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Posts by Brian

March 7, 2013 | Posted by | No Comments

Art and the Madness of the March Hare

European Hare on

According to Wikipedia, the expression “mad as a March hare”  “is an English idiomatic phrase derived from the observed antics, said to occur (some say incorrectly) only in the March breeding season, of the Hare, genus Lepus. The phrase is an allusion that can be used to refer to any other animal or human who behaves in the excitable and unpredictable manner of a ‘March hare’.”

March Hare by John Tenniel on

In his 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLewis Carroll created a memorable character from this old proverb in the form of the March Hare, one of the whimsical guests at the Tea Party, for whom John Tenniel’s illustration remains most people’s preferred or most recognizable realization.

The March Hare as he appears in the 1951 film Alice in Wonderland

Long after its appearance in a beloved literary classic, and even further removed from its proverbial origins, The March Hare appears in film numerous times, most notably in animated form in the Disney classic and nearly 60 years later as Thackery Earwicket in another Disney film created by Tim Burton.

Thackery Earwicket as he appears in the 2010 film

In fact, imdb lists 39 appearances of this character from 1931 to 2011. From the very first sighting of the antics of hares in spring, it seems we have a fascination for excitable, unpredictable, even nonsensical behavior, even if it turns out on closer inspection to make its own kind of perfect sense. As this can also be said of most artists, perhaps there is a little bit of the March Hare in us all.

Detail of Ra Bat canvas by Brian Sylvester 2009

It is with mixed emotions that I arrive in this paragraph at the end of my last WallSpin post. After over two years of weekly appearances, it’s time to move on to other things. Many thanks to all of you who have left positive comments here and elsewhere, and to Zatista for giving me this opportunity to step back occasionally from making art to write about it.

Many thanks to Brian Sylvester for being a contributing writer here on WallSpin. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, let us know!


February 28, 2013 | Posted by | 1 Comment

The Artist’s Palette

Palette No. 1 from

In more than one place on the internet I’ve recently seen images purportedly of famous artists’ actual working palettes. I am not certain of the original source or even whether these are authentic artifacts.

Palette No. 2 on

If you are a better fact checker than I, and can learn more than I did, please let me know. For those of you who have not stumbled upon them yet via Google, here are some of them for your consideration.

Palette No. 3 on

Whether or not these are genuine, I like the idea of being able to mentally reconstruct master painters’ works by examining where they literally came from.  At the very least, they make an interesting conversation starter.

Palette No. 4 on

If I and whoever else stumbles on these images had not already seen the names of the artists below the images, it would have been a nice challenge, even a fun party game, especially among more art-minded friends, to try to guess the artist by their colors and how they are applied.

Palette No. 5 on

Which is why I have left off the names until the end of this post, in case you would like to try your luck.

Palette No. 6 on

Warning: stop here if you still want to guess!

The artists are, in order:

Van Gogh

Paul Gauguin

Gustave Moreau

Georges Seurat

Eugene Delacroix

Edgar Degas

How did you do? Let us know here on WallSpin.

Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.



February 19, 2013 | Posted by | No Comments

Athletes in Art

Skaters by Cyril Power on

In a previous post about images of dancers in art, I considered the irony of painters and photographers who seek to render one art form that is all about physical mass and motion in another art form that is all about surface and moments arrested in time.

The Runners by Cyril Power on

But there are other ways for artists who aren’t particularly attracted to the drama and spectacle of dance to examine human movement in their works. As subjects in works of various styles and media throughout the centuries, athletes engaged in their sport are as ubiquitous as dancers performing their art.

The Eight by Cyril Power on

20th century British artist Cyril Power, whose background was actually in architecture, made several linocuts of athletes in motion. His stylized abstract approach creates the illusion of movement with figures that appear to be moving almost too quickly for the eye to follow, who are almost reduced to the lines of movement itself.

Surfacing Figure by Allan O Mara on

A sampling of artists on Zatista proves that the interest in athletic activities as subjects remains strong today. Athletes can be captured up close and personal as solitary figures seemingly lost in an activity, the ultimate study of the human condition striving to achieve.

Olympic Cyclists On Track by Warren Keating on

Or, athletes can be captured at a distance in the midst of a group competition that creates its own unique visual composition and social dynamic. With preparations for the upcoming 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia already in the news, I am sure you’ll soon be seeing a lot more of athletes and sports as subject matter in both art and popular culture.  But if you need a sneak preview, you can always seek out your local gallery, online and off.

Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.


February 12, 2013 | Posted by | No Comments

The Art of Surviving February

Last Snow in February by Richard Szkutnik on

Considering it is the shortest of the year, February can sometimes seem an interminable month, when memories of holiday festivities past seem as far away as the promise of spring. Wherever you may live, you are probably tired of the extremes of whatever season you happen to be stuck in the middle of.

Nocturne in March by Richard Szkutnik on

On the whole March has a lot more going for it. Daylight Savings Time begins, with the Vernal Equinox and St. Patrick’s Day soon after, followed by Passover and Easter.

Mem’s April Chairs by Deborah Cushman on

As if the general air of release and celebration were not already fully realized, April seals the deal, by beginning with a day on which we are not only allowed, but encouraged to pull pranks on each other, and offering us an equally shameless and silly riot of color in the form of spring blossoms.

Love Always by Sharis Dejaynes on

Fortunately here in the States we have a few special occasions to distract us and help move along the progress of this least popular time of the year.  First we had the annual rites of passage known as Groundhog Day and Super Bowl Sunday, next came Chinese New Year, this week Valentine’s Day, and next week President’s Day.

Spring Thaw by Nina Fuller on

For some of us these days provide a brief moment of relief, a day off from work, or a timely opportunity to let loved ones know they’re loved. For others they are a welcome sign that better times are ahead and getting closer.  But for those of you who still can’t wait, art is a great way to bridge the gap between where you are and where you’d rather be.  The next time February gets you down, remember that here on Zatista, escape is just a click away!

Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.


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February 5, 2013 | Posted by | 1 Comment

Snakes in Art

Stamp released to commemorate the year of the snake on

To continue last month’s theme of it not being too late to start the new year off right, or for those of you who can’t get enough of celebrating new beginnings, February 10th marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, which is actually a two week long festival of feasting, family reunions and fun for Asian cultures throughout the world. 2013 is the Year of the Snake.

Snake Road by Edward Zelinsky on

The use of snakes as a motif in art has been around almost as long as snakes themselves, and almost everywhere they are found. Whether they come with good or bad connotations, they continue to have their appeal in everything from fine art to fashion to popular culture.

Snake by Susan Grissom on

Few people can consider a snake, in person or in an artwork, without some sort of strong reaction, so it is not surprising that they appear as subjects throughout history to this day. For every person with a deep fear or aversion to the creature, there is another who believes them to be beautiful and desirable company. One look at the photograph above most likely elicited from readers a whole range of responses.

Forbidden Fruit by Kim Weimer on

In Chinese astrology, those born in a snake year are believed to have the same cunning, charm and power of seduction associated with their animal counterpart, but not necessarily with bad intentions or results!

Journey by Jennifer Childs on

One thing is certain – snakes continue to fascinate us with their elusive nature and sinuous movement. Look for snakelike images or designs the next time you are viewing art or architecture.  And, Happy New Year!

Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.


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