Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Lesson 5, "100 Drawings"

We are now halfway through the ten-week on-line class with Jane Davies, and the topic for the week is "colour".


Our assignment was to produce ten studies in colour. And they were to read as colour studies, not shape or line or pattern studies.

We were to choose 3 or 4 colours for each one, and to use any format we liked: landscape, shapes on a background, interlocking shapes, grid, stripes, etc.  We were to cover our page with paint, then apply a coat of matte medium and go back in to add texture, using paint, watercolour crayons or oil pastels. (I didn't add much texture. I was already getting more texture than the instructions called for as I often smeared the paint on with my fingers, using glazing medium to smooth out the colour transitions.)

Much of the work for the lesson is the commentary required for each piece. Which colours did you use? What was the range of value for each colour? Was there a range of hue? Range of saturation? How did the colours relate to each other? Were they complementary (opposite each other on the colour wheel) or analogous (next to each other on the colour wheel)? Warm or cool? Were they your go-to colours, or did you take the opportunity to try something new?

I will not bore you with all the tedious commentary, but will include a few notes.

My approach to the first three was identical. In #1 above, I chose violet for the top edge and transitioned to yellow near the bottom. Mixing complementary colours like violet and yellow produces rich browns. At the bottom edge I added white to some of the intermediate neutral browns, and finished it off with a few lines of yellow crayon atop the yellow stripe.


#2 was made the same way, beginning with cyan (blue) at the top edge, transitioning to orange near the bottom. A few random lines of orange crayon reinforce the orange band of colour.


Likewise #3, beginning with green at the top and gradating to the very saturated red below, followed by a few tints of red lightened by white. The takeaway for these first three explorations is that brilliant colours look even more brilliant when surrounded by less saturated colours.


Still in landscape mode, #4 used four cool, analogous colours. The "sky" had a gradation from violet to cyan, both tinted with white. The "hill" transitioned from turquoise-blue to chrome green. Little value contrast (dark/light) in the piece as a whole.


Much more value contrast for landscape #5. The "sky" gradated from cyan to yellow, and the "hill" gradated from yellow to chrome green. The middle left offers the area of highest value contrast (dark-light), with the blue against the yellow.


I couldn't resist the temptation any longer and chose blue and green to make a landscape in #6. The sky begins with blue at the top and is mixed with increasing amounts of white (range of value). There is an abrupt break at the skyline, where the green hill transitions in hue to the blue sea.


Enough with the landscape format. On to shapes on a background. #7 features a turquoise-blue sphere, most saturated on its outside edge and least saturated in its centre. The background is a gradation from tints of violet to tints of blue. All cool, analogous colours.


In #8, the background is tints of grey, and the right-hand sphere is red on its outer edge, mixed with increasing amounts of white towards its centre. The sphere on the left has a turquoise-blue outer edge, transitioning to a blue centre. The red is a warm colour, and the turquoise is cool, though they are not true complements.


The last two feature only one main hue, celadon*, which is made by adding black to yellow. Varying amounts of white and black create variations in the value. I think of celadon as straddling the border between warm and cool colours, depending on the amount of yellow in the mix, and on what colour  is beside it. #9 has an accent of warm red, and #10 an accent of blue. These tiny accents provide contrast of hue, value and saturation.

* I understand that there are differing opinions about what the colour "celadon" looks like. For some, the word "celadon" means a greyed-down blue-green. For others, (Martha Stewart for one!) it can include a greyed-down yellow-green.


I quite like the sophisticated, edgy combinations of colour in these last two.  May just use them in a future piece. Sometimes hours of hard slogging on an assignment actually uncovers real "gold".

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor

Calder in his studio

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was one of the most influential and innovative sculptors of the twentieth century. Before his time, the practice of sculpture contended with gravity and massive materials, but over the course of five decades, this American artist forged an unprecedented type of approach to art in dialogue with the world in motion and the motion in things.

Said Fernand Léger in 1931,
"Looking at these new works – transparent, objective, exact – I think of Satie, Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Brancusi, Arp – these unchallenged masters of unexpressed and silent beauty. Calder is in the same family."
Calder, trained as an engineer, came of age during a time of unprecedented technological and scientific growth. His mobiles have been said to reflect our understanding of the cosmos. Wrote Rachel Campbell-Johnson in The Sunday Times,
" Alexander Calder is the artist who entranced Albert Einstein. Story has it that when his sculpture A Universe – a mechanized construction that sets two red and white spheres moving around each other like planets, following their curved wire paths at different speeds – was first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1934, the great physicist stood before it transfixed for the full 40 minutes that it took to complete its cycle."

One hundred and fifty works and archival documents are included in the MMFA show. Walking into one of the rooms (shown below) the visitor is struck by the sheer joy and whimsy expressed by the "mobiles" and "stabiles" on display.

Also included in the show are a few of Calder's drawings and paintings, his maquettes, and sculptures that date back to his childhood. Much documentation is posted on the walls, and an audioguide is available.

Acrobats, 1927 (with shadow)

Visitors to the current Alexander Calder exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts should be alert to the shadows cast by the wire sculptures, the mobiles and stabiles: effective lighting makes the most of the works on display.

Trois disques

Calder has a particular place in the hearts of Montrealers. He was a French-speaking francophile of Scottish ancestry, enamoured of the circus. His sculpture Trois disques (better known to Montrealers as Man) was an iconic feature of our Expo 67. It was his largest work to date: 20 meters tall, requiring more than 36,000 kilograms of stainless steel sheets and over 1000 kilograms of bolts. The current exhibition shows both the 75.6 centimetre maquette, and the first enlargement to 385 centimetres (on display on Sherbrooke Street, in front of the museum).

The show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts continues until February 24, 2019.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Lesson 4: "100 Drawings"

Work continues apace in the Jane Davies' ten-week on-line class. This week our assignment was to make ten drawings using only black and white media (acrylic paint, acrylic ink, India ink, charcoal, graphite, marker, water-soluble crayon, wax crayon, pastel, etc.) We were to pay attention to variety (of line, shape, scale, value, edges, technique, etc.)


We were to pay particular attention to achieving variety within each piece. For every composition, we were to reflect on each quadrant, and ensure that each was different from the others. I think this is really valuable advice for a successful composition.

Here are my ten "explorations", all 12" x 9".  I'm learning to embrace "happy accidents".










You'll see more pattern here than in previous assignments, where it was discouraged. I enjoy pattern because I find it adds interest and variety of scale. Perhaps my experience with fibre is responsible for this familiarity with pattern.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Retrospective of Suzor-Coté @ Galerie Eric Klinkhoff

Here are the details from an invitation card for an upcoming show at Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, running October 13 - 27, 2018. 

Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté: Retrospective Exhibition 

Rue St-Louis, Montreal

Suzor-Coté was an outstanding artist, known for his mastery and the variety of his work. His impressionistic interpretations of Quebec landscapes, equally his portraits, nudes, and historical paintings, reveal the extreme diversity of his talent.

Continuing in a long-standing tradition of hosting annual non-selling shows, Galerie Eric Klinkhoff is proud to pay homage to one of the greatest painters and sculptors in the history of Canadian art.

The paintings and sculptures have been generously lent by Canadian private and corporate collectors. It is their precious collaboration that has made this exhibition possible.

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, 1200 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC  

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Visual Design: my interview with SAQA

Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) is an international group I have belonged to for many years. One of many posts that I've shared about SAQA was written last year, outlining some of the benefits of membership.

So I am delighted now to share with you a web-interview I did recently with Deborah Boschert as part of a Seminar Series on Visual Design, available exclusively to SAQA members. The Seminar Series is part of a whole collection of videos, articles and other resources on Visual Design for SAQA members. It's one of the projects developed in recent years that adds enormous benefit to membership.

If you decide that SAQA is a group you'd like to be part of, use the code SEMINAR to get a $10 discount for new members. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lesson 3, "100 Drawings"

Lesson 1 was about line and veiling. Lesson 2 was about rapidly laying down paint, then going back in with line and veiling. Lesson 3 is an exploration of shape, incorporating the tools of line and veiling that we've already covered.

I'm three weeks into the ten-week on-line course with Jane Davies and the pace is challenging. There are close to 50 active participants, all posting their 6 to 10 "explorations" weekly. So I get to see everyone's responses to the assignments, and to exchange observations with all of them, and I get to read the teacher's comments on their posts, as well as on mine.

This week, we are to make ten drawings exploring shape as a primary element.
  • Line and pattern can be brought into play, but shape should be the focus. 
  • We are encouraged to use a variety of techniques to make our shapes, 
  • to make some compositions with minimal colour, 
  • to experiment with using just a few shapes, and
  • to try using a large number of shapes.

For this week's assignment, I made six pieces with a blue/orange colour scheme, and four with a neutral colour scheme (enlivened with a dash of red).

I should also mention that we get instruction every week, in the form of videos. Many of these videos are available on Jane Davies' website, so have a look at the "videos and tutorials" link if you'd like to see what that's all about.

In this week's videos, we looked at using hand-cut stencils to create shapes. A variation on this is to fill in the stencil with stamping or scribbling, or to spritz alcohol on the shape in the stencil, allowing you to "lift" some paint on the selected area.

We also looked at using "masks" to make shapes. Masks can preserve a background, allowing you to paint or splatter around it.

Shapes can be solid, or made with only an outline, whether that is created with paint, marker, charcoal, or watercolour crayon. Some media allow for smudged edges, others for clean or dry-brush edges. Shapes can be amorphous, like a cloud, or crisply defined. Then we have positive shapes (like the ring in the image below) or negative shapes (the hole in the middle of the ring.)

I tried to use a range of value, from dark to light, to combine shapes of varying size, and to use transparency and opacity. All these contrasts create interest in a composition.

I thought this last one was the most interesting. I liked the way the mosaic of rectangular shapes contrasted with the ambiguous black line underneath it. The line was made with watercolour crayon, and then I dripped water onto it with a pipette, allowing the water to dribble down, forming vertical lines that faded towards the lower edge of the paper.

So many things to try out! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Lesson 2, "100 Drawings"

my favourite

For Week 2 of the 10-week on-line Jane Davies class, our assignment is to work fast, with a 20-second limit for the first application of paint, in several colours, on our 9" x 12" paper. That's right: 20 seconds. With a timer!

We are allowed to spend a few more seconds, if need be, just to ensure that the whole paper is completely covered with paint. While this first layer of paint is still wet, we are to add drawn lines and shapes with graphite and then, with the paint still wet, to blot or "lift" excess paint, thereby creating some transparencies.

Once the paint has dried, we are to go back in with opaque paint (to cover up some of what we laid down on our first approach) and with transparent paint (to add interest and depth), adding more lines if we wish.

The objective of this exercise is to free us up, and to silence our inner critic. It also gives us experience with opacity and transparency.

Shown here is what I came up with, given the parameters of the assignment. I found that applying paint with my fingertips helped loosen me up.

Once again, we are to make ten of these paintings and post them onto the group blog.

my least favourite, and my husband's favourite:
go figure

Of course it's fascinating to see the variety in the student work, and then instructive to read the teacher's responses to each participant's post.

Jane was very positive in her response to my "explorations". She suggested, however, that to get the maximum effect from the assignment, I should aim for some areas that are absolutely flat and opaque, like "a paint chip". For example, in the image above, it's not enough that I used an opaque red paint. It should look opaque, without any suggestion of texture, so that there is a strong contrast between the red area and the other parts of the piece.

As a textile artist, I am most comfortable with defined shapes, so it is a bit of a breakthrough for me to use more amorphous shapes, transparent colour and brushy edges. I'm enjoying this!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Lesson 1, "100 Drawings"

I have enrolled in an on-line class with Jane Davies, titled "100 Drawings". The class continues for ten weeks, and we are expected to create 6 - 10 drawings each week.

For our first week, we were

  • to work only with line (not shape or pattern or texture),
  • and only with black, grey and white. 
  • to aim for a variety of line (thin vs. thick, crisp vs. smudgy, jagged vs. sinuous vs. straight), 
  • that engaged with the edges of the paper,
  • that was intentional and thoughtful, and not just a scribble,
  • using a variety of media (charcoal, marker, ink, graphite, paint). 
We were then to apply white paint of varying opacity to create a sense of depth. The idea was for the lines to advance and recede from the surface of the paper, as they were "veiled" to varying degrees by the white paint. More lines and more layers of white paint were to follow as needed.

We are to post our work on a class blog every week, so we can learn from each other, and from the teacher's comments on each student's output. We are expected to choose one or two of our own pieces and explain exactly what we "see" happening in the piece. We are not to describe the process, just the result.

At first, I spent too much time experimenting with variety of line (actually kind of fun), but I then re-focused on creating a feeling of depth.

These are my resulting 9 pieces, all measuring 12" x 9".

The instructor's response to my drawings was that they were "beautiful" and fulfilled the requirements of having varied lines and variable use of veiling. Jane Davies suggested I would benefit from making a few that were more dense (more lines, more levels of obscuration) to expand my range. All the other participants had filled their papers with more lines, with exuberance winning out over restraint, and the instructor's own examples showed more density too. 

Something to keep in mind, but the class is fast-paced, and I've already moved on to Lesson 2. Part of taking a class is learning about your own inclinations, and whether to stretch them, break through them, or honour them.