Friday, May 31, 2013

Eggplant challenge

Every three months the 12bythedozen blogging group sets a challenge for its twelve members. For this next series of twelve pieces, we have changed the format from 12" square to 8.5" x 11", and the topic will be a particular colour, chosen in turn by the twelve participants.

Pam Chasen chose the colour "eggplant" for this first challenge in the series. Eggplant is a very dark purple. When a colour is that dark, it is sometimes difficult to tease out its exact hue, whether it's red-violet or blue-violet. I decided to pair it with a complementary mustard yellow, and used a range of shades and tints for each hue.

My inspiration came from a photo I took last year in New York, from a window at the back of the National Academy Museum on 5th Avenue. I liked the grids of the windows, and the strong diagonals. Shown here are the photo, the drawing derived from the photo, and the final piece. Seeing the drawing may be my favourite part of the process.

Our unveiling is today and our members, from Montreal, the U.K., Texas and South Africa will be posting their projects on-line.  You can see the results of the challenge at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

View from the tour bus

Okay, okay, I had to swallow my pride. But it was for a good cause.

When I take photos to inspire my cityscapes, I like to have a different perspective. I look for opportunities to get an elevated viewpoint.

A friend suggested that I take a ride on one of the many double-decker buses that tours around Manhattan, and on Monday I did just that.

I didn't listen to any of the commentary, didn't even plug into the audio. I just concentrated on getting some interesting shots. There was no one else on the bus for the majority of the trip (it's a new company and I guess they're not well-known yet) so there were no heads in the way of my lens.

When I visited the show of Sargent watercolours at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the curator's text referred to the "fragmentary slices" of architecture that Sargent chose as his subjects, the "partial views" of landmarks. It was said that Sargent "characteristically bypassed the grander aspects of the setting". Those are the images I'm looking for.

Of course the images will need some cropping and other re-working, but on the whole I think I have some good material to work with.

And if you know about some Montreal perches that would provide a special viewpoint for a cityscape (nothing too high, just a few stories) please let me know.

If only we had these nifty water towers on the Montreal skyline!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Washington Square Art Fair

I love to make a personal connection with someone when I travel, and I was able to do that in New York when I attended the Washington Square Art Fair this weekend. The outdoor display of art extended ten blocks along University Place, and the quality of the art and the fine craft was exceptional. This is the 83rd year of the fair, which runs for two weekends in the spring and again in the fall.

There was always a crowd gathered around this table, above, with viewers fascinated by the assemblages made of found items.

While there were many good painters at the fair, I was especially taken with the work by Linda Adato. Linda kindly allowed me to take a photo of her work, but the glass caught a little glare from the sunlight. I chatted with Linda about the current show of watercolors by John Singer Sargent at the Brooklyn Museum, and about her work. Like me, Linda favours cityscapes and often works in a subdued palette. She is a printmaker, and she explained that the metal plates that she works with have to be immersed in acid. Working with large plates is awkward, so if she wants to make a larger image, she breaks the image down into smaller plates. She then prints them side by side on a single piece of heavy paper. Tobie Steinhouse is a Montreal printmaker who has done the same thing for many years, especially with her larger prints.

I liked the effect: you get the whole image but you also have each component framed as a smaller composition in itself. I could do something like this with my cityscapes too.

Please visit Linda's website to see more of her beautiful work.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Technical difficulties

Bedouins, John Singer Sargent

I'm having a fine old time in NYC, and I've seen lots of exciting art. Began at the Brooklyn Museum, with the excellent exhibit of John Singer Sargent's watercolours. It's enough to make me want to take up watercolour painting.

Ozone Layer, El-Anatsui

Whig Rose Quilt, maker unknown, 1850

While there, also saw the 30-piece show of El-Anatsui's sculpture, and the impressive display of historical quilts.

Visited the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art and saw the Impressionism and Fashion exhibit. The highlight for me so far has been the Whitney show of Hopper's drawings.

Where permitted, I've been taking photos with my Nikon, with the intention of transferring them to my new iPad, bought especially for travel. Even bought a little 4" cable (30 bucks) to connect the camera to the iPad. When I do this, I get a message saying the camera device uses too much energy to be connected to the iPad. So frustrating. May have to use the iPhone for blog pix. Once I return home I'll post photos from the Nikon.

Steep learning curve. Have downloaded an app that resizes photos for blogging, so that is something.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Local inspiration

Along Main Road in Vaudreuil and Hudson, there are many barns, old and new, that cry out for a second look.

Perhaps one of them will be the inspiration for a new piece?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chihuly exhibit: behind the scenes

I found it quite amusing to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Friday. There is much excitement in town about the Chihuly glass exhibit, opening June 8. This is what it looked like on Friday: a huge room crowded with tall stacks of ordinary cardboard boxes, all labelled "Fragile - Glass". A stark contrast to the fantastically surreal creations inside the boxes.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Malle Romet at the Hudson Medi-Centre

What a pleasure it was to install the work of Malle Romet at the Hudson Medical Centre, 465 Main Road in Hudson. Malle was inspired by a recent visit to Tuscany to create these four pieces in pastel. Malle's work may be seen during regular clinic hours until July 13.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Anne Brisson at Recouture

Tucked away behind this intriguing facade at 73A Cameron in Hudson is a most magical place, where discontinued clothing is "upcycled" into something truly unique.

Anne Brisson, sculptor, painter and collage artist, is the creative force behind "Recouture". Anne delights in using found materials, like curtains, scarves, blankets and recycled fur, to add panache to jackets, dresses, coats and more.

Anne has a special relationship with some local shops, who provide her with their end-of-line and end-of-season items.  Using her wonderful sense of colour, whimsy and fun, Anne transforms them into "vintage chic".

Many of her clients are women in their 40's and older, who are looking for something a little funky, a little different. While not everyone is game for the novelty of an upcycled dress, almost everyone can enjoy a fanciful handbag, appliqu├ęd with lace and finished off with a large rhinestone bumblebee. Anne's handbags, or "Anne-bags" are one of her most popular items.

Anne is pleased to be presenting ten of her ensembles at the annual fashion show at the Hudson Yacht Club on Wednesday, May 22. She is also active on Etsy, under the name Reecouture. A year and a half after opening her shop door, Anne has found her own niche in a niche market.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Artist in residence, OVQG

What a great gig! Imagine being paid to talk about your work for a whole day!

Seriously, thank you to the organizers of the  Ottawa Valley Quilt Guild show for inviting me to be artist in residence on Friday, May 10. It was fun meeting new people and reconnecting with friends. I ran out of business cards by 1 p.m.

The downside? I didn't have any time to view the show or even sweep through the vendors. The many happy visitors to the show kept me on task till closing time.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fibre art at the Jane Sauer Gallery

Judith Content, Jade Cove

Seeing fibre so well represented at the Jane Sauer Gallery was a highlight of my time in Santa Fe.

Judith Content, Refuge

Perhaps best known is the work of Judith Content, who makes striking kimono-shaped pieces with her hand-dyed arashi-shibori. While Content began with traditional indigo dyes, she has more recently perfected the use of modern dyes on silk.

The patterning of the fabric is done by tightly wrapping it around a cylinder and binding it with cord before immersing it into a dye bath. The somewhat serendipitous result can evoke rainstorms and more.

Charla Khanna, Hearts and Flowers

Isn't she beautiful? Charla Khanna, based in Taos, New Mexico, is inspired by ancient fertility figures. She writes, "Since the beginning of time, people have made small representations of the human figure and imbued them with meaning. From the sacred to the profane, little figures have been invested with intent. Fertility goddess, voodoo doll, a child's simple toy – we are sometimes confounded by the evocative power of what might be simply a small crafted object." Each of her figures expresses a unique persona.

Cindy Hickok, Needle Art

Cindy Hickok is a studio artist who uses thread as her medium, the needle as her paintbrush, and the sewing machine as a tool. Her work is amazingly precise and detailed, and its subject often humorous and political.

Carol Shinn, Summer Meadow

Carol Shinn "is known internationally for photo-realistic machine-stitched images. Her embroidered scenes suggest a narrative without telling a specific story; the story instead becomes the one the viewer tells about his or her relation to the locale depicted." 

Shinn is a master of a technique I know as "thread-painting".

Lesley Richmond, Distant Forest 2

Finally, Lesley Richmond makes beautifully textured pieces that suggest forest growth. She writes, "The materials and processes with which I work simulate the growth forms of organic substances by changing the structure of the fabric, rather than imposing a design to the surface of the cloth."

Richmond works with cotton/silk fabric on a heat reactive base, with metal patinas applied.

What do these five exceptional artists have in common? Mastery of their materials and a strong aesthetic vision. 

Lesley Richmond, Distant Forest

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Geoffrey Gorman at the Jane Sauer Gallery

Canyon Road in Santa Fe is supposedly the world's densest collection of art. That just might be true. I was told it's a half-mile stretch of 100 galleries. One of the standout galleries is the Jane Sauer, which specializes in alternative media, including fibre. You can find it by looking for the purple doors and windows.

Perhaps the most intriguing artist represented at the Jane Sauer Gallery is Geoffrey Gorman. If you go to this link, you'll be able to see some of his work as well as some Youtube clips. Geoffrey spoke at the SAQA conference I attended last month. A former art dealer, he had a midlife epiphany at fifty, and decided he wanted to do something else with his life. He just wasn't sure what. Somehow he ended up making stick figures out of ... well, sticks... and, with an affable personality and a background in the business of art, he has made a good living for himself since.

Geoffrey Gorman, Mombin is Looking for her Sacred Mound

Now 58, he produces sculptures of animals from reeds, old bicycle tires, and odds and ends. He explained that he makes about 60 of these sculptures a year, and his "sweet spot" for pricing is about $3000 to $4000. Of course his galleries take half that. He is represented widely in the U.S. and much of his work is sold on the basis of a photograph. He can barely keep up with the demand.

Geoffrey Gorman, Sagita and Savii

His animals have unique personalities, and a talismanic quality. As Gorman said, "They're all alphas."

Monday, May 6, 2013

New book from Elizabeth Barton

Having taken three of Elizabeth Barton's on-line courses, I am a big fan of her as a teacher and as an artist. Her book, published on May 1, is based on her course of the same name, "Inspired to Design".

Anyone who has taken this class will find the text familiar, but Barton has added many images of her own work to illustrate her points about effective use of the elements of design. Almost all of Barton's work is architectural in theme, so it has a special resonance for me. But no matter what your preferred subject, the principles still apply.

For those who would like to begin to make your own art quilts, this is a great primer. Barton leads the reader from first inspiration (whether it be a photo, a poem, or an experience) through the many decisions the artist must make to create a compelling work in cloth. Planning and thoughtful consideration are very central to Barton's approach, though the judgements themselves can be based on intuition. Barton always recommends "making visual decisions visually."

Establishing a focal point, creating a sense of depth, leading the viewer's eye around the work, effective use of negative space, the use of colour schemes to create a certain mood: all of these topics are discussed. The book ends with a thorough explanation of Barton's favoured construction techniques, right down to the design of the quilting stitch.

I think this book would be a welcome tool for novice and experienced art quilters alike.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

De rerum natura, World of Threads

Ixchel Suarez, Memories of a Birch Tree
Ixchel Suarez, Memories of a Birch Tree

Once again I find myself promoting the World of Threads, and their wonderful website, where you can find links to photo albums of the various shows they mounted in November. The exhibit titled De rerum naturain the Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre, Oakville, ON was a standout.

"Curator Gareth Bate had observed that environmental work was the most dominant theme in contemporary fibre art. This lush and colourful environment was filled with striking and sometimes bizarre work. The show featured the work of 35 artists from Canada, Denmark, United Kingdom and USA. They worked in a huge variety of media. There were installations, sculpture and 2D work."

Also on their website are 86 interviews with local, regional and international fibre artists. That feature will resume again in about a month, with a new stable of artists.

I was reminded of this Festival as I spoke with others attending the SAQA conference in Santa Fe last week. As impressive as SAQA's New Mexico: Unfolding exhibit was, its focus was on 2-D art quilts. The World of Threads featured more innovative and more dimensional work. Truly exceptional. Have a look at the photo gallery and see if you don't agree with me.