Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Image, and a Memory, Transformed

Earlier this month, after attending the SAQA conference in Alexandria, Virginia, I extended my trip to spend some time with an old friend, living in Pennsylvania. We had two days of great conversation, and even managed to fit in a visit to the Barnes collection and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia.

On the way to the train station for my trip home, my friend drove me through the pretty villages of New Hope and Newtown, where she had lived before finding her current home in Doylestown. In Newtown, I convinced her to circle around a block, so I could take a photo of this interesting jumble of rooflines and windows. I promised that if I made a piece based on the image, I would send her a picture.

One week later, at the age of 64, my friend died suddenly of a heart attack.

Memories of Newtown
I thought of her constantly as I worked on this piece. Her favourite colour was blue, and it seemed like the best choice.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On-line courses: Tate & MoMA

Ever thought about taking an art class on-line? Here are a couple of options from two highly-regarded institutions.

Fanny Cornforth, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Tate is one of Britain's premier art museums. It offers two on-line classes: Artists' Techniques and Methods, and Introduction to Drawing Techniques. Both classes are based on works in the Tate collection. Each class, priced at 20 pounds, offers video clips and downloadable worksheets. Participants have the option of uploading their work to a discussion forum. There is no time limit for completion of the work. The Tate offers other on-line resources as well, including a glossary of art terms, and resources for teachers.

Experimenting with Collage

Until May 31, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is offering a 30% reduction on its on-line classes. Its instructor-led courses begin on June 11 for the summer term. Less expensive are the self-guided versions of the same courses, which are available at any time, and can be completed at the student's own pace. Here are the courses currently available:

Catalysts: Artists Creating with Sound, Video and Time;
From Pigment to Pixel: Color in Modern and Contemporary Art;
Five Puzzles of Contemporary Art;
Materials and Techniques of Contemporary Abstract Painting;
Experimenting with Collage;
Modern Art, 1880-1945;
Modern and Contemporary Art, 1945-1989.

To give you an idea of what to expect, MoMA offers a free demo class on the artist Jackson Pollock.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

345 art collections at your fingertips

The Google Cultural Institute, launched in 2011, continues to expand its offerings, and now offers more than 6 million items: photos, videos and documents. It is "an effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations."

While the site has much to offer those interested in historical documents, or world heritage sites, art enthusiasts will delight in the "Art Project" section.

Google has partnered with 345 art collections to showcase the work of 8541 artists. Simply click on "Art Project", and then browse through the holdings. Enter an artist's name in the search box to see good-quality images of their work. Click on the "details" option to learn more about the individual piece. Choose several and group them together in order to compare them side-by-side. Or tour the holdings of a single museum. The Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, MOMA, the AGO, Montreal's McCord, or the Doge's Palace in Venice: all at your fingertips.

User Galleries allow you to sample curated collections. Curate your own gallery of your favourite portraits of women, or paintings by women artists, or floral still lifes, or... whatever!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

New material for Cityscapes

Recently, I attended a SAQA conference in Alexandria, Virginia. I found the architecture to be very distinctive, and hope to be able to use some of these images in my Cityscapes series.

I tried to find an elevated viewpoint, to get a different perspective on the buildings, and found a church that was open. I was able to access the upper floor and got this shot:

After the conference I visited a friend in Pennsylvania., who took me on a drive through the countryside. I liked the rooflines of this horse breeding facility near New Hope,

and these sloped roofs and staggered windows from the picturesque Newtown, PA.

The trees were just beginning to leaf out, so the foliage wasn't yet obscuring the lines of the buildings.  Some real possibilities here!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Watercolour class & blogs

I think it's a good idea for artists to stretch themselves a bit by trying out a new medium or new subject matter from time to time. Even though I have a full slate of commitments for this year, I have signed up for a beginners' watercolour class at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for the first week of August.

Why there? Well...

Chatham street, Shari Blaukopf

... I'm a huge fan of Lakeshore Artist Shari Blaukopf, active member of the international group Urban Sketchers, whose watercolour sketches are posted daily to her blog. I contacted Shari about her local or regional classes, but nothing is planned until 2015.

Jocelyne Lambert

Jocelyne Lambert, who is teaching at the MMFA, is a member of the Société Canadienne de l'Aquarelle. I've seen her work on-line and I like her sense of composition.  It's important to me to take a class with someone whose work I respect. And, if I'm going to take a class in a medium new to me, I think I would feel less self-conscious in a group of people I don't know.

Roof Work, James Gurney

Interested in learning more about watercolour? James Gurney's daily blog is a treasure trove of technical information on watercolour painting. His specialty subject is dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs) but he often posts urban sketches or items of interest to artists in general.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mixed media workshop with Diane St.-Georges

Diane St.- Georges

On Saturday I attended a workshop organized by the Hudson Artists, taught by Diane St-Georges of Valleyfield. Diane, a member of the Society of Canadian Artists, works in acrylic, watercolour and collage, often with Amerindian themes. Diane's classes include image transfer, stamp-making, collage, and the principles of good design. An example of her work is shown, below left.

Our Text'art group engaged Diane to do a critique session perhaps three years ago. I found her guidelines to good composition so valuable that I still refer to them when evaluating my own work.

Rule #1. All the corners of the work should be different.

Rule #2. No major shape or line should follow the midlines (horizontal and vertical) of the piece.

Rule #3. A focal point should be created with contrast of value, colour, or shape. The best place for the focal point may be found by using the "rule of thirds". If you imagine two lines drawn vertically that divide the width of the piece into thirds, and two lines drawn horizontally to divide the height of the piece into thirds, then place your focal point at the intersection of two of those lines.

Rule #4. One colour should dominate. If you use two or three colours, one of them should clearly dominate the other(s).

Rule #5. Avoid having a major line or shape lead the eye out of the piece, especially at a corner.

Rule #6. Have a variety of scale. Include large, medium and small shapes. Likewise, look at where your shapes and lines intersect with the edges of the piece. The spaces created should vary in size.

At the workshop, Diane asked us to take a large sheet of watercolour paper and divide it with masking tape into eight equal sized rectangles. We were then instructed to use a large brush and apply swaths of water blindly to the paper, without completely covering the whole, ignoring the masking tape divisions. Then, again blindly, to apply broad strokes of two colours to the whole. Next, to use an aquarelle crayon to blindly scribble over the whole. We removed the tape and looked at how each of the eight rectangles could be used as a base for a composition. Stamping, collage, and more painting followed to introduce more elements. We used paraffin to create a resist to the paint, and alcohol sprayed on to add texture. Throughout, we were to consider the basic rules of design.

The workshop was fun and a great reminder about the principles of good design. It was a pleasure to work again with the techniques I so enjoyed while developing my Tuscany series, some three years ago.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Berkhamsted #3

This little piece was inspired by a photo I took during a summer visit to my cousin, who lives in the picturesque town of Berkhamsted, just northwest of London. The town has a lively High Street, castle ruins,  pubs, and a canal that is home to swans and an assortment of charming canal boats: all the essentials of the perfect English village.

Berkhamsted #3
The tiny quilt measures 6" x 8", but it was matted to a 4.5" x 6.5" size when it appeared at the Spotlight Auction.

The festive fundraising event was part of the Studio Art Quilt Associates conference, recently held in Alexandria, Virginia. About 65 donated gems were laid out on tables for the silent auction, and bidding was heated.

I was thrilled that Elizabeth Bamberger of Oregon was willing to donate $425 to acquire Berkhamsted #3, making it one of the top sellers at the fun event, which raised over $10,000. I had lots of very positive comments about the work. All in all, a most worthwhile effort.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

This past week I had a wonderful visit to three art museums in Washington DC: the National Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Phillips Collection. Tomorrow I have tickets for the new Barnes Museum in Philadelphia.

Being selective about what I see when touring these large collections makes it more manageable for me. Usually when time is limited, I stick to my favourites of Impressionists, post-Impressionists and early 20th-century artists. And I find the audio guides help me get more out of the experience.

When faced with iconic images like these, I feel that taking photos of them is a waste of time. I would rather enjoy the superior quality of a reproduction in a book, as a postcard, or viewing on-line.

So, no, I don't have photos to share, but in the spirit of an encounter with a fine art collection, I've posted a 3-minute video by Philip Scott Johnson. It's been around for a few years, and if you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat. It always astonishes me. Enjoy!