Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rocanini show and pencils and war...

     "The Old Camera" is one of my paintings on show at Rocanini Coffee Shop in Steveston. It was painted from a model who is wearing my yellow leather gloves. I thought about calling it "The Yellow Gloves". The gloves were bought in Paris over 50 years ago. Nowadays they mostly stay in a drawer but back then, gloves were worn more frequently. They are beautifully made with an interesting cut-out and braided join at the wrist.
     The show will be on until June 1st and has paintings by Bonita Ruttkay, Margreth Fry, Penny Talbot and me. My "White Bouquet" is there too. If you are in Steveston, drop in to have a look.
     With gloves from Paris, it might be a suitable time to continue with more pencil history. Conte' is a name familiar to artists as we often draw with conte' crayons - a form of harder pastel - but there is a real person behind the name. Nicolas-Jacques Conte' was an officer in Napoleon's army. Britain's naval blockade prevented the import of pencils from Cumberland. In 1795, Conte' invented a combination of clay and graphite for a cost-effective pencil. They could be made in degrees of hardness- something we accept as a "given" now, but it wasn't always so. So, a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars was that France manufactured its own pencils. Then conte' sticks were developed with using iron oxide, carbon black and titanium dioxide, clay and a binder to produce sticks in black, white, grey, and shades of red-brown.  These mix better on paper than any other hard pastels and have become a staple for many artists. The square profile makes for a more drawing style where soft pastels yield bolder strokes for a more painterly style. Georges Seurat used conte' to produce many of his studies. It is easy to find black, white, grey and shades of sanguine in most art stores but Conte' also used to make a full range of  colours. I have some I am guarding carefully as I haven't seen any in years. I remember seeing a whole stand of a hundred or more different colours in Conte' in an art store in Europe.  How I wish I had *that* in my studio!

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