Sunday, September 25, 2016

Margaret Cooter

I was so pleased to meet with Margaret Cooter while in England recently. We first met a few years ago, introduced by a mutual friend, Hilary Gooding, when we three spent a morning exploring the atmospheric grounds of Highgate Cemetery in North London. I have been following her blog ever since.

Margaret's eclectic interests are reflected in her wide range of postings. She posts about workshops she is taking in drawing and printmaking, and about the adventures of her regular sketching group. She posts about her bookmaking projects and her explorations of dipping stitched fabric into porcelain slip. Often she will post interesting photos taken while walking around London, or on her visits to London exhibitions, and sometimes she will just post a wonderful poem.



Perhaps you will find this poem, which she featured on her blog last month, as remarkable as I did.

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.


- R S Thomas (1913-2000)


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Best workshop ever!

I recently returned from a fabulous 5-day workshop with Jane Davies, held on the bucolic Omega campus in Rhinebeck, New York. While the course was titled 100 Paintings, Drawings and Explorations, I probably made no more than sixty. The value in the experience was not about the volume of work produced, but about taking more artistic risks. The teacher set quite a pace, which is what you would expect given the name of the class.

The first exercise was to paint to music. With each musical selection lasting only 2 - 4 minutes, we worked on large paper, and tried to suspend judgment about the quality of the painting. We did about ten of these.

painting to music

painting to music

painting to music

At another point, we set a timer and worked on smaller paintings for five minutes. The idea here was that there are many pivotal artistic decisions that one can make, even in the course of a 5-minute painting. Again we made perhaps ten of these.

5-minute painting

5-minute painting

5-minute painting

For both of these activities, I was glad to have brought a selection of student-grade acrylics. No concerns about using expensive resources for these experiments.

We looked at line and the many kinds of line that can be made with various materials, lines that are curved or straight, jagged or broken, smudgy or clean, tangled or direct. We were told to make at least six compositions, each made with 5 - 7 lines that were as different as possible from each other.

Six lines

We also looked at shape, and the many ways that shapes can be made: as outlines or filled in, soft-edged or hard-edged, with masks and stencils, and with a wide variety of materials.

Exercises were assigned, each one with specific parameters. For example, put down two painted shapes. Then add a collaged shape, and another two or three elements, which could be collage, line or pattern. Make 10 - 12 variations on this.






The next assignment was similar, but we paid more attention to a variety of scale.




Jane is a big advocate of setting up limitations and then finding many variations within those "rules". She believes that when you meet with frustration with the format, you should persist with it. By making the effort to overcome the difficulties of the format, you can actually learn something valuable. Don't be too quick to crop the piece down so that it "works". Don't be too quick to cut up an unsatisfactory piece to use as collaged bits. Instead, transform it with paint into something with new possibilities. "It's only paint", said Jane, and the sky won't fall.

Interspersed with these exercises were slide shows, illustrating some of the ideas with hundreds of stunning abstract works by a number of different contemporary artists. We also benefited from the pithy insights of the instructor on a variety of topics.

At one point, Jane showed us how to make "grounds", achieving variation and depth by making many layers of both opaque and transparent paint, by lifting wet paint off with paper, by spritzing and then blotting, by scratching a line into the wet paint, and by using a brayer.

Using this interesting ground, we then created one or two negative shapes by masking, applying white paint with a brayer around the shape and making a semi-transparent, foggy layer. We then added another three or four shapes, using a variety of materials and techniques. I was very excited by this assignment, and was able to make more than a dozen interesting compositions.

Jane pointed out that I had a tendency to distribute my shapes over the whole space, and that I should try to create some "breathing space".

Not much breathing space


A bit more breathing space


She also advised us to make shapes that contrast with each other. If one is transparent, try another that is opaque. If one is mottled, make another that is pure, flat colour. If one is hard-edged, make another with a smudgy edge. If one is solid, another can be just an outline. If you're introducing colour into a neutral composition, make it a brilliant colour, for contrast.

addition of brilliant colour for contrast

I was also encouraged to pay attention to the white "fog" surrounding my shapes, to make it interesting, and have it thicken and fade across the space. For someone with little experience with acrylic, this was instructive. When I said to Jane, "I have trouble making the paint do what I want it to do," she answered, "So do I."


trying to get variation in the depth of the white "fog"

I have mounted fifteen of these compositions, and I think they will be just the thing to spark interest at the upcoming Fall Show of the Hudson Artists.

The workshop was a great experience. And as so often happens, I learned a lot from the other participants as well as from the instructor. My goal in taking these classes in painting is to develop my abstract imagery, and Jane pointed out that I now have some "personal" visual vocabulary that I can explore further.

Jane Davies teaches all over the U.S., and occasionally in Canada. If you'd like to find out more about her workshops, her on-line classes and her instruction downloads, check out her website. It's full of information and resources.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Farewell to 12 by the dozen and HELLO! Charles Sheeler

It was with regret that I withdrew last month from the 12 by the dozen on-line group of textile artists. I have been with them almost since they began, close to 7 years ago. Their membership has included people from South Africa, England, France, New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada. They set quarterly challenges and by that means encourage each other in the growth of their art.

It was through these challenges that I first came to grips with my "Cityscapes" series. First, there was "Street Life", a topic suggested by Linda Bilsborrow.


Quebec City, my response to "Street Life"

Then "Steps", proposed by Venetta Morger.


Steps: The Plateau, my response to "Steps"

And then "Fine Living", set by Colleen Paul.


Fine Living: Window Seat, my response to "Fine Living"

While pursuing these three consecutive quarterly challenges, I was also taking an on-line design course with Elizabeth Barton that was very formative.

All said and done, my Cityscapes series has preoccupied me for almost five years, and has produced more than eighty finished works. Even though it has infinite scope, I am ready to move on to a new theme and style of work. I need to give my full attention to finding a new direction and producing a new "body of work". Sadly, that means no more challenges from 12 by the dozen.

Now here's the serendipitous thing. After I handed in my resignation, but before it was shared with the group as a whole, Linda Forey announced the next challenge. Linda is a former engineer and has always been attracted to complex and even architectural designs. So who did she choose as the artist to inspire our next three-month project? The American modernist painter Charles Sheeler, (1883-1965).

I had never heard of Charles Sheeler, and so I was astonished by what I saw when I researched his name. His work is about as close to my vision for my Cityscapes as anything I have ever seen. You can check out his paintings here. In a way, I'm glad that I was never introduced to Sheeler's work, as I'm afraid I would have been overly-influenced by it.

Note the effect of transparency he is able to achieve in these examples:


Charles Sheeler, On Shaker Theme #2, 1956


Charles Sheeler, Canyons, 1951
Charles Sheeler, Ballardvale, 1946

Needless to say, I will be watching with eager anticipation to see how the 12 by the dozen artists handle this next challenge!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sélections exhibition, September 22 - October 18

So pleased to have two of my cityscapes accepted to a group show in Ottawa. The annual juried show Sélections 2016 is open to members of Arts Ottawa East, and this year 33 artists are represented in the final selection.

The show runs from September 22 to October 18 at the Trinity Art Gallery, Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd, Ottawa. Hours are Monday to Sunday, 9 am - 10 pm.  I am unable to attend the vernissage, scheduled for Thursday, September 22, 7 - 9 pm, but all are invited to see the judges name their top choices, and to vote for their favourite.




Sunday, September 11, 2016

SAQA Benefit Auction



The annual SAQA benefit auction begins on September 16, when any item is available for $1000. Then the art quilts are divided into three groups (mine is in the third) and each group is made available for one week. Opening bids on the Monday are set at $750, and every day the cost declines until, on Day 6, the bidding price is $100.

This format has allowed SAQA to raise some $60,000 in past years, to support their exhibition and outreach programs.

To view all 437 amazing works, please visit the auction site. I promise, you will get an eyeful of colour, design and technique, all achieved in cloth and stitch.





Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Claire Benn at the FoQ


Claire Benn, Watering Hole


One of the highlights for me on my recent trip to the Festival of Quilts in England was the opportunity to attend a lecture by Claire Benn, titled Lines + Rows, Rhythms + Repetition, Inspiration + Outcome. Benn used photos from her world travels to show us the sources of her inspiration.


Claire Benn, Adobe, Lintel and Ladder

I had not been familiar with Benn's work, though she is very well-known in the UK. She had a two-person exhibit (with Ingrid Press) at the Festival, titled Lines & Rows, Rhythm & Repetition, and her work is a revelation.

Claire Benn, In the Fullness of Time #4
Claire Benn, In the Fullness of Time #4


The show's statement read:
"Claire and Ingrid have always been captivated by the rhythm created by lines, rows and repetition. Whilst things might seem the same, each item, each repeated element, is different....
"Claire has always had a fascination with landscape – the more remote the better. Places such as Patagonia, the Arctic, Alaska and latterly, New Mexico are all empty yet whole. They evoke a sense of peace whilst being inspiring and energizing. Claire's second method of working is based on the joy of slow, repetitive hand stitch. Feeling the cloth in her hands, thinking of nothing other than 'needle in, needle out'. The act is a meditation and the results are simple and yet complex; beauty in repetition."

Claire Benn, In the Fullness of Time #4, (detail)

Claire Benn, Adobe, Lintel and Ladder, (detail)



The three detail shots above may give you some idea of the complexity of the surface Benn achieves. I heard snippets of Benn's talk to a small group in her gallery at one point, when she discussed how she slathers paint (dye?) onto raw linen and allows it to dry on a concrete floor. Any little bits that might adhere to the surface and dry in place are considered to be a bonus, and the whole process capitalizes on the serendipity of the uneven pooling and drying of paint.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fibre Content show, Burlington ON


Delighted to be showing three Cityscapes at the upcoming Fibre Content show in Burlington ON. Especially pleased that one of my works will be featured on the cover of the show catalog.

More details follow:

Fibre Content 2016 at the Art Gallery of Burlington

Juried Exhibition of Fibre Art
125 fibre art quilts and mixed media works by 80 artists from across Ontario and Quebec.

Where:  
1333 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, ON L7S 1A9
Location: Lee-Chin Family Gallery & RBC Community Gallery

Admission is Free!

A full colour catalogue of all works will be available for $10.

Opening Reception: “Meet the Artists” Sunday September 11, 1pm-3pm

NEW for 2016: Interactive Exhibit and Artist Talks

An Interactive Exhibit - artists made numerous samples of their work, which you can touch and examine to understand how the work is done!

Artist Talks on how their pieces are made, free of charge and open to everyone.
Dianne Gibson             Saturday Sept 10th from 1pm to 2pm
Maggie Vanderweit    Wednesday Sept 14
th from 10am to 11am
Mita Giacomini            Sunday Sept 18
th from 1pm to 2pm


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Bit of Fun with Pierneef

Today our 12 by the dozen group unveils our responses to the latest quarterly challenge. This time around, Hilary Gooding chose the South African artist Pierneef. You can see some of his work here. I find his work somber, imposing and even foreboding, so the title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Pierneef just doesn't seem like a fun kind of guy.

Composition in Blue, Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef

I chose one of his paintings, Composition in Blue, from 1928, and focused in on the lower right corner, which gave me a simple little motif to work with that still represented his approach to landscape.

Composition in Blue, Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (detail)

My first inclination was to duplicate the colours that he had chosen, and I got as far as selecting appropriate hand-dyed cottons.


hand-dyed cottons that match colours in painting

But that seemed a bit slavish. Where was the originality in that? I must admit I wasn't all that taken with the work of Pierneef, so I took some liberties and produced something in black-and-white patterned fabrics instead:


Holstein Heaven, 16 x 16

I happened to have some cotton printed with Holstein cattle so I cut them out and added them for a whimsical twist. A nod to the rolling pastoral landscape, complete with sheep and cattle, that I recently enjoyed in Shropshire with Hilary and other members of 12 by the dozen.

To see the other responses to the group challenge, please visit the 12 by the dozen blog and archive.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Colour at the FoQ

Of course there were many art quilts at Birmingham's Festival of Quilts that showed a stunning use of colour, but I was intrigued by these two in particular. Both employed a wide range of hand-dyed cottons.

Inge Hueber, Seascape
hand-dyed cotton, Seminole technique (variation)

Inge Hueber, Seascape (detail)
hand-dyed cotton, Seminole technique (variation)

Hueber, a German, explained to viewers that Seascape is a "quilt that depicts sun and sea, water and light." Somehow she created the kind of flickering sparkle made by the surf as it laps on the shore.  I believe she has taken what is a classic Seminole pattern of piecing, and exposed the reverse side, leaving loose threads and frayed edges to add interest, and to capitalize on the unique qualities of cloth.


Similarly...

Beatrice Lanter, The Back from the Front,
cotton, patchwork Log Cabin, machine-sewn, machine-quilted
Beatrice Lanter, The Back from the Front, (detail)
cotton, patchwork Log Cabin, machine-sewn, machine-quilted

... the Swiss artist Beatrice Lanter references the classic Log Cabin form of patchwork and uses the unfinished back of the quilt to celebrate a wide spectrum of luscious colour, and the nature of fibre itself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

No-Colour at the FoQ

I took many photos of pieces exhibited at the recent Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, and I will try to share some of them here.

Sometimes, what won me over was work with little or no colour. I loved the juxtaposition of organic and geometric in the piece below. Heymann used both precise machine quilting and hand stitching in a gorgeous range of grays. Simplicity itself.

Susann Heymann, Germany, Transversal Potato
cotton, acrylic paint, clay paint;
coloured, stenciled, machine sewn, hand- and machine-quilted
Susann Heymann, Transversal Potato (detail)

Even greater simplicity is evident in the work by Niki Chandler below. Her statement said "the wall quilt is informed by the zen-inducing grid paintings of Agnes Martin (1912-2004), an artist whose own inner peace was periodically fractured by schizophrenic episodes." Chandler used no pigment at all in her work, relying on cast shadows from stitched triangular flaps to create interest. The fine cotton she employed is starkly white. Again, precision is critical to the success of this work.

Niki Chandler, Nothing in this Life is Perfect

Niki Chandler, Nothing in this Life is Perfect (detail)

The SAQA exhibit, "Celebrating Silver", was a rich source of achromatic work. This collection was put together on the occasion of SAQA's 25th anniversary. Cynthia St. Charles wrote that she "wanted to express the experience of mining for silver in Montana by printing the quilt surface with writings from early miners and vigilantes."

Cynthia St. Charles, Silver Hills
fused collage of hand-painted cotton broadcloth, acrylic paint
Cynthia St. Charles, Silver Hills (detail)
fused collage of hand-painted cotton broadcloth, acrylic paint

Maria Shell revelled in the opportunity to forego her usual bright colours and rely strictly on value contrast.

Maria Shell, Two-Five
vintage and contemporary commercial cotton textiles,
hand-dyed fabrics

Finally, Mary Pal's work received much attention from the visitors. She skilfully manipulated cheesecloth on a black background to achieve a haunting portrait of two silver miners, based on a 1907 photo.

Mary B. Pal, Precious Time,
cheesecloth, canvas, acrylic paint