Month: February 2014

Jackson Pollock’s paintings are amongst the most difficult to preserve because, along with paint, they often include other things, such as motor oil, cigarette butts and nails.

How to count on the Inca Quipu


Counting on the Inca’s quipu, their ancient string counting device, is easy. Each hanging string represents a number. They used a base-10 system like ours, with the bottom group of knots being the ones (1 knot = 1, 3 knots = 3, 9 knots = 9), the next grouping above being the tens (3 knots = 30, 5 knots = 50), the next highest being the hundreds (3 knots = 300, 5 knots = 500), and so on. A zero in, say, the ‘202’ pictured below is represented by a space, or no knots, where the tens would be. An Inca accountant, who was specially trained, would do addition and subtraction during the trading of goods or inventory by tying and untying knots on his quipu. The strings were often colored coded. For example, the knots/number on a gold colored string might represent the amount of gold they had. In Inca court, an accountant’s quipu was considered legal documentation.

Ilya Repin’s 1882 oil painting of Poprischin, the protagonist and narrator of Nikolai Gogol’s famous 1835 short story ‘Diary of a Madman.’ After increasingly erratic behavior and thoughts, including believing he has found the love letters between two dogs, the lowly St. Petersburg civil servant wakes up one morning with the epiphany that he is the heir to the Spanish throne. He believes the subsequent being taken to and mistreatment in an asylum is some strange part of the coronation. Years later, Gogol himself went mad, burning his unpublished manuscripts because he believed they were a trick played on him by the Devil.

interpreting sculpture

Did you know? Sculpture is often a reaction or response to earlier sculpture, so to understand and appreciate it you need to be familiar with sculpture history. When you know what a sculpture is responding to and why, you then can appreciate a modern work. PIctured is one of the most famous ever sculptures, a fourteen year old ballet dancer by Degas, which was considered bold, radical and unseemly in its day.


Trompe l’oeil


Trompe l’oeil is an old painting technique for making flat images look three dimensional, our pop out of the painting. Considering this 1874 painting by Pere Borrell del Caso is titled ‘Escaping Criticism,’ the symbolism is obvious. The young bare footed boy leaving the artistic rules represented by the frame, looking beyond the painting.


Dr. John Davis Jr. (died 2002) was a Topeka optometrist and famed autograph collector, getting most of his thousands of autographs through the mail or in person (he carried personalized index cards with him). He got his first in person autograph when he was ten– President Calvin Coolidge. When he was 72, a newspaper reporter asked why he collected autographs and he said because it’s a hobby you can enjoy whether you are ten or 72. He never sold his autographs, though donated his Supreme Court collection to the Washburn University School of Law where it is on public display.

Reductive Color Prints


Unlike normal color printing using multiple printing plates (a different printing plate for each color), reductive color prints are made from a single plate. You first make the design for the background color and print that color, then make the design for the second color and print that color, then make the design for the third color and print that color, and so on. Reductive printing makes alignment of designs and colors easier, but thinking and planning ahead are required, because if you make a mistake there’s no going back. Shown are Picasso reductive woodcut and linoleum prints. In the right print, you can see the grain from the wood in the upper left and the bottom white.