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A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER DIANE FINE

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

On her site, Diane Fine has a series of charcoal drawings of interiors. For me, looking at them is like wandering through a dream. Everything about them feels both familiar and unknown. The contrast between their “English cottage” look, and the sense that things are not as innocent as they seem, is what makes these drawings so unsettling and so powerful.

Wake Up Call

Wake Up Call

“Wake Up Call” is one of my favourites in the series. In this scene, we are looking out of a window at a presumably noisy bird. Bird calls, a ruffled curtain – what could be more homey? Except that this doesn’t feel much like a home. The window is open, but we feel closed in; the heavy dark panelling suggests the bars of a prison. Outside we find no landscape, not even a single tree – it’s all rooftops and brick walls, with just a hint of sky.

The values are ominous too. Fine has made the most of charcoal’s ability to produce intense darks. There is lot of deep shadow touched here and there with gleams of light and things we can’t quite see. The sky is the lightest area, perhaps untouched paper. I find it particularly dramatic: set against the darkest values, it really feels like space, the one area in the work that provides some visual and emotional breathing room.

Although this is a perfectly recognizable scene – we clearly know what we are looking at – there is not a lot of detail. Instead, there is a strong focus on formal qualities that belies the realism. The entire image seems made up not so much of actual objects, but of squares and rectangles, lines and masses, positive and negative space. Perspective seems a bit askew. The window tilts to one side, as if we might be falling. Some of the straight lines bend a little here and there, adding to the dreamlike effect.

It’s as if the artist is telling us a story, but we don’t know how it ends. The end of this story is one we have to write ourselves.

MASTER PENCIL ARTIST STATUS (MPAS) 2016

a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Congratulations to Sue deLearie Adair, Ryan Douglas Jacque and Nathalie Lagacé! 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!

SUE DELEARIE ADAIR
 

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

February Drakes

February Drakes

RYAN DOUGLAS JACQUE
 

Red Pepper

Red Pepper

Stoned In

Stoned In

NATHALIE LAGACÉ
 

Lost Souls Forest

Lost Souls Forest

Oh My Dear Deer

Oh My Dear Deer

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR THREE WINNING MEMBERS!!

a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Congratulations to Wendy Patrick, Sandi Poltorak and Cindy Wider! The three of you have won the Pencil Art Society’s Member Appreciation Draw!! A $25 Amazon gift certificate will be emailed to you very soon! A big Thank you! to everyone who joined or renewed their PAS membership!!

IT'S HIGH TIME TO JOIN PAS!

a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Spring is in the air and it’s high time to join PAS!

PAS memberships run annually from June 1 until May 31. This time we’re holding THREE Membership Appreciation Draws this month! That means that three of our lucky members will receive a $25 (USD) gift certificate from Amazon! That’s the same value as a PAS membership! Perhaps it could go towards art supplies to create a winning drawing for our upcoming 2016 International Open Juried Exhibition …

Are YOU ready for this year’s International Open Juried Exhibition?

Our second International Open Juried Exhibition is open to pencil artists everywhere – but only our members are able to earn (and keep) points toward their PAS signature status, so if you’ve been thinking about joining us, now’s the time!

Besides our members-only exhibition, PAS membership benefits include: having your own Member Gallery page on our website, receiving our beautiful and informative bi-annual magazine Go Brushless!, and being able to apply for Master Pencil Artist Status (MPAS). Not only that, our members also pay significantly lower entry fees for our biennial International Open Juried Exhibitions! So why not join us today and be a part of all the excitement!

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER MICHAEL SILVERSTONE

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I happen to love winter. Yes, it’s cold and inconvenient and sometimes seems to last forever, but there is nothing like its light or stillness. I love just standing outside and drinking in the white hush of winter solitude. For me, seeing Michael Silverstone’s graphite drawing was like being transported into such a day. I step into it and I can hear the silence.

Stillness

Stillness

Like nature itself, the drawing might seem haphazard at first glance, but it’s soon very clear how much order is present. Our eyes travel through the various planes of distance and back again, circling both around and through the work. Lights and darks are skilfully balanced, enhancing each other and guiding the eye. Value is a particular challenge here because this kind of even light, the light of an overcast snowy day, flattens space. Shadows tend to disappear. So the artist has made the most of the contrast between the whites and the dark trunks and branches, setting both against the rich textured gray of the background trees.

This work is amazingly varied, given how little Silverstone has to work with. Just a lot of trees and snow – but how much he gets out of this! Basically, the design consists of many long verticals relieved by a few abrupt diagonals and even some unexpected curves – a branch that suddenly bends back, a twig meandering around another twig. Patches and puffs of white make wonderful irregular shapes; the spatters of snow on bark remind me of Jackson Pollock. Every little ball of snow, every branch, is different. You can let your eyes travel and linger throughout the work and you will never be bored.

Another important element is the areas of pure white at the bottom. These larger shapes relieve the mass of fine crisscrossing lines and shapes. They “ground” the work, weighting it and providing a place for the eye to rest. A triangular area of light values at the top of the work mirrors them somewhat. Placed just right of centre, this area is not as bright as the shapes at the bottom, but it counters the others and provides a gentle visual ballast.

Every season, including winter, has things about it that I look forward to every year. This is a drawing of what I miss most. Thank you Michael Silverstone!

PAS SECOND INTERNATIONAL OPEN JURIED EXHIBITION: PAS 2016

a special announcement from the Pencil Art Society

Once again, the time has arrived … the Pencil Art Society is now accepting submissions for our SECOND International Open Juried Exhibition!

We are so excited! It’s always been our dream to showcase the work of pencil artists from around the world. Now that dream is coming true AGAIN! Not to mention the fact that we’ve got some FANTASTIC PRIZES, totalling over $4000 (CAD) in cash. We know we’re going to get some incredible submissions!

ALL PENCIL ARTISTS ARE WELCOME

Our International Exhibit is open to both members and non-members. Every artist may submit up to two (2) works, keeping in mind that both could be accepted. However, application fees will be significantly lower for PAS members. Members who have work accepted into this show will also earn two points toward Signature Status. Ten points and members have the right to put the initials PAS after their name!

PAS 2016 will be held at St Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, right in the heart of Canada’s beautiful capital city, Ottawa.

We are honoured to have the very distinguished artist, teacher and speaker M. Denis Jacques as our judge. M. Jacques is a Master Academician in the International Academy of Fine Arts of Quebec, a Master pastel artist of the Pastel Society of Eastern Canada, and an Honorary Member of the Institute of Figurative Arts of Québec. M. Jacques has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including First Prize of the IAF in 2002, the “Prize of the City 2004” in Quebec and the Grand Prize Socrates AIBAQ.

SHOWCASE YOUR ART TO THE WORLD!

PAS 2016 is our opportunity to bring together the best pencil art. It is going to be a stunning exhibition of creativity, skill, vision and stylistic diversity. We hope you join us, so that everyone can be amazed and inspired by the beauty, power and profundity of art created with the humble pencil. Check out our prospectus for more details, and get your pencils ready!

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER CARYN COVILLE

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Modern society is a stressful place to be. Everywhere we go we experience noise, visual as well as aural. But classic representational art can be a great antidote for this. It’s refreshing to rest our eyes on something calm and orderly – and if there’s a little humor and energy thrown in, all the better!

Bird's Eye View

Bird’s Eye View

Caryn Coville’s coloured pencil still life, “Bird’s Eye View”, is a case in point. This little work is as gentle as its subjects. It has more contrast in it than one might expect at first glance, though, and it’s these contrasts that lend the work the energy it needs. For example, Coville chooses that most time-honoured of designs, the triangle. The triangle creates automatic stability, and this is also enhanced by the prominent vertical lines in the background. But the bird is perched just a bit precariously at the top. We feel that it might move at any moment. This creates a slight uncertainty that adds life to the entire scene. It is restful, but not dull.

We see more contrasts in the shapes Coville uses. The main ones are very geometric and basic: triangle (the design), square (the blocks), and circle (the marbles). These anchor the work still more, and give it strength. But then the artist gives us some wonderful irregular shapes such as the bird, the chubby cat (whose tail mirrors the shape of the number 2 on the other block), the marble swirls which also echo the curves of the bird’s plumage, and so on. Geometric is predictable, irregular is not, and so again we have a quiet contrast that livens things up.

A cheerful, harmonious palette continues the effect. Soothing blues make up the background, soft yellows and greens predominate much of the rest, but the artist also adds a few punches of bright red. She is careful not to add too much, so everything works together and no one colour jars with or overpowers the others.

Finally, “Bird’s Eye View” does one thing more, at least for me – it makes me smile. The bird and toys bring back my childhood, and I love the happy cat! Classic, traditional art is often supposed to be very dignified and serious, but this work proves that it can have a sense of humor as well. Cheers!

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER JÉRÔME GUENETTE

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Crâne (Skull)

Crâne (Skull)

It may seem odd to some, but I have always liked skulls! I don’t find them unpleasant or creepy. Instead I admire their design. For me they are like brilliant sculptures, every form flowing perfectly into the next, creating wonderful patterns of light and shadow. With this charcoal drawing by Jérôme Guenette I get to enjoy this to the full.

This skull startles us with its presence, having seemingly materialized out of nowhere. It has a powerful three-dimensional quality, as if Guenette has carved it out of the surrounding dark. A lot of this is due to his use of light. Here, light is strong and shadows deep. Much of the skull disappears into the darkness. There are few half-tones, which symbolically is very fitting: we find few “half-tones” where death is concerned.

The sculptural quality is also due to Guenette’s focusing on the large abstract shapes. He has pared things down to the point that we have only the most basic information, but it is all we need. Keeping the shapes so simple and bold makes the skull seem tangible even though there is not much detail. We know how heavy and solid it is, we can feel its weight.

Yet there is a kind of ghostliness about it too, as it is not “finished”. Guenette does not show us everything. He provides certain details that suggest the rest of the form (I particularly like the gleam of light on the cheekbone), but that is all. We must finish it in our minds. Strangely, these two opposing qualities – presence and non-presence – co-exist easily, lending the work an exciting tension. I find myself peering into the shadows to search for the edges that the artist has hidden. The part conveys the whole very convincingly.

What really caught my eye about this little work, though, is its confidence. I love the deftness of Guenette’s technique. He tosses off his drawing with such finesse! Look at the different marks: broad swathes, brisk dashes, a few delicate lines. There is no fuss, just some bold strokes that take full advantage of the richness and textural effects of the charcoal on the paper. It all makes for a lot of drama and energy, which in turn creates a wonderful visual paradox. Technically a skull speaks of death, and yet … the rendering is so lively! There is so much personality. Life and death together in one small drawing – this is why I love the art of the pencil.

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER CLIVE MEREDITH

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

The beauty of Clive Meredith’s graphite drawings is probably the first thing that most of us notice. He has both a love of detail and a gorgeous technique – what a combination! We can feel the textures he creates: soft fur, crisp feathers, or in the case of this work, elephant skin. But Meredith’s spare style also reveals a command of shape and pattern that makes his work powerfully abstract.

To the River

To the River

Here, as in many of his drawings, the animals are cropped off to one side, leaving a great deal of negative space. I love this because of the tension it imparts. The space seems full of questions. Sometimes in wildlife drawings one gets the feeling that the subject alone is what matters to the artist. The background is just “there”, a nonentity. But that’s not the case with Meredith’s work. The white background is more than a background: it is an active player in his work. It’s as if the space is a visual symbol of something unknown – the elephants’ future, perhaps? But the artist does not give us the answer. Instead, we have to “fill in the blanks” ourselves.

The cropping on this particular image is more extreme than in many of Meredith’s drawings: we zero in on the elephants’ faces, minus most of their trunks. Cropping like this immediately highlights abstract shapes. The elephants become not only animals, but patterns of light and shadow. They form a solid mass of modulated grays, standing in opposition to the stark whiteness before them. I find it all quite somber, except for the little sparkle of white in the tusks, especially of the elephant on the left. This is a very important touch. It adds contrast, lightens the mood, and harmonizes the subjects with the background. The left elephant’s tusks also keep the grays from looking too flat. Cover them with your hand and you will see what a difference they make.

The simplicity of the large strong shapes is counterbalanced by the ridged, corrugated skin and dry branches. These details are beautiful, but they are more than that. Of course elephants always have wrinkled skin; but wrinkles still suggest age, something old and wise. Then there are the branches, so dry and delicate. By putting these two images together, Meredith expresses the concept of “gentle giant” – the massive and the fragile side by side.

We know that elephants, in spite of their size and strength, are endangered animals: they are large and powerful but they are also vulnerable. In this drawing, Meredith underlines both their plight and their majesty. A beautiful drawing that also makes you think – I think the artist has done his job!

A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER DANIEL BRIENT

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Hélène Béland

Hélène Béland

I love the whole “encounter” aspect of portraiture. You can be walking through a gallery and suddenly there on the wall is a face that looks back, not just a picture but a person. You stop, intrigued. A silent introduction follows. Often this develops into an intense mute conversation. When at last you move on it is with regret, wishing you could have stayed longer, promising to come again. You are not only looking at, you are relating to.

This is the feeling I had immediately when first seeing Daniel Brient’s “Hélène Béland”. She seems so alive, so vivid. I smiled back at her, and I had to stop and get to know her.

This is what I call a “simple” portrait, meaning everything is very straightforward. There is no busy background, no props. The artist has included his subject’s elegant hands, but they are folded quietly in front of her. (This actually reminds me a bit of the Mona Lisa – if it worked for Leonardo, we can do it too!) Her clothes are rather elaborate, particularly her large hat and rosette, but they have been toned down and simplified. They settle into the background so as not to compete with the face.

Much of the intimacy of this portrait is is due to the use of light. Brient uses a 3-quarter positioning, with the light coming from the right. We see that the eye furthest from us is in shadow, while the near eye is soft and clear. This gives an impression that she is turning toward us, which gives a subtle but very important energy to the work. Anyone who has ever done a portrait knows how difficult it is to keep it from looking “posed”. Things can so easily become stiff and artificial, especially a smile. But Hélène’s expression looks genuine, as if in another moment she will speak.

For me, “warm” is a key word to this work, and I find that the brown palette suits it perfectly. The faint hints of pink breathe life into the fleshtones, and I do not miss other colours in the least. Brient handles the textures deftly, suggesting rather than fully describing. Tight detail is not the focus; the face and expression are. His marks are somewhat rough, the background sketchy. Only with the hands and face does he soften his technique, though again, fine detail is never his concern. What details there are have been carefully chosen to enhance the overall effect. For example, Brient picks out a few individual tresses of hair. They are slightly tousled, suggesting that his subject has just moved or shaken her head. Her face looks full of movement too – perhaps she is about to laugh. Portraits like this are so rewarding. I hope you have enjoyed meeting Hélène Béland as much as I have!