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Visual Vocabulary and the Best $6.95 You’ll Ever Spend


Left: one in a series of pages from my journal showing notes and diagrams I made on a recent trip to the Minneapolis Art Institute. Click on the image to see an enlargement.

My friend Tom is working with his photographic portraits in Painter (a “natural media” painting software program that mimics oil painting, watercolor, charcoal, etc. depending on the tool selections you make). I visited his studio the other day and looked over his samples. We chatted about filters which rendered things automatically and about making adjustments manually and how best to make those adjustments. It was clear to me right away that we needed to see some oil paintings (the technique he was working on, and a painting medium in which I don’t work).

So we looked at our calendars and agreed to meet in a few days at the Minneapolis Art Institute. That day I went right to the information desk with a plan: Do you have any Sargents? Yes, they had two. The Birthday Party—my heart sank, that was a lovely painting in which everyone’s eyes were downcast or blurred by the glowing candles. I didn’t recognize the other painting’s name, in fact, when we got to the gallery where it hung the painting turned out to be a cityscape that was of no use to us.

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