If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Introduction to Fashion & Style

Fashion refers to the aesthetics and various styles of clothing, accessories, hair, makeup, body piercing, tattoos, furniture, and interior decoration.
There are many styles of fashion, just as there are different styles of houses, and many artists develop their own unique style. Fashionable, stylish, trendy, and chic (pronounced sheek) all mean the same thing (popular, and in style at the moment), but fashion and style are a little different. Fashion is a topic, representing an ever changing series of trends, or fads. A style is one particular look, or aesthetic, which might go in and out of fashion at different times. When an old style comes back in fashion, it's called retro or vintage, for example, bell-bottom jeans (now called boot-cut):


Origins: Scientists don’t know when people first started wearing clothes. By studying species of lice (vši)

that live in clothes, some scientists have estimated we’ve been wearing them from anywhere between 42,000 to over 100,000 years. Some of the oldest sewing needles ever found are about 60,000 years old.

Function: Clothes improve comfort and protect us from the elements, such as sunburn, wind, cold, rain, snow, and insects that bite. They also protect people when playing sports and at work. Protective clothing wards off chemicals, weapons, and abrasive (brúsny) materials.

Some of the most impressive clothing people have invented are space suits,

diving suits,
shark suits,
fireman uniforms
fire proximity suit

Types of Clothes

Clothing can be categorized in different ways. In shops, they're separated by men's, women's, and children's. There are indoor and outdoor clothes, seasonal clothes, formal and informal/casual, active/athletic clothing, pajamas (PJ's), swim wear, etc...

There are actually several stages from formal to informal. The definitions keep changing, as rules have relaxed, since the 1950's.

Formal Wear/Dress: This is worn at weddings, elegant parties, and dances. Nowadays, this means a tuxedo for men and an appropriate evening gown for women. At a dance, or ball, a woman might wear a ball gown, great for spinning around:

1954, Christian Dior

For men, the event might specify a white or black tie. A white tie event is more than just the bow tie. The man has to wear a coat with tails and a top hat. Formal wear originally meant "white tie":

This man is in formal dress. That means he's wearing formal clothing.
He's not in a dress. He's in dress.
Semi-Formal Wear/Dress: The idea of semi-formal clothing started in 1886 when British Prince Edward VII wanted something more comfortable to wear at dinner. He had his tailor, Henry Poole & Co., make a new suit. This suit made its way to New York, where it was worn at the Tuxedo Park Club, and became known as the tuxedo. Over time, the tuxedo became standard formal dress, and semi-formal now means a dark suit and tie.

A suit consists of a coat and matching pants. Depending on how others are dressed, you might want to dress conservatively, sticking to a black suit, and white shirt:

You can wear a suit and still look like a rock star

For women, semi-formal means wearing a cocktail dress - something appropriate for drinks with friends before dinner, pretty, but not too elaborate.
Business Dress: It's the same as semi-formal, for men, but for women it means a coat and matching skirt (or pants). The main thing is to look professional, serious, and conservative, meaning no wild colours. This is what many offices expect workers to wear:

No rock stars here, please, unless it's the music business...

Business Casual: This typically means taking off the coat and tie, and allowing a little more color for women. This is for offices where clients don't come in very often, and everyone just sits at their computers all day. You still need to tuck in your shirt and don't wear jeans, unless you clear it with the boss. This guide says it all:

Sunday Best: This means you wear the best clothes you have for church on Sunday.
The Obama family in their Sunday best.
Casual: This is what you wear everyday in your free time. Basically, the only rule is to cover enough of your body so that police won't arrest you.
Don't they look happy?

Slob: A slob is someone who doesn't take care of his appearance. Slobs don't dress nicely or clean their homes properly. It's fun to joke about, but if you want to be respected, you shouldn't be a slob.

Comedian Ron White jokes about being a slob,
but he dresses pretty well.
Social Function of Clothes

Clothing helps indicate social norms and status. What we wear tells a lot about society, what we accept

and don't accept.

It reflects how we view gender - men and women.

Clothing can also reflect your personality, your personal style and taste. It can give clues to the kind of person you are, or want to be. It helps build your identity, especially teenagers. But, be careful not to judge based only on appearances! People often surprise you.

Clothing can indicate religion, and ethnicity. Clothing worn by Christian priests and ministers are called vestments. There are many different kinds.

Orthodox Jews wear a variety of clothing. Black is worn in public as a sign of modesty. One unique feature are the two long curls of hair, one on either side of the face:

Jews also often wear a skull cap called a kippah, especially during prayer:

In muslim countries, rules of modesty, called hijab have led to a variety of clothing for men and women. headscarves are popular in Pakistan and Afghanistan:

Burqas are also worn there by conservative women:

The chador is worn in Iran:

The niqab is worn in Syria and Saudi Arabia:

Men wear a turban, which has many different styles. This kind is called a keffiyeh:

Women in India (hindu and muslim) traditionally wear a dress called a sari:

 And, men in southeast Asia often wear a skirt called a sarong. They usually have a colorful, checkered pattern:

Another skirt worn by men is the Scottish kilt:

In America, there are a group of Christians called Amish who dislike modern technology. They live as farmers, and wear clothing they make themselves, in a traditional, modest, Amish style:


Some people choose not to wear clothes. They live in nudist colonies, now known as naturist communities. These are meant to be inviting and family oriented, not erotic. They're popular in France.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Drawing People / Figure Drawing

When I was a child, my parents took me to an art museum, and one of the first questions I asked was, "Why do the artists paint so many naked women?"

The answer they gave me was accurate, if not complete. "It's hard to do."

People are just about the most difficult thing to draw well––especially portraits. Artists need to train many years to master this skill. And, it matters because, as in literature, most themes and topics involve people.

To draw the figure well, you must learn about the human body's anatomical structure, how it works, moves, how it relates to gravity, how the parts relate to each other, as well as a great many other concepts. The following video series is the best I know at teaching these crucial lessons. They have been produced, free of charge, by Stanley Prokopenko, teacher at the famous Watts Atelier of the Arts in Encinitas, California.

These videos contain partial nudity.

They also contain the best education and production value you could hope for. Remember, if you want to draw people well, wearing clothes, then you have to know what they look like underneath their clothes.

We're all extremely lucky Stan decided to make these videos, and I hope that all who view these videos will react in the same respectful, tasteful, and professional manner that he does. This video series is incomplete, it's a project he started about a year ago. I will add updates as he does. If you follow along with these videos, draw what he draws, and practice the exercises he gives, you will eventually be able to draw figures at a professional level.


A large part of art making is learning to simplify what you see. The figure is a very complex configuration of shapes, and you have to learn to see its over-all gesture/sweep/thrust. The following videos explain how draw gesture, and common mistakes:


This video by Scott Waddell shows how to use a pencil to measure a figure's proportions:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Film & Cinema

Different Kinds of Theatres (spelled 'theater' in America)

The first movie theatres had one large screen, and an orchestra pit below - the movies were silent. They were sometimes called film or movie palaces. Most modern cinemas are now called multiplexes. This just means they have several theatre halls. If a theatre has over 20 different screens, it's called a megaplex. In some cities there are small arthouse theatres that show independent, alternative, and classic films. My favourite is the Cable Car in Providence, RI. They have couches instead of regular theatre seats, and a great little café.

Most theatres play films at night, when people have finished work, and students have finished with school for the day. Showtimes are typically at 5PM, 7PM, and the late show at 9 or 10PM. Some theatres offer a matinée, meaning an early afternoon showing of the film. It's sometimes called a rainy day matinée, the idea being it only makes sense to see a film that early if the weather is poor and there's nothing else to do.

In the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, drive-in movie theatres were very popular in America.

You'd drive into a parking lot, choose a spot, put a speaker into your car window,

and watch the film from your car. This was very popular with teens and young adults who wanted a public/private place to kiss without getting in trouble with parents. People who wanted to see a free movie could hide in the trunk. Drive-ins usually showed a double feature every night, meaning two films at one price. For some reason, this form of theatre grew less and less popular, with many of them closing. Now there are about one per state in America.

Most movie theatres sell drinks, candy, popcorn, and snacks, like hot dogs, nachos, and pizza. The food is usually very old and unhealthy - the popcorn will be fresh, but the "butter topping" isn't really butter. The prices are very high. They won't let you bring your own food, unless you hide it. If you bring a backpack with food, they usually won't check it. ;)

Theatre Etiquette

When watching a film, one should remain quiet. Rude behaviours include:
1. Talking loudly to friends around you, constantly commenting on the actors, how they look, etc.
2. Answering your cellphone. You should either turn it off or leave it on silent. If you get an important call, leave the theatre to answer it.
3. Loud, excessive laughter at every little joke, like a braying donkey.
4. Some mothers bring their babies to a film, who might start crying from any sudden noises. It's probably not good for a baby to be exposed to the loud and frightening sounds of a film.

Most movie theatres have begun to play their films really loudly, so viewers don't notice these problems - all the more reason not to bring your baby to see Excorsist or Mission Impossible 15.


Piracy involves illegal copy and sale of any copyrighted work - a book, music album, or film. A copyright means that the person who creates the work owns it. People often pirate films by sneaking videocameras into theatres. They record the film and then show it on the internet - sometimes for free, and sometimes for money. The quality of these films is poor. If you're caught, you'll get in trouble.

Film Genres

Everyone knows the different film genres, but what's important to say is why you like or don't like certain genres. So, write out a little list. Which of these genres do you like or not like? And why? Do you have any favorite films in each category?

Romantic Comedy
Drama (Historical Drama/Crime)
Action (Adventure/Crime/Spy/Suspense) (Suspense is usually listed separately, and fits somewhere between action and horror. But really, any good action movie should have suspense.)
Sci Fi (pronounced 'saj faj', for science fiction)
Fantasy (knights and dragons)
Children's Films
Alternative/Avant Guarde/Art House/Cult

Film Ratings

Film ratings are different in every country. But, since America is a leader in making and viewing films, most films are written to fit into the American ratings system (from Wikipedia):

G - General Audiences – All Ages Admitted. There is no content that would be objectionable to most parents and guardians. These films may not contain rude language and no serious cursing. As with violence it must be mild and minimal, if any, without any blood or gore.

PG - Parental Guidance Suggested – Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children. These films are generally inappropriate for young children and may contain milder swear words, crude or suggestive humor, short and infrequent horror moments and/or mild violence.

PG-13 - Parents Strongly Cautioned – Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13. These films may contain sex references, up to four uses of explicit language, drug innuendo, strong crude/suggestive humor, mature/political themes, moderately long horror moments, blood,and/or moderate action violence.

R - Restricted – Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian. These R rated films contains some adult material and parents are urged to learn more about these motion pictures before taking their young children to watch them. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R rated films unaccompanied by an adult. These films may contain mild or implied sex scenes, prolonged nudity, strong violence often with blood and gore, strong horror scenes and explicit/illegal/prolonged drug use.

NC-17 - No One 17 and Under Admitted. These films may contain strong graphic violence with a very large amount of blood and gore, sex scenes, explicit content, rape or sexual assault, depraved, aberrational behavior, sexual nudity, or any other elements which that are not suitable for children and strictly prohibited. Many theater will not play NC-17 titles and some newspapers and magazines will not run ads for these films.

X - for pornography.

A funny thing about film ratings is how standards change over time. For instance, an older film like Jaws was rated PG-13, even though several people were eaten by sharks. Decades later, The Firm was rated R, even though it had little nudity, swearing, or violence.

Sometimes you can find an unrated version of a film on DVD or video. Sometimes it's called the director's cut. All this means is this is the original version of the film before it was edited by anyone else - either to change the rating or to shorten the length of the film.

In the United Kingdom, they have a similar system:

U - Universal, suitable for all.

PG - Parental Guidance, General viewing but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children.

12 - Recommended for 12 years and older. Anybody under 12 may see it, as long as a parent or guardian says they can. Nobody younger than 12 may rent or buy a '12' rated video.

12A - Recommended for 12 years and older. People under 12 years must be accompanied by an adult.

15 - Suitable only for 15 years and older. Nobody younger than 15 may see a '15' film in a cinema, or rent or buy a '15' rated video.

18 - Suitable only for adults. Nobody younger than 18 may see an '18' film in a cinema, or rent or buy an '18' rated video These films may contain extreme gore/violence and/or sexually explicit content.

In the United Kingdom, R might mean restricted or rejected, banning it from all movie theatres.

Famous Films and Actors

There are countless famous celebrities in the film industry. Many are so famous, that if you haven't heard of them, people will ask,

"Where have you been living? Under a rock?"

And, of course, that's not fair. For most of your young life, you've been living here:

You're young, it's normal. But, you're also growing up, so it's good to learn some of these famous people. For a list of important and extremely talented actors and directors, click here.

Film Awards

The Academy Awards: also known as Oscars (no one really knows why), are the oldest and most prestigious (prestížny) awards given for film, starting in 1929. Oscars are given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS), which consists of almot 6,000 people, 22% being actors. No one knows who these people are, it's kept secret.

An Oscar

Awards are given for best film, actor, director, special effects, music, costumes, etc. There are also awards for best documentary, short film, and foreign film. here's something funny - when the winner of an Oscar dies, the family can't sell the statue. They can keep it or give it back to AMPAS, but they're not allowed to sell it. Some statues have sold for over $860,000!

Golden Globes: are similar to the Oscars, but are awarded for both film and television. The Golden Globes started in 1944 and are given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). This is an organization of about 90 journalists, in 50 different countries, who write about entertainment.

Golden Globe

Screen Actor's Guild Awards: or SAG's, are a new award, starting in 1995. Representing over 160,000 actors and performers, every year they randomly (náhodné) select 2,100 of them to nominate best films, TV shows, actors, etc. Then the full 160,000 members can vote for the best ones, making it the most democratic awards process.


BAFTA's: are the main film and TV award in Britain. Starting in 1947, they're given by the British Academy of Film & Telivision Arts, which has around 6,000 members.


Emmies: are awards given only for television shows. It started in 1949.

an Emmy

Monday, July 22, 2013

Drawing Portraits - Anatomy & Structure of the Head

The following video lessons are by master draftsman and painter, Stan Prokopenko, teacher at the famous Watts Atelier of the Arts in Encinitas, California. You can't get much better instruction than this, without paying a lot for it. Try drawing along!

Here's a different approach to drawing the head, by artist Scott Waddell, of the Grand Central Academy in New York City. Instead of Stanley's constructionist approach, Scott draws by measuring the outlines with his pencil, and looking for correct angles "tilts" in all the positive and negative shapes. Scott's drawings look flat at first, but he fleshes them out to incredible detail. It's a little like if Sheldon from Big Bang Theory were an artist:

Classical Music Outline & Vocabulary

1.     Classical music is a western/European tradition, ranging from around 1000 AD to the present. There is also a classical period of classical music from roughly 1750-1830. The two terms can be confusing.
2.     Other periods include medieval (500-1400), renaissance (1400-1600), baroque (1600-1750), classical (1750-1830), romantic (1804-1949), modern (20th century), and post-modern (after 1950). Note how this matches with painting and literature.
3.     Classical music has fallen out of fashion today, with most people preferring pop music. However, classical music is still written, and is commonly made for films and television.
4.     Classical music includes religious and secular works.
5.     It has a system of written notation, using a staff (notová osnova) and clefs (kľúče) to dictate notes, tempo, meter, and rhythms, leaving little room for improvisation or ornamentation (ozdobovanie).
     Notes are written on groups lines called bars (), which are divided into measures (takty),
     and the number of notes in each measure depends on the time signature (čísla taktov).
     Most instruments don't need staves, because they have one voice, and only need one bar. Piano music usually consists of staves with two bars, one for each hand (a piano is really like playing two instruments at once). Choral music usually has four bars per staff, for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices. Orchestral music can have many bars on one giant staff, for the conductor to follow - each bar represents a different instrument.
6.     Because of this notation, classical music can be quite long and complex, with many different voices, or instruments, playing together. It’s mostly instrumental, without singing. Classical music with singing consists of operas and religious cantatas.
7.     Classical music consists of orchestral and chamber music. Chamber is another word for room, so this is music you can play at home. Classical instruments are grouped in families: string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments, as well as solo instruments, such as piano, harpsichord, harp, and organ.
8.     Orchestral music consists of symphonies and concertos, the difference being that concertos have a soloist. There are concertos for almost every instrument, but the most common are for piano or violin. Some composers write double concertos, with two soloists. The word orchestra refers to a large group of musicians, and a symphony is music written for orchestra.
9.     Chamber music consists of duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets, octets, etc. This simply refers to the number of musicians playing. It also includes sonatas, which are like concertos, only with a piano instead of an orchestra to support the soloist. Some chamber music includes songs, which require a singer, and have lyrics. If there’s no singer, it’s not a song, it’s a piece of music.
10.  All of these musical works have movements, usually three or four. Each movement is an individual piece of music with its own melody. So one sonata or symphony might have three to five different movements. The idea is the composer is writing not just one piece, but a complete concert that will last a long time. You don’t clap until all the movements are played. Wait till the end, or you look foolish. All the movements in a musical work should be related to each other and fit well together. They’re usually in the same key (stupnice).
11.  Movements may be fast or slow. Fast movements are typically labeled presto, allegro, or finale. Slower movements are labeled andante, minuet, or scherzo (a little joke). The slowest are called largo, or adagio. As you can see, Italian is the language of music. That’s because some of the best early composers were Italian. It’s different from pop music, where each song has a special title, similar to poetry. In classical music the title simply tells the musician how fast to play.
12.  Medieval music (500-1100) was dominated with Gregorian chant, which mostly consisted of one voice. After 1100 AD these songs developed and added voices.
13.  Renaissance music (1400-1600) introduced many new instruments and the idea of a bass line accompaniment. Most music was written for dancing. It was also printed using presses, preserving it for history. Typical instruments included the lute (lutna), bagpipe (gajdy), harpsichord (čembalo), and viol – an older version of violin that came in different sizes, including the viola da gamba, which was played like a cello.



the treble clef – husľový kľúč
the bass clef – basový kľúč
a measure – takt
a scale – stupnica
a major scale – durová stupnica
a minor scale – molová stupnica
a chromatic scale – chromatická stupnica
a flat () – béčko
a natural () – odrážka
a sharp (#) – križik