Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Happy birthday to paperbacks!

July 30th was the birthday in 1935 of paperbacks by Penguin --- Happy Birthday Penguin and Happy Birthday to all other paperbacks too! I took the photo above of some of my "golden oldies" - these are all from the early '50s. Contemporary British Art was Penguin and the others were by Abram-- Gauguin, Velazquez and Modigliani at 50 cents each while later purchased Utrillo was 95 cents. They all had colour and even fold-out pages. What a boon for someone studying art history in those pre-Internet days. Handled reasonably carefully, they have survived very well. Nowadays, of course, paperbacks have increased in both size and price but are still around to bring art history and art instruction to a large audience. There is something nicely substantial about a hard-bound book that sits so well on a shelf but there is also much to be said for the availability of more books because of paperbacks. Fifty-cents in the early fifties was pay for an hour of baby-sitting - and the possibility of another art book too. So, a slightly belated birthday greeting to paperbacks and their contribution to the world!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Betty Boop

I  just sent out my newsletter for July and I chose this as the illustration- one of our last Friday Long Poses of this session. Shelley posed as "Betty Boop" the 1930's cartoon character. Betty was based on a caricature of the singer Helen Kaine, who, in turn, mimicked the style of the black singer Baby Esther Jones. She was the first rather sexy cartoon character and, as such, created quite a stir. She as supposed to be sixteen years old and was depicted with a curvaceous body topped with a larger head with big eyes and gorgeous eyelashes. She was sometimes threatened by villains but always maintained her virtue - her boop-boop-a-doop. Shelley did a great job with hair style and make-up as well as projecting the personality so this made it a fun session. I used the mixed-media pastel method I have been using for these sessions. I like the way I can get different background effects rather than be limited with a set colour of pastel paper. I won't go into all the detail again here as I have described it in earlier postings--watercolour paper, acrylic colours, acrylic gel for pastels, pastels. But no more Long Poses until the fall now.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Cat collars

One of the non-painting things that interested people at my Open Studio for  DoorsOpen was the fact that Isabella and Digby wear collars that are like clown ruffs. I had to explain that I was not trying to dress them up but that their collars had a purpose. They are from Birdsbesafe and are designed to prevent them from catching birds. Isabella was never much of a birder, but Digby, in spite of being without a regular tail, proved to be good at catching birds. Since I like birds and am happy to see them in the garden, I didn't want their lives cut short.  Originally, a search for "cat collars" was made on the web because Isabella actually liked the plastic cone "Elizabethan" collar she wore from the vets after she had an injury. She was not happy when it was taken off! I found the "Birdsbesafe" site and decided that with Isabella's obvious wish for a collar, and Digby's discovery of birds, this was an perfect answer. The collars are cotton with a reflective border - good especially on a black cat if it gets out at night- and, worn over a regular collar with a release catch, are perfectly safe. Songbirds can see bright colours, especially red, yellow and orange and they are alerted to the cat's presence. Tests have shown that wearing these collars reduces bird-kill by 87%. If you tie a bandana on a cat, the cat could get caught on something and choke to death. These collars release--- and are easy to find in the garden if this happens. They are soft and washable. I even think they add a bit of charm to the cats. After all the comments- and giving out cards with the information about Birdsbesafe website  (, I was inspired to do a little cartoon for my sketchbook of Isabella doing the cat laundry. We have quite a few collars  since cats often like to roll on the driveway or find other ways to get the collar dirty. Also, a change is nice as the collars come in interesting bright patterns - and why not a new collar for a cat's birthday? Digby usually wears red and Isabella has a selection of more yellow ones. They have their photos on the Birdsbesafe website.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

One down, two to go ..

DoorsOpen was a success with lots of people out enjoying themselves. Marjanka in her burlesque costume was one of the mixed-media pastels on the furnace and she and the "knight" got lots of attention. One thing that was especially nice was the number of people who thanked us artists for putting on our displays.  Next, we are getting ready for the art show that will be in the gymnasium at Steveston Community Centre for the Steveston Salmon Fest on July 1st. We usually get a good turn-out - with the pie-sales just next door helping bring people in from the outside festivities. The following day, some of the members of Richmond Artists Guild are going to make a bit of a showing at London Farm where there will also be a car show by a car club from West Vancouver who are coming out to enjoy "strawberry tea".   It will be a chance to sketch and photograph the cars ...maybe for future paintings?.... as well as show paintings. Some of the faster painters will try their hands at painting on the spot - but I would need longer than a couple of hours to accomplish much. I also want to go inside the house and take some photos as it could be interesting to paint some interior scenes. So far, whenever we have been there, the house has not been open for viewing. In the past, I have made a few donations for the display so I will take a look to see where my grandmother's old sewing machine is.

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.