Sunday, May 21, 2017

Billing itself as The First Art Newspaper on the Web, is available as a daily bulletin that you can subscribe to, for free.

It's been around since 1996, and offers a wide selection of news about exhibitions, auctions, publications, and more.

And if you're planning to travel, you can use this site to do a search for art events that coincide with your trip.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mirka Knaster on Playfulness

For several years I have subscribed to the blog of Mirka Knaster, a textile artist with a decades-long career as a writer. This month, she posts a thoughtful piece on the value of play, and its role in creativity.

Paul Klee, Castle and Sun

As always, Knaster draws on a wide range of sources to explore her subject, this time referencing artists Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn as well as Dale Carnegie, Jean Piaget and other psychologists. She reflects on a recent exhibition staged at SF MOMA and on her own experience of rust-dyeing.

Knaster ends her posts with thought-provoking questions and invites responses from her readers.

Couldn't we all use a little more playfulness in our lives?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Art Assignment

A recent discovery is the website "The Art Assignment", a treasure trove of inspiration, instruction and ideas.

You can learn more about it here.

Warning: This could become addictive. Here's a sample:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Latest Acrylic Collages

In late April I attended "Acrylic Painting for Textile Artists", taught by Jane Davies at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, Vermont. I had a great time, and learned a lot from Jane and from the other participants.

This was made of some bits from a previous exercise.
I like the "brushiness" of the orange background, with a previous layer
of blue background still visible, holding the central shape together.
I think that the extreme value contrast adds to the piece.

It also shows a contrast between "busy" and "quiet" areas.

Something that Jane recommends is to set a few parameters and develop a series from them. For example, you could require yourself to make several pieces with an "open grid" using all squares and rectangles, or you could set a particular colour scheme, or you could work with three shapes, two lines and a pattern.

More brushiness. I'm beginning to understand
that paint is crucial to achieve this effect.
Cloth alone won't get me there.

Working with multiples makes each single piece less "precious" and easier to modify. This approach is less suitable to work in cloth, though, as the medium is so much more labour-intensive.

I found that generally the piece is more successful
when the shapes of each colour coalesce into a single mass,
rather than being scattered throughout.

The ten pieces shown here all measure 10" x 10", and all share a complementary colour scheme of blue and orange. Most of them use a rectilinear grid, but also include some rounded shapes for contrast.

Having one colour predominate seemed to work best.

As I explained in the previous post, some of these began as a painted background, with collaged shapes on top. Further painting and collage often ensued. Others started as a collage with paint applied as a second layer.

A piece of cotton with black and white polka dots was stiffened
with Golden's GAC 400  so that it would cut like paper and not fray. 

Some of these were begun before the workshop, others were started at the workshop, and a few were begun and finished in the days following the workshop. It was important to me to have a cohesive set of ten new pieces for our local show, and I was able to complete these just in time.

These four shapes include a good range of size.
The large orange-red shape began as painted tissue paper
and offers an interesting, wrinkly texture.

As I worked on these, I tried to use contrast of scale, hue, value, hard and soft edges, etc. Using blue and orange automatically ensures the contrast of warm and cool.

Multiple layers of paint contribute a sense of depth.

This one was much improved when blue paint was added to the central blue area,
 making a large blue shape.

I think this one would be improved with more value contrast.
I was seduced by the soft, limited range of mid-tone values in the background.

I still intend to translate some of this abstract imagery into cloth, but I am more and more persuaded that paint will also be needed to achieve the "lost edges" that I find so appealing. Meanwhile, I am having great fun exploring what paint can do.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Another Jane Davies Workshop

A few weeks ago I posted some almost-finished work that was inspired by a suggestion on Jane Davies' blog. She proposed that we choose complementary colours to make small compositions in paint and collage, and gave some examples of her recent demo pieces on this topic.

Soon after, I attended a four-day workshop in Stowe, VT with Jane. The class was titled "Abstract Painting for Textile Artists", and Jane has posted a few photos from the workshop on her blog . The photos below are some of my "starts", not one of them finished at the time of the photo.

There were twelve of us in the class. One participant was an established watercolour painter, and most of the others were textile artists with little experience using paint.

Jane was able to cover some basics that are essential to those new to the acrylic medium: how to mix paint, how to use products like gel medium and glazing medium, how to dry brush, how to achieve smooth transitions by working wet-on-wet, painting on tissue paper, and much more. Of special interest to the textile artists was the use of a Golden product, GAC 400, which is designed to stiffen fabric so that it behaves more like paper, making it suitable for collage.

It is fascinating to watch Jane demo her own approach to making painted collage. She is absolutely fearless in her quest to "move the composition along", obliterating some beautiful passages in service to the success of the whole, seemingly ever-confident about her own ability to make good decisions in seconds.

One of our first in-class assignments was to make collage papers in a variety of techniques and a full spectral range of colour. We were then asked to assemble collages, and to add paint to them. Later, we were shown how to make interesting backgrounds and to build collages on them. So in effect we alternated from painting to collage to painting to more collage, until we were satisfied with the piece.

Throughout, Jane emphasized the value of using contrast in our compositions: contrast of value, hue, scale, texture, pattern, of hard edges and soft edges, of curving shapes and rectilinear shapes, of matte and gloss, of opaque and transparent, and so on.

Jane encouraged us to produce a number of "starts", and to rotate through them, adding or modifying each in turn. This prevents one from "getting stuck" on any one piece, and makes each little project less precious. My best guess is that none of the participants felt they had actually produced a finished piece, but that each left with a bundle of "works in progress" that they were excited to complete.

This was my second in-person workshop with Jane and, as before, what I found most valuable was her personal feedback. Just as in the previous workshop, Jane suggested that while my imagery was strong, my compositions needed more "breathing room", more quiet areas to complement the busier bits, giving the eye somewhere to rest. In fact, I did cut up some of my earlier efforts, isolating interesting parts and adding them to quieter backgrounds.

All this to say that when I returned home, I continued to work on what I had begun, and also tried to apply some of what I had learned to the blue-and-orange exercises I began last month.

And so I now have in hand ten small mixed-media works to hang at this weekend's show of the Hudson Artists. I will be sure to post some images in the next few days.

To find out more about Jane Davies, her art and the many workshops she offers, both on-line and in-classroom, please visit her website.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Another course from Coursera

Six weeks ago I posted here about an on-line course designed by the Museum of Modern Art and offered through Coursera. The 8-week course, titled In the Studio: Post-War Abstract Painting, focused on the technical approaches of eight individual artists, what made their work distinctive, the trajectory of their careers and their place in that period of art history.

Initially I had no intention of pursuing the course. "Far too busy," I told myself.  But since it was available at no cost, I decided to give it a try and was soon completely engaged. Each of the eight units required certain readings and viewing of videos, followed by a quiz, and I'm a sucker for that kind of structured learning. I found the material interesting, and it was presented in an effective variety of formats.

With the course nearing its end, I have now signed on to another of Coursera's free on-line offerings, though I haven't yet begun it. This one is called Modern Art & Ideas. It's a five week course, again designed by MOMA. The course proposes to explore modern art, not chronologically, but through four different themes:
  • Places & Spaces
  • Art & Identity
  • Transforming Everyday Objects
  • Art & Society
No prior knowledge of art history is required. Enrolment ends May 20. More information is available here.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction

Alma Woodsey Thomas, Untitled, circa 1968

I was alerted to this MOMA exhibition by an article in The New Yorker (April 24, 2017 issue). A good reason to plan a trip to NYC? The show continues until August 13 and, as an added bonus, MOMA's Rauschenberg show runs May 21 - September 17.

MOMA's website gives this description:

"Making Space shines a spotlight on the stunning achievements of women artists between the end of World War II (1945) and the start of the Feminist movement (around 1968). In the postwar era, societal shifts made it possible for larger numbers of women to work professionally as artists, yet their work was often dismissed in the male dominated art world, and few support networks existed for them. Abstraction dominated artistic practice during these years, as many artists working in the aftermath of World War II sought an international language that might transcend national and regional narratives—and for women artists, additionally, those relating to gender.  
"Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition features nearly 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles, and ceramics by more than 50 artists. Within a trajectory that is at once loosely chronological and synchronous, it includes works that range from the boldly gestural canvases of Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell; the radical geometries by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Gego; and the reductive abstractions of Agnes Martin, Anne Truitt, and Jo Baer; to the fiber weavings of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, and Lenore Tawney; and the process-oriented sculptures of Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, and Eva Hesse. The exhibition will also feature many little-known treasures such as collages by Anne Ryan, photographs by Gertrudes Altschul, and recent acquisitions on view for the first time at MoMA by Ruth Asawa, Carol Rama, and Alma Woodsey Thomas."
Also on the website is a 38-minute video of the two curators being interviewed in front of a live audience. One of the topics touched upon is the "reclaiming of craft" as art in the 1960's and 70's.

You can learn more about the exhibit here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930's

The Royal Academy of Art in London is currently staging the exhibition "America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930's".

To accompany the show, the curators have produced several 60-second video profiles of some of the artists featured, including Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

The show ends June 4, 2017.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hudson Artists Spring Show

Delighted to be participating in the upcoming Spring Show of the Hudson Artists. That's my fibre piece on the poster, chosen because it's the donation to the event's raffle in support of the local food bank. Notice our jazzy new AHA logo in the upper left corner, designed by President John Goodger. The poster itself was designed by our graphic wizard, Mona Turner.

I will have twelve new pieces in the show. Exactly which ones? I'm still figuring that out. 

Do hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Papier 17 by the numbers

Tenth edition.

Thirty-nine art galleries.

Nearly three hundred artists.

Twenty thousand expected visitors.

Three days, April 21 to 23.

Cost of admission? Zero.

Papier 17 is a fun opportunity to see what's happening in contemporary Canadian galleries. It's also a chance to visit one of Montreal's best art venues, Arsenal, at 2020 William Street in Montreal. All the work shown will be on paper: drawing, prints, sculpture, and cut and stitched paper, for example.

Nancy Petry  Noatak, 1970 Sérigraphie / Serigraph - 52.7 x 67.6 cm
Galerie Beaux-Arts des Amériques

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Exercise in Blue and Orange

I took my cue from a recent blog post by Jane Davies, and tried to make interesting compositions in the complementary colours of blue and orange.

These all measure 10" x 10".

I used a variety of techniques for visual texture: stamping, stencilling, scratching, brayering and blotting with paint, as well as torn and cut collaged shapes. And I used several variations of the two main colours. Transparent paints (blue over orange or orange over blue) often produced a green hue, so I favoured opaque pigments. There's a little scribbling with oil pastel too.

I tried to use shapes in a variety of size: small, medium and large. Sometimes I employed hard edges, and at other times smudged edges. I tried to have some boring areas, and others more complicated. I also wanted to have some ambiguity about what was advancing and what was receding, that "push and pull" that Hans Hoffman achieved. If I could create a sense of depth, all the better.

I found the piece was more successful when one of the colours predominated over the other, rather than having a 50/50 distribution of the orange and blue hues. I also think it was useful to have each colour coalesce into an interesting shape, giving the composition some unity.

This assignment was challenging to me, but I persisted with it because I feel I have so much to learn. Instructors like Jane can make an exercise like this seem easy, but in fact it was quite a struggle. I'm still thinking of these as "works in progress". When I look at them again in a week or so, I may well make further adjustments.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lakeshore Artists Spring Show

Always one of the best art shows in the region, the Lakeshore Artists will hold their annual spring exhibition at Fritz Farm in Baie d'Urfé, April 21 - 23, 2017.

Please note that Helena Scheffer, a fellow member of text'art, has donated one of her gorgeous textile pieces for the charity raffle.

For more information, go to the LAA website.

With any luck, the woods adjacent to Fritz Farm will be carpeted with scilla in time for the show.