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A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER ERWIN P. LEWANDOWSKI

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I love it when artists combine Abstract Expressionism with Realism. That is probably why I responded instantly to the work of Erwin P. Lewandowski. A drawing like “Stillwater VI” is the perfect example. First I see a powerful design of shape and colour; then I see stone and water beautifully rendered.

Stillwater VI

Stillwater VI

To express abstractly is to focus on the big picture. Here, it was the bold design that struck me first. Basically it is a cruciform design, touching all four edges of the work. Moreover, it is a very elegant cruciform. The orange shape is reminiscent of an arrow, which adds a feeling of energy. There’s an inherent flowing quality to the entire work. Even though the title is “Stillwater”, the sweeping line speaks of movement. To me this movement feels calligraphic, as though the water were writing its own statement into the stone.

Now, I love earth colours; they have a special kind of warmth that is different from the brighter, clearer hues. But I’ve often found that they can seem monotonous without some strong contrast somewhere. Yet Lewandowski makes the most of this very limited palette. How does he do it?

In essence, it’s a different story that he tells with them. There are no bright blues or purples, yet the colour scheme seems rich and complete. This is partly because of all the variety in the earth tones. Vermilion, bronze, beige, deep terra-cotta just misted over with blue. Lewandowski has worked in complementary colours, but they are subtle. Look at the large areas of rock, for example: pale neutrals shadowed with bluish lavender. This is important also because the artist is working with extremely limited spatial planes. Not only does the blue add richness, it adds depth. Lewandowski has also managed to create an extra layer of depth with the transparent reflections. We can dip our hands through the water and feel the stone beneath.

Texture and shape also play important roles here. The powerful big shapes drew us in; now the details keep us interested. They balance the large areas, which are also textured with delicate striations, as if stone and water were somehow one and the same. But we know that water can wear through any rock. That’s maybe why I find myself responding to this piece emotionally as well as visually. The artist reminds us of what water can do to stone. And by extension he reminds us of what the softest and most malleable things can do to even the hardest and least yielding things, given enough time.

MASTER HANDS: PART 4 - ALBRECHT DÜRER

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

This has to be one of the most famous images in art: the magnificent “Hands of an Apostle” by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Also known as the “Praying Hands”, it was actually a preliminary study for an altarpiece. Tragically, the final painting was lost in a fire, so all we have is a copy and a few of Dürer’s own drawings, including this one.

Hands of an Apostle

Hands of an Apostle

We can only imagine what the finished altarpiece must have been like, if Dürer lavished this much care upon a single pair of hands. But I find that the level of observation in his work is always extremely intense, regardless of the subject. Like his counterpart Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Dürer was in many ways a kind of scientist. For him, drawing was not just a means of recording the surface of things. It was a means to deepen the understanding.

One of the most poignant details for me is how the hands are both so beautiful and so worn, with the veins and tendons standing out. Nowadays when we think of fine detail we tend to think immediately of photographs, but Dürer’s detail is not “photo-realistic” at all. It is very much drawn, with hatching and cross-hatching creating roughness and texture. They also create volume, balancing the slenderness and moving the whole from the ideal to the real. The long, upward lines of the fingers point toward Heaven, while the short horizontal strokes of the cross-hatching bring them back down to earth. Dürer has also created a strong light with white lines – by combining this with shadow, he at once conveys the idea both of sadness and of hope.

These toil-worn hands laid gently together in prayer speak of a faith that remains steadfast in spite of what must have been a fair share of adversity. It is an extraordinarily beautiful drawing, but I think what impresses me most about it is its dignity. It could so easily be sentimental, but it isn’t – rather like the artist himself. Dürer was a first-class celebrity: brilliant, extremely handsome, a rich and very successful artist who knew his own worth. Yet he was also a deeply sensitive and introspective man who suffered from depression (or “melancholia” as it was called then). He was very devout, but at the same time painfully aware of the religious issues of his day, which would soon find expression in the Protestant Reformation. He knew what he was drawing about, so to speak. So perhaps we don’t really need the altarpiece after all; perhaps this single sketch says everything he intended.

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER TERI L. HIATT

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Oddly, still life is a rather unusual genre for a graphite artist. I say “oddly” because still life offers so much opportunity for detail and patient observation, both of which lend themselves to pencil media. So it was a special pleasure to discover the work of Teri L. Hiatt. She demonstrates how exciting still life can be in black and white, and how many visual venues it can provide for a skilled pencil artist to explore.

Collander Still Life

Collander Still Life

For me, “Collander Still Life” is a very satisfying composition. I find it fascinating because of the geometry of it – circles, ellipses, symmetry and recurring forms, all of which I love. This drawing offers not only the representational shapes of the actual subjects, but also the abstract shapes of their reflections. It is a very harmonious work; Hiatt is always conscious of shape and rhythm. The main forms (collander, cup and saucer) are curved but they are balanced by the straight-lined forms of the books and negative spaces. These areas of plain negative space provide a rest for the eye after the very detailed areas. Edges are carefully done too: sharp is countered by soft and washy.

But although this is a symmetrical design nothing is ever just repeated. Hiatt is particularly sensitive to shape and she knows how to echo shapes without copying them. For example, look at the top corners; both have similar areas of white space but both are subtly different. Every part of the work is varied and interesting, like an intelligent visual conversation.

There’s a particular challenge here because Hiatt is not working with a lot of depth. That is, this is not a landscape, this is a closeup of a still life, so the spatial planes tend to be quite limited. As a result, depth becomes all the more important. Without a convincing sense of depth, such a detailed, complex work can easily become very flat and confused. This is where her ability to handle value comes to the fore. She balances lights and darks carefully throughout the work so that no area seems too heavily “weighted” toward one or the other. The darks are a particular pleasure to look at: they sparkle like ink against the crisp whites and soft modulated grays.

No matter how familiar something may be, an artist can make us consider it in a different and surprising way. Such is the case here. Hiatt has enabled us to rediscover these simple objects, presenting them to us anew.

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER KAREN HULL

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

In today’s culture, with its worship of impossibly beautiful young women, Karen Hull’s portrait of a woman who is both beautiful and old comes like a breath of fresh air. But “Yvonne” isn’t beautiful because her skin is miraculously wrinkle-free, or because she’s so toned, or because she’s covered up her gray so successfully. She is beautiful because her face glows with light and joy.

Yvonne

Yvonne

I was struck right away by the close-up view, because it makes us not only see all the lines and wrinkles, it makes us appreciate them. These are the marks of a long and well-lived life. They don’t mar a face, they make it special. They are like a map of personal experience.

We sense immediately how vibrant and full of life the subject is. Which is quite something, given the portrait’s limitations – that is, Hull shows just the face and a bit of the neck and collar. There are no hands showing, no elaborate pose, no props, barely any background! Now this can be very tricky. I have seen “mug shot” portraits, completely static. But “Yvonne” is anything but static. How does the artist create such a sense of movement?

In the first place, there is her momentary expression. Laughter can be very difficult to capture realistically but when it is successful, it is wonderful. It enlivens like nothing else can. A smile can be static but laughter is an energetic thing, it moves all over the face. There is also the use of diagonals. Everything in this portrait is tilted, from Yvonne’s smile to her spectacles. Since diagonals convey energy, the result is a portrait that is youthful, because youth equals energy. This is a woman who is still young at heart.

The colours are lively too. There is nothing worn-out or faded about this palette. That is not to say that it is bright or intense. As a matter of fact, it is rather restrained; there are no fiery reds or dazzling yellows, no rich deep blues or bright greens. Instead, the colours that are used are gentle, clear and warm. Peach, cream, pink, lavender. These are all “young” colours, colours of spring. The shadows are not harsh and dark, but full of reflected light and richly coloured. So is the hair – all this gray and white is a treasure-trove of delicate hues, of soft yellow and pale violet. The quiet neutral background serves as an excellent foil. We hardly notice it, so we are free to respond to the beautiful face.

There is so much worth looking at in the faces of old people. Experience, wisdom, character: so many hard-earned qualities. Kudos to the artist for taking the time to show us this! I hope there will be many more!

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER LYNE LAFONTAINE

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Seeing art in person is always special, because one is able to experience the work as the artist meant it to be experienced. I was able to see Lyne Lafontaine’s drawing “Immaculée déception” at our first International Exhibition. Fascinating!

Immaculée déception

Immaculée déception

One thing that reproductions seldom give us an understanding of is a work’s scale. An artist always chooses scale carefully, because it affects how we respond to the work. For example, we can be awed by something large, whereas a very small work can create a feeling of fineness and delicacy. Here, the scale was one of the first things that struck me. It is 9 1/4 x 13”: large enough to enjoy the detail easily, but small enough to retain a feeling of intimacy.

In some ways, “Immaculée déception” is a lot like a Renaissance drawing. It gave me the impression of being both antique and contemporary. As we see, it features the figure of a woman, not a specific individual but more like an allegorical figure. A favourite with artists for centuries, allegory has great scope for symbol and interpretation. This drawing is no exception – everything seems significant. I find myself particularly intrigued by the woman’s strange, real/unreal clothing. Her dress seems to consist of a corset and a long skirt, like something out of the Victorian or Edwardian era, yet it is also sleeveless – it reminds me of the work of Alphonse Mucha. It is a frivolous-looking garment, festooned all over with gauze and ribbon, including huge bows. Yet the woman seems almost encased in these fripperies. We can’t see her feet; she is bound like a prisoner or a package.

Her pose seems significant too, rather theatrical, and with her head turned so that we see her face only in profile. This was traditionally a very formal pose, as it prevented the subject from looking the viewer in the eye. It preserved dignity as well as (in the case of a woman) modesty. This woman seems willing enough to be seen, but she also seems aloof. By turning her face away, Lafontaine prevents a dialogue from taking place – we can’t communicate with the woman as we could if she were facing us. She is there to be looked at, not to share her thoughts. The way she is standing and holding her arms reminds me both of an elegant Greek goddess-figure as well as of another unattainable ideal, a fashion model displaying a designer’s latest creation.

The more I look at this, the more interested I get; but I also enjoy looking at the work for the sake of the technique. The artist is not simply describing form with her pencil; she is not primarily reproducing forms and textures. Instead she is translating the form into pencil lines and marks that have an aesthetic life of their own. For me, it all has a lovely sensuous quality. Lafontaine obviously takes a lot of pleasure in pencil’s richness and tactility. I find that this is particularly evident in the woman’s hair, with its stylized waves and wisps. (This is also a touch of the Renaissance, as artists of the time were extraordinarily creative with hairstyles!)

I really like how Lafontaine has managed to combine two different eras. Just another example of pencil’s timelessness!

PAS 2014: OUR FIRST INTERNATIONAL OPEN JURIED EXHIBITION IS A TERRIFIC SUCCESS!

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Well, the moment we have been waiting for so long FINALLY arrived. Our First International Open Juried Exhibition has now been well and truly launched! It took place at the beautiful Repentigny Exhibition Centre, just outside of Montreal. What a weekend!

Such a beautiful show!

Such a beautiful show!

To start we had our Meet-and-Greet, which gave us our first opportunity to meet some of our members in person. What a thrill it was to meet some of the wonderful people we have only known online. Several members travelled far to attend – from Northern Ontario to Michigan to as far away as Malaysia! Our first Annual General Meeting followed, and then, onto the workshop. It was very exciting and gratifying to be able to share a few of my techniques with such dedicated and talented artists.

The Vernissage and Award Ceremony were held the next day. The Repentigny Exhibition Centre is a gorgeous space and we were thrilled by the elegance and professionalism of the show. Everything was beautifully presented and hung; both the quality and the stylistic variety of the drawings are truly breathtaking. Some of our Award winners were able to attend and receive their prizes in person. We are thrilled that pencil has been so magnificently represented. We hope you visit our Exhibition page above to see their extraordinary work. Congratulations, all!

Everyone was so impressed ...

It was PACKED!

Vernissage 2014 pic 05

Admiring up close

We marked the occasion by signing the City’s “Golden Book”. A very special thank-you to the Mayor of Repentigny Chantal Deschamps, who honoured us with her presence and who made the time a very memorable one. We also wish to thank all those whose hard work made our show such a success! Many, many thanks to the Centre’s Art Director François Renaud, without whom none of this would have been possible. Many thanks also to our tireless Exhibition Director Alexandra Bastien, the Centre’s technicians and all the other dedicated, wonderful people who took care of all those details that make such a difference.

Last but so very far from least, we want to thank our guest judge, Richard Pedneault. Mr. Pedneault is curator of the Laurier Museum in Victoriaville, and was responsible for selecting the entire show as well as most of the award winners. I think he has summed up both this first International Exhibition and PAS itself perfectly:

My role as a judge is not easy, especially when I must choose the winners. Why? Because the word “winner” is associated de facto with the word “loser”! However, there are no “losers” for this contest and this exhibition! Because what the general public often do not realize is that between the first and last prize, there is sometimes not the slightest difference. Hard to believe, but true, and it is so very obvious here.

Thank you to the artists for your creative work; by what you do, you refresh and renew the imagination of humanity, and by this gesture you are helping to sustain life. A beautiful and fragile life.

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER JUDY MORRIS

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Botanical art is a fascinating genre. It brings together the precision of illustration with the inventiveness and aesthetic concerns of art. When I saw this work by Judy Morris I was really intrigued. It combines old and new: a traditional rendering with modern sensibilities.

Late Picked

Late Picked

This is particularly evident in the design. Generally, botanical illustration presents its subjects in a very straightforward way. That is, the subject is often placed in the middle of the work, with nothing to distract. It is the star and the focus. But we can see at once that this is more than illustration. Here, the grapes are not the focus. Instead they have been moved to the side and we are left to admire the beauty and structure of their stems. This off-centre approach creates a sense of movement, a sense of the unexpected. It makes us aware of two-dimensional shape rather than three-dimensional form – a very modern characteristic – and draws attention to the negative spaces.

I love the grape-stems. In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy this work so much is that I have admired the structure of grape-stems for as long as I can remember. They just always seemed so wonderfully designed, as neat and satisfying as Tinkertoys. Morris gives us a closeup viewpoint and because her style is so detailed, we can really see just how extraordinary they are: they look almost alien, or like sea polyps. Everything is precisely and beautifully rendered so that we can marvel at the miracle of it all.

For such a simple subject there is a lot of contrast too. There’s the contrast of light and dark, detailed areas with plain, shape against shape – the spikey hairy stems with the smooth rounded globes of the fruit. It’s a rather austere work overall, with lots of empty space, but the warm palette adds a sensuous note: yellow-greens, golden reds, and red-browns with a few touches of complementary purple in the shadows, all set off by the background of sparkling white.

Fruit is such a traditional subject, and it is always amazing to me how much it lends itself to personal expression. We haven’t nearly finished exploring it yet!

MASTER PENCIL ARTIST STATUS (MPAS) 2014

a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Congratulations to Allison Fagan, Richard Klekociuk, Julie Podstolski, Dale Redfern and Diane Wright! We have wonderful news for you! The judges have selected you to receive Master Pencil Artist Status (MPAS).

What exactly is MPAS? MPAS is an acknowledgment of achievement. We created MPAS out of a desire to honour those pencil artists who have attained a certain level of skill, respect, professionalism, and mastery. Reaching this level is not easy for any artist, but pencil artists must also struggle against the lack of respect for their chosen medium, both from the art world and the general public. It is an uphill battle, but the more visible pencil artists are, and the finer their work, the more we all benefit.

Such a level as these artists have reached represents a great deal of talent, dedication, and perseverance. You are an inspiration! Let’s all continue to work and grow, and show the world that pencil is a TRULY fine art, fantastic medium!

 

ALLISON FAGAN
 

Daddy

Daddy

Beet It, Just Beet It

Beet It, Just Beet It

RICHARD KLEKOCIUK
 

Coastal Rocks

Coastal Rocks

In the Light of Silence

In the Light of Silence

JULIE PODSTOLSKI
 

Conversations at Dusk

Conversations at Dusk

Rare View

Rare View

DALE REDFERN
 

Last of the Tobacco Barns

Last of the Tobacco Barns

End of the Trail 2

End of the Trail 2

DIANE WRIGHT
 

Agnew Meadows

Agnew Meadows

Winter Reflections

Winter Reflections

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER KATHRYN HANSEN

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

This drawing by Kathryn Hansen sets the artist quite a challenge. It consists of almost nothing but tree branches against a plain white background.

Out on a Limb

Out on a Limb

The title implies there is another subject, and finally we find it – a small bird, perched almost like an afterthought at the very edge of the work. It comes as a bit of a surprise. So often this is how we experience the presence of wild things. They are there but we are unaware of them until, all at once, we spot them and realize we are not alone.

But the bird is obviously not the focus – it is too casual, too minimal. Rather it is the flowing tangle of branches that is the focus. How does the artist create enough variety to hold our interest with such a limited subject?

It may be limited, but Hansen manages to find a lot of change and contrast. I love how full of energy this work is. The long branches create the most wonderful positive and negative shapes. Technically they’re horizontal, echoing the format of the work, but because they’re so twisty and irregular they don’t seem monotonous. They flow like a river, full of curves and sudden angles. Small branches jut off here and there like tributaries. The whole thing is so unpredictable – it makes us remember that a tree is as much a form of “wildlife” as a bird.

Shape and texture are both extremely important, as they make up practically all of the work’s variety. With the plain background and the branches, the artist can make the most of the positive and negative space – nothing distracts. The two largest and most important negative shapes are those at the top and bottom of the work: they contain the “river”, and they also provide places for the eye to rest. The others are created by the branches and they are both similar and constantly diverse. Big and small, long and short, swelling and narrowing.

Like the subject itself, the textures are also very limited: just bark, unless you count the bird’s plumage. And yet how much the artist gets out of this! There is more than one kind of bark and all are carefully and lovingly handled. The largest branches are the most detailed, making the most of the roughness and broken patterns. Others are smoother and softer. The smallest twigs, slender wisps of graphite, have almost none of this textural effect. In this way, Hansen is able to create visual interest and, at the same time, to convey a sense of distance.

Limits as strict as these can be difficult to work with, but it’s possible to find wonderful solutions. By working within tough constraints, Hansen has created an imaginative and liberating visual experience.

MASTER HANDS: PART 3 - HANS HOLBEIN

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Sketches of hands - Hans Holbein

Sketches of hands – Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein (1497-1543) is one of my favourite artists, and these sketches of hands are surely some of the finest ever drawn. I find them very humbling to look at. Partly, of course, because they are so beautiful, but also because of the depth of understanding they reveal.

These are the hands of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), the great Renaissance scholar, and Holbein’s friend. Holbein painted him more than once. My favourite version shows him in profile, writing. This was more than just an interesting way to portray him; it was fundamental to his personality. Writing was key to who he was and how he desired to change his world. Erasmus was a brilliant man, profoundly educated and extremely well-informed, with a lot of opinions that he could express very wittily when he chose. Armed with a pen he became famous. His admirers included many of the most powerful and influential people in the world. (It makes me wonder what he would have done with the Internet!)

Holbein loved detail, and his works are always very individual. By that I mean that he faithfully records everything about his subjects’ appearance – nothing is beneath his notice. We can see this in the two more finished sketches. The observation is astonishing: we can trace every slight bend and quirk of the fingers, the particular shape of each nail. Each knuckle has its own pattern. Everything is drawn with very precise, delicate lines, adding to the impression of refinement. The hands are smooth, neither old nor young, and wearing rings. Even without knowing his name, we can tell that their owner is evidently a wealthy, cultured man of middle age – definitely one of the most privileged groups in any era.

But the third hand, the writing hand, is different. The lines are more hesitant, as if the artist is searching for the right line just as the writer searches for the right phrase. The writing hand is full of movement – movement of mind as well as hand. Erasmus was at the very centre of European thought, and in this drawing we have the miracle of the written word: hand and mind working together to make thought visible. Holbein’s hand-sketches are so much more than exquisite surface realism. They tell the story of a different kind of “manual labour”.