Thursday, February 12, 2009

new projects...

Don't you just love it when you get something wonderful and unexpected in the mail? That happened to me today. I received this special drawing and I can't tell you how delighted I am. The artist is our new sponsored child. This is the first contact we have had with her. Our former child has turned eighteen and has graduated from the program. We were assigned a new child and I have been eager to start a relationship. So the journey begins...

Whatever I had on my to do list for the weekend has now been bumped - I can't wait to send off a letter and some drawings of my own. While it is sad to have one relationship end, I am looking forward to having a young child again. Milagro lives in El Salvador and she will turn eight in just a few weeks. We already have a lot in common - she likes to draw, coloured pencil is her medium of choice and she loves to draw flowers (if you have visited the gallery of my website, you will know that I love drawing flowers too). We are kindred spirits already! :-) And, she want to do well in school so she can be a school teacher when she grows up. Well, hey I teach art...

So my new projects are to create some drawings for Milagro and I think it is time I learned a bit of Spanish so I can write some of my letter to her in her own language. Translators are provided but I think it would be fun to try Spanish myself. I speak French, (enough to write a child anyway) but we have never had a child from a French speaking country. We once had a child from Malawi. I loved getting letters from her family as her Uncle could speak some English and he would painstakingly write out letters telling us about their lives. For the record, I did say a bit of Spanish...that is a big enough project for now!

I attended another art club meeting last night. We had a second night of critiques. If you missed my report on critiquing your work following the last meeting, you can click here to have a read. The guest was Svetlana Swinimer. Her analysis of each painting was very good and she was amazingly fast in summing up the strength and weaknesses of each piece. I know that when jurors look at slides or digital images, they often view them for just seconds before moving on to the next one. After watching Svetlana, I know that a quick accurate reading is possible.

Here are some of her thoughts:

- Even if a piece was quite good, she would ask us "What is missing?" Asking this question revealed ways the piece could be taken to a new level.

- She asked us to honestly compare our work to an other's. If our art were to appear next to someone else's art, would ours "collapse"?

- Artists must always be growing and not "riding on the backs of others". We must be "discovering new territory or we are not artists". Our desire should be to grow, not to create "pretty paintings".

- Like last time, she picked up on boring shadows. Shadows were either not cool enough or did not have interesting colours.

- She stressed doing study pieces. Do grisailles to practice volume techniques. Practice painting with just one light colour and one dark. Learn to see gradations well.

- Her main teaching was to look for warm, cool, dark and light. She said this was very important. For example, a warm painting needs a bit of cool colours in order to stand out and be noticed.

- She suggested limiting the colours used. Use two complementary colours and then only neutrals. She thought a couple of the pieces were guilty of having too many colours.

- She stressed planning out relationships before you start to paint. For example decide how the sky will relate to the water, and the water to the land. How will the buildings relate to the land? What will be dominate, what will be dark, what will be warm, cool etc.?

- Make sure that there is a "conversation" between the elements of your painting. This dialogue across the painting can be achieved through colour harmony. Don't let parts of your painting become "isolated".

- Don't over analyse why you are doing a piece. Once you have started a work, follow your intuition.

- She cautioned the audience on following photo references too literally. As artists we need to make decisions regarding colour and composition. When we accept what we see in the photo, our art suffers and we don't learn. I couldn't agree more. To many cp artists over rely on photos.

- One area that she stressed caused me to really think. She felt strongly that a painting should only contain one set of complements. So for example if a painting has reds and greens, it should not also contain purples and yellows. She felt that two of the paintings were guilty of this and that they suffered because of it. One was a lovely bright abstract painting and the other was another contemporary work filled with graphic elements and it reminded me of Cubism. Her argument was that using two sets of complements "upset the viewer's nervous system" and left viewers unsettled. She did comment that some artists used this intentionally, to have a sort of shocking effect but she wasn't a fan of this approach. I did not agree with this idea, especially when viewing the two paintings she thought suffered because of this. I found them very interesting, bold, engaging, bright and warm. The two sets of complements didn't seem to be having an adverse effect on my nervous system. :-) I pondered this on the drive home and then went to my studio and got out some art books that I knew had pictures of my favourite paintings. Yup, two sets of complements all over the place...and these are master painters not amateurs. So I guess I will happily differ in my opinion and I will just hope that jurors that look at my work share my type of nervous system and not hers!

All in all, another very interesting experience watching and listening to someone critique art.

You have probably heard that the pieces juried into the Coloured Pencil Society of America's Explore This exhibition can now be viewed. If you missed this announcement, this exhibit featuring coloured pencil and mixed media, can be viewed on-line. Just click here.

Finally, last week I was given a blog award by Jan Gibson. It took me so long to accept the award that coloured pencil artist Laura Hardie also gave me the award! So I have better get on the ball here...thank you ladies - I appreciate your support and your kindness. As part of accepting this award, I am to list seven things I love...(I apologize in advance for my rather boring list) :-)

1) I am madly in love with my husband. I have been since I was 16. I guess family and friends can squeeze into #1.
2) Art, big surprise right? I love all media, all styles and I love learning about art, looking at art and creating art.
3) Animals. I love my dog and all the animals I have been privileged to share my life with in the past. I love wild animals and domestic ones and I love learning about them.
4) I love music. Right up there with art really. I was a music major in university and I love all sorts of music - classical is my favourite genre.
5) I love to sing. Sort of goes with #4. I love sight singing new choral works (this challenge is a real joy for me). My favourite works to sing are Masses in Latin or German, (usually those composed during the Baroque and Classical periods). For the curious, I sing 2nd Alto - tenor for fun and soprano only in the privacy of my home. Why are sopranos so fun to parody? :-)
6) I love walking in nature. I do this everyday with my dog. It makes my day.
7) I love elemental weather. Which is good because of #6. I love the smell of rain, the sound of wind, the feeling of warm or cool air on my skin, I love the sight of falling snow and I love fog.

So that's it. A long post but if you have hung in this far and you would like to know more about child sponsorship you can visit the World Vision website here. For less than the cost of a daily cup of Starbuck's coffee, you can help a child receive medical care, an education, buy supplies for their school and for their playground. Sometimes the problems in this world seem overwhelming but you can make a difference, a very important difference for one special child. If World Vision doesn't suit you, there are lots of other similar programs. Just do a google search...


CountryDreaming said...

Felicitaciones para esta nueva etapa de compartir su vida con Milagro! * sonrisas y buenos saludos *

Translation: Congratulations on this new stage of sharing your life with Milagro! * smiles and good greetings *

I can relate. I'm godmother to a little girl that my sister and her husband went to Colombia to adopt. :-)

If ever you need help translating a few words or phrases, please feel welcome to call on me.

(Will now leave an art comment in a separate posting, if that's all right.)

Teresa Mallen said...

Thanks so much for your offer of help! I might just need it! Con gracias anticipadas...

CountryDreaming said...

Svetlana Swinimer's critiques are immensely helpful and thought-provoking, however much one agrees or disagrees with the comments themselves.

She states: - Artists must always be growing and not "riding on the backs of others". We must be "discovering new territory or we are not artists". Our desire should be to grow, not to create "pretty paintings".

It seems that Svetlana is here encouraging artists to find or evolve into their own unique style. So far, so good.

But what's this about discovering new territory as mandatory, an absolute insistence and focus on growing, and downplaying art as the pursuit of beauty? How self-conscious should we be before the "taking ourselves seriously as artists" interferes with the creative process? And what about painting or photographing or playing around in Photoshop as we like to produce something that personally pleases us to look at, should we reduce that to a guilty pleasure?

As to the boring shadows, I agree completely with Svetlana Swinimer and the critic previously featured in this blog. Bring on that tiny hint of suspense and intrigue to captivate the imagination.

On following photo references too closely, Svetlana makes me smile since I'm a photographer ... Because I agree with her. My entire goal is to present what my mind sees, not what the camera sees. If the two happen to resonate, all well and good. If not, time to pull out the good old artistic license and use it.

As far as the number of color complements in a photo, I agree with you Teresa Mallen in that if renowned painters didn't follow a set limit, then the limit is definitely up for debate. Maybe one set of complements is the current fashion?

Jessica Martiele said...

I know little about drawing, but as far as helping a child, I'm with you there. Thank you...I was going to ask what foundation you used if you hadn't mentioned it.

God bless!

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Country Dreaming, your are a blogger's dream reader. :-) You actually read a post thoroughly and then you took the time to make a thoughtful comment. Thank you very much!!

I think it is safe to say that Svetlana has a bias towards a rather specific version of art. Svetlana is a unique artist - she creates installation art(3D stainless steel sculptures, holograms, etc.) and for the past five years her work has been influenced by science - black holes, string theory and space/time. She is passionate about the expressive side of art as opposed to creating pretty pictures for our living rooms. Her comments reflect this perspective.

I think there is room for it all in this world. Yes, even the pretty art and the art that is done for our enjoyment. She did say that she saw her role as our guest speaker as being someone who was there to push us to new levels in our art. Given that the audience was made up of artists who show and sell their work and who want to improve, I think she was right to take this approach.

There is also the fact that pretty art is often art that sells! :-)

I think it is up to each individual artist to find their own voice and style. Grow, learn, be willing to experiment and if along the way you create some pretty pictures, well so be it. It's all good! Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

Thank you Jessica for your kind words. Of course the wonderful thing is that when we reach out to make a difference, we are blessed too.