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On Jeff Koons, Technicians, and Minions


Last Tuesday, Christie’s held an auction where Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for $142.2 million, the highest price ever paid for a single piece of art.  Jeff Koons‘s Balloon Dog (Orange), which according to the New York Times, is a “10-foot-tall mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture that resembles a child’s party favor,” sold for $58.4 million.  Jeff Koons made four other balloon dogs, each in a different color, so I’m sure the owners of those pieces are feeling pretty good about their respective art collections.

Unlike Francis Bacon, who unquestionably painted his triptych, it’s unlikely that Koons actually built all five dogs on his own, as Koons is known for employing “technicians” to construct his sculptures.  Some contemporary artists defend the use of technicians, as they believe the idea behind the art is more important than who actually completes the work.  For example, Damien Hirst had the idea behind The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, but I’m sure he had help suspending the 14-foot tiger shark in his 20-foot case of formaldehyde.

With three sons, I’d like to think that I have my own budding young technicians.  I have plenty of contemporary art ideas, some of which I have already titled, but none of which my technicians have properly completed.  These ideas include Clean Bedrooms, Table Manners, and A Day Without Whining.  Not only are my helpers not as dedicated as Jeff Koons’s employees, but I also recently found myself in a role reversal.

My son asked me to help him paint a portrait of a Minion that he wanted to give to his friend.  My son picked out the reference picture, and said that he just needed help with the outline.  Once I drew the Minion in pencil, I pointed out where the yellow, the blue, and the black should go.  He blocked in most of the colors, but then he asked if I could paint the eyes, the mouth, the hair, and the logo on the overalls.  “And can you just finish the rest for me?” he said.

So after a few minutes of watching me add touches of paint here and there, the artist left the room to consider more important ideas, like whether to litter our living room with orange construction cones, or to just watch another episode of Jessie.

When I finished, I showed the painting to my son, who was happy with the result.  He then asked me, “Where do I sign it?”

Like a loyal technician, I pointed to the right hand side of the painting and said, “Your name would look good here.”

P.S. And no, the irony of the subject matter was not lost on me.

P.P.S. I listened to an interview with Damien Hirst, who said that he often thinks of titles for his works before he even gets started on the idea.  And if you would like to see some of Damien’s technicians in action, watch this timelapse video.

Sketchbook Journal


I sketch because I enjoy doing it, but I also draw because it helps my memory.  Sometimes the past feels like a blur.  When my kids were infants, I bought them each a baseball glove.  Now they are playing little league, and I wonder where the time went.

Pinewood cars

So at the beginning of this year, to offset the risk of fleeting memories, I started a sketchbook journal.  It’s like my other sketchbooks, where I draw different subjects, but this sketchbook is chronological, and is meant to preserve specific events in my life.  It’s not a diary, as I don’t mind if people flip through it.  It’s just an illustrated record of memorable moments.


Most of my sketches are of good memories.  I haven’t sketched my boys fighting with each other, and I didn’t sketch the crack in my windshield that I noticed this morning.  Maybe eventually I will capture the bad with the good, but for now, I’m drawing what I want to remember.

plane_the ba

Included in this post is a sketch of the back of an airplane seat.  I can’t say that moment made me particularly happy, but I have been traveling a lot this year, and I thought that a scene from one of my flights was appropriate to include.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

I don’t know how many more of these sketches I will share on The Hipping Post, but I figured you might like to see some examples of my other experiment in sketching and writing.

P.S. To see more examples of unique sketchbook journals, check out Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life.  It’s fantastic.

I Hear Your Song, Steve

The Hipping Post is saved on my MacBook.  My memories are stored in iPhoto.  I listen to all of my music on an iPod (actually, multiple iPods).  Everyday, I appreciate Steve Jobs’s creativity and imagination.  I was sad to hear about Steve Jobs’s death and my prayers are with his family.  But I celebrate his life – Steve Jobs believed in his vision, he took risks, he was honest, he improved others’ lives, and he loved his family.

In the last 48 hours, you likely heard or read moving quotes by Steve Jobs.  Many of those quotes come from his 2005 Stanford commencement speech.  I read this speech a few years ago, and yesterday, I read it twice.  When I heard that Steve Jobs had died, I not only thought of that speech, but I also remembered a teaching from Chief Tecumseh.  I don’t know if Steve Jobs ever read the following passage, but he lived with Chief Tecumseh’s attitude toward death, as should we all:

“Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.  Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.  Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.  Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.  Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.  Show respect to all people and grovel to none.  When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.  If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.  Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.  When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.  Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

I hear your song, Steve.