Tag Archives: Art

Blissful Interlude (19/365)

My visit to Pender didn’t last long, but it was heavenly to enjoy the sun, water, beaches, friends and food at the Bluewater Cruising Association rendezvous at Poet’s Cove.

… and the dog, of course! I don’t have any grandchildren, but I sure do enjoy hanging out with my grad puppy Spartacus (Sparty). He’s becoming such a confident little boat dog!

My visit ended with a great potluck! The dinghy rode a bit lower in the water when the time came to shuttle me back to land to catch my taxi down to the other Pender Island (there are two – north and south).

I took lots of photos so I have more than enough reference material to get back to work drawing various things once I get back home.

I even managed to find a bit of time to work on my lines for Romeo and Juliet while hanging gout in the cockpit.

I also managed to find a bit of time to do a blind contour drawing of the Dragon Fountain from Butchart Gardens.

Here’s a photo…

The idea is to not look down at your drawing but to choose a line in the object and follow it without ever lifting pencil from paper.

About to board the ferry now and head back to Victoria for another couple of days before hopping back on another flight to Calgary.

Carousel Ponies, Frogs and Nosebleeds (17/365)

 

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Dad and Frog (or, toad?)

 

After leaving the hospital for what has become our daily morning visit to ER to deal with ongoing nosebleed management issues, Dad and I headed for Butchart Gardens to gather some raw material for drawing and painting.

 

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I couldn’t make out the signature, but this drawing is stuck to a cabinet in the ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) Room at the local hospital emergency room… It’s the chair in which Dad has spent a fair bit of time over the past several days… 

 

It has been YEARS since I was last at the gardens and I have to say, they really are quite something, especially given the place is also a story of reclamation and rehabilitation. Once an ugly quarry that supplied limestone for Robert Butchart’s cement plant, the gardens were the dreamchild of Butchart’s wife, Jennie who wanted to pretty things up a bit once industry was done with stripping what it needed from the land. What a beautification project!

These days, almost a million visitors a year stroll around the gardens, snapping photos.

As one would expect, there are gazillions of flowers, shrubs, and trees, but there are also fountains, statues, and a carousel. I have always loved carousels and am always a bit disappointed when I’m near one without a child to coerce into riding with me!

A carousel horse statue prances near the carousel, an escapee from the endless drudgery of up and down and round and round. I took several photos, thinking I might be able to draw it later.

 

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Statue of a carousel pony dancing at Butchart’s

Dad gave me a brush pen with a reservoir for use with watercolours and once I got home  I pulled out the watercolour pencils I brought with me and started to experiment.

 

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New toy, must play…

 

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Unhappy with the pole, which looks awful, but I’m thinking that if I mess around with that it will get much worse… As it is, you can tell it’s a carousel pony, so I’m happy to leave it at that!

Of course I’m not the only person to be captivated by carousel ponies…

 

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Carnival the Carousel by Georges Lemmen, early 1890s

 

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Many carousel ponies (and other creatures) are works of art themselves… I’d kind of like one in my living room, to be honest. Maybe even a row of them for people to sit on at the kitchen island… We would need a bigger kitchen island, of course… Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

That’s it for now… I’m struggling (really struggling) to draw or paint a flower that looks even remotely floral, so you don’t get to see any of that stuff yet. I’m feeling a bit heartened, though, that with practice comes progress, so I’ll keep trucking on and see what happens next…

 

 

 

 

 

How Cool is This?? (16/365)

 

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From the series of images, Ornitographies by Xavi Bou (visit the website here…)  www.xavibou.com (many thanks to Xavi Bou for permission to use the photo here)

Imagine if you could see the patterns made by birds as they swoop in unison, drawing on the canvas of the sky. I’d never heard of the artist, but one of the wonderful volunteers who stayed with us on the farm a few years ago sent a link to an article in National Geographic about the artist/photographer and wow – how cool!

Dad, of course, was immediately intrigued and asked if I had seen the images as they relate so well to what we’ve been talking about in our ongoing lines and patterns discussions…

 

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Birds in the Clouds by Georges Braque, 1960 

 

So many artists have explored the image of birds in flight it’s hard to know where to start with examples.

 

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Twelve Birds by M. C. Escher, 1948

Line, pattern, repeating shapes, and negative space all fuse in this work by M. C. Escher.

 

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Lucian Freud takes a different approach in Landscape with Birds (1940)

Da Vinci tried to freeze the movement of birds with the naked eye…

 

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Drawings of a bird in flight by Leonardo da Vinci (1500s)

 

 

Leonardo had an ulterior motive, I think – hoping to learn how to fly himself. The challenge kept him busy for years…

As for me, I’ve been having enough trouble trying to draw things like a coffee cup sitting on the table in front of me and that, so far, is more than challenging enough!

For the moment, I’m happy to enjoy the work of others when it comes to this subject, but perhaps at some point, I’ll take up the challenge and try to capture movement in the ethereal form of birds in flight…

 

 

 

 

Going Dotty for Dots (15/365)

I arrived on Vancouver Island for a visit only to find Dad having a bit of a medical issue. A wicked nosebleed that refused to stop has meant four visits to emergency rooms in two different hospitals over the past 36 hours or so. Don’t worry, Dad is ok – but he has, as a result of his leaking blood vessels, spent a fair bit of time hanging about in waiting rooms.

 

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Magnifying Glass by Roy Lichtenstein (1963)

 

What does one do under such circumstances? Talk about dots, of course…

And, spots… like the many, many paintings featuring coloured spots by Damien Hirst.

 

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Valium, by Damien Hirst

 

According to Hirst’s website (www.damienhirst.com) there are more than 1400 of his spot paintings out there. The spots range from teeny tiny and thousands upon thousands on a single canvas to larger works with fewer, much larger spots. Assistants have helped paint some of the canvases, which are meant to look like they could have been painted by a machine.

This next painting by Bonnard is lots of fun and features spots in a different way. The combination of playful dog and the woman’s spotty dress make me smile!

 

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Woman in a Polka Dot Dress by Pierre Bonnard, 1890s

And here’s one by the French/Chinese artist, Sanyu that features one of my favorite subjects, horses.

 

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Two Spotted Horses by Sanyu (1950)

 

 

This conversation about spots and dots, of course, led back to my own dot experiments and then Dad piped up with “… what about dominoes? You could do something with that… ”

Which is how I wound up searching for domino images on Google while trying to ignore the steady stream of walking wounded moaning and groaning their way into the emergency room…

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I had my daytimer with me, so I started doing some quick sketches of the basic domino shape… and was just getting warmed up when Dad got summoned to go in for treatment and we had to stop chatting and put away our pencils.

It’s an intriguing idea, though. I can imagine adding colour… and multiple dominoes, and patterns of falling dominoes… Who knows where this may lead?? It’s late now and it’s been a very busy day with a great meeting with my editor about the medically-assisted dying book plus the next project about civil disobedience, presenting to students at Royal Oak Middle School, having a chat with my accountant, and searching for ground lamb (there are plans afoot for a weekend away on my daughter’s boat and rather elaborate preparations are ongoing as Dani puts together a rather spectacular menu), so I’ll leave things there for now.  Can’t wait for tomorrow to see where the spots and dots and dominoes may take us next!

 

 

 

 

 

Look at all Those Patterns! (14/365)

 

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Somewhere over the Rocky Mountains

Look at all those lines and patterns! I don’t usually sit in the window seat when I fly (I prefer to be on the aisle so I can stretch my legs and escape for occasional sprints, stretches, and visits to the loo without having to crawl over sleeping seat mates). Today, though, the plane between Calgary and Vancouver was half empty, so I had a whole row to myself and wound up looking out the window a lot.

 

Dad has always said that learning to draw begins with learning how to see. Everything (the landscape, a coffee cup, a person’s face, a hummingbird) can be broken down into visual elements – line, pattern, colour, etc.).

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Somewhere over an airport carpet

 

 

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Somewhere in my notebook… (taking inspiration from both mountain range and carpet and somehow resembling neither…)

Dad, meanwhile, sent me some info on the German painter Josef Albers. Albers was obsessed with shapes, patterns and colour…

 

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Brackish Water Biarritz VIII, 1929 by Josef Albers (Collage)

One of his best known series of paintings (aptly named Homage to the Square) features squares…

 

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Homage to the Square, 1967 by Josef Albers

Various squares in all manner of color combinations and proportions occupied his painterly efforts for nearly 30 years! Using squares in his compositions, Albers experimented (endlessly) with the ways in which colours interacted depending on their placement next to each other.

Speaking of colour combinations of note, some Canadians may recall the fuss that was kicked up when the National Gallery purchased Voice of Fire by the American painter Barnett Newman.

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In the early ’90s the National Gallery picked up Newman’s blue, red, blue painting for a cool 1.76 million dollars. Granted, it’s a pretty large piece (18′ tall), but you can imagine detractors squawked. Not only was this a piece of work that generated some head-scratching (blue-red-blue? that’s it?), it was painted by an American!! Shouldn’t Canadian taxpayer money at least be used to purchase Canadian art? [Note, I am merely paraphrasing the discussion at the time… don’t throw things at me…]

 

In a 2014 Ottawa Citizen article by Peter Simpson, some rather crazy numbers get tossed around. At that time the Newman painting was estimated to be worth more than $40 million USD! Perhaps the rash purchase back in the day was actually a pretty smart investment. Not that public galleries buy art primarily as an investment, but it is nice to know that sometimes the curators get it right.

Perhaps I need to do an 18′ high version of my dot…

 

 

 

 

Dots, Lines and 3D (13/365)

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Back to Basics: Red Dot, Green Line (pen and gouache)

Yesterday I left off with the thought that if lines and circles were a bit much to handle, perhaps I should have a better look at the good old dot.

Then Dad sent me this…

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Pause, by Bridget Riley (1964)

Oh boy. I’d say mine is more… colourful? Clearly I have a lot to learn about dots. Bridget Riley was born in England in 1931 and became one of the big names in the Op Art movement. She was also the first woman to win (in 1968) the painting prize at the Venice Biennale. (More about her here.)

Dad was not done with lines, though… and also sent this:

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Thankfully, he also sent an explanatory comment about the Golden Section which was, apparently, the point of the series of boxes. I’ll try to explain in case you aren’t right up on your geometry. Top left – a square. Kind of boring. (I’m paraphrasing Dad here… there were a series of texts and then a lengthy phonecall before I got this all straight in my head). Next box – a square cut in half. Also kind of boring. Next up, a square cut in half in the other direction. Also not so interesting. Then, bisected squares bisected to make smaller squares. Ho-hum. And then, in the bottom row, things get interesting.

Basically, you take a square and bisect it (see bottom row, square on the left). Take the diagonal of one of the halves. Add that distance to the bottom line of the square on the left… the resulting rectangle (I’ve added some red lines to my version below) is roughly 1.65: 1 (length to height) ratio.

 

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Golden Ratio (more or less)

 

Mine isn’t super accurate as I didn’t use a compass or set square, so my measurements are not quite right, but you get the idea. Anyway, that basic rectangle in those proportions pops up over and over again in architecture dating back to those clever ancient Greeks. Even before that, the ratio appears in snail shells and the way in which the spiral pattern is formed in the seeds of a sunflower head. Those complex examples are waaaaaaaay beyond my capacity to draw, but the basic principle of the ratio remains the same.

Unrelated to the Golden Ratio, I was also determined to have a look at basic three dimensional shapes…

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The boxes are a bit wobbly and the one on the table top/flat surface to the right is all wrong as the two surfaces are on two different, incompatable planes… Which led us into a discussion about perspective that was accompanied by another flurry of diagrams from Dad. Which will have to wait until tomorrow as those messages spun off into a discussion of perspective, various other artists, primary colours, and art-themed movies not to be missed…

 

 

 

 

 

Lines (12/365)

The lines seemed to go a little better than the wobbly circles of yesterday… with the exception of trying to draw a square using a series of parallel diagonal lines. That was so not happening, especially when the lines angled down and to the right… clearly some neurological rewriting needs to happen before I get that right. My triangles are a bit asymmetrical and my straight, vertical lines all tend to have a bit of a leftward leaning tilt, but overall today’s exercise was not quite as painful as my efforts yesterday.

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Composition No. 10, Piet Mondrian (1940-ish)

Piet Mondrian jumps to mind when I think of nice straight lines put to good use. What I didn’t expect was to see Van Gogh popping up in the Getty Museum’s handout intended for students learning about the elements of art. Line, of course, is one of those basic elements…

 

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Wheat Field with Sheaves and Arles in the Background, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh 

 

Check out all those lines!! There’s no real drawing going on here, per se… and yet… That’s a wheat field! And smoke from the factory chimneys! And stubble… and the impression of a real place made up of a bunch of short lines! Here’s a link to the handout, in case you want to have a go at filling in all the boxes with different types of lines.

I confess I was inspired and decided to give the line-making another go, this time based on the little boxes on the Getty handout…

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It’s no wheat field, no Arles, but I can see how mastering some of these basic elements could prove useful someday.

Dad concurs. Right under the greeting ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ he texted, “Lines are really neat…” and then went on to illustrate with some quick examples. They were a little different to the Getty categories… Dad’s examples were:

  1. static straight lines
  2. straight lines showing slight movement
  3. more interesting/complex movement, still using only straight line
  4. quite a complex pattern, though not using many more lines (just varying length, angle, relative positions). Here’s my rendition of Dad’s example…

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No wonder I was having such trouble with circles! I was running before I could walk… I’m thinking maybe tomorrow I need to go back a step farther and maybe try a plain dot. I’d ask, ‘How hard could that be?’ but I am thinking even a dot could present mysterious challenges I can’t even imagine…