Marta Scythes tells little stories, makes fun of herself, and has no qualms about saying “Cool!” when one of her demos looks pretty great. She’s been teaching pen and ink techniques for years, and last Sunday marked her 20th using her engaging teaching style in aid of the KSOA. Marta’s workshop paid tribute to Helen Stannard, who was a founding member of the art school and a studio member in Marta’s printmaking class at St. Lawrence College before the visual arts program there was cancelled.
I, along with eight other men and women, had signed up. Spending a day drawing with pen and ink was a good way to support the school, I thought, and to rekindle an interest in a medium I had used early in my career as a graphic artist. Back in the 80s my first professional income came from doing editorial cartoons and illustrations for small magazines and newspapers. So, out came my 30-year-old bottles of India ink (with caps that needed a good soaking to loosen), pen nibs, nib holders, pencils (4H to 6B), soft-brush pen, hard-nibbed pens (0.3 and 0.5), sketchbook and paper.
Okay, so some of these items were more recent acquisitions, and some I didn’t even use during the workshop. Too busy. Marta introduced us to 10 pen and ink textures; she had us making small tonal studies using whichever texture we fancied, and then we created a complementary decorative border; she had us drawing with sticks (see the accompanying sketch); we laid down ink like watercolour; she had us spraying our paper with water before and after drawing to create sometimes moody, sometimes unpredictable, and sometimes uncannily realistic trees, creatures and faces.
“Open workshop for the next half hour,” Marta would call out as we went back to our spots after a demo. Some of us had brought photos to use as reference material. I spent some time creating spontaneous images that allowed me to stand and move—my preferred method of making marks on paper. But then I buckled down and found a corkscrew to draw. It provided a suitable challenge and prompted me to use a tool I hadn’t really mastered—a soft-brush pen.
By 4pm each of us had a small portfolio of pen and ink drawings using various techniques, all different according to our own styles and interests. Thank you, Marta, for your initiative, generosity and enthusiasm.
Walking into the WAG this morning I’m not sure whether I’m in an art gallery or on a construction site. A table is covered with tools and there are bits of green painter’s masking tape stuck on one wall, where a plumb bob hangs from a piece of cardboard. Clive Elson has his measuring tape out, while Tanya Elson takes down numbers and makes calculations. Meanwhile, Bruce Millen is overseeing, wearing a leather tool belt. It’s all in preparation for hanging the 27 photos—some black and white, some colour—that make up the annual juried exhibition of the Kingston Photographic Club.
This year’s theme is “Kingston in Focus”, so, naturally, visitors will see iconic shots of the city, albeit through lenses that look for uniqueness, as well as shots of lesser known but equally compelling views: on the waterfront, in the street, inside or outside buildings, sometimes peopled, more often not. Most of the photographs have standard mounts, but there are also a couple of canvas wraps and an acrylic mount, which traps light in the top Plexiglass layer to enhance the image. One photograph is printed on aluminum, which radiates light through the image from behind.
The Kingston Photographic Club has been around for 50 years. This year, it has about 85 adult members of all ages, but mostly “a lotta grey”, says Bruce Millen, who is in charge of the annual exhibition. The club meets twice a month from September to May, hosts 12 speakers, organizes outings, and launches three competitions a year. Like most other members, Bruce enjoys the interaction and feedback that the club provides. Visitors to this juried exhibition will be encouraged to vote for their favourite photo, and awards for the top three will be given out at a club meeting after the show. Winners will be announced in this blog.
As I’m leaving the gallery, a cadre of mostly masculine members of the club arrives to help out, while Clive’s meticulous preparations continue. “I’m a scientist,” he explains. Precision matters, and hanging will go that much more smoothly. The exhibition continues until April 28, with a reception on Sunday, April 8, from 1 to 4pm.
The Kingston Photo Club's annual exhibition is now up! This year the theme is "Kingston in Focus", and the photos present beautiful and in some cases unusual depictions of our home city.
The show is on until April 29, with a reception on April 8 from 1 - 4 p.m.
On Saturday, March 10, the Thousand Islands Fine Art Association launched its exhibition and sale with an opening reception at the WAG. On hand were many of the artists whose work was on display. I spoke with several of them about the pieces they had chosen and their creative process.
Layne Larsen, a former pilot and engineer, has been painting since the age of 10. Like another wildlife painter, John James Audubon, he creates detailed watercolour vignettes of birds. Layne paints in two-hour spurts. His vignettes each require two sessions; however, for the painting entitled Drying the Feathers, he needed 12 to 15 hours to render the intricate black and white pattern created by the loon’s outspread wings. Layne’s subjects are not limited to wildlife. He tackles people, animals, landscapes, in a word, “everything.” At the moment he is working on large paintings in acrylic of historic planes for the aviation museum on the Borden military base north of Toronto.
Margaret Ebdon is a newcomer to artistic expression, which she describes in this way: “You see something in a particular way and you just have to put it on paper.” She is interested in exploring different subjects. Among her contributions is a tight, realistic still life of two cups of Tim Hortons coffee on two colourful napkins, symmetrically placed and backed by a box of Timbits. On the wall opposite we see a looser portrait of a seagull perched on driftwood. While Time for Timbits was based on an arrangement Margaret set up at home, Solitude required a bit of trial and error before the artist settled on an imaginary seascape as the setting for her gull, which was based on a photograph.
A former fibre artist, Catharina Breedyk Law switched to painting three years ago when she discovered she had an allergy to … fibres! Today she creates colourful works on paper that are “accessible, not too expensive, and uplifting.” Fantasy Bouquet began as shapes of liquid watercolour that became fanciful flowers when defined by coloured inks. More shapes and washes became textured vase and table. The background was then overpainted with a thin layer of white gouache. To further enhance the bouquet, decorative elements and rhythmic strands of leaves were added. The result: a free-flowing mixed media tapestry with vestiges of Catharina’s former medium in the French knots she attached to the central disks of some of the flowers and the individual strands of fibre that in some places act as petals. “Flowers,” says Catharina, “represent grace and joy.”
Along the River, an acrylic by Beth Bailey, was painted by adding swathes of blues and turquoise in layers punctuated by gold and red to create a lustrous, hazy landscape. Beth achieves the same effect in the subtly textured pink and greens of Tulips, in which the flowers flank a golden yellow background to form a luminous V-shaped negative space.