Saturday, October 13, 2018

Into Fall...

As we move into Fall - and all that garden cleanup (!)- colours soften and change and I find it is often a nicer time for landscape painting. The excessive greens of summer can be difficult to deal with.  Sometimes a  summer painting can be almost harsh. Grasses fading and leaves changing  colour and revealing more of the tree's structure can lead to more interesting paintings. These trees grow along the Sturgeon Banks trail and especially appealed to  me because the day was a little misty. This painting is 30 x 20 so is not something that I would paint outdoors. I settled for a sketch and a photograph and worked on it for a much longer haul than three hours plein air. As for plein air, we are mostly indoors in the studio in this cooler weather. However, last Tuesday, we had a bit of outdoors as it was warm and sheltered on the garden deck at the Art centre and we ate lunch outdoors.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Standing Knight


On the 29th of September, we had Michael Ward posing in his suit of armour as our contribution to Cultural Days. Since we last had him seated (see my June 2018 blog with the multimedia version), we had him stand this time. This is pretty impressive- posing for three hours in 300 pounds of armour! Since I did not have easy access to water or electrical power as we were  working outside under a canopy in the plaza, this time I worked in pastels on pastel paper. You will see that I am wearing gloves." Pastels" sounds so "safe" but, because they are very concentrated pigments, they can actually be toxic, No blowing so as not to inhale particles and the gloves are to prevent skin ingestion. You might recognize that they are gardening gloves with a nice breathable back so that they are much more comfortable to wear than latex gloves. Latex gloves can be problematic too as particles from them can go into the air when they are snapped on and off. Art is enjoyable but it is well to be cautious about how you handle materials.
     Michael enjoyed watching the reaction of little kids passing by - they could hardly believe what they were seeing! ...and then the parents were trying to explain it to them... I could, with the pastel that I did and the reference photo I took, make a finished painting- but it is not likely I'll do one unless someone commissions one. This pastel will take up less room than a canvas!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Lemonade"

Sometimes computers can seem more of a curse than a blessing. Today "Pages" wouldn't let me mail the newsletter in the usual way but eventually I got it sent out - still not sure if it was smaller in size than usual - which could make it harder to read. A few days ago, things got really complicated and I lost the internet altogether and had to have a friend -who fortunately was an IT expert- to help out. Iy was a real marathon to get everything sorted out.  The painting on the newsletter was cut to fit the space so here is the whole thing- 20"x16". Strange how canvases have kept Imperial rather than Metric measuring - is it because of the States? This painting was another exercise in playing with glass and reflective surfaces as well as a sort of salute to the end of summer. Those hazy skies made for a strange summer and not as pleasant landscape painting.
     I read an early Ken Follett novel last week- originally published under a different name. He now says it is a bit too short with not enough back-log on the characters - but still kind of fun because it is fizzy. I got it because of the title "The Modigliani Scandal" although I knew it wasn't actually about Modigliani. It was fun to read but also contained a kernel of truth. The two young artists in the story are annoyed that it is dead artists who get the attention and dealers and collectors who make the money so they set up a scam to prove the point. I was also watching a series about the auctioneers Christies. Very interesting how they woo clients. The prices were astounding- 50 million for a Basquiat ! Sorry - I found it ugly.  About one and  half million for a quite lovely Lucien Freud drawing from his early days - traditional and, yes,  lovely - but the price was probably mostly for the signature. Some of the drawings I see in our Life Drawing group can be as lovely- but they lack the "valuable" signature - all of which agrees with Follett's novel. Very few people just buy what they like. They often don't buy paintings at all - playing it safe with a print.  Then other people let the decorator dictate. One of the things about "GuessWho?" is that you just have to like the painting and trust yourself. Even if it turns out to be by a high school artist - well they just might be famous later on and you still have an original you like for only $100 and a good feeling about helping the Food Bank too. You can always make arrangements with the artists for a signature later! ... and, yes, I photographed "Lemonade" before it was signed - but I will sign it.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Life Drawing - Why?

Week after week, the dedicated are at Life Drawing. Why do we do it? It is like practicing scales - you do it to keep in shape, keep your hand-eye coordination tuned up. We always start with "warm-up" poses of 5 one-minute poses. Naturally, you are not going to get a finished masterpiece in one minute. The object is to get the gesture. The model is able to hold poses that would be impossible to maintain for longer periods. Above is the five one-minute sketches from last Wednesday. They were done in a brush-pen and I was aiming at getting the pose  and also getting the proportions correctly.
Then, after the five one-minutes, we do five two minutes (not shown) and then move on to the rotation pose. The model poses 5 minutes in one position and then rotates 90 degrees while maintaining the same position for total of 20 minutes. The drawing above were done in charcoal pencil
Then  we do two poses - each of ten minutes. This is one of them- done in black and white charcoal pencils on pastel paper. 
Following a break, we work on twenty-minute poses, which gives us more time to do more complete drawings. It is all practice and we don't keep all the drawings, usually.  If you draw a tree and the proportions are "out", it isn't always that obvious. But, if you draw a person, your mistakes are clear to see.It is also practice in human perspective as lengths appear differently at different angles. Each model has a different body shape and a different way of projecting his or her personality so that all becomes part of it too. We then hope that we can apply all this when we are out doing street scenes or even doing long poses without any warm-ups.

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  (www.birdsbesafe.com), 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.