Sunday, July 29, 2012

Festival des Arts, Georgeville and Fitch Bay

The Georgeville-Fitch Bay Festival des Arts presents its 10th edition this summer, from July 21 - 29. On the tour are four sites, each presenting about a dozen artists. Many of the artists are on site, and available to talk about their work.  

One of the sites is the Grange Éléphant in Georgeville. This barn was built in 1832. If you look at the side of the building, you can see small shelters meant to attract bats.

The barn is located on Chemin de l'Éléphant. I am told that it was named for the mountain which can be viewed at the end of the road.

Inside the barn is an imaginative display of work by a dozen artists. Note the empty antique frames hung at odd angles on the upper walls. 

Here are a couple of art enthusiasts enjoying the view of the barn interior from the old hayloft.

The tour is a fun way to explore this little corner of the Eastern Townships. Besides the usual painters, some of the artists and artisans work in other interesting media, including silver, wood, bookbinding, and embroidery.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

57th and 5th

Here is my latest piece, based on a photo taken this May in New York City.  I have used hand-dyed cotton to achieve some interesting colour, and there is something of a luminous effect with some of the windows. I find that urban landscapes are a great vehicle for working with strong verticals and diagonals, grids, interlocking shapes, line, and colour.

This is the original photo. I did some research with the Louis Vuitton company (can you see their logo on the building on the left?) and they kindly confirmed for me the location. The large building front and centre is Tiffany's.

I used the on-line utility PosteRazor to enlarge the photo to about 18" x 24", and then produced a line drawing from that, which helped simplify the image into shape and line.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Canadian Guild of Crafts

Stopped by the Canadian Guild of Crafts a few days ago. Now located at 1460-B Sherbrooke Street West, I remember visiting their Peel Street outpost decades ago.
I was delighted to see the work of Rosie Godbout prominently displayed. Godbout was cited as an influence by Nancy Yule, a Cambridge ON fibre artist recently profiled on the World of Threads website. Godbout, who specializes in felt, has been celebrated for her "wearable art" for more than thirty years.  Her studio on Rue Casgrain might be an interesting visit for our text'art group.  

Another felt artist, Andrea Graham of Toronto, makes small imaginary creatures.                         

Louise Lemieux-Berubé is well-known for transforming photographic images into woven tapestries, using computer-driven jacquard looms. I am more familiar with her cream-and-grey work, so it was interesting to see on display a softly-coloured representation of a woodland scene. Lemieux-Berubé has recently resigned as Director of the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles, a position she has held since  the Centre's founding in 1990.

It is wonderful to see work in fibre so well-represented at this Montreal boutique.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tom Wesselmann at the Musée des Beaux-Arts

Yesterday I visited the Tom Wesselmann show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which runs until October 7, 2012.  This is the first major retrospective of his work in North America, and long overdue. He was the only one of the major figures associated with the Pop Art movement - Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol - not to have been honoured in this way.
Still Life with Two Matisses (Portrait) 1990/92

Early in his career, Wesselmann decided that he had been so influenced by Willem de Kooning that, in order to ensure that his own work was original, he would turn away from abstraction and limit himself to the figurative. His career was almost entirely an exploration of the great themes of art: the nude, the still life, and the landscape.
Great American Nude #52, 1963

In 1961, he began his Great American Nude series. The influence of Matisse is palpable. To quote the artist, "I liked the idea of competition rather than harmony. All parts of the picture compete." These large acrylics included collage and, occasionally, textiles. The collage above was photographed at an angle to avoid glare. The white rug on which the figure lies is fuzzy cloth.
 Still Life #20, 1962

His still lifes featured collage and assemblage. He would obtain advertising materials directly from manufacturers in order to include them in his work. Both his paintings and collages often used American symbolism (stars, flags, presidential portraits) and icons of post-war consumerism.
Still LIfe #60, 1973
By the 1970's, he was using "shaped canvases", innovative in its time.
Alice's Front Yard (3D), 1993

In the 1980's, he invented "Steel Drawings". As noted in the exhibition, "Wesselmann's original idea, that began the cut-out works, was to preserve the process and immediacy of his drawings from life, complete with the false lines and errors, and realize them in steel. It was as though the lines had just been miraculously drawn in steel." He pioneered the use of laser-cutting to achieve this work in metal.

Wesselmann insisted that these were not sculptures, but drawings, because of their essentially linear quality. Sometimes, charcoal was applied to the metal to add coloration. At other times, oil or alkyd paint was used.
Monica in robe with Wesselmann, 1992

Wesselmann died in 2004 at the age of 73. In his last years, he began to take the painted remnants from his metal cut-outs and assemble them into non-figurative compositions, returning to abstraction, his first love, on his own terms. He had come full circle.

Wesselmann kept a well-organized inventory of the many preparatory drawings done for each piece, and seeing them allows the viewer to better appreciate the meticulous approach he took to his work. I enjoyed seeing how the artist consistently explored the great themes throughout his career, evolving different material expressions through the decades. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hudson Medi-Centre Gallery

Today we hung seven intriguing photos by Richard Stanford in the art showcase at the Hudson Medi-Centre. The framed photographs appear to be straight-forward close-ups of small rural houses, but their titles hint at the stories behind the front doors, suggesting a narrative and capturing the imagination of the viewer.

Work by local artists is rotated every two months, to provide exposure for the artist and to make the waiting room more interesting for patients and for staff. Richard's work can be seen during office hours until mid-September. He will be followed by Carole Lessard, who is known for her painted portraits of cows, and then by Gail Descoeurs, whose exquisite oil paintings are well-received wherever they are shown.

If you are a Hudson area artist, and you would like to show your work at the Hudson Medi-Centre Gallery, please contact me through my website at

Friday, July 13, 2012

More about colour

Last month, I took a workshop with William Hodge, who taught for forty-two years at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Part of the two days involved Hodge critiquing the work of each participant, which was very valuable.   Hodge suggested I learn more about "atmospheric colour", and he recommended a particular text, "Color Workbook" by Becky Koenig.

This book offers a very complete discussion of colour in all its aspects. I found the six pages titled, "Color to Depict Form, Light and Space" very helpful. Koenig explains that, to achieve depth in art, colour in the background should be less saturated than colour in the foreground. There are four ways to achieve this: by adding white, black, or gray to a colour,  or by adding its complement to dull it down. For example, by adding a little violet to yellow, the yellow loses its vibrancy.

The key is to start with the background, and to gradate the colour from foreground to background so that it becomes more like the background. If the background is light, then the foreground transitions from dark to light.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Georges de la Tour

Conversely, if the background is dark, the foreground transitions from light to dark.

These are ideas I would like to work with in my Cityscapes series, using my hand-dyed cloth to achieve colour transitions.

Other techniques used to achieve depth include using larger-scaled items, more detail, and more value contrast in the foreground. Even the simple overlapping of objects contributes to a sense of depth.

The Dessert: Harmony in Red, by Henri Matisse
Of course, one of my favourite painters, Matisse, often made little attempt to achieve depth in his interiors, flattening foreground and background into one.

In the painting at left, you can see how all the colour is highly-saturated, and how the pattern on the tablecloth and on the wallpaper is equal in scale and in detail.

This approach is usually attributed to the influence of Japanese woodblock prints on Matisse and his contemporaries.

They say one could spend a lifetime studying colour, and I think that might well be true.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mucking about...

...with dyes. Because I hope to produce enough work to enter in four shows this fall, I need to have a stock of interesting colours to work with, and this leads me to "overdyeing".

The photos above show cotton that has been dyed in two complementary colours, blue-violet and mustard, and in five intensities from pale to deep. These colours would be perfect to represent flowers, but I'm after "dirtier" colour for my cityscapes, so I took some of the blue-violet cotton and over-dyed it with mustard dye. The palest blue-violet got the strongest hit of mustard, and the strongest blue-violet got the weakest hit, using five intensities of mustard dye on five intensities of blue-violet cotton.

You can see the always-surprising results in the next photo, above. The theory is that by mixing complementary colours (ones that are opposite each other on the colour wheel) you get mud, or at least a muddied colour. Which I find more interesting, especially for my urban landscapes. Remember too that when you're dyeing, you can't really know what you've got until it's been washed and dried.

I did the same with another set of fabric. What is shown below are the original ranges of boysenberry and olive, two complementary colours.

Again, I overdyed the boysenberry with five strengths of olive dye, using the strongest dye on the palest fabric and the weakest dye on the darkest fabric. The results are shown below. 

I am pleased with the complexity of the colours achieved, and may overdye some of the other colours I have produced in the last few days. The actual colours are more intense and more rich than the photos show. All of this could also be achieved in one set of dye baths, instead of two, by mixing the original dyes together in various proportions, but that wouldn't produce a range of the "un-muddied" colours, which are also lovely.

If you study painting, you may have an instructor who advises you to "use a little of that red from the rose in the leaves, and use a little of that green from the leaf in the flower". Overdyeing is a way of achieving something like this effect in cloth.

What's always amusing is when viewers of my work ask, "How long did it take you to make this?" No estimate could possibly account for time spent looking for just the right palette, or the right photo for inspiration, or time spent studying wonderful work done by others, or learning about colour theory. The best answer to this question is, "It took a lifetime".

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Galerue d'Art 2012

This past weekend I visited the 13th edition of Montreal's Galerue d'Art, running one kilometer along Ste. Catherine Street East, which has been turned into a pedestrian mall for the summer.

On arrival, it was easy to understand the dimensions of the exhibit, because bright pink balls were strung above the path from one end to the other.

Over 85 artists and artisans, mostly from Quebec, showed their work for five days. Each artist occupied a tent of about ten feet square. The very first artist I encountered was Sabine Alpers, who makes small animal heads of felted wool, mounted on disks to resemble the traditional mounted heads of game. I was particularly taken with the pig.

The second artist, Lucky Jackson, also works in fibre. She uses hand embroidery to create imagery in a retro, "pop" fashion. The cloth used for the backgrounds evokes the fifties and sixties, stretched on embroidery hoops for display. Lucky's objective is to make one piece a day for a year, and you can follow her progress at


The blocks between St.-Hubert and Papineau are filled with lively terrasses and interesting buildings, and the artists' tents are interspersed between colourful gatherings of café patrons.

The event was very much like the Allée des Arts held in St.-Lazare June 23 - 24, in which I participated. With more artists and a five-day span, the art was perhaps edgier and more urban, but I would say the standard was similarly high for both events.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT

What a delightful visit to Middlebury, Vermont this weekend, less than an hour south of Burlington on bucolic Route 7. The reason for this trip was that Karen Goetzinger, one of many impressive artists represented by Edgewater Gallery, was the Featured Artist of the Month. I have followed Karen's career since I first met her through the Ottawa group, Out of the Box, perhaps six years ago. Karen's vibrant pieces showed beautifully against the painted white barnwood walls, enhanced by hand-crafted furniture and brightly-coloured ceramics.

Karen takes her inspiration from the urban landscape, though the imagery is abstracted and the palette is bright. Paint and stitch are used to add texture and detail to cloth shapes.

The presentation of Karen's pieces is always very thoughtful and effective.
I was astonished to be met at the entrance to the Gallery by the work of Susanne Strater, a Beaconsfield artist whose career I have followed since we met a couple of years ago. We are lucky enough to own one of Susanne's beautiful works in pastel.

For the third year, the Gallery has showcased the work of Middlebury College alumni, and this year Susanne is one of nine artists selected. I counted eight oils or pastels by Susanne on display, which have been well-received by the Gallery's clientele.

Both these shows will end in the next few days, as the Gallery likes to keep its displays fresh and current.  Located on Mill Street next to a picturesque waterfall, the building housed the original Frog Hollow Gallery, which became a state-wide collective for Vermont artists and craftspeople. The building has since been turned over to private ownership, but continues to offer the work of artists familiar to those who have visited the Frog Hollow shop in Burlington. Both the Gallery and the charming town of Middlebury are well worth a visit.