6 Simple-Looking Artworks That Were Actually Really Difficult To Accomplish
By: Rachel P.
Have you ever thought “Oh, I could’ve easily done that” when looking at a piece in a museum? If you have, then you must be able to carry out extremely difficult techniques and even math! Here are six simple-looking masterpieces that were actually made with very complex processes.
6. Jackson Pollock’s “Random” Artworks Are Actually Explained By Physiscs
In 2006, Jackson Pollock’s painting No. 5, 1948 was sold to an anonymous buyer for around $140 million. Jackson Pollock
Pollock is famous for his drip painting masterpieces, and many consider his work that of a child.
There’s software which can tell a real Pollock painting from an elaborate forgery. But how is that possible? Because Pollock’s work contains fractals: infinitely complex, never-ending mathematical patterns that are specific to his work. While everyone thought he was merely dripping paint everywhere randomly, he was in fact creating entire worlds.Discover Magazine
So how do we know the fractals aren’t there by accident? Well, the later the Pollock painting, the richer and more complex the patterns, and thus the greater its fractal dimension. And there are even more mysteries hiding in his work. It appears that Pollock took advantage of an area of fluid dynamics scientists have only recently thought to study. This phenomenon is called “coiling,” and you’ve experienced it while dripping honey. It’s when thick fluid falls onto itself in the form of coils, similarly to rope, and creates patterns that can be described by a mathematical equation. In order to control the coiling, Pollock used a rod to drip the paint onto the canvas instead of pouring it straight from the can or using a brush. By mixing paints of various densities and moving his arm at different speeds, he was able to control the patterns that would show up in the final painting.
5. Mark Rothko’s Colorful Blobs Are Made Of Hundreds Of Meticulously Mixed Layers
If you’ve never heard of Mark Rothko, here are two of his most famous paintings, Black On Maroon and Orange And Yellow:
Black On Maroon, 1958. Tate Museum
Orange and Yellow, 1956. Mark Rothko
Rothko would go to extreme lengths to get a certain tone. He’d do everything possible … except use the actual color of paint, that is. One of his techniques was to create differently-colored squares using the exact same pigment. He’d apply a bunch of layers on top of one another in varying amounts, creating different hues. Another involved layering various colors to create a completely different one — Black on Maroon up there, for example, is more like Ultramarine Blue On Maroon On Blue-Black On Brown-Black On Etc., but that’s a way less catchy title.
Rothko’s layers were so thin that you can see what’s underneath in some spots, or under very bright light. It’s like you’re looking at dozens or even hundreds of paintings at on top of each other. Finally, Rothko’s paintings were a lot bigger than a Google Image search thumbnail would suggest …
“That’s right. My paintings are so big that they only fit on your mom’s fridge.” – Mark Rothko. Albright-Knox Art Gallery
4. Those Crude Caveman Hand Prints Were Made By Inventing Ancient Spray PaintLuc-Henri Fage
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the hands above aren’t really painted; they’re stenciled. And since spray cans wouldn’t be invented for a few dozen millennia, the cave people had to invent a complicated process to create that effect. In the first step, the troglodyte artist mixed a special watered-down pigment, ensuring it had a runny quality. Next, using a bivalve shell to hold the paint, they would insert a hollow bone into it like a straw. Then the artist held the shell close to the wall while using a second bone/straw to blow across the first. This created a vacuum which sucked the pigment from the shell and redistributed it in spray form, making a cloudy splash of color around the hand. Blowing the pigment this way quickly resulted in lightheadedness, which means that the association between art and getting messed up goes back way further than we thought.
3. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Repetitions Were Individually Painted In Detail
Andy Warhol’s best known piece is a copy/paste job of the exact same soup can:
It’s no secret that Warhol specialized in screen printing, wherein a stencil allows the artist to crap out as many copies of a painting as they want. So all Warhol had to do here was put paint the same stencil over and over again.
It’s not the exact same can — every one is a different flavor. The Campbell’s Soup series marks the transition in Warhol’s career between painting by hand and using the mass production process. Warhol painted everything himself, e bought cans at the supermarket, projected them onto the canvas, and carefully painted within the outlines. Only the contours of the cans and the highlights of the words “Campbell’s” and “Soup” were screen-printed, while the fleur-de-lis pattern was hand-stamped. He filled in and lettered the 32 different cans by hand. To complicate matters, there is another Campbell’s Soup series which was screen-printed in its entirety, but this was made a few years later.
2. Yves Klein’s “Blue” Was An Entirely Unique Invention
It’s certainly a nice shade of blue … but that’s all there is. There’s no hidden layer or optical illusion here; the work is nothing but a canvas painted blue. It’s not a singular occurrence, either. At one point, Klein held an exhibition of 11 of his works, all of which were canvases painted the exact same blue.
That particular shade of blue was the result of an insanely difficult process. The whole thing began when Klein published a book of monochrome paintings, which he exhibited at public showings. The audience, however, interpreted the work as a showcase of different bits of interior decoration.
A bit miffed that his artistic manifesto had been mistaken for an IKEA catalog, Klein decided to take monochrome painting to a new level — namely, by inventing a new color. His International Klein Blue is a unique, brilliantly luminous shade of blue … which you’ll probably never witnessunless you get to look at a Klein painting in the flesh. See, when artists’ paints are made, the pigment is mixed with some kind of binding medium, which has a tendency to dull the color (which, in turn, makes it easier to reproduce in screens or print). Klein wanted a blue that would never lose its glow, and after much experimentation, he finally found an art shop which sold a special type of binding material (Rhodopas M60A) which allowed him to mix the perfect shade.
1. Ancient Egyptian Drawings Were Constructed Proportionally On A Mathematical Grid
It’s kind of pretty in a stylized and iconic way, but it doesn’t seem all that technically impressive. The ancient Egyptians are known more as engineers, not artists, which might leave you a bit cold in the gallery.
They were both engineers and artists, even bringing the former to the latter. First, they had to draw up a grid, dividing the work surface into parts of equal proportions. Only then could they start figuring out where to put each body part, all of which had to take a specific number of squares (presumably to prevent the occurrence of Rob Liefeld feet). Different kinds of figures were to be specific sizes — a standing figure, for example, always had to occupy 18 squares from the feet to their expressive eyes.
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