Posts Tagged ‘still life’

I hadn’t taught the high school camp for years, and it was incredible how fast they caught on and were just so hungry to learn. It was very rewarding, intense, and heartbreaking to understand that even in normal times, they are not getting what they need, as far as being seen, being able to make things and respond to the world – and how much they have lost, the past couple years now, how mature they seemed, they have had to grow up fast.

We all need to support our young people, give them space and permission to be young people.

At Sitka Fine Arts Camp you don’t have to have ever done any art. In Alaska and probably other places art classes, if they have any in school in the first place, don’t teach drawing from observation. Fine Arts Camp classes are basically college classes, except in an hour a day for a couple weeks! these kids worked so hard.

Drawing and Watercolor

We worked outdoors, from the model, drew still lifes, and copied master watercolor landscape paintings as we learned the conventions of landscape and how to manipulate watercolor.

We had some very challenging exercises, like drawing a model, in a landscape, using water media or marker.


We did drypoint etchings, rubber cuts, wood cut, stencils and monoprints, and even wood engraving:

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Cover 2019

The 2019 Outer Coast calendar is available from www.theoutercoast.com, or buy in stores in Sitka, or bookstores in Alaska and a few select places in the North West – including Powells Books in Portland and Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.

I’ll also be at WhaleFest in Sitka November 2-4, at the Alaska Juneau Public Market on Thanksgiving weekend, and at the Sitka Artisans Market December 7-9. I’ll also have original wood engraving prints and notecards, which are also available on the website.

Calendars are printed in color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art, poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2019 on the last page. The price is $15 but there are discounts starting at two.

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of imperfection – nobody’s perfect, and that’s ok.

Poetry includes lines from William Wordsworth, Shakespeare, and Beat poet Lew Welch (1926-1971).

This calendar also features work by John Straley, novelist and poet, and some beautiful, inspiring work by Caroline Goodwin.

Below are the images from the 2019 calendar:December2019February2019January2020July2019 (2)June2019March2019May2019November2019October2019September2019image only


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In 2018 I got to teach at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Elementary School session. The camp groups students by age and rotates four sections of each age group through four different classes, in music, theater, visual art, and dance.

This year I had the 5th grade group, kids going into 6th grade, who came in for I think around 50 minutes each. Each group had around a dozen kids, and we had to set up, work, and clean up in that time before the next group came in. The camp was one week, so five mornings total.

The cleaning up is an important part of the process – young people actually like knowing what’s going on and they actually like cleaning up, especially sponging off the tables.

The first day I gave them watercolors, and had them try various techniques, with nice watercolor paints (they are Cotman travel sets, and over the years we have replaced the paint as it was used up with Daniel Smith watercolors) on 80# drawing paper. First we looked at some slides of the work of Helen Frankenthaler and Vasili Kandinsky, and told a little about those artists and periods.

Tuesday, we did observational drawing, of a wooden stool, doing fast draw, blind contour, then a longer drawing, then, if they had time, a smaller object of their choice. In this one I showed them basic drawing tricks, using angles, proportions, overlap, scale, and the trick of using the back ground, and the angles of the box the stool was on, to give their drawing depth.

Wednesday we drew the counselor, with the same drawing instruction, with the addition of learning to show the model respect.

Thursday we drew a still life of at least two objects, on the table near them. We didn’t do any warmups, but instead sketched on newsprint, then drew with pencil and outlined with pen or drew with a pen, then watercolor, on 80# drawing paper, using the various watercolor techniques from Monday.

On Friday, I set up lights and pushed the tables together, with the lights at one end, and kids sitting on the long sides of the tables. They did a quick draw then shaded (modeled) drawing of white styrofoam balls. Then, had them gather all their art, and put their favorite piece on top, and we did a little art walk, where each said something they liked about (someone else’s) picture.

One more thing was to have each kid at the end of each session put his or her work in a stack. I didn’t have any drying racks, so we arranged the stacks of pictures all around the edges of the room on the floor.

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A Still Life by Henri Matisse

The very beautiful still-life paintings by Ms. Love’s Fifth Grade class in 2015. I’ve been meaning to put these up for a while. The students first learned about color mixing. They did these paintings in one session, painting from still lifes set up with colored cloths and fruit. They are done with tempera paint on canvas board (just because the teacher had some she wanted to get used!).img_2132smallimg_2133smallimg_2134smallimg_2135smallimg_2136smallimg_2137smallimg_2138smallimg_2139smallimg_2140smallimg_2141smallimg_2142smallimg_2143smallimg_2144smallimg_2145smallimg_2146smallimg_2147smallimg_2148smallimg_2149smallimg_2150smallimg_2151smallimg_2152small

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Over spring break I did a workshop for the Artspaces program of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and the Sitka Artists’ Coop on painting still life in tempera paint, using overlap, shading, highlights, and perspective to make it look 3-dimensional.

We did this in two two-and-a-half-hour-long sessions. It was a bit long for some of the kids, but they all hung in there, worked hard and got a little beyond their skills they had coming in. It was aimed at kids in grades 4-6. Some of the kids were in second grade, and one was in 8th, but they all had solid skills, and most importantly, confidence.

We set up still life objects on drapes down the center of two tables: fruit and vegetables (I bought a couple of paper bags of overripe veggies at the downtown grocery store), an imitation rooster and sombrero from the Fine Arts Camp, a teapot, toy guitar, some plush toys, and a couple of bottles.

First showed kids slides of Cezanne and Matisse still lifes, for inspiration and for a mini lesson on Modern Art.

Then had them paint a still life they set up, with some objects overlapping others, and had them mix colors. Once they got their big shapes in, had them add shading, cast shadows, and highlights.

Part of the lesson was color complements, the way you can make a color “pop out” by putting its opposite next to it. I pointed that out in the slides, and helped the kids figure out what might make a good background color for an object.

Kids wanted to put their still life objects into a landscape, so second day showed them about the horizon line, and viewpoint: how having the ground or horizon at the bottom of the page, the way most kids start out, indicates the viewpoint, your eye level, even with the ground (or table), which is not a common way to look at things.

I made sketches to show how moving the horizon changes how we read the viewpoint. Horizon high on the paper = high viewpoint, like from a plane or mountain top. It’s not something you can really explain, but I think this made a big difference in the kids’ artwork, that understanding that you can see the ground, or table, under your objects; that in a picture, the ground actually comes up the page.

The second and last session had them start out with just black and white, mixing five grays. I had to help them with that so they’d mix enough. Kids (all of us) are often too lazy to mix enough of a color for our picture.

This is a challenging exercise but very good for stretching the brain. And, the product looks very “advanced.”

We had red, yellow, blue and white tempera paint on paper plate palettes. Most used a second plate for mixing more colors. Each kid had a container of water and folded paper towels for blotting the brush.

This year I have been working with (playing with) entire classes of first and second graders, with the aim of enjoying and looking at great art, and enjoying creating their own, making a safe space for them to try things and not be “wrong.” So it was fun to do something different, and help kids who already have some confidence to work on their technical skills.

And finally, photo of the ratatouille (came out pretty good Рused this recipe, with some variation:  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Ratatouille-with-Penne-102256 ) made with the pretty, if over ripe, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes we painted.

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This was the most challenging project to date: to paint a still life of fruit – and to mix colors, and to try to use color complements. The children were a little hesitant at the beginning, but worked hard.

A color’s complement is the color that is opposite on the color wheel; so red’s complement is green, and yellow’s is purple and so on. Any color when it’s placed next to its complement appears brighter and more intense. It’s a great trick for artists of any age.

Probably none of the kids got that far, but each time we’ll talk about that idea. 4th and 5th graders are ready to add more shading, shadows and highlights; they like that. It’s fun to do in the style of Matisse – big dark outlines of things.

This session we looked at pictures of still lifes by Matisse, Van Gogh, and Cezanne, all of fruit. We chose one to talk about, going around with each kid saying what they liked or noticed about the picture.

A Still Life by Henri Matisse

The kids all had tempera paint in primary colors and a paper plate for mixing, as well as brushes, water, and folded paper towels for blotting their brush after washing.

For subject I’d brought in apples, Satsumas, bananas and green pears, and colored cloth napkins.

The kids did great! The one photo of all the work on the bulletin board is funky because we could not get the Promethean Board to move. It knows I wish the district had got projectors instead.

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