Understanding art

Do you scratch your head whenever you look at abstract art? I know I do sometimes. Perhaps it’s easier to understand when you break it down as a transition from realism, which humans have struggled to depict for centuries, to styles that more fully express the artist’s point of view about the scene or feeling in front of them.

For example, one of Monet’s earliest paintings looks like this:

Image result for early monet painting

He studied art classically for years before experimenting with looser brushstrokes and more vivid colors while working with other great artists of his era.

Art becomes interesting when it’s not just a mirror of real life, but an interpretation of real life. Once people were fully able to paint the world accurately, they began to seek other ways of expressing the atmosphere. Impressionism, seeing below (another by Monet), is an example of a scene that has been abstracted to some degree.

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Another example is Picasso. His early work looks like this:

Image result for picasso's early work

It’s incredibly realistic with rich details and classical lighting. He learned formal drawing techniques from his father before he ever dabbled with cubism. It was only later that he developed his own personal style, seen below.

Image result for picasso cubism

Picasso developed cubism as a way to challenge the idea that art should be an exact copy of nature. Rather than continue painting with perspective and foreshortening, he introduce the idea that you can paint one subject from many different angles and perspective. This is what makes his work famous.

Mark Rothko’s early work looks like this:

Mark Rothko, Untitled, late 1920slate 1920s

It’s a traditional watercolor landscape. His later work, on the other hand, looked like this:

Mark Rothko, Sea Fantasy, 19461946

and then even later like this:

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 19531953

These are large paintings that required your participation. He’s implying, by hanging the paintings close to where observers would stand, that the painting is an alternative to real life. There’s a different reality altogether and that it is expressed in the work.

In order to understand abstract art, it’s important to think about these aspects of art – that we started from first being able to full capture a scene realistically with painting to experimenting how the painting could enhance the real world or create a different world. Not many people dare to do this, which is why those artists are famous.

That’s all for now. Until next time, happy museuming.

 

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Product Picks for July

Smart Planter

Lua Planter

This amazing planter, Lua, gives your plant emotions! It uses sensors to measure the soil’s moisture, temperature and light exposure. It also measure your movement, so it peers at you when you walk by. The emotions help you know when it’s thirsty, sick, too hot, etc.

I’m always a sucker for sustainable houseware and packaging of any kind. Gaurav Wali uses pine needles here to create holders and organizers. He uses natural binders and waxes to make this a completely bio-degradable product. The material can also be colored with natural dyes made from vegetables and spices. What a cool way to use something that’s all around us!

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I would use this Twin Utensil Set daily. When you switch from chopsticks back to western utensils, there’s even an interlock between the fork and knife so that they become one interlock.

 

Product design picks for June

A bell for runners so you can tell people when you’re coming up behind them – similar to a bell on a bicycle. I think this is pretty genius. This could also just be an app, but I suspect the ring reverberates better if it’s a physical one.

Designer: Kevin John Nadolny

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An LED that helps you communicate with other drivers. You can view it up to 50 feet away. There are shortcuts to the most used messages, and the controller has large buttons.

Designers: John Stanley, Nina Stanley, Harsha Venna & Harshit Aggarwal

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A clock that shows you the time in a new way. Because I work as a UX designer, I’m always looking for new interaction patterns and new interfaces – both digital and physical. This one is simply and unique.

Designer: Mattis Boets

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March picks: thoughtful UX moments

In Singapore, senior citizens can tap their identity card on the sensor at the pedestrian crossing so that they can have 3-13 more seconds depending on the size of the crossing. This takes into consideration everyone’s mobility levels.

This hotel has fire escape plans at ground level, because chances are if it’s smokey you’ll be low to the ground.

Parking lines that go up the wall so you can actually see if you’re parking in the right position. All garages should have this.

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Idea for expanding creativity

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Creativity is originality and fluency of ideas. It’s something designers ought to be good at. But every now and then, we get stuck too. There are so many constraints. How do we make all of the stakeholders happy? What about that deadline?

Let’s go back to a space where we can play, because, as I learned at a UX conference two years ago, when people view an activity as play, they come up with twice as many ideas as people who view the activity as work. 

Here’s a practice for getting back to idea generation: Give yourself a plain object with no instructions. How can uses can you find for it?

 

Inclusive design

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Kat Holmes wrote Mismatch, which talks about how many objects are designed with only one type of user in mind – right-handed computer mouse, pilot seats meant for people who are a certain height, etc – and how these objects lead to exclusion. She then talks about ways to design inclusively for all.

What I really liked about her perspective on disability, which is seen by a lot of people as a personal health condition is that she redefines it as a mismatched human interaction, and that those mismatches are “the building blocks of exclusion.” This definition reframes what normal is supposed to be. In fact, Kat says that there’s no such thing as normal.

No one is the “average.” We’re all a little different, and we all have different needs. Given that over 1 billion people in the world are “disabled.” Given that, it’s easy to see why designing for accessibility is important. It’s not just your grandfather that can’t read your font; it could be someone who is recovering from an eye surgery to someone who has 20/20 vision but is standing in broad daylight squinting at their phone.

Aug: Sites/ideas to play with

Inspiration for when your “new ideas” bucket gets dry.

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