Archive for December, 2015

Portrait Time

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

John A. Parks is today’s guest blog writer. John is a longtime faculty member, teaching the Fine Arts and Illustration painting courses, Portrait Painting and Making it Real. John’s book, Universal Principles of Art (Rockport Publishers) is available through major retailers and has been published in French by Pyramyd Editions. His recent exhibitions at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, such as In New York and Paint and Memory, have been reviewed in numerous outlets, including the New York Times and this blog. Read more about John and see his paintings at his website.

We asked John to share his response to a painted portrait of Angela Merkel currently on the cover of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue (“Chancellor of the Free World”). Read his response:

Angela Merkel on TIME

Angela Merkel on TIME

Time Magazine’s cover portrait of Angela Merkel was commissioned from the Belfast-based artist Colin Davidson who is known for his large-scale portraits of celebrities.  He said of this one: “Although likeness is vital in my practice, it is my hope that a sense of the German Chancellor’s dignity, compassion and humanity is woven into the paint.”

Only it isn’t.

Instead we have a cheaply dramatic painting of the chancellor suffering what appears to be a terminal skin condition.

Usually I’m a huge fan of painterly portraits in which the viewer gets to see how the paint itself stands in for flesh.  Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn were masterly at this approach, which goes back to the great painters, Titian, Rembrandt and Velasquez.

Unfortunately in the Time cover painting, the ‘noise’ of the brush-strokes has taken over.  Instead of reinforcing our comprehension of the volumes of the head and its fleshy substance, it suggests a surface that is disintegrating.  This is particularly noticeable on the sides of the face and the neck where the flesh looks as though it is simply falling away from the form.  Meanwhile, the center of the face and the hair appear to closely follow photographic reference, focusing on the eyes which are rendered with a very pedestrian point-for-point realism.  This device of carefully rendered eyes and mouth with loose painting elsewhere has long been part of the tradecraft of romance cover artists and other genre illustrators. As illustration, however, this piece is simply rather unfortunate.  It portrays the German chancellor in a way that is frankly ugly. This is all the more unpleasant given the widespread negative bias that the public tends to bring to images of women who are not somehow deemed ‘attractive’.  It’s hard to fathom why the editors of Time wanted to go with such an image. Perhaps they don’t really like Chancellor Merkel after all.

-John A. Parks, December 2015

Follow John A. Parks on Twitter: @skrappy3


Faculty Updates

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

What have SVACE faculty members been up to? We have exciting updates from Felipe GalindoOfri Cnaani, John A. Parks, and Matt Rota!

Felipe Galindo at Mark Miller Gallery

Felipe Galindo at Mark Miller Gallery

Mark Miller Gallery and Felipe Galindo (aka Feggo) open New York Stories, a solo exhibition of artwork created on disposable objects, like packaging and take-out containers, and three decades’  worth of sketches of life in New York City.  New York Stories is Galindo’s second solo show with Mark Miller Gallery.

Ofri Cnaani, File Under: ? at Equity Gallery

Ofri Cnaani, File Under: ? at Equity Gallery

Ofri Cnaani opens File Under: ?a solo show at Equity Gallery in New York. For the duration of the show, Ofri invites artists to submit personal or professional questions via email and social media. In a “help desk marathon” performance on January 16, 2016, Ofri and her team will answer many of these questions, archive them, and apply them to Equity’s future programming. Anyone can submit questions, so now is your chance to get answers!

John A. Parks' new book

John A. Parks’ new book

Pyramyd Editions has published a French translation of Universal Principles of Art by John A. Parks.  It’s a great book for artists who want to expand their own artwork with focused concepts, techniques, and history.

"The Art of Ballpoint" by Matt Rota

“The Art of Ballpoint” by Matt Rota

Illustration Age reviewed The Art of Ballpoint by Matt Rota. Reviewer Marc Scheff writes: “You can read it either as a tool and resource for technique, a history book, or a deep cross-section of stylistic choices for the use of this oft-overlooked medium.”

See more updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages!


Friday Hot Links

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Happy Friday! We want to share some interesting articles and stories shared online by the SVACE faculty and community.


Invader Spaces (Gothamist): Where to find the French street artist’s signature mosaics. (via Robert Stribley)

Sequoyah’s Syllabary (Portland Press Herald): How type design can preserve a culture. (via Ilene Strizver)

Instagram for Two (ADWEEK): A Smart car ad for backseat drivers and the people that love them. (via Robert Stribley)

Burst Bubble (New York Times): Photography and high-speed video explore a “Pop!” (via MFA Visual Narrative)

Meet Mallory (WIRED): Tobias Frere-Jones’ new typeface combines “austere geometry” with “slight irreverence.” (via Kevin Brainard)


Faculty Updates

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

What have SVACE faculty members been up to? We have exciting updates from Ilene Strizver, Steve Brodner, Ofri Cnaani, and Keith Mayerson!


Ilene Strizver shared more insights and best practices with her readers at On the topic of Helvetica, she writes, “Helvetica was designed primarily for display, and for this reason, has appropriately tight letterspacing. Yet the design does hold up at smaller sizes – but the spacing does not.” Read more about using Helvetica at any size.

Steve Brodner for The Nation

Steve Brodner for The Nation

For The Nation, Steve Brodner illustrated some controversial quotes from GOP presidential candidates about Syrian refugees.  Perspicacious, informed, and witty, Steve exemplifies how the pen is mightier than the sword.

Ofri Cnaani performs at Inhotim Institute, Brazil

Ofri Cnaani performs at Inhotim Institute, Brazil

In Brazil? Ofri Cnaani of SVACE will perform this week at Inhotim Institute! On December 4, she will perform Frequently Asked/ Que Lugar É Esse?  Ofri writes:

“For Frequently Asked, I worked with 40 of the museum gardeners and maintenance staff in order to create 40 private walk-throughs, which bring to the front not only the art but also the role of Inhotim staff as a translators and mediators. During Frequently Asked, each gardener will lead one visitor in a one-on-one tour, offering personal narratives or interpretations of classic or modern canonical artworks and their spatial and environmental manifestations.”

Ofri Cnaani of SVACE

Ofri Cnaani of SVACE

On December 5, Ofri will perform Recalculating Route, which she describes as such:

Recalculating Route is a participatory performance taking the shape of geographically-based group messaging app that encourages self-guided wandering through call and response prompts and allows participants to re-experience familiar or unfamiliar sites, whether they are cities or museums.”

And last but not least: Keith Mayerson will exhibit new paintings with Marlborough Chelsea at NADA Miami Beach 2015.

See more updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages!