“Flexible” describes Atallia Burke’s Saturday morning drawing course for 8- to 12-year-olds. Although she has projects prepared for each class, she will make changes on the fly if her students want to take a different approach or if they express interest in a different subject. Her teaching philosophy: Art has no parameters. When she presents a project she prefers not to give too much direction, recognizing that young students will enjoy an art activity more if they can add their own details, background or colour.
Atallia is in her fourth year of teaching art to children at the KSOA. She usually begins her first class with a new group by asking students what kind of art they like, and then she asks them to draw it. Her purpose is twofold—to discover what interests them and to determine their skill level.
Last Saturday morning, while Atallia’s students were warming up doing pencil drawings on large pieces of newsprint, they told me what they liked about the course and what they had learned. Cameron, a thoughtful 11-year-old who also attended summer art camp, learned how to add detail to his drawings. Sragvi, age 8, who was delightedly showing me a teeny-tiny drawing of herself (recognizable because of the boots), liked that she could use materials different from those offered at her school. Ethan, 11, a fan of digital art creation, learned about perspective and said he had especially enjoyed the class in which he drew a chair with pillows and draped fabric. Molly, also 11, liked the student-teacher ratio (4 to 1 in this course). She learned to draw what she sees, and not what she thinks a thing looks like. She also learned that if she is looser in her movements, drawing is easier. And, finally, she learned to take more time.
The class began as Atallia had her students choose a donkey or an easel in the back room of the school in preparation for the morning’s life drawing activity. She then became the (clothed) model while the young artists used pencil to draw stick figures on newsprint, paying attention to the tilt of shoulders and hips. “What direction is my body moving?” she asked. And later, as she circulated to look at the students’ work: “Great lean!” Then it was my turn to model for a few minutes while Atallia provided individual help. Next, each member of the class took a turn at posing. “It’s a good way to make them conscious of the dynamism of a movement,” Atallia told me. To the students she said, “Draw just the outline of the body. Pay attention to all the bumps. Don’t look at your paper!” The result: Overlapping blind contours in crayon and oil pastel. And all the while students were rotating from donkeys to standing easel in order to get the feel of working at both. Finally, Atallia handed out large sheets of yellow paper. She mounted the dais again, positioned a light source and found a comfortable pose that she held for 10 minutes. Now students could add detail and shadows. Cameron was the last model of the morning. “If you were drawing small, draw big,” Atallia then suggested.
Although there is repetition from course to course in the projects Atallia does, each new set of students approaches them with excitement. She likes nothing better than when her young artists surprise her by going beyond expectations. And she has witnessed growth, in Sragvi, for example, who is taking the course for a second time.
As the class cleaned up before going home, Atallia reminded them, “Make sure you sign your drawings.”
Youth Drawing With Atallia starts up again in the new year on January 19.
Bruce St. Clair juried this year’s Paint the Town! entries, which are currently on display at the WAG. He opened his remarks by saying that the show, although small, displayed high-quality work in terms of composition and skill of execution. Following are excerpts from his feedback to winners and honourable mentions.
Wanda Slawinski, Pawn Shop (acrylic)
“… the artist has exercised her artistic prerogative, choosing viewpoint and positioning of content to create this strong abstract impression of the location ... this brave little painting reveals an adventurous side to her artistic personality.”
Phil Chadwick, Albert Street Alley (oil)
“Cool observation and carefully considered composition are a hallmark of his work … I chose this one because it gives us … an interior view--more intimate than the usual street scene. We can feel we're being enticed to sneak between the houses, see what's really back there; we can't help but be drawn by that white shed.”
Nancy Steele, Albert Street (oil)
“Perhaps what I enjoy the most about this wee piece is the confident brush action, every stroke true to its intent and free of the mud and mess so difficult to avoid in alla prima oil painting … A true impressionist painting, full of light and colour.”
Elizabeth Pulker, At Memorial Pool (lino print)
“… succeeds very well as an abstract design … the fence … obeys the guidelines of composition, directing us to enter rather than keeping us on the outside looking in.”
Cyndy Nute, Dappled Tree (acrylic)
“… effective use of aerial perspective ... the wonderful exuberance of the tree branches contrasts with the serenity of the simple bush shapes, gentle shadows and flat lawn.”
Cindy Mitchell, Beyond the Trees (oil)
“Although the flower bed in the foreground circles around in front of us, it doesn't hinder our footsteps as we follow the grassy pathway into the sunlit interior… a little Pre-Raphaelite leaf painting adds to the illusion of depth.”
Carol Lynne Rice, Darbar Exotic Indian Cuisine (pastel on sanded paper)
“Its darkness actually invites us to look more closely… we discover two people… having a conversation! …The words aren't that easy to read, which is why the balloons manage to become simply an unobtrusive part of the over-all composition.”
It’s Wednesday at 10 minutes to 6 and night has already descended. In the well-lit back room of the KSOA, large easels and pressboards populate the space like an angular forest of bare wood. Gaetanne Lavoie is waiting for her life drawing students and preparing handouts. I am looking forward to the opportunity of flexing my drawing muscles as I pick an easel unobtrusively off to the side. On this night Gaetanne plans to focus on feet and legs. The photocopies she hands out contain sketches of bones and musculature, roughly blocked-in feet, as well as beautifully rendered views of the foot from all angles—from above, from below, foreshortened, and attached to a leg.
A native of Cornwall, Gaetanne came to Kingston a mere month ago after sojourns in various cities, including Toronto, where she did an Honours BFA at York University; San Francisco, where she spent a further four years studying art; and New York City, where she graduated in 2013 from The Academy. “It was like a Ph.D. programme,” says Gaetanne, meaning its student artists had already developed a personal style and direction. In her own practice, Gaetanne was drawn to portraiture and narrative depictions in a magical, somewhat surrealistic environment. Her drawings are finely detailed; her paintings use vibrant colours, “a nice juxtaposition to the traditional limited palette of the New York school,” she says with a smile.
Before coming to Kingston Gaetanne taught in Montreal and New York for 10 years. Teaching offers a balance to her art practice, she tells me. The KSOA is attractive as a school, she says, because of the calibre of its teachers and the positive energy and warm welcome she has been given by both instructors and staff.
After our model, Paul, has struck a seated pose, Gaetanne gives a foot drawing demo, explaining as she draws, moving from outlining simple geometric forms to developing the “character of the foot”, then grounding it with cast shadows. Paul then finds interesting, quick, one-minute poses to give us a warm-up through gesture drawing before he moves on to five-minute and 10-minute poses that allow us to observe more carefully and add detail, keeping in mind foot composition. Gaetanne has prefaced this period of more focussed observation by saying, “Look for value patterns, abstract forms, tangents, shadow shapes.”
Students are working on large sheets of newsprint or in smaller spiral-bound sketchbooks. They fill pages or create overlapping drawings in different areas of a single page. They are here for different reasons—to upgrade their skills, to satisfy their interest, to learn more, to draw more. Lin, a Queen’s student, has a particular goal: she believes a portfolio of anatomical drawings will give her a leg up when she applies for the very competitive neurobiology master’s programme.
During the second half of the class, while I am taken up with documenting, Paul sustains a half-hour pose, allowing the class to concentrate on his lower extremities. Meanwhile, Gaetanne circulates, offering encouragement and suggestions, referring at times to her handouts as scaffolding. “This is a challenge,” she concedes.
As I put away my paper and drawing tools, fully formed feet are starting to appear on the easels and in the sketchbooks of the student artists. I am glad of the chance to participate, however briefly, in Gaetanne’s class. On leaving the KSOA, two of her comments about life drawing stay with me: “Find the parts that you really love,” and “Try using an unforgiving medium like pen. It allows you to see patterns of weakness.” The first encourages us to see beauty; the second, to take risks in the pursuit of mastery.
Gaetanne Lavoie will be offering a 10-week life drawing course starting January 16 and a six-week course dedicated to the study of the head, hands and feet starting February 11.
This month the WAG has rented its walls to CAM (Christian Artists for Missions), a group of eight who, as their web site states, “honour God through the gift of creativity” by “raising funds through the sale of art in support of Christian Missions worldwide.”
The titles of the paintings and drawings on display will give viewers a hint of CAM’s purpose. For example, Margaret Ebdon has titled her landscape The Glory of God (Psalm 19:1), indicating that the scriptures offer links to creative output. In her work we see a horizontal bank of billowing pink and lavender clouds, filling the sky above a simple hilly landscape drawn from Margaret’s memory of a trip to the Lake District in England. I hear rapture in her voice as she describes her oil painting: “Heaven makes us look up—to see clouds, stars, sunrise, sunset. It’s ever changing, never blank. In it, our imaginations can find images and songs. It’s an expression of His creation.”
Cheryl and William Jackson likewise look to nature in their acrylics. When Cheryl sees a beautiful scene, or perhaps a simple flower, or a butterfly, she is reminded of the scriptures. She attributes the beauty and fragrance of nature to the divine. The Earth Sings Praise (Psalm 66:4) depicts a rocky tree-covered shore, which could be anywhere in the Thousand Islands near Cheryl’s home. (It’s actually a lake near Lanark.) Cheryl sees joy in the living trees and reflected light on the water, and interprets these as the rejoicing of creation. William Jackson’s Morning Light (Proverbs 4:18) refers to “steps into the light”. He has painted the view he sometimes sees when he looks out of his current art teacher’s dining room window—a dramatic pink sunrise causing a light blue shadow to be cast by a row of denuded trees on a snow-covered foreground. William describes himself humbly as a student of art who is always learning.
Prophetic Art, God-Breathed Art, Message Art: these are the ways Brenda R. Wright describes her creative output. Among her large acrylic pieces on exhibit, Hallelujah (Psalm 150) stands out for its boldness. What we see is an arrangement of overlapping orange and gold musical instruments, dominated by a guitar, and placed on an impressionistic background of complementary blue. The lively background and positioning of the instruments suggest the sound and flow of music. “Hallelujah is a word that is understood internationally,” explains Brenda, “and it connects praise, or worship, with musical instruments.” Brenda paints while listening to music because “music lifts the soul.” The subject for this painting was a deliberate choice, but Brenda often starts with a blank canvas and waits for divine inspiration.
Inspired Art runs from October 31 to November 25 with a reception on Sunday, November 4, from 2 to 4pm.
Let’s call them Printmakers Ten. An eclectic group of contemporary artists with a penchant for manipulating inks, plates, paper and presses. Their combined efforts have produced a collection of prints ranging from silkscreen through cyanotype to collage, which make up the current exhibition at the WAG.
Of the 10 printmakers whose work is on display, five were on hand Tuesday morning in the gallery, where I chatted with them while they hung close to 50 pieces.
Margaret Bignell is a veteran printmaker and art teacher, an alumna of the now defunct printmaking program at St. Lawrence College, and currently co-ordinator of the Friday morning KSOA Printmaking Open Studio. She likes to explore colour and texture in her collages and monotypes. In Origami III we see transparent overlapping angular shapes in cool colours jutting into the picture plane like shards of glass. Vying for space is a textured triangle of luminous yellow occupying the centre.
In contrast to Margaret’s constructed piece is a monotype by Jane Hamilton-Khaan called Love. Jane, a former commercial artist, lets things develop more loosely on the plate and, after much looking and reflecting, decides how to proceed. In this case, she added the black Japanese character that spells “love”, thereby continuing her series on the theme of humanity. The colours in this print—oranges, yellows and black—are not normally associated with love, but their warmth and strength allude to this very human emotion.
Seven of the 10 printmakers on view work in the KSOA Open Studio, where they can create prints using a variety of tools. Kym Fenlon-Spazuk, who is also a portrait painter, has chosen woodcut for one of her pieces entitled Iceberg Triptych, a study in shape and composition. Chipping away progressively at a wooden block is a technique she really likes, although she also does drypoint and makes monotypes. Kym is “trying it all” to find the best fit for the representational subjects she favours.
Wendy Cain, a retired Associate Professor of Art and Past Chair of Printmaking at OCAD, lives and practises her art in Newburgh. She has participated in more than 230 group exhibitions as a printmaker and papermaker. In this exhibition she shows three pairs of screen prints that, to some degree, rely on serendipity. They are gestural works, almost calligraphic, inspired by the changing seasons, evoking the movement of wind and, in Summer Pond (paired with Summer), capturing the reflections of light on water. To make these pairs, Wendy created an image on a screen and then added ink in different ways to each one to produce two unique but related prints.
As the theme for his works Ian Kennedy chose fashion—something he claims he knew nothing about. Once he launched the idea, however, his creativity was stoked. The resulting drypoint prints--enhanced by chine collé or a collographic layer of colour-- with insightfulness and humour touch on fashion’s trends, its tyranny, its elitism, its superficiality and its domination of glossy magazine advertising pages. Kennedy’s images allude to fashion icons such as the little black dress, the bathing suit, the runway and the photo shoot model. Remnants of the Rag Trade was inspired by Japanese street fashion.
Kingston Printmakers are Susan Beyette, Margaret Bignell, Wendy Cain, Barb Carr, Kym Fenlon-Spazuk, Jane Hamilton-Khaan, Shirley Kalfin, Ian Kennedy, Elizabeth Pulker and Jenny Raymond.
Hot Off the Press continues until October 28 with a reception on October 21, 2 to 4 p.m.
Walking in the street, walking in a landscape, walking through her imagination—all lead to a form of artistic expression for Emebet Belete.
To welcome visitors during the reception for her show this month, Emebet wore a traditional Ethiopian costume made of shemma, a cotton that is grown in her native country and woven into gauze-like or crêpe-like fabric. Her long white dress with shirred bodice was covered by a wrap with a border of bands of green, yellow and red, the colours of the Ethiopian flag.
Indeed, Emebet’s artworks reflect ties to her birthplace. Her series of female portraits, often back or side views that show head coverings and hairstyles, are a kind of homage to Ethiopia. The paintings were created after she attended an Ethiopian New Year’s celebration in Toronto. The streets, which had been closed off, were filled with her people, and she revelled in the festivities and the familiarity.
White is emblematic of Ethiopian dress, but for Emebet it also brings to mind winter, a season she had never experienced before coming to Canada, although one she finds beautiful and inspirational. In her series of white canvasses with names such as Together, Gratitude, Forward, The Lake Calls, she has let her imagination dictate the subtly textured white forms that are embedded on a white or pale blue ground.
Spring Beckons also falls into the white series, but its genesis differs. For five years Emebet worked in China as a primary art teacher at an international school. While there she witnessed the blooming of the white cherry blossoms of spring. But she also discovered the smooth white rice paper that is made in China, as well as the textured coloured rice papers of Japan and Korea. The former has found its way into the white series; the latter add colourful textural elements to her birch tree collages.
Emebet considers the changing of the seasons an exciting event. In her series that incorporates birch bark she has created a forest of bare trunks, repeated, rearranged, enlarged, miniaturized, marching through the colour spectrum of spring, summer, winter and fall. In looking at the exhibition as a whole I couldn’t decide whether they accentuated the white series or the other way round. I understood clearly, however, that in this grouping of works Emebet has displayed her attachment to place: Canada, then China, punctuated with a nod to Ethiopia.
The Language of Walking continues until September 30.
Two photographic series, two approaches. One conceptual, one more abstract. Both rely on a variety of artificial lighting—outside at night using a flashlight with a diffuser; in the studio from below or using a light box.
For his first solo exhibition, 21-year-old William Carroll has chosen five images from his “Congealed” series and five from the series entitled “Above”. The latter includes three close-ups of natural objects, but there’s a twist. William has manipulated the colour spectrum as well as the focus to produce dusky, unnatural images. The remaining two photos in the series, in black and white, show unrecognizable manufactured objects shot to create intriguing abstract shapes.
The “Congealed” series looks at food in an entirely novel, if initially off-putting, way. Each image focuses on one vegetable or piece of fruit. If viewers can get past the congealed green goop (William’s word) covering the broccoli, the past “best before” banana, the oozing Nappa cabbage that looks like layers of mucous membrane, they will be rewarded with the visual interest William has created in the slickness of the artichoke, the shape and movement of the cabbage leaves, the richness of the white banana, the beauty of the Dragon fruit, the texture of the broccoli. Hung in staggered fashion in one corner of the gallery, the series draws the eye and pulls in the viewer.
A word about the goop. William explained that it was a cornstarch-sugar mixture, boiled and applied with a paintbrush, pressed onto the objects, or thrown at the objects. Because it was extremely hot, it cooked the objects just a bit. And then the objects were put in the freezer before they entered the light box where the goopy glaze truly came into its own.
William became interested in photography in Grade 9 when, being bored in the middle of the night, he took random cell phone pictures. His high school curriculum was based on arts-related courses. In 2012, he proudly told me, he was in the top 50 of an international competition entitled “Children’s Eye on Earth”. Now, as a full-time artist, he continues to work at night when it’s easier to achieve the effects of technical lighting. Because he’s autistic, William likes working alone, in a quiet space, away from the brightness of daylight.
“Photography is a way of showing people how I see the world,” he said. His work can be seen online at greenmothphotography.myportfolio.com.
“Congealed” and “Above” continue until September 1.
After hanging his work at the WAG yesterday, Gary Barnett laid out six hand-held magnifying glasses beside the richly colourful booklet of his paintings called A Closer Look. Gallery Director Marsha Gormley and I each picked up a glass, positioned it over a small section of one of Gary’s paintings, and marvelled at what it revealed—minute details that brought to mind structures at a cellular level and, at the same time, cosmic formations on a grand scale.
“I’m inspired by nature in the sense that all life is energy and chemistry. But rather than copying nature, I try to recreate the energy of its continual regeneration.”
Gary works in thematic series in his art practice. Synthesis explores the effects of colour in sometimes dramatic ways. Starlight is a series inspired by galaxies, while the Pearl series uses opalescent paint in delicate underwater hues of blues and greens. Essence of Pearl won an Honorable Mention at the recent KSOA juried exhibition.
“I was proud and happy to win that award,” said Gary. “I only started painting again five years ago after a 30-year break. When I painted in this style (poured paint) in the 70s and 80s, I wasn’t recognized by galleries and couldn’t get into juried shows. My wife (then girlfriend), Lynn, encouraged me to take up making art again. I had forgotten how much I loved painting and how exciting it is to create.”
Indeed, Gary was smiling the whole time as he explained his method of working with acrylics. Once he has chosen colours, he mixes them with a commercial acrylic paint thinner, which, unlike water, prevents bleeding. Then, the addition of a small amount of silicone produces an oil-and-water effect similar to marbling. Finally, he adds a product called Floetrol to create chemical reactions in the paint. Wearing headphones and listening to New Age music, Gary pours the paint onto canvas or panel, then makes it move with air from a hair blower. Or drags it manually with plastic sheets or butcher paper, following along with the music he hears, sometimes in control, sometimes not. Videos on his web site (www.garybarnett.ca) document the evolution of some of his paintings.
Gary is currently experimenting with layers of liquid glass to produce works in the series that he calls Timeless. Three pieces from this series, along with 26 paintings from other series, are now on view.
Just as I was preparing to leave the WAG, Atallia Burke, instructor at the KSOA art camp, brought her young students into the gallery and encouraged them to pick up a magnifying glass to take a closer look at the artwork. Which they enthusiastically did.
A Closer Look goes until Sunday, August 19. A reception will take place on August 12 from 2 to 4pm.
During the well-attended reception for the Juried Exhibition and Sale the winners were announced as follows:
First Prize—Teri Wing for “Pink”
Second Prize—Danielle Ouellet for “Intuition #1”
Third Prize—Alex Jack for “Marsh, Rocky Hillside and Overcast”
Honourable Mentions went to Gary Barnett, Phileen Dickenson, Ian Kennedy, Jane Hamilton-Khaan, Sylvia Naylor, Danielle Ouellet, Liz Rappaport, Nancy Steele and Teri Wing.
THE JURY IS IN: A successful blend of styles, media and skill
By the time the deadline for entries into the KSOA Juried Exhibition and Sale rolled around, the school had received 138 submissions from 65 artists. On Monday came the difficult task of whittling the entries down to 61—the 61 that will hang on the walls of the gallery from June 29 to July 29. On hand were co-ordinator Margaret Brackley, along with Mary Lou Jaansalu and Nancy Ball, who moved paintings from back room to hallway to gallery as the works were chosen.
Judges Bruce St. Clair, Evelyn Rapin and Lori St. Clair tackled the job with coloured dots in hand. The works that received three dots were automatically in the show. Those with one or two were further scrutinized until all of the choices were unanimous. Judges were looking for works that successfully expressed the artists’ intentions: important were colour harmonization, use of space, technique, originality, and authenticity in the case of figurative works.
All three judges have long careers as professional artists and all three work in different styles. Bruce, one of Canada’s foremost realist painters, favours representational subjects, but appreciates many art expressions; Evelyn’s work veers toward abstract expressionism—her paintings are often inspired by music; Lori, whose background is in graphic design, currently works in more than 10 different media--including brush markers--used for tangling, illustration and calligraphy. Grounded by experience, intuition therefore also played a role in how the judges assembled the final pieces for the show.
“In choosing works we are recognizing individuality. Each one represents personality, “ said Bruce. “A show such as this is a form of recognition and encouragement for artists in the region.” When it came time to choose the prize winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd and nine honourable mentions), the judges likewise took into account medium, support and mastery of technique. Prizewinners will be announced on Saturday, July 7, at 3pm, during the reception that takes place in the gallery from 2 to 5pm.