IS-ness

Through the kind invitation of a dear friend, I ended up at the Calgary Catholic Retired Teachers Spring Luncheon at the Calgary Elk’s Club the day following my birthday. Thank you to Ruth, Pat and Emelia for the gracious planning.  I felt so blessed by the renewed connections and the warm embrace of the educators in my circle.  It was an absolutely magical afternoon.

Sitting on my right, was Joan.  In 1979, weeks after the birth of my first child, I took a bus from Lethbridge to Calgary, to interview with this person.  Little did I know, at that time, what a powerful inspiration Joan would become, in my teaching, but also in my way of seeing life and the world…visually…but, in so many other ways.

Last Tuesday…she gave me something more to think about….IS-NESS…the experience of being completely present in this moment.  It’s common to talk about the optimal state of ‘being’, living for this moment only.  There are many ‘gurus’ among us. “There is no past.  There can be no future.  There is only ‘now’.” These run the risk of becoming mere platitudes.  I think we all know what’s really going on…and it’s what the world is telling us is important, not what we know to be important. (sorry to be speaking for all of us here…maybe I’m wrong)

During my life, I’ve driven forward more than anything.  In youth, I thought that I needed more.  I set huge goals for myself. The wheels were in spin and forward I drove!  (when I type the word, DROVE,  an image comes up for me…a huge wind pressing at my face and the full weight of my body pushing against it). I dedicated myself to the work of that…the industry of that.  I taught full days, but didn’t wind down, painting well into the night and rising early in the morning.  I tasted what the FUTURE might be, but never really grasped it.

At some point, I opened the door, and rolled out of the speeding vehicle that was the life I had created and landed safely beside the freeway traveled by all of those around me. For the first time, I noticed what ‘other people’ were doing while I was painting, teaching and raising three children. I looked at my life through the rear view mirror and came to a lurching halt. I saw, for the first time, what it meant to stop….not to slow down, but to stop.

I am not writing this post, in judgement of my choices in youth.  If one looks at the accomplishments of ‘the greats’, one knows that their achievements came to be through commitment, dedication and mostly, sacrifice.  It is no wonder that I spent most of my life seeking success, recognition, accomplishment, production, money. These are the false promises of the human construct.

I am listening to Chris Cornell’s album, Higher Truth, as I type.  I just listened with a new ear to the song, Dead Wishes. While it is not for me to question why, at the age of 52, he took his life, it is for me to explore what it is in this human heart…every heart…that aches, struggles and seeks to be MORE.

One blessing of my life was to sit down with my children and gather for Sunday dinner; another, to seek to communicate and connect. I was rich for the opportunity to see, write, learn and experience art, music and performance…for the opportunity to be still with nature, make observations through all of my senses.  Joy came with walking my dogs, Max-man and Laurie-dog before him.  It came with sitting in the church when it was quiet.  Gratitude came with writing a poem. Magic was to hold my mother’s hand when she slept, warm under her blankets, her Buddy-dog curled into the circle of her back.  Freedom was and continues to be to turn on my favourite music and to paint in my studio, in the same way that the other might dance, with no one watching…for me alone.  IS-NESS….articulated by a dear friend.

(of course, I came home and looked through my documentation of years gone by…the photographs, mere snapshots of times shared…so much wisdom and joy contained in the flashes of light)

I was hired on with Calgary Catholic School District #1 in 1979.  My experiences for the following nine years at Holy Cross Elementary/Junior High were life changing.  This is where I learned the value of the person, above program.  To nurture a love for reading, learning, creating and self ultimately leads to enthusiasm for content, practice and consistent attendance.  I was blessed when opportunities in my career, led to both St. John Fine Art’s School and the Fine Art’s Center (in two different locations).  There, I met some of the most amazing people…educators who fearlessly impacted the district with the truth of the matter…and that is that experiences of art, music, drama and dance teach the brain in new ways, enhance all learning and create well-rounded human beings, prepared for a world that requires problem solving and new ways of seeing!  I went on to take everything I had learned to that point and participated in the opening of Cardinal Newman, a school in the deep south.  There, I continued to work as an advocate for the fine arts and to dream that they would be honoured within the curriculum.

In the following photographs, I’ve captured just a very small sampling of those educators, my mentors and friends. As Alberta is deliberating about and writing new curricula, I’m pleased to recall that I participated in the implementation of the art and drama curricula all those years ago.  It was wonderful to meet up again, with friends, and to share some stories…to speak of life and art and books and Is-ness.  Thank you.

Collaboration

Some weeks ago, artist, Kelsey Fraser, led a workshop at the Esker Foundation on collaborative art making in both drawing and painting.  A key feature of the present exhibit, Earthlings, collaboration creates a wonderful bridge between northern and southern artistic culture.

By happenstance, the week prior to Kelsey’s workshop, I had explored collaboration with a high school learning strategies class.  Often saddled with group projects, older students often struggle with their part of a piece of work (poster, presentation, power point, report) when they are assigned to work with a mixed group of individuals.  I thought that it might be fun to explore a small non-threatening Exquisite Corpse activity in order to enjoy the experience of individual contributions for a common goal and completed work.  To begin with, we looked at the process of collaboration.

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I forgot to grab some photos of the resulting drawings. (may post later)  I had the students complete the first section on a paper folded into three (a character’s head – fantastical to representational) and then walk to someone in the room that they might not know and to trust them with the second section (the torso) and then, finally, that person would get up and pass it on to a third person for completion (the legs).  I enjoyed this exercise with a former student of mine, Tim Belliveau, when he led a session of life drawing at the Glenbow Museum.  It is a great activity for warm up and for ice breaking.  If you want to loosen up the crowd, this is a great method or if you have a fear of not ‘knowing’ how to draw, this activity removes that responsibility.

So, it was no surprise when Kelsey used some similar techniques to begin with the workshop attendees.  She began with blind contour drawings and had us circulate, working with different people on three rounds of portraiture.  The HOW TOs can be found here.

These were the three blind contours completed, where I was the subject.  It was so good to meet up with Jocelyn again!

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Next (and I’ll use this with a class some time or maybe during a pot luck party) we began a telephone game activity…page one write something, pass the booklet on…page two draw something related to page one’s writing….pass the booklet on…page three, write something related to the drawing on page two….pass the booklet on…page four, draw something related to the writing on page three….and so on through ten or so pages.

One needs to completely let go of any notions…expectations…of where this booklet goes in terms on content.  They can become pretty hilarious!

Here are a few pages from my booklet…

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Finally, the participants visited four different tables, to hook up with pencil nicks left on the edges of previous artist’s  compositions and to create their own line drawings in charcoal pencil.  Esker, the paper was of beautiful quality….thank you!  After drawing on three compositions, without looking at any of the other related drawings, we were asked to return to our original places, lay out the four compositions in sequence and to add paint.  Both challenging and thought provoking.  At this stage, the main goal would be to add harmony and unity to four somewhat disjointed pieces.  The colour added a very exciting dimension.

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Thanks to Kelsey Fraser and to Esker Foundation for a wonderful afternoon of exploring line, colour and collaboration!

“Collaboration requires focusing on everything from vision and values to how individuals can feel they are making a real contribution.”
Jane Ripley, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster

While I don’t think my contributions made sense sometimes, or that I had anything ‘intelligent’ to say, I also really appreciated the conversation PLACEHOLDER: An Unconventional Book Club Discussion with d.talks.  I was low on energy and very distracted and yet I had the true sense that the circle of people attending the event were listening.  Watch for future programs/events on the Esker site.

Join d.talks, in collaboration with Esker Foundation, for an evening discussion that responds to the exhibition, Earthlings, and draws upon the ceramic influences from Rankin Inlet, Cape Dorset, and Medalta in Medicine Hat. Structured as an unconventional book club, PLACEHOLDER is an intimate discussion and an opportunity for Calgarians to identify how our city and citizens affect – and are impacted by – local and global themes borne out of the work of Esker’s current exhibiting artists. Receive a list of selected texts or bring your own book, poem, or object. Let’s form a new narrative in Calgary together!

 

Janet Beare Studio: Belleville

It is a very snowy day here in Calgary.  A quick outing this morning, and I’ve decided that the roads are such that I’m going to bunker down, drink hot coffee (which I never do in the afternoon), and do a bit of nesting.

In looking over my archives, I realized that I didn’t get around to writing about a lovely studio visit that I shared with Janet Beare in Belleville, Ontario last summer.  I was blessed to have spent a summer painting poetry in my father’s apartment and to have exhibited a show for the Lisa Morris and Peter Paylor’s Artist and Artisans Studio and Gallery.  Through this experience, I had the chance to meet and enjoy the company of the community artists and musicians who are creating work in their home studios, and for the most part, exploring media and the arts with wild abandon.

Over the years, I have enjoyed conversation and support in a wide circle of female artists.

I really did appreciate the dialogue with Janet, one beautiful summer’s day, in her home studio just off Farley Ave.  Thank you, Janet for the trust and fun of sharing your studio space!

Janet has experimented in a variety of media and her subjects range from purely non-objective colour/textural studies to representational works in both water colour and acrylics.  Don’t you think it’s fun to explore other artist’s spaces?  I like the intimacy and personality of these spaces…one of the reasons I really pleasure in Wendy Lee’s Love Art in Calgary Tours.

I hope my readers will enjoy exploring Janet’s space and thank you for the warm welcome of a visiting artist in your sacred home of creativity!

Some people like her work, some people don’t.  I really really love Tracey Emin’s work, first seeing it during La Biennale de Venezia when my daughter and I traveled to Venice years ago.  Tracey’s early work enveloped a process of personal healing and it has evolved tremendously through the years.  I find it deep, meaningful and reflective of women’s issues in the world.

I like this little film because of the accessibility to Tracey’s space.

Big Brushes! Big Paper!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about  the Alberta Art Curriculum and where it concerns Division One students, including Kindergarten.  Division One, for those readers outside of Alberta, Canada, are Grades One, Two and Three.  Within the framework of the Expression Component of the Alberta Art Curriculum, there exists a language that, since 1986, when the curriculum was written, published and implemented by teachers,  is becoming more and more distant and misunderstood.

In the 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of the Fine Arts team under the inspiration of our Fine Arts Supervisor, one of the Supervisors in our District Program Department.  That team included a Music Consultant or two?, a Drama Consultant, and a Visual Arts Consultant/sometimes Visual Arts Specialist.  Today, I feel like writing about ‘the best of times’ in our District when Fine Arts were well-supported, vibrant, inspiring and growing!  Professional Development was offered on a very regular basis where teachers had opportunity to share ideas with other teachers in the District, learn techniques, share lesson plans and observe demonstration lessons being delivered by professionals in the field.  For many years, there had been a Fine Arts Center, a place where students were bused on a regular basis to have experiences in Art, Music and Drama.  It was an amazing time for Fine Arts in Calgary!

When the ‘NEW’ curriculum came out for Visual Arts, the schools were assured that expert teachers became familiar with how to use the document and feel comfortable with designing lessons, and further mentored non-specialist teachers to the point where they became comfortable with delivery of lessons and program.   Resources were updated, including textbooks and large visuals, in order to support the Reflection Component.  If teachers were struggling with ideas or implementation, a specialist booked one-on-one appointments and traveled to schools to explain, support, observe and assist with ordering media/resources or teaching.  This was happening in core subjects as well, but not to the detriment of Fine Arts education.

Somewhere during that process, our department developed a list of indices for administrators…these described what an administrator would see if, in fact, the curriculum outcomes were being met.  For example, walking down a hall, a person might look at the walls and be able to quickly identify what quality art works would look like at each Division.  Photo copied and cloned or teacher-made works, for example, would optimally, not be presented as student art work.

Not meaning to sound stuck up or arrogant, but truly, ‘perfect’ art is not ‘child made’ art.  Child made art is perfect because it shows the true schematic development of each individual child.  Somewhere along the line, adults, over the years that I’ve been teaching have somewhat imposed their fear of ‘not being able to draw a straight line’ onto children.  They sometimes fail to celebrate the wonky cutting and ‘out of control’ line that is imperative to developing fine motor skills.  Congratulations to those of you who treasure these discoveries.

All of these experiences and initiatives, I see as valuable and imperative to the life of the arts in schools.  It seems, however, that since then, this DISTANCE between educators and the arts, at least visual arts, has been growing larger and this concerns me.  I believed then, as I do now, that Fine Arts are essential to the healthy development and well-rounded education of children.  The parts of the brain used in each of the experiences of visual art, dance, drama and music must not be left unexplored.  Creatives are the answer to so many of the world’s challenges right now.  These have always been my beliefs.

So….what are the realities in schools today?  What are the pressures being put upon an authentic visual arts experience…for the sake of this rant,  and authentic visual arts experience for the youngest of our children?

Occupational health and safety guidelines now require that only a certain percentage of bulletin board space may be covered in paper.  Now, we see the art works, even by Division One children, shrinking.  We see their tools becoming smaller.  But, THIS IS A PROBLEM!!  We can not sacrifice who our young people are and what they need to experience based on the numbers of works that we can display at any given time.  It is possible to observe the safety requirements and still address the actual art curriculum, that also, is required.

Because of their little fingers, young children need large brushes and large paper.  If you have to rotate their works of art over a month long period, to be fair, I think that is a possibility.  Their fingers are not ready to hold tiny water colour brushes, or to manipulate lines and shapes, with paint in an 8 x 10 picture plane.

I’m ranting…let me see if I can find a little video or something that supports anything I’ve written here.  Well, HERE is a write up titled, YOUNG IN ART by Craig Roland, outlining and illustrating the natural progression of making symbols and then images.

You may want to mute the next video.  I know that I did.  Sometimes music distracts.

I think teachers of art will be less frustrated and children will be less frustrated if they can enjoy art experiences that challenge, but do not frustrate.  Somehow, it’s important for teachers to identify the stages of artistic development that exist within their classrooms.  If a student struggles with fine motor skills, media needs to be selected that will ease that struggle.

For young children, I recommend BIG brushes and BIG paper.  Drawings can easily be accomplished with a piece of white chalk.

My thoughts on Pinterest?  Did anyone ask? I’m laughing here.  Truly, this post is a rant and not anything but.  I have to say that Pinterest is both a blessing for a visual arts educator and a curse!  To generalist and specialist teachers alike, I pose these questions. Do you understand what the curricular outcomes are that are being met by each Pinterest ‘idea’?  Are the outcomes appropriate for students at your grade level?  Are you including in your art experiences, lessons in Reflection, Depiction, Composition and Expression?  Are the end products the driving force behind the lesson or is the experience the child is having while creating them, the most magical?

All things to think about…

I think that we have done a disservice to teachers cutting back on professional development where it includes topics with direct impact on teaching.  I think that these are the days where we focus most on technology, assessment and inclusion to the detriment of self-reflection, lesson and unit planning and professional sharing opportunities.  In ‘the trenches’, there is very little time to explore.

The cost of art materials is, I’m certain, escalating.  The time on the schedule is diminishing.  Visual arts education is slowly being absorbed by other subjects and being called integrated visual arts.  If students use crayon pencils and markers, there is some thought that they are practicing art.  This, in my opinion, is a fallacy.

Anyway, I feel like I need a drink after all of this.  Good for you, if you read to this point.  I hope that you know that I’m behind all my readers and I certainly use my opportunities, as a guest teacher, to explore the art curriculum with kids simply because I love it!  Sometimes the kids call me Painter Lady.  That makes me happy!  What better way to learn, create and explore ones mind, but to dip a big brush into a buttery bucket of paint and then to watch that paint flow out onto a surface?  For those of you out there, with kidlets, have fun with them.  They appreciate any opportunity you give them to roll up their sleeves and get into those gritty aspects of learning!

Valentines…a lesson, or two.

Valentines this year…Grades Three and One.

 

 

KOAC: Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre

This morning, I’m celebrating Wendy Lees and the Love Art in Calgary tours that she provides, here in the city.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to enjoy the intimate and generous experience of visiting KOAC.  Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe directed a magical tour of their property, studios and home and today I am still ruminating about the conversations, the practice and the encouragement received.  Grateful!

Katie and Harry have done so much for our community and, both visionaries, they have a commitment to leave an amazing legacy for all of us.  But right now, they need our support, both monetary and philosophically.  Calgarians need to see themselves as both beneficiaries, but also contributors to this dream.  I hope that my readers will take the time to visit the website and explore how they can be a part of this.

We began our tour with the wondrous drive out to the property under an amazing chinook arch.  The light and arch contributed to the aesthetic experience of being on the edge of the city, looking west toward the mountains.  Good conversation, laughter and shared philosophies are always a part of a Love Art in Calgary tour and this time, I reconnected with a like-minded woman, Sharon, who I had met on a previous workshop at the Esker Foundation and Melissa, who has a long history of Gorilla painting with me.  So much fun.

Melissa and I went for a wander to look at a couple of the sculptures on the property before the tour of Katie’s studio began.

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This one made a journey across the ocean in a crate…missed the sculptor’s name.

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‘Dandelion’ a kinetic sculpture created by one of Katie’s former students.

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Treasures.

Walking to Katie’s studio, we stopped and had fun, listening to Katie’s stories and being present to her larger-than-life energy!

I think this woman is such a role model for us.  She is so full of warmth and has such a generous nature.  And…she says that she writes a lot of reference letters! :0)

Katie Ohe, when speaking of her sculptures, touches them in such a special way and speaks about them in that manner, also.  It is evident that she has a very close relationship with the materials and knows and loves the process of creation in a very intimate way.  I cherish listening to her speak of her art.

 

 

Next, we went to Harry’s studio, a treasure trove full of discoveries and large canvases.

Harry is such a gentle and kind man, with such enthusiasm for the vision that has been forming over such a long period of time…a vision and partnership shared between Katie and him.  He is a huge promoter of KOAC and has announced that tickets are available for the next big fundraiser.

Next, the two artists invited us into their home and we sat and snacked and shared a coffee break, while being surrounded by amazing works of art, as well as an extensive collection and library!  Phenomenal!

 

I will never forget the strength of Katie’s hand wrapped around mine, as I thanked her for the afternoon.  What an amazing woman!

Previous posts…

Art Tour 2013

Poem For Katie Ohe

Katie’s Idea Books

Objects of Affection

Colour Bouncing Off the Walls: Pason Systems

I found this post in my drafts, all these months later and I’ve decided to entertain updating it and posting, just because I remember it as being a most amazing day of viewing art.

As written…some time ago…

What a glorious afternoon; one of those when spring heat and sunshine comes on the wings of a cool breeze.  From Christine Klassen Gallery, I head down 3rd Street to Pason Systems.  ‘Some of Jim and Susan Hill’s private art collection hangs on the walls of the Atlantic Avenue Art Block, but the majority of the collection is housed in the offices and common areas of Mr. Hill’s company, Pason Systems.’

Yesterday, the tour was led by Naomi Potter (Curator for Esker Foundation), Jim Hill (owner of Pason Systems and along with his wife, Sue Hill, an enthusiastic collector and visual arts advocate) and Dr. Shepherd Steiner ( Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba School of Art, who has recently completed a manuscript looking at Modernist painting, sculpture, and criticism from 1945–1968) of a portion of the extensive collection of works on view at Pason Systems.  A comprehensive and enthusiastic delivery of historical notes and analysis of paintings was given…very enjoyable and inspiring, at the same time.  This was a very special opportunity and arranged through registration via Esker Foundation programming.

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The first of the paintings, was a ‘Snap’ painting created by Harold Town, (1924-1990). Most of his life was spent in Toronto. In 1953, he was a founder and member of the “Painters Eleven,” a group of Toronto abstract expressionist painters which included Jack Bush, Oscar Cahen, William Ronald and Jock Macdonald. Painters Eleven took their cues from contemporary post-war American artists such as Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.  Harold lived in rather privileged circles including original thinkers such as Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Burton and Stewart McLean.  There was a strong connection with Landon McKenzie of Rosedale as well.

In 1957, notable art critic, Clement Greenberg visited Toronto and the Painters Eleven studios.  The late 60s weren’t really kind to painters.  While Bush formed a bit of an alliance with Greenberg at the time…Town reportedly, benefited the least, most certainly linked to his own resistance to connecting with ‘what was going on in America’ in art.

The Snap paintings were the result of paint on strings being strung tightly from one dowel to another and, loaded with paint, snapped against the surface.

Nearer the front of the exhibition space, this Jonathan Forrest piece appears to be one of the ‘Best Foot Forward’ pieces.  Jonathan Forrest has a fabulous website and my favourite pages include some very vintage images of early studio spaces and process.  I hope that my readers might access this link.kaths-canon-april-2-2016-art-klassen-pason-ed-bader-017 kaths-canon-april-2-2016-art-klassen-pason-ed-bader-016

My documentation leaves a little to be desired in terms of true colour…I just wanted to collect a record of most of the things I was able to see on this tour.  There was a wealth of background given at each stop.  Saskatchewan artist, Forrest’s work,  includes clean-edged figures lifted off of the surface.  These often times appear to be folded-over-edges, impacted by the pouring on of paint.

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Doug Haynes (1936-2016) was an important non-objective modernist who explored floating figures in shallow spaces.  I particularly enjoyed this painting, Z’Idelo, for the potent red forms in space and the subtle ghosts of the same forms echoed throughout.  Follow the link I provide,here, to read a lovely tribute written in celebration of his life.

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I think that Dr. Steiner was speaking about a Chris Cran piece while I was staring at and wondering about a piece by Los Angelas artist, Iva Gueogruieva.  The dancing energy of her line and the passionate sense of colour created huge dynamic movement.  I could hear Dr. Steiner’s voice referencing Chris’s self portraits and the process of self-exploration.  The Cran piece was described as theatrical.  I was blessed to peruse the Chris Cran exhibit at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa some months later.

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I’ve seen Colleen Philippi’s Mountain Standard Time before and find the assemblage aspects of her work, compelling.  Philippi’s work “has an element of personal history, from the creative to the domestic, with the sense of opening up self-referential rooms. Originally from Winnipeg, Philippi graduated with a BFA from the University of Alberta, and has long been based in Calgary.”  I identify with the inclusion of objects and think that the work captures a sense of gender.  It is refreshing.

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Dr. Steiner described The Lantern as Paul Resika’s first tentative effort to move into abstraction.  The Wharf and the fish canning plant, shut down, Resika moved into colour field painting.  The processes captured in the following video are magical.

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I think that, here in Calgary, we could not speak or write about colour field painting, without also mentioning William Perehoudoff.  As a long-time landscape painter, I spent years impacted by the works of his wife,  Dorothy Knowles. Both artists had strong associations with the Emma Lake workshops.

This painting includes a set of key figures, thin stained pigment, yellow sun…the piece is really inseparable from the prairies.  The pink and red is interesting as is the placing of the shapes on a slight diagonal.  The painting seems to pulse.  The dynamic forms rest up against the stable aspects of the frame.

In terms of ‘coming to terms’ with abstract colour field paintings, Dr. Steiner recommended ‘letting the elements produce stories within you and let those stories speak to you.’

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At this point, Dr. Steiner spoke a little about Amedee Ozenfant and his approach to the elements of abstract works and their dynamic nature.

Steiner was enthusiastic about the jazz like influences in the piece, Diamond Variation by Jack Bush.  He addressed the parsing out of post-cubism and the jig saw shapes on the surface of some of Bush’s paintings.  There was some reference to the influences of Stuart Davis from the 20s, 30s and 40s, with the impact of orange, yellow and black.  Elements may have surfaced out of Bush’s life as a graphic artist.  Here, we see a connection of the various parts of his life and the extension of his life stresses.  His psychiatrist, J. Allan Walters, at the time, advised Bush to explore ‘freeing up his art’.

I was excited to have participated in an earlier art walk with Dr. Sarah Stanners at the Esker Foundation.

Dr. Steiner wove narratives throughout his analysis of Jack Bush’s painting at this point. “Irony”, he stated, “is at the base of cubism”.  He had us look at edges, borders and boundaries and how paint comes up to the frame and that the pencil lines found there were ‘cutting edge’.  Again,  Jack Bush was criticized for being a colour field painter because it was such an ‘American’ thing.  Clement Greenburg, again, influenced thought and thinking about abstract painting in Canada.

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I was happy to see Edward Burtynski’s work in this collection.  Dr. Steiner pointed out connections to cubism and the fact that the photographs of Burtynski lean on the genealogy of painting.  He spoke briefly about the issues of environmentalism and the scale of the work.

I believe that Jim Hill spoke to the John Adams Griefen piece.

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Dr. Steiner elaborated upon  Dan Christensen’s 1995 piece.  He shared with us the galactic sensibility in the piece and an almost cosmic spirituality in the work.  Dan’s work is about opticality.  He was not locked into a single motif or approach.  Very versatile in nature, it is, again, fun to look at the website for the freedom that is found in his explorations.

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With the exploration of Donald Judd’s work, there is pressure put on the viewer to look at the object, pan through the circles and to make as much of negative spaces as the positive.  I like that Judd made his life in Marfa, when I’ve connected with the poetry and photography of Joshua Edwards, also from Marfa. The connections I personally make with an open and minimalist approach to the landscape began about four years before meeting Josh, again, at the Esker Foundation.

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I notice in my little black notebook that I didn’t write any comments on Evan Penny’s work.  I enjoy the physical experience of viewing the sculpture, having seen several exhibits in the past, featuring Penny’s work.  A pleasant surprise in the Pason Systems collection.

As the tour moved on, I wrote fewer notes and spent more time exploring the art works.  I don’t know that I’ve represented the work very well or not…but, at the very least, I have a record of an extraordinary afternoon, jam-packed with information and insight.

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Regarding the piece by Jules Olitski, (name at birth…Jevel Demikovsky) Dr. Steiner was very excited.  He explored humour in the two green dots, contrasted with the somber colour of the larger form coming from above.  Olitski works typically included a sense of irony, comedy and distance.  Symbolically, breasts appeared in earlier works.  Concentric circles directed the viewer to zoom in on particular colours.  Zippering was used to optically precipitate a sense of ‘closing up’. The process of staining was explored and sometimes both sides of the canvases were painted. There was a relationship between Jack Bush and Jules Olitski.

This tour was invaluable to me, in terms of giving me a concrete exploration of abstraction…a very ‘real’ experience of colour, form and light. With gratitude…

November Paint

One of the components of the Alberta Elementary Art Curriculum is Expression.  Here lies the opportunity for students to explore media, personal narratives and ‘let ‘er loose’.  While I typically embed reflection and depiction in my lessons, as well as inherently guide the students to compose well (all of the strands are connected), sometimes I focus more on the act of painting or sculpting or learning what media can do.  Seasonal celebrations lend themselves well to Expression.  Those educators who lean heavily on Pinterest for their ‘art ideas’ need to remember that these are, for the most part, Expression lessons and often of the variety that focuses on the ‘how to’ rather on the child’s personal interpretation of their internal narrative. We need to be wary of the ‘paper cut out’ approach for the sake of a ‘pretty display’. I think it’s essential the ‘art idea’ bank be balanced with more unpredictable outcomes and never sacrifice the experiences that come with Reflection, Depiction and Composition.

This month the students in my care, painted.  The use of the brush continues to be a skill to be reckoned with.  Turning the brush sideways for thin marks and flat for wider marks, another technique to practice.  Dry brush and wet brush effects can be observed and discussed.

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Creating candlelight separately, to be cut out and glued to the candle after drying…one idea…in the case that you have short bits of time for painting, instead of a sustained period of time.

The resulting collages, including a wreath of evergreen that has been created using green on green, studies in pattern.  In this case a second candle will be added on the second week of Advent (taller), a Gaudete candle on the third week (taller still and pink in colour) and the fourth candle, the last week, leading to Christmas.

Fully painted Advent Wreaths, horizontally on large paper.  Concept in composition was overlapping…we did a few exercises with our bodies before beginning this…talked a little about perception.  Notice North, South, East and West marked at the compass points of the picture plane.  These dots give the students reminders to stretch their images to touch each of those edges.  Chalk allows the students to explore placement, change their minds and plan and scheme.  Pencil is debilitating at this age.  Erasers become appendages.  lol  Just get rid of both.  White chalk rocks!

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Smaller format…still, on coloured construction for an activated picture plane.  Later, to have the candle flames whitened with chalk or white oil pastel…I would suggest that these smaller compositions might have oil pastel underlines or embellishments added after dry.

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Organic Shapes: Grade Three

Yes!  Grade threes spoke to me about organic shapes.  Will they remember tomorrow?  I don’t know.  But, for today, they really did delve into the concept.

“Organic shapes are associated with things from the natural world, like plants and animals. The circles and squares that make up this sculpture are geometric shapes.”

There was paint left over from yesterday…black and white.  I grabbed bright red paper to use as a ground for today’s paintings.

Last evening, my son James came over to the house after work and created a huge bowl of Hummus, using my friend Carla’s recipe.  After we had our sit down dinner and the dishes were done, I headed out to drive James home.  While we journeyed I asked him what he thought would make a great subject for great three Halloween paintings…witches, cats or bats?  His suggestion was ghosts.  He rated, by difficulty, the four subjects and in the end, I agreed.  4. Witches 3. Cats 2. Bats 1. Ghosts  Ghosts would allow for creative interpretation, free flow, but would help me teach some basic design concepts and techniques.

I knew that I wanted to accomplish some successful design pieces in a very short time, so the focus could not be so much on Reflection and Depiction, but on Composition and Expression.

The class was so intensely involved in the art making that I had to stare in disbelief as it seemed I was in a bee hive.  Every student was geared up to accomplish wonderful things and the engagement was other-worldly.  It was silent.  I felt so happy.

I have a couple of suggestions if my readers were to, at any point, paint ghosts with kids.  First of all, have my readers ever had their mother dress them up in a bed sheet as a ghost at any point, for the purpose of trick-o’-treating?  Two eyes cut out.  No mouth…no nose. It’s tricky to get around!  I told the kids the story at the beginning of my lesson and they laughed an laughed.  I shared about how hot it was in the inside of the sheet as I breathed in and out, in and out. I told them about tripping as my feet stepped onto the front of the sheet.  I explained about the pillow case I was carrying, being difficult to access to collect candy at my neighbour’s doors.  I could tell by their faces that they could relate.

I drew a symbol for an octopus on the white board.  We thought about how the shape of a ghost symbol would be different.  I had them try to picture the sheet over my head.  Could they tell where the head was?  How?  What shape would it be?  The shoulders?  and then….why would the bottom of the ghost be so organic?  We talked about Casper the friendly ghost and the fact that he had legs and arms like we do.

Other words for ghosts that came up…spirits and specter.

Parameters for the composition.  Include at least seven ghost-like organic shapes.  At least three of these need to go off of an edge.  Try to include three larger ghost-forms and the rest, smaller.

I demonstrated how to use a paper towel as a place mat…sliding it along to the place where paint would be applied to an edge.  I showed them the difference between painting over an edge and painting up to an edge.

Given a small piece of chalk, the students moved into their composing.  I really didn’t want to impose too many restrictions on how they handled their darkness, only saying that I would like to see repeating lines and that the black outline around each specter should not touch the white shrouds.  Off to the races!

For the purpose of painting with tempera paints, always have a box of white chalk handy.  It takes all of the ‘preciousness’ of drawing away and becomes very free-flowing, with opportunities to change minds several times.

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Starting with the dark if the artist finds that all of the buckets of white are gone…

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Second colour…

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After drying…those little ghost faces were added with sharpies.  No noses required.  I enjoyed the creative solutions to the dark.  A beautiful morning!  Deb, thank you for your class!

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Something amazing happened.  As I stepped into the staff room, at the end of the morning, I learned that employees of UPS were visiting the school and making rounds at other schools, serving special coffees and cupcakes, in order to let educators in the community know how much their work is appreciated.  A heart felt message was delivered during the lunch break that left teachers feeling affirmed and happy.  It was a lovely gesture and a great end to my morning guest teaching.  I had a white chocolate latte.  YUM!

Thank you, UPS!

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Arachnophobia: Grade 4 Art Happening

What a wonderful group of grade fours!  They were very intense about their art…from the very beginning until the very end.

I began the class by asking the students what makes people scared of spiders.  We thought about why they have become a symbol and decoration for creepy times like Halloween.  We shared all of the types of spiders we know about from library books, movies, stories and experience.  We talked for a while about Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

In their visual journals, the students designated a BEFORE page and an AFTER page.  I asked them to draw a spider, with their own knowledge and understanding and idea of what a spider looks like.  It could be entirely imaginary or be based on something they’ve seen before.  They were asked to add as much detail as possible.

The variety of interpretations was amazing.  I love love love their BEFORE images.

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Next, I showed the students a YouTube video…great guy…easy going and enjoyable script, “How to Draw a Red Back Spider.”  I have never been a big fan of HOW TO DRAW books, but honestly, when a class is swelling to 29 to 32 students…the YouTube Video is a way for the teacher to filter around the classroom, assist and support students.  If you are doing a demonstration/explanation at the front of the room, with your back to the students, really you are less engaged with them and more being a ‘bit of a show off’. I’m laughing as I type this.  Do what you want!  It’s just that, very late in the game, I’ve discovered that these little videos are superb for the Depiction part of a lesson.

This guy is great.

The very same students who had created the BEFORE drawings posted above, drew the following AFTER depictions.

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I didn’t have a lot of time for prep…was busy eating up a bowl of homemade leek and potato soup, so I grabbed black and white paint and orange paper and so began the expressive portion of the lesson.

Using chalk for drawing, the students were asked to use their sketches in order to create a Red Back Spider on a web.  The red spot could be coloured after both the spider and web were painted…using a red Mr. Sketch marker.

The resulting BLOW OUT session was remarkable!  A great time seeing students show their own spin on the subject.  I only wish that I had my Canon with me.  But, this will give my readers some ideas.

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Generations: 50 Years of Art at the University and Beyond

I strongly recommend your attendance at the Nickle Galleries for Generations; 50 Years of Art at the University and Beyond. Today, I decided to attend Nickle at Noon, a wander through the exhibit in the company of Mary-Beth Laviolette.  I made my way to the campus early enough to consume the most wonderful Reuben sandwich made by the peeps of the Red Wagon Diner food truck.  There was still a bite to the air, but now the sun is out and it is a magical autumn day.

Curated by  Mary-Beth Laviolette, the exhibit began with a variety of work from the Founders of the University Art Department, spanning every decade up to the present day.  An extensive body of work gives a very positive sense of the production and the mentoring within this powerhouse visual arts community of ours.  It all made me feel so proud.

Mary-Beth was funny and smart and shared with a few more than 20 attendees, the interesting narratives behind most of the work that included sculpture, paintings, drawings, fabric arts, mixed media and print making.  I’ve documented a few of the things that really amused or intrigued me.  The tour was beautifully paced, educational and thorough.

Our city is loaded with the most wonderful opportunities.  I hope my readers will get out to take advantage of this one.  DaveandJen’s A Natural History of Islands opens tonight, from 5 until 8, in the upstairs gallery.  I will be holding off on this one until the Artists’ tour on November 24.  There are a ton of events going on in the city right now and through Saturday.  Don’t spread yourself too thin, but it is definitely not a Netflix weekend.  (oh…do what you want!)

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Work by Nicholas Roukes, writer of Design and Art Synectics...two books that greatly influenced my teaching.

Work by Nicholas Roukes, writer of Design and Art Synectics…two books that greatly influenced my teaching.

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Peter Deacon and Marcia Perkins

Peter Deacon and Marcia Perkins

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Amy Gogarty...this one just captivated me!

Amy Gogarty…this one just captivated me!

Joane Cardinal-Schubert

Joane Cardinal-Schubert

Mary Scott and Jed Irwin

Mary Scott and Jed Irwin

Mary Scott

Mary Scott

John Will

John Will

Beautiful portrait of John Will in Ballpoint Pen and Sharpie Marker by Aurora Landin

Beautiful portrait of John Will in Ballpoint Pen and Sharpie Marker by Aurora Landin

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Rita McKeough Mitten Series

Rita McKeough Mitten Series

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Bill Laing

Bill Laing

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Dang...something is on my lens!

Dang…something is on my lens!

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Artist, Bev Tosh, speaks a little about her War Bride series.

Artist, Bev Tosh, speaks a little about her War Bride series.

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Marigold Santos

Marigold Santos

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Dulcie Foo Fat

Dulcie Foo Fat