Bravo for the WAG! Mounting a group show of student work gives developing artists the opportunity to show their creativity in a collegial, non-threatening atmosphere. This month’s exhibition features paintings by students in Bruce St. Clair’s classes.
Bruce has been a teaching master in Drawing and Painting for the last 36 years and a teacher at the KSOA since 2009. “One reason I love teaching, perhaps the main one,” he says, “is the variety of people and personalities I'm privileged to work with. This show illustrates that variety very well. The unique creative expression of each student is represented in the works.”
Following are comments from a number of the exhibiting student artists about their practice, their inspiration and their in-class experiences.
"Distillery Sunset" comes from a photo taken while I spent time with my eldest granddaughter in Toronto. Living in Kingston I cherish all the time I can spend with my Toronto grandchildren. It was a late November evening and we were both struck by the intense glow of that sunset. When it came to painting it, Bruce really coached me to make that sky glow. To me this piece reflects the magic of the evening, the magic of the place I call home, and the magic of applying paint to canvas to tell a story.
It is such a thrill to have my little paintings displayed at the WAG. It has taken me more than sixty years to decide to start painting like I mean it – and I am here to stay. I have always been drawn to small art pieces: landscapes, seascapes and bits of objects in interesting light. When the Kingston School of Art offered watercolour classes in the fall of 2019, I signed up. Bruce has a very light touch as a teacher, and that was perfect for me. He showed us the pieces he used to teach, let us ask “How do you do that?” and then gently demonstrated how he does it. With each class I learned to just wet my brush and relax more. Now it is only when I have a small sheet of watercolour paper taped to my desk and a tiny sea- or landscape in my mind that I can truly breathe.
I have been painting for many years and was fortunate to find the KSOA several years after moving to Kingston in 2014. It is a very welcoming school with very inviting and knowledgeable teachers. I have always believed that every artist has knowledge to share. If anyone feels he or she already knows everything, then that person still has a lot to learn! I love to paint a variety of subjects, my favourites being still life and people.
I need life drawing classes for my art just as I need fresh air and sunshine for my well-being. If I go too long without working from a live model, my hand tightens and my mind obsesses with detail and individual brush strokes. In Bruce’s sessions I was able to reach the meditative state I needed to connect directly, immediately, with the figure before me. I will never forget the first class I attended. Bruce strummed his guitar at the back of the room; the gentle music and sounds of artists all around me making marks on paper were hypnotic. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
The swallows are part of a series I am currently working on. They were inspired in part by the barn swallows that settle under our cottage every summer, and from a poem by Robert MacFarlane, also titled Swallow, which ends with the following lines:
With a stroke
the stars renewed their burning in the black,
the sun its turning,
the trees their leafing,
birds their singing,
she breathed in again and life poured back.
The first layer in the paintings -- a collage -- consists of a collection of thoughts, musings, and memories handwritten on paper and pasted on the canvas. I followed these with a grisaille under painting, which was then covered with multiple layers of coloured acrylic glazes.
COVID gives us a chance to spend time painting and thinking about painting. I am too lazy to go out and paint in the field, so I rely on photographs to provide the scene. I use them in our Thursday morning painting sessions under the helpful guidance of Bruce St. Clair. The three wood-lot paintings in the KSOA exhibit are based on photos I took at my wife’s childhood home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships with the intention of using them as the basis for a painting. As I trudged through the thicket I was looking primarily for an interesting and active three-dimensional configuration of forms.
My grandparents immigrated to Canada from Poland in the late 1920s, so this painting series is inspired by my Polish heritage and the characteristic blue and creamy-white stoneware that comes from the town of Boleslawiec in southwestern Poland. I liked the balance between painting the stylized patterns in the pottery and the more natural development of the flowers.
During classes at the KSOA I have enjoyed exploring a variety of creative concepts through drawing, watercolour, acrylic and encaustic painting. Each new painting starts with curiosity and grows from there.
The KSOA Student Show continues until March 27, with health protocols in force in gallery.
After a five-week lockdown the second wave is receding, but in the face of new variants of the virus and sluggish vaccine rollout, health-based wisdom has it that social distancing should continue and triple-layer masking is advisable. Slated for January in the WAG was an exhibition by Kingston School of Art instructors whose classes were cancelled. Now that the lockdown has been lifted in the Kingston area, the show is up for a couple of weeks this month, and some of the exhibiting instructors are back in the classroom. All health protocols are in force in the school and gallery
Barb Carr’s four mosaic-like square collages work well as a series. From a distance, each one adheres to a particular colour: gold, buff, black, or, in the case of aqua, a tonal range of blue. But look closely and you will see that Barb has painstakingly added extra pieces--squares within squares--to provide texture and punctuation with tiny stabs of colour, or text, or images.
I was drawn to the black, but was soon fascinated by the details and encouraged to continue my up-close inspection of the others in the series.
Tonya Corkey uses an unusual medium to create her images. The young child in Now I Prefer Cloudy Days appears as a subdued area of colours that are made up of lint applied like a stencil on bare canvas. In this piece Tonya has also attached four plastic fighter jets, which are painted white, but are fluorescent colours underneath. These colours cast a subtle glow around the planes, making them slightly ominous, especially to the child, who looks anxiously off to the side.
Components of Dizz Mall, a series of digital images by Mei Chi, mimics the flyers that might come from discount stores in a strip mall. With words like “Deals,” “Big Bag Sale,” “Wow! Coupons!” and “Warning! This is a real limited offer,” Mei satirizes—in a humorous way--the advertising methods used by retailers, and which ironically can’t really be duplicated in a digital ad.
Realist painter Bruce St. Clair has included oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings in this exhibition. Opposites Attract is an example of his masterful handling of watercolour. In this painting of a barrel, in dappled light, planted with red petunias, the artist has provided lovely detail in the surrounding grass while keeping the dark green background clean and neutral. When I first looked at this painting, I was baffled by the title. Then, as I took in the
complementary red and green, the penny dropped.
A rocking chair by a window, patio chairs and a table in a garden. These are intimate domestic scenes in the large oil canvases by Maureen Sheridan. Devoid of a human presence, the atmosphere of the spaces is enhanced by the inclusion of living natural elements-- trees outside the window, flowers in the garden--which are inviting, but distanced.
Four oil portraits in this exhibition are immediately recognizable as the work of alla prima painter Nancy Steele. She has a loose style that energizes her subjects, and a command of colour that enlivens skin tones, creating an image that goes beyond portraiture. The four subjects are members of the Kingston School of Art staff and volunteers, whom Nancy called upon to model for a demo she conducted in her portrait course last fall.
Debra Krakow, a resident of Wolfe Island, is drawn to nature and large vistas, often of the rural landscapes she sees around her home. She works in acrylic, applying it in a textured fashion, sometimes cracked or scratched, sometimes over a textured ground. In her pieces she uses a limited palette to create strong abstract compositions that emphasize verticality and horizontality. There are two exceptions: Lake Ice draws the viewer toward the horizon with sharp angles, while the diptych entitled Cornfield in Winter relies on repeated sinuous lines to carry the viewer gently over the rolling hills that define the field.
The KSOA Instructors’ Show continues until March 1st.
Ulrike Bender is a former graphic designer, art director and ESL teacher who, in retirement, has ventured into photography. She is currently a volunteer gallery assistant at the WAG and a docent at Agnes.