he’s going to steal it!” And while he reaches out to touch the frame, and takes a good look, he simply walks away and continues up the stairs.

Clint Eastwood looks at Rembrandt's Lucretia

When he reaches the top of the stairs, Eastwood’s character turns the corner, and walks right past John Singer Sargent’s “Lady Agnew,” and doesn’t even pause for a second! So what is he really after?

Clint Eastwood walking past John Singer Sargent's Lady Agnew

Our art-history-loving thief has decided to gloss over the art masterpieces and head to the bedroom, where he finds a secret closet filled with rare coins, expensive watches, and of course some jewelry … this is the good stuff, thinks Eastwood’s thief, so he pulls out his pillow case and loads up with the loot.

Clint Eastwood character steals coins, watches, and jewelry

Later in the movie, it is mentioned that Eastwood’s theft amounted to $5 million dollars worth of loot and cash – hey, that’s definitely a great payday for one’s night work of thievery. But let’s think about the art that he passed up: granted, the Rembrandt in reality is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art, and if stolen, would be almost impossible to sell except on the black market, but it would have to be worth at least several hundred million dollars. The Sargent painting is in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery, but would fall under the same circumstances if stolen: difficult to sell due to being an iconic work of art, but certainly worth millions on the black market (not nearly as valuable as the Rembrandt, though).

We can get down to the nitty gritty and say that the coins, watches and jewelry are probably easy to cash in on, and there’s nothing to sneeze about taking home $5 million. But for the sake of drama, fun, and entertainment, why not steal the Rembrandt? Get the loot and the Rembrandt too! Even if he didn’t try to sell it, an art-loving thief would probably enjoy having a Rembrandt hanging in the kitchen. Why not?

Oh well, despite the art-related discrepancies, it was a fun movie, and definitely worth watching.


Vincent Van Gogh at Artsology Artsology offers free online games about the arts, and delivers investigations into topics in the visual arts, music, and literature. Artsology is a good resource for fun learning about the arts for people of all ages and is enjoyed by students, homeschoolers, and adults. Follow us on Twitter or become a fan of our Facebook page. Pablo Picasso paintings at Artsology

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