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.

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.

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!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Smartphones and Art

I've been reading a lot lately about smartphone addiction, effects on the eyes, interest in art and so on and wondering - wither painting in modern world?  The above is a "long pose" in pastel where the challenge is to draw from a model, capture the pose, capture a likeness, fit it on the page, consider lighting- and then wind up with something that may never be seen again ! I love drawing and painting people but mostly I work on paper now for our long poses. The paper stack takes up less room than a pile of canvases. Here in Vancouver there is not much market for "people paintings" so some of these works may be shown at "DoorsOpen" and that is about it... and yet we keep doing it for the challenge!  Russell Smith,  in the Globe and Mail, was writing about the availability of artwork from museums that means that a flat screen on the wall could provide a changing exhibition of high definition on our wall. He concluded that these will be useful reference but they won't have the draw of objects.  "Screens, no matter how advanced, will always screen. What you see on them is mediated by pixels. You will always know they are not real."  Well, that gives some assurance that there will continue to be interest  in the unique and original, but it isn't just what to do with the works- it is also whether there will even be any interest in painting in the future. Since using ones' eyes has to be "learned", what will happen when distant vision and peripheral vision is not well developed?  Will it just seem too hard to paint a landscape? Will just snapping a "selfie" satisfy rather than struggling to paint a self-portrait? Will museums continue to attract those actually interested in the art and not just those snapping selfies to say "I was here"? Some public  galleries are already moving away from displaying paintings to having more in the way of installations and "experiences". Where will this leave art and artists?
     On the other hand, some of the approaches to art in today's world of videos can be very interesting as well as fun- I recommend looking at a video on the eating habits of Van Gogh - but I also think it helps your enjoyment if you at least know something about him and his works. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/mFNvogxPIis
..and if you want to find me, I'll still be painting.....

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Year of the Dog

February 16th is the Lunar New Year this year and it will usher in the Year of the Dog. International Gallery in Vancouver's International Village will have a special Year of the Dog art show from February 10th to February 23rd. You can see the details by going to www.iagbc.ca - click on the poster and then scroll down the list of the artists exhibiting. As you click on each artist's name, you will get a brief biography and also an image of the painting or paintings that they are exhibiting. I am showing the painting above which I call "Best in Show". It isn't Westminster, but a smaller show in a smaller venue - but of great importance to the participants. I had a lot of fun with this. You will see that the owners and dogs bear a certain resemblance to each other. I don't own a dog (just two cats) but I've always been fond of dogs. What would be my favourite? If I had unlimited time and money, maybe I would choose a glamorous Afghan. I've always liked Bedlington terriers for their lamb-like noses, the Japanese dogs for their wonderful thick pelts, Labradors for their good natures, sheep dogs and St.Bernards for great size and personality, some little dogs for their cuddly nature, poodles for their intelligence - well, you can see I'd have a hard time picking a "Best of Show"!  There will be a show preview - with some refreshments on February 9th from 6 to 9 pm and an Opening on Saturday the 17th at 2pm. There is parking at the mall, underground, and there will be  two hours free parking for those attending the gallery. This should be a fun show to see. Other Richmond Artists Guild members in the show are Margreth Fry, Eileen Fong and Larry Tillyer.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rosie the Riveter

For Long Pose, two weeks ago, we had Shelley being "Rosie the Riveter" . I didn't do the full figure. but rather more a portrait. Shelley did a great job with her hair up in a net and make-up like WWII period. This is my mixed media approach with drawing in charcoal on watercolour paper ( 140 lbs), then a wash with yellow, blue and red acrylic, blow-dry, apply acrylic ground for pastels, blow-dry, finish in pastels. Then, a few days later, the real Rosie the Riveter - the woman who inspired the original art work, died- so she was in the news again. She was 90-something when she passed away.The timing was a strange coincidence.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Honest Ed's

My other "City Evening" paintings are smaller- 16x20 - but I felt this called for a larger canvas so it is 20x30. Painted last year - this year is too  new for completed paintings!  Alas, Honest Eds has now closed - and the signs here show some burnt-out bulbs as things were headed in that direction at the time of this reference shot. I always am drawn to reflections so I liked the reflected lights on the wet pavement contrasting with the pedestrians almost only as silhouettes. I also liked the fact that there would be a story with each person. Were they shopping -or just heading home from work? My other "City Evening" paintings are on earlier blogs - I'm not sure if I will do more later or not- it is interesting to try to have both the cool of a winter evening and yet some warmth to the painting. There is definitely more working with tonal contrast, than say, a Spring garden scene. Yet, this is the reality of winter in a city and we all know what it feels like!