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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The Art Openings I Miss

There are many!  My family teases me about how often I go out to openings and then, how often I write about them?  WHY?  I’ve been pondering that.  I chronically document.  I know it is a problem.  I could be so constructive otherwise, right?  Who knows?  I think that writing is just something that gives me pleasure.  Seeing beautiful and interesting art, likewise.  And I think that life needs to be fully lived.  I consider it a gift to attend art spaces and find interesting visual experiences.

I’ve not written for quite some time, but, really DO want to play catch-up on some things I’ve been thinking about and experiences I have been having.  I’m not saying that I will be sitting down to the computer for hours on end.  I really don’t like the keyboard as much as I enjoy writing things out on paper.  Of late, I’ve been writing letters and very much enjoying that process, looking out on the back yard, the warm colours of autumn and sipping from my favourite coffee cup.

On the subject of art OPENINGS, they cause me a lot of stress.  I find that the introvert that lies under my loud public self, comes to a head.  I don’t like to get caught speaking with just one person.  I lose confidence and imagine that I have nothing interesting to say.  I head for a glass of wine.  I imagine that wine puts me at ease…but, it doesn’t, not really.

So, my favourite thing to do is to attend art events after the party is over and the artist is back in his/her studio, painting.  I miss congratulating the artist, face-to-face, but, I carry the impact of their images with me and that’s what I am so grateful for.  Last Saturday, I had three gallery spaces to myself.  Quiet…and expansive…I was able to stand back and relish every moment, and I didn’t have to say much at all.

First, CKG!

Every time I see Carl White‘s work, something in me shakes to the core.  How is it possible that images that seem to either surface out of paint, or, disappear into it, leave me feeling so soul-filled or emotional or transformed?  Like the paint, the marks and the collective mythologies, Carl’s paintings leave me feeling understood.  It takes two pugs and two nice ladies, to pull me back into the physical world.  When I see Carl White’s work, it is as though my nose is in a book filled with words and mystery and divine essence, and I can not close it…I can not put it down.  Not meaning to sound like a hero-worshiper, I am just trying to clearly state what it is that I experience when I am NOT at an opening of Carl’s work.  I strongly suggest that my readers see these paintings, Digging For Fire.

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I’m very much intrigued by the other show at CKG, but I’m not familiar with the gent’s work or his artistic journey.  Mike Binzer’s exhibit, Between Ecstasy and Agony, needs to be viewed close up because of the subtle textures and imagery, not easily read in photographs.  I like Mike’s connection with dance and could observe elements of movement within the works.  I likely would have had an interesting discussion with Mike, had I attended the opening.

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From the CKG, I went to Jarvis Hall Fine Art.  I had missed Herald Nix: I’ll Go Find It earlier in the summer and was so excited to see a number of his panels exhibited at the front of the gallery.  A big part of the Jarvis Hall ‘experience’ is the friendly welcome and apparent knowledge of the peeps.  Shannon Norberg is always so helpful and generous.  I appreciate the hospitality and the genuine warmth.  It means the world when someone remembers your name.

Herald…well, I just remember him showing me the mixing of pigments in his studio in Salmon Arm.  When I looked at this collection of landscape panels, I felt so impacted by the rich palette of colours.  A beautiful blend of both non-objective sensibility and the land/waterscapes, makes this group of paintings, stunning!  Love the published document that has its source in the August exhibit.

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Art-Sharing

Art-Sharing

Song-Sharing

Song-Sharing

Around the corner, I was blown away by the Gatherer by Marigold Santos.  See this!  Such technical expertise demonstrated in the handling of ink on this delicious warm paper.  The clay body of works, set out meticulously in the center of the room, mimicked that warmth perfectly and the drawing on the clay bodies, equally executed to perfection.  I was intrigued by the imagery, symbolism and the evident narration.  Again, I made my own meaning.  I love it when I can celebrate the feminine in art.  These had a powerful feminine sensibility to them.  Marigold Santos has created a fascinating exhibit in Gatherer and they may be perused until October 29.

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Finally, and running short on time, I booted it down to see Chris Flodberg’s Paintings at the Master’s art gallery.  A tad more formal in its atmosphere, I felt less able to document the works, but, was also at the point where I just wanted to take the exhibit in and give myself the time to spend with the works.  I ‘used to’ paint in oils and so my heart thumps wildly when I see this young man’s use of paint/colour.  I believe that Chris is an exceptional painter and have actually caught myself salivating in front of his paintings.  This is something that likely only other artists understand.  I had tears in front of one of his large landscapes that afternoon.  I dunno.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I just wonder sometimes why I’m not painting more.  Maybe it was just the simple beauty of some ultramarine that appeared in a pond reflection.  I enjoyed ending the day, purchasing a beautiful book and taking my mind into the green.  A bit of bad light reflecting off of some of the paint…so, I’ll just post a couple of photos here.  I’m really hoping my readers will attend to this show…works from the past…and some really innovative and lovely explorations of portraiture.  You will see what you love.  I promise.

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It was time to go home.  I didn’t have a chance to get to The Edge Gallery, down in Inglewood.  I would have enjoyed seeing Craig Richard’s photography.

If you have viewed art intensely, you will understand and recognize when your brain is on imagery overload.  I had reached saturation point.  Once I left the Masters, I went for a bit of an autumn walk down town and just took in the colour and nature, resetting my visual sensibilities.

Calgary is a rich and wonderful place for art viewing.  I am so grateful that at any given time there is so much to see.  I’m sorry to have missed you at your openings, but, I am seeing the art when all is quiet and I so treasure it!

 

 

Three Chicks Visit the National Gallery of Canada

The September long weekend was filled to the brim with family, football, food and adventuring. My nieces, Ainslie and Eliane, and I caught a drive down to the gallery on a perfect sky blue day in Ottawa.  I was giddy, as I had been anticipating the exhibit of Chris Cran’s work for some time.  I am so darned proud!  I’ve always assumed that Chris was so much younger than me.  We are closer in age than I had imagined.

Back in the late 1980s, Chris opened his studio up to me and my then-spouse and generously shared, in his witty fashion, his bigger-than-life pinhole camera and the work that he was exploring at the time.  I’ve never forgotten his generosity that day and it remains evident, in so many ways, that he is an active and contributing community member where all of the arts are concerned in Calgary.  Through Chris, I met another awesome dude out of Salmon Arm, Herald Nix, and have become a big fan of his music, as well as his art.  For many reasons, I was so excited to have the chance to enjoy the retrospective of Chris Cran’s work, elegantly and historically displayed in one of my favourite art galleries.

This post will contain just a few images, all Chris’s work.  I’ll share about other works that I enjoyed in separate posts.

img_0949 img_0950 img_0951 img_0952 img_0954 img_0955 img_0957 img_0958 img_0959 img_0961 One of the security guards, Thomas, gave us many insights on our tour of Chris Cran’s work.  He took in every word of Chris’s tour offered during the exhibit’s opening days. He was so generous to pass short narratives on to us.  He could not give permission for us to photograph him while he was wearing his uniform, but I guess I had nabbed this one before that conversation. img_0963When I went on the studio visit, Chris was working on the Stripe and Halftone Paintings.img_0964img_0968 img_0966 img_0967 I saw something very gestural in this piece and so the girls humoured me by becoming the forms in the piece.  Love them so much!

img_0972 img_0970 img_0971 img_0965These are a mere smattering of images from the exhibit.  I really was swept up in the experience of being in such an aesthetically pleasing space wandering in and out of gallery spaces, in awe.  Later, I will post the few Instagram shots I took, as well.

img_1021 img_1022I feel so grateful when magic like this takes flight and lands in my heart.  I love you, Eliane and Ainslie, for being with me.

 

The Week in Review: Paint!

I was blessed to be asked to guest teach for the entire week in one school.  I was so happy to be able to paint with children.  It is a joy to mix colours in buckets and to share them with young people.  Watching them journey through a process such as this is so gratifying.  To pour paint colours straight out of the bottle would never be enough for me!  I like to create a palette that sings!

Colour mixing

Just a few photographs were collected this week, as most days I forgot my camera.

Grade Ones painted kites on the anniversary of my mother’s passing.  I could not help but think of Mom’s spirit…soaring. The children had painted once before with me, so they nailed their technique!

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Grade two paintings of hot air balloons…I added red and blue to Tuesday’s palette.

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Concentric lines around summer symbols.  “When I call SNOWBALL, trade your paint bucket and move to a different spot!”  Everything was wonderful until the wind picked our mural up like a kite and flipped it onto its face.   Oh well, there was just a half hour left so we headed to the field for some kickball. The red, yellow and white are right out of the bottle and all of the other colours are mixed.

Road Trip and Angels

I drove out to Folk Tree Lodge this afternoon after my pond exploration with Max.  After a couple of days of rain, the world was brilliant green and blue.  It was the absolutely most perfect day for a drive west toward the mountains.

White puffs of seed playfully made their way to the ground…magic!

Artist, Alvise Doglioni Majer was there to meet me, on his bike, carrying May and June.

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May has as her vegetation, the pussy willow and as her featured animal, mother and baby moose;  June, the dandelion and the bear waking after winter’s rest.  I treasure these angels so much and I enjoy my monthly ride out to see Alvise.  It was nice to compare travel stories about the Lake Superior route and eastern Canada experiences.  It makes me hungry for a big road trip!

 

I was thinking about these angels and today’s news about Tragically Hip’s musician Gord Downie.  Driving home, CBC radio played Courage…and I thought how appropriate that I should be collecting this beautiful series of angels.

Poinsettia With Grade Threes

If you had previously studied the structure of the poppy during November and did some careful observations of the petals, stems and leaves of that flower, then, drawing and painting Poinsettias is a natural follow-up.

When I visited Tammy’s grade three class, I decided to have the students do a drawing from their memory/experience, so I could determine where I wanted to direct the lesson.  We only contain so much information in our visual memories and so whether you are a child or an artist, sometimes the details of the visual stories are vague.  So, I asked the children to draw a Poinsettia.

“What is a Poinsettia?”

“A Poinsettia is a Christmas flower…bright red…we can buy them in pots at Home Depot or at the grocery store to decorate our homes and the church.”

“Oh, YEAH!”

They set to work and created very symbolic pieces that indeed, represented the flower we would be analyzing.

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Next, I pulled out a Poinsettia plant that I had borrowed from the office and did a demonstration of the structure of the center and the petal/leaf arrangement on the Poinsetta plant.  I talked about the unique nature of a plant…similar to each human person being unique from one another.

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There is no set rule as to how many petals radiate out from the center in a first row.  Similarly, it doesn’t matter how many show in the row directly behind this first row.  In grade three terms, I tried to identify the differences between informal and formal (symmetry) balance.

“In your sketchbooks, no crossing out…begin again rather than using an eraser…draw dark on top of light to make changes.  Practice several times.”

If you feel uncomfortable about doing a drawing as an exemplar on the board, I’ve selected this Youtube video as a pretty good example of what I am going for in terms of representation and structure.

The second drawings looked something like this and were completed by the same students as above.  (I just randomly pulled a couple of visual journals out of their desks at the end of the activity.

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Moving into Composition, I handed out 18 x 24 construction paper in a complementary colour.  I chose purple for our journey of Advent.  As I always do, I also handed out a piece of white chalk to each student for the sake of working out their composition.

“To make your art work dynamic and exciting, boys and girls, place your center OFF CENTER.  You may also wish to have a vertical format or horizontal format.  The choice is up to you.  Look!  When you draw with chalk, you can fade out lines that you don’t like.  It doesn’t matter.  You will be painting over the lines that you want to keep.”

I then proceeded to demonstrate how to use the paint center and how to share the paint with a partner.  I showed them how to use a place mat and slide it along the edges and how to care for their brushes by stroking the paint, rather than scrubbing the paint.  Some where along the line, I had the painters stop (brushes in your buckets) in order to show them that the flat brushes could make wide marks and thin marks.  For some reason, they broke out into wild applause when I turned my brush sideways and painted a long thin line.  That actually surprised me.

For the sake of expediency, I had the children limit themselves to one outline colour from the warm palette for their Poinsettia petals and one from the green palette for their leaves.  If the students are accustomed to using a paint center, they can travel back and forth, trading colours frequently.  Here are the works, outlined and ready for fill ins.

Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 016 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 015 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 014 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 013 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 012 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 011 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 010 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 009

The children’s individual styles surface quickly and I like that!  A lot.

They had a wee break for a music class and returned a half hour later, ready for the quick and immediate activity of filling in the rest of their background spaces.  I really enjoyed working with these guys and I appreciated the fantastic support of young student teacher, Shelby.  Thanks so much for your help!

And, thank you, Tammy, for your class!

Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 023 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 022 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 021 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 020 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 019 Kath's Canon, December 11, 2015 Pointsettias Grade 3 018

March 11, 2015: Rumble House

I wanted to ease into my evening at Rumble.  I didn’t want to neglect Max or my every-evening litter pick up at Frank’s Flats.  I also wanted to eat something.

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So, with all of those things attended to, I headed north on my epic drive to the intimate, warm and magical environment that is the Rumble House.

Bronwyn Schuster had brought to mind the idea that sometimes I might paint on a more intimate panel, instead of the large sized format that is so typical of me.  And so, I worked on a beautiful 8 x 8 inch cribbed panel, perfect for fitting inside someone’s purse.

Arriving late, at 7:30, I sat down next to Priscilla who was sitting in a comfy chair next to me, busily crocheting/knitting on a self-invented slipper.  I mentioned that I was going to paint a meditation.  She mentioned how much she enjoys sitting near her son, Rich, so that she can hear the things he says to others as they walk by.  Priscilla also said that she is in awe as she watches his paintings reveal themselves.

I was more focused on the community of people that surrounded me than anything else.  Michael is always so cheerful with his greetings and it sets the tone for a wonderful experience. Paula and Brittney were busy creating their first collaborative piece, a mix of collage elements and paint. It was good to talk to Mike and to share a bit about our sadness and the loss of our friend, Loretta. Leenie!  It was so good to see her smiling face and to be around her energy!  I had opportunity to speak with Asa…hadn’t had a chance to catch up with him in a long time.  Jo and Jeff were tucked away in a small safe place, collaborating on a beautiful piece that reminded me of a book I’m reading about a mother and her daughter, pomegranates and seeds and Persephone.  Louise was back…hadn’t seen her for awhile. What a special touch that she asked me as she left if I had a ride south.  (I’ll never forget the first time we met.) I chatted with James and Enriquito and finally reconnected with Jennifer.  She was painting an awesome bird of prey.  In fact, everyone painting in our section of the space, was painting in a warm/hot palette of colour.  That intrigued me.  I felt/feel nested in this place with like-minded and diverse people.  I like it.

I set about painting my meditation.  I incorporated text in graphite first, a piece from Jewel

jewel-quotes_4474-1

(sic)

As I go about each day, picking up the plastics, the discarded cups and bags from stores, the packaging and flyers that are strewn into natural environments where birds lay their nests; coyotes, their dens; ground squirrels, their complex webs of tunnels, I feel a sense of nurturing fill me up.  I wish to create a safe nest for all.  I wish, and optimistically so, that all human beings would open their eyes to our self-destruction.  We are very lackadaisical about the landscape as we rush by, getting to the next place.  And given that we can not see beneath the surface, the oceans, more than any place on earth, are crying out to be protected.

A nest meditation seemed the right thing to paint.  Because the time with my Rumble pieces is so immediate, I practice the rituals of writing on the back of each piece and then archiving the work by taking a photo or two.  The process of painting at the house is like a bright flame lighting up and then extinguishing, all in two hours.  Funny, on this particular night, I did not sign my piece and I did not photograph it.  I’m posting a photo or two here of other works that have explored this theme of nesting.  Thank you to Sam who purchased my Wednesday nest containing three blue eggs, at auction.

P1140481 P1140505Thanks for the image, Sam!

Three Eggs and NestI treasure my place on this jewel of a planet.  I am only one…but, wish in this brief moment, to make an impact.  Here are some of artist-souls who impact me.

Jennifer

DSC_2833James and Enriquito

DSC_2886Rich (I never get a good picture of him)

DSC_2875Paula and Brittney

DSC_2870Asa

DSC_2852Oliver

DSC_2836What a place!  We’d love to see you next Wednesday night.

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Calm Can Be Found in Ashley’s Classroom

Monday morning, I wasn’t at my very best.  I knew I was coming down with something…head aching…throat, sore.  I hoped, from the onset, that I would have the energy to give these grade four children a lovely day and a bit of a painting experience.  I was already tickled to be welcomed by beautiful office and instructional staff.  These guys always rock!

I stepped into Ashley’s classroom and immediately felt a sense of calm.  I think that there has to be some sort of link between productivity, learning and an ordered space.  Is it possible to be creative when there is order?  I guess I’ll check out the psychology of that aesthetic as I think of Ashley’s work space.

Hmmm…the Psychology Behind Messy Rooms.

Tidy Desks and Messy Desks..

K…so I’ve wandered a little on the world wide web, sipping grapefruit juice as I go and what I can surmise is that our living and working environments need to be constructed/designed/maintained in a very individualized way, to suit our very personal way of functioning and creating.

On Monday, this ordered space was absolutely what I needed.  I have Ashley’s permission to welcome you into her space.

Love is in the air…first of all, it’s February!  Gracie was my #1 assistant all day.  Thank goodness for her efforts.  She really took up the slack!

?????????? ?????????? I just really like the philosophy behind these seven habits…language that grade fours can understand…but, ideas that we might all put to good use.DSC_2258A sense of space and order as I entered the classroom…I think I actually vocalized…”Ahhhhh” as I breathed out.  The new buildings are so wonderful because the flooring allows for spills, building, exploration and easy tidy-up.DSC_2257Winter art was cheerfully displayed.  I think that mats, while very inexpensive, somehow emphasize the individuality and the special nature of each creation.  Once the display comes down, the other side can be used for the next piece of art…so reuse!

DSC_2256 Light…so wonderful and necessary for a peace-filled day.  I like the touch of personal objects that give the children a sense of home and community.  A place for those teacher’s gifts.

DSC_2255 Storage buckets with a sense of humour.  These make me smile just looking at them.

DSC_2254A nook for spirtual objects contributes to a sense of calm.

DSC_2253 Ideas for daily physical activity!  Good stuff!

DSC_2251 Students like to know how they’re doing.

DSC_2249 DSC_2248 DSC_2247 DSC_2246I liked how every thing had its place.  I felt in control, even in moments when I would typically be feeling anxiety.  The desks were in such an arrangement that it made very quick work to move them into pods of two students for easy access to the paint station.  The how-to of this lesson can be found here.   Here are just a few of the students’ creations.  Thank you, Ashley, for a day with your class.

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Other Classrooms…

Elisa’s Classroom

Carli’s Classroom

 

Grade Four’s Homage to Ted Harrison

A beautiful person and artist, Ted Harrison passed away on January 16, 2015, at the age of 88.  The world is losing so many heroes…and Ted is one.  Having a beautiful heart and eye for simplicity, he loved the northern skies of the Yukon and never failed to share his delight with anyone he met.

One of my big encounters with his illustrations was in the beautiful version of The Cremation of Sam McGee…a poem I used to challenge my grade sevens to memorize from beginning to end.  And every year, at least three students did!

I recommend that you introduce Ted Harrison to your classes.  For years, Ted’s work has inspired works by school children of every age.  When scented coloured markers came into vogue, so did another lesson based on Harrison.  It’s wild what variety of lessons we invented as art teachers.  The students loved it all!

Ted Harrison in Grade One Ted Harrison in Oil Pastel Ted Harrison in ChalkSomething I appreciate Ted saying in the video below is that if one is ever tired of life or inspiration, try looking up at the sky.

So, today…I looked up at the sky.

This morning, driving to school, I noticed a dappled sky above the rising sun…brilliant yellow, pink and orange, with a soft cerulean blue below an arch of cloud and an electric blue, above.  That was it…in the afternoon, I would paint the SETTING sun with the grade fours…thinking about chinook arches and dappled clouds over the mountains.  And so it went.

I line the back of construction paper with masking tape, when I can find the time.  This allows some durability.  Tempera paint tends to make paper, especially cheap paper, a bit crunchy after a while.  This way the work can be preserved for those folks who like to save things forever. (pointing at myself)

??????????Always use coloured paper for these paints as it creates a bit of an ‘under painting’ and activates the surface, taking away the intimidation of white or that ucky beige.  Below…see my favourite yogurt buckets.  Every art storage room needs at least twenty of these to be shared around.

DSC_1942Recess and the painting pods are readied…that, and a piece of chalk for drawing, placed at each desk.

??????????A paint station (Palette) is readied…two brushes in each bucket.  Students travel back and forth with colours agreed upon by every pair…back and forth they go.  The place is like a HAPPENING!

DSC_1945 DSC_1946I always work through a sample…don’t expect to have the students do something that you haven’t…how else will you know their struggles or the pitfalls of the lesson?

First…the short ‘review’ of dip, wipe and stroke.  Surprise!  You always discover that a lot of students haven’t handled a brush very much.  (Painting IS MESSY!!) Show them where to hold the brush…not at the white tip.  :0)  Explain how to share the paint center and remind them to keep two hands on the bucket on each journey to and from.

Regarding the composition, first I spoke about portrait as compared to landscape format and explained that just for today, the composition would be landscape.  I explained how clouds that are closest to the horizon line appear smaller…and as they are found higher in the picture plane, they can be depicted as larger and then they almost seem to come over our heads.  “Often, Ted Harrison outlined some basic shapes in his paintings and serigraphs…instead of painting up to the chalk lines, how about leaving some of the paper unpainted and the coloured paper will become the lines?” (some of the students got this)

“No…I don’t want you to do a giant sun.  No…no sunglasses…no rays…not today.”  I went back to describing how the morning sun had not yet shown itself, but that there was a really bright light next to the land.  I knew the sun was coming up.  So…for the sunset paintings, I hoped that the sun would be almost gone from the sky.  The teacher can always drive the vision…as long as he/she has one.  I’m sharing mine with my readers.  The teacher also benefits by allowing freedom within the vision.

“OH!  Why are those small clouds near the mountains the brightest?  YES!  The light from the sun is hitting them first because they are the closest to the light!

I explained that because the students were focused on the sky, the mountains needed to be located below the one third line. (Yes!  You’ll have to talk about dividing the landscape into thirds.)

The chalk is picked up and the students begin drawing, planning, and problem solving.

“Yes!  As soon as you’re ready, you can get your first colour. PLEASE, don’t everybody begin with the mountains!  Choose any colour and away you go!”

Magic happened.

DSC_1948 DSC_1949 DSC_1950 DSC_1951 DSC_1952 DSC_1953 DSC_1954 “Pick up a paper towel with your first bucket of paint.  This will be your place mat…slip it along the edges as you go and then you won’t have to wash your desk!  If this gets super sloppy, you might need a second place mat.” DSC_1956I asked the kind caretaker if I might have a bucket half filled with water in my classroom.  This would provide a portable sink.DSC_1957 DSC_1958 DSC_1959 DSC_1960 DSC_1961 ??????????Tonight, as I walked Max at the pond…I captured some of the clouds.  We had an energetic hike about the area.  It was so darned beautiful!

DSC_1968 DSC_1967 DSC_1966 DSC_1964A wonderful class!