Sunday, February 22, 2009

For the Love of Carbon Pencil

I have always done preparatory sketches for my paintings, but it wasn't until recently that
I've moved back to using carbon pencil. The brand I use is Conte, which last year became unavailable in Canada, to the horror to a handful of us carbon junkies. When I was in Florence last October I spent over 100 Euro on them, and had to haul them around the rest of the trip with me. Recently I've heard rumours that they are available here again, but it was worth it anyway. Now those pencils are precious to me, and makes me add pressure to myself to not waste them by creating less than incredible work.

Carbon is a fantastic medium to work with. The Conte brand has the consistency of charcoal and pencil crayon combined; the slight waxiness allows both subtle gradations and rich darks to be laid down easily. I use the 2H for the lighter tones, it is an extremely hard pencil and it great for ghosting in my big forms. I switch to the 2B to finish the drawing with the darkest darks. Using coloured paper with the carbon and some white charcoal for accents is an old favoured technique made famous by Pierre Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823), and gives a must wider range of tone than using graphite alone. This magical combination of elements has made me fall even deeper in love with the pure qualities of drawing.

Here is the study drawing for my "White" painting. I really wanted to capture the haunting quality of the image, so allowed much of the green of the paper to show through. This gives a unity to the drawing, allowing the figures to become part of their surrounding environment and vice- versa. I chose these poses of Carol and Linux the dog because of the pure strength of them, a hard beauty that is both regal and honest, qualities that I hope will shine in the final painting.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Brush with War

On Sunday we went to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario. I hadn't been there before, and it was quite a different experience compared to our AGO visit. First off, the gallery is set back into the woods, with a gorgeous stretch of driveway leading into the parking area. All the trees were weighted with snow, the forest appeared begging to be painted by one of our beloved Group of Seven fellows. The gallery itself has a real "country bumpkin" feel, tons of lacquered pine, stonework and off white paint, a far cry from the modern slickness of the AGO. However, I found it much more comforting environment, like a visit to Grandma's cottage or something. The permanent collection had many gorgeous works from The Group and others, and boasts proudly their %100 Canadian content, which I thought ruled.
The specific reason we were there was to celebrate the inaugural public viewing of the exhibition, A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan. Our fellow painting family member Scott Waters was involved in the exhibition, displaying several works based on photographs from either his own experiences in the military, or from those he captured while spending time with soldiers in training through the Canadian Forces Artists Program. The Exhibition explores the two military art programs that started more than twenty years after the Second World War, the Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program (1968–1995) and the Canadian Forces Artists Program (2001– present).

It is a truly amazing and haunting collection of works. My favourite painting of Scott's from the exhibition is entitled "Keifer on OP", 2007. His use of hot pink and lime green is constant throughout the series, but the combination really sings in this one.

Go check it out. The show runs until June 19th, and then travels onwards to London, Ontario.