Grades 4 and 5 Discover Charles Pachter

…any excuse to tell the students about my memories of Expo ’67!

My teacher, Mr. Mackay, arranged a billeted field trip from DND Hornell Heights in North Bay, Ontario, to Montreal, Quebec to wander for a whole day at Expo.  With no money in our pockets for rides and such, we covered a vast distance on foot, taking in at least five different Pavilions.  I remember being in awe most of the time.  It turns out that Canada’s artist, Charles Pachter, along with Alexander Calder, was hired to work on the sculptural representations of Canada.

In his book,The History of Canada Series: The Best Place To Be: Expo ’67 And Its Time by John Lownsbrough,

Lownsborough shares the following archive…

All this aside, given that this is Canada’s 150th year…I thought it fun to share with the students what was happening in the world, 50 years ago.  To begin with, their eyes told me that they imagined a dinosaur was speaking before them…chatting away about what I was doing at the age of 12, with my teacher, my own grade five class and in the city of Montreal.  I shared during the Reflection component of the lesson, Charles Pachter’s website and his short biography.  We talked about moose, the Queen of England, satire, and simplicity of form.  I showed a few of Pachter’s works, in order to lead into a depiction lesson, followed by a painted composition.

These were the pieces of art that I shared with the students and that we spoke about, in terms of the subject matter and the arrangement of very simple forms in the composition.

Some vocabulary…satire, silhouette, flat space…

Dressage by Charles Pachter painted in 1988

NONE Charles Pachter art__ Uploaded by: Goffin, Peter

Brink by Charles PachterMoose Crossing by Charles Pachter
Bay Watch by Charles Pachter

As we viewed the works, we had a discussion about iconic Canadian animals.  I asked the students if they had ever seen the combination of coloured stripes that appears in the background of Bay Watch.  Someone mentioned a blanket.  So, for a few short minutes, I spoke about the wool blankets that were made and sold by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The students went to the chalk board and listed animals that they wished to explore in silhouette.  I think that caribou, moose and deer were unpopular because of the challenge of the antlers and thin legs, but, there were still several students that took on the challenge.

Level II (grades 3 and 4)
APPRECIATION: Students will interpret artworks literally.
A. Contextual information (geographical,
historical, biographical, cultural) may be
needed to understand works of art.

ACTIONS AND VIEWPOINTS: Students will select appropriate references for depicting.
B. Drawing strategies, such as gesture to capture action, contour to study important edges and massing to show bulk or weight, are helpful in depicting animate forms.

Component 7 EMPHASIS: Students will create emphasis by the treatment of forms and qualities.
A. The centre of interest can be made prominent by contrasting its size, shape, colour or texture from the other parts of the composition.


Component 10 (iii) MEDIA AND TECHNIQUES:
Students will use media and techniques, with an emphasis on mixing media and perfecting techniques in drawing and painting.
-Use preliminary sketches as the basis for a painting, as well as painting directly.

Level III (grades 5 and 6)

ANALYSIS: Students will study and analyze the individual character of natural objects or forms.
B. Natural forms can be examined for less visible characteristics.

Component 4 MAIN FORMS AND
PROPORTIONS: Students will modify forms by abstraction, distortion and
other transformations.
I. Gridding can be used for systematically capturing or distorting the proportions of things.

Component 8 UNITY: Students will create unity by integrating the parts of a composition into the whole.
C. Transitions of colour, texture or tone relate the parts of a composition to a unified whole.


Component 10 (iii) MEDIA AND TECHNIQUES:
Students will use media and techniques, with an emphasis on mixing media and perfecting techniques in drawing and painting.
-Use preliminary sketches as the basis for a painting, as well as painting directly.

Students grabbed their Chrome books and did a Google search for silhouettes of their selected iconic Canadian animals.  They were given a pre-gridded piece of 11 x 17 white bond paper for the purpose of depiction.  They were challenged to use ARBITRARY colour (not representative in the predictable sense of an object or location…for example a red sky)  Students did a bit of sketching and colouring on these studies in order to prepare for larger works.

The students were also asked to include the colours of the Hudson’s Bay blanket some where in their compositions.

Off they went to the races!

Next, large 18 x 24 paper was folded into 8 rectangles (in half both width and length and then lengthwise from each end, into the center), proportionally accurate with the 8 rectangles that were printed onto the 11 x 17 bond paper.  Students prepared their own coloured construction ground, on the back, by edging with masking tape. (avoid ripping edges), flipped the work and began to use the grid to make relationships as they enlarged their silhouette in chalk.

Paints were mixed, as is my typical method.  See former lessons under Teacher…and all went swimmingly.  It’s time for me to seek out a great Netflix program for this evening.  I’m sporting one heck of a head cold, but before I do, I’ll post a few of the photographs I caught of the process.

The months are closing on Canada 150.  I’m happy that I had time to spend with these grades 4 and 5 students.  They have been fantabulous!

Finding That View at create!

There are many approaches taken by artists to achieve perspective and build an accurately proportioned and modeled figure/subject on a flat surface.  They sometimes use a viewfinder when it is difficult to determine the overall composition of their piece.

Some of my readers may not know what I mean when I talk about overall composition…here are a couple of ‘rules’ that any artist can basically ‘throw out’ of their artistic tool kit if they wish…but, I tend to observe these.

In the past, I have used a slide frame as a viewfinder and shared that tool with my students.  What a basic viewfinder will do is eliminate a lot of the chaos that appears around the subject of the piece the artist is composing and crop the piece so that the composition is dynamic and gains interest.

Slide Frame ViewfinderAnother technique that helps to accurately transfer information and placement of content in a composition is to grid both a flat reference or photograph and the larger surface of the canvas/panel or paper with squares of equal proportion.  (The number of grid squares measured on the reference must be the same as the number of grid squares measured on the drawing surface and the ratio of those must be consistent in their ratio, 1:4 for example.) What the viewer/artist sees in the top right hand square is then transferred onto the drawing/painting surface accurately.  Here are a couple of examples of paintings and drawings rendered by my former middle school students, using this technique.  I think that this provides an exercise for student artists in observation and in training those brain/eye/arm/finger muscles to work together.

March 17 2009 Art and Feb Words 130 March 17 2009 Art and Feb Words 035 IMG_8185View finding and using a grid system are only two techniques used to compose.  On this subject, there is a huge and sometimes complex manner of creating a well-proportioned image.  Any and all techniques are available to every artist to the extent that they wish to use them.  It is often a magical thing to make reference to some basic skills in drawing and painting before one tears into self-expression.  If it is not your intention to distort figures in your work, it can be a frustrating thing to do beautiful painting and mark making that is lost because the eye travels immediately to the loss of foreshortening or proportion.

I have randomly selected a couple of videos here that demonstrate formal techniques.

Then…there is also the Fibonacci principle.  Wowsah!

Presently, in Calgary, my friend, Douglas Williamson, is the featured artist at Collector’s Art Gallery.  He has a practice that includes some of the very technical aspects of rendering and painting.  I admire his work and his dedication.

Most of the time, quite frankly, especially during events like Rumble House painting, I ‘eyeball’ it and remember that my teachers always told me that I had a bit of a natural sense for composition.  I just naturally eliminate peripheral visual information that I don’t want included when I am plein air painting or working in my studio.  Artistic style and intention need to be kept in mind and not forgotten.  I think it’s a dangerous thing when one artist tells another how things SHOULD be done.  Some artists work in a purely intuitive manner.

As I’ve discussed before, many contemporary artists access slide projection or image projection in order to create a large and accurate view.  Some among us label such artists ‘cheaters’ and this makes me laugh because typically the connoisseur of art knows little about the process.  Ted Godwin demonstrated his technique for me in his studio, as did Bill Webb. With every brush stroke, the works created by both artists became unique and while accurate in terms of the perspective, breathed the life and human touch not found in a photograph.

P1070233Recently, I saw that a facilitator, Francois Lavigne, at the wonderful create! in East Village had constructed a viewfinder that I thought would be fun to use while doing a seated sketch.

Viewfinder by Francois So, I headed down to see Wendy Lees and the gang at create!, now housed in the Center of Hope next door to the Salvation Army. Present yesterday, were people I care about so much, but haven’t seen for the longest time.  It was nice to meet Margot and Philip Lozano of Momentum, as well!  I hoped to hook up with Francois and purchase a viewfinder…and I did!  WHOOT!

One of the projects during the open session was a section for a Calgary Public Library project in the works at create!  So, I sat down and painted me a panel and ate up the varied and enthusiastic conversations that ensued.  Thanks, Wendy!  Thanks, Francois.  If you are an artist who is interested in the purchase of a viewfinder, please contact Francois directly here.

Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 013 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 012 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 011 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 009 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 008 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 007 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 005 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 004 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 002

Historical ‘Rumblings’: Kyaiyi-stamik Sketch on January 28, 2015

Another beautiful evening at the Rumble House!

Big highlight for me was seeing the positivity in our ‘regular’, Enriquito.  Having slipped on ice last week, he suffers from two fractures, a wrist on one arm and an elbow on the other.  But, instead of complaining or being despondent, Enriquito was out to the Rumble and being very supportive of everyone.  I can’t even believe he offered to carry my stuff four blocks to my car for me.  We paused…facing one another at the time, and then both broke out laughing.  I asked, “Do you see yourself? Good Night, Enriquito!”

From Enriquito's Archives

From Enriquito’s Archives

I like the Rumble because of the diversity of the people who attend.  I encourage you, if you haven’t been out yet, to come down to the Rumble House on Wednesday evenings.  Something about this experience feeds your heart.  I really like it.

Last night, Jess Szabo won my painting at auction.  She’s always been encouraging and has often bid on my work, but never won…last night, finally, she did.  Thanks, Jess!

There’s an immediacy about painting in this setting. Over their shoulders, artists feel the gaze of wandering ‘audience’ members.  Now and then, a question comes out…or a comment made.  Connections are quick, but treasured.  Tonight, my friend, Georgie, from the East Village showed up and like a flash, she was gone again.  Georgie was a little sparkle of magic as I dug deep to find the lines I was searching for. In two hours, something of some substance and creativity needs to be completed and then, like a whirl, that piece of art, swooshes out of your hands…no longer a composition to consider, a problem to resolve, a technique not completely explored or an answer discovered.  It is a swirling whirling lit up moment.

Whenever I have opportunity, I like to share a bit of the history of our First Nations.  I also like to explore the subject in my sketches and paintings.  We can all benefit from learning more about historical references.  It’s a difficult thing to enter into a conversation when you haven’t any knowledge on a subject. I think it’s good for Albertans and Canadians to learn the difference between what is called the Blackfoot Confederacy and the “Blackfoot” People/Siksika Nation.  The following information comes from here.

“The Blackfoot Confederacy or Niitsítapi (meaning “original people;” c.f. Ojibwe: Anishinaabeg and Quinnipiac: Eansketambawg) is the collective name of three First Nations in Alberta and one Native American tribe in Montana. The Blackfoot Confederacy consists of the North Peigan (Aapátohsipikàni), the Blackfeet or South Piegan (Aamsskáápipikani), the Kainai Nation (Káínaa: “Blood”), and the Siksika Nation (“Blackfoot”) or more correctly Siksikáwa (“Blackfoot people”). The South Peigan are located in Montana, and the other three are located in Alberta. Together they call themselves the Niitsítapi (the “Original People”). These groups shared a common language and culture, had treaties of mutual defense, and freely intermarried”

I am first to acknowledge that this is not my narrative to share, but I am filled with a deep sense of reverence for the history of our First Nations.  I think that things, at so many points along our communal time line, went so very wrong.  I abhor every situation that led /leads to injustice cast upon other human beings.

Last evening, I wanted to capture a depiction of Chief Bear Bull or Kyaiyi-stamik.  Unlike many other photographs of the same time period, Edward S. Curtis left the background of this particular photograph; warm and understated.  The photographer’s motives and art leave one steeped in a form of controversy, as do, I suppose, my own sketches, drawings and paintings of these beloved ancestors of our First Nations.  My interest lies, mostly, in the fact that photographers of the day had an insatiable appetite for taking photographs of ceremoniously dressed men, women and children, set before a romanticized back drop of a painted forest landscape including such natural elements as the waterfall and soft light bathing dappled foliage.  I feel a sadness as I consider this. With colonization, home was taken from these peoples, in this case, living on the plains…in the archival efforts of the times, it seems an irony to me that the natural landscape was perversely returned for the purpose of a ‘sitting’.  I’m wondering what my readers think.  While it is a wonderful thing to have these references in existence, I wonder the initial motivation for the production of such an archive.  Much to consider.

A very short audio tape can be accessed here, speaking, in short, about a member of this confederacy, Kayne-ina Bear Bull.  I am left wondering more about Chief Bear Bull as I discover small parts of his personal story through my reading. Such a great man, he must have been, given that he was a carrier of a Medicine Bundle.

While I did not capture the power of the photographic image…I did get a sense of the noble figure.  The piece of wood was 1/2 inch thick.  This made a difference for me.  There were beautiful markings in the wood itself that informed the piece.  To the left of the profile, I included the words from the book, The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler


Jess's Photo

Jess’s Photo

DSC_2073“When Imagination walks, she writes letters to the earth . When she runs, her feet trace postcards to the sun. And when she dances, when she dances, she sends love letters to the stars.”

Photo below of nice guy taking photos…never caught his name, but grateful that he bid on my work.

DSC_2057Thanks, Louise and Elena!  You know I’m excited!

Thanks to Andy…and get better, Jenn.

Some day, Aaron!

Georgie…such a beautiful person!

Paula!!  Finally we meet and I’m gettin’ me one of those caddies!