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“Monet's Playground” © by John White

John writes:

“This scene is from France in the town of Honfleur, in the Normandy region. This is a small fishing village where Monet frequented with his friends to paint the bright colors and vivid scenery that was so different from his home. I painted this early in the morning before the crowds made their way to this absolutely gorgeous spot.

“This was done on site en plein air and is an unframed 9"x12" original oil painting.”


Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.



“View of the city of Lviv”, a beautiful watercolour © by Andrey Kovalik

(Lviv is the second largest city in Western Ukraine)


If you like this...

[The tags on this post are among my favourites... just a suggestion]




Two fine watercolours of Venice © by Stan Miller (reproduced here with kind permission)


If you like this...

[One of my photos of the quiet Western Quarter of Venice]
[My photos of Venice in September 2001 - and what came after]
[Try clicking some of the tags at the top of this post... just a suggestion!]



“On Their Way” by Steven Hileman (click the image for more from the artist)

My second grateful snaffle in a row from Jerry's fine pages, but I couldn't resist the wonderful autumnal feel of this one.


Meanwhile, in China...



The Liuzhou Forest City, being built in southern China, is designed to help tackle the country’s ongoing air pollution crisis. The foliage is expected to absorb 57 tonnes of airborne pollutants, and produce around 900 tonnes of oxygen every year.

A great new example of the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) movement. Check it out!



“Crows and Gargoyles” by Brian Slawson

Another grateful snaffle from the fine pages of Jerry.



“Out early” (free translation) © by Sergey Betz, whose other work is well worth checking out
(includes some very nice artistic nudes)


If you like this...

[Try clicking the urbanscape or mist tags... just a suggestion!]


The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

I am a long time fan of Studio Ghibli, and I still consider Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away to be the finest animation ever made (a close runner-up being The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet).

One reason that I am a fan is the beautiful environments (often urban) created in many of their films. These are works of art in their own right, and I have done my best to capture (with my own screenshots) some of the ones that I particularly like.

In order to keep this post a reasonable length, and because the art in many of the films can only be appreciated in animated form, I have chosen only three films (omitting, for example, the beautiful natural environment of My Neighbour Totoro along with many others). Click any image if you would like to see links about that film.


Kiki's Delivery Service

This charming story about the early difficulties of a trainee witch, based on a children's fantasy novel, would be worth watching just for the artwork of the beautiful Scandinavian-style landscape and city. When the weather is lousy or everything seems miserable, I watch this film again, thinking how much I would like to live here - and how much designers of modern architecture could learn from the film.

Kiki standing outside the bakery, overlooking the sea. Behind her is a glimpse of the lower part of the fictional city. The (apparently hand-painted) details of mortar, stones, plaster, tiles and so much else is incredible - the more you look, the more you see. As with so many of Miyazaki's urban environments, it is set on a hill, giving it added interest as a place and a wonderful three-dimensional feel as art.

The fictional city is “Koriko” or “Coriko”, although the characters don't mention it. Miyazaki's inspiration for it was the town of Visby on the island of Gotland, Sweden (worth looking at), although the fictional Koriko is a much larger place.

This is animation at its finest (no still images can convey how good it is), and one of my all-time favourite movies. (The version I have is in Japanese, with English subtitles, which I generally prefer.)


The bakery, with another glimpse of Koriko rising above it, lit (as often in Miyazaki's films) by a low sun. The room at the top of the stairs is a kind of storage loft, which Kiki can use free as her room (and have free use of the telephone for her delivery business) in exchange for helping out at the bakery.


The view from Kiki's room, as evening falls.


The bakery at night.

The Wind Rises

This is to be the last of Miyazaki's films (see here), and in many ways is very different from the others. A very good description of it can be found here.

It is a fictionalized version of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi fighters that flew in WWII. It features many things: the love and mystique of aviation (and a repugnance for its use in war) that is Miyazaki's own, a stunning sequence covering the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, 7.9 on the Richter scale, that devastated Tokyo and the surrounding area, and a bittersweet story concerning his love for Nahoko, a girl whom he rescues during the earthquake and then doesn't see again for some time.

The story is fascinating from a historical point of view, but it also features some fine art work that somehow makes even factories and aircraft hangars things of beauty. I have selected just a few here.

A train journey during a period of tranquillity. Jiro is on his way to a hotel where he will again encounter Nahoko. Trains, and other means of transport, feature in many of Miyazaki's films with an extraordinary attention to realistic detail. (In Kiki's Delivery Service, when looking through the front window of an old-fashioned bus about to depart, we can see its nose rise as it is lifted by the torque of the engine, before setting off - a detail most people wouldn't even care about, or notice.)


The outfall from a beautiful spring pool, near the hotel where he encounters Nahoko.


Walking back to the hotel, caught in a sudden rain squall. Wind, rain and clouds are often major features of Miyazaki's films.


The hotel where Nahoko and Jiro meet.


Nahoko sadly dies of tuberculosis. They marry so that they can live together for the short time left, but Nahoko disappears one day, returning to the sanatorium so that he will remember her as she was. Together with other patients, she lies (well bundled up) on the verandah of the sanatorium, and in this beautiful short sequence she looks up at the sky as snow falls.

Whisper of the Heart

This is another great favourite of mine. It's a coming-of-age story set in modern Tokyo. Its heroine Shizuku is led on a journey that becomes more and more magical at it progresses - not, in this case, the magic of myths or legends, but a way of seeing the real world through the eyes of a young teenager that becomes a true voyage of enchantment.

The film was written by Miyazaki but directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, whom Miyazaki hoped would take over from him. Kondo's premature death shortly afterwards, apparently caused by overwork, seems to have led Miyazaki to announce his retirement, although (fortunately for us) he continued to work for a further 15 years but at a more relaxed pace.


The apartment block where Shizuku lives is far from luxurious...


The door is metal and the interior is very small and cluttered. Nevertheless Shizuku's family lives happily there, and apart from the expected occasional friction with Shizuku's older sister, is very supportive of her.

Shizuku's life is one of an ordinary young teenager. She attends a local school, remarkable only for the respect that Miyazaki always shows being given by children to their elders and teachers. Shizuku writes two translated versions of John Denver's “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (hilarious when translated back to English in subtitles) - she doesn't really understand the concept of a “home town”, and her second version is entitled “Take Me Home, Concrete Roads”.

Shizuku is a voracious reader, borrowing books from the library, and keeps encountering the name of a previous borrower, Seiji Amasawa. She encounters Seiji several times without realizing who he is, and is extremely cross when he teases her. But things will change...


One day when Shizuku travels on the local train, she is joined by an unusually independent cat. When they get off together she follows him...


...losing him...


...but discovering him again higher up the hill.


The cat leads her up a steep, narrow rubbish-strewn alley.


(Monitor test: you should be able to see considerable detail even on plain concrete walls.)


Shizuku emerges into what, to her, is a different world...


...and discovers an open, and apparently deserted, antique shop...


...in which she will discover Seiji's grandfather, and learn that Seiji himself lives downstairs, learning to be a violin maker.

Here she also meets The Baron, an amazing statuette with crystal eyes, whose story links to an unfulfilled love in the grandfather's past life.


Seiji's grandfather shows her a marvellous clock that he is repairing, whose mechanisms include another depiction of unfulfilled love.



Shizuku later meets Seiji here, and learns that he hopes to leave schooling early for a career making violins - but first he will have to prove himself by becoming an apprentice to a strict violin-making master in Cremona, Italy.


Shizuku realises how much she will miss him, and decides to challenge herself while he is away by writing a long story, which she calls Whisper of the Heart, inspired by the story of The Baron.


Seiji's grandfather wants to be the first to read her story, and Shizuku waits for hours on his lower verandah while he does so, in an agony of suspense. He finally appears and tells her that her story is a little rough, like any craftsman's first work, but she has dug out some real gems from her heart - and makes the hugely relieved Shizuku a supper of Ramen noodles.


Early one cold morning Seiji returns, and calls to Shizuku to come down.


He takes her high up to one of his favourite places...


...to watch a magical sunrise above Tokyo




If you like this...

[Wingsee, a delightful site dedicated to the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki]
[The painting "Ship Flying Over The Rainbow" from "Kiki's Delivery Service"]
[Joe Hisaishi plays his piano music from "Spirited Away"]
[The Art of Animation: Disney's “Tangled”]



“Surrounded by the Italian Alps, Funes is blanketed by a layer of crystal white snow every winter.”    —photographer: ewitsoe (exceptionally recommended)


Shirakawa-go is a small, traditional village known for its incredibly steep roofs that were made to withstand some of the heaviest snowfall in the world.”    —photographer: Miyamoto Y


Vyborg lies on the border between Russia and Finland and is surrounded by the Saimaa Canal, which freezes over in winter. From the castle tower, the entire town is visible in its snow-capped beauty.”    —photographer: EGRA

This page is unusual in crediting, and linking to, the sources of all of its photos, including the three shown here - sources that are well worth following up!

Many thanks (again) to Renaissance2007 (Julian) for this find.


Nuenen, a city in the Netherlands, has a new extraordinary attraction – a dreamy solar-powered bicycle path that glows in the dark. The path, created by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde, looks just like a river of stars, fallen down from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” And it is, in fact, inspired by the great artist, who lived in Nuenen from 1883 to 1885.”



Thanks to my younger daughter for this find!

The other work of artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde is well worth checking out - click the panel below for an example.

It seems that all over the world, inventive people are rethinking the possibilities of our roads - for another example, see my post on Solar Roadways.


“Other Places” (2 of 2)
[continued from Part 1]

My screenshots below are from another of my favourites of these videos - Empire Bay (Mafia II). Click any image below to enjoy the cityscape, set to nice music.








You can find all of ultrabrilliant's Other Worlds videos here, and another set of screenshots (landscape, for a change) in my next post above.

If you like this...

["Underpass"]
[... and try clicking the urbanscape tag above...]



Since 2010, the French photographer Thierry Cohen has been developing images that show us what major cities of the world would be like if there were no light pollution.

More images and details about his technique and philosophy will be found here.



"Rainy dusk in Paris" by Thomas Kinkade (painting as Robert Girrard)

Thomas Kinkade, who died unexpectedly on April 6th, was a self-styled "painter of light" whose idyllic cottages and other works are very popular, although not considered great art by critics.

I do like this painting, done under his pseudonym of Robert Girrard, which he used when exploring the style of French Impressionism.



"Evening Leaves in vilnius" © by Daumantas Kazdailis.

One of the photographic compositions featured on the web site of the Lithuanian company D&I Graphic Design and Photography.

If you delve into this site you will find some excellent photography (including annotated examples of HDR photography) in high resolution.



"Bookstalls in Paris"


"Marchande des Primeurs (first fruit and vegetables of the season)"

Two of my favourite paintings by the Czech artist Tavik František Šimon (T.F. Šimon)


hhj

"thROUgh tHe aRCh" (taken in Arezzo, Tuscany) by the Italian photographer David Butali, whose other work is well worth checking out

One of many treasures to be found on the wonderful pages of hhj.




"Venice" (which the artist says he drew from this photo by Monika)


"Milano - Santa Maria Nascente"


"Szczytno in the Rain"

Some of many beautiful watercolours by the Polish-resident artist Minh Dam

Found via this site recommended by Cyrion, who has so many beautiful things on her pages.



"Murmure de la Rue" by Claude Lazar, an extraordinary artist who finds beauty in bleak and lonely scenes

One of many treasures to be found on the fine pages of my friend Louvain95 (Lou) - this one found here




One of many fine photographs by Christophe Jacrot, from his portfolio Paris in the Rain (if there's a slow link to France, you may have to wait for all the photos to appear!)

Christophe writes:

In my opinion, there are two ways of capturing the world for a photographer; on the one hand grasping its horror, and on the other sublimating it. I have chosen the second. More specifically, I like the way rain, snow and "bad weather" awaken a feeling of romantic fiction within me (climatic excesses are another topic).

I see these elements as a fabulous ground for photography, an under-used visual universe with a strong evocative power, and with a richness of subtle lights. This universe escapes most of us, since we are too occupied getting undercover. Man becomes a ghostly silhouette wandering and obeying the hazards of rain or of snow.

My approach is deliberately pictorial and emotional.


Found on the always-beautiful pages of my friend expressioniste (Aline).


"Underpass"

From the page:

"This painting was created for the Federal Art Project, a branch of the Works Progress Administration developed to give financial and moral support to artists during the Depression.

"There is no information about who the painter was, but in 1981 a visitor to the Museum recognized the underpass as one near his home in Binghamton, New York. The artist printed a photograph of the scene onto the canvas, then painted over it in careful detail. The glowing streetlights are like stars brought down to earth from the distant skies, drawing the viewer into the image and through the brightly lit tunnel. The road seems less like an ordinary street in the city and more like a portal into the great empty blackness above."


Found via the superb art gallery (and labour of love) that was the SU pages of Ceanna (now on Categorian!)



"St. Francis' Towers, Santa Fe, 1925", a work with a typically bleak edge by Edward Hopper (1882-1967)


If you like this...


[Edward Hopper: Cape Cod Afternoon]


"The Old Hall Under Moonlight"


"Liverpool from Wapping"


"November Moonlight"

Works by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-93) - thanks to my friend David for the introduction!



"Petergate" (York, England)


"Rooflines"


"Spring City"


"Nantahala" (North Carolina)

Beautiful art quilts by Elizabeth Barton

"In my work I attempt to address both conceptual and formal issues. I wish to explore the beauty of everyday environments; in troubled times it is especially important to be aware of beauty and wonder. I want to reference archetypal memories to assess our own place in the history of time. I want to create a sense of place but also reveal the dynamic bones of the scene.

"Reflected light, translucency and the effects of time are recurring themes; I strive to translate into fiber the marvelous effects of light and color. Repeated patterns of windows and architectural forms are a leifmotif. Recently more ephemeral patterns such as those created by water and shadow have become a source of inspiration. The aim is to make work that glows with light and is rich with color and nuance; a work in which the unified composition is satisfying, but the details are fascinating..."


Thanks to bluluuluu for introducing me to this artist.


If you liked this...

[Watercolours by Elizabeth Barton a.k.a. Irene Spindler)]
[Art quilts by Linda Gass]



“St Giles in the Rain” by Francis Hamel

A place that brings back many memories for me. The Eagle & Child pub (AKA The Bird & Baby) on St Giles was the hangout of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis among others, who created many memories for many people.


"Summer Rain" by WWWest

It often rains here, but somehow it isn't as enjoyable as this!


Thanks again to my friend chaotiqual, whose pages are always a delight to visit.



Moonset over City Yacht Club
A view from North Roadway Street in West End, New Orleans, Louisiana by Alexey V. Sergeev, a Russian scientist now permanently resident in the USA



It's the start of a new day (yawwwwn...)



"First stirrings in the big city"




"Message has arrived"




"Early exercise"




"It's going to be a beautiful day"

Some beautiful photography by Roswitha Schleicher-Schwarz, chosen for its early-morning theme!

(Apologies to German speakers for my loose translations - corrections gratefully received.)





"Eighth day" by Dmitry Povshedny




"Red lampshade" (my guess at a translation) by SAV

If you liked those, you might also like these photographers:

[Salamander]
[Greipvine]
[Jek Eidelzon]



"Autumn Leaves"





"A Room With A View"





"A Chance Meeting"

Some nice work by Alexei Butirskiy. I like the light effects.



Mathematical Bridge in the fog, Queen's College, Cambridge





Twilight fog under Trinity Bridge, Cambridge





Foggy path through Jesus Green, Cambridge


This site has some wonderful low-light and night photographs of Cambridge, England, taken by Sean McHugh, but that's not all. It also has some really excellent tutorials on taking and editing digital photographs, ranging from camera basics to advanced tips.

It is one of many sites that you will find linked to from my Photoshop page.

Many thanks to my friend amy99 (Amy) for this one.


P.S. It only takes about 40 minutes to drive to Cambridge from where I live - some compensation for a climate that produces sleet showers and freezing winds in April!

A fabulous night shot of Shanghai.

Thanks to rchobert for this one.