Monday, August 24, 2009

Torrit grey and Primaries...

Holy Family - oil on canvas, 11in. by 14 in. One of my painting students wished
to experiment with pallette knife painting. So, to limit the number of colours and have her experiment with non-representational shapes, I assigned the topic of "Family". The primary colours I suggested, so that the elemental, formative origins of the idea of family were to be given separate temperature and psychological association.
I showed her how to play with oil pastels in the limited colours to arrive at characteristic shapes she might associate with male, female. Size differences were to express adult and child.
I had recently gone to the Opus store, and scored 4 tubes of Gamblyn Torrit Grey. Every year, the Gamblyn paint producers take all the leftover paints from their production, mix them and arrive at a combination of grey that differs from year to year in composition and temperature. This year's Torrit Grey appears in the negative spaces of my demonstration piece - Holy Family.
Palette knife painting is quite enjoyable to do. The scraping action of placing marks on a canvas is challenging. It is possible to achieve clean edges, textured sections where underlying colour is revealed. One can draw, sgraffito method through a layer of paint to expose underlying colour and tone. The surface textures achieved can be quite subtle, or definite.
Canadian Painter, Jean Riopelle had made a body of work using palette knife as his primary marking tool. B.C. painter, Peter Aspell in a late body of work, employed the pallette knife in a most poetic manner.
My little effort leads me to think the pallette knife is a tool I'd be wise to explore further,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Suburban Woman - a photographic study

Occasions of daily life often provide opportunities for finding ideas for drawings and paintings. It helps to travel with camera in hand, something I rarely do, but which I must begin to do more frequently. In the case of this photo, I had to ask the woman in the picture to let me use her camera, because the idea for this picture struck me with great force and required recording. Luckily, she is a painter, as I am, and understood my excitement with the sudden 'aha'.

I had gone for tea with this friend. She was going through a painful separation from her husband of ten years, was wounded, shell-shocked and faced having to leave her comfortable home to live with her children in a basement suite. Her finances were uncertain. She had been a stay at home mother and had become trapped in the bourgeois comforts of life. Now, she was faced with returning to a workforce, in which her skills as a graphic artist had been made obsolete by computer-aided design. She was, frustrated, frightened but determined to make her way out of her dilemma. Her young children were at school and pre-school. We sat in companionate quiet of a sunny morning and discussed her options and her plans for the move.

We had been sitting at the kitchen table, from where I had clear view of this window corner in the adjacent room. There the light from the venetian blinds threw a marvellous pattern on the wall, chair and the floor. I asked her to come and sit in the chair situated there. Took a look and thought, "Wow! This is a way I had never seen her before." The bars of shadow played on her and made her seem as if in a cage, a prison of sorts.

I asked her to look at me while I sat in the same spot to see what so captured my imagination. We discussed the symbolic possibilities of a portrait of her in such a situation. She sat back in her spot, and took, what for her was a characteristic pose those days - guarded, held in check, drawn in on herself, mulling the difficulties facing her. I took the photo, after standing, kneeling, and lying on my stomach to see what the most advantageous view might be possible. I went with a kneeling position from which to take the photo. The image appeared in the viewfinder - it hinted at a sense of intimacy, sharing and possible escape. I depressed the shutter button, and this is the picture that resulted.

When she developed the film, she allowed me to take the negative and have a larger picture printed. This is the result. She was pleased with the image - felt that it captured her plight and how she was feeling about her circumstances. It is not a fantastic photograph - just useful enough for me to have as a reference design from which to set up my friend as a model, and-from which situation to make studies and a painting.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Studies from Sittings...

Human models asked to sit for portrait studies either are friends and acquaintances or are hired professional models.
From my experience the hired model will endure longer sitting lengths than friends do. As well, professionals are so used to being looked at intensely for extended perions of time that of expression to take over their they tend to relax into poses to the point of allowing a range of expression in their visage as they sit, quite unselfconscious.
Friends and family, on the other hand, tend to pose, to present their best face - their "game face" - unless they don't invest greatly in the outcome, the resulting study.
One cannot let the expectations of the model influence the action of seeing, studying and responding to a particular human face or form. If the one drawing is not able to fully engage in the act of seeing and drawing, then the freedom with which to make marks is compromised.
This drawing of a young woman model allowed me enough comfort to "attack" the drawing with vigour and to use charcoal in a direct manner. 18in. by 24in. compressed charcoal on cartridge.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Found Images and Text
You come upon a fragment from a photograph, perhaps a relatively small, unimportant section. It evokes thought and feelings for you. You slice it out with your ex-acto knife, sit with it in front of you and let that fragmentary image move your awareness in a number of different directions. Maybe, right then, your mind courses and leaps about, makes all kinds of connections. Before you know it, your awareness of time passing disappears and you have sat, contemplating a series of unrelated ideas. You are, right then, undecided as to where you want to let this image take you, how you might want to incorporate it into your daily practice. So, you file it away, maybe in your sketchbook or daily journal. From time to time as you open these storehouses of your ideas drawings and scraps of image you pass by this image and it arrests your attention.
Later, this bit of visual stimulus lies on your awareness like a burr does on pant legs. You decide to pull it out and deal with it. Often you have formed other connections with this image as you've gone about daily life's doings. Submerged below your consciousness threshold, this image has been doing it's work and idea presents itself almost fully formed.
That is what happened with this little study. I found the cloud image in an advertisement in a magazine and cut it out. Wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, and interleaved it in my journal pages. One day on a particularly glorious Spring day the cloud formations caught my attention and I mused on them. It occurred to me that on such a day is when ,everywhere in the world people like to sit and share conversation and pleasure in the day. I wrote down my thought in simple form in my journal. It occurred to me that I had a picture of clouds that might be appropriate to accompany the sentiment. I incorporated a Hungarian translation to suggest universality.
Materials - colour xerox enlargement of a 2" by 4" advertisement fragment. Text - liquid white-out and felt pen.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Opportunity for observation...

Going about one's daily business provides many opprtunities for looking and seeing. Every situation encountered yields possible images. While the camera is a useful tool to record a situation it does not allow for immediacy, for the recording of an observed scenario, and the photos often disappoint expectations. What is it about the situation directly witnessed that makes for compelling note-taking?

A friend had taken me along to a local nursery to help her choose shrub plantings for a section of her back yard. She was the one to do the hard thinking and decision-making, leaving me alone to look about, to case out the views in the nursery. The woman in this sketch made a good model. She stood in place for 5 minutes, casting about for companion plants for those she had already selectd to buy, and which she had placed on the rolling nursery cart. I made goood use of the 5 minutes and jotted down this observation. What to include, what to leave out? I had to make the decision and go for broke. This is the drawing that resulted.
Later as my friend walked about the nursery making her selection, this placement of specimes caught my eye. I stopped and drew for another 5 minutes.
Opportunity for drawing from observation exists at every part of the waking day. The practice of drawing in this manner allows for relaxation, for no end agenda in mind. The process of looking and seeing is the end in itself. A good way to learn to draw, to appreciate the riches and bounty available to all.
Who knows how further work in the studio may make use of such observed facts. Poets use words, with all their meaning combined to yield communication about thoughts and feelings ocurring to them. Visual artists stock-in-trade is image, the making of a mark. a visual artist needs to keep a vocabulary, constantly add to it, a visual vocabulary. Then making compositions with meaning becomes a definite possibility.. Looking becomes seeing becomes feeling becomes thinking.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Draped Figure

Making a convincing drawing of a draped human figure pre-supposes an understanding of how the forms are disported under clothing. Drapery follows form; the closer fit the clothing the more clearly the anatomy is shown in the final drawing. Where the clothing has loose or ample fit, the cloth adds bulk to the anatomy, it balloons and folds with the bending of limbs, and the material's weight influences the character of the drawn cloth.

In the case of this drawing, on 9 by 12 inch sketchbook page, 4B pencil, the model is pictured wearing Karate uniform. The cotton of this uniform was a heavy weave which made stiff forms as the body within folded into different poses. A ten minute drawing, this one did not allow time for noting any more than the major movements of the form of the clothed figure and the clothing, which seemed easier to note using a loose contour method of drawing. I consider this type of drawing a form of draftsman calisthenics. decisions of what to include or exclude by way of detail are made on the spot, for good or ill, and one simply has to accept the consequent drawing that results. I found the appearance of the figure, swathed in the stiff folds of uniform quite fascinating, and once my attention was caught on this aspect I drew with energy and enthusiasm.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Found Drawings...
One winter afternoon, I was feeling at loose ends and decided to walk downtown to my favourite cafe to sit in front of the big plate-glass window with a coffee and my journal/sketchbook and look out at the busy suburban world passing by outside.
I was busily engaged in listing where within my limited view's purview there were "found drawings" to be had. A bakery helper was busy drawing icing sugar squiggles onto some cinnamon buns. A dog being walked by on the dry pavement outside walked through a sidewalk puddle and left a pattern oh his gait in passing on the dry sidewalk. The paw-prints gradually diminished and then ceased. I stirred cream into my coffee - its swirls made an elaborate spiral of light into dark, then disappeared as the light overtook the dark and changed it's tone to a mocha colouration..
A young man came into the cafe. He made his rounds of all the cafe patrons sitting at tables, made eye contact and pressed a small card into hands. He then nodded and made his way out the door. I held up the card and looked at it. It had the deaf alphabet drawn on one side. On the other, was the legend describing the services to be had from the CNIB - the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I scanned the different hand signals for the alphabet, drawn in clear line drawings on the other side. It struck me that here was a sudden gift of a found drawing. Drawings provide information, help codify visually what is thought, seen, or symbolized. I was suddenly excited by the coded visual language provided by this little card. Hand positioning to suggest sound. What a brilliant concept someone had come up with in this!.
At supper, later in the evening, my husband came home after his visit with the physiotherapist. He had been given a series of hand exercises to help ameliorate a condition in his arms and hands - these exercises were illustrated with cursory line drawings to show how exercise was to be sequenced. I showed him my CNIB card and we looked at the hand drawings to see commonalities in hand gestures and positionings. There were some. Both sheets of illustrations shared a stylistic simplification in drawing - generic hands, no mistaking them at all. After dinner I
withdrew into my studio room to mull over these illustrations.
How to make use of found drawings? It came to me that my sister and i had used the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to solve arguments- who was to start first in a game, who got the slightly broader slice of pie for dessert, who got up at bedtime on a cold night to shut off the lights, and so forth. So I toyed with the idea in the simplest way, using the simplest of means - borrow from the "vocabulary" of hand gestures, use only graphite powder and matte acrylic medium, one brush, a pencil and canvasses, 11 by 14 inches and text using my handwriting to give the word to each motion. I went for it and played with the simple materials. Found out how to work the wet medium suspending graphite powder into wet, how to add more powdered graphite to make darker washes. Not an earthshaking discovery, by any means, but so exciting to find out about as a way to use simple materials.
The little drawing/paintings are a beginning to show me how to begin an exploration of simple ways and simple means. Using "found drawings" as a departure point releases one from the self-conscious pressure to make "masterpieces". I enjoyed the process so much!