Art 1 – Creative objects – due 4/8


Jasper Johns said “take an object, do something to it, do something else to it.”  This famous quote signifies his creative method and artistic curiousity.  His art-making process was a visual dialogue driven by formal relations of the art elements (line, shape, space, color, value, texture) and the principles of design (opposition, proportion, transition, balance, dominance, rhythm, unity).

Look at the way he takes simple objects and visually plays with them as symbols. Notice how he creates interplay between figure and ground, the object and the background, so that the symbol or object is both lost and found.

Jasper Johns

Johns’ objects

Next, look at the scissors series of paintings by Skip Lawrence:

Skip Lawrence scissors series

Next, look at the abstractions of Kathering Chang Liu:

Katherine Chang Liu

Next, look at the first part of the demo on Why Gesso (at least half way through to see the technique which works with mat medium and alcohol too.)

In your comments, post observations about each of the 3 artists.  How do they each achieve complexity in their paintings? How do they invite viewer engagement?

How do they create unity?  Choose one work to analyze and describe the way that it functions visually through the relationships of the formal elements.

For sketchbook, draw a variety of simple objects or symbols and experiment with shading and/or color that may be a start for your next painting.  You cannot pre-plan the next painting because it is a dialogue with the creative process but you can explore through drawing the expressive potential of simple objects (tools, untensils, hardware parts) and you can consider the color scheme you will use when  you paint.


38 responses »

  1. All of these artists had interesting ways of looking at their surroundings and pulling patters and contrasting shapes out of basic figures and objects. In Jasper Johns pictures of the flags he gives them a rugged feel as well as having them in unique shapes not accurate to their real shape, overlapping and using conflicting colors and textures. When I look at his number series I see less of a super controlled look on the object he was painting or even certain artistic qualities, I think he was striving to make it look good that can only be done through doing, not through planning. The scissor series by Skip Lawrence was probably my favorite of the artists, he expressed certain themes and interesting disconnects between shapes and the subject of the work, being scissors. Katherine Chang Liu’s work was very interesting and the ways it connected very concrete things like designs and plans into abstract things like patters and shapes was awesome, the colors were also very contrasting without being dull or too bright, it had a very cool design like steam punk theme, I liked it a lot. Apparently money isn’t a bad incentive to do multiple works with similar themes and looks, because those were pulling their weight in paint. I liked some of the pieces where you could tell the changes and shapes were not planned out, there was no grid and there was simply the eye scouring the page for cool stuff that could be done, and I like the abstract randomness to the work. All of these works engage the viewer through being really cool, drawing the eye to interesting things and having it decipher and look at all of the different aspects.

    • I like your insight into the ways in which the formal elements play off one another like color/texture and patterns/shapes. It will be interesting to see what you do with yours as I recall the white on white abstraction you made with the collaged notebook paper – playing with pattern and shape!

  2. Jasper Johns, one of my favourites of the three, uses a simple set of objects or something we’re rather familiar with. his art style makes you stop and look, because even though they’re simple, plenty of thought was put into the concept of the artwork. The paintings are relatively light, though, and you don’t walk away feeling overwhelmed.

    Skip Lawrence I like a little less. His set of scissors paintings were interesting, but I couldn’t really see what the idea behind the patchwork in the background was. Regardless, it was interesting how he used the negative space to cut out the shape of the scissors, along with many different layers of colour.

    Katherine Chang Liu was very interesting, her works being much like scrapbook items. I liked this, but the colours were dim and almost dreary, a little bit heavy on the viewer. I personally prefer the pieces with the different textures because it introduces more diversity.

    I really liked Johns’s Flag-within-a-flag-within-a-flag piece. It’s very pleasing to the eye because it’s balanced, and it’s also a flag all of us are very familiar with. If I’m to read into the painting way too much, it could even be about American class structure or entrapment or something similar.

    • I like your enthusiasm for Johns’ work – not everyone can relate to his work. But those who do find it rich and full of nuances that they didn’t notice the first viewing. He loves to hide in visual and conceptual surprises.

  3. I agree with nevermind, all of the artists had interesting ways of looking at their surroundings and interpreting them. I also agree with Ecila: Jasper John was one of the artists that I liked the most. He uses simple shapes with vibrant contrasting colors that have a very arresting effect. He uses very powerful color combinations to draw your attention to the picture but then keeps you there with interesting details.

    Skip Larwence’s style was more abstract and nonsensical than John’s style. I disagree with Ecila on this point however, just because it is harder to figure out what the idea behind a painting is unclear, it doesn’t really degrade the painting in my eyes. Actually I think that makes it better, if you can’t figure a painting out right away you have delve deeper into the painting to figure it out and in doing that it makes you think about the painting more, for which the artist deserves props.

    I liked Chang Liu’s peace Resolution the most out of any of her peaces. However I don’t really like her style. I think abstract art sometimes has deep meaning that the artist put in there, and sometimes its people just randomly sploshing colors and pasting things in and sometimes it looks good and art critics and viewers make up meaning to it. This artist might be one of those.

    The flag within a flag peace is a very good piece to analyze. It’s well balanced, each flag is placed in the center of another like they are stacked on one another. The colors red white and blue are on so many flags for a reason, (UK, USA, France, The Netherlands, Australia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Thailand to name a few). Those colors are very powerful and visible and visually appealing and those colors translate very well to a painting.

    • I especially like your comment “if you can’t figure a painting out right away you have delve deeper into the painting to figure it out and in doing that it makes you think about the painting more.” So true! That’s many artists’ goal – to engage the viewer. But you are right, some are just doing random exploration, with no deep meaning.

  4. Jasper Johns placed a symbol or image in another medium to observe the play between the two. I think he makes his art work unity by using different techniques like comparison, shading, color, value to find a perception that is different from convention.

    Skip Lawrence was very concerned about creativity in his work. First, Lawrence thought a peaceful environment is necessary; He mentioned that he always thinks of “what if” during his creation. times of trying new staffs led to the best effect on painting.

    Kathering Chang Liu’s paintings are abstract and it seems to me more like a combination of varies of elements. I find some geometry, letters, image… when I look at the colors she use. It is more like a cold style. the consistency of color makes the paintings more harmonious.

    In my previous drawing, I didn’t really focus to the unity of drawing. I merely just drawing the composition of nature, and using colors I liked, but I think the three dimension techniques would be used well to create a unity.

    • It’s interestingto hear you say you haven’t been focusing on unity in your previous works. It must come naturally because you achieved it! I look forward to seeing you build unity in this next work more consciously.

  5. Jasper Johns’ paintings have complexity because of the different colors and textures he uses and the way he combines them with everyday symbols. His paintings are engaging because of the ways he represents symbols and common objects in ways that are not ordinary. Skip Lawrence uses different and unexpected mediums in his paintings that add complexity to her drawings and tracings of scissors. His paintings are engaging because it is not obvious what he is representing and his incorporation of unique objects is interesting. Katherine Chang Liu uses different paper and symbols in her paintings. She often incorporates what looks like newspaper clippings and pages of books. Her art is engaging because of the way she uses paper and the themes of objects she paints along side the newspaper and book pages.

    • Which work do you especially like and how do you think it holds your attention through the formal elements and principles of design? It would be fun to use newspaper clippings for texture and tone and then add color over it.

  6. Jasper Johns: I thought it was interesting that in general he only used red and blue (and maybe a little yellow) in his paintings. I wondered why he only used those primary colors, and if there was some reason behind it. Or maybe he just liked the look of it. But the contrast of them all really stands out. And then the one American flag with no color is just so shocking in comparison that when all his works are shown together like that it really grabs attention, even though it’s just a black and white flag.
    Skip Lawrence: Personally, I didn’t find Skip Lawrence’s scissor display quite as interesting. The constant center on one inanimate object sort of irks me because I feel like it limits the artist. But I think that given the circumstances, Lawrence did a good job making them imaginative paintings all the same.
    Katherine Chang Liu: At first when I looked at those strange collages of random color it seemed ridiculous that they were so pricey, but at closer inspection I realized that the monochromatic seeming color splotches had a lot more depth. They were blended well and everything was a bit more complicated then it looked on first glance. I think the thing about her paintings that really grab the viewer is that you have to look for more than a second to appreciate them, and it makes the person slow down and learn to look at art more carefully.

  7. All of these artists have a different way of tying their artwork together, catering to ther individual styles, but what o really stood out to me about all of their work was that as a whole they all shared similar color schemes. They didn’t all used the exact same colors but all the colors that these three artists did use were dull, background colors. All of their colors were a almost dull pastelle, except for Jasper Johns who used some dullish reds and oranges. To me this made all but jj’s paintings very unexciting, even though they probably required quite a bit of skill to make.
    Jasper Johns: achieved complexity in his paintings mostly by layering his paint. In the case of the american flag artwork he layered the limmages and fatigued the color (is that the right word?!) anyway, he made the flag appear old. He also used some interesting scribbly shading techniques to complicate what would have been a very simple and blockish painting of a target. JJ achieves unity by always choosing and object to be the center of his painting. He also uses the same color scheme for each of his paintings (he does leave out some colors in some paintings, but he always uses the same colors and shades.) JJ invites viewer engagement because he chooses everyday objects (or numbers) changing them in certain ways inviting us questin and take a second loo at the objects abound us.
    Skip Lawrence: His paintings are complex because of there layering and blockish nature. SL tends to use many shades of the same color for athsetic purposes since his paintings are abstract. This artist creates unity by choosing one object and making it the center of all of his paintings in an exhibition. He also uses a similar color scheme and painting technique for each painting.
    Kathering Chang Liu also has a blockish technique and incluses outside materials in her paintings. The color looks very faded and plain. She fades and layers her coloring. Her paintings almost have his sene of calmness and self incorporated into them

    • You’ve got some very thoughtful comments about these works and it is clear you are thinking carefully about how they are made. I can’t wait to see how you apply the idea of visual play in your work. The key is to make a commitment to start the visual “conversation” and then let the visual responses flow.

  8. Jasper Jonhs uses layering and bright colors to achieve complexity. Unity is created among his works through the repeated use of red, blue and yellow.
    Skip Lawrence uses experimental techniques and layering for complexity, and the works are unified by the scissors motif.
    Katherine Chang Liu also used layering, and collage like techniques for complexity. Her paintings are all squares, and they all feature whiteness.

    I know this is short, but I really can’t think of anything else to say.

    • Which work do you like the best? Think about how your eye travels around in the piece, where your eye lingers and how the balances are achieved so you keep looking…..
      What are some of the contrast systems used to keep you interested? i.e. large/small, geometric/organic, smooth/textures, light/dark, saturated/dull, etc.

  9. I like how jasper John uses bright colors in his work and makes them all come together. He used mainly red, blue and some yellow and am curious why?

    I really like how skip does hiss scissors because some are opened or closed or big or small and it shows that you can make a very simple normal object and make it very big and flashy and complex.

    Katherine liu uses collage style and all her paintings are square. Even the cut out papers inside are square. It very abstract and has a lot of white

    • Well, as you know, red, yellow, and blue is the primary triad and a good color balance system. Possibly too, he likes the “universality” of the basics as did Mondrian, an earlier Modernist of the 20th century.

  10. Jasper Johns used very simple shapes and colors. I think that adds to the affect because it makes the viewer have to really interpret his art work. The message isn’t just given to them. I like the fact that he used bright colors to kind of draw viewers in but they aren’t to bright that they overwhelm people.

    Skip Lawrence is right. The hardest part of art is coming up with an idea that means something. And he right about once you get the idea you can use your imagination to do whatever you want with the object. These set of paintings are a little more abstract than John’s. For me in abstract drawings there is more meaning but the meaning is harder to find. I think its harder to find because there is so much going on the viewer doesn’t know what to focus on. I like that fact the these paintings are very simple objects but were turned in to flashy, imaginative, and creative pieces of art work.

    At first I was very confused what was going on in the paintings. I had to stare at a few for awhile to get the feel for Kathering Chang Liu. And then I understood that the placement was everything. Only certain objects could go next to certain ones. If an object wasn’t next to the right object it wouldn’t give the right message. And the message it a big thing. Every piece of art work has a message but its different for everyone. The artist in their head has a completely different message than what the viewer actually gets.

    I really like Kathering Chang Liu’s artwork because it makes me stop and slow down. I can’t just look at her artwork for a second. I really have to stop and look at it to get her message. My favorite one of hers is the Qualia. It is a very interesting piece of work. The black lines give a very deep affect. The black lines are in a semi dark area and then the flow into a much little area. To me that about life. Life has to get very dark and glum and sooner or later it gets light again and things get better.

    • You are right: “placement is everything” as are the choices about what you are placing. Key for you will be to start your painting with a shape and a piece that you are interested in and then build the rest of the painting in relation to that as well as in relation to every subsequent placement. It is kind of like a gourmet meal-chess game. You are pairing interesting and complementary tastes and every move will determine the next possibilities!

  11. Jasper Johns uses geometric shapes as basis for his paintings and bright, primary colors to confuse the viewer. Symbols, numbers, and other things thought of as being absolutes, are brought to life in color and form, shape and beauty. The emphasis on math and science, absolutes that can transcend throughout multiple languages and cultures in our society has blurred out art. Art is the other way that people can communicate with each other without nessicarily understanding everything.

    Skip’s scissors I found an unusual take on such a mundane object. To me, scissors are a harsh, sharp tool, striking visually as though they’re ready to tear themselves out of the painting. Unlike Johns’ paintings, the focus on muted grays is far more important than bright colors. It isn’t a flashy subject, it isn’t something that someone without artistic understanding would hang in their living room, and yet at the same time it’s a bold statement.

    Liu’s art I found most intriguing because of her use of mixed medium. For me, mixed medium is the most difficult art for me. It is hard to make aesthetically pleasing and create the usual symphony of colors and shapes as single medium artwork. What she does with such a complicated style of art is astounding: the way she can blend materials together while still maintaining the rustic look of her style.

    • Interesting comments on the value of art as a vehicle for communication and the intuitive nature of this communication. Art can speak to us without us understanding it all at once. Recurrent viewings can give more and more meaning.

    • That’s an insightful interpretation about the scissors “tearing” out of the paintings; the allusion to cutting makes perfect sense. It’s interesting to create an aesthetic that relates to the particular function and movement of the tool. A pounding, noisy composition for a hammer? A serrated rhythm for a saw?

  12. Jasper Johns: He achieves complexity primarily by layering, both colors and patterns. It invites viewer engagement by forcing them to look at the painting closer, as in many of them the numbers or other objects are hidden or covered in some way. Most of his artwork creates a sense of unity by using primary colors a lot, and using the same few objects ( and paintings in some cases) repeatedly in different mediums.

    Skip Lawrence: The complexity of skips paintings is achieved, similarly, to Jaspers by layering. It seems like he starts with the object and then from there, sort of randomly puts different shapes and colors in various places. He noted that it one of them you can only see the top layer of paint, so from that it’s clear he had layers before that as well. I’m not sure how he tries to invite viewer engagement as his paintings seem pretty straight forward. There’s not a lot to interpret or think about other than the main object, which also seems pretty random. There’s a very clear since of unity, as the focal point in his each of this paintings was the same.

    Katherine Chang Liu: Her artwork has a sense of complexity that is achieved by her use of different math and science related elements that she incorporates into the layering process, an obvious similarity between all of the artists. That brings us into the next point which is how she invites viewer engagement. By putting clippings of what seems to be pages out math books and botanical books, she makes it hard not to look closer and see what it reads, and how it’s relevant to the art.

  13. I really like Jasper Johns’ work. I also really like pop art and I saw a lot of overlap. He takes familiar shapes and changes them just enough to make them interesting. In his number series, the shape of the numbers was consistent but the texture and color gave the paintings more drama. In the target picture there were a lot of bold black lines and bright colors.

    The scissors were okay but I think I would have gone crazy from looking at them for so long if I were painting them. I liked the fine lines and detailing, though. There didn’t seem to be any organization to the colors he used other than an abundance of beige but it looked nice that way. They were simple because it was such a mundane object but there were also a lot of little details to look at.

    Katherine Chang Liu’s work was also very enjoyable. I liked the halved words from the magazine cutouts and the unfinished look of the sketching. The paintings looked like little pieces of chaos. I also liked that there were a lot of overlapping patterns and big blocks of color. The more you looked at them, the more little things you saw.

    • I also like that about these works: the more you linger and look, the more you see. One of the difficulties of abstraction is deciding when you are finished because the addition of details to enrich the piece is important to add interest, but there is no end goal as in an observational piece.

  14. I really like Jasper Johns. I read a really fantastic article on about how he unknowingly invented pop art years before the fact. He takes angles and structures and puts them together in unusual ways to recreaet familiar images.

    I didn’t really like the scissors. As a whole, it looked cool, but it was nothing new. After I began to examine it as one would a work of art, it was nothing I haven’t seen before.

    Katherine Liu was awesome. It was really visually pleasing and how raw it looked in its unfinished appearance and kind of rough nature, but then it looked clean in other ways such as the math and science influences, and strong lines or strong colors to easily divide and define all the different components of the painting without being imposing.

  15. Jasper Johns put a picture or some symbol or something in another medium to observe the play between each other. I think he makes his art work unity by using different techniques like color, comparison, shading and value to find a perception that is different from convention. Skip Lawrences set of scissors paintings were kinda interesting, but I didn’t see the meaning of the patchwork in the background as clear as some other things. It was interesting though, how he used the negative space to cut out the shape of the scissors and then with many different colors. I liked Chang Liu’s peace Resolution the most out of any of her peaces. She also used layering and collage like techniques for complexity. I kinda enjoyed jasper johns flag-within-a-flag art piece. Its nice to look at. It is something we are used to seeing and it is also balanced in the colors and just the whole painting..

  16. Jasper Johns uses familiar objects and presents them in a new light using a variety of techniques such as broad brush strokes to create complex yet recognizable images.

    Skip uses layering to achieve complexity. He evokes an ominous emotional timbre with rusty, dark, surreal colors. The scissors almost attack the viewer as they pop out of the canvas.

    Katherine Chang Lu uses collage to create an opaque image. She makes the viewer work to find meaning in the piece… even when she may not have created any.

    I liked Jasper John’s “8” piece. It certainly follows his maxim: “take an object, do something to it, do something else to it.” Through arbitrary alterations he obscures the familiar image, creating complexity in the simple. The wash of colors is fun and interesting but you can perceive a deliberateness behind his strokes which unites the piece.

  17. Although Jasper John’s work is often based off of simplistic images, the media and techniques he uses are quite complex–for instance, he experiments with collage and plaster in his paintings. I find this texture is his work very compelling.

    Skip Lawrence’s paintings are composed of many layers. I like this effect because it adds dimension, muted colors, and some texture. I liked the scissors because they add a sinister element.

    Katherine Lui’s work didn’t really inspire me very much. I think she is trying to cram too many competing images on her canvas, so the whole thing is kind of overwhelming, yet the colors mundane.

    I liked the unity in Lawrence’s piece entitled “Centered.” I found the central placement of the scissors pleasing, as well as the vertical stripes and the vertical red line. It’s calming to look at, yet intriguing.

  18. Overall, I found I strong resemblance to the three artists and their painting styles. All three use simple objects to get their ideas and paint from but transform these simple things into works of art with different layers and colors into artwork that almost looks like graffiti. Numbers and common house-hold objects can be found in the paintings. Their texture also looks similar.

    I like the bright colors that the first artist uses. His artwork stands out more. It kinda pops out at you, especially since his artwork can be considered pop art. He has a lot of texture ranges that I like.

    The second artist utilizes household objects well in a form of art that appears to be slapped together. The colors that are used are a little dull, but they but they all render a nice image of scissors.

    The last artist uses a sortof collage style of artwork to put together mysterious and obscure scenes that feel a little dark and shady with the color choices.

    I liked the color unity of Liu’s “Resolution.” It created a focus on the center of that picture and the lines of the piece were nice and parallel to give it some organization and order a midst the unknown object being painted.

  19. Jasper Johns is widely recognized for his series of flags. I always thought the way he added texture to the flags gave it a darker, bolder characteristic that makes the painting of a flag more about the essence of what the flag is representing rather than the flag itself. Lawrence’s series on scissors is fascinating, especially “Centered”. The way the scissors are bent and distorted, and the way Skip juxtaposes two different colors interrupted by a black strip in the middle is really eye-grabbing, and a little disturbing. Katherine Chang Liu takes a more scrapbook-y style to her paintings, not really using an image to guide her works (such as flags or scissors) but rather a clutter of shades, pencil drawings, magazine cutouts, and other nonrelated pieces to form something that guides the eye with rhythm.

  20. Jasper Johns captivates the viewer immediately with bright colors and large symbols, but he also achieves complexity in this by making you look. The more you look at his work, the more you see hidden away. As they said in the article, “Johns challenged the viewer to see something new, to question accepted conventions of representation, and to look with an inquisitive, rather than a complacent eye.” I thought this quote described his work very well.

    Skip Lawrence’s work also captivates the viewer by making you look hard at it, but unlike Jasper Johns’ work, you know from the start that you are going to have to look hard at that piece of art. Whereas Johns’ paintings appear to be more simple, and then surprise you at their complexity, Lawrence’s appear to be complex from the start.

    Katherine Chang Liu’s work was more earth tone and less bright and in your face like Johns’ work, and more similar in color scheme to Lawrence’s work. It was more of a collage style, with different layers of meaning and countless interpretations for one work.

    Katherine Chang Liu was my favorite, because even though it was slightly chaotic, it’s chaotic in a calming way, with the earth tones unifying all the different layers and textures.

  21. Jasper Johns: I think Jasper Johns’ work is interesting because (at least for me) it initially draws you in with bright colors and bold, recognizable objects, but upon closer inspection, you find little nuances and subtleties within the design or color.
    Skip Lawrence: Personally I didn’t really care for Skip Lawrence’s work, mainly because it lacked exactly what Jasper Johns’ had – an element of surprise where you could find something for yourself – to me, when you look at Skip Lawrence’s painting, you see exactly what is on the canvas and nothing more, nothing less. While I think it all looks nice, it’s not a very interactive experience between the viewer and the piece, I think.
    Katherine Chang Liu: It’s hard to tell from the website (you can’t enlarge the pictures), but if I see them correctly, I really like the fact that she drew in pencil or pen in addition to painting/pasting because it almost has a scrapbook-like feel about it, as if what she’s painting is truly important to her.
    I really enjoyed Jasper Johns’ American flag-within-a-flag piece because it’s such a familiar image, but with a twist. It almost reminds me of Andy Warhol in a way: taking a familiar pop icon or image and making it just the tiniest bit different. I especially like that all the stars and stripes almost coincide, so that if you glance at it quickly it looks essentially normal, but upon closer inspection you realize it’s actually quite distorted.

  22. Johns’ work was interesting because of how apparent the shapes were, and how he didn’t do as much to obscure them. There was a small amount of texture work that underlying the images which was neat as well.
    Lawrence’s work was also good. It obscured the images a lot to the point of almost not being able to see the shapes, but offered a heap of good texture work. My only qualm with his work was that it didn’t have the rich colors exhibited in John’s work.
    As for Katherine Chang Liu, her use of mixed media added an extra level to her work. The level of obscurity was roughly at a midpoint between that of Johns and Lawrence. She had dull colors but used them in a way that helped the foreground to stand out.

  23. In this blog post, all the artists let their creativity flow. What I think makes the paintings really engaging is the explosion of art on the page. It seems that the way the artists achieve this is by an absence of erasing and over thinking. Anything that ends up on the page is somehow incorporated into the painting.
    Though their art is full of insanity, they are still pleasing to the eye. I think they do this by having at least a very small part of the painting is rooted in reality. And from there they let everything explode on the page. I think Jasper Johns’ bulls-eye painting is a good example of this. It is based on a physical thing, and from there he plays with colors and shapes to make it his own artwork.

  24. Each painting has interesting chaos that makes the paintings more interesting to the viewer. The colors moved through both the objects and created unity within the piece
    i liked how you had to search for some of the objects and the layering of colors patterns and collage

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