Tag Archives: e. colin williams

Monsoon June (31/365)

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After a few glorious days of sun and heat, it’s cooled right down again here as we head into Monsoon June. Rain, dipping temperatures, and really cool skies (check out those clouds!) are typical of this time of year. After a few weeks of this unpredictable weather, we head into forest fire season.

Last summer the fires were awful… thick smoke day after day and everyone on edge wondering if the flames were going to sweep through and engulf inhabited areas. Fort McMurray. Kelowna. The memories are still fresh.

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Forest Fire, by Mark Tobey, 1956

This year’s fire season is still in the future. For now, I’m going to enjoy the beauty of clouds…

Clouds and the Baths

Puffy clouds over the Baths, BVI

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Clouds over Canmore

Clouds over Ha Ling

Clouds over Ha Ling

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Reflected Clouds – Policeman’s Creek, Canmore

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Caribbean Clouds

Spanish Clouds over the Camino

Spanish Clouds over the Camino

 

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More Spanish Clouds (Dawn)

 

More Clouds over Ha Ling

More Clouds over Ha Ling

Apparently, I have a thing for clouds… I found dozens and dozens of photos of clouds from pretty much everywhere I’ve been over the past dozen years.

Artists, too, find clouds irresistible.

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Cloud Study, E. Colin Williams (watercolour)

Dad has done his share of cloud-centric paintings.

 

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Sky Above Clouds III by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1963

As have many, many other painters…

 

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Birds in the Clouds by Georges Braque, 1960

 

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Seascape Study with Rain Clouds by John Constable, 1827

 

Which makes me think I need to join this cloudy party and start experimenting with some cloud-themed drawings/paintings/collages… Something. Heaven knows I have plenty of raw material to work with around here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Lane… (28/365)

Sometimes it seems that my life is a series of different digressions, fascinating side roads that are way more interesting than the whatever the main road was supposed to have been.

Those side roads are braided, looping back and around themselves like Celtic knots, leading to familiar corners rounded and re-encountered when least expected.

At the moment I’m exploring a theatre cul de sac where the familiar and the new are sending me back to the very beginning of my acting career. 

 

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Wow! Look what I found online in the archives of the Banff Centre! That’s Dad (holy smokes he looks so young!) in about 1970 teaching a student… (reference #A 05 01 09, no photographer listed). 

 

Back in 1969 when we first came to Canada from Australia we moved to Banff in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Dad was the first Artist in Residence at the Banff School of Fine Arts (now known as the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity).  I was all of 8 and determined to perform my way onto the stage. I took ballet classes and enrolled in an acting class for kids. I landed a small part in a play. The director of that play and my teacher was a dynamo called Shirley Tooke.

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The Banff School of Fine Arts (c 1970)

I’ve thought about Shirley many times over the years. She was the first person I had ever met who took theatre seriously. And, more to the point, she took me seriously, even though I had pigtails and could barely see over a table I was so short.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I ran into Shirley at the 40th Anniversary gala event hosted by Pine Tree Players the other night. Turns out Shirley has been working her magic, directing plays, mentoring actors, and making theatre happen here in the Bow Valley for decades! Everyone in the room had a connection to Shirley, a story about how instrumental she has been in terms of nurturing and developing all things theatrical around here!

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I remember going to this production of the opera, Hansel and Gretel back in 1970. We were so lucky to be able to attend performances – ballet, modern dance, opera, music (I saw Oscar Peterson live), authors (Farley Mowat comes to mind), and theatre… And, of course, art shows. I never thought much about it at the time, but how lucky were we as kids to have access to so much art in our back yard? 

It was pretty cool to see my first acting mentor from so many years ago. Though she remembered my parents (she and my dad would have crossed paths at the Banff Centre), of course Shirley didn’t remember the earnest little kid with the big dreams. But that little kid never forgot her! I’m so happy we ran into each other again and I was able to say a long overdue thank-you for the kindness, support, and enthusiasm she offered so generously.

I wish I’d had my wits about me and had someone snap a photo of us together, but I confess I was so flabbergasted it never crossed my mind to do so!

Orange You Glad… (20/365)

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After another morning of blood tests and follow-ups (all is well, Dad is on the mend…) Dad and I headed off to Glendale Gardens (at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific). The man-eating rhodos are in full-bloom and putting on quite a show at the moment.

I was on a mission to find a couple of things. The first was some good examples of the color orange as that’s the Artists Magazine is looking for Instagram submissions using their #artistsnetwork_colorstory hashtag and, yes, the featured color for the next couple of months is orange.

Sparty’s dashing orange life vest made it into my notebook yesterday…

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The color is actually a pale impression of the real thing, which is neon crazy bright (a good thing, I suppose, if he went overboard and needed to be rescued), but I didn’t actually bring an orange pencil with me. This led to a somewhat awkward moment in the hospital waiting room when I had to ask Dad how to mix orange… He looked at me like I had just asked ‘what do I do next, I’d like to breathe…’ I know mixing colours is second nature to some, but for me, I never really got past yellow and blue make green. And so far, most of my early efforts at sketching stuff has been without colour and certainly without colour mixing…

Anyway, the answer (delivered with a minimum of eye-rolling, I suspect because Dad is not feeling his best) is red and yellow. Which, I guess, I maybe did kind of know because what else would you possibly mix to get orange?

IMG_3882.JPGAs it happens, the gardens were filled with orange-y flowers, blossoms, and blooms of all shapes and sizes (and, scents… but that’s hard to deliver via the Internet).

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Looking at those variations on the orange theme, you can see how some are more yellow, some more red… In my imagination I am swirling my paintbrush through blobs of pigment to create exactly the right mixture to capture the brilliant colors at the gardens.

 

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Perhaps my favourite orange flowers were the little balls on this aptly named “Orange Ball Tree” (did you spot the bee? they were everywhere today, which was GREAT to see)

It’s funny how, when you start looking for something, it starts showing up every time you turn around. We went to the tea shop in the gardens and what’s lying on the tea plate?

 

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Things were getting more orange by the minute… I took a series of photos of stuff on the tea table. Perhaps there may be a still life in my future? 

Even after we arrived home, the orange kept appearing!

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I thought this might make an interesting subject for a drawing with everything except the orange being done in either pencil or pen and wash…

Here’s a painting I found where the oranges look very yellow (though, that might be in the reproduction…)

 

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The Orange Market by Maurice Prendergast (1898-ish)

How about this one by Andy Warhol?

 

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Five Deaths Eleven Times in Orange by Andy Warhol, 1963

 

 

I must say I’m kind of excited about the possibilities when it comes to colour… Stay tuned!

 

 

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…