Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great Book of Kids' Art Projects (Freebie Alert!)

I wanted to take a minute to pass on a kind offer from a friend of mine, N.H. artist and gallery-owner Susan Schwake. Susan has offered to send a free signed copy of her new book, Art for All Seasons: 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children, to the first blog reader who sends me an email and asks for one.

Susan has for years run an array of amazing programs for children of all makes and models: kids in private and public schools, community organizations, programs for medically fragile children, special needs agencies, summer camps, intergenerational facilities, libraries, and her own gallery art school - we're talking about thousands of people whose lives she's enriched with art and art-making. 

Susan was an early supporter of my painting endeavor, showing my work in her former Rochester, NH gallery space. She's now making a name for herself in new digs in Dover. 

Organized around the four seasons, this is a great source: 140 pages packed with 400 color photos, simple directions, and easy-to-inspire examples. Susan pairs each project with a local artist whose work helped inspire it. I am proud to say that I'm included in the section on "Painting Outside."

"My" page in Susan's book!

If you're looking for fun art projects you can do with kids all year round this is a great source. There are good old-fashioned projects (potato-print snowflakes), fun new ideas (make a mandala out of an old LP record), as well as contemporary twists on the traditional (cut-paper quilts and scrap-collage flowers). Best of all, a good number of the projects will work for a wide range of abilities, accommodating beginning artists as well as more sophisticated ones, the limits being only that of imagination and inclination (feather paintings, accordion books, drawing nature, relief printed cards, plein-air painting....). It's impossible not to find at least a few inspired kids' art activities here that will work for you. Check the book out on Amazon here.

Don't believe me? Shoot me an email and see for yourself.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Oliver's Army of Colours

Glimpses of spring in Wiltshire, UK,  selections from contemporary British painter Oliver Akers Douglas.

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering- 
There is a crack in everything.
That is how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

The Luminous Point: Corot

Among the many charms of Camille Corot's (French, 1796-1875) work is the way tone (what we would call dark-light value) balances so harmoniously (even across its wide range of dark to light). At the same time, his colors, like his soft, painterly touch, remain mild and delicate. I love how he combines feathery edges with a few big lights, a few very dark darks, and an infinity of mid-tones.

Recently I stumbled on the following (collected in Painters on Painting, one of my new favorite books):

The Luminous Point

"In a painting there is always a luminous point; but this point must be unique. You may place it where you wish; in a cloud, in the reflection of the water, on in a bonnet. However, there must only be a single tone of this value."

This sent me back to the paintings and, sure enough, I saw it. In this painting, it's the bending man's shirt:

Here, I think it's the light reflected off the woman's hair ribbons (although this is not the brightest, highest-key value, which is probably the woman's white sleeve, the "point" of light on the ribbons glows up against the darker tones he places around it, in this case the young woman's hair):

I thought about titling this post "Corot's Secret." The tabloid headline style would be in keeping with my last post on the man, Corot's Palette Revealed (also posted in spring, not incidentally).

But if Corot had a "secret" it was simply this: he knew and painted from himself. He was so intimately in touch with his own genuine love of nature, that it was said that when he posed his models he instinctively "made them equal, but not superior to, the trees and water he loved so well, an equation of man and nature." (Joseph C. Sloane)

In the painting below, though it's hard to see, there's a spot in the yellow clouds near the overhanging branch in the middle of the picture that is slightly brighter than the surrounding tones:

And in this next one, the "luminous point" is the little rectangular patch of light nestled in the grass in front of the cow:

Detail of above painting showing "the luminous point" .

Knowing himself also helped Corot know what "effect" he was going for when he painted. Like Cezanne, he covered his whole canvas as soon as possible and worked on all parts of the painting at once, "improving it very gently until I find that the effect is complete."

If there's any other "secret" to how he worked, it's that he saw and painted primarily in values rather than in colors. "That which I look for while I paint is the form, the harmony, the value of the tones," he wrote. "Color comes afterwards for me because above all I like the harmony in the tones."

All of this helps to lend Corot's paintings their marvelous unity of effect - what many have called their "poetry" - the way, wordlessly and all at once, they convey such feeling.