I was expecting to learn the usual stuff you learn in a basic design class: stuff about line, shape, colour, repetition, scale, etc. In fact, it went way beyond that and I don't know where else I might have found such a course. Our instructor, Matthew Mancini, is a classical realist painter, who studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) for two years and then spent five years honing his skills at the Academy of Realist Art. The academy has schools in Toronto, Boston and Edinburgh. He will be representing Canada this summer at a special gallery celebration of the Queen's Jubilee in London, England.
During our first day we learned a great deal about the basic underlying structure (or geometry) of the works of the masters. We analyzed art for its underlying structure, and then each of us chose one of the works of the masters to work with ourselves. I chose a painting called Wheatfield and Cypress Trees by Vincent van Gogh (which reminds me I haven't yet had time to see the Van Gogh exhibit that is here in Ottawa this summer, but I will!!). The underlying structure is basically a harmonic armature. I've left a link where you can read more.
Van Gogh, Whatfield and Cypress Trees
Our first task was to do a grey-scale (value) study, and then a colour study of the painting. Here are mine. We had to restrict ourselves to five values, and were not to include any detail, only colour.
Then we got to design our own piece. We could either go outdoors for inspiration for our composition or work with photographs. I worked with photos from my trip to Italy. My design is based on a combination of aspects of several photos. Again, we had to choose an underlying structure (armature), do a value study in greyscale, and then a colour study before designing our own painting. You can see on the greyscale study below, I have added in the lines of the harmonic armature. The points of interest should happen at the interesections of the lines.
Below is the painting, at the point when I left class yesterday. There is still a lot of work to do to shade the pots on the lower left and lower right, and I can either leave the stonework flat as it is or try to texture it the way the walls and arches really were. The basic composition is there though. I am basically a beginner level painter, and it was a real treat this week to watch Matthew in action drawing, mixing paint, painting.
It is becoming very clear to me that using one photograph is seldom ever going to provide the best composition, and placing the elements exactly where they are in the photograph isn't going to give you the best composition either. What actually exists in real life needs to be shifted to make the art dynamic.
Below is a photo of Matthew with his art. His portraits are absolutely amazing.
And here's a picture of our class. It was great to spend a week with kindred spirits, who all value art that is realistic. In the art quilt world, there is much more value placed on improvisation, innovation, stream of consciousness work, flying by the seat of your pants, accidental art, and moving in the now. The kind of art we made this past week was well planned and designed. According to Matthew, realism is back in vogue. Maybe the art quilt world will catch up!
Even though I was wearing my student hat this past week, I did attend the Tuesday night "meet and mingle" at the faculty show, where my piece Days That Remain is on exhibit.
Now it is back to reality! Back to the "to do" list. I have a dyeing class to teach on Monday here in Ottawa, and the rest of the week will be spent catching up and prepping for my two weeks of classes in Haliburton. They are coming up fast!