Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Trick of the Light

Art, artists, curators, critics, gallery owners and dealers: they all play their parts in "A Trick of the Light", by Louise Penny. This is Penny's seventh mystery novel, set in the fictional Eastern Townships village of Three Pines.

The theme of the book is "chiaroscuro", an art technique that employs high contrasts of dark and light. And so we read about hate and love, betrayal and forgiveness, addiction, vengeance and yes, murder.

I enjoy the references to the English-French dynamic that plays out in Montreal and the "Cantons de l'Est", and to real institutions and locations: neighbourhoods, streets and restaurants. I appreciate the "sense of place" in Penny's work, and I hope this same delight in my city finds its way into my own work.

Penny's books are considered to be in the sub-genre of "the cozy", with its setting in a small, insular town, and its avoidance of explicit violence or sex, similar to the Miss Marple murder mysteries.

What I have always noticed about Penny's novels is the theme of art that runs through them. Penny herself lives in the Eastern Townships and counts artists, musicians and writers among her friends. She credits them for opening a window onto this world for her.

Her eighth novel in the series, "The Beautiful Mystery" was released yesterday.  Set in a monastery, its title refers to ancient Gregorian chant, and it deals with the paradoxes of discord and harmony, voice and silence, belonging and solitude.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

12 by the dozen

Are you a member of a challenge group, or have you considered joining one? I belong to 12bythedozen, and I find it lots of fun. Our on-line group has twelve members, from four countries and three continents. Every three months, a new theme is chosen by one of the members, and our challenge is to produce a 12-inch square that interprets the theme in fibre.
Connections, 2010
Seeing Red, 2010
I hesitated to join 12bythedozen when I was first approached in 2009. I wanted to focus on "my own work", rather than being diverted by the arbitrary whims of a group.  I am someone who has posted in her studio the following quote:

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dillard
Reflections, 2010
Frenzy, 2010
But then, my friends were having so much fun with the group challenges and posts that I changed my mind. I jumped in with both feet and even completed the two challenges I had missed. It helps that six of the current members are from the Montreal area.
Fresh, 2011
Structure, 2011
Now, I have to admit that if a theme doesn't really inspire me, I will just produce something "quick and dirty" and move on. But there have been a couple of occasions when the incentive  of the challenge has led me to try something I have been meaning to try for some time. And then I have found that having made the one small piece to meet the group's requirements, I will continue with the theme and work with the techniques and ideas on a larger scale. This is what happened with my Tuscany series, which started with Pamela's suggestion of "Fragments".
Fragments, 2011
Street Life, 2011
The Tuscany series, with its image transfers of street scenes from my travel photos, in turn led to my Cityscapes series, which has occupied me for the past ten months or so.
Steps, 2012
Fine Living, 2012
The Montreal-area members have had two occasions to exhibit our work together. Viewers have been fascinated to see the individual interpretations of the various themes. 

You can have a look at our group's blog. Alert: our next Big Reveal will be on Friday, August 31, on the theme of Jubilation. The lines will be humming!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Cityscapes

Here are two new Cityscapes, also measuring 12" square. They are titled Brooklyn Cityscape #3 and #4, and they are made from hand-dyed cotton. Like #1 and #2, the image is derived from a detail of a photo of a Brooklyn warehouse.

The colour scheme is essentially complementary, with violet, yellow, and the neutrals created by mixing violet and yellow.

I like to offset the line drawing from the coloured shapes, because I think it adds interest, and suggests "the hand of the maker".

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Latest Cityscapes

Here are the two most recent pieces in my Cityscapes series.

They are relatively small, 12" square, and made with hand-dyed cotton, some of it flat-dyed this week in my backyard. Small work like this is useful to have for shows like the Studio Tour and the Hudson Artists exhibition, coming up in the fall.

The images were inspired by details of a photo I took in Brooklyn last year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Flat dyeing

Inspired by Robin Ferrier's article on outdoor flat dyeing in the June/July 2012 issue of Quilting Arts, I set up a dyeing station in my back yard.

I was also inspired by a very thoughtful birthday gift: a full bolt of Kona PFD cotton. Thank you Harper!

Essentially you lay down a plastic sheet, place the folded cloth on top, pour on the dye solution, spread with your gloved hands, then layer another plastic sheet on top. After using a paint roller to ensure a good distribution of the dye, you begin again. In the end you have a multi-layered sandwich of plastic sheets and dye-soaked cotton, which you allow to bake in the sun for a full day. Clean-up with a garden hose is easy.

This approach to dyeing is new to me, and I liked the result of minimal mottling.

These are some of the results, which I plan to use in my next project. To be continued....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Drawing on cloth

Had a wonderful few days with my text'art group. We got together at Dianne's cottage on Lake Memphremagog with the idea of enjoying each other's company, and exploring some new techniques and ideas.

For some time, we have wanted to experiment with Kerr Grabowsi's approach to drawing on fabric with water-soluble media. You can see a couple of my results below.
This first image shows what happened when I drew on cloth with water-soluble crayons called Aqua Briques. A layer of "extender" is then silk-screened onto the surface to make the design washable, without making the cloth stiff. 
The second image shows what happened when I drew directly onto the silkscreen with the Aqua Briques and then transferred the pigment to the cloth by applying extender through the silkscreen. On the left is the first transfer, and on the right is the "ghost" made by doing it a second time, when less pigment remains on the screen. Often the ghost print is more interesting.

After heat-setting the result with a hot iron, the material is ready to be incorporated into a new project.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Edward Hopper

Nighthawks, 1942
Just finished reading "Edward Hopper", by Lloyd Goodrich, published in 1978. A massive book, it has hundreds of large images of Hopper's etchings, watercolours, and oils. I have recently taken a renewed interest in Hopper, and hope to visit an exhibition of his work in Paris this October.

As you can see in his iconic "Nighthawks", Hopper was masterful in his handling of light. Most of his work features very strong contrasts of value. Notice how he uses a wedge shape to create an interesting composition.

Automat, 1927
Room in New York, 1932 
One of Hopper's favourite subjects was the interior of buildings, especially brightly lit rooms, sometimes seen from outside.

Born in 1882, Hopper was certainly exposed to the influence of Impressionism, particularly during his two years spent in France. He drew inspiration, though, from earlier artists, like Courbet and Daumier, who used light and shadow to model form. Hopper depicts buildings in all their solidity, with the benefit of shading and cast shadows.

From Williamsburg Bridge, 1928

House by the Railroad 1925

Often Hopper took an unusual perspective on his subject. Sometimes he viewed a building from an elevated vantage point, and at other times employed more of a "worm's eye view", looking up at his subject. Going up on a roof to paint, he was as likely to focus on the roof itself, with its vents and chimneys, as on the view from the roof. Notice how in the two paintings above he places a strong horizontal in the foreground of the frame, separating the viewer from the subject. Much has been made of the sense of alienation Hopper creates in his work; this device of a strong barrier between viewer and subject contributes to that feeling.

I like the strong horizontals and verticals in his work, and the grid-like pattern of windows and doors.

Lighthouse Hill 1927
Lighthouse at Two Lights 1929

Many of Hopper's paintings use a limited palette of the complementary colours blue and orange, and all the neutrals that might be created by mixing these colours together. At other times, he employed touches of very saturated colours, sometimes to strengthen the effect of a lit room surrounded by darkness.

The Circle Theatre, 1936
Early Sunday Morning, 1930

Approaching a City, 1946
Examining Hopper's techniques closely has encouraged me to consider making greater use of strong darks and lights to suggest the forms of buildings and to create stronger visual interest.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bishop Street

My latest piece in the Cityscapes series is based on a photo taken of Bishop Street in Montreal. In the background is Concordia's Hall Building, and the smaller, older buildings in the foreground also belong to Concordia.

I like the juxtaposition of old and new, and of triangles and rectangles. I also like the strong diagonals of the composition.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Juanita Sauvé at the MVTM, Almonte ON

Down the Garden Path: Friendship is a Garden

Tears of Africa

Blueberry Magic
On Thursday I visited the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario. Juanita Sauvé has a solo show there until August 18. Titled "Pathways", the exhibit includes about two dozen art quilts. All hand-stitched, many of them feature raw edge appliqué and painted detail. The human figure in the landscape is one of the artist's favourite subjects.

The museum also has a wonderful permanent display that tells the story of the town and its manufacturing history.

Though I have visited the MVTM before, I haven't ever taken the time to explore the town of Almonte. In the 1800's it was one of the major wool milling centres in Canada, with several mills powered by the Mississippi River that runs through the middle of town. A Riverwalk allows visitors to see the falls up close.

The main street has several good restaurants, including the Mill Street Crepe Company, which was very busy at lunch. The old-fashioned street is lined with antique shops, a vintage clothing store, a bookstore, a yarn shop, a quilting store, and several cute gift shops.

The old town hall is one of many interesting buildings in this charming little town. Look for a mix of stone and red brick, and for patterned tiles on the roofs.

Though not the bustling industrial centre of its glory days, it is apparent that efforts have been made to make Almonte attractive to day-trippers. A visit to the textile museum and a browse along Mill Street would make for a delightful experience of small-town Ontario.