A subscriber asked, “What do you say to people who are acrylic snobs? One of the oil painters who is in a show with me said that it might not be a good idea for me to mention the word acrylic on the title cards. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘it’s just plastic goop.’ This hurt me and I can’t stop thinking about it. Worse, I couldn’t think of a nice comeback — nothing better than, ‘But I love acrylics!’ ”
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In 1970, Geoffrey Bardon was teaching elementary school art in New South Wales when he could no longer ignore the emotional struggles of his Aboriginal students. In an effort to gain insight, he applied for a teaching post in a remote government assimilation centre 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs. In his diary, he described Papunya as “a hidden place, unknown on maps, considered by officials as a problem place,” where 1400 people had been gathered from scattered tribal groups, having been forced from their land and way of life.
In 1954, when Ernest Hemingway learned that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he remarked, “This prize belongs to Cuba, since my works were conceived and created here, with the inhabitants of Cojimar, of which I am a citizen.” Attracted at first by marlin and swordfish, Hemingway fell in love with Cuba and moved here in 1939.
For Hemingway, Cuba meant new scenery, new people and a clean start.
Friends give books because they need to help you with their thinking. Fortunately, or unfortunately, most of my friends are pleasantly agreeable. Here are some from under our tree:
Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings — This is a big fat museum catalogue with lots of illustrations and touching excerpts from Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo, and others. We see his life-loving, inventive, optimistic mind as well as technical delights such as the ‘perspective frame’ that Vincent used for six formative years.
Artists and art-material suppliers come together at Pearl Paint’s Great American Art Event in New York. “Secrets” here are bought, sold and given away. Popular instructors demonstrate “trees, rocks and water” or “fruit, vegetables and lace” or “how to paint ‘itty bitty’ paintings” or “how to master abstraction.” With lots of free paint, brushes, stretched canvas and art boards, it’s a creative rummage. For many, the gods are in the equipment. Others come for motivation or inspiration. Most are looking for techniques to match the quality of today’s materials.
Spain is a country that gives lessons in the organization of form. I’m thinking of whitewashed villages with soft cubist motifs: light, shade, colour surprise and varied textures of tile, masonry and stone. These magic places seem to tumble from their hillsides for the benefit of art. In narrow streets with singing canaries and sunlit geraniums, there’s abstract energy. Even clothes hung out to dry take on a significance unfelt at home.
While travelling in my twenties before the camera phone, I’d carry a Canon SLR with a 300 millimetre lens — a graduation gift from my parents. The thing weighed 7 lbs — a practically extinct albatross by today’s standards. I accepted the neck ache in exchange for the special reminder to look and compose.
These days, our camera phones and their features take high-res snaps that can be tricked out for saturation and white balance, cropping and sharpening. Instagram and other online sharing platforms allow for immediate connection with other like-minded image junkies.
Ursula Kroeber was eleven years old in 1940 when she submitted a story for publication to Astounding Science Fiction magazine, and it was promptly rejected. Her parents, anthropologists at the University of California, Berkeley, had been taking Ursula and her siblings each summer to an old ranch in Napa Valley where Ursula read fantasy books, including Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, Jungle Book, Worm Ouroboros and Alpha Ralpha Boulevard. “Wow!” she thought, “This stuff is so beautiful and so strange, and I want to do something like that.”
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, Darla Bostick, (June and October) workshops Relax, enjoy, create! Photography/watercolors/acrylics/mixed…
Painters sometimes run into problems when they attempt larger works. This goes for artists who transpose smalls into bigs, as well as those who make bigs for their own sake. For many, bigs and smalls can appear to be the work of separate artists. Spontaneity and simplicity in the small give way to complexity and labour in the large. In the larger painting we may be trying too hard or trying to “give too much.” Big paintings can fall into the “mish-mash” category — too much going on. Small paintings rarely have this problem.