Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Membership in SAQA

A cheque arrived in the mail last week, and once again I am reminded of the many benefits of belonging to SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates).

A couple of years ago I made a small (10" x 7") cityscape intended as part of a SAQA Trunk Show. This collection travelled all over the world, introducing many people to "art quilting".

View from the High Line, Heather Dubreuil

When it came time to retire the collection, many of the items were made available for sale, and I was delighted that View from the High Line found a buyer, Cindy Grisdela. Cindy is an artist whose work I admire very much (great colour sense, distinctive rectilinear compositions). She is a published author, and also contributes articles to the quarterly SAQA Journal. I have connected with Cindy a few times at annual SAQA conferences.

Cornflower Blues, Cindy Grisdela

Already I have touched on some of the many benefits of membership in SAQA: the opportunity to show and sell one's work, two quarterly magazines, and annual conferences. Did I mention that one of my pieces will be included in an upcoming SAQA publication? The book is tentatively titled "Art Quilt Retrospective: Fifty Years of Innovation", and I am honoured that Camden Town #2 will be featured in it.

Camden Town #2, Heather Dubreuil

Some of the other aspects of SAQA membership that I value are the Yahoo chat group, the list of international calls for entry, and the opportunity to connect with other members, both at conferences and at regional meetings. A mentorship program is also available, as are many on-line resources.

The Central Canada region of SAQA has a new representative, Maggie Vanderweit, who has planned a series of small group meetings in various locales throughout Ontario and Quebec. A meeting for the Ottawa-Montreal area is tentatively scheduled for late May, and I have offered to host. 

Maggie is enthusiastic about sparking more activity at the local level so, if you live in Central Canada and you think that SAQA might be helpful to you, I encourage you to go to the website. There is still lots of time to join!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Alex Janvier at the National Gallery

Lubicon, Alex Janvier, 1988

Earlier this month our text'art group went on a road trip to Ottawa's National Gallery. An inspired choice, Colleen!

We toured the Alex Janvier exhibit, which runs until April 17. This large show is very comprehensive. We see some of his student efforts, and observe how he developed a singular style that resonates with Dene visual imagery. We also see how in later years he continued to explore new approaches to painting. His entire oeuvre is on display, and represents a lifetime of serious artistic pursuit.

Janvier's association with the "Indian Group of Seven" is noted, and their individual paths to painting and printmaking can be compared.

Many of Janvier's paintings deal with issues such as the tragedy of the residential schools, and the conflicts over land use and treaty violations. The curator's notes and photos inform the viewers of the political significance of these themes. For example, the large painting pictured above was completed with Janvier's typical white background. As an act of protest over Lubicon land use issues, Janvier re-painted the background in a brilliant red.

With increasing coverage of native art and culture in the national media, Canadians will no doubt develop a greater appreciation of the range and talent of First Nations artists like Alex Janvier.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Free on-line painting class begins today!

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Green on Blue), 1968

Thank you, Dianne, for putting me onto this exciting opportunity.

MOMA has designed an on-line class offered through, titled In the Studio: Post-War Abstract Painting. It includes art history and theory as well as hands-on painting assignments. It is available at reasonable cost, and for free if you don't care abut getting the certificate. Financial aid is also available.

Here is a description:
About this course: Want to know how some of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists made abstract paintings? This course offers an in-depth, hands-on look at the materials, techniques, and thinking of seven New York School artists, including Willem de Kooning, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko. Through studio demonstrations and gallery walkthroughs, you’ll form a deeper understanding of what a studio practice means and how ideas develop from close looking, and you’ll gain a sensitivity to the physical qualities of paint. Readings and other resources will round out your understanding, providing broader cultural, intellectual, and historical context about the decades after World War II, when these artists were active. The works of art you will explore in this course may also serve as points of departure to make your own abstract paintings. You may choose to participate in the studio exercises, for which you are invited to post images of your own paintings to the discussion boards, or you may choose to complete the course through its quizzes and written assessments only. Learners who wish to participate in the optional studio exercises may need to purchase art supplies. A list of suggested materials is included in the first module.
For more information, please visit the website. The class begins today!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

FIFA - 35th edition

Will you be in Montreal at the end of this month? You might find the Festival International du Film sur l'Art of interest. Running from March 23 to April 2, FIFA's 35th edition will screen films about visual art, music, dance, literature, architecture and design, photography and counter-culture.

Venues include Concordia University and UQAM, the Grande Bibliothèque, the Museum of Fine Art, the Canadian Centre for Architecture and others.

Over 900 international films were submitted to the jury, and about 170 were selected. Most of the films are in French, but many are in English, or have English subtitles.

One of the films that interests me is Beauty and Ruin, a Canadian film about the economic collapse of Detroit, and the fight over "de-accessioning" (selling off) some of its many art treasures to raise money for the city. Screening March 25 at Concordia.
"Detroit, a once prosperous city, is going bankrupt and the appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is plundering the city’s assets in search of cash to pay off Detroit’s creditors. One of the most valuable assets in the city is the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), which houses one of the country’s richest collections, including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Titian and Brueghel. Canadian director Marc de Guerre chronicles the story of the bankruptcy and the fight over the artwork as Detroit goes into receivership. What will be the consequences? How will this affect its citizens, its art, culture and health care? This documentary artfully explores the story of the once powerful American city now on the verge of financial ruin."


Another screening of interest is the French series Les Aventuriers de l'Art Moderne. These six films (in French) describe the development of modern art in France, and were originally made as an award-winning TV series.
"Adapted from Dan Franck's literary trilogy Bohemian Paris, Libertad!, Midnight - The documentary series made up of six episodes plunges us into Parisian life in the beginning of the twentieth century, a hotbed of artistic creation with the blossoming of Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, and surrealism. Through illustrations, animation and original archives, the film will trace the highs and lows, scandals and celebrations, tragedies and the triumphs that shaped the phenomenal period of Modern Art from the basement of the "Bateau-lavoir" in 1900 to the last shudders of World War II. The main characters are called Picasso, Max Jacob, Stein, Apollinaire, Hemingway, Matisse, Cocteau, Kiki - artists, art dealers, muses who came to France from all over Europe and left an indelible mark on the 20th century. These glorious subversives were adventurers before becoming heroes."

A download of the program is available on the website.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Five years of blogging!

Wow! Last week marked the fifth anniversary of this blog. It has been rewarding to have conversations with my readers, often in person. Writing these posts helps to clarify my thinking, set goals, and share news of resources and art events, near and far.  And, of course, to share my own work and inspiration.

Almost without fail, I have been in the habit of posting twice a week. (This is post # 539. Can you believe it?) I may cut back on that a bit to allow more time for, um, making art.

Meanwhile, thank you for reading. And here is a little treat that will, I hope, brighten the day of any art-lover. Thank you, Jane, for passing this on.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

There is a crack in everything....

It has been almost four weeks since I posted here. Among other things, I have been working on my entry to a group show, the theme for which is the Leonard Cohen lyric for Anthem:

"Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

When the group met a few days ago, it was clear that everyone had their own take on the meaning of the song. I have chosen to make a mixed media painting that references the international refugee crisis, an issue that is re-shaping the political dynamic all over the world.

The refugees have been forced from their homes and undertaken arduous journeys in the hope of finding safe harbour in an alien land. Will our door be opened to them? Will we build walls to keep them out?  Do we want to live in a society that welcomes newcomers? What is our responsibility to them?

Here are some photos to show the process I used to create this piece. I began with a 20" x 20" birch panel, and covered it with black gesso, front and sides.

I dug into my collection of antique papers. Over the years I have gathered lots of collage material: paper napkins, printed tissue, pages from old books and magazines, etc.

Soon I had covered the front and sides of the panel with text and images, glued on with matte gel medium. I had to be careful to eliminate bubbles and wrinkles, and to get a smooth finish at the edges and corners. Once the papers were dry, I used an x-acto knife to slice off the extra bits.

Next, I clipped some relevant headlines from the daily newspaper, and arranged them randomly, fixing them with more acrylic medium. Then I applied a dilute coat of matte medium to the entire surface. This served to protect the newsprint collage, because I knew I was going to be applying paint and also lifting paint off, calibrating the lights and darks. That extra coat of medium gave me more flexibility to adjust the paint coverage without damaging the underlayer of collage.

I used a small brayer to add patchy glazes of Yellow Ochre, Payne's Gray and Raw Umber, lightened with Titanium White. The paint was mixed with Glazing Medium to create some transparency. This formed the background, partially obscuring the text. I intended that the drawing of the eye would be the focal point, and kept it lighter than the other areas. I used stencils and stamps to add texture and interest in a cruciform shape, radiating out from the eye.

Darker paint was added to enhance the cruciform shape, further obscuring the printed background. Lighter textures reinforced the lighter "spokes" of the cruciform.

At this point the headlines were barely visible. I went back in with some alcohol and lifted some of the paint off them.

The lightened strips of headlines were now too prominent, and they were fighting with the "eye" for attention. So it was time to knock them back, by adding more transparent layers of dark paint. At the same time, more textural detail in Naples Yellow and Gold emphasized the cruciform structure.

Finally, a balance was achieved between the legibility and obscurity of the headlines. The eye is dominant and the lights and darks support the structure of the composition. And, up close, some of the headlines are legible.

Some detail shots are below:

I may make further adjustments to the piece before putting on a final coat of matte medium, which will serve to protect the surface. 

The group will be getting together in April to give progress reports and to talk about possible venues for our show.  I look forward to listening as each artist talks about their process. It will be exciting to see the range of technique and the various responses to the theme.