Tag Archives: e. colin williams

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…

Take the Lowly Circle (11/365)

If you’ve been reading along for a while you will know I’ve long been hankering to up my game in the visual art department. Ok, more accurately, to have any sort of game at all. They say you need to start somewhere, so today I pulled out paper and pencil and tried to draw a circle.

My. God.

How hard could that possibly be? Hard!!

But if one masters the skill of the perfect freehand circle, one could go down in history. Like Giotto, the Italian painter who could, according to artistic legend, draw such a perfect circle it seemed he had used a compass.

 

This is a mural designed by Dad (shown here in progress) down in Ottawa, Illinois. One of Ottawa’s claims to fame is a glass factory where they made marbles (that’s a giant marble in the middle).

 

When I mentioned to Dad I was attempting to draw (in general, circles in particular) he immediately mentioned the ‘perfect O of Giotto.’ How could I not have known of this guy’s special talent before now?

 

APC Patrol Cyprus (1974) by E. Colin Williams (Note: circle turned ellipsis when viewed from an angle… I guess practicing my circles isn’t just a lame exercise…)

 

Giotto, turns out, didn’t just draw endless circles (though he must have drawn a few in his day to get so good). Though exactly who did what is hotly debated in art historian circles, this one is most likely Giotto’s work.

 

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St. Paul (late 1200s) by Giotto di Bondone (Giotto)

 

One of my favourite factoids about the painter was discovered after an analysis of his front teeth upon his death. Apparently, they were worn away in a way that indicated he had spent a lot of time clenching a paintbrush between his front teeth!

 

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Extraction of a Tooth by Gerrit Dou, 1630-ish

 

Note to self: if I ever dare to touch a paintbrush (after today’s painful experience with a pencil and a circle, I’m not sure I’ll ever get there), I will be sure to put it down when it’s not in use!! I need my teeth!!

 

Alberta Schoolhouse Doorknob by E. Colin Wiliams  (Here’s another painting by Dad, this one featuring several pretty good circles…)

 

Dad’s hot circle tip: Practice!! And… ellipses are more difficult. People think they are pointy at the ends…

 

Dad sent this helpful illustration of what not to do in the ellipsis department…

 

Keep on drawing!! See you tomorrow…

S is for Slug, Snow, Spindrift, Spring and Street Art (#AtoZChallenge2018)

 

 

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Spindrift [Fine snow that blows off a mountain… well, I guess it could blow off anywhere, but this was snow blowing around above the Bow Valley]

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Snow is melting away before our eyes as spring finally, finally finds its way to the Bow Valley. This year, it seems like winter has been here for a very long time. 

 

S, it turns out, is full of potential when it comes to this month’s daily blogging challenge! It seems everywhere I look it’s all about transformation (the theme this month is Travel, Transformation and Transition…).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been receiving updates on a watercolour painting from Dad’s studio…

 

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In an artist’s studio, ideas are transformed into drawings, paintings, prints, lino cuts… 

 

The subject matter? Unusual, to say the least!

 

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Slug, slowly making his way to completion… 

 

 

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Slug on the Camino by E. Colin Williams (2018)

 

 

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Stormy Seas… by E. Colin Williams (Oil on Board) I don’t think that’s actually the real title, but today is day so I’ll leave it for now… I’m sure Dad will let me the correct title. 

 

When I travel, one of the things I love to photograph is the street art I come across. Somehow, even the roughest of neighbourhoods, most rustic back alleys, decrepit sheds, and ramshackle fences are transformed when someone takes the time to add a little art… Here are a few pieces of street art spotted while wondering through Paris earlier this month…

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And, of course, I can’t leave this post without mentioning Rodin and this piece of sculpture featuring a great stone… Oh, I sure did enjoy myself in Rodin’s garden!

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Oh, one last thought… sometimes the stones themselves become works of art as in this installation not far from my place here in Canmore.

 

 

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Portal XII by Lucie Bause, 2011

 

I could keep going for hours, but it’s been a very long day staring at the computer as I work my way through the draft of the new manuscript and my eyeballs are getting more square by the minute! So, away I go to slip off to SLEEP so I can transition into T is for tomorrow!

 

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Sleep by Abbott Handersaon Thayer, 1887

 

 

World Art Day – and Week Two Recap (#AtoZChallenge2018)

According to my source (thanks, Dad!) today is World Art Day! Given that Dad was the first artist I met (and certainly the one I’ve known for the longest), here’s a black and white photo of an early painting from Australia.

 

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The Rocks by E. Colin Williams – not sure of the date – 1967ish?

 

This is an old area of Sydney – here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about The Rocks, now a touristy destination while still preserving some of the flavour of this historic district.

All these many years later, Dad is still going strong, still painting, still exploring new subjects, materials and techniques. Yes, he’s my father so I’m a bit biased, but I find him inspiring and love getting texts each day with updates from the studio. I never know what to expect and it’s so cool to be able to see paintings as they progress from the roughest of sketches to finished works.

 

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Self Portrait, 2015 E. Colin Williams Unfortunately, this photo isn’t really sharp, but it’s kind of fun to see the artist posing with the artist…

 

Hmm… I’ve been enjoying the daily blogging challenge this month – maybe I’ll continue for another month and just blog daily about Dad’s projects. He’s got lots on the go at the moment – then you could all see the cool stuff I get to see arriving on my phone each day…

I will chew on that between now and the end of April … Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in an ECW Art-themed month of blog posts starting in May.

Meanwhile, here are links to this past week’s blog posts:

Day 9 – H is for Home

Day 10 – I is for Ice

Day 11- J is for Jumping Jehosephat (and a BUNCH of other fun J words)

Day 12 – K is for Kisses, Klimt and Kerouac

Day 13 – L is for Landscape, Leonardo, Liu, Lowery, Lichtenstein and Lots more…

Day 14 – M is for Mary, Mountain (but not Montmartre)

See you tomorrow when we return to our regularly scheduled alphabet… Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

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!