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written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

As I remarked in an earlier post, still life is a rather unusual genre for a graphite artist. This is unfortunate, for the two go together very beautifully, as we can see in Joyce Panadis’ wonderful “Des générations de fierté (Generations of Pride)”. This work was featured in our PAS 2014 International Exhibition, and it is even more impressive in person.

Des générations de fierté

Des générations de fierté

One of the things that stood out to me at once is the contrast between the artist’s subject and her way of presenting that subject. Her subject represents First Nations art and culture. Her take on it, though, is very much in the classic European tradition. For example, for her design she uses a very stable, traditional format: the triangle. Her rendering is realistic, with a lot of detail. This is quite a risk to take – will the two styles clash? Not in this case. Rather, by pairing an “unclassical” subject with a very classical style, she lends the former a special dignity.

Of course the moccasins are the most important element, but they are by no means the only important one. Every bit of this drawing has been carefully thought out and balanced. In spite of the very realistic treatment we can see the variety of abstract shapes, many created simply by shadow and placement. Looping lines fill the work, from the laces on the moccasins to the meandering strings of beads. Our eyes travel around and around, but the solid triangle of the main design keeps us anchored.

Another “anchoring” feature is the use of value, specifically the shadows. Overall this is a light-to-mid-value work, though there are several areas of very rich darks. These intense shades give the design strength and depth. Conversely, the light creates areas of delicately nuanced tones, reminding us of how subtle black-and-white can be. Panadis also handles her edges with this same delicate touch: everything seems both soft and tenderly clear.

But the aspect that draws me in the most is the way Panadis creates texture. It is extraordinary! Texture tends to invite contemplation: you want to linger over it and take in everything. Here, we can feel the soft, slightly pebbly leather and the tiny beads. We can run our fingers through the heavy fringe. The gentle light flows over every part and brings out the richness of each surface. I love texture, and for me, this drawing was one of the biggest visual treats in the show. I hope the artist continues to explore still life!