Saturday, August 20, 2016

Central Technical School, 50 years Later


Richard Wessell, Mark Thurman, and me with Dustin Garnet, May 27th, 2016

Flash back to June 1963.  Barbara Tenny, Mark Thurman and me

Dr. Dustin Garnet wrote his thesis on the art education at Central Technical School, he has also been an art instructor there for the past decade. It was a supreme honour for me to be one of the ten people he interviewed for his thesis. My post on our interview is here. Just prior to meeting Dustin at the school this spring, I was delighted to receive a hard copy of STUDIES in ART Education, which includes his article Alice's Story: Insights to the Artistic Community of Central Technical School in the 1960s. 

Below is the building where we had our academic studies, reduced as they were to english, economics, science and physical education (in our final year) to accommodate our heavily weighted art subjects which included anatomy, history of art, commercial art, design, life drawing and painting, still life, illustration, lettering, research and museum. Yes museum, because the Royal Ontario Museum is a short walk from Central Tech. We had a half day painting at the ROM, once a week.


"The Main Building" as we called it is most impressive.  May 2016

Before the art building was completed art classes where held in six studios up in the very top of the tower.  Today they are mathematics classrooms. 


Climbing the steps to the tower studios, May 2016

The foyer of the old building is grand ...




It's hard to fathom that we graduated this amazing facility, 50 years ago. An impeccably timed highlight of Bill's and my Friendship Tour, to Ontario and Quebec in May/June (a story for another day) was having Dustin tour us, and two of my classmates, through all of the studios of what is now called the The Art Centre as well as the old, stone school which opened in 1915.


The Art Centre with its amazing north facing windows, May 2016
The foyer inside the front doors of the The Art Centre, May 2016

Dustin began the tour on the top floor of The Art Centre which was, in or time, Virginia Luz's class. We moved along into Dawson Kennedy's then Kathleen Kennedy's studio. In the last top floor studio, which I recall as being shared by Bob Ross and Doris McCarthy, life drawing is still instructed.


Life drawing studio

Here are some of my classmates back in April of 1966 ...


Barry Corston behind John Williamson (RIP) Sandra Ko, Ula Ahonen and Cynthia Jakubowski
 

There were times when models didn't show up and when this happened one of us students would pose. Here you have three former students hamming it up as models ...


Mark, myself and Richard

Me and Mark, life drawing April 1966 - oh how young we were!

Sculpture and print making was not a part of our curriculum. These studios were used by the special art students who studied only art. To enter the special art program, in the 1960s, students had to have previously achieved grade ten in a regular high school program. I did work in the sculpture studio but not until after graduation and as a night school student. 


Clay sculptures in the sculpture studio
The print making studio is a fully equipped masterpiece

Dustin's class back in January 1966.  Lisa Shallhase and Sally Simone working on a lettering project, Richard Wessell looks on

Dustin's studio/classroom today

From the very onset the tour took on a most surreal quality. As we made our way through the studios and halls all sorts of rich memories came flooding in making it difficult to be in the present. After a work week, in abnormally high temperatures without air conditioning (which hadn't been turned on yet) Dustin begged off joining Bill, Mark, Richard and me for a pub supper. I can't speak for the others, but I couldn't shake the sensation of travelling through time until I'd slept that night. 

What a wonderful gift you gave us, Dustin. Many thanks for a treasured opportunity to visit our alma mater with you.   

You may enjoy delving into Central Tech further. Here is the original blog post I wrote and some of the art I created while there. Here you'll see art by my classmates.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Roses

THE ROSES (Three Angels Surrounded by Love)   oil on panel   12" x 16"


During our stay in Victoria this past winter, as I was about to settle into a painting session at a friend's studio, I spied Marcela's version of THE ROSES. I asked her if she'd mind my trying to emulate it. Her answer was not only "Please do", she happily described the process, she'd learned in a workshop, loaned me the amazing transparent reds to achieve the look and sent me away with her reference photo so that I could finish it at home.


March 19th, 2016, in Marcela Strasdas's studio with Sharlene Stushnov-Lee  

THE ROSES at the end of our time in Marcela's studio


When I began the painting I had no plan for its destiny but once home, as we were planing The Friendship Tour to conclude with a 25th wedding anniversary celebration, I decided that it would make the perfect gift. My cousin Claudine and her husband Marc have two sons and a daughter. It came to me that the white roses symbolized the three kids and the red roses were the surrounding love which the parents have always shown and continue to bestow upon their children. With this love and support Adam, Nick and Ericka have thrived and blossomed to become the incredibly creative adults they are.


Finishing THE ROSES in my backyard playhouse, May 4th, 2016 

Presenting THE ROSES, June 2, 2016


The Friendship Tour took us on an amazing journey, we stopped at many places in southern Ontario and Quebec - but that's a story for another day. Toward the end of the tour we spent several days with Claudine, Marc and family enjoying the comforts and warm hospitality of their home in Longueuil (south shore Montreal).

  
Yours truly with my Aunt Loretta, Claudine, Bill, Marc and Ericka, June 7th, 2016 


On June 7th, we bid the family farewell, pretending that this was the last they'd see of us on our trip, only to return a few days later to attend their surprise party but I don't think we fooled either of them. Still it was an honour to be a part of the grand event where family and friends came together to honour Claudine and Marc ...


Ericka, Virginie (Adam's fiancee), Nick, Marc, Claudine, Adam and Claudine's mom, Loretta (my mother's sister) June 11th, 2016


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Grassi Lakes, My Spiritual Place


Upper Grassi Lake, May 9th, 2016

It's easy to be smitten with Grassi Lakes. The mountain jewels are nestled in a gap between Ha Ling Peak and Rundle Range. There, in 1990, above our then home in Canmore, Alberta, after exclusively painting only indoors - for twenty-five years - I ventured forth to create my very first plein air painting ... 
    
Grassi Lakes #1 MYSTERIOUS DEPTHS   12" x 16" oil on masonite   completed in three hours, September 26th, 1990


The abstractness of Mysterious Depths disturbed me. It's simplicity looked like child's play so I hid it away in a closest. It was eighteen months before I found the courage to paint on site again.

Meanwhile, retreating to the studio, I painted Lady of the Lake (aka Margaret Discovers Alice Lake) featuring Maggie Ecclestone (at the Lower Lake) for the juried exhibition Return to Exceptional Pass hosted by and held at The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff) in January and February 1992. 

LADY OF THE LAKE (Maggie Ecclestone) 1991 studio oil on canvas 24" x 40"

After I had faced my fear of plein air painting I went out often, returning to Grassi Lakes a number of times which resulted in a series of 13 oils painted in 1992 and 1993. 

When working on site I simply don't have time to fuss with details. Plein air painting enabled me to let go of my obsessive realism. The new approach carried over into my studio work as well - it too became more painterly.


Painting on the shore of the Upper Lake August 4th,1992

Grassi Lakes #8 WHERE ROCKS MEET WATER   oil on canvas 12" x 16"   September 2nd, 1992

Grassi Lakes #11 SPRING AT GRASSI  oil on canvas 16" x 12"   May 9th, 1993

Painting the Upper Lake from the gully, August 27, 1992

Grassi Lakes #6 FROM THE GULLY  oil on canvas 16x12   August 27, 1992

Often I was joined by other artists but my most regular companion was Zelda Nelson (1943 - 2015). Below is the painting of a tree stump by the Upper Lake that she gave me ...

  
"WANAGI" - soul, ghost, spirit - watercolour 1992  5x6.25 by Zelda (who was Zelda Henricks at the time) 


FIREWEED AT GRASSI LAKES   1994 studio watercolour 7" x 10"   collection of Mary Shilabeer and Tom Matier

My favourite vantage point of the Upper Lake is captured in the small watercolour above. It begged to be painted larger and so in the spring of 1995, I used it as the study for a 4 x 6 foot canvas ...

    
FIREWEED AT GRASSI  in progress   4 x 6 foot oil on canvas  April 1995


My studio at home was too small to accommodate such a large canvas so I approached the Canmore Artists and Artisans Guild about using their gallery space weekdays - because it was only open at weekends. Fridays, I'd move the large canvas behind the wall (above) and reinstall whatever art was part of the current exhibition. I really don't recall why I put the painting on hold for so many months but I was motivated to finish it for my solo exhibition Saltiel, Routes Without Limits which showed at The Whyte Museum, Banff from September to November 1997. To this day I still enjoy the curator's written description about the style which emerged as a result of plein air painting "... subsequent paintings continued this distraction of abstraction."


FIREWEED AT GRASSI LAKES   1997 oil on canvas   4 x 6 feet   collection of Carol and Gord Godfrey 

Beyond the plein air series and into this century I painted several more Grassi Lakes paintings. Although it's been a number of years since my last (below) I'm certain I'll paint them again.

 
GRASSI IN APRIL #25   2007 oil on panel    12" x 24"  collection of Susan Dorion and Jim Wilker


A little about why Grassi Lakes is my spiritual place. At a time when things were rocky in my life, I sought an outdoor place where I could have solitude. Somewhere beautiful. Somewhere that was quiet and easy to reach. Somewhere that I could meditate. To be there alone was possible then, but today it's such a busy place that at almost anytime of day, any day of the week it is overrun with people.  Weekends are simply impossible. In 1993, before coffee or breakfast I power walked the 2.2 kms up to, spent twenty minutes at and power walked back down for 41 consecutive days. The only reason my ritual was interrupted was because of a painting expedition.


Getting into position at the mouth of the shallow cave above the Upper Lake May 9, 2016

In my happy place, May 9, 2016

View, of the Upper Lake looking down from the mouth of the cave, May 9, 2016 

View looking up to Ha Ling Peak from my perch in the cave, May 9, 2016
  
A Great Horned owl returns each spring to nest in the higher cave.  Happy to see her, but her young were not visible on May 9, 2016

Visiting the lakes wasn't always about painting or meditation. Many friends and family have been there with me enjoying picnics and fun times. In 1993 I began a circle of stones which I recessed into the earth to make them flush with the surface. Over time, I added other stones. This was my way of honouring all who had accompanied me there both in reality and in spirit. The circle is next to an uprooted, decomposing tree root where the water rushes between the two lakes. Today it is so overgrown that even I can't find it but I know it is still there buried in nature and in time. 


My circle of stones July 9, 1996

My circle of stones identified

We don't live in Canmore now and it's often weekends when we visit. However, last Monday, following an unseasonably sunny and hot weekend (which, I have been told, saw outrageous traffic at Grassi Lakes) it dawned overcast, snowy and cold. At 8:30am Bill and I went to the lakes anyway. It was a sublime gift to find only one car at the trail head parking lot and nobody at the lakes. It wasn't until we were about to depart the lakes that we saw another couple arriving. Coming down the trail we met a number of people hiking up. 

I am most grateful for this recent visit, it was a most precious gift of divine intervention.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Painting in Victoria


All will agree that there is no shortage of beauty in Victoria, especially in the springtime. For a plein air painter it's bursting with locations and subjects. The first place I wanted to return to paint at was Beacon Hill Park. In my mind's eye this tree looked for all the world like those in Autumn Hillside painted by Group of Seven artist, Franklin Carmichael.  Maybe not! 


February 25th, 2016

It proved to be a much larger challenge than I imagined possible. At the end of the two hours (I painted between 10 and noon) the light had changed so significantly that the tree was completely in shadow. I simply had to quit. 



A week or so later, in our vacation rental and armed with a photo of the scene, I took it on again working it further ...


My Carmichael tree 12" x 16" -  remains still mostly unresolved!

It wasn't always nice enough outdoors (yes I can be a fair weather painter) so some days my good buddy Sharlene and I painted in her studio. Bless her for letting me move in and take over half or more of her space.


Here Sharlene is developing a massive background while I start a painting featuring a cherry tree
 Cherry tree with blossoms just beginning to unfold, close up and personal  oil 12" x 16"

There is a group of painters in Victoria called the Al Frescoes. Every Friday morning any number of them trundle off to a prearranged location. On February 26th many folks painted strictly the sea and the sky, but this former mountain gal had to find some rock to anchor my painting ...



I was overwhelmed by the number who came out (around 30 artists) to Saxe Point Park, Esquimalt. At noon they assemble for 'show and tell' ...

 
Ken Faulks and the masses at the Al Frescoes 'show and tell'

I was amazed that I finished this one on site - SAXE POINT  oil 9" x 12"  (and yes I've yet to sign it)

The following Friday, March 4th, the Al Frescoes painted in Chinatown. While others chose street scenes and buildings, I opted to paint the dragon outside of the Mountain Equipment Coop.




In two and a half hours all I was able to finish was this umber drawing, painted on with a brush in oil ...


The non-red dragon oil 12" x 16"

Someday, maybe, I'll finish the painting so that it will have the red I was so keen to paint!
 
That same afternoon, after freezing my legs and feet to my very bones by standing on cold pavement in Chinatown, we were still on some kind of painting high, so we retreated to Sharlene's studio ...

You can see that we hardly have any fun at all working together
Afternoon results, another half baked painting, a peony in acrylic this time

Sharlene and I had one more studio day at her place on March 11th. This time we painted parrot tulips from life. You ought to have heard the complaining about how the blossoms opened and changed so much while we were painting them! I mean how dare they?
 
 

 
 

For my tulip painting Sharlene gave me a canvas on which she had already painted the background. It may be signed but I'm not convinced that this one is finished either ...


OPENING  oil on an acrylic background 12" x 12"

On March 15th, Sharlene and I both went Gelli plate printing in Brentwood bay at Arlene's studio. I've worked with Win making Gelli prints, but it's always fascinating to observe how another artist works in the same medium. Sharlene hadn't Gelli printed before and grasped the process like an A-student. I have to confess that I wasn't on my game that day and yet it was still a most pleasurable time.
 
 
Arlene and Sharlene. You try keeping their names straight, I often can't!

Yours truly pulling a Gelli plate print

There was one final painting day, March 19th. This one with and in the studio of Sharlene's friend, Marcela. Everyone worked away on their own creation. It pleased me that Marcela allowed me to work from a painting she had done which employed a new-to-me technique.


Happy painters in Marcela's studio

Marcela surrounded by her colourful oil paintings



The wild and wonderful oil painting above, unfinished as it may be, vibrates with exciting energy. It was a fine way for me to wind up the painting part of our six week stay in Victoria. Huge thanks to my painter pals for indulging me and making me feel so welcome.