Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Small Wonder!

December 13, 2012


Low Tide, Bob Wakefield, 11×14. oil on canvas


Prada, Bob Wakefield, Oil on Canvas, 14×18 inches

Normally, I wouldn’t post a painting complete with frame, but these two paintings just beg for frame recognition. The paintings by themselves would just not be the same.

Bob Wakefield is one of about  20 artists in the Fort Gallery artists collective in Fort Langley, B.C. The show Small Wonder! is the pre-Christmas, salons-style exhibit that allows the artists to bring out their non-series paintings, their small works, trials, sketches, etc. They are beautiful and they are affordable.

Wakefield was originally a student of Susan Falk, who is also with the gallery, and they work in thick impasto and expressionist style.  Falk’s is showing some farm-related imagery – a painting of a red barn, a large drawing of a sunflower, and a painting of her beautiful little iris-rimmed pond that is just big enough for a small row boat and a gaggle of geese. Pond Study is loose and dramatic with autumn colours contrasting with an ultramarine blue.

051 (Small)

Pond Study, Susan Falk. 24×12, oil on canvas

033 (Small)  034 (Small)

Two paintings from the series “From the bus: Coquihalla“, Veronica Plewman, each 6×8 inches, acrylic on board.

Plewman is showing 6 paintings from the series, “From the Bus: Coquihalla”.  The paintings describe the area near Merritt and Kamloops in British Columbia where the highway cuts through the mountain pass on Highway 5.  Plewman has captured the wonderful quality of colour that sings through a snowy landscape where, to the unschooled eye, one might be excused to think that there was just white and dark. She paints the blues, rusts, ceruleans and yellow greens that sparkle through when a bit of winter sunshine illuminates the hills. In these small paintings, she manages to describe the mightiness of the mountains and the detail of soft fog captured between the hills or a stand of bare alder with their raw umber branches. These are simply jewels of craftsmanship and vision.

039 (Small)

Search, Bloom, Shine, and Drift,  four prints by Edith Krause, , approximately 9×12 or 10×10 inches.

Several of Edith Krause’s small prints from “The Butterfly Effect” series are available in the show. I wrote about them recently so if you would like to see samples of those, go looking back a post or two.  Search, Bloom Shine and Drift are new works to the gallery and have quite a different feel to them. Krause creates prints with great attention not only to the inherent ecological message but also to the texture and surface qualities of her work. She pays great attention to finishing detail. These works are simply  perfect in craftsmanship.

050 (Small)

“Inukshuk” Pat Barker, Acrylic and Mirror on board. Approximately 8×8 inches.

With Inukshuk, Pat Barker gives us a preview of her upcoming show. She experiments with materials and includes bits of mirror in her design, enhancing the feeling of ice and snow.

040 (Small)

Carolina Poplars, France, Kristin Krimmel, gouache,  6×8 inches approx,

There are a number of works by artist Kristin Krimmel. This early gouache of hers describes the lines of trees along the roadside in France in the Department of the Marne.  Another landscape she offers is a watercolour of a farmhouse near Montpellier. It’s inspiration in style is an adaptation of the pointillists method or working. By overlapping small strokes of pure colour she blends and nuances the image to represent the special heat and light qualities of the Languedoc region on the Mediterranean.

042 (Small)

The Mas, Kristin Krimmel, watercolour on Arches paper

The surrealist of the group, Olga Khodyreva has contributed this fluid image:

062 (Small)

Drama, Olga Khodyreva, Gouache and ink on Paper. 12×12 inches.

It’s reminiscent of Joan Miro, Alexander Calder and Picasso with it’s tumbling figures.

059 (Small)

Winter wandering, Jennifer Chew, 8×10,  Velum and charcoal on wood panel.

Winter wandering describes fine branches emerging from snow. There is a delicate quality of calligraphy in this finely composed drawing.

FH Dempster Highway #1 (Small)

Salmon Glacier, Fiona Howath, 11 x 14, Silver Gelatin photograph

FH Fallen Giant (Small)

Fallen Giant, Fiona Howath,  Silver gelatin photograph, 11 x 14

Fiona Howath is an upcoming photographer whose work, in this exhibition, focuses on the natural landscape. She has crisp focus and  captures exceptional lighting. Detail is as important in the foreground as it is in the back. I particularly like the feathery quality of the ferns in Fallen Giant and in Salmon Glacier, I find the light/dark composition is excellent with the cloud, white above the mountain, casting dark on its slopes and brilliant sunshine delineating the character of the geological formation.

There are lots of paintings from each of the artists. As one is sold, it goes away with the purchaser and another gets put up.
I encourage you to go see the show and maybe even treat yourself to a painting. They are reasonably priced and there is lots of variety. Also there are several smaller items – greeting cards by four or five of the artists, fused glass tree ornaments (Judy Jones),  chap books and other small gift items.

Also featured in this show: Richard Bond, Lucy Adams, Doris Auxier, Fiona Howarth, Dorthe Eisenhardt, Judy Jones.

The location is 9048 Glover Road, Fort Langley, B.C. The gallery is open noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and the show closes Sunday December 23rd.

Don’t forget to check out the web-site too: 


Where will you be on Saturday?

July 26, 2011

Where will you be on Saturday?

Would it tickle your fancy to attend a free event where graffiti artists will tag a piece of your clothing  that you bring (a hat, t-shirt, shirt, etc). The event is free, but if you want to get something tagged, you need to donate something to the graffiti artist. One hundred percent of the donation goes to the artist.

Easer, Absolute Zero, 48×24 Spray paint on wood


Four of the artists will be working on their own paintings in the gallery –

It starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday July 30th at 258 East 1st Avenue in Vancouver.

It’s the same artists as I was talking about in my just preceding blog.


The Ten Pound Challenge

March 9, 2011

Once again, shamelessly touting my own work….

What I lost in Paris and What I gained in Strasbourg, Kristin Krimmel 16 x 20 approx. Collage on acid free mat board.

Every year the Fort Gallery collective in Fort Langley, B.C.  sets a challenge to each of its artists to create artwork for the yearly Spring group show. This year the challenge was to create an objet d’art with something that weighs ten pounds. One other material could be added to it to bring it all together.

With twenty artists, there are twenty different takes on this challenge. A bit like Reality TV!
I have three pieces in the show.  Two relate to my travels this summer in Europe. One is entitled, “What I lost in Paris”, which of course was 10 pounds of Canadian butter off the hips. It was directly due to the workout I got following my cousin Claire through the maze of streets above ground and doing the thousands of steps in the underground Metro to go between train track levels.
It’s my new diet: Go to Paris and move about on foot. You see more and you weigh less. Can it be any less expensive than Jenny Craig or LA Weight loss or Curves?
But at the end of my trip, I stopped by Strasbourg and met my cousin Barbara  and her long time friend from student days who still lives there. She is an epicure and knows the best of restaurants. Oops! On went the ten pounds in Strasbourgian butter!

My third piece in the show is about my father and the things he left me. He opened up the country with his early-days surveying, guided by couriers des bois into the wilds of the Canadian north. I have lots of his maps and some of his equipment. So I’ve created an assemblage in his honour.

Friday night is our opening celebration at the Fort Gallery, between 7 and 9 p.m. Each artist is bring an libation and some finger food. You can bet it will be good! Please come join us if you can.


Windows – Larry Green, Maggie Woycenko

January 25, 2011

Gallery artist,  Maggie Woycenko and guest artist Larry Green showed at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley, B.C. in January 2011.

Maggie Woycenko

Myth, Roofing paper, art paper and paint on canvas, Maggie Woycenko

I’ve photographed  Woycenko’s Myth complete with shadows because she has been exploring with paint, canvas,  paper and thin sheets of aluminum, producing works that defy the second dimension and edge into the third. She tells me these are the result of a voyage of discovery into an area where she has not worked before.  She’s flirting with sculpture but she hasn’t left the flat surface behind.

In the Christmas group show, we saw her first invasions of the picture plane with small wooden windows inset into the canvas. Now the piercing is not formal but more free-form. And following on, the images get more and more dimensional.

Street Noise, Maggie Woycenko, Oil on Canvas with wooden inset

Reveal, Maggie Woycenko, oil on aluminum on panel.

There are many things I like about Woycenko’s work. Everything works all at once. That is, the surface of her paintings are developed with an implied texture, although the painting is applied thinly, and her colour sense is excellent. She has her own colour identity in variations of gray, usually a subdued range of colour, but nonetheless expertly modulated. She knows how to mix paint and marry it on the canvas. In addition, she always has iconic images ( the windows, the coloured balls, the letters) sufficiently in evidence to establish a spatial composition which assures the eye is restful but watchful while contemplating the work. And now this sculptural element is present, with the forms creating shadows on the wall that holds the work; and the balance of flat to form is harmonious.

Small Talk, Maggie Woycenko, Oil on canvas 16 x 16

In the work, Small Talk, I have the sense that she has captured the idea of a visible and evident surface personality with an underlying secret, the red, being exposed by this thin layer of metal  opening up a can of sardines, so as to speak,  and letting the Pandora-secret out.

Works, Maggie Woycenko, oil on canvas with various added papers.

If this work is just preliminary to a future series, perhaps bigger in scale, I am eager to see how this series develops, matures, morphs. This series is already very rich and self-contained as is, but knowing the artist, there is always more exciting work to come.

Larry Green

Sspaciousness, Larry Green, mixed media

There are two hanging boxes in the window of the gallery. Each has glass walls and one side that is open. The first is called Spaciousness and has butterflies suspended in it.  The second, Invisible walls, has two dragon flies. The idea behind them is about beauty and confinement. The butterflies and dragon flies do not realize they are trapped since the walls are invisible.

Invisible Walls, Larry Green, mixed media

Through this work Green seeks to express the difference between space which is a defined containment and emptiness which is not contained.

The remainder of the works are essential two dimensional in the sense of being flat or almost flat; but these works are intellectual works and in that sense of the expression, anything but flat. What you see is only the beginning of the meanings that are implied, suggested, divined.  They invite the observer to meditate upon the possibilities.

Selfother: Confusion, Larry Green, mixed media

In Selfother: Con-Fusion the image speaks about relationships where people fuse together in mystical union. The Self becomes the Other into a single entity, the Selfother, no hyphen. At same time, this leads each individual to new feelings, new ideas, new introspection. As the two personalities fuse into a relationship, the original, separate identities undergo change  producing a state where the outer known face may seem the same but the inner face is in the process of new-definition.  It’s not exactly clear what it is. It’s edges are blurred and the core is out of focus.

Green has created a deep framed box to express this state of being. A photograph of Green’s face is clearly visible on the front piece of glass while at the back, a less clear copy of this image covers a piece of glass. Lined up with the centre of the piece of art, the face is quite clear, but move to one side and not only do you see the slightly confused image on the mirror moving as the observer does, but the observer also sees his own reflection mixed up in it all. It’s a clever representation of the Selfother idea.

The Movement of Attention, Larry Green, mixed media

In The Movement of Attention, there are six images of nudes in a grid. Different body parts are highlighted in colour in each of the six. It implies that the observer of the body (the artist) focuses on different parts at different times, giving emphasis to those that arouse attention as one’s eye scans the subject .

Artist looking at Patron looking at Nude, Larry Green, mixed media

In Artist looking at Patron looking at Nude, there is another photographic image of Green’s face superimposed with the same linear drawing of a nude as in The Movement of Attention. In this image, the artist is looking out at the Patron (the viewer) and the nude stands between them, figuratively, on the surface of the artwork. Again, very clever! The artist is not absent in this work of art but very much present, obliging the observer to take into account that the work did not magically appear, but was conceived and drawn by its creator.

In Illumination the message is that a subject can be considered as forbidding or uplifting. The meaning we put upon an image is coloured by the mood of both the artist and the viewer.

The future? Larry Green, Mixed media

In The Future? the artist ask us to consider where we think we are going in the future. Messages overlay the photos set in a window frame.  Do we want clean air, clean environment, electric cars? Or by our inaction, will we end up with a ruined planet.  The photos contrast the possibilities before us and reminds us that the choice is ours.

There are two photos in the back room. Abject Ignored and Abject Realized both show a beggar on the roadside. In the first, two women pass by, ignoring him. There are words that acknowledge the various items in view just as the women, in passing, would have had to observe – curb, cobble stones, etc.

Abject ignored and Abject Realized, Larry Green, photograph

In the second, there is a statue of a figure with a book in hand. Death is on its shoulder.  By inference, the statue is representing the abject figure’s hopelessness and spiritual death.

Named Windows, this exhibition of  Green’s and Woycenko’s work is intriguing,  because there are layers and depth of meaning to each work.  The common thread of the windows helps to  unify the ensemble.

One hundred and eighty degrees

December 11, 2010

A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It’s an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.” (In Barbara Rose, Frankenthaler (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1975, p. 85)

Wandering through museum after museum in Europe this summer, the thought I came up with for my own work was:

Be braver. Sweep away restrictions. Lean over the edge. Hang on by the rim if necessary. Try what you have always wanted to try. Work big.

I was swept away by the inventiveness of the art – much of it totally non-representational.  I also saw tons of Medieval art, especially the Gothic work done around 1200 a.d. So there was a wonderful mix of things to look at – not only in the museums and galleries, but in the streets as well.

I’ve come back all fired up to paint new imagery, to try a series of non-representational work that will perhaps lead into something else. While I’m doing it, I’m trying to remain open and experimental, for me.

I add that, “for me”, because I know that this kind of work has been done before.  You might say the work is derivative, and it well may be. The thing is, if I don’t explore this avenue, I’ll never know know what is at the end of it, will I? I’ll never know what I might have discovered.  Being safe  ends up also being static, repetitive, derivative.

There’s that word again. Derivative.

I believe that we are all influenced by our favorite painters; that we aspire to emulate some of these favored ones. To copy them would not be right, but to play with their concepts, to build on their ideas – these are fair challenges to take up. One’s own personality will come through in one’s own work.

Yes, there are great forgers who can copy another artist’s work flawlessly, to fool the public into believing it is from the master’s hand; but for the vast majority, we bring our own abilities, our own personality, our own skill-sets to the canvas and the results will carry our own personality, our own aspirations, our own interpretations. It’s valid to go there; it’s not valid to copy (without acknowledging or accrediting the original artists).

And so, brave as I want to be, adventurous as I have vowed to be, I have embarked on a series of large watercolours using a palette of graphite grey, yellow ochre and burnt sienna. I just haven’t been able to leave the representational sector. I’ve needed a crutch, a handle to hold onto, an old woman’s cane to steady me as I go. Yes, I am painting from things I have seen – but hopefully, you will not recognize them, when you see them.

The first six are done. They represent concrete floor repaired with a resin that fills the cracks and spreads either side of them. It is a warehouse floor with dints and scratches, with these large lines of resin making random patches in a different colour; and spots of paint from some former activity. Now this glorious floor is being recorded in watercolour – the floor of the Geneva Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Since I’ve been back in Vancouver, I’ve been noticing the repairs in the asphalt on the road – a thick black linear brushwork flanking either side of a breach in the paving. I’ve been noticing the lack of repairs where tree roots emerge on sidewalks, lifting the concrete, breaking it, and then, over time, growing grass or weeds in it.  So simple.

From this latter exploration that I have done in photography, I’m hoping to find a more imaginative group of figures – anthropomophic – animal like or human-like but not.  I’ll just see where it goes.


November 30, 2010

“I don’t really like them. What’s your intent? ” asks Mrs. Stepford next door.

Since I came back from a vacation filled with visits to contemporary museums and galleries, my art production has taken a 180 degree turn around.

“I don’t always know, when I start something new.” I answer. “I start intuitively. I know I want to accomplish something, but I’m not sure what. I’m just mucking around with paint. I have an idea what it might look like and an idea of how I will achieve it, but how I get there, in the end is much to do with how the paint works with me or against me. I put it on and manipulate it. I know how watercolor paint reacts with its surface and I hope to control it but that doesn’t always work and sometimes I have to find a way to get around something that happened during the process that I didn’t expect.”

“You’re painting sidewalk cracks?” she says, not really in disbelief, but nonetheless with some concern that this might not be too serious or that my intent might be spurious.

“Not sidewalk cracks. They are concrete floor repairs that I saw at the Musee d’Art moderne et contemporain in Geneva.  In fact these are realism.  They are paintings of something I have seen. They are modern found drawings, interpreted. ”

“Are you going to put one in the current group show?”
“Of course not.   They won’t fit in a Christmas show. Especially not a small works show. They all have to hang together. They have to be in context or they won’t be understood. It’s not that each one can’t stand alone, it’s just that the intent is clear when the viewer can see the context of them; that it’s not just throwing a paint pot at the paper. Each one is a specific discovery of how the paint flows but each is also a study in placement and spatial relationships. ”
“Think about Rothko and Jackson Pollock. One of their paintings stands alone now, and magnificently, I might add; but the first ones? Without seeing that they all spoke together, a single one would seem incomprehensible. It’s the context that speaks. ”

“True, too true,” concedes Mrs. Stepford.

“It’s a real leap of faith to go out on the edge like this. I like it. It’s not really comprehensible to myself yet. I just do it, knowing that I have a vision and an intuitiveness working for me and I have to follow it until I’ve seen it to a logical end.  It’s an exploration. I’ll try to explain it afterward. But right now, I’m just painting and I stop when it seems right.”

“You are getting better at this,” Mrs. Stepford says. “Before, you couldn’t even tell me what you were doing. Now at least you are trying to put it into words. This is a step forward.”

Mrs. Stepford is my devil’s advocate. She pushes me to express myself. She’s a great critic, in a positive sense. She doesn’t let me get away with drivel nor saccharine work. If it borders on it, she will push me into defending myself. It makes me examine what I”m doing with a fine tooth comb.

In fact, I have been very resistant to putting my intent on paper. I think that the work should speak for itself; that if words are necessary to explain it, then it has failed somehow. And yet, when I was recently traveling and absorbing the work of many contemporary artists whom I had never heard of before, I was glad of some explanation to help me understand what they were getting at.

My sister, also an artist, is staying with me for a couple of days.  We were driving this morning and had time to chat about our art work.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t want to connect with that gallery in Santa Fe that was looking for some abstract work. You do some pretty good abstract stuff. Why didn’t you send it?” she asked, then added, “I guess you had your reasons, but it seemed like such a good opportunity, and to waste it…. But you don’t have to tell me. ”

“That’s not a problem,” I reply. “I haven’t worked seriously for twelve years now. I don’t know where I’m going. A gallery needs to have a body of work to deal with. They have to promote an image. It has to be a vein of work that you can continue to produce in. I’m not there yet. I don’t know where I’m going or which of the various things I’m currently working on that  I will be able to continue on in. I have between ten and twenty works in that vein of metallic ink drawings that you like,  but they are old. I don’t know if I could keep on with it. And I want to produce a whole new body of work, something I can get my teeth into. I’m not there yet. I’m still fishing around with what direction I will take.”

“OK. I get it,” she answers. “I understand.” And we dropped the conversation.

Words. Ideas.

The world of art expects us to explain ourselves, to validate our work. I find it difficult to find words that don’t just feel hollow to me.  It all boils down to intent.

If you don’t explore, you don’t find something new. If I knew what I was looking for, precisely, it probably wouldn’t be interesting anymore.  I just have to keep painting and practicing. Something valid will come out of it.

Drawn II

July 29, 2010

Three images by Takashi Iwasaki

Sharpenkunshimetsukegram, drawing on paper, 10 x 7 inches Kamidaredentou,16 x 16 inches, embroidery; Sauceireminidenkikasa, drawing on paper, 10 x 7 inches

For the second year running, Vancouver has held the Drawn Festival. It’s an International call for artists working in the medium of drawing, which seems to have no borders to its definition. The Pendulum Gallery at Georgia and Howe is the venue, this year, for the resulting exhibition.

Completely separate from that, several galleries  in Vancouver reserve time in  July and early August to hold uniquely drawing exhibitions. Lynn Ruscheinsky is a curator working for the Elliott Louis Gallery who selected Takashi Iwasaki and Mary Hrbacek for the show.

I was in the neighborhood picking up framing for my own show at the Fort Gallery, and decided to check it out .  I was lured in by what looked like luscious large charcoal drawings of tree trunks.

The large drawings (30 x 32 inches) by Mary Hrbacek were counter-foiled by some very delicate small drawings (7 inches by 10 inches) by Takashi Iwasaki, a Japanese artist.  This exhibition could not have been easily hung since the work is diametrically opposed in nature.

Iwasaki’s small drawings are shown as well as some of his stitchery. The drawings act as maquettes for the needlework. Both from their fineness and delicacy, I assumed they were made by a woman, but when I spoke to Katherine who was tending the gallery, she informed me that, no, it was unusual, but these were the workings of a young man!

The drawings are finely executed, echoing some of the most inventive schoolbook doodling I have ever seen, with the shapes reminiscent of Paul Klee, the coloration of Wassily Kandinsky  and the spirit and balance of Joan Miro. They could be classed in the realm of Surrealism. There is no reference to objects and  as such are a good example of pure abstraction.

Seen from afar, one could be excused if they thought they were looking at oil paintings, for the larger works. Up close, you can see the threads sewn ever so precisely to fill in the shapes created by his imagery. There is no room for the slightest error. It’s impossible to take out a patch and put in another. The  threads are laid so well that there is no sense of surface texture – a block of them will be all at the same height and so reflect light as if the block were a single colour with no texture. It’s a pretty marvelous marriage of technical virtuosity and esoteric imagery.

The colours are light and clean – with either a white background or a black one, sewn over with clear yellows, pinks, robin’s egg blues and reds.

I like Iwasaki’s philosophy. In his artist’s statement, he says,”Life is too short to take gravely all the time. I want to delight in what I can when I can.”   That spirit shines through in his work.

If I had two words to sum up this body of work, I would say “purity” and “playfulness”.

I took a look on his web-site and was surprised by his prolific output.  More than that, with this very geometric and abstract style,  I was surprised to see that he has some work in a high-realism vein.  For an artist to shine in both domains is quite unusual and speaks of an incredible creativity. He’s only 28 years old and has already garnered awards and a CV to die for.

Mary Hrbacek’s work, on the other hand, seeks animism in her images of tree trunks and speaks to an eco-disaster agenda.

Borrowing directly from the statement on the Elliott Louis Gallery web-site, her works are explained thus:

“To Mary Hrbacek, a tree is a thing of spiritual sustenance and renewal. Her trees are endowed with human-like qualities become the embodiment of mankind’s condition: the rising sap is the spirit of life, sexuality and regeneration, the barren winter branches and broken limbs foretell of immanent ecological disaster, disease and death. Hrbacek’s trees exert a powerful emotional influence.”

The charcoal drawings look great on the web site with  a range of dark and light that does not show on the originals.  In the latter, the tonal range is reduced to black and white with few dark grey variations between, and the detail of the form gets lost.  I liked best the drawing where the shift from the black shapes to the white are blurred as charcoal tends to do (Monster and Multi-faceted).  The greater majority though, were clean-edged to the point where the eraser rubbings on the paper show, roughing up the texture, not to any visual advantage.

When an artist depends solely on shape, the shapes need to be interesting and they need to move the eye around so that the viewer can continue to enjoy the image. It is in the nature of trees to branch out which lends itself to a “Y” shape configuration and Hrbacek has achieved a good variety within this restriction. The overall darkness in the imagery serves to emphasize the sense of a threatening eco-disaster. In this aspect, Hrbacek speaks to the prevailing global concern for the future.

As an outgrowth of these drawings, there are two large acrylic paintings, also of trees. The addition of colour is a miracle to these forms. The painting, Split Decision, an acrylic on linen, sings with a bright clear sky; and the mastery of form and shape through shadow are in excellent harmony.  This is a painting one could live with for a long time .

The other coloured image, acrylic on canvas,  “A secret” returns to two tones – the sky colour and the trunk colour – and has not the same joy in it though the animism is quite clear.  The right hand side of the trunk reads like a torso with its arms embracing the left part of the tree, reaching to encircle it and to whisper a message to the crotch of the branches. It is sensual and dark.

In fact, in many of these denuded tree trunks, one can imagine body parts – arms waving, woody knobs that look like breasts, and torsos thick with muscles.

Hrbacek’s own web-site also provides a broader vision of what this artist is capable of. The web address immediately following points to her tree paintings, but you will also be able to see some of her installation and other three-dimensional work  which, like Iwasaki, shows the depth of creativity in this artist. Hrbacek paintings.html

While the hanging of this show must have been difficult because of the strong opposition of the two styles, it nevertheless is quite elegantly done so that one can enjoy the delicacy of the small, stitched “drawings”  in an intimate close up way, and then face the other direction to enjoy a wide vista, a forest of charcoal trunks in their substantive strength and variety. It shows the openness of the Drawn Festival jury to select widely opposing styles, not limited by a single vision, but welcoming to a variety of styles and expressions.

Look for more images of Iwasaki and Hrbacek on

and if you are in Vancouver, go take a look.

Christmas at Hycroft Artisan Village

November 23, 2009

Detail of decoration on pottery, Nellie Vlaar

Each year, the University Women Club of Vancouver holds an event in their marvelous McRae heritage house called Hycroft, at 16th and Granville. It lasts for four days from Thursday to Sunday and people keep coming year after year to begin celebration of the Christmas season.
Little children come all dressed up so that they can sit on Santa’s knee. There is live music on piano and the Hycroft choir. Charity Boutiques – A thousand Villages, the local Vancouver Aquarium, UNICEF and Families for Children, to name a few, bring handcrafts and manufactured objects that people love to purchase for gifts or decoration for the home. There is lots of bling and glitter,  razz-ma-tazz and shine.

Downstairs in the former ballroom, the area is converted into a craft market with high end products in jewellry, ceramics, designer clothing and then some specialty wines and cooking products that are produced in small-batch, artisanal manner.

Here are a few of my favourite things that I saw:

From Nellie Vlaar, B.C. Potter,

I love her sense of pattern. Though she changes colour and glazes her pottery for practical use, I find many links between this and the New Mexican Pueblo artist, particularly in regard to the ever expanding geometric forms.

And  from Valerie Gobert:

Note that the last two photos are of the same piece of jewelry, but how different they appear on the different backgrounds.

Here’s the work of D’Arcy Margesson:

I liked the way this potter used kiln supports as the pillars between his display shelves.

And then from Mioara Stirbu, a clothing designer, these fabulous fashions:


A game plan and some heart work

October 28, 2009

Crossed small

I have been grouching about my painter’s block – my inability to get going on something free and meaningful (to me at least).

Yesterday I began with two drawings in chalk pastel on good paper. The advantage is that not much is lost if it doesn’t work out – the materials are expensive alright, but relatively, a way less than the commitment of materials in oil or watercolour.

Yesterday I accomplished these two drawings. The game plan? Use up some bits and pieces of chalks that were too small to use for a big project, and; work as freely as possible to obtain fresh original mark making.
I have a continuing theme of hearts in my art work. I’ve done them when I have been out of sorts and when I am elated. Each one is intended to convey some state of emotional spirit.

Of course, I don’t do this without other aesthetic considerations operating in the background. I’m sensitive to finding colours that go together and finding movement in the work that will engage a viewer who is interested in the drawing process.

The first that I produced is up above and the second is here:

Far too pretty small

By the time I had finished the drawing yesterday, I felt the work was without substance. The colours went together alright, but they were a bit saccharine and the image too explicit. In the morning when I looked at it again, I thought it was still too pretty, too sweet, and the drawing lacked any depth of colour or tone. It wasn’t worth keeping, as is, so I thought I would just continue on – writing Far too calm, Far too pretty on it. That was my critical feeling about it, so it was fair game to continue on with some text over the insufficient image.

My internal jury is still out on this piece.

Then I went about cleaning up my little tray of  chalk pastels. It must have been sitting in the sun during the summer. Two cough candies had melted in one section and the whole thing needed cleaning out.  I set aside the pieces of chalk that were viable for a bigger project and took the ends and crumbles to work with.

I started on a different kind of paper. The first was Ingres paper and the second was a bit of Canson’s Mi-teint.  On the half sheet, I took some larger crumbs of red and put them under my thumb, moving them around freely, not trying to obtain a shape. I did this with about three different hues.

Just by the rotational movement there were some marks that could be pulled into heart shape, but I didn’t want to impose that shape. It defeats the purpose of working freely and seeing what comes. Along the way, I was unsatisfied with the lack of tonal contrast and I wanted to cover over any obvious shapes, so I chose a light tone – a pink – to draw wider, more gestural strokes. The result helped give tonal contrast and an added benefit that the marks resulted in a figure-like form that appears to be dancing. Had I tried to draw a dancing figure, it would have been stilted and awkward.  This figure carries a feeling of joy with it and the freedom of the marks gives the drawing a lot of movement.

So for all that verbiage, here’s the image:

Dancing small

On the full size sheet, I started by the same process, using crumbs under my thumb.  It was a large format and demanded more attention to where the marks were going.  I’m afraid this one came out too sweetly too. It’s lacking some rigor, but I thought it good enough to leave as is until I can decide whether or not to add or subtract or cover over.  Unlike the green one which was pallid at this stage, this one has some stand-alone quality. I’m not ready to do anything to it yet.

Joy small

I think I’m not fully happy with it because I’m repeating myself with mark making that I’ve done many times before and the hope of this exercise was to get me out of rut. I distrust work that is too facile.

Then I cleaned out the tray, washed it up and saved the powders and crumbs, whatever colours they were, for another drawing. It turned out to serve me well for three drawings, actually. They are very similar.  I like the mark making in this one. I used all five fingers of both hands to move the crumbs around.

There are parts that are crisp and sharp, others that are smooth and blended. Whatever was left over from the first image was placed onto the next sheet of paper and I recommenced. And so, the same for the third piece.

They aren’t strong enough in themselves but there is a lovely fresh quality to these three; and although I did nothing to control the colours I would get, there are some interesting colour passages. I’m only sorry that I didn’t take the time to go downstairs but instead grabbed the closest paper at hand, some Pacan paper which is like cartidge paper and is not strong, nor it  likely to be acid free. I could find no information on this paper on the Internet.  It’s a great paper for student work and for rough drawings.

heart 12 small heart 13 small

heart 12 small

So that’s it. That’s the fruits of my experimenting. I like this last one the best. Now will I be able to reproduce a feeling like this of freedom in another drawing, what ever the subject may be. I must try it with different colours. The pinks are still just a bit too sweet.

Two Exhibitions

September 11, 2009

Krimmel,Kristin In One Ear

In One Ear, Watercolour 10 x 13

I’m not much at tooting my own horn, but I’m going to do it today.

On August 20th, the opening for the Painting on the Edge exhibition was held at the  Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver.

This painting of mine which I’ve posted above was selected for the show, so of course I turned up and invited all my friends.  It’s quite an eclectic exhibition running a gamut from high realism to minimalism, the latter which prompted two of my friends to look at me in a bewildered fashion as they said, each one of them, “I just don’t understand this. Someday, please explain why this is important enough to hang in a show.”

I asked them if they knew Piet Mondrian and both did. They both liked his work, they thought, but neither had really understood what he was doing nor the principles that would make  a line and a square placed strategically on a picture plane – to be considered worthwhile or valid as artistic imagery.

There were several pieces that appealed to my aesthetic, but I also found that the quality of pieces shown was quite inconsistent and if I had been choosing, there would be six of the fifty that I wouldn’t have shown at all.  If I can I get copyright permission, I will post some of them for your viewing pleasure. In the mean time, if you  want  to see the fifty images in the Painting on the Edge show, go to the Federation of Canadian Artists web site and click on Current Exhibition for details.

It’s worth a visit with lots of time to ponder. This is adventurous, thoughtful work showing. Different materials, different formats, inspired ideas, excellent craftsmanship.

Earlier in the day, I went to the Elliott Louis Gallery on 1st Avenue just east of Main Street by one block. The 5th Annual Emerging Art show is just up and the opening was this evening. I couldn’t be in two places, so I took a quick look in the afternoon before the crowds came.

Wendi Copeland is showing in both exhibits. At the Elliott Louis Gallery, there is a suite of paintings with her starting point being the palette of  one of Jack Bush’s paintings. First in her series is a very formal accounting of the colour palette. In subsequent paintings, she interprets the colours in different ways as if, for instance, looking at a rippled water reflection, or as if looking through a piece of wavy glass.

Something struck me about the Emerging Art show. In the advertising, the images are small thumbnails and some are and some are not interesting. For example, the images of Brian Kokoska have some of the same disturbing human relationships as the iconic Oscar Kokoshka of the early 20th Century. Seeing the paintings in real time, though, the impact is quite different from the thumbnail teaser which looked adolescent in small size. The originals are more powerful and rich. The size gives an immense visceral feel which is why one needs to actually see the art work. You can’t trust the thumbnails for any of the artists.

Whether or not I liked Kokoska’s work is immaterial. The important thing is that he is conveying a message and it comes across just as he intended. It’s in your face; and the handling of his imagery to do so is very well executed. The colours are vibrant and clean which is difficult with the colours he is working in. His drawing in paint is direct, freely handled.

That brings me to an aside that is worth thinking about here.

Artists paint for different reasons. Some pitch to the home buyer, painting to the home decor market  of landscapes, flowers, portraits and people. Some pitch to the commercial need of wall decor, such as restaurants and hotels. The work has to meet a decorator’s needs of harmony for the entire project. There will be abstracts or large landscapes, paintings of fruit or food.

But some don’t care whether you understand or not; they are painting with a message whether political, social or personal; or their works are esoteric,  delving into the abstractions of art itself.  Their works are not necessarily meant to sit over another person’s living room couch. The clientele for this kind of imagery might be a museum, an art gallery or a fine art collector.

I see Kokoska’s paintings fitting into this latter category.

I would say that for all of the artists in this show, my reaction viz the thumbnails was the same. The small version of the work looked ordinary; the real work was far more exciting, far more engaging. The corollary of this discovery is that, to see an exhibition, you must go there and engage directly.

Katherine Coe’ s images of heads with animal headdresses are exquisitely drawn combining traditional technique with surrealist imagery. Gail Alexander’s series Living on Airlie Street collages photographic imagery in an abstract fashion to create nostalgic and poetic works about family history.

Adam Dodd’s images are non-representational, reminiscent of mid-20th Century abstraction.  There is still much to be said and explored visually in this domain. I was quite engaged both by his  use of colour and the fluidity of his forms.

Kate Fisher and Michelle Jean Giguere also did not present well in the small thumbnails but in the real work it’s quite the opposite. Fisher is working in portraiture, with the three shown here all larger than life heads only. The paint handling and colour work are what make these works exceptional.

Giguere’s landscapes are surreal, with a far higher degree of realism to convey the imagery. Gavin Lynch,  on the other hand, purposely obscures the landforms as if seen by a camera at high speed or through spectacles made for someone else’s prescription.  The thumbnails conveyed nothing of this. And it makes for some interesting viewing. His painting technique conveys these sensations of distortion quite adroitly.

Sean Wiesberger, Amanda McMorran, Helma Sawatzky, Scott Billings, McMorran, and Caitlin Brittania Terry are also featured in this exhibition.