(Art?)book of the Day: Counting with Wayne Thiebaud

Okay, this isn’t a traditional artbook, per se. I mean, most art books cost upwards of $60, have 100+ pages, and tend to come in at above a 1st grade reading level. This book meets none of those criteria, but, yknow, Wayne Thiebaud. ‘Nuff said.

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It’s exactly as the title suggests

This book is just too adorable to pass up. So, even though I have managed to reach the age of 23 with the ability to count to 10 (still working up to 20- I’ll get there,) I still love this simple little book.

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It’s kind of funny how well Thiebaud’s work fits in with such a childish concept. I call him a “painter’s painter” all the time, as the subtleties in his approach to everyday objects tend to be more readily appreciated by fellow painters. But obviously, his bright color palette, along with his playful subject matter totally fits with a children’s book concept.

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*spoiler alert*

Thinking back, I realize that what I probably most remember from my favorite books as a kid is the artwork (I’ve talked before about my love for Leo Lionni’s charmingly simple  illustrations in particular.) What better way to introduce children to amazing artists than through a counting lesson? I don’t need to count to ten to know that Wayne Thiebaud is number one in my book. (Sorry, that was terrible.)

Artbook of the Day: Vision and Revision

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Since I love playing with monotypes, and since I am so enamored with everything by Wayne Thiebaud, I immediately fell in love with this book while browsing amazon. Not many people know that Thiebaud actually has made a sizable body of work in printmaking.

VnR Thiebaud_Sardines

Wayne Thiebaud, Sardines, watercolor over hard-ground etching, 1990

It’s interesting to see his trademark subject matter and aesthetic translated into this medium-  a medium that is in many ways similar to painting. Interestingly, part of the “revision” of these works becomes apparent as Thiebaud works into the prints with other mediums, like pastel and watercolor:

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Wayne Theibaud, Six Candied Apples, watercolor over hard-ground and drypoint etching, 1990

The forward, written by Thiebaud, starts:

“I think the most compelling part of drawing and painting is the continuing thrill of learning how they can be made. Working on prints is an extension of this constant search.”

It’s this clear enthusiasm for the formal, raw process of painting that makes Thiebaud so easy for me to admire. A true painter’s painter… Who also makes amazing prints.

Art Book of the Day: Wayne Thiebaud, A Retrospective

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I finally got my hands on this somewhat rare art book from Acquavella showcasing some beautiful new and previously unpublished works by Wayne Thiebaud. As you all know, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of his work. This is also my first nice, hardcover art book of Thiebaud paintings! It’s one thing to see the works online, but there’s something about holding a book of high quality reproductions in your hands that brings the whole experience just a little closer to seeing them in person.

I’m a huge fan of Thiebaud’s recent work, which includes gorgeously lush, vibrant (and kind of perspectively ambiguous!) landscapes:

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Wayne Thiebaud- Layered Ridge , 2010, Oil on Canvas.

As I said, the book features previously unpublished work both from Thiebaud’s own collection and that of his wife, Betty Jean!

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This is a cigar box that he painted for her as a gift! D’awww.

And that’s just about the only thing about Thiebaud that’s shocking- he’s so normal. Besides his extraordinary status as a masterful painter, he seems like a normal guy, with a middle class upbringing and now a comfortable, married life. No dancing on tables at the Chelsea Hotel, not dropping acid at studio 54- just a normal, well-adjusted guy. He speaks delightfully candidly about his own work as well. The book includes some snippets from interviews, and in one Thiebaud remarks how he isn’t interested in the commercial status of his subjects (like the pop painters) but simply saw a slice of pie as “a triangle on a round plate.” Maybe it’s this normalcy and candid nature of his that has largely kept him out of the limelight, in the sense that he has never achieved say, Richter-level status of celebrity.

And he’s still going! A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that yes, he’s still alive and, yes, he’s still painting away and showing regularly. John Wilmerding, in the forward to the book, aptly states “In a contentious, cynical, and chaotic age his art brings to the table optimism, humor, and order.”

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Wayne Thiebaud, reservoir and orchard, 2001.

My Tribute to Thiebaud’s “Rabbit”

I’ve never done a tribute of any sorts to a famous artist’s work before- yet I see this all the time in art school. I’ve never so much as kept an art book open while working. I guess a part of me thought it was wrong to look at another artist’s work for enough inspiration that it became really noticeable. BUT, I’ve come to realize, that when you really love and admire another artist’s work, sometimes a fun little tribute can be just fine!

In my Painting III class right now, I basically can paint anything I want. I took advantage of this freedom to paint something I’d always wanted to paint but somehow never found the occasion to do so: a hamster. Now, let me explain: I love hamsters. I couldn’t have a dog, or a cat, or any sort of large, allergenic pet growing up. So, I had hamsters, and subsequently came to think of them as just about the most adorable, lovable animals out there.

And then, there’s this painting by Wayne Thiebaud, which shows a rabbit in the most interesting way I’ve ever seen a rabbit (or any cute and furry animal) painted:

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Wayne Thiebaud: Rabbit.

Ever since seeing this painting, I’ve told myself that I would do a painting of my own as a sort of “tribute” using a hamster as a subject. A few years later, I finally did it:

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Megan Koth, Hamster, Oil on Canvas, 2013.

This was something I painted solely for myself, just for fun. I’m in the middle of developing my body of work for my thesis exhibition, so I haven’t painted something just for the heck of it in awhile. I’m glad that I took a break to paint something fluffy (both figuratively and literally) and fun!

Wayne Thiebaud Revisited

Although known mostly for his sumptuous cakes and desserts (of which I’ve certainly admired), American artist Wayne Thiebaud also made a variety of simple, quiet images of everyday objects. These works in particular are interesting me at the moment.

Wayne Thiebaud- Bow Ties 1990

Wayne Thiebaud, Lipsticks 1964

Wayne Thiebaud- Yellow Dress 1974

I like these simple still lives that depict classically feminine, everyday items. The bow, lipstick, and dress are such blatant signals of gendered femininity- but Thiebaud’s works remind me that they’re just simple, everyday consumer items. I love Thiebaud’s ability to find great beauty in the everyday object, in the homogeneity of mass produced items. He handles them similarly to the way he handles his cakes and desserts. Usually displayed in orderly rows in such a way as to be very deliberately presented to the viewer, these still lives remind us of their existence as mass produced, consumer items. Regardless, Thiebaud’s use of bold brushstrokes, delicious color and eye for design make the resulting images more that the sum of their parts.

Thiebaud’s work, much like his cakes, are endlessly rich with inspiration for me.

Good Enough to Eat: Wayne Thiebaud

I’ve always LOVED Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings. I think we’ve all admired one of his famous cake paintings:

Wayne Thiebaud- Cakes

They’re a delight. I’m not the hugest fan of still life- I always kind of just saw it as a tool- A painting skill I needed to acquire- rather than something that could be exciting, intriguing, and fun. He elevates the still life to something more than “just” a documentation of an object in space. Instead, his paintings of cakes and other confections harken back to lazy summer days at the ice-cream shop, or being a kid again at the bakery, face pressed to the glass, salivating over elegantly displayed baked delights just out of reach.

Wayne Thiebaud- Four Ice Cream Cones, collection of the Phoenix Art Museum

I really respond to the way he applies paint- liberally and thickly, but with intention. He seemed to apply the paint on his cakes much like a baker would apply frosting on said cake. His paintings weren’t textured for the sake of being textured- the texture highly enhanced the work itself. This is the way painting should be, in my mind. I love paintings that actually look like, you know, paintings. Don’t hide those brushstrokes! If I wanted something that looked like a photograph, I’d take a photograph. Anybody can photograph a cake, and anybody can paint a cake (not necessarily well), but not everyone can paint a cake and make the viewer feel like a kid at the bakery for the first time again.