Saturday, March 01, 2008

Shiny inspiration

When my muse decides to take a nap for awhile, I need to find other sources of inspiration and they turn up in strange places. Stores of all kinds inspire me. Especially supermarkets as they have piles of colourful vegetables and fruits and stacks of colourful tins or displays.

Today I was picking up some things at the supermarket and as I came around the corner of an aisle there was a self serve coffee bean display. The colours, shapes and reflections in the chrome made an interesting image, so I took out my cell phone which has a handy little camera in it and took a couple of shots.

People tend to give me odd looks when I take photos of supermarket displays but so far, no one has said anything. I still have niggling worries in the back of my head of being escorted from the supermarket...

What I'd love to know though is when you take images of highly reflective surfaces, how can the photo be taken without the photographer showing up in the reflections? I know it can be done as I've seen professional photos of shiny objects that don't reflect anything but light. But how do they do it???
In my wanderings, I also came across a little pair of rubber ducks with a life ring. Into the cart they went too and I played around with a sketch of one of them in coloured pencil.

Where does your inspiration lie? A store? A cupboard? An activity?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Animal portraits

"Saved" (1856)
by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73)

In my own quest to find the perfect formula for animal portraits I wanted to examine what's gone before. And the first person who comes to my mind is the quintessential animal portrait artist, Sir Edwin Landseer.
Landseer was a brilliant animal painter whose work had added appeal in the Victorian age because of his tendency to give his animal scenes a moral dimension, such as this Newfoundland dog who is depicted as having rescued a child from drowning. So popular and influential were Landseer's paintings of dogs in the service of humanity that the name Landseer came to be the official name for the variety of Newfoundland dog that, rather than being almost entirely black, features a mix of both black and white; it was this variety Landseer popularized in his paintings celebrating Newfoundlands as water rescue dogs, most notably Off to the Rescue (1827), A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (1838), and Saved (1856), which combines Victorian constructions of childhood with the appealing idea of noble animals devoted to humankind — a devotion indicated, in Saved, by the fact the dog has rescued the child without any apparent human direction or intervention.
This appeal of having animals representing human emotion seems to have carried forward in some areas, as some of the most popular pieces which are purchased are those in which animals seem to mimic human action or feeling, either in pose or action and props or the viewer identifies with the animal's predictament or situation.

There are of course many animal portraits that stand on their own without any strong emotion tied into them, but these tend to be more formal commissioned portraits that owners want to represent their living or dead animals.

How much does the 'awwwwwwww' factor come into play when purchasing or creating animal art? Does wildlife art have the same appeal as that of domestic animals? Does the setting play a factor in the appeal of a painting or drawing? How much does the viewer or buyer need to relate to the animal or the situation to make them want to inspect it further or purchase it?

Sympathy - Briton Riviere
Painted in 1877. The girl is the artist's daughter
Riviere was an animal painter, and was widely regarded as the successor of Landseer. He was also one of the few painters with an Oxford University Degree. He was the son of a well known artist. Riviere lived near to London Zoo, where he spent much time studying the physiology of animals. He painted glorified, romanticised pictures of wild animals. Another speciality was sentimental, rather humanised paintings of dogs, which found a considerable market. Rather surprisingly he only was narrowly beaten to the Presidency of the Royal Academy by Edward Poynter in 1896.
I've been reviewing how I present animal images and what my style is in comparison to some more traditional animal artist of the past. I think my images are mostly standard portraiture - simple images often without background, but I introduce the 'awwwww' factor in some drawings as well, such as Mother Goose or Eric. Animals in both of those pieces are represented in poses or interaction that is humanlike.

The Victorian painters seemed to have a sentimental view of animals and children and the interaction and I'm sure that appeal is still there today, but with a less intense view perhaps. I'll continue to examine animal portrait artists, both past and present and taking pieces from past and present, I hope to improve both the subject matter and the viewpoint.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Art series

Before the snow on Saturday, I was out in the woods burning off branches from trees that were felled to clear a new field. The snow was just starting and there wasn't any wind and it was quite peaceful.

I was enthusiastically adding branches to my fire and the flames were licking skyward on the dry boughs forming a golden curtain that I could see through so I had to photograph it. I should have brought some marshmallows for toasting...

The path out of the newly cleared field holds possibilities for drawing and painting as well.

I've been playing around with some ideas for a series of drawings. I keep talking about a series but never seem to come up with the goods. But I do have good intentions! Life rather gets in the way sometimes it seems.

Art series always appeal to me and they don't need to be huge numbers to be effective. I have some catching up to do to meet some of my goals for the year. I've only done one of the Flatrock series yet and still have another to produce for January. There are ideas spinning around in my head, I just need a few days to put them in perspective and see what is realistic and what is simply my imagination outdoing my ability.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Being in charge

graphite 18 x 24
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I've started making some decisions around my art career that I hope will push me further forward. Some decisions are small ones, some are larger. Some have risks associated with them and others are risk free.

I've started with resigning from my position as drawing instructor for my tri-weekly classes. The numbers of people attending are slowing, yet I still do the same amount of preparation work for minimal return. I need to recoup that time to invest in areas of art that will have higher yields, such as workshops and tutorials. I'll consider my private classes and whether they will provide what I want or still more of the same - lots of prep and little return. I'll finish my commitments to registered classes for March, but after that, I'm on my own.

I prefer the idea of larger groups in a one or two day format. Once I have the formula in place, it can be done again and again for little pain. It also would leave me with a lot more time to concentrate on my art, which has been slowing due to all the time I spend creating lesson plans.

Then almost as a portent, Alyson Stanfields' I'd rather be in the studio book arrived in the mail today. It my birthday present to me (I always buy myself the nicest things...)

The first statement in Alyson's Principles of No-Excuse Self Promotion is:

You are in charge of your career.

I am in charge and this is the beginning of the transition phase. You can look at some of Alyson's principles on art marketing in her blog post here. They serve as good beginning thoughts for forward movement.

The sketch above is of last night's life model. We had a small group and I was leading them. I wanted to draw and sneaked in a few sketches in the longer sessions between going around the easels to provide direction to others drawing. I brought along my nephew to his first life class. He hopes to get into a fine arts program at Sir Wilfred Grenfell in September and this will be good practice for him and hopefully provide some fodder for his portfolio.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Persistance of vision

We can think of ourselves not as teachers but as gardeners. A gardener does not 'grow' flowers; he tries to give them what he thinks they need and they grow by themselves. (John Holt)

I taught a children's drawing class today and had all girls in it. They were quite productive, as we concentrated on making thaumatropes and developed some designs. While they were intent on their work, I took the opportunity to do a little sketching of them working.

They were delighted to see themselves captured on paper and that fueled a discussion about how they could sketch and how to develop shapes that turned into people.