BCD#13

Blind contour drawing #13 – “Judith Slaying Holofernes” – Artemisia Gentileschi 1620-21

In the last few decades, Gentileschi has been titled one of the most important Italian Baroque painters. The excellence of her work, her treatment of controversial subjects and the number of her paintings that have survived are some of the many reasons for that honour.

However, her work is still under appreciated, in the words of Mary D. Garrard, she “has suffered a scholarly neglect that is almost unthinkable for an artist of her caliber.”

She was born in Rome, her father Orazio Gentileschi was a painter and her mother, Prudentia Montone died when Gentileschi was young.

Even though she was not allowed to apprentice as a painter, her father saw her promise and trained her as an artist, eventually introducing her to the working artists of Rome. Later in life because of this introduction, she became a follower of Caravaggio and worked with him in Italy.

By the time she was seventeen, she had painted one of the works for which she is best known, her stunning interpretation of “Susanna and the Elders.” She was not allowed to attend any other form of schooling and didn’t learn to read and write until she was adult.

Gentileschi’s father painted frescos with the artist, Agostino Tassi, he asked him to teach his daughter perspective. During these lessons, Tassi raped Gentileschi. When her father found out, Tassi was arrested. At the age of 18, she was thrown into the middle of a trial that received unwanted publicity and ruined her reputation. Tassi was convicted, but released by the judge, who also ordered her to be tortured to prove she was being honest.

A month later, she married a painter from Florence named Pietro Antonio di Vicenzo Stiattesi. They relocated to Florence and had a daughter. Their relationship wasn’t a happy one, but it gave her an opportunity to flourish as an artist.

Some of Gentileschi’s surviving paintings focus on a female protagonist. The character of Judith appears a number of times in her art. In 1611, Gentileschi completed the famously gruesome “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” which shows Judith in the act of saving the Jewish people by killing Assyrian general Holofernes. Judith is slicing Holofernes’s throat while her handmaiden helps to hold him down. Many interpret this as a cathartic expression of her rage and violation.

Some time between 1626 and 1630, Gentileschi moved to Naples where she lived and painted until 1638. While there, she painted “Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting,” so unique because of its blending of art, muse and artist.

She reunited with her father in late 1638 on a joint painting commission for King Charles I of England to paint a ceiling for the Queen’s house. Sadly her father died in the following year, but she continued to work in England until 1642 and then returned to Naples.

Thirty four of her paintings survive today, as well as the near complete transcript of the rape trial, published in full in a book detailing her life. Because of the trial and her many paintings of powerful women struggling against male dominance, she was not popular with her male colleagues.

The cause and time of Artemisia’s death is not known, but she most likely died in 1652.

Several demeaning epitaphs were published about her in 1653. Art historian Charles Moffat believes she may have committed suicide, which would explain why the cause of her death was not recorded

Today, she remains an inspiration, not only for her powerful artwork, but for her ability to overcome the acts of abuse against her, her lack of education, the disrespect from her peers and the many prejudices of her time. Like most women who excelled at that time she caused mass controversy and hate. She was recognized as having genius, but she was seen as a monster because she was a woman pursuing a creative talent in a genre thought to be only for men.

Note: I was fortunate to see this work at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I could barely look at it. It is difficult to articulate the power of this masterpiece.

Born: Rome 1593
Died: 1652?

Doodling, colouring & drawing

Creativity is the ultimate problem solver. The next time you have an issue at the office, a dilemma at home or are simply feeling like you are in a bit of a slump, try tapping into your creative side.  Science proves that giving your analytical mind a break and allowing your mind to relax is one of the best ways to shift from confusion to clarity.

However, it can be difficult to relax if you have a deadline looming or an issue that continues to resurface over and over again.

My top 3 relaxation practices include meditation, moving my body (on my yoga mat or in the forest) and doodling, colouring or drawing. The latter are the cornerstone of an artist’s practice, no matter their medium.  Just like an entrepreneur, a CEO or a parent, artists problem solve all day long.  Sketching, doodling and drawing is a fast, inexpensive way to tap into a creative flow.

If you are intimidated by the thought of picking up a pencil or have scathing memories of previous attempts at drawing, I have some ideas for you.

doodle
Doodling is highly under rated. It is one of the most effective ways to slow your busy mind down to actually listen and concentrate.  The word means to “scribble absentmindedly,” and synonyms include tinker, fiddle and trifle.  No wonder it gets such a bad rap.

Here are some alternative thoughts and evidence from Sunni Brown’s website – sunnibrown.com/doodlerevolution/

  • That doodling is as native to human beings as are walking and talking;
  • That human beings have been doodling in the sand, in the snow and on cave walls for over 30,000 years;
  • That we are neurologically wired with an overwhelmingly visual sensory ability;
  • That doodling ignites four learning modalities—auditory, linguistic, kinesthetic, and visual—and dramatically enhances the experience of learning;
  • That doodling promotes concentration and increases information retention by up to 29%;
  • That doodling supports deep, creative problem solving and innovation;
  • That doodling has been an ever-present tool, a pre-cursor and a catalyst for the emergence of intellectual breakthroughs in science, technology, medicine, architecture, literature and art;
  • That doodling is and has been deployed by some of the best and brightest minds in history;
  • And that doodling lives outside of the elitist realms of high art and design and is a form of expression free and accessible to all.

If you are still not convinced or want to learn more, watch her 2011 Ted Talk –www.ted.com/talks/sunni_brown

I always doodle during a webinar or at a boardroom table.  It helps me focus on what’s being said and keeps me from being distracted by my electronics!

 

 

Blind contour drawing
BCD – Skull by Georgia O’Keefe

Blind contouring drawing is another way to let go and learn how to go with the flow.  The idea is simple.  You focus on an object or a scene in front of you, place your pencil on the paper and slowly draw the outside lines of the shapes you see. You try not to lift your pencil off the page and the blind part means, you don’t look at your paper while you are drawing.  I love to do this exercise in my workshops with people because whatever happens on the paper is just going to be interesting and can’t possibly look like the object or scene because we are “blind” during the process.  I love the mark making of this style of drawing and the freedom it creates.  I’ve been working on a series of blind contour drawings of famous women artist’s work (see my blog posts).  It helps me slow down and really see all the bits and pieces.  I appreciate the art even more after studying it this way.  This is a great exercise to do to slow down and really see your surroundings.  The results are surprising and fun!

A great reference for drawing in general is a book called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” by Betty Edwards.  It is a classic.  If you are interested in the science behind drawing and want to improve your drawing skills, I highly recommend it.  It is full of exercises like blind contour drawing.

 

 

 

Outside Your Lines, a colouring bookColouring for adults has hit the mainstream in a big way over the past few years and I’m glad about it.  I believe that most of us forget how to play and we forget that it is actually beneficial to create things that have no purpose, except for perhaps to just have fun.  It is sad that we collectively feel that play time for adults is a waste of time. I’m so glad to see this colouring revolution, we need creative play not only to relax but to grow just as much as kids do.

There are so many amazing colouring books out there, I was so inspired that I created one too! It is called “Outside Your Lines.”  I made a book for all of you free spirits who don’t necessarily want to colour in the lines or maybe the rebel in you is intrigued by the idea of creating something outside the box!  I also made sure that there are not too many small bits so that you don’t need reading glasses to enjoy it.  And lastly none of the designs are scenes or are symmetrical so you won’t feel restricted in colour choice. The book is also an introduction to the chakras (because yoga and creativity go hand in hand in my world), it is printed on 100% recycled paper and I’m pretty proud of the project!  Reach out if you’d like to purchase a copy or follow this link.

 

If you want to see what inspires me, I’ve been sharing my blind contour drawings and some of my watercolour and ink doodles on instagram .You can even “win” a card from me, I mail one out each week!

Lastly,  if you really think you can’t draw, Graham Shaw is out to prove you wrong. Grab some paper, a pen and give him 20 minutes of your time.  Enjoy!

 

I

BCD#3

Blind contour drawing #3 – “Listen” 1957 Lee Krasner

 

Lee Krasner had a career in art that lasted 55 years.

Krasner’s spunk was evident early in her life. As a teenager, she decided to become an artist, which was a daring choice for a young immigrant woman. She was accepted to the Washington Irving High School, the only New York City public high school at the time that allowed women to study art.

She continued to study art in post secondary first at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science in 1926, and then at the Art Students League. Later at the prestigious National Academy of Design, it has been noted that her conservative teachers often reprimanded her for her independence, something they thought unsuitable for a woman. She studied to obtain a teaching certificate which was the only approved career path for a woman in the arts at the time. During her schooling, Krasner’s work ranged from realistic self-portraiture to surrealist experimentation. She supported herself by working in a factory, as a waitress, and also as an artist’s model.

She was lucky to get work as an artist in the Works Progress Administration of the Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP). This was a visual arts program within Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (1933-43). These projects were ground breaking in the U.S. as it was the first time that many women artists received financial support to work. She quickly advanced to a supervisor role as an assistant on large public murals. Jackson Pollack served as one of her assistants during this period.

Krasner felt more at ease in more bohemian art circles during the 1930s and, like many of her peers, was drawn to Marxism. She studied with artist and theorist, Hans Hofmann who introduced her to the work of Picasso and Matisse. At this time, she began to explore an “all-over” style abstracting floral motifs and creating repetitive designs.   Hofmann gave her a the backhanded compliment that her work was so good “you would not know it was made by a woman artist.”

Krasner became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, a group formed in New York City in 1936 to promote and help the public appreciate abstract art.

In 1942, Krasner met Pollack, she visited his studio before an exhibit that they were part of and she subsequently introduced him to the New York art scene. The pair married in 1945 and she took on the duties of promoting and managing Pollack’s career.

There is so much controversy about Krasner’s life. Did she put her career on hold to support her husband? How much did she influence him?  Was her career sabotaged because of his? I’ve read and listened to some of her interviews about her life as an artist and her life as Jackson Pollack’s wife and I can’t help but conclude that this intelligent and creative woman made choices that felt right to her at the time. She never stopped creating during her 11-year marriage to Pollock. Of course she had to deal with his alcoholism and womanizing but I feel that she truly admired and supported his work as an artist.

They moved from Manhattan to the Springs, Long Island in the late 1940s where they set up Pollack in an old barn. She worked in a room upstairs in their home and created her Little Image series. She painted left to write like Hebrew writing in an attempt to reconnect to her Jewish heritage and her subconscious. She also began to experiment with collage, a technique that one of idols, Matisse used later in his life. In fact, she once tore up a bunch of her paintings because she was frustrated with the work and then later reassembled them producing a large body of work that was well received in a 1955 exhibition.

After Pollack’s death, she lived in the shadow of his almost pop-star fame. Critics were harsh with her new larger scale (because she had moved out to work in the big barn) expressionist works labeling them too reminiscent of Pollack’s or too decorative meaning too feminine.

Her later work was finally recognized in a retrospective in 1983 at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in Texas but because of her poor health she was unable to attend the opening and died before the show reached its final stop at MOMA in New York.

Even though she struggled against the hyper masculine attitudes of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Krasner was a prominent figure within it. Her extensive training in art theory, her skill and versatility drew connections between the early-twentieth-century art and the new ideas of postwar America. She helped devise the “all-over” technique, which influenced Pollack’s drip painting.

Thanks to her generosity, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation has awarded over 46 million dollars in grants to working artists around the world.

Krasner constantly pushed herself and reinvented her style through out her career. She was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and thankfully lived to see a greater recognition of her art.

“I happened to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock and that’s a mouthful. I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent.”

Born: October 27, 1908 – Brooklyn, New York

Died: June 19, 1984 – Queens, New York

 

 

BCD#2

Blind contour drawing #2 – “Ses Peintures, Ses Objets, Ses Tissus Simultanes, Ses Modes, Twenty Color Plates C.1912-25” Sonia Delaunay

Orphism – huh?  Painters, Sonia Delaunay and her husband Robert reintroduced colour into Cubism and turned their focus to pure abstraction.  They used strong colour and geometric shapes.  The result was a fresh painting style that was later called orphism.  The term was coined by the French poet Apollinaire and the movement is perceived as key in the transition from Cubism to Abstract art.

Delaunay was born in the Ukraine, in 1885, to factory workers and at the age of 5 she was placed in the care of a wealthy relative in St.Petersburg.  She was given a good education and studied art in Paris.  To avoid returning home and to help her friend hide his homosexuality, she married an art dealer in 1908.  She was painting at this point and met her 2nd husband, artist Robert Delaunay, in a group show.  She married Robert in 1910.

The couple formed a creative partnership pioneering the orphism movement, exploring the use of colour and the science behind colour combinations.

Sonia saw to their financial security during their marriage.  She painted very little after they had their son and returned her full time attention to painting only after Robert died in 1941.  During their marriage, she turned to applied arts to support the household.

Using the colour theories that she practiced with Robert, she began to work with fabric.  Her first project with a quilt that she made for her son combining features from Cubist paintings and Russian folk art.  She opened a fashion shop in Paris in 1921 which quickly attracted glamorous customers such as Coco Chanel and Greta Garbo.  Her fabric designs became very popular and she eventually started her own company with Jacques Heim in 1924.  She also began a relationship with the Holland-based department store Metz & Co. that lasted 3 decades.   A growing interest in the Dada art movement led to a fashion collaboration with poet Tristan Tzara, creating “dress-poems” with designs featuring colour combinations inspired by his words.

Sonia Delaunay’s exploration of expressive colour in the field of textile design differentiates her significantly from other members of the contemporary avant-garde. Besides designing, making, and selling garments in her own fashion boutique, she was responsible for costume design in performing arts including theatre and dance.

Delaunay’s textile designs extended the range of her influence into fashion, home decor and the theatre. She championed the idea that art had a place in regular life.  However, her work in the applied arts delayed appreciation for her work as an artist and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that museums began to hold retrospectives of this extrordinary woman’s work.

“…the infinite combinations of color have a poetry and a language much more expressive than the old methods.”

Born: November 14, 1885 – Odessa, Ukraine

Died: December 5, 1979 – Paris, France