Big Art creates contemporary, bespoke art for homes and offices

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Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue

Having recently stumbled across this excellent article on Piet Mondrian, (one of our favourite artists!) we thought it would be a good idea to reproduce something we wrote a few years back, plus five of his better known art quotes:

The first aim in painting should be universal expression

By the unification of architecture, sculpture and painting a new plastic reality will be created.

Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.

I think the destructive element is too much neglected in art

To move the picture into our surroundings and give it real existence, has been my ideal since I came to abstract painting

Piet Mondrian background

Piet Mondrian was born in the Amersfoort in the Netherlands in 1872 and died in New York in 1944. His importance as an artist lies in his contribution to ‘pure’ abstraction or non-representational forms. His paintings are more than just experimental and he aimed to reduce paintings to their most basic elements. For example in his London and New York works from 1938 – 1944 in there are typically white backgrounds with three primary colour.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue

I chose to look at Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue because although it was painted circa 1937–42 it looks really modern and could easily be hanging in the lobby of a fancy Merchant Bank or media empire head office. It comprises three primary colour rectangles separated by thick black vertical and horizontal grid lines. It is part of his series of geometric paintings in which the artist ironically tried to exclude all reference to the modern world outside. Mondrian called this ‘universal harmony’ and the use of the bold contrasting colours with the balanced lines helps to convey this. He is attributed as saying “All painting – the painting of the past as well as of the present – shows us that its essential plastic means we are only line and colour.”

This remarkable painting is in the Tate Gallery collection, London and is oil on canvas measuring 73.7 x 69.2 cm. For other great examples of Mondrian’s work have a look for Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942-43), Victory Boogie Woogie (1942–44), Composition 10,(1939-42), Place de la Concorde (1938-43) and for an earlier work have a look for Still Life with Ginger Jar II (1911/12). Sadly Mondrian is also an example of an artist who died when they were perhaps creating their finest and most influencial work – he died from pneumonia in New York City in 1944. 

Art as an investment

With interest rates at practically zero and traditonal investments like bonds, property and equities at or near all time highs, it is very difficult to find new ways to put money to work.

Art has one benefit over most other investments, in that if nothing else you have something nice to look at – well better than a share or bond certificate anyway. You certainly should not put all your spare cash into artwork, but as a fun, satisfying and possible long term investment there are worse things you can do (like buy wine as an investment for example!).

Booming art market

The global art market is currently booming with annual sales of around £40billion per year, but like all markets it is prone to boom and busts – there was a mini bust in 2008 for example. In financial markets there is some form of regulation (although this has proven to be woefully inadequate and useless in the past) but the artworld is largely unregulated, so as with all things, buyer beware!

Art as an investment

If you want to go for ‘original’ art then go for exactly that, not just cheap reproductions or prints. Everyone is always on the look-out for ‘up-and-coming’ artists but probably 99.9% of those described in this way will never become well known. If the artist is already well known then signed prints could be an option – prints from the artist Banksy seem to have rocketed in value in the last ten years or so, but this is the exception not the rule. The other things about original art from ‘affordable’ (i.e. not very well known) artists is that it has to be a very long term idea and of course should be something that you appreciate and enjoy. In the hope than an original artwork might increase in value is no justification for having something ugly or inappropriate hanging in your home for the next 20 or 30 years.

It makes a lot of sense to collect work from an artists you enjoy, but who are also making a name for themselves. Indications of this (aside from exhibitions at popular galleries) could include a popular website (that ranks highly in Google for search terms like ‘original art for sale’) and the number of Twitter or other social media followers that the artist might have. Similarly contemporary artists that keep getting mentioned in magazines and newspapers could also be genuine contenders for the term ‘up-and’ coming. An easy way to find out is to set up an alert for the artists’ name in Google – you can find out how to do that by clicking here. You will then get email alerts when the artist is mentioned – if you set up alerts for a range of artists you will get a feel for who is most talked about (or is better at PR at any rate!).

Assuming you do not have the spare cash to go to art auctions at Bonhams or Christie’s, then fine your favourite artists from an online searches. Bear in mind that when you view art on a screen the colours can vary from the original – not least because of your screen settings and the fact that the work on screen is back-lit.

Affordable Art Fairs

Another sensible route is to visit an affordable art fair. These are now quite common in UK cities and a quick search online will produce a list of fairs scheduled around the country. A good thing about art fairs is that you can view the art in person and even talk to the artist themselves. This is particularly useful if you intend to collect the work of a small number of artists – you might even get to know them a bit if you keep seeing them at fairs which can have advantages in terms of when they produce new work (you could find your way onto their emailing list perhaps).

Another advantage of original art fairs is that the mark-up on work will likely be less than that of a ‘bricks n mortar’ gallery which will have very high overheads. This is another issue with art investment that perhaps you don’t get with shares or bonds, namely that the spread (the difference between what you can buy or sell at) is huge. On a share this could be as low as .01% but on a piece of art there is no market or official price. In the same way as property is an ‘illiquid’ investment, selling a painting may take months or years to do!

Probably the most sensible advice for investing in art is either don’t (!) or simply buy something you like and are prepared to keep for your own pleasure – a different concept of value rather than just price!

Julian Kirk’s New Website

Artist and long time friend of BigArt has recently re-launched his new website –

Julian is best known for his motoring artwork and has a great love for old cars and their “precious smell composed of cracked leather, decayed petrol, grease and leaking Hypoid gear oil.” Jaguars, Astons, Talbots and a Ford GT40 have all been part of his car stable and many of them captured in paintings over the years. The home page of Julian’s website shows him working on a painting of a classic Riley car.

Artist Julian Kirk 'in action'

For the last four years, Julian has contributed cartoons for the very limited edition Jaguar Calendar – just 100 copies, each signed and numbered by Julian in the style of of limited edition hand-made prints. A must have for any Jaguar car enthusiast!

As well as cartoons and motoring art, Julian has also branched out into Murals, often using a technique known as ‘Trompe L’oeil’ – giving the impression of illusionary scenes to interior walls and ceilings – find out more here.

A recent exciting development for Julian is creating artwork for film and TV. He has done a series of paintings for the forthcoming feature film ‘Goy Detective and the Gentleman Pimp’ (details here) . The title alone suggests that this will certainly be something to look out for. Julian has contributed some of the backdrops and the grim imagery as if painted by the troubled central character of the policeman in the title.

Hope you enjoy Julian’s new website!

Setting-up an artists’ studio

Once you are fed up of using a spare bedroom as a studio – or worse still an actual bedroom – then you need to make plans for a proper studio. Many artists have made use of attic spaces, garden sheds, garages and even kitchens. The latter is not a particularly good idea given that many artist materials are poisonous and can give off unhealthy fumes. Another key consideration is light – the room you are working in should be equipped with good natural light.

Artists’ Garden Studio

One of the best ideas for an economical studio is to use some form of log cabin, even if the thought of doing this might seem like it is just one step up from a garden shed. All you basically need is a small garden or backyard to locate the cabin. Planning permission is usually not required unless the structure is over 4 metres high which should not be the case. There is often the option to have windows on three sides and possibly a dormer style window in the roof, all of which should allow natural light to flood in. Something like this…

Artists' log cabin studio

Artists’ log cabin studio

The example above would set you back around £3,500 although there are cheaper examples on this website – www.uniquelogcabins . If you are prepared to put the cabin together yourself you can save even more money. It it also worth considering having insulation to stop the studio being too warm in summer or too cold in winter although if you go for the 44mm heavy duty logs you will benefit naturally from the better insulation. Toughened glass should also be considered if you are likely to be throwing things around the studio – and why not!

Making Space

Make sure you have plenty of shelving and storage and folding tables and chairs will also help make the most of limited space. Get an easel that is easy to fold from it’s traditional upright manner and can be made into a flat surface. Some artists love to have a cluttered studio but in a small space this will only hold back creativity!

Health and Safety

It is probably a good rule not to eat or drink in your studio as there are a lot of harmful chemicals and solvents that you are going to be using. Check out the HSE website for more details – here. The studio should of course be well ventilated so if you do buy a garden log cabin for a studio make sure all the windows can be opened. Taking frequent breaks for fresh air and inspiration is always a good thing to do.

It almost goes without saying, but in a log cabin artists’ studio with all those solvent around, no smoking is a no brainer By definition the cabin is one door away from the outside world so use it if you want to smoke!

Author and occassional artist Rich Bloomfield works for Marketing Labs

Art from recycled products

It is great to see recycled objects being used in the creation of inspiring artwork and it is certainly a trend we are sure to see more of. As well as the benefits of helping to save the ‘planet’, using recycled objects also give artists the chance to use cheap and even free materials.

Upcycled tableIf you search the pages of the Pinterest website you will see 100s of amazing picture of ‘upcycled’ items often used in furniture or for outdoor purposes. However, in this article we have focused on recycled goods used to create pieces of artwork as opposed to useful object, although having said that, the first object (table made from recycled cutlery) could actually be used as a table. You might have problems though with jagged edges or if you were to drop anything small onto (or into) the table – a glass cover might be the solution in this case.

Recycled Art using Books

Books are another area where there is something of a trend in making sculptures and art statements. It helps that you can get hold of second hand books for next to nothing and there are endless possibilities for artists. The example shown below is where artist Aaron Packer has cut out the inner pages to make some brilliant book sculptures.

Book sculptures from recycled books

Erika Iris Simmons specialises in using non-traditional media like cassette tape to create absolutely unique and memorable works that feature musicians like The Beatles, Kurt Cobain and Michael Jackson. Two highly original works are shown below: Ghost In The Machine – Michael Jackson (below left) and The Beatles (below right) are made from cassette tape on canvas.

Michael Jackson and the Beatles recycled

Turning to the subject of food – you probably wouldn’t want to eat the following exhibit, although it is made from long grain rice and nori (seaweed paper). It is artist Hong Yi’s version of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” – you can see this and other examples of art made from food on the Business Insider website.

One of the strangest objects to have been made into an art sculpture are workplace safety steps. British – Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha used them in a piece called ‘Compass’ at the National Trust’s Ham House in Richmond, near London. As can be seen in the picture below, visitors were encouraged to interact with and become part of the art by climbing the red mobile safety steps sculpture.

Safety steps

4 red mobile safety steps used at an exhibit at the National Trust’s Ham House


The Thief of Art – The World’s Biggest Trove of Stolen Antique Art Ever Discovered

The Nazis plundered many things during their reign in Europe, and art was no exception. According to estimates, no less than 650,000 classic artworks were looted from art galleries, artists and private owners. The Allies discovered most of these artworks stored in more than 1,050 repositories in Germany and Austriawhen Germany lost the war. However, tens of thousands these precious paintings were never found. Pieces of stolen art are recovered from time to time, but what happened earlier this year shook the entire world.

It was the seizure of nearly 1,500 antique paintings worth more than a billion dollars from a reclusive white-haired old man in Munich. The stolen art included masterpieces by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Chagall, Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Kirchner, Delacroix, Daumier, and Courbet. The story behind the massive art collection is as intriguing as it is tragic.

The Thief of Art

The high-speed train from Zurich to Munich chiseled through the darkness on a cold September night in 2010. As it made its entry into Germany, some custom officers came on board for a routine check of passengers. The route is notorious because of the transit of illegal money, which is taken back and forth by Germans holding Swiss bank accounts.

Being trained to sniff out suspicious travelers, the officers spotted a white-haired, well-dressed gentleman. Upon inquiry, the old man told the officer that he had been on a visit to an art gallery in Bern. His Austrian passport said his name was Rolf Nikolaus Cornelius Gurlitt, born in Hamburg in 1932. The officers could smell something fishy and decided to search him.

The search revealed an envelope containing 9,000 Euros in crisp new bills; however, the amount was within the legal limit, so the officers allowed the man to go, but not before flagging him for further investigation. This is how a dark mystery began to unfold. The events of the subsequent years would open doors to the bitter memories from almost a century ago.

An investigation into Cornelius Gurlitt’s credentials and history intensified the suspicions. He had told the officers he had an apartment in Munich, although he resided in Salzburg. In fact, there was no record of his existence in Germany. No state pension, no health insurance, no employment records, no tax history, no bank accounts— the man was a ghost.

The mystery thickened as the investigators dug deeper. They found out that Cornelius had been living in a million-dollar-plus apartment in an affluent Munich neighborhood for more than 50 years. The “Gurlitt” part of his name held significance for those who knew who knew the name Hildebrand Gurlitt, the quarter Jewish museum-curator and the Nazi’s approved art dealer during the Third Reich, who had reputedly amassed a large collection of “looted” art, bought from Jewish dealers and collectors.

Was there a connection between Hildebrand Gurlitt and Cornelius Gurlitt? Could it be that the reclusive, obscure old man had been living off the sale of antique paintings? The investigators were curious to see the inside of his Munich apartment, but there being no law against owning looted art in Germany, it took them a whole year before they were finally able to obtain a search warrant for Cornelius’ apartment.

Strict private-property-rights and invasion-on-privacy laws kept the authorities hesitating for many more months before the warrants were executed. When Cornelius sold a painting by Max Beckmann titled The Lion Tamer for $ 1.17 million in December 2011, the investigators were curious to see almost 40% of the proceeds going to the heirs of a deceased Jewish art dealer, who had fled Germany to escape persecution by the Nazis in 1933, dying as a pauper in 1937.

Finally, in February 2012, the police and customs officials entering Gurlitt’s apartment were stunned to see a treasure of 121 framed and 1,285 unframed antique paintings. The collection was estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars. Cornelius sat quietly in a corner and watched as all of his prized possessions were packed and taken away to a federal customs warehouse in Garching near Munich. He had been out of touch with the world for decades, having watched his last movie in 1967 and television in 1963. He hardly ever travelled and had a sister who had died of cancer in 2012. The pictures were his whole life. The loss had left him devastated.

As it turned out Cornelius was the third in the Gurlitt legacy. His grandfather was a Baroque art historian who wrote nearly 100 books. His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, was a museum curator when the Third Reich unleashed its wrath against what was termed “Degenerate Art”. Hundreds of thousands of art pieces were seized from predominantly Jewish families and artists, who were blamed by Hitler and his regime for promoting unhealthy, sick art that conflicted with true German values. Hildebrand had a Jewish grandmother and out of fear for his life, he stuck to safe and traditional art in his gallery at Hamburg. Quietly, though, he was acquiring the forbidden art from Jewish families and artists who were under duress or fleeing the country, and also from art dealers who sold looted Degenerate Art. The paintings were purchased at bargain prices, which was often a small fraction of their actual value.

The German custom authorities kept the investigation and the recovery of stolen art strictly under covers. They knew the discovery would open old wounds, trigger international claims and long ensuing legal proceedings. It remained a secret till November 4, 2013, when Focus, a German news weekly, splashed the story on its front page, compelling the authorities to declare the discovery to the world.

The Focus story sparked an international uproar. The office of Chancellor Angela Merkel was overwhelmed with inquiries and declined to comment on the issue. Germany faced an international image crisis. Survivors of the holocaust were eager to reclaim the artworks that were plundered from their families. The world was demanding that a full inventory of the collection be declared forthwith.

The German government has so far displayed around 450 of the artworks from Cornelius’ collection on the Lost Art Internet Database website. The provenance work is far from done and Cornelius is yet to be charged with an offense, which puts the legality of the seizure in question. In fact, Cornelius’s lawyer has filed an appeal against the confiscation, demanding that the artworks be returned, as they are not relevant to the charge of tax evasion.

Although you are unlikely to stumble across a billion dollars worth of art, if you do have antiques and collectables in your own home and are unsure of their worth, then use Cash in the Attic to get a quick valuation from their team of experts.



The Red Sphinx

Odilon Redon: Born in Bordeaux, France in 1840 and died in Paris in 1916.

Pictured is “The Red Sphinx” circa 1910, oil on canvas, 100cm x 80cm, which is now in a private collection in Switzerland.

The Red Sphinx is typical of Redon’s poetic style which was popular with, and certainly influenced, many of the Surrealists. At the start of the 20th century he was little known, but works like The Red Sphinx and other decorative, colour rich, flower pictures boosted his popularity and he is now a highly sought after artist.

He originally trained as an architect but didn’t really shine in this profession and gradually developed artistically after working in the studio of Brestin, a Bordeaux-based printer.

For about 30 years after 1870, he almost entirely worked in black and white, using materials like charcoal and pencil, as well as producing etchings. He found inspiration in landscape which echoed his mournful ‘black and white’ vision.

He developed a highly stylised symbolic art influenced by philosophy and literature, as well as by Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species‘. In the late 1880s he became one of the leading Symbolists and a few years later began using colourful media including oils and pastels.

Other well known works by Redon include ‘Sita‘ (circa 1893) and ‘Flower clouds‘ (circa 1903 ) – both of these are in the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.

Guest author Tim Hill, is a UK-based art enthusiast.

How to Clean Oil Brushes

Oil brushes WPD 2014Clean oil brushes are some of the most valuable assets an artist can have, especially considering this is his or her primary tool for creativity. The process for cleaning them is not as complicated as it may seem, though there are extra steps in comparison to cleaning up after watercolor or acrylic paint usage. Artists will need turpentine, a small container (plastic or glass), mild detergent, and newspaper.

Step 1: Use the newspaper to finger squeeze out all the excess paint from the oil brushes. The paint should be mostly used up on in the brush as it is, so there should not be much left. Use the newspaper for this step by wrapping the paper around the brush head. Do not squeeze or pull too hard so the brush head does not become damaged.

Step 2: Pour some turpentine into a small container and dip the oil brushes into the container. Swish the brushes around until the paint releases into the liquid. Once the paint releases, return to them to the newspaper and wipe them off. There should be more paint wiping off into the newspaper during this process. It will not completely wash off into the turpentine.

Step 3: Place a small amount of mild detergent into the palm of your hand and then swirl the oil brushes through the soap. You will see the soap begin to discolor as the rest of the paint is released and washed away. Rinse the brush head in clear water, and wash the soap from your hand. Repeat this process until the soap no longer discolors in the palm of your hand.

Step 4: Pull the tip of the oil brushes through the newspaper once more after it comes clean in the palm of your hand. This will ensure that no more dirty water or residue is left in the deep recesses of the brush’s head. If there is a lot of paint left deep down by the metal portion of the brush head, repeat the process by returning to the turpentine and begin again to ensure all the paint is properly released from the bristles.

Step 5: Store oil brushes so they are standing upright inside a container or lying flat inside a pouch or brush holder. This will prevent the bristles on the brush from becoming damaged. If you are storing your oil brushes inside a pouch or brush holder, make sure they are completely dry before doing so. Otherwise, they could develop mildew deep inside the bristles and the metal could rust. This damage will transfer into the oil paint if it is not noticed, and that will then transfer on to the canvas.

Step 6: Make sure you have turpentine and mild detergent (this can be hand soap or dish soap) on hand at all times so your oil brushes can be cleaned immediately after use. Keep containers of water and newspaper ready, as well, so clean up can easily occur without you having to hunt for the necessary materials to do so.

For more information on the cleaning process for oil brushes visit PlazaArtMaterials online.


Top tips for creating a heritage-look with your arts display

You might not live in a stately home but you can still create a stylish heritage look with your arts display. The pieces you choose and the way you present them are equally important to the overall effect.

Here are five tips for creating your own home heritage look:

1. Source large prints

You don’t have to break the bank and bid for originals in order to create a strong heritage look. Buy and frame large prints from galleries, taking care to choose pieces that will fit the overall look.

2. Consider themes and periods

If you’re going for a true heritage look you might want to decide in advance if you want to stick to a certain theme, style or time period. You don’t have to stick rigidly to any theme but jumping around all over the place can be a little jarring. Retaining a theme can bring a sense of cohesion to the display.

3. Think about frames

The art itself is obviously the most important aspect of any display but the frames you choose can also have a large impact on the viewer. If you’re aiming for a heritage look you should really stick with heritage frames. Think classic designs, colours and finishes rather than modern, minimalist and funky. If you replace existing frames, old ones can be upcycled in a number of ways. Try reusing as a dried flower frame or turning into a horizontal frame tray, or experiment with different painting techniques and colours.

4. Consider the setting

A heritage display could look out of place in a room or space that doesn’t really fit. Go for a classic look in your room, from stylish georgian doors and windows to mirrors, lighting and even furniture if your display is not arranged in its own dedicated space. Light is extremely important for viewing any artwork so try to choose a space with as much natural lighting as possible.

5. Create your own pieces

If you’re confident in your abilities, you might want to try creating your own pieces using heritage paint colours. Even if you’re not the most artistically talented there’s nothing to stop you from giving it a go. Try to complement existing pieces as far as colour and composition goes but don’t feel like you have to compete with the old masters.

Chic Wall art displays for home renovations

Embellishing homes and personal spaces is always a fun filled activity if you are up to turning your own ideas into life. As far as wall decorations concern, wall art displays and canvases are vastly used and liked to prettify bare and dull walls. Commonly, people strive to display more expensive paintings and designer wall art to make their house look extra sophisticated. But you don’t always have to spend such lavishly on buying expensive decorations, rather utilize your self-creativity to elevate your personal grooming as well as worth of your home in matchless approach. You must have heard about printed and painted canvases, metal prints and acrylic prints to enhance the fortifications of interiors. Here we are representing several kind of canvas styles that you can use to electrify your house.

Fabric wall canvas

Fabrics are usually considered to make outfits and household stuff, but using this material for canvas display is unique in every way. Bold and dominating prints leave an elegant impression on spectator’s mind. Try them out on fixing over empty frame to shape them into canvas and adorn your walls with aesthetic demonstration of casual stuff in your home.

Printed canvas

Ideal and convenient style of wall presentations are cheap canvas prints for home renovations in contemporary designs. You can take the advantage of online printing services offering best quality in lowest prices to grab your desired photos printed onto canvas in fabulous colours. You can make them exclusive by rare and personal pictures, styles of your choice and wraps that suits your interior design.

Duck tape wall art

Duck tape comes in large range of different colours, prints and textures to help you create your own style of canvas for wall display in your personal room. People tend to use them for several kinds of purposes, to embellish their stuff, to turn their shoes and bags into funky products and even to make out dresses with these fantastic tapes. Fill a board or plain canvas with selected print of duck tape, attach wondrous fancy elements and letters of fancy foam to present your name with chic style.

Scrap book paper wall display

Scrap papers are being a very old tradition to make scarp book look amazing. Now you can try out art display with these tussled papers. Select a series of designs available at stores to bring out the transitional touch to small collage of canvas wall art for leisure zone.

Fancy stuff canvas

On special occasions and celebrations of annual eves, you need to gift your loved ones with exceptional items as well as love to decorate your home with full zest and zeal. Make use of fancy stuff and items to embellish plain, dull and ruff canvases or previous paintings to display for the occasion with a touch of glow. Button, paper flowers, beads, glitter, feathers, furs, diamante, crystals and other elaborative elements will help you to do this project.

Lace canvases

Like fabric canvases, lace canvases are also an innovative ideal to incorporate into your home settings. Elegant, fragile laces can now fill your surroundings with chic designs demonstration on your walls. You can stretch these fabulous piece of laces on plain canvas with neutral or coloured base, on the other hand you can also take advantage of amazing patterns to form spray paint designs on bare canvas to make wall hangings.

Wooden art

Wooden planks and boards are also a useable material to form DIY canvases as wall art displays. Rustic and antique styles look more fascinating on this material. Cover the wooden piece with white bases and intricate it with vibrant hues to portray abstract or elaborative landscape.

Author Bio: AtiqUr Rehman is a proficient writer and an independent information technology worker keen to As a keen author, he provides his skillful outlook towards home decor, travelling, photography and other exciting categories.