Category Archives: Art and architecture

Cycladic Art

Travel is educational. Often while traveling one tends to see something that sticks somewhere in the back of your mind, to later return and make you want to know more.

One of these happenings in my life, was Cycladic art. Beautiful small, stylized sculptures that reminds of modern sculpture in the style of Brancusi and Modigliani sculpture. My first meeting with these sculptures were in the Louvre Museum.


Cycladic civilization flourished in the Aegean Sea from 3300-1100 BCE. This makes it Neolithic civilization or early bronze age civilization. They existed along the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations but left us a unique art legacy. The civilization was focused on the Greek Cycladic islands. Although the art can be found as far as Crete and the Greek mainland, its main usage was on the islands. Sculptures found elsewhere might have been used in trade in the region.

The function of the statues are unknown. The most acceptable answer would be that it had a religious function, but we do not know for sure. Most sculptures were found in graves. The fact that evidence is found that some of the figurines were repaired and had wear and tear suggests that they would be valued by the deceased during life as well and accompanied the person to the grave. Even though almost all the figurines are female, they were found in graves of both men and women.

The figurines are highly stylized and very simplified in design. Almost all of them are female forms made in marble. They are tall and geometrical so that it resembles modern art. They are depicted nude, with arms folded over their stomachs (With the left arm above the right). The pubis is indicated by a small triangle. Small breasts are indicated too. The faces are flattened with only a sharply defined nose that is indicated. The aesthetics of the blank stylized faces appeals to our modern tastes, but older sculptures shows signs of being painted.

The other type of sculpture is an even more stylized version of the female figure, known as violin figures. Beautiful body are indicated by hips and shoulders only. Elegant long necks and small heads give the impression of violins or even guitars. There are no legs, arms folded over the body, with a little triangle for the pubic area. Small breasts are sometimes suggested.

Other art that survived from this era would be bowls, also made from marble, and pottery vases and bottles with bold decorations.


As there were no writing at the time all our knowledge needs to be deducted from arkeological findings. Therefore our information available would always be incomplete. Maybe the mystery of these beautiful figurines makes them even more appealing.

Living a Creative life

It is silly season again. Everybody is rushing, buying and running around. Hopefully soon we will start settling down and start thinking about the new year looming ahead. The dreaded time of new year’s resolutions!

Some years back I started to move away from new year’s resolutions. Gradually the idea of more intentional living started to take root. We see this trend in some self help programs as well lately. Set yourself few life goals.

In my own life I focus on three aspects. I think of healthy living, living more spiritually and living a more creative life. It is much broader than new years resolutions, but in the end easier to accomplish. With a resolution you might decide not to eat bread again, and this thought only lasts until you smell a lovely freshly baked bread. Once you had your lovely slice of bread the resolution is broken and you hardly ever think of it again.

With intentional living you decide to live a healthier life. The decision is not obsessive, it is not self abusive and it is not depriving you of the joys of life. It leads you to live more balanced. With my personality I never feels strong enough about anything to become fanatical about it. ( Over enthusiastic is a completely different matter.) This way of thinking will help you to decide, when you do need to make a decision, to maybe just choose the healthier option. and if you don’t, you did not break a resolution, and the next choice might be better.

My next option is to live a spiritually fulfilling life. Spirituality is a foreign idea these days. I do not intend this to be a specific religious idea either. With this I simply mean to live in the moment from time to time. Be aware of NOW. Experience the magic around you. See the clouds. Be part of the sunset. Enjoy and accept the heat of summer, accept it and experience it, rather than to complain about it.

Most important part in my life, is to live a creative life. Creativity is an essential part of being human. We create all day. You create the meal you will eat, friendships and relationships. Years ago I read the only self help book that really changed my life. It was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. Even though I adapted it to suit my own needs, it is still part of my life.

The main part of this is a form of active meditation. She calls it Morning Pages. It means that you should write on paper with a pen 3 to 5 pages of thoughts that crosses your mind first thing in the morning. This helps you to plan your day, to identify things that bothers you, to set goals for the day and to put your day into perspective. The days that I do it is the days that is just so much more productive. It works for me.

To create we need to take something from out of ourselves. This will leave you with less original ideas. One need to put something back. This is called “filling the pond”. So treat yourself to something nice at least once a week. Go to a museum, walk in the park or go swimming somewhere in nature. You owe it to yourself!

The last part is regular walking. The action should be relaxed. The rhythm and repetitive motion will help you to relax and get creative thoughts flowing.

To really become creative you need to make time. Stop thinking that you need big blocks of time. Half an hour a day is plenty of time. That is just 2% of your day, but a 2% that might give you 80% of the joy of your day. Make time. Sacrifice television or social media. They are both time wasters, and I never hear anybody saying they do not have half an hour to do Facebook or Instagram, and it usually absorbs much more time than that.

Come on. You can do it! Live a more creative life.

Cellphone Photography

I used to like traveling with a good camera, but there are definitive drawbacks to that. A SLR camera with lenses takes up an amazing amount of space. On moving around in foreign places with an expensive camera , really makes you stand out like a real tourist. Crime is everywhere these days. You need not advertise that you might be an easy victim.

The main rule in photography is still: the best camera to use is the one with you. These days everybody has a cellphone at hand. The capability of these small wonders to take photo’s with are simply amazing. Technology improved a lot since the first camera phones appeared on the market. It allows us to always have a camera at hand and they are so easy to use. Unfortunately, sometimes way too easy… I often cringe at the quality of photos people post on their social media. Photos are taken without considering what message you want to convey.

It is important to follow some basic rules and start off with a decent photo. in days gone by photography was an expensive hobby. A photographer, worth his salt, would plan a photograph before taking it. These days people will take a lot of random photos and try to edit it better afterwards (but usually they don’t even do that, they just dump them on social media.) So often I see a photo on Facebook and think: That would have been a great photo, if only…

There are a few basic rules to consider when you are taking any kind of photograph, or even making art . I will concentrate on travel photos as that is my passion. These rules are easy to follow and will make a big difference.

Perspective

The angle you take the picture from makes a huge difference. The conventual way is to take a picture from eye level while we are standing, but just see the difference by using a different angle: birds eye view or from ground level

Depth

With perspective comes the creation of depth in the photograph. try to include a foreground, middle ground and background in your picture. Your foreground and background can be out of focus, if you want to enhance the object in the middle ground. If you take a landscape photo include something like flowers in your foreground.

Simplicity

There will be more impact to take a picture of a single flower against a uniform background, rather than having it amongst a mass of flowers. The same effect if you isolate a tower against the sky rather than having it against a background of a landscape Do not overcomplicate your picture with detail. Two thirds of your picture can be negative space and the photograph can still be working. It might make your message stronger.

The rule of thirds

Use the grid on your phone that will divide your screen in thirds automatically. Use the horizontal as well as the vertical thirds of your screen. The intersections between the lines can be focal points as well.

Leading lines

Strong lines strategically placed can lead the eye or even lines leading the eye through the picture.

Symmetry

Symmetrical framing of an object by a window frame or door can add some drama to an ordinary picture.

Symmetrical lines lead the eyes to the children
Symmetrical lines lead the eye to the children

Portrait or landscape layout

To use a portrait versus a landscape layout of a picture can totally change the atmosphere of a picture. Decide what will look best before taking your picture

Light

The time of day makes a huge difference. The quality of light at dawn is so different from sunset. Remember the golden hour. Make use of the intense colors of the hour after sunrise and before sunset

Reflections

Reflections from water or windows will add drama and depth to a photo.

Technical aspects

Using of a timer, lights like artificial lights and flashes will make a dramatic difference. For now, I am trying to take a good picture without external manipulation. I even try not to use all the photoshop apps that is available. I want to use natural light and images that is there before me as I travel. Maybe I will still grow to love technical manipulation. For now I will concentrate on the other aspects to improve my photography

History of Architecture as told by Pillars

History of Architecture explained by pillars

The history of architecture is as old as civilization itself. A subject as big as the history of mankind. I decided to break it down to easier small parts.

A living space has got four elements. Roof (and floor), support for the roof and walls to keep the elements out.

The first supports for primitive roofs must have been tents supported by a pole. Unfortunately history is remembered in more permanent structures. One of our oldest man made structures to survive today is that of Stonehenge. It comprises of vertical free standing stones with a horizontal support . A basic pillar and lintel structure.

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Chairs of the Twentieth Century

I am fascinated by the idea of the renaissance man. The kind of person who can do anything. Michaelangelo, who started of as a painter but branched into architecture, sculpture, poetry and architecture. Leonardo Da Vinci, the painter of the worlds most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, was sought after as a war strategist, designer of things ahead of his time like parachutes, diving boats and explosive devices, to name but a few.

In our time with major technological advances on every front it is difficult to be the best in your own field, let alone other fields of expertise. It is hart warming to still find such people. In architects I found some modern renaissance men. Especially in the field of furniture design.

Chairs is one of the most essential of household and interior decorating furniture. The end of the nineteenth century saw a big change in how people saw their surroundings. Changes in social structure caused people to discover their own worth and allowed people of all social levels to surround themselves with beautiful things. The industrial revolution with mass production made costs of many products come down. New technology made designs possible that were previously not even draemt of. All this caused an explosion of design in chairs.

The first development in chair design came from the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris. Morris was a designer, artist, poet and novelist. His life motto was that one should surround yourself with objects that is both useful and beautiful. The arts and Crafts movement emphasized the use of handcraft and material of high quality.

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Jean Novel, Architect

Architecture fascinate me. The city of Paris is heaven for anyone interested in architecture. From Roman ruins up to the most modern, up to date buildings can be seen.

On my last visit the architect Jean Nouvel’s buildings cought my interest. Years ago I was fascinated by the windows of the Instetut du Monde Arabe in the french city. It is located on the banks of the Seine just upstream of the Notre Dame. It was designed by Jean Nouvel.

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