Saturday, February 16, 2008

Week Twenty-One - February 11-15, 2008

Art Centre - Week Twenty-One

Week two of semester two of year one - four days of classes.

Monday Morning – Printmaking

I intended to get started with printing of my two etchings but I was in an altered state when I got to class – this stemming from a fall on my way to school. We’ve had a lot of snow and it is now loosely arranged over solid patches of ice. I managed nearly four blocks of treacherous terrain and was almost at the art building when I went down, my spiked can flying. Fortunately the school yard was well populated with students on their way to their first class and with the help of three young men, I was able to get to my feet but I was pretty shaken and in a bit of pain. I fell forward and my parka helped cushion the landing somewhat but I was badly bruised on the right side, my arm sprained (but not broken!).

This patch of ice and others nearby became the site of many falls during the week. Four in my class went down. The guys who stood around this area told me that they had counted 13 fallers one morning before class. And there is more snow and sub-zero weather in the future forecast. Happily for me, two of my classmates who drive to school each day have begun taking turns – one picks me up before class and delivers me to school and the other drops me off after class. It’s been such a big help – the stress level has dropped considerably regarding my daily commute to school. I live the closest of anyone in my class but until the roads and sidewalks get thawed out, it seems like the longest distance to me.

But back to printmaking class. I finally calmed down and got busy with measuring and tearing watercolour paper in preparation for etching. I did one practice printing of the etching of E. in painting class and realized that I need to do more work with that plate for it to really be interesting. My teacher is going to help me with an aquatint so I can darken the background behind E. and his easel.

At home I have been researching various printmaking artists and have come upon a very good resource giving websites of contemporary Canadian artists who are active in printmaking (for many it is but one of their media). I have found a number of women artists across Canada and have selected thirty four whose work intrigues me. I will need to narrow this down. So far, I have grouped them by province noting their specialty (monotypes, etching, woodcuts, collagraphs, aquatints, etc.) and have also noted which ones also teach. I’ve tracked down the various printmaking centres or collectives in the various provinces as well. I only have 10-15 minutes to make my presentation and I’ll have a handout. I plan to create a website to accompany the presentation so the class can investigate those whose work I have listed without going into details. I plan to perhaps do a “Contemporary Canadian Women Printmakers: Four Regions” British Columbia, the middle provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern Provinces. I’ve not found any examples yet for Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Monday Afternoon – Ceramics

We displayed the pieces we crafted last week using the pinch method. The teacher commented on many of the pieces and happily he found positive things to say about the piece I was pleased with. Most of us had highs and lows to consider. We were shown the coil method for creating a piece and let loose to create a better version of our best piece using this method.

First a small slab is formed as the base then coils are added. It is the best idea to form a number of coils before starting to build. Ideally the coils are all of a similar shape, uniformly even and appropriately sized for the size of the piece. It’s good to keep them wrapped up to stay moist during the work. Slip is used between the coils after scraping treads in the lower coil. I struggled with several aspects of the project. It took me some time to get close to making acceptable coils of clay. I misinterpreted the use of slip and used it as if plastering over the inside and outside of the piece I was building. This made the clay much too wet and it would not hold its shape. The teacher worked with me to get a new start on the piece using a correct method of attaching coils with minimal slip applied.

By this time it was time to clean up. My inspirational piece, coils and started piece were all wrapped in plastic hopefully well enough to keep for some time as next week we have the new holiday, Family Day and no classes. This means that the next time I am in ceramics class is two weeks away.

Tuesday – Design

We were given back our first assignment where we reviewed the four types of line: 1. gesture, 2. construction, 3. contour and 4. Cross-contour. The assignment for the day was to create a table showing ways of shading – bar shadows, cross hatching and stipple. We were shown a number of illustrations employing these methods. Using a very fine black marker, we drew three columns each having 10 stacked cells. Going up from most dense to least dense (or going down from lightest to darkest shading) we set to work. The most difficult part was getting noticeable differences in shading with each method and having all three transitions similarly.

Our next challenge will be to draw an object (of our choosing) using all three methods of shading.

WednesdayDrawing Fundamentals

We continued to work on our organic pencil drawing during class. As we worked, the teachers told us stories, one of which I found quite interesting. At one time he played the part of Jackson Pollack before student audiences and later traveled with other actors on tours of schools, the focus being biographical enactments of major artists. I was at times distracted in that I wanted to listen to him telling us stories and on the other hand, when I did, I had less concentration on the drawing under my pencil.

The next assignment (to be done out of class) is a true brain teaser. We are to draw one picture of “something in front of nothing” and a second one of “nothing in front of something”. So I will be completing the organic painting as well as doing what I can with this assignment in the days ahead.

Thursday Painting.

My oil painting of the Barbados woman has to wait for improvements. The entire period was spent in the staff room on the first floor. Seated on benches around two sides of the room, we watched as the teacher talked with us about the concept of “abstract” art. Given that all art is abstract to some extent, we went back in time to early days with modern art – Kandinsky and Bauhaus influences.

Non-objective art emerged notably with the symbolists in Europe and the realist school in Russia. Picasso’s Three Musicians led the slide show of art works through the century. Other artists referred to: Ashley Gorky, Malevich, Mondrian, Ellsworth Kelly, Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Marc Rothko, Joseph Alpers, Morris Lewis, Robert Motherwell, Clifford Still, Milton Avery, Adolf Gottlieb, Jeffrey Steele and Bridget Riley.

Clearly this is a part of teaching painting that engages our teacher and he talked about the painters and paintings in ways that kept our attention throughout the showing of slides and accompanying remarks.

I have purchased a 30X36” canvas for my abstract painting. We’ll be able to use gouache in the various drafts proposed for the painting. As well I’ll be completing the changes to my current canvas of the Bridgetown woman.

Looking ahead

We have a four-day weekend due to the Monday being the new Family Holiday given the citizens of Ontario by the Premier. In addition to working on my drawings and research into printmakers, I want to revisit the online gallery that is featuring my favourite artist from last summer’s Art Show in Nathan Phillip’s Square.

Each summer I go to the site listing all of the artists who will be showing in this three day exhibition. I choose my list of artists to visit based on examples of their work and plan my three days like a safari. Here is last summer’s site: and I see that there is currently a show of the best of that exhibition – until February 29 at the FCP Gallery 100 King Street West Monday to Friday, 11am-3pm.

But here as I close this week's blog is information about the artist I voted for as Best of Show last summer:

Subject: Julie Liger-Belair at Dale Smith Gallery

We could all use a little divine intervention in our lives and Julie Liger-Belair's fanciful domestic deities may be just the thing!

DALESMITHGALLERY is pleased to present Sardine Saints and Dustpan Gods, an exhibition of recent mixed media works by Toronto artist Julie Liger-Belair.

Using fabric, thread, old photographs and found objects Ms. Liger-Belair constructs tantalizing narratives that explore the ties that bind us together.

Wooden boxes and tins, molds and baroque metal objects form the bases for these whimsical pieces. Assembled together or on their own, they become little altar pieces and homes for the many saints and mythological entities that choose to inhabit them.

Come ... enjoy the magic!

Feb 8 - Mar 2, 2008 Julie Liger-Belair - Sardine Saints & Dustpan Gods

DALESMITHGALLERY is pleased to present Sardine Saints and Dustpan Gods, an exhibition of recent mixed media works by Toronto artist Julie Liger-Belair.

Wooden boxes and tins, molds and baroque metal objects form the bases for these whimsical pieces. Piled on top of each other or on their own, they become little altar pieces and homes for the many saints and mythological entities that choose to inhabit them.

Awake… a scratching in the kitchen. I enter bleary-eyed. Caught in the act, Sense freezes, then takes a running leap out the window, leaving Common slouching in the corner staring stupidly at his feet. Something lurking in the toaster grabs hold of my probing fork and burns my toast. Poseidon, sleeping obliviously amongst the sardines, almost gets eaten in my sandwich. Curiosity flutters around my head and leads me to the pantry. I peer into the dimness and in wonder witness a new Idea being born

Julie Liger-Belair Biography

Julie Liger-Belair lives in Toronto, where she attended the Ontario College of Art and Design. Since completing her program there, she has participated in group shows at A.W.O.L Gallery, OCAD Gallery in Toronto, Project Spaceman Gallery in New York and solo shows at Dale Smith Gallery in Ottawa and C1 Artspace in Toronto. She has also participated in the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition for the past six years. Apart from her solo work, Julie designs children’s environments and gives art classes to children.

Artist Statement

Stories, legends, dreams and the surrealist worlds they evoke have always been a part of the human experience; a way for us to make sense of our surroundings and to explain away some of our fears. As a child these were the things that most captured my imagination and seem to have woven themselves into the fabric of my personality. I am a collector at heart, constantly collecting bits of ideas and fragments of objects, all with their own little whispered stories to tell (a bent spoon will remember a summer picnic and a discarded button was once happily married to three others). By combining these in different ways in assemblage pieces, they form new narratives and meanings of their own.

For the past few years, I have mainly been producing mixed-media pieces using painting, printmaking, papier-mâché, polymer clay and metal. In more recent work I have been collaging old found photographs, finding that these, in of themselves, evoke stories and feelings of nostalgia. In the very latest series of works, I have chosen the expression ‘We are all strange birds’ as an underlying theme for my imagery. This expression lends itself well to flights of fancy and evokes strong symbols and reflections on the human spirit in all its complexity.

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