Tag Archives: colin williams

L is for Landscape, Leonardo, Liu, Lowry, Lichtenstein and Lots more…

 

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Mountain and River by E. Colin Williams. Yes, I’m lucky enough to live inside a landscape that looks a lot like this painting done by my father. 

Growing up I looked at a lot of landscapes – not just the ones we lived in and drove through but also the ones my father painted and my mother photographed. In a way, I got to see everything at least twice – once as a fleeting impression as I moved through the landscape and again, later after it had been filtered and transformed on its way to becoming a painting or a photograph.

Maybe because of that I love seeing how artists interpret the world we live in, how they try to capture the essence of a place on a two-dimensional surface.

 

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Leonardo (da Vinci) is not the first artist that jumps to my mind when I think of landscape painters. This painting is called Bird’s Eye View of Sea Coast and was painted in 1515. I find it fascinating because it feels quite abstract and clean in its execution, features the strangest composition, and shows the world from a perspective Leonardo could not have experienced firsthand. It’s a strange blend of cartography, art, and imagination. 

 

 

Lautrec painted lots of outdoorsy scenes, but generally they include people, horses, or both… This is very different to my father’s paintings which rarely included humans, birds or animals. Until recently, that is, when Dad has been exploring subjects he spent little time with earlier in his career (a topic I’ll explore in more depth in a later post).

 

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Fishing Boat by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1880

 

In the literary arts department, Jack London had a gift for capturing the landscape on the page. The Call of the Wild certainly evokes the brutality of the Yukon and the impact the landscape has on its inhabitants.

 

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Jack London was not the only one inspired by images of the frozen north. The Russian painter Nicholas Roerich often turned to the mountains in winter for inspiration. This is Snowy Lift (1924), by Nicholas Roerich

 

 

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Here’s Roy Lichtenstein’s take on the northern landscape. Arctic Landscape, 1964

 

 

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L. S. Lowry’s dull as mud colours were typical of his early landscapes, this one from 1910. Though it’s titled Clifton Junction, Morning this hardly screams ‘morning light’ to me. 

 

 

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Compare Lowry’s somber morning with this exuberant sunburst by van Gogh. Enclosed Field with Rising Sun, 1889. 

 

And, finally, here’s a landscape by Georgia O’Keeffe… It may be abstract, but I can still see the landscape in the colours and natural forms.

 

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From the Lake, 1924 by Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Today I was priviledged to watch the amazing photographer Amy Liu at work. She was taking some photos of Ally Lacentra, super-talented young actor (and my step-daughter who, as luck would have it, has an abundance of Ls in her name).

 

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Amy and Ally at work – I felt bad for them as it was brisk outside today! Poor Ally had to try and look relaxed even when the chilly spring breeze blew down from the mountains! 

 

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One of the many gorgeous shots Amy Liu captured during the shoot today. Lovely!

 

 

And on that note, off I go to get back to work on the current work in progress. Let me know in the comments below if you have a favourite landscape painter…

Catch you later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Month, it’s All About Trees

There is nothing like a deadline to inspire a burst of creative energy! My newest book (co-written with my daughter, Dani) has just come out and we are busy planning a cool book launch, hopefully in partnership with the kids at Shoreline School (stay tuned – more on that as the plans come together).

New book!! It was cool to work on a project like this with daughter, Dani...

New book!! It was cool to work on a project like this with daughter, Dani…More info here

Meanwhile, though, the next book (also in the Footprints series) is well underway. The subject of the book is trees, which means I’ve been driving friends and family mad recently by babbling on and on and on about baobabs and canopy scientists, corduroy roads and carbon sinks. In some kind of self-defense move, Dad piped up the other day and told me he was doing a tree-a-day drawing challenge. “Remember how you used to do that blog a day thing?” he asked pointedly. “Like that.”

Okay, okay – it has been BUSY around here this summer, too busy, apparently, for me to sit at the computer and blog on a regular basis. Well, at all, in fact. But here we are with the seasons shifting once again. The evenings are longer and there is hope that I can find some inside time to get to projects like the blog.

Trees herald the change of seasons with such... intensity!

Trees herald the change of seasons with such… intensity!

Given that I am obsessing about trees anyway, Dad suggested I write a little something about the trees he is capturing on paper. Which seemed like an excellent idea until I saw that his first subject was a Garry Oak. “They are so gnarly – all those twisty branches,” Dad explained when I asked why he had picked the Garry Oak as his first subject for the series.

Garry Oak Trees by E. Colin Williams (drawing)Garry Oak Trees by E. Colin Williams (drawing)

To an artist I guess twisty and gnarly equals interesting and challenging to draw, but I must confess that Garry Oaks are some of my least favourite trees! (Sorry, sorry to the Garry Oak lovers out there – and, no – it absolutely was not I who poisoned Margaret’s lovely old tree – THAT tree is special… and, yes – there are maniacs out there who go about drilling holes into the roots of gnarly old trees all the better to inject them with tree-murdering toxins! Note to self: subject for a future post…silvacide.)

Garry Oak ecosystems are fragile and rare, so much so that there are armies of volunteers out there who are working diligently to preserve the trees and their immediate surroundings [for more information on this work, visit this website and have a look at the amazing resources they have made available]. Garry Oaks (Oregon White Oaks) live in western North America close to the Pacific Ocean. Their range is limited and threatened by urban and agricultural development and linked to a whole community of native species threatened by all manner of invasive species like Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry. Given my propensity for cheering for the underdog, it’s a bit surprising I don’t know more about them. Hm. I sense a shift in attitude is already in progress…

What about you? Do you have a favourite kind of tree? A least favourite? What is it about some trees that makes them so appealing? Or, unappealing as the case may be…

 

Daily prompt: Mirror, Mirror – Felfies, Selfies, and the long tradition of the self portrait

Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror  Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances? Photographers, artists, poets: show us MIRRORED.

Some of my favourite paintings done by my father are his self portraits (accomplished by spending many long hours looking into a mirror suspended just off the side near his easel). They are him, certainly, but they are not – they are studies in portraiture, the human face, and, when looked at as a series, a story of a life being lived. In an early self-portrait he is clean shaven with a neat mustache, in a more recent painting he sports a full beard (something which still catches me by surprise as Dad only started wearing a beard in his 70s…)

E. Colin Williams, ARCAThis piece was the last done before Dad grew his beard. What is striking to me about these drawings and paintings is they completely lack any ‘say cheese’ quality ubiquitous in snapshots taken during family gatherings, vacations, or when friends get together for an evening of fun. I suppose that’s partly the result of having to sit and stare at yourself long enough to actually do some sort of hand-crafted rendering. Grinning like an idiot for hours and hours would surely cramp cheek muscles and quickly transform a big smile into a pained grimace.

The selfie (a self-portrait typically taken with a hand-held device and often intended to be uploaded to a social media site) can be a grinning snapshot (there are plenty out there of people snapping self-portraits with an off kilter Eiffel Tower in the background) or have a ‘look at me and this cool thing I’m doing with this awesome other person!’ flavour, but there are also lots of selfies out there that explore who we are in our everyday lives. Felfies (self-portraits of farmers) are an example of self-portraits of farmers from around the world in their natural environments doing their thing.

This is my selfie nod to Depression Era photographer, Dorothea Lange.

In this New York Times piece, James Franco suggests the selfie is a way to introduce ourselves to the wide world and for celebrities to feed their hungry fans with an endless diet of glimpses into their private lives.

The selfie as an art form is emerging as a fascinating way to capture how we see ourselves, how others see us, and, perhaps, how we want others to see us.

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Selfie in Green

Staring Contest

Staring Contest with a Selfie

This article looks at the selfie as an art form and coincides with the opening of the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery. [Why, I wonder, are so many of the sample images included with the article taken in public washrooms?]

I have been working on a series of selfies that challenge cultural ideas of beauty and aging [don’t get me started… I could probably sustain a year of blogging relating to those issues]

In the end, will the selfie be an art form at which we roll our eyes?

Eye Roll Selfie

Or will it prove to be an uncanny way to uncover something about the self that lurks behind the cheesy smile of snapshots and only emerges when you spend some quiet time alone pointing your phone at your face…

[The Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror]