kottke.org posts about art

Carved Wooden Art Cars With Chunky Headlights

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2024

a carved wooden car with wooden headlights coming out of it with an image of a person chasing a ball in the beams

a pair of carved wooden cars with wooden headlights coming out of them with images landscapes in the beams

a fleet of carved wooden cars with wooden headlights coming out of them

Holy crap, how cool are these carved wooden cars by Kiko Miyares! The style is just incredible. Is light a wave or a particle? Neither: light is wood. (via @scottmccloud)

The Pixel Painter

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 16, 2024

This is an image created by Hal Lasko in Microsoft Paint:

a pixelated illustration of a roller coaster

Lasko was a retired graphic designer & typographer who found a new passion when he received a computer for his 85th birthday, which came preloaded with Microsoft Paint. This short film tells the story of The Pixel Painter:

That all changed for Hal when his family gave him a computer as an 85th birthday present. His new PC came loaded with Microsoft Paint software, a program developed in the 1980’s. The program is more kitsch than cutting edge, but it’s easy interface and pixel precision allowed Hal to journey down a new artistic path with a style many consider “retro cool”.

In his last year of life, he had his first solo gallery show, spoke at a conference and was featured in a Super Bowl commercial. He passed away just shy of his 99th birthday in 2014, leaving us with a legacy that passion knows no age, and for Hal, the proof of that is surely in the pixels.

You can still buy prints of Lasko’s work on his website.

Fun fact: the short film uses my Silkscreen font in it. It’s fun to see it still popping up in places. (via @bw/111894669094307194)

Vintage Typologies

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2024

Lost Found Art is a design company that “specializes in sculptural installations and assemblages using antique and vintage pieces”. Their collections are fun to browse through and remind me of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

a collection vintage mirrors

a collection of vintage cook stove grates

a collection of vintage shooting gallery targets

a collection of vintage bike gears

a collection of vintage cook stove grates

a collection of vintage baseball mitts

(via present & correct)

Brian Eno’s Glowing Turntable

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2024

Brian Eno holding his glowing turntable in a dark room

a turntable glowing in a dark room

Electronic music pioneer Brian Eno has designed a glowing turntable that shifts colors as plays records.

Brian Eno’s Turntable II is made up of a platter and base, which change colours independently, seamlessly phasing through combinations of generative ‘colourscapes’. The pattern of lights, the speed at which they change and how they change are programmed, but programmed to change randomly and slowly. It plays both 33 and 45rpm vinyl.

Only 150 will be sold and they’re £20,000 so hopefully you’ll see one in a museum someday. (via kevin kelly)

This Artist Used Microsoft Paint to Create Art Into Her 90s

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2024

Up until her death last year at the age of 93, Concha García Zaera wielded the relatively simple graphics editor Microsoft Paint like few others have.

two digital paintings: the one on the left depicts two deer in a forest and the one on the right is of a small town square, probably in Spain

a digital painting of a small town nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains

two digital paintings: th one on the left is of a woman hearding geese and the one on the right is of a blonde haired girl sitting by a tree, looking a little sad

See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist.

Kooky Little Ceramic Aliens

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2024

a yellow ceramic alien shaped like a question mark

a white ceramic alien with a crackly exterior

an orange ceramic alien shaped like a triangle

a yellow & green ceramic alien

a wide yellow ceramic alien

Ceramic artist Monsieur Cailloux makes these cute little ceramic creatures that are members of the Cailloux tribe “straight from the stone planet MRCX”. I like these little creatures, but whatever you think of them, you gotta admire this guy’s commitment to the bit. (via colossal)

Ayo Edebiri Draws a New Yorker Cartoon

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2024

In June 2021 (pre The Bear), New Yorker cartoonist Zoe Si coached Ayo Edebiri through the process of drawing a New Yorker cartoon. The catch: neither of them could see the other’s work in progress. Super entertaining.

I don’t know about you, but Si’s initial description of the cartoon reminded me of an LLM prompt:

So the cartoon is two people in their apartment. One person has dug a hole in the floor, and he is standing in the hole and his head’s poking out. And the other person is kneeling on the floor beside the hole, kind of like looking at him in a concerned manner. There’ll be like a couch in the background just to signify that they’re in a house.

Just for funsies, I asked ChatGPT to generate a New Yorker-style cartoon using that prompt. Here’s what it came up with:

A New Yorker style cartoon depicting a man standing in a hole in the floor of an apartment, holding a shovel with only his head and shoulders visible. A woman floats beside him, with a concerned expression.

Oh boy. And then I asked it for a funny caption and it hit me with: “I said I wanted more ‘open space’ in the living room, not an ‘open pit’!” Oof. ChatGPT, don’t quit your day job!

“The Curious Case of the Contested Basquiats”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2024

For the Atlantic, Bianca Bosker writes about a trove of paintings supposedly by Jean-Michel Basquiat that were discovered in a storage locker, ended up in a museum, and then seized by the FBI as fakes. As the owner of a pretty-convincing-but-probably-fake Basquiat purchased at a Mexico City flea market (that is also painted on cardboard), I read this story with great interest.

Science promises to be a neutral and exacting judge, though in reality forensics aren’t always much help either. Technical analysis can rule out an artwork — pieces from the trove of purported Pollocks with which Mangan was involved were exposed as forgeries after researchers found pigments that postdated the artist’s life — but it can’t rule it in as definitively by the artist in question. Some forgers will submit their handiwork for forensic testing so they can see what flags their pieces as counterfeit, then adjust their methods accordingly. Scientific techniques are also far less useful for contemporary artists like Basquiat, who relied on materials that are still available and for which the margin of error on many tests is wide. When the collector in Norway sent a painting he’d purchased from Barzman to be carbon-dated, the test revealed that the cardboard could be from either the 1950s or the 1990s.

What does it matter if art is authentic?

Our obsession with artworks’ authenticity can in part be traced back to what’s known as the “law of contagion”: Pieces are thought to acquire a special essence when touched by the artist’s hand. Yet the intense distaste for forgeries reveals a dirty secret about our relationship with art, which is that we tend to fixate on genius and authorship more than the aesthetic qualities of the work we claim to value so highly. The writer Arthur Koestler, in an essay on snobbery, goes so far as to argue that when judging a work, who made it should be considered “entirely extraneous to the issue.” What matters more, he argues, is what meets the eye.

When I see art in person or visit historic places, I often think to myself that I am standing where the artist or famous personage once stood — and it makes me feel something. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with magic though.

Vintage Space Age Playing Cards (1964)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2024

six of diamonds playing card with GO and NO GO printed on it

jack of clubs playing card with a space monkey eating a banana on it

two of spades playing card with a red hot air balloon on it

joker playing card with a picture of Superman

queen of hearts playing card with Amelia Earhart on it

nine of diamonds playing card with a Earth/Moon diagram on it

The General Dynamics Astronautics Space Cards were printed up in 1964 to celebrate the American space program. This Flickr account has scans of every card in the deck, including both jokers. Each suit corresponds to a different aspect of the program:

These space cards tell a story — the story of America’s man-in-space programs. The hearts deal with the human element, the clubs portray the sciences, the spades show products, and the diamonds depict modern aerospace management without which the other three elements could not be successful…

If you’d like your own factory-sealed deck, you can buy one on eBay for $249. (thx, mark)

Rat Selfies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2024

a white rat taking a photo of itself

a brown rat taking a photo of itself

For a photographic experiment based on the Skinner box, Augustin Lignier trained a pair of rats to take photos of themselves, aided by a sugary reward. When the rewards became intermittent, the rats kept snapping away, sometimes even ignoring the sugar.

To Mr. Lignier, the parallel is obvious. “Digital and social media companies use the same concept to keep the attention of the viewer as long as possible,” he said.

Indeed, social media has been described as “a Skinner Box for the modern human,” doling out periodic, unpredictable rewards — a like, a follow, a promising romantic match — that keep us glued to our phones.

Or maybe being able to keep ourselves busy pressing buttons is its own reward. In a 2014 study, scientists concluded that many human volunteers “preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.” Maybe we would rather sit around and push whatever levers are in front of us — even those that might make us feel bad - than sit with ourselves in quiet contemplation.

“When We Return You Won’t Recognise Us”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2024

colorful surrealist impressionist painting of a woman with crazy hair

I do not remember how I stumbled upon this painting by British artist Glenn Brown but I like it quite a lot. You can check out more of his work on his website.


posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2024

Bert from Sesame Street and Velma from Scooby Doo posed like Superman

Steve Zissou and Pee-wee Herman posed like Superman

a number of familiar characters posed like Superman

a number of familiar characters posed like Superman

Using an iconic Superman pose, artist Mike Mitchell has translated all sorts of familiar characters onto that pose, including C-3PO, Velma from Scooby Doo, Charlie Brown, Ned Flanders, Pee-wee Herman, Bert from Sesame Street, Steve Zissou, and Spongebob Squarepants. Here’s an animation of all them. (via moss & fog)

Footsteps in the Snow

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2024

embroidery that looks like footsteps in the snow

detail of an embroidery that looks like footsteps in the snow

Absolutely stunning embroidery piece by Narumi Takada of boot prints and animal tracks1 in freshly fallen snow. Just lovely.

  1. I thought these were dog tracks at first because of the shape but you can’t see the claws so maybe they are cat tracks?

An Artist Creates the Family Xmas Card, From Age 3 to 36

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 25, 2023

Since he was a toddler, artist C.W. Moss has made the artwork for his family’s Christmas card. Here are some early installments from when he was three & seven:

two little kid drawings of Christmas cards

Some from when Moss was 17 and 29:

Two Christmas cards. The one on the left is a dense doodle-like drawing with a four-pointed star near the center. The right one is titled 'The 365 of 2016' and it repeats 'NOT CHRISTMAS' until it gets to 'MERRY CHRISTMAS'

And the most recent one from age 36 (you can watch how he draws it):

a Christmas card that says 'Joy or Else' on it

It’s fascinating to see his artistic sense grow and shift over the years, not only increasing in artistic skill as he gets older but also moving from simple depictions of holiday scenes to more conceptual creations.

The Drawings of Virginia Frances Sterrett

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2023

an illustration of a woman hugging a deer next to a cat

a small man in red cowers under a huge green man

I love these drawings by Virginia Frances Sterrett.

At fourteen, unthoughtful of achievement and ambition, friends persuaded her to send her drawings to the Kansas State Fair. To her surprise, she won first prize in three different categories. The originality of her drawings — which, throughout her life, came to her as visions she felt she was merely channeling onto the page with her pen and brush — captivated two successful local artists, who encouraged her to pursue formal study.

Harry Clarke’s Illustrations

posted by Edith Zimmerman   Dec 06, 2023

Every so often on Instagram I come across Harry Clarke’s stringy, spooky illustrations for the 1919 Edgar Allan Poe collection Tales of Mystery & Imagination (above left) or the 1925 version of Goethe’s Faust. Poking around led me to this 2016 story in the Public Domain Review: “Harry Clarke’s Looking Glass.” As I learned, he once wrote to a friend that his publisher thought a set of his Faust illustrations were “full of stench and steaming horrors.”

50watts has more great images, and here’s a zoomable version of the “Sea Witch” (above right) from his illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”

Alex Tomlinson’s Bird Art

posted by Edith Zimmerman   Nov 30, 2023

alex-tomlinson-bird-art.jpgI came across Alex Tomlinson’s work on Instagram one day in 2022 (it was featured on Audubon Society merch, which I bought immediately), and have been enjoying it ever since. I’m having one of his “Red-Eyed Birds of North America” posters framed as a gift for myself this Christmas! He also sells tons of cards, stickers, and apparel on his website. [hootalexarchive/pigeonpost]

Portrait Candles

posted by Edith Zimmerman   Nov 29, 2023

For my husband’s birthday, I got him a candle sculpted to look like us, by the artist Janie Korn. It’s brought a lot of joy. She also makes custom pet and house candles, as well as cookie, cigarette, and Marie Antoinette candles, among many others. [Janie Korn]

A Master Printer Makes His Final Print

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2023

This video from MoMA follows master printer Jacob Samuel as he makes his final print before he retires.

As he inks, hand wipes, and rolls his final print through the press, he reflects on his philosophy. “My goal is to leave no fingerprints,” he says. All you see is the artist’s work. I’m just another pencil. I’m just another brush. But I want the pencil to be sharpened really well. I want the brush to be sable. And to do that and be completely spontaneous, I trust the materials.”

I’d Knit That: Kendall Ross’s Knitted Wearable Artworks

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2023

a sweater with several brightly colored patches with knitted words

a cream-colored sweater with lots of words and objects knitted into it

a white sweater with lots of words knitted into it

a brightly colored sweater with lots of words knitted into it

I love these busy, wordy, and brightly colored sweaters from Kendall Ross. From her about page:

Kendall Ross, aka “I’d Knit That”, is an Oklahoma City based fiber artist. She is best known for hand-knitting colorful, wearable art pieces. She uses intricate hand-knitting colorwork methods like intarsia and fair isle to illustrate images and incorporate her original texts into the fabric of her work. Each stitch on every sweater, vest, mural, and textile is painstakingly planned and knit over countless hours using two needles and wool.

You can check out more of Ross’s work on Instagram.

The Art of Dried Flowers and Large-Scale Embroidery

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2023

a person holding a huge embroidery decorated with dried flowers

dried flowers arranged in the shape of the letter A

flowers and branches arrnaged in a circular pattern on an embroidery hoop

branches arrnaged in a circular pattern on an embroidery hoop

Many thanks to Colossal for introducing me to artist Olga Prinku, who forages for flowers, branches, and other natural elements and incorporates them into large-scale embroidery works. Quite lovely. Check out more of her art on her website and on Instagram.

10 Rules for Drawing From Christoph Niemann

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2023

two of Christoph Niemann's 10 rules for drawing: 2. Be reckless. 3. Deliberately ruin a drawing.

Illustrator Christoph Niemann shares 10 Things I Remind Myself Before I Draw. I’m a strong advocate of his 10th rule:

Sitting at my desk is always right. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make good work. There are millions of tips and tricks and manifestos out there. But at the end there’s only one single truth for me: sit down and start drawing.

(thx, matt)

Creating a Gentle World on a Little Leaf

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2023

leaf cutout art of a rabbit offering hot soup to other animals

leaf cutout art of a rabbit with an umbrella

leaf cutout art of crab constellation in the sky over a city

leaf cutout art of an animal band

A man named Lito makes these incredibly intricate artworks using the natural canvas of tree leaves — he posts all of his creations on Instagram.

Time Lapse Video of a Massive Lego Build of The Great Wave off Kanagawa

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2023

Lego master Jumpei Mitsui spent over 400 hours building a 3D version of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa out of 50,000 Lego bricks — you can watch a time lapse of the construction in the video above. The build was included at an exhibition of Hokusai’s work at the MFA in Boston:

In order to create Hokusai’s Wave in three dimensions, he made a detailed study of rogue waves and their characteristics. He also drew on childhood memories of waves near his family home at Akashi on the Inland Sea.

The video slows down to realtime in spots, so you can see how fast he’s actually building (quite fast). And you can also see the level of trial and error involved as he builds and then un-builds the waves until he’s happy with them. (via the kid should see this)

Hundreds of Gorgeous Vintage Watercolors of Mushrooms

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2023

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

From 1913 to 1944, amateur mycologist Hans Walty created hundreds of fantastic watercolor illustrations of mushrooms, which are available to peruse in very high-resolution at Wikimedia Commons. There’s not a great deal of information about Walty or his drawings online,1 but I did find this piece from the Swiss National Library.

His images depict the colours and shapes of the mushrooms’ fruiting bodies and sometimes also include drawings of microscopic views. The fungi are usually depicted from the side and often from the top and bottom as well. Walty also frequently documented the characteristics of the stems, spores and undersides of the caps. The hobby mycologist also produced an explanatory book to accompany his illustrations that contains descriptions of the mushrooms, with each specimen being assigned a family and genus. His illustrations often contain notes about the time and date the mushroom was found and whether it was edible, inedible or poisonous.

Walty’s illustrations were published in multiple editions of a Swiss mushroom guide from the 40s through the 70s. According to the German version of Wikipedia (translated): “For decades, 500 of his illustrations on mushrooms were considered a standard work on mushroom identification, especially in Switzerland.”

Again, you can browse through hundreds of Walty’s mushroom illustrations at Wikimedia Commons. (thx, christoph)

  1. Not in English at least; Walty was born in Italy and lived in Germany and Switzerland for much of his life. A biography is available on the German version of Wikipedia.

Papercraft Four-Color Houses

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 24, 2023

tidy papercraft houses each made using a palette of three to four colors

Papercraft artist Charles Young has been sourcing color combinations from this book and using them to construct extremely tidy and precise little buildings.

Starting in May 2020 I used Sanzo Wada’s Dictionary of Colour Combinations as inspiration for a new project introducing colour to my paper work for the first time. The book is made up of two, three and four colour combinations drawn from Japanese design and publishing in the early 20th century.

Check this out to get a sense of the scale — they’re really tiny. You can see many more of these on Instagram. It is actually hard to believe these are made out of paper and not computer generated. (via present & correct)

The 10-Millionth Visitor to the Rijksmuseum Spends the Night Sleeping Under Rembrandt

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 24, 2023

This story is a few years old but it charmed me too much this morning to let it slide. In 2017, four years after its grand reopening, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum welcomed its 10-millionth visitor, a man named Stefan Kasper. His lucky timing resulted in getting to spend the night in the museum, where he dined and slept underneath Rembrandt’s the Night Watch.

Sleep Rijksmuseum

Here’s a short video of Kasper’s time in the museum:

I still can’t believe it. I discovered characters that I have never seen before. They came to life in front of me. It’s an experience that is forever etched in my memory.

Not the same, but I got to go to a press preview when the MoMA reopened a few years ago after renovations and it was quite an experience to wander those familiar galleries pretty much by myself. I stood in front of Starry Night and One: Number 31, 1950 for a really long time that morning.

Great Books Explained

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2023

One of my recent favorite YouTube channels is James Payne’s Great Art Explained, which does exactly what it says on the tin, showcasing works of art like Starry Night, the Great Wave, and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Payne recently launched a new channel in the same vein: Great Books Explained. Here’s a trailer, featuring a short clip of his exploration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Being an avid reader, I always wanted to do a book channel as well, but did not have the time, so these films are collaborations with different writers who are passionate about certain books, and the first release will be James Joyce’s Ulysses (in this case co-created with Henry Mountford). This will be followed by Alice.

The video on James Joyce’s Ulysses is out now:

(via open culture)

A Family of Humming-Birds

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2023

a poster depicting hundreds of hummingbirds in a swarm

Wow, Nicholas Rougeux has restored John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds, which was published between 1848 & 1887 and contains hand-colored lithographic depictions of almost every single hummingbird species known to exist at the time.

a pair of hummingbirds fly amongst flowers

two hummingbirds perch on a plant

three hummingbirds perch on a flowering plant

From Rougeux’s page about the project:

The monograph is considered one of the finest examples of ornithological illustration ever produced, as well as a scientific masterpiece. Gould’s passion for hummingbirds led him to travel to various parts of the world, such as North America, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, to observe and collect specimens. He also received many specimens from other naturalists and collectors.

The image at the top of the post is the gorgeous poster that Rougeux created from the drawings in Gould’s monograph…you can order some for your walls and read a making-of.

See also other projects by Rougeux that I’ve posted about.

Why Henry VIII’s Codpiece Is So…Monumental

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2023

Perhaps the most prominent part of the most well-known painting of Henry VIII (a now-lost work by Hans Holbein the Younger) is the giant codpiece poking through the male-heirless king’s tunic. Evan Puschak analyzes the painting and fills us in on what makes this a particularly effective work of 16th-century propaganda.

Puschak had some fun with this one…I lol’d at “triple dick”, which under no circumstances should you google (like I did) at work or really anywhere else. Although, “triple dick art history” did lead me to this interesting piece on “ostentatio genitalium”:

Ostentatio genitalium (the display of the genitals) refers to disparate traditions in Renaissance visual culture of attributing formal, thematic, and theological significance to the penis of Jesus.

This bit got me laughing again:

…these Renaissance images shock us because they are so frequently ithyphallic: Christ has risen, but not in the way we have come to expect.