Thursday, May 31, 2018

DoorsOpen 2018

Whew! getting ready for DoorsOpen - paintings hung, labels added, cookies bought (alas! the rulings are no home-baked goodies), cups for coffee, a "beginning painting" started for the easel, floors cleaned, non-art stuff put away... Lots to do. The " beginning painting" was a new idea this year as I thought people might like to see the *very* beginning rather than a half-way through or almost-done painting.  So, the first compositional lines are marked down on an underpainting. I decided to try a sort of pink as the famous landscape artist John Constable often used that for his underpainting. It will be another "mountain hike" painting but different from this one. I've called this one "Alpine Meadow" and it is in the Mount Baker area. That is Mount Ruth, but I've not called it that in case artistic license overcame geographical reality. I hope it captures that fresh- air feeling. I love the way alpine meadows are always so "perfect" yet there is no human gardening done. Back home, we weed, mow, plant and fuss and don't achieve perfection. I just finished this painting about a week ago so it is truly "hot off the easel".  I'm looking forward to the reactions to it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chagall vs David

The weather has brightened - so maybe it won't be too long before this scene could be an outdoor one-instead of an indoor pose with a model. This is another one from the Friday Long Poses and, again, I worked in mixed-media, so it is a "pastel-plus" piece.

There has been much in the news about the National Gallery and the proposed sale of a  Marc Chagall painting in order to buy one by Jacques-Louis David. It seems all a tempest in a teapot since the David is going to stay in Quebec anyway. Looking at the two paintings from a purely personal point of view -"What would I want to hang on my wall?"- I would definitely pick the Chagall. I am not a huge Chagall fan but the colours are happier and I am less of a fan of biblical judgement-type paintings such as David's. It could be bit much looking as a skull everyday. However, the bigger question really is why  the National Gallery felt they had a right to make a choice and sell off a masterpiece they already owned? As it is, by withdrawing it from auction, they now have to pay a withdrawal fee that is really high. Since the Chagall was either a donation or  bought with taxpayer's funds in the first place, would it have been right to sell it? The fact that it has spent a lot of time in basement storage instead of display or loaned out to other Canadian galleries is a judgement call by the curator and should be neither here or there in regards to the selling. The painting sort of belongs to all of us. Now, paying the withdrawal fee means that there is even less money for future purchases. And, once again, all the real big-money action is on long-dead artists.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Knight in armour multi-media and thoughts on toxic pigments

Last Friday, we had our Long Pose which is usually costumed... well-here is costumed and rather unusual. Michael Ward in a suit of armour that adds up to 300 pounds - none of Hollywood lightweight plastic stuff here. As Michael said - you can see why a knight had to be hoisted onto his horse. You can also see why those horses were heavy-weights themselves. I'm still playing around with different approaches to this multi-media method. Drawing with charcoal on watercolour paper, making a wash of acrylic paint, drying that (blowdryer), painting on acrylic gel for pastels, drying again, and then  working with pastels. Some people think that pastels are  simple and easy to work with - but they are the strongest  and purest form of pigment since there is little except pure pigment in a stick. I wear gloves to keep the chalk off my skin. Some pigments are toxic-especially the cadmiums and cobalt. But reasonable caution makes working with them do-able. However, I recently saw of a new fad that somewhat alarms me - in cake decorating, of all things. Cakes are often covered in a smooth fondant and then designs - often florals -are painted on. Apparently, this is now often done in water-colours. It would be one thing to use food-safe colours as used to colour icing... but watercolour? It sounds safe but when you look at artists pigments,  they are all the same base - just mixed with oil for oil paints or gum arabic for water-colours with the same base pigment. So, who is checking on this or is someone painting nice roses using toxic cadmium red? So = watch what  you are eating. But, back to Michael... this was a fun pose to draw ...we will probably get him back for Culture Days (end of September) as we think the public would enjoy seeing this outfit.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Challenges of something different

Most of the artists that I know like to give themselves challenges. I know I certainly do- so here is one of the recent ones. I call it "Through a Glass, Darkly". One day the sun was shining through the front window and through the cabinet that long ago replaced  a wrought iron railing over the stairs. It is glass on both sides and contains mostly glass. Here the light was coming through goblets, a glass bowl and a smoked glass jug. I took a photo as obviously the light would change before I could do a painting. It was fun to do although it took a long time. I did a complete drawing first to get all those curves and spheres correct, then I traced that onto a canvas. The actual painting was another challenge as a lot of it was built up slowly in glazed layers. Nothing was completely straight-forward as you are seeing through glass, through the items in the cabinet and also seeing  reflections, including that from the back of the cabinet. I persisted as I felt there was a bit of a magical quality to it. Eventually, I decided it was finished. I will be showing this at my open studio for DoorsOpen on June 3rd and 4th. I'd love to know what you think of it.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Artist or the Art? - and thoughts on Egon Schiele

Here is a clothed model from a session of about 2 hours last Wednesday evening. Pastel on Canson brown pastel paper.... and so we come to the whole question of painting and drawing models.  We treat models in a professional, respectful way and they are paid for their work. Long poses, now are often draped (clothed) poses. This is to create a bit more of a "story" and also that the challenge of rendering realistically draped clothing takes a bit longer. Lately there has been a lot of press about the relationship of the artist to the art with the cancellation of a retrospective of the work of Chuck Close after he was accused of sexual impropriety, being just one such story.  On the other hand, there is a retrospective of Egon Schiele work on show in Boston and there is no doubt that his work is sexual and his lifestyle open to question. When I was in Cesky Krumlof in the Czech Republic some years ago, I visited an Egon Schiele museum. Some of the drawings were pretty well pornographic and there was information about his trial for exposing young people to pornography, for which he was sentenced to 28 days in prison. On the other hand, there was also some beautifully expressive line work and real talent. I don't like most of his self-portraits - especially the nude ones that show a self-hatred, but nevertheless show talent. Just my opinion.  But, I wouldn't want to see his work banned because of his personal life. There is some question about the many female nudes painted by male artists, displayed in many galleries.  One reason is that it was male artists who got  recognition most of the time. No doubt many of the artists were less than sterling characters but I think we should be looking at the art and not the artist's  lives. Otherwise, where do we draw the line? Maybe we just don't know all the details of the private lives of those who lived in the past. What we should be looking at is what is in front of us - and consider  how we react to it. Reactions can vary - I have a nude painting that I was proud of as I had set the pose and the lighting in the absence of the instructor, who got detained by traffic. I have it up in my bedroom and, while she was alive, my mother complained about it every time she came over! She found any nudity offensive. In our Life Drawing sessions, there are more women than men. Generally speaking, there are more female models and often both male and female artists prefer drawing females - the curves are nicer! Drawing nudes, for artists, is like playing scales for musicians- it keeps you tuned up. You can draw a tree and make a lot of mistakes and still have it recognized as a tree- but make mistakes in human proportions and the errors are obvious. I don't think drawing nudes will be banned as long as we live in a free society

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Painting, thinking and Frida Kahlo

Here is a recent painting- not quite sure what to call it - maybe simply "Station"? ? I was thinking of a sort of "sky's the limit" outlook - whether for a new arrival or for someone going on a trip- and I liked the idea of simply looking up. With all the depressing political news and concerns for democracy- maybe something a bit inspirational is what we need. I've been doing a workshop concentrating on composition- the main "backbone" of a painting- that has been very inspirational and  calling into question how to approach various subjects. This one  "works" because one's eye is led around the painting and brought back to the central image. I'll be showing some other subjects shortly
-In a previous life, I had a large doll collection and also made dolls- so I still have some interest in that direction. When the first Barbie came out, I was intrigued as I felt that they were almost like the historical  "fashion dolls" that travelled to show the latest styles so seamstresses could copy them. I got a Barbie #3 - which was the first version available in Canada- and outfitted her in an American Airlines stewardess outfit. The original bathing suit and sunglasses went in her carry-on. Costumes then were much more intricate than later when clothes were made easier for little hands to cope with. So ,although my Barbie is long gone, I was interested in the series of famous women produced for International Women's Day. I thought the "recognition" was a good idea but have reservations over the Frida Kahlo doll. I now see that there is quite a controversy about it as she has definitely been "sanitized". Her costume is much simplified and not authentic. She stands straight and tall with no wheelchair or indication of the suffering she went through in her life - and there is no uni-brow which was a statement. She had a strong personality, painted some rather disturbing paintings and was a staunch Communist. So- what to think? Is it good to at least have little girls made aware of this famous artist? Or is it wrong to have this sanitized version? Would it have been a better, fairer, more thought-provoking image to have her seated in a wheelchair? The jury is out-- and I'm not collecting any more.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Feature on Richmond Arts Coalition

I'm showing this painting from my "City Evening" series as it is one shown on www.richmondartscoalition.com this week - where I am the "featured artist" with a bio and a few paintings showing. Richmond Arts Coalition works to promote the arts in Richmond. They were the sponsor of the "ArtRich" exhibition in Richmond Art Gallery this past December --- where my "Sandpiper Time" was shown. The Arts Coalition publishes a monthly list of upcoming events in Richmond - a good way to keep up on happenings. Take a look at the website!