Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spotlight on Georgia O'Keeffe

Sun Prairie,Wisconsin can be proud to claim this week's Master Artist as their daughter by birthright. We are talking of course about the talented American artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who was born there on November 15th, 1887. Daughter of a dairy farmer, she decided that the artist's life was the one for her. Art training she received from a local watercolour artist when she was ten only fueled that dream and after graduating from high school, she enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which she attended from 1905-1905. She continued her studies in New York City, as a member of the Art Students League in 1907, but by 1908 gave up on the idea of a career as an artist.

Drawing XIII - 1915
For the next four years O'Keeffe worked as a commercial artist in Chicago, never once touching a paint brush. It wasn't until 1912, when she took a summer art class where she was introduced to the stylings of Arthur Wesley Dow, that her interest in painting returned. This was followed by a move to Amarillo, Texas to work as an art teacher. She taught in Texas for two years, then relocated to New York City to attend Columbia Teacher's College. When she completed teacher's college, she moved to south Carolina to work at Columbia College and during that time period worked on some charcoal sketches. The choice to mail them to a friend in New York was to alter the course of her life forever more.

Green Lines and Pink 1919
When O'Keeffe's drawings left her hands, with the help of her friend, they found their way into Alfred Stieglitz's famous "291" gallery. While O'Keeffe was very much aware of Stieglitz's gallery and reputation, she was not made aware that her drawings were on display prior to their showing. Originally upset, she spoke to Stieglitz herself and then agreed to let the pictures remain. This was to mark the beginning of a relationship that would see them married by 1924.

Red Canna - 1923
While Stieglitz was a generous fan, regularly displaying O'Keeffe's paintings at his gallery, it was her continuing skill and paintings that merited all the attention that she begot. She experimented in abstracts with charcoal and watercolours, developing an eye that captured New York's landscapes in a vivid way. She also painted many of her now famous large flower pieces that took the art scene by storm.

Horse's Skull with White Rose - 1931
Needing to find a new backdrop to draw inspiration from, O'Keeffe travelled to New Mexico in 1929. She was immediately enchanted with the wide open spaces, bright sun and bleached bones that seemed to be scattered everywhere. Her artistic muse came alive once again, this time set off by the rugged surrounding mountains that she returned to every year for upwards of six months at a time to escape to solitude and her paintbrush. Her canvases bear witness to her love of the New Mexican landscape, as bones, rocks, trees and the sky dominated her work throughout this time.

Pelvis I (Pelvis with Blue) - 1944
With the death of Stieglitz in 1946, O'Keeffe permanently made New Mexico her home. Known for her solitary ways, she continued to paint, with a series on pelvic pictures during the 40s.  Another transformation to her work came when she began her world travels from the 50s-70s. She became fascinated with the view outside her airplane window and captured it in several large series, both proportionally and in number of works. As she neared her 80s, O'Keeffe's eyesight began to fail her, which in turn affected her artistic output. With the encouragement  of Juan Hamilton, she re-entered the art scene briefly creating pottery and a few more paintings with assistance. On March 6th, 1986, O'Keeffe died at the age of 98.

On Saturday March 3rd, Budding Artists will take an indepth look at Georgia O'Keeffe and the legacy that she left behind in her over 900 paintings that she created. The children's art workshop will feature games, art history and an opportunity to create an O'Keeffe-inspired masterpiece of your child's own. Workshops are held at 10am and 1pm at the Western Fair District in the London Farmer's Market. Sign your child up today, so they don't miss out on the fun!

Dali Museum in Figueres

What a pleasant surprise! Since we had a rental car for the day, my husband suggested we take a trip to the Dali Museum in Figueres, a 2 hour trip north from Barcelona. It was a great way to start since the kids were quite jet lagged, they slept in the car.  Figueres is where Salvador Dali was born. I am not a huge fan of his work but I like his eccentricities.  The museum was a life long dream of Dali's. When the opportunity arose to purchase the run down theatre, he could not turn it down. This was one of the first places where he exhibited.  Plus he had a house not too far away in Cadaques.  Dali said "I want my museum to be like a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come t see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream."

Museo Theatro Dali

Before entering the musuem, we had no idea what they were plastered on the building. I won't tell you what our toilet minds thought they were. Knowing Dali...we wouldn't put it past him to think of something so weird. Dali had a huge fascination with bread. The walls are plastered with triangle shaped bread famous in this region. There were also eggs on top of the museum. These were the foods of his childhood.

This is a picture at the entrance. Dali, once gave a lecture wearing this scuba diving outfit. At one point, he was having a hard time breathing and was making motions for help but his audience thought it was part of his performance.

This barrel organ was rescued by Dali and turned into this surrealist orject. It is said to have been owned and used by two Bohemian from Figueres who filled the street with their music.
When you add coins, it rains inside this Cadillac. 

This is a room  with a couch shaped like lips, fireplace shaped like a nose and paintings representing the eyes. The painting is on display at Art Institue of Chicago. Also there is my son's finger picking the nose. Such a funny guy!

Overall, it was a great visit. The kids have said that they really enjoyed the town of Figueres and would like to come back again. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Tintin,  investigative reporter
and Snowy
We are in Barcelona for a vacation. Quite extravagant on our part. Since my husband was at a conference in Spain, we decided to bite the bullet and join him. We found really cheap tickets and decided this was an opportunity. Our flight took us from Toronto to Brussels where the kids were adamant that they wanted to go to the Herge Museum. Herge was the inventor and author of the Tintin  comic books.

View just outside of Brussels Central Train Station
We arrived in Brussels at 8 am local time but 2 am Toronto time. Kids were tired but up for the adventure. Since we were too early, we took a train to the Central Station and walked around outside. I wish I had been better organized. I didn't expect to have any time in Brussels city core. I was hoping we would see the Manneken-pis or some of the Tintin murals. Apparently there are many in the city core. We did eat Belgian waffles. In our small tour, we accidentally found the  Rene Margritte Museum but it was closed till 10 am.

Rather than wait around to open, we decided that we would go to Herge Museum. So back on the train and a 40 minute ride to Louvain de Neuve. The museum is located in the university town of Louvain de Neuve. It was a very pretty setting.

Herge Museum in Louvain de Neuve
The museum was well done. Unfortunately there was not enough interactive exhibits to keep the kids entertained. Architecturally, the musuem was laid out and well organized with a good audio guide in many different languages. The kids learned a lot about Herge and since they knew the books quite well was able to gain more insights on the story lines and characters. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the social contexts of the books. After a few hours, we returned to Brussels to check out the Margritte Musuem.

Margritte Museum in Brussels
Rene Margritte  was a surrealist born in Belguim in 1898. The majority of his work was to challenge the viewer on their preconceived notions of reality.

All we did was stop in the gift shop. I really wanted to see the original works of Rene Margritte but was afraid that the kids would have a major melt down. Here is a nice website for kids. By this time, all they wanted to do was return to the airport. I wasn't too upset. In my mind,  I know I would return to Brussels and this time, I would know where it is. It's an easy train ride in from the airport.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spotlight on Paul Klee

Who was Paul Klee? A man, an artist, an independent legend in his own time. He was born December 18th, 1879 in M├╝nchenbuchsee near Bern, Switzerland. Well versed in musical training from both of his musically inclined parents, Klee was an accomplished violinist, but during his teen years his interest veered towards the visual arts. In 1898, he enrolled at The Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany and spent three years studying art there. During this early period, Klee created mostly etchings, pen-and-ink drawings as well as a number of caricatures. He was the first to admit though that the use of colour was something that he struggled with.

Woman & Animal - 1904
In 1906, Klee married and settled into the Munich suburbs where an avant-garde community thrived. While his pianist wife earned an income for them, Klee tended house and took care of their son, while working on his art on the side. He continued to create etchings and had his first exhibition in Bern in 1910. A turning point in his artistic career came when he met Kandinsky in 1911. This meeting was to begin a lifelong friendship for Klee and an important source of encouragement and support for his artistry. He also met Robert Delaunay in 1912, who introduced Klee to a different take on colour with his vibrant usage of it.

Hammamet with Its Mosque - 1914 
It wasn't until Klee ventured to Tunisia in 1914 that he finally had an awakening in his exploration of colour. The light of the African nation helped him to embrace hues and tones in a way that he had never been able to grasp before. It also marked a break with his previous landscapes, as from this point forward, Klee explored the world of abstract art in a way that was all his own. He painted with an eye to the fantastic, in subjects that often had whims of fancy, personal interpretations and more often than not, a nod to his musical upbringing.

Ad Parnassum - 1932
While World War I reduced the output of Klee's artwork, it by no means ended his career. When he wasn't painting aircraft, he managed to create lithographs and his paintings sold well enough to make quite a name for himself. It was no surprise then, when he began teaching at the Bauhaus (a school dedicated to architecture, industrial design and arts & crafts) in 1920. He taught bookbinding, metal art, weaving, and wrote essays regarding colour theory during his ten years at this new-age school. He further taught at the Dusseldorf Academy from 1931-33, but the rise of the Nazi regime put an end to his time in Germany. He returned to Switzerland, but 1933 also marked the beginning of his battle with scleroderma, the disease that would eventually take his life.

Red Waistcoat -1938
Over his lifetime, Klee was influenced by Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism and of course Abstract artwork. What he accomplished surpassed all of these movements in a style all his own. His dry sense of humour and childlike perspective were evident in the more than 10,000 paintings that he created before his death on June 29th, 1940. The political climates that he lived through shaped not only his world, but also his canvases. The music that filled his soul could likewise be seen in his creations, as well as the influence of poetry, dreams and more. As far as mediums went, he explored oils, pastels, watercolours, ink, etchings and used materials such as burlap, muslin, gauze, fabric, wallpaper, cardboard, metal foil and even canvas. You could often see a mixture of these mediums, styles or materials encompassed in a single piece of artwork.

Click here for a one line drawing art idea inspired by Paul Klee.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Piet Mondrian Inspired Artwork

Today, was all about Piet Mondrian.

First  we played a game. I had six Mondrian style artwork on the wall. The kids rolled a number cube (die) and had to recreate whatever number was on the die. It was a good exercise in spatial awareness and we discussed lines, primary colours and balance.

For the art project, the kids designed Mondrian inspired trivet, I painted each cork bottom trivet  with gesso the night before. After discussing Piet Mondrian's work,  kids created a design on paper. I asked them to make a variety of lines. Two lines should read the end. There should be a total of 5-6 lines. Once they had their lines figured out, they had to choose where they wanted the colours. The only colours available were yellow, red, and blue. I asked them to balance out the colours and to consider the white spaces.

After they finished their designs, they used tape and a  black permanent marker to create thick and thin lines. Then I gave them primary acrylic colours to complete their  design.

Overall, they did a fantastic job.

 Here is one example.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spotlight on Piet Mondrian

Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan was born on March 7th, 1872 in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. The son of a Headmaster of a primary school, as well as an acclaimed drawing teacher, it was no wonder that little Piet became interested in the arts at an early age. The first exhibition of his work was in 1890 and by 1892 he was enrolled at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. While his artwork at this point was indicative of the times, representing impressionistic landscapes, mostly of windmills, rivers and fields, there was an inkling of some of the changes to come.

Windmill in Sunlight - 1908
These changes would become a regular occurrence throughout Mondriaan's lifetime. The naturalistic style that he originally developed while at school, soon morphed into a brighter palette more akin to Fauvism, with definite nods to pointillism. In 1908, Mondriaan embraced the Theosophical movement, led by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, which in turn saw his paintings begin to lean more towards Cubism. By 1911, he moved to Paris, dropped an "a" from Mondriaan to become Mondrian and embraced the new Cubist artists Picasso and Georges Braque full-heartedly.

Grey Tree - 1912
Mondrian spent the next four years in Paris actively exploring Cubism in his art. While the process was a gradual one, geometric shapes and patterns emerged in his artwork and his colour palette became increasingly simple and abstract. In 1914, he returned to Amsterdam to visit his ailing father, but the outbreak of World War I forced him to remain in country for the remainder of the war. Paris's influence stayed with him though and his paintings became even more abstract, with the focus on lines and blocks of colours. Gone were any traces of the impressionism that he started with.

Composition A: 
Composition with Black, Red, Gray, Yellow & Blue - 1920
While Mondrian returned to Paris as soon as the war was over, an important milestone was marked during his stay in The Netherlands; that of founding De Stijl (The Style) with Theo van Doesburg. It was through the essays that he wrote for De Stijl that he shared his vision of a new style of art called neoplasticism. This new non-representational style that Mondrian developed is nowadays seen as the beginning of abstract art. Ultimately what it looked like was a white background with a dark grid set upon it and the addition of primary colour blocks to represent the beauty and awareness of nature from the artist's eye.

New York City II - 1942
When World War II broke out Mondrian left Paris for England. He spent two years there, before leaving for the United States, where another change in his artistic style took place. Where his grid lines had originally been gray and thin, gradually getting thicker and darker, with fewer colour blocks apparent, now the grid itself became the colour. While still exploring this vibrant turn in his neoplasticism, Mondrian fell ill and died on February 1st, 1944. The art and fresh look at what it could be left a huge mark on the world though, that is still felt today.

This weekend, Budding Artists will take an in depth look at Piet Mondrian in the Master Series children's art workshop at the London Farmer's Market. Join us on Saturday February 18th at 10am and 1pm for 90 minutes of art history, games, and creation in the style of this abstract painter. Register today!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mondigliani Portraits

This past Saturday, under the supervision of Paddy, the kids in our "Crafting the Masters"  workshop created their own self-portraits using oil pastels and blue construction paper in the style of Amedeo Mondigliani. Turned out fantastic!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spotlight on Amedeo Modigliani

This week's Artist spotlight is on the tragic figure of Amedeo Modigliani. His short life spanned the years from July 12th, 1884 through January 24th, 1920. Born in Livorno, Italy, he was the son of Sephardic Jews and came from a long line of intellectual scholars. Often sickly as a child, his mother tutored him at home for much of his younger years. It wasn't until 1898 that he began his formal training with Guglielmo Micheli, under which his interest and skill flourished.

Reclining Nude
Modigliani spent two years studying the Macchiaioli style (Italian landscape movement that pre-dated the French Impressionist movement) with Micheli, before taking ill with typhoid fever, which only got worse when he developed tuberculosis. During this time he lamented the thought that he would not get the chance to see the works of the master Renaissance artists in person. His mother promised that upon his recovery she would fulfill his dreams and to her word she was good. When he sufficiently recovered, they toured through Naples, Capri, Rome, Amalfi, Florence and Venice, where young Modigliani got a new artistic lease on life. By 1902, he enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo in Florence, where his real artistic passion lay - portraiture, more specifically nude portraits. After a year, he transferred to Venice, where he continued his studies, but was introduced to a life that ultimately would be his demise, that of drugs and alcohol. It seemed a natural step at that point for him to make the move to Paris and in 1906 he arrived in Montmartre.

Stone Head
Life in Paris was nothing, if not exciting. Modigliani threw himself into his art, sometimes producing upwards of a hundred sketches per day. He was heavily into drugs, alcohol and whatever other excesses he could get into, in part to mask the symptoms of his tuberculosis. After returning home in 1909 for a brief respite from his life of excess, he returned to Paris and settled in Montparnasse. It was at this point that his main focus turned to sculpture and he spent the next five years creating art out of whatever materials he could get, namely scavenged building materials from Paris's building boom. He continued to live a bohemian existence that saw him usually intoxicated and/or in the company of the women he loved to depict so often. The outbreak of World War I made building materials harder to come by though and with his worsening physical state, Modigliani returned to painting as his medium.

Jeanne Hbuterne, Left Arm Behind her Head 
During the last years of his life, Modigliani created some of his most remarkable paintings. His life of excess continued, but so too did his creativity. He created distinctive paintings of children, in part due to the fact that he had become a father himself. Jeanne Hbuterne, the mother of his daughter, moved with him to Nice, when wartime made life in Paris too difficult . They returned to Paris in 1919, but by that point Modigliani's health had deteriorated to dangerous levels. He continued to drink, do drugs and paint, but there was little to conceal his ill health. In early January 1920, Modigliani took to his bed and the doctors announced there was nothing to be done. His tuberculosis finally caught up to him, and on January 24th, 1920, the young artist died. Sadly, Hbuterne was so distraught by his death that she took her own life, and in the process, the life of her unborn child.

On Saturday February 11th, Budding Artists will take a look at this Master Artist in our Children's Art Workshops at the London Farmer's Market. Join us at 10am and 1pm, as we look at this talented artist who created incredible portraits, sculptures and more in his few short years. There will be 90 minutes of art history, games, creativity and fun, as we explore this next artist in our Masters Series - Amedeo Modigliani.