Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lion's Head Studio Thoughts

I’m writing this in the last minutes, maybe hours if I stretch it, of time in my studio in Lion’s Head. Outside it is dark but the squall off Georgian Bay is shaking branches of the huge old maples outside my windows, rattling a warning that the drive home won't be that easy, but because I teach tomorrow I really should leave tonight and not chance an early morning start. I know I would stay up too late working on the painting I started today and the morning would come dark and far too early. Yet it is so hard to leave. Downstairs logs are burning in the fireplace and the shelves are full of great books. It may sound idyllic and it is, but there are costs.

As I was throwing paint all over the large sheet of watercolour paper stretched on a board on my table I kept thinking how much art is subconscious calculation. We don’t think of it like math, and not being a math whiz I shouldn’t be comparing, but as I am playing with tonalities and contrasting colours in an intricate balance of luminosity and visual impact the thought kept going through my mind how calculating it really is. Part abandon and part focused rigid method, it is illusion making that is as taxing in thought as any science or task that is not considered creative in itself, even though we know all things are creative in their way.

My painting or my attempt is a response to the light that plays across the yard in the evenings when it filters through the ring of tall evergreens that border the yard. They are now tall enough that the lower branches are sparse and create a lattice of branches that is played against a very simple but almost iconic trellis that sits in a bed nor far in front of the trees. The trellis is not extravagant in any way, just a simple gate that gets lost in the frantic growth of flowers each summer, but in the winter stands like a marker of space and scale.

On the weekend I grabbed a piece of paper that had something already sketched out on the front and flipped it over to try to capture the light and patterns of blues, siennas and greens. Of course there is the full spectrum at play as well as tonalities and values so subtly balanced that they can and do drive me to distraction.

The question is how to take a relatively dull piece of paper and make it glow with the luminosity of the warm background against more luminosity of the snow both in shadow and in streaks of light.

And so both joy and frustration as countless brushes full of colour splashed across the paper, and now unfinished I must leave, for a few days, perhaps weeks. But it has been good to feel that joy of seeing something emerge from nothing and to play with the balance once more.

Tomorrow I will visit the AGO after class and head off to the floor with the group of 7 to marvel at how well they achieved it. And then I will try again.

unfinished start after 3hrs of play

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Sometimes I like to just wander past the art at the AGO and let it talk to me, sometimes call me to stop, other times just wave me by. A very quiet conversation with the walls. But one stop I feel I must always make is to see the small study of knees by Michelangelo in a room shared by Ruben's studies from his Rome visit as a student. I know it is not a major work but there is something that speaks quietly from those lines. I love to listen to them.
In the rooms prior to the Michelangelo and Rubens are the magnificent carvings in ivory and wood. I love to pause there and wonder at the knowledge and control of those craftsmen.

The idea of Wunderkammer has always intrigued me. Here is mine if only for an interim.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Increible Day of Bouffon - Philippe Gaulier

the insane hairdresser

dwarf Varrick

Life gives its gifts in unexpected packets. Today's packet was thanks to our son Justin who had been participating in a Bouffon Workshop given by Philippe Gaulier at the Canadian Stage in Toronto. We were allowed to attend the last day of classes and it was a treat visually as well as provoking thought through the art of Bouffon. Magical.

fascinating trio I will develope further

characters I assume from the swamps of medieval Paris

most had arms tied off into stumps

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Draw lines, young man, draw lines; whether from memory or after nature. Then you will be a good artist.


No longer a young man or as good an artist as I would wish, it is how I started the year.

Yesterday, when my son visited with his daughter I took the opportunity to do a few sketches as he watched a movie. At first she slept in his arms, then awakened by the sound, became as captivated as he by the images moving before them. For her I’m sure they were just a swirl of colours and shapes, or perhaps something I am not even aware of, but for a moment her mind wished to absorb it all. In the same way I too was trying to absorb the swirl of shapes and forms in front of me, and to capture not only the physical, but also the moment that absorbed my attention and my heart. For me, that is drawing.

A few thoughts on drawing:

The quote at the top was taken from The Primacy of Drawing. It’s a large volume, a beautiful book I received from my wife this Christmas written by Deanna Petherbridge. From the scanning of the pages and the excerpts I’ve read so far it is probably the best book on drawing I have yet come across. I say this because Ms. Petherbridge no only has a great knowledge of drawing from the historical and museological side (should there be a word as such) but also is an accomplished artist and thus looks at drawing and the process behind it from the eyes and hands of an artist. To that I should add the heart too.

For me drawing has always been my greatest love. The magic that a line is capable of is of never ending fascination to me; and one of never ending challenge.

I teach figure drawing at a college in an animation program. When animation was hand drawn in the traditional,or classical way, it seemed obvious that skills in drawing were necessary. When computer animation came on, many foolishly predicted the end of the need for teaching drawing, much in the same way figure drawing had fallen out of favour in the University system.

I found it frustrating to express my concern for this attitude because I felt the reasons for drawing were deeper than just making an image. I felt there was a process in drawing that challenged the intellect, the faculties of observation and perception, and even of understanding.

äPerhaps they are all the same or very similar, for in that swirl of the moment where an eye is hit by the light reflecting from an image, where sensations go to the brain and the mind discerns elements both recognizable or new, filters them through prior experiences and emotions, or struggles to keep them fresh and untainted, and finally sends the appropriate impulses to a complex mass of muscles surrounding a structure of bone grasping a tool of relative simplicity or connected to the most intricate electronic devices and creates a mark or a series of interconnected dots that somehow communicate an idea or an impression to another human being and ends up telling a story: a drawing is born.

To me drawing is a matter of the eye, the hand, the head, and the heart and each playing its particular part in that magic that is drawing.

Happy Drawing to everyone!

The Primacy of Drawing by Deanna Petherbridge

Some Blogs I encourage you to visit - excellent artists each.

Daniela Strijleva http://danielastrijleva.blogspot.com/

James Robertson http://theironscythe.blogspot.com/

Dave Pimentel http://drawingsfromamexican.blogspot.com/