I met Ashleigh Bartlett at the Esker Foundation. I was participating in a workshop that was a visual response/reaction to the Jack Bush and Colleen Heslin exhibit, one of the most powerful visual experiences I had had for a very long time. Ashleigh really impacted me with her approach to the workshop and I saw the evolution of non-objective forms more clearly than I had in the past. I also became very engaged in process, materials and colour.
Ashleigh Bartlett curated the current/soon departing exhibit For You/And Me at the Paul Kuhn Gallery. I couldn’t let it leave town without seeing it. After all, yesterday was a snowy and grey day. One other person was wandering the gallery, but soon, I was alone in the space. And…my readers know how I feel about that glorious feeling of being alone with work. I’ve snapped some photographs of my favourite works. I’d describe this group show as elegant and restful. While colour on the larger fabric collages is intense, there is a dominant sense of balance and that leads the viewer into an experience of meditation.
In regards to my experience, I was curious about the technical aspects of the work. There were some very engaging approaches to use of media. Jim Verburg’s approach in his two layer paintings was lovely…so subtle, that photographs would not do them justice. Paint on mylar in front of paint on mat. Nice. Jessica Groome’s Glimmer, Gazer and Pearl, documented below…my favourites!
This little piece was probably the one I wondered about the most. Mark Clintberg’s Two Coins was simple, but complex at the same time. I like the projection of the shadow onto the back mat. I like the texture of the embossed gold leaf. I wonder about the connections with Felix Gonzales Torres’ Drawings and Sculptures. This captures the sensibility of the exhibit in full…elegance. Congratulations to Ashleigh, the participating artists and Paul Kuhn.
I’d love to have Erica Mendritzski’s Girls hanging in my home. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
I can go for weeks, wanting to write about something and never get to it because it was either too beautiful or too overwhelming or too devastating to actually get the words out…at least on a blog post. I’ve got more drafts than I do posts, sitting waiting for publication. Some of these include a huge post about last summer’s Folk Festival and one titled ‘The Gaze’, something about keeping my eyes on the face of Jesus. When I consider posting, I also think that my honesty will not be appreciated, so I hold back. While some days it feels like I have no readers…that I don’t have an audience…I DO think that I have a responsibility to what I write because it is flowing out into the internet world…and I don’t want to post junk.
Back to the point. I’ve visited the recent exhibit at the Esker Foundation six times now and I am so in love with it that I find it hard to write about. This morning, I thought that I’d make an effort.
To begin with, I attended the opening of the ‘Winter Exhibitions’. The openings at the Esker are sometimes unbelievably populated. This one surpassed that description in every regard. Jim Hill greeted us, at the beginning of the line, out on the street and quietly said, “You might want to come over tomorrow when it’s more quiet” and I responded with, I’ll be attending tomorrow also. So I began my slow weave up the stairwell, conversing with friendly people both ahead of me, and behind me. It moved seamlessly and was a real pleasure. Stepping into the space, it was easy to become anonymous in the crowd. While I did share some words with a few of the friends that I bump into at such events, I made the effort to disappear into the art and I did. The works by Jack Bush and Colleen Heslin sing off of the walls! This is a show that impresses, with its colour relationships, its monumental presence and its juxtaposition. I’m so in love with the art!
That night, I had this huge feeling rush over me that Jack Bush was observing the crowd and all of the conversations…that he was a voyeur, of sorts, watching from the seat of his own work. I had a sense that he was entertained by the spectacle of all of it. But, truly, I felt his presence to this opening. (readers roll eyes here)
I met Alex Cameron while on a horse-packing trip up Blue Rock, with 9 other artists. I forget what led to my good fortune, but I think my friend, Laurel Cormack, had to cancel and she called me up to fill her spot on a horse. Bob Blair, a huge supporter of the visual arts in the city, was funding the adventure, with the understanding that we would provide a painting, in the end, for his collection. I remember sharing the journey with some wonderful people, among them Alex Cameron, Brenda Driscoll, David Alexander, Tania Laniel and Ken Christopher. Generously, Virginia Christopher offered up her gallery for our post journey exhibit and meeting with Bob Blair.
It was on this journey, and around a magical campfire, one of many, that we shared stories with one another about art and life. Ken brought out the guitar and we sang songs. We put on skits. We drank Johnny Walker in our tin cups. It was during one of these night time conversations that Alex Cameron told us the stories of working for Jack Bush in his studio. I felt that I was a witness to something pretty special where each artist was concerned. That journey was life changing and as a result, I painted an exhibit of oil paintings titled Kindred Spirits.
It was very emotional to walk up to one of the exhibit walls and to read the words of introduction by Curator, Sarah Stanners, Ph.D. Director, Curatorial & Collections McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
There…in description of Jack Bush: In Studio…were these words.
It was a life-circle moment.
The next day, I was out to Dr. Sara Stanner’s tour of the exhibit, where she shared so much knowledge about the artist, his studio practice and his relationships. We heard about influences and friendships…about Clement Greenberg, Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and also Anthony Caro. It was a very rich session and I made certain to fill my little notebook with details about each piece, things that I am considering and understanding more as I continue to journey through an exploration of ‘Colour Field’ painting.
This past weekend, I attended, first, an artist talk about Understanding Light and Energy, given by Jesse Stilwell.
He has, on exhibit, an installation in the main floor Project Space. I suggest that my readers take opportunity to visit this piece, both in day light and at night, as it has very interesting light interplay and energy. It was delightful to hear Jesse’s honest portrayal of his process and absolutely fascinating to hear, in part, knowledge about eye and brain in perceiving colour. As I left the session, I met friend, Michelena, and gave her a big hug. And through her, met a long time friend, Jocelyn, who as it turned out, would be attending the Saturday workshop with me. Together, the three of us took a little bit of time to peruse Colleen Heslin’s work and talk about it.
The next day, I was able to practice, through specific guidelines, exploration in Simultaneous Contrast and colour interaction. Thanks to both the Esker staff and Jesse Stilwell, for an excellent experience. I treasure and support the idea that programs be included in the experience of gallery spaces. I think that working with concepts is fundamental and crucial to integrating artistic concepts. Esker programming rocks!
Jocelyn and I sat and played the afternoon away and colour began to explode through the space. Solid direction was given and materials were provided. I became a little more intense than I would typically be while painting, but I was definitely journeying into an area where I had little or no experience. When I pulled myself out of my paint fog and Jocelyn and I were able to exchange contact information, I learned that she had been born 12 years before her sister. I shared that I had also been born 12 years before my sister. In the end, it turns out that my sister and Jocelyn’s sister are good friends, and living in Ottawa. The serendipity made perfect sense, given the magic of colour and the sharing of our personal narratives. It was a magical afternoon!
A photograph of Jocelyn, Caterina and me, upon completion of our afternoon workshop. A wonderful afternoon! Thank you, Esker.
Oh my gosh…not a lot of writing is going to happen here, but I have to archive an activity that I’ve actually never practiced before and had opportunity to try today. I have to say that the most difficult aspect of teaching a grade four class how to construct a tunnel book was teaching them how to fold creases as valleys and mountains…or let’s face it, how to fold creases at all. Do my readers remember, as children, folding fans? That’s all that’s required, really, but folding a fan seemed, at times, insurmountable.
All other concepts…near and far…background, middle ground, foreground…no problem. I don’t know. I’ll have to think about just how to make the folding easier.
What I DID do…I created a template and copied it twice for each student, providing, once folded, for the two sides of the tunnel book (accordion-like). I marked out a series of lines, dotted from one side to the opposite side. At some point, I’ll photograph my template and share it here, but, not tonight. What’s a tunnel book, you ask?
Tunnel books can be as sophisticated OR as simple as you wish. The book collapses flat, exposing a single composition. Once pulled, like an accordion, a three dimensional sensibility is revealed. The Epiphany tunnel books that the grade fours created after I shared the story, The Gift of the Magi, were very basic. Take a look at these. These illustrate the more complex tradition.
Wim de Vos is a bit of a character…but, I like that he demonstrates the kind of artistry possible where a tunnel book is concerned.
I found the following photo on Amanda Watson-Will’s site and because there is no other photographer credited, I will assume this is her archive.
This is more like it. I only wished I had seen this one before I began my lesson.
So, after the story of the Epiphany star and the fine art of gift offering…I got the students started on a background panel, deciding that it made sense to work from the back up to the front OR the background to the foreground.
These are a sampling of the tunnel books made by these awesome, open and enthusiastic students! Love them so much.
Requirements for their compositions: A guiding light, a figure, gifts, foreground, background and middle ground.
Thank you, Colleen, for your class! What beautiful children!
I saw the beautifully illustrated books lining the window sill of the grade three class room and knew that we needed to paint something in the jeweled colours of India. HOW WONDERFUL! One illustration, in particular, struck me and so, with this as my inspiration, we began our journey from the soft sculpted forms of the outdoor Taj Mahal, to the highly decorated interior.
This activity was designed for two distinct art experiences. I didn’t wish the paint to cross over into the delicate pencil crayon drawings. We spoke about different shapes that make up architecture and I projected an image of the Taj Mahal on the Smart board. I turned on the Bollywood music and the drawings began. Of course, the question soon surfaced about how you make things look “NOT FLAT”. Turning off the music, I gave a basic lesson in how to show light and shadow, to be followed, once colouring, with how colouring practices the same muscles as hand writing does.
“My muscles for handwriting don’t work very well.”
“Well, colouring your Taj Mahal will be like hand writing practice then.”
Reflection and Depiction are so often abandoned for the sake of plowing on through that ‘make an art project’ mindset.
The boys started dancing, so the Bollywood music was turned off.
I demonstrated adequate pressure (back and forth, back and forth in small amounts, rather than long airy strokes…not hard…but not soft, either) for the students as they began to colour with their pencil crayons. And this is when we explored weather, atmosphere…beautiful light. The students, at this point, told me all about monsoon season. I always act like I know absolutely nothing about these topics and I become learner and they are the teachers.
“How do I do a white Taj Mahal if I don’t have a white pencil crayon?”
This is where we looked at twenty or so photographs on line…different times of day and different weather changed the colour of the Taj Mahal…so basically, any colour families would do once you, the artist, decided what kind of day it was. I showed the students how they could use yellow to show the light on a purple dome…or how they could use green on a blue dome. The colouring began!
Once completed, these were cut out and traced, with chalk onto their large composition, then set aside. Chalk is used to break the entire composition into borders, a window sill and a flower box.
The palette I set up was a mixture of ‘spice’ colours…cumin, cinnamon. We talked about the spices that get mixed up…we talked about curry and yellow food. I gave half of the class purple paper and half brown. The students with purple paper worked with the six buckets of warm colours first for background. The students with brown paper traveled back and forth from the cool palette for their background. After lunch and drying time, they would switch palettes for their interior patterns. There were 22 students in this class, so 11 pods of 2 students. I explain how to do all of this in previous painting lessons.
Backgrounds before lunch…patterns after lunch. We were sooo busy that I didn’t grab photos for these two steps, but only photographed the end results, after gluing the Taj Mahals into the windows. Let your paintings dry before the gluing! We did Math families and agendas before that step!
The artist who created the following painting was so intent on her Taj Mahal colouring that she is not quite finished, but she can do that on her large piece…amazing work! These are beautiful, unpredictable and richly coloured. I totally enjoyed the openness of the students, their excitement, commitment and knowledge. We can’t all travel to far off place, but we can explore them through books, learning, art and we can open our souls to their colours, textures, sights, smells and sounds. I am grateful for their teacher.
I started, a year ago, sanding a head and base for an antique bed, and a matching dresser. These pieces have sort of taken over my studio and this has created a big problem for my artistic output.
Heading out to the studio to grab a photograph, I enjoy my garden in the rain.
Do you see what I mean?
Since then, I also picked up a couple of antique dressers at the Women In Need shop to accommodate the rest of my clothing. I announced months ago that the pieces in the studio were ready to be primed. I lied. I ended up getting very picky about the paint removal and have only recently come to the point where, in fact, I am ready to prime. I will be painting a Chagall image on those afterwards and will treat the primary colour as I would any other latex painting project. Once the paint is applied and dry, I will use a varnish to seal the work.
My friend, Carol, asked at the beginning of this project, “Why don’t you use chalk paint?” So, my curiosity got the best of me and I looked this process up on the internet and decided that this would be perfect for the two dressers that were already sitting in my bedroom, as well as an old hand made side table that I had also picked up for $2.00.
I thought I’d share the process with you, a process that is less than half the cost of the completely prepared system marketed by Annie Sloan, a specialty supplier of Chalk Paint. There are several DIY videos on this subject, but I find the presenters a little verbose in their delivery and at times, downright irritating. I also think that they are unrealistic in terms of how ‘simple’ and ‘fast’ they articulate the process. For example, I began working on the painting of the primed pieces at 8:00 this morning. It is 12:20 at the time of this writing and the first coat is drying. I will apply a second coat before I head out the door at 4. So, allow a bit of time.
These two dressers were varnished with a high sheen, so I decided to prime. With chalk paints, it is possible to paint over any surface, however, I didn’t wish to encounter any problems with coverage. I went into Ben Moore’s paint shop to chat with a very helpful gent yesterday who recommended this product. In fact, this would be helpful if painting over any smooth surface. Using this product, with overnight drying would prevent the possibility of scratching off the surface of a polymer based paint. It’s called STIX.
I primed right over the hardware on the drawers. If you have some interesting pulls, then I would take them off first, but given that these are fairly simple, I decided to create the distressed look on them as well. Because I’ve been involved with paint removal, I decided to be very clean in terms of the areas that I painted and to leave the dove tail joints as is, as well as any screws or fittings used to construct the furniture.
Today, I mixed up my home made chalk-like paints. I used three table spoons of Plaster of Paris, mixed with a half cup warm water, with every cup of latex paint I used. I mixed it up in an old peanut butter jar, so that I could continue to use it after taking breaks. I mixed up two and half cups of latex and after painting two dressers and all of the drawers, I still have a half of the mixture left. I’m letting this dry, as mentioned and will put the second coat on shortly.
To follow that, instead of using the Annie Sloan clear wax and dark wax, I’ve chosen two products as replacements. In her method, you would wax clear, then dark, then clear again. I’ve decided on a warm stain gel that I will apply after the second coat of paint is dry and then I will end with a clear wax finish. These are the products I am using. I might add embellishments of copper acrylic as a rub before the clear wax because I’ve used copper on my walls.
By the way, I’ve chosen a blue-green colour to complement the warm red-orange that I applied to my wall. Contrary to the folk who like a serene environment for sleep, I focus more on warmth…I like to be surrounded by ‘happiness’. While all chaos has recently broken out in my bedroom, stay tuned for the eventual resolution to all of this DIY!
I’ll keep you posted about progress…going down to see if my first coat is dry!
I enter the class in the morning quiet, and clip my laminated image of Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life under two clips at the front board. We greet, sing O’ Canada, say our morning prayer, take attendance and then practice the letter O in cursive handwriting, upper and lower case.
First…decide on a title. Mine is The Blessing Tree! Ideas? Whispering Tree! Dancing Tree! Golden Tree! All good ideas! Now, write your title down in your notebook so that you don’t forget. This is the title for your own tree poem. Next, choose a rhyme scheme…whatever one you want! Print it down the right hand side. (ABAB or AABB or ABCA…whatever you like) Pick words from your rhyming word lists and place them in the order you want, remembering always that the last word of the very first line of a quatrain will always be named ‘A’. Now…the final challenge is to add words that come before each of your four ‘last words’. Let’s edit…let’s look for other words…let’s look for better words. Now, LET’S GO ENJOY LUNCH!
Buckets of white paint to be shared with a partner…two tbsps. of white tempera should do for this! Let’s look again at Gustav Klimt’s. Look at the trunk of the tree. It is pretty short compared to a lot of other trees. Look at the limbs and the branches of the tree. Describe the sort of lines needed to paint these. Let’s look at the word wall….and take some of our own rhyming words…COIL, SWIRL, SPRING. This is how you dip and wipe your brush and this is how you care for the bristles of the brush. Now, begin…touching three of your paper edges with long branches of the tree. Gustav Klimt filled his space with the branches of his tree.
While you’re exchanging your books in the library, I’ll clean the brushes!
Now, let’s look at some of the repeating patterns used by Klimt. Triangles, eyes, there’s a bird! There is a station over here with gold paint if you’d like to add some while you work. Here are some oil pastels. You can also use your pencil crayons. Let’s think of a colour family though…colours that repeat some of the paper colours…pink, turquoise, blue, white, red…time to create!
And finally, in pencil first, and then traced again with a fine marker or pencil crayon, your title and rhyming quatrains! Voila!
I was blessed by you today, grade four students! What wisdom! What engagement!
Wendy Lees invited me to explore painting as one of the offerings at the Golden Age Club this week, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Director of a recent initiative to use ‘creation’ as a way to connect a community, create!, Wendy has designed community drop-in art and craft workshops in the East Village. For an excellent overview on the physical re-invigoration of the area, please see the Take A Tour section at the bottom of the link here. Click on the wee orange icons.
I have written a few times about Wendy’s Love Art in Calgary tours and am a huge fan of her passion and her projects, both. We have become well-bonded through her designs and this is one of those friendships and experiences that I am truly enjoying as one aspect of the gift of retirement. From one of Wendy’s communications, this…
“My main focus right now (well one of them) is to secure funding for the ongoing work which I am doing with create! I am doing this through soliciting for private donations (large donors) and with a couple of grants through the Canadian Red Cross and the Calgary Foundation. I have a lot of support for this project from Druh Farrell’s office, from the East Village Neighbourhood Association, from the Golden Age Club and from many other organizations and people.” I also know that Wendy has enjoyed huge support from Nina’s Hear’s My Soul Cafe, #107 535 – 8th Ave SE.
While I need to tighten up the facilitation of materials and the clarity as I speak about the technical aspects of colour, I think that the experience of working with such a diverse and interested group was wonderful. Parts of the activity were specific and controlled and others may have been too open-ended. I’m reflecting on all of it. The truth is, it’s important that each person pick up something new to mull over…and it’s also so important for me to learn something so that I might grow. What Wendy is doing is such a blessing for all of us.
Thanks to friend,Michelena of Wolf Willow Studio (workshop leader and inventor of wonderful things) for bringing a youthful gaggle along with her and buying us a ‘mother load’ of fries to celebrate afterwards at Gina’s in the Golden Age Club.
Grade one students created these winter birds twittering through birch tree branches. It was an awesome experience watching such young children create, challenge and explore. Credit is given to this site for their fantastic idea. This activity would typically be geared toward a grade four, five or six class…but, heh…what the heck! Young children are so absolutely fearless. Their marks and use of colour, innate.
I count the days of summer by what is blooming in the garden. The lupines and peonies are dwindling now, but the lilies are just beginning. Awesome…the changing of textures and colour! I sat in the van one afternoon in the winter…I was making a stop for groceries, but couldn’t be interrupted while listening to one of the segments of The Power Of Colour on CBC Radio.
Thank you so much, to the Urban Hippie for sharing her experience of visiting Ava Avione. I really enjoyed the freedom of her creation of images, space and paint! I am so captivated by the lush and varied application of paint and also very interested in the elements of culture, history and art that influence these approaches! An awesome post, Lauren!