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Thanks for stopping by to see what’s new!  Here you will find my most recent work, musings on art, a bit of art history, my inspiration for painting, tidbits about my art life in Victoria, Canada, La Manzanilla, Mexico and places in between.

If you are looking for more detailed focus on pastels and how to use them, please visit my howtopastel website by clicking here.

 

” Gail, I always look forward to your posts. So informative, inspiring and uplifting. Much appreciated.”

~ Jeff L, Santa Maria, California

 

Hands In Paintings At The Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Posted by on 3 Apr 2017 in Art of the past, Inspiration | 0 comments

Hands In Paintings At The Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Last week I was in Seattle for a couple of days and while there I took in the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). An interesting and varied collection, I wanted to share some of what I saw with you. I decided on the theme of hands in paintings.

I find hands some of the trickiest subjects to draw and paint – to get them to look like hands rather than small bananas, to achieve convincing perspective when they are foreshortened, to present a telling gesture, to reveal some part of a person’s personality or emotional life in those hands. So here are a variety of hands in paintings done by artists from different countries in different time periods.

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The Deposition by Pontormo – One Of My Favourites!

Posted by on 28 Mar 2016 in Art of the past | 6 comments

The Deposition by Pontormo – One Of My Favourites!

It’s Easter weekend and so I have an excuse to present you with a strange yet elegant and beautiful version of the deposition of Christ from the cross. The Bible gave Renaissance artists ample stories to illustrate for church patrons none more so than the many scenes of Christ’s life and particularly his death and resurrection. I want to take you on a closeup journey through a favourite of mine – ‘Deposition’ by Pontormo. I’m always amazed that it was created in 1526-28, not closer to our own time.

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Sketch-A-Day 365 – How You Can Do It Too!

Posted by on 28 Feb 2016 in My Art Life, New Artwork | 14 comments

Sketch-A-Day 365 – How You Can Do It Too!

In 2015, I challenged myself to do a sketch-a-day for the entire year. That was some project I’ll tell you! There were good days and some not so good days (in fact some desperate days!). I wrote a blog about it at the beginning and one halfway though.

In this post, I want to share examples from the second half of the year. I also want to share some thoughts about the whole process and encourage you to do something similar. It’s not too late to start! I’ll give you some tips to set you up for your own sketch-a-day challenge.

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Mihály Munkácsy – Ever Heard Of This Hungarian Artist?

Posted by on 30 Sep 2015 in Art of the past | 6 comments

Mihály Munkácsy – Ever Heard Of This Hungarian Artist?

Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900), considered one of Hungary’s most renowned artists, yet, until now, an artist totally unknown to me.

 

We’ve just returned from three weeks in Budapest on a working holiday – we worked but we also had this incredibly vibrant and beautiful city outside our door to explore. I spent a most delightful day poking through the Hungarian National Gallery. I think I only knew one name among the many, many amazing Hungarian artists whose work hangs there. It was all so amazing and I wanted to share it all with you. So what to do?

I decided to share the work of one artist with you – Mihály Munkácsy. These pieces are ones that struck a chord with me and may not all be highlights of his career (although a couple are). The Gallery has a couple of rooms devoted to his evolution as an artist. There is not much biographical material easily available on Mihály Munkácsy and some of it seems to be contradictory. So I’m basing my info on what I found in the National Gallery.

 

Born 20th February 1844 in what is now the Ukraine, Mihály Munkácsy lost both his parents at the age of seven and went to live with his uncle in Békéscsaba, Hungary. At eleven, he apprenticed as a joiner and worked in the profession until 1861. After an illness, he began to take painting lessons from the academic painter Elek Szamossy. Between 1865 and 1870, Mihály Munkácsy studied at the Academies of Fine Arts in Vienna, Munich and Düsseldorf. After he travelled to Paris in 1867, he came under the influence of the work by the French Realists, particularly Gustave Courbet. It was while he was in Düsseldorf that he painted his first significant painting, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, which went on to win a gold medal at the 1870 Paris Salon and made Munkácsy instantly popular.

 

Mihály Munkácsy, "The Last Day of a Condemned Man I," 1869-70, oil on wood, 54 3/4 x 80 3/16 in (139 x 193.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “The Last Day of a Condemned Man I,” 1869-70, oil on wood, 54 3/4 x 80 3/16 in (139 x 193.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest. This is the painting that won a Gold Medal at the 1870 Paris Salon. It’s huge!

 

Mihály Munkácsy, "The Last Day of a Condemned Man I," 1869-70, oil on wood, 54 3/4 x 80 3/16 in (139 x 193.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest - detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “The Last Day of a Condemned Man I,” 1869-70, oil on wood, 54 3/4 x 80 3/16 in (139 x 193.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest – detail

 

In 1872, Mihály Munkácsy moved to Paris on the persuasion of the de Marches who he got to know through his friend and artist, László Paál (1846-1879). In 1873 he visited Paál in Barbizon where the art colony followed the Barbizon traditions of painting nature. He painted the painting below while on that visit.

Mihály Munkácsy, "Woman Carrying Brushwood," 1873, oil on wood, 41 x 31 1/2 in (99 x 80 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “Woman Carrying Brushwood,” 1873, oil on wood, 41 x 31 1/2 in (99 x 80 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, "Woman Carrying Brushwood," 1873, oil on wood, 41 x 31 1/2 in (99 x 80 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Woman Carrying Brushwood,” 1873, oil on wood, 41 x 31 1/2 in (99 x 80 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail. I was enthralled by the density of the black – so clean and defined!

Mihály Munkácsy, "Woman Carrying Brushwood," 1873, oil on wood, 41 x 31 1/2 in (99 x 80 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Woman Carrying Brushwood,” 1873, oil on wood, 41 x 31 1/2 in (99 x 80 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail. I was mesmorized by the brushstrokes and how they crossed the form of the girl.

 

After spending many months with the de Marches, Mihály Munkácsy married the widow of Baron de Marche in 1874 and they spent their honeymoon in Switzerland, Italy and Békéscsaba, Hungary – the town where he went to live after the death of his parents. While in his home town, he painted a number of paintings including an earlier version of this very Impressionistic looking painting (so different from the painting above):

Mihály Munkácsy, "Dusty Road II," ca. 1880 (or 1884 as it says on the website), oil on wood, 37 3/4 x 51 1/16 in (96 x 129.7 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “Dusty Road II,” ca. 1880 (or 1884 as it says on the website), oil on wood, 37 3/4 x 51 1/16 in (96 x 129.7 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest. There is definitely an Impressionist feel about it with its rosy sky affected by the dust being kicked up by the cart which is barely described. (The first Impressionist exhibition had happened in 1874.)

Mihály Munkácsy, "Dusty Road II," ca. 1880 (or 1884 as it says on the website), oil on wood, 37 3/4 x 51 1/16 in (96 x 129.7 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Dusty Road II,” ca. 1880 (or 1884 as it says on the website), oil on wood, 37 3/4 x 51 1/16 in (96 x 129.7 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail. I love the combination of luscious liquidy paint v thick daubs of paint

 

Earlier on, Mihály Munkácsy painted many scenes that recorded the bourgeoisie in their rich and carefree lives. Here’s an example:

Mihály Munkácsy, "Paris Interior (Woman Reading)," 1877, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “Paris Interior (Woman Reading),” 1877, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest. I love the way Mihály Munkácsy has your eye move around the painting, from the woman reading over the table to the chair then up and over the large painting to the lit room in the background, and then finally, we discover the child on the floor playing with a dog. Marvellous! Mihály Munkácsy was a master at using values to create the drama and movement he wanted.

Mihály Munkácsy, "Paris Interior (Woman Reading)," 1877, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Paris Interior (Woman Reading),” 1877, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail. You can see his exquisite draughtsmanship here!

Mihály Munkácsy, "Paris Interior (Woman Reading)," 1877, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Paris Interior (Woman Reading),” 1877, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

 

 

The next paintings shows the influence of his friend László Paál and the Barbizon school with its emphasis on the recording of nature.

Mihály Munkácsy, "Landscape At Dusk," 1882, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “Landscape At Dusk,” 1882, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, "Landscape At Dusk," 1882, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest - detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Landscape At Dusk,” 1882, oil on wood, size unknown at this point, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest – detail

 

What I love is the way he’s worked opaque paint over a transparent red/brown underpainting that glows through. He’s certainly as proficient in landscape painting as he is with the figure. With a few strokes, he tells us all we need to know.

Mihály Munkácsy, "Park in Colpachi," 1886, oil on wood, 38 x 51 3/8 in (96.5 x 130.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “Park in Colpachi,” 1886, oil on wood, 38 x 51 3/8 in (96.5 x 130.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, "Park in Colpachi," 1886, oil on wood, 38 x 51 3/8 in (96.5 x 130.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Park in Colpachi,” 1886, oil on wood, 38 x 51 3/8 in (96.5 x 130.5 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail. Here you can

 

This next one, a floral, is a large painting. The photo doesn’t do it justice! I’ve included some details so you can take a closer look at the mark making.

Mihály Munkácsy, "Still Life With Flowers," 1881, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 3/4 in (147 x 115 cm), Hungarian Nartional Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “Still Life With Flowers,” 1881, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 3/4 in (147 x 115 cm), Hungarian Nartional Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, "Still Life With Flowers," 1881, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 3/4 in (147 x 115 cm), Hungarian Nartional Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Still Life With Flowers,” 1881, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 3/4 in (147 x 115 cm), Hungarian Nartional Gallery, Budapest-detail  Again, look at the way he worked opaque paint over a thin undercoat.

Mihály Munkácsy, "Still Life With Flowers," 1881, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 3/4 in (147 x 115 cm), Hungarian Nartional Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “Still Life With Flowers,” 1881, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 3/4 in (147 x 115 cm), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail. I love the way he just scratched out the poppy stems in one confident stroke. Such bravura!

 

Okay, one last one. Mihály Munkácsy was commissioned to create a fresco for the ceiling of the entrance hall of the Kunsthistorische Museum of Vienna which he created over the years 1889-1890. Click here to see the finished painting.

Mihály Munkácsy, "The Apotheosis of the Renaissance (study for the ceiling decoration of the Kunst-historisches Museum in Vienna)," 1886-1888, oil on canvas?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “The Apotheosis of the Renaissance (study for the ceiling decoration of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna),” 1886-1888, oil on canvas?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

 

Mihály Munkácsy, "The Apotheosis of the Renaissance (study for the ceiling decoration of the Kunst-historisches Museum in Vienna)," 1886-1888, oil on canvas?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “The Apotheosis of the Renaissance (study for the ceiling decoration of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna),” 1886-1888, oil on canvas?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

 

Although a celebrity, Mihály Munkácsy was always unsure and questioning of his own talent. By the 1890s his depression grew and he succumbed to mental illness which, it is speculated, was brought on by the syphilis he caught as a youth.

His health declined drastically 1896-97 and he spent a year in a sanatorium in Baden-Baden. He retired to Paris and was later taken to a mental hospital near Bonn where he died 1st May 1900. He was laid to rest at the Kerepsi Cemetery in Budapest (which we didn’t have a chance to visit).

 

I’m quoting from Wikipedia here: “Nineteenth century visual art or the historical developments of Hungarian art cannot be discussed without considering Munkácsy’s lifework. His works are considered the apogee of national painting. He was a standard-setter, an oeuvre of reference value. He was one of the few with whom the antiquated colour techniques of 19th century Austro-Hungarian painting reached its most powerful and most lavish expression.”

 

Well that was a wee taste of the work by Hungarian artist, Mihály Munkácsy. Had you heard of him before? I’d love to know. And if you do know something about him, I hope you’ll comment below.

I’d also love to know what you think of these pieces. Naturally, in life, they were spectacular and photos just don’t do them justice. Still, better than nothing!

 

Until next time,

Gail

 

PS. A little bit of a rant. I don’t know why art galleries don’t put the medium and size on the accompanying labels – it would make things so much easier! And it’s important information for some of us! I went to the Hungarian National Gallery’s website for this kind of detail but unfortunately, they don’t have every piece on the website hence the notations of “unknown at this time”. One day I’ll discover the info and insert it.

 

Okay one more – I forgot about this one and I was stunned by it in life. Really, it’s a study in black, white and grey. When you first see it, you see only the design of white lines across the canvas – you really see the abstract foundation of the piece. I’ve also included a close-up because it tells you so much about how Mihály Munkácsy handled paint.

 

Mihály Munkácsy, "In the Studio," 1876, oil on wood?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Mihály Munkácsy, “In the Studio,” 1876, oil on wood?, size unknown at this time (but it’s a biggie!), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

 

Mihály Munkácsy, "In the Studio," 1876, oil on wood?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

Mihály Munkácsy, “In the Studio,” 1876, oil on wood?, size unknown at this time, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest-detail

It’s Canada Day…and I’m Halfway Through My Daily Sketches!

Posted by on 1 Jul 2015 in My Art Life, New Artwork | 6 comments

It’s Canada Day…and I’m Halfway Through My Daily Sketches!

I’ve just returned from watching the magic of fireworks! Not only are we celebrating Canada Day today but I’m also personally celebrating my success of doing my daily sketches for half a year with not one sketch missed from the beginning of the year! (You can read more about my project here.) So come celebrate with me!!

 

Here’s a selection of the daily sketches. Most of them are done in pen and ink. Occasionally I did a sketch in pencil or in ball point pen but there’s only one of each represented here. The sketches have been collaged so you aren’t seeing the whole thing. To see the full sketch and to see all the other daily sketches, go to my Facebook Page.

 

Daily sketches: Out and About

Out And About

 

Daily Sketches: Figures

Figures

 

Daily Sketches: Flowers

Flowers

Daily Sketches: Around The House

Around The House

Dail Sketches: Still Life

Still Life

Daily Sketches: More Figures

More Figures

 

 

Daily Sketches: Self Portrait with view finder

Self Portrait With Viewfinder

 

It has been pretty difficult to get a sketch out every day. Some days, I’m sketching in the last hour before midnight, madly trying to get it finished and posted on Facebook before the day has ended. And I’ve done it so far.  Sometimes, it’s a real drudge, other days, a joy. It’s usually easier when I am travelling because all the scenes are new but being at home makes me look deeply into the things I live with everyday. Luckily Cam is usually a willing subject when I can’t get inspired by anything else. (If you know me, you know I have a predilection for figures!

 

I still have another six months to go. Pretty daunting. Yet I’ve made it this far without missing a day. So I KNOW I can do it especially with you cheering me on.

 

Thank you for being a subscriber and staying with me on my artistic journey.

~ Gail

 

PS. This sketch was from a day of frustration!!

Daily Sketches: Frustration Scribble

My Frustration Sketch!

Who are you as an artist?

Posted by on 30 May 2015 in Ruminations | 6 comments

Who are you as an artist?

Who are you as an artist?

A reader recently wrote me: “My question is about losing who you are as an artist or perhaps finding who you are…?” She had recently taken both realistic and abstract paintings in different mediums to a show. In the past she had sold all types but this time she made no sales. Other artists asked her, “Who are you as an artist?”

I sent her an answer but the question niggled away at me and I began to think more and more about it. In this blog, I’ll share some rambling thoughts on this topic of “Who are you as an artist?”

 

First off, what does that question mean? To me it means how do you see yourself as an artist. Not so much in the professional versus hobbyist way but in the sense of your current state of ease with your creative self. You may be in a place where you are totally comfortable with what you are doing e.g. painting watercolours of flowers. Or you may be trying to find your voice by trying out various mediums and subjects. Or you may be at a place of discomfort, knowing you want to move in a new direction but unsure how to do so or what the fallout will be.

 

I think we are continually looking for our voice as an artist. We may think we have found it when we have huge success producing a certain type of work but if we stay there because of that success, we stagnate and our voice falters.

 

Finding our artistic voice means continuing to explore new territory. It doesn’t have to mean going to the deepest darkest places (although it could), it may mean just going next door, in other words, picking up a different kind of brush. Doing the work is a priority. Painting and more painting will help find that voice.

 

The great artists moved where they were compelled to go. They followed the direction their work took them. Their well-known works often don’t reveal where they started in their artistic lives. We look at Picasso’s Guernica but we don’t see his incredible drawing skill unless we see his earlier Portrait of Aunt Pepa for instance.

Who am I as an artist? Pablo Picasso, "Guernica," 1937, oil on canvas, 137 1/2  x 305 3/4 in, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sophia, Madrid

Pablo Picasso, “Guernica,” 1937, oil on canvas, 137 1/2 x 305 3/4 in, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sophia, Madrid

 

Who are you as an artist? Pablo Picasso, "Portrait of Aunt Pepa," 1896, oil on canvas, 22 5/8 x 19 7/8 in, Museo Picasso, Barcelona

Pablo Picasso, “Portrait of Aunt Pepa,” 1896, oil on canvas, 22 5/8 x 19 7/8 in, Museo Picasso, Barcelona

 

Or we look at Matisse’s Dance (I)  and are surprised to see he did work like Carmelina just a few years earlier.

Who am I as an artist? Henri Matisse, "Dance (I)," 1909, oil on canvas, 102 1/2 x 153 1/2 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Henri Matisse, “Dance (I),” 1909, oil on canvas, 102 1/2 x 153 1/2 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Who am I as an Artist? Henri Matisse, "Carmelina,"1903, oil on canvas, 32 x 23 1/4 in, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Henri Matisse, “Carmelina,”1903, oil on canvas, 32 x 23 1/4 in, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Self-imposed expectations and super-imposed external expectations of what our art should look like can create a prison for our creativity. For instance, there is a huge compulsion to move towards recording something literally or even photographically. We sometimes work only towards this, not allowing our body of work or our internal yearnings to lead us in a new direction. Instead we impose the requirement of verisimilitude.

 

I often remark on and admire the work done by some artists from photos. (Note, many of these artists ARE doing their soul work in this way.) There is awe and appreciation from a person who says, “I love this painting – it looks just like a photo!”. Ironically, those who are masters of realism actually go way beyond a photo, revealing colours and details a snapshot would be unable to record. Reality is made even more real! This is why we are awed by these virtuosos. Examples of these artists are Richard Estes and Carol Evans.

 

Who am I as an Artist?

Richard Estes, “Soups-Salads,” 2014, oil on board, 16 x 20 in, Marlborough Gallery, New York

Who Are You as an Artist? Carol Evans, "Hot Summer Afternoon," watercolour, 21 x 12 in, Peninsula Gallery, Sidney

Carol Evans, “Hot Summer Afternoon,” watercolour, 21 x 12 in, Peninsula Gallery, Sidney

 

Seeing these works makes me feel pulled, on the one hand, to rummage through my many photos and find one to work from. On the other hand, I also feel a sort of revulsion at going back to photos. Photos for me can give me comfort and safety but they no longer strike a chord of vitality whereas working from life or working from my own intuition has me at a more scary place but energizes me! With risk can come something extraordinary. Not all the time but it can happen. And this makes taking a chance so worthwhile! I speak from experience.

 

I have found that when I work from photos I am taken down that path of recording realistically, of copying what I see particularly when it comes to perspective and object/background relationships. I do bring my own voice to these works but I find the photo will dictate much, even as I am aware of it doing so. I haven’t worked from a photo in a couple of years now and that I’ve found liberating. I still love working from life be it a figure, a still life, a landscape en plein air.

 

Inside many artists is a yearning to move in another direction, away from realism. I often hear my students say  ‘I want to be looser’ or ‘I want to use more colour’. What’s holding them back? Expectations and fear probably more than ignorance of technique.

 

I myself am on this very journey, to let my heart and soul speak now rather than only my mind and my ability to render a subject fairly realistically. (You can see my newest work in my last blog and also here.)

 

For a long time, I felt the need to express myself in a more abstract way, more intuitively, I wanted the work to be about the mark itself not what a collection of them represented. It took me some time to let go and be with that and try out painting abstractly. Yet there’s still a part of me that thinks that my being an artist is about being able to represent something accurately. Which is totally ridiculous especially when I think of the work of so many of the artists I admire eg. Mark Rothko and and Cy Twombly whose mature work is anything but a copy of nature!

 

Who are you as an artist? Mark Rothko, "Untitled (Purple, White, and Red)," 1953, oil on canvas, 77 3/4 x 81 3/4 in, Art Institute of Chicago

Mark Rothko, “Untitled (Purple, White, and Red),” 1953, oil on canvas, 77 3/4 x 81 3/4 in, Art Institute of Chicago

Who are you as an artist? Cy Twombly, "The First Part of the Return from Parnassus," 1961, oil paint, lead pencil, wax crayon, coloured pencil on canvas, 94 3/4 x 118 3/8 in, Art Institute of Chicago

Cy Twombly, “The First Part of the Return from Parnassus,” 1961, oil paint, lead pencil, wax crayon, coloured pencil on canvas, 94 3/4 x 118 3/8 in, Art Institute of Chicago

 

It’s an interesting balance I now have between painting in a more realistic way and following a path towards abstraction. An exhibition of my work can show both (as seen in my Emergence show at Gallery 8 last year) and I worry that maybe the pieces look like they are done by different artists but the comment I usually hear (thankfully) is, “I can see you in all of them.” And that, for me, answers the question: who are you as an artist?

 

So paint from your heart. Listen to that inside voice that may want to take you elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to experiment and play with your ideas. No one need see these trials if they are indeed errors/failures (which, by the way, they may not be so don’t be too quick to judge!). But you will feel your creative soul fulfilled and that’s what’s important.

 

Sometimes you have to do the work that sells and if this fulfills you then great! But if there is a small voice inside you wishing and waiting to be heard then let it speak because by responding, you will grow as an artist. Letting that voice speak will tell you who you are as an artist.

 

These are just thoughts off the top of my head and I’d love to know yours!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Having many different mediums and styles too can be a headache for the galleries BUT if Gerhard Richter, one of my favourite artists can pull it off, then so shall we!!

Who are you as an artist? Gerhard Richter, "Woman Descending the Staircase," 1965, oil on canvas, 79 x 51 in, Art Institute of Chicago

Gerhard Richter, “Woman Descending the Staircase,” 1965, oil on canvas, 79 x 51 in, Art Institute of Chicago

Who are you as an artist? Gerhard Richter, "Ice (2)," 1989, oil on canvas, 80 x 64 in, Art Institute of Chicago

Gerhard Richter, “Ice (2),” 1989, oil on canvas, 80 x 64 in, Art Institute of Chicago

 

Trust – An Exhibition Of Recent Explorations

Posted by on 24 Apr 2015 in New Artwork | 6 comments

Trust – An Exhibition Of Recent Explorations

A couple of months ago you will have seen the promotion of my my most recent solo exhibition, Trust.

 

Trust Exhibition promotion via email

 

Although the little fernwood gallery is only open formally a few hours a week, I received some very positive feedback to this new work. And this is somewhat of a relief as it confirms that it’s “okay” to continue in this new direction. (I know these things shouldn’t matter but it would be a whole lot harder to be committed to a new path without some support behind me!) That’s not to say I’ll be giving up painting en plein air and trying to capture all the beauty I see in the world. What it does do is encourage me to explore ideas and emotions.

I have had a number of people wanting to know more about the paintings on the poster so I thought I’d share with you the process and thoughts behind the two paintings: “Wild Woman” and “Every Six Minutes.”

 

First let’s look at “Every Six Minutes”

Awhile back (January 2014), actually when I was preparing work for the “Emergence” show, I drew up two figures from imagination in charcoal and black pastel on wood panel. I had no plan for them other than I was interested in doing more figurative work. I had been enjoying a book on Willem de Kooning and for these figures I’d been inspired by his work “Two Women On A Wharf.”

 

Inspiration for Trust painting: Willem de Kooning, "Two Women On A Wharf," 1949, oil, enamel, pencil and collage on paper, 24 7/16  x 24 9/16 in, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Willem de Kooning, “Two Women On A Wharf,” 1949, oil, enamel, pencil and collage on paper, 24 7/16 x 24 9/16 in, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

 

 

Trust exhibition progress: 1. Initial drawing in charcoal and black pastel

1. Initial drawing in charcoal and black pastel. I drew and then rubbed with paper towel.

 

Trist painting progress: 2. The next day I applied white paint mixed with matte medium (unusual for me!) and airbrush extender. The charcoal and black pastel had not been fixed so they blended into the white paint to create various depths of grey.

2. The next day I applied white paint mixed with matte medium (unusual for me – I usually lean towards the glossy look!) and airbrush extender. The charcoal and black pastel had not been fixed so they blended into the white paint to create various depths of grey. This is as far as I got. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

 

 

And so the panel sat in the studio until June 2014 when suddenly I knew what these figures were for. I had just heard an interview with Rachel Solnit about her new book, Men Explain Things To Me, which I eventually purchased (highly recommended! – see Amazon link below). To hear the interview that so affected me, click here to go to the CBC page and then look down the left column to the first podcast that says ‘Listen’.

The whole interview is interesting (at the 14 min mark you can hear about the difference between the #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen hashtags) but the one place that I started to become really angry was at around 16:30 mark – women are afraid to walk the streets at night and so our lives are limited by fear. We should have the “freedom to participate fully in every way.” As Solnit says, this is a human rights issue. (At 18:30, Solnit lists the ways women are supposed to deal with their fear of walking streets at night – take a taxi, walk with a friend, crossdress – there’s never anything about what men should do! One of the very popular tweets in #YesAllWomen was, “Don’t tell your daughters how not to get raped, tell your sons not to rape.”)

So the interview got me riled up. I later read the statistic about women being raped every six minutes in the USA which gave the painting its title. (If you include the whole world, of course that number gets even smaller.)

 

 

3. Now that I had a plan, I could continue.

 

I felt an incredible sorrow for all women and an anger and a frustration at our inability to be in this world without the fear of sexual violence. I was moved to create a work that expressed the horror of rape and gender inequality. I tried to say it through stance of the figures, through clarity or non-clarity of image, through quality of line, through black and white and grey colouration.

 

 

Image for Trust: Gail Sibley, "Every Six Minutes," charcoal and acrylic on wood panel, 40 x 30 in

Gail Sibley, “Every Six Minutes,” charcoal and acrylic on wood panel, 40 x 30 in

 

I dripped diluted white paint over the female figure like a veil, like something half hidden. I realized that I needed to do more readjustment on the male figure: I felt the body was too soft, too curvy, too similar to the female one. So I took a white Derwent Inktense block and “carved” out the male figure in a more angular, bolder way. Then, using a calligraphy pen that I dipped in black acrylic airbrush paint, I wrote words that streamed out of me about violence against women. I usually don’t do work around provocative and raw issues but this one impacts me and all women and I felt such a need to make some sort of statement about it.

 

Trust exhibition: Gail Sibley, "Every Six Minutes," charcoal and acrylic on wood panel, 40 x 30 in - detail

Gail Sibley, “Every Six Minutes,” charcoal and acrylic on wood panel, 40 x 30 in – detail

 

 

The other major piece in the show was “Wild Woman.” This painting came about in a totally different way – it was more about the materials and trusting the process.

 

I LOVE Diarylide yellow!! It’s one of my favourite painting colours. I decided to start a painting using the colour and see where it went. (The photos below of the painting as it progresses show colours that are much more orange than the paint is in life.)

Trust: Diarylide Yellow!

Look at that yummy colour!!

 

1. Trust: the beginnings

1. First I made random marks on the canvas using high flow acrylic black paint with a calligraphy pen. Some of these I then wiped with a wet paper towel. The lines morphed into a number of standing figures.

 

2. Trust exhibition: Adding gobs of Diarylide Yellow with a palette knife

2. When the black paint was dry, I began applying gobs of Diarylide Yellow paint to the canvas (I ended up using almost an entire tube!) and moved it around with a palette knife, scraping and wiping as I went. I was basically following a cruciform composition.

 

3. Trust exhibition: The shape of a woman begins to merge and I use white paint to define it further.

3. I began to see the shape of a woman, arms outstretched, emerging. I began adding white paint to help define the shapes further. By now, the vague figures in the background seem to have little relevance.

 

At this point, it was difficult to decide what to do next: I was fearful of the next move, fearful of messing up. I knew that I wanted to develop the female figure. The Venus of Willendorf, one of the earliest known images of the body some 25,000 years old, came floating into my mind.

After much looking and deciding to trust my intuition, I put on some wild music and decided to go in with calligraphy pen and high flow paint, drawing lines then smearing some with my fingers, some with a damp paper towel. I worked very gesturally with my whole arm. I added more yellow paint and some white, all with palette knife. I dripped and splattered the black paint onto the painting.

I then put aside the painting for days and eventually felt there was nothing more to add (or take away). I am delighted with the exuberance that vibrates from the figure and painting! This woman is powerful and confident, ready to embrace the world.

 

Trust exhibition: Gail Sibley, "Wild Woman," acrylic paint on canvas, 40 x 30 in

Gail Sibley, “Wild Woman,” acrylic paint on canvas, 40 x 30 in

 

 

Two different pieces expressing such different emotions! I’d love to hear your thoughts about them. How do they speak to you? What do they tell you about themselves, about the world, about yourself?

 

As always, thank you so much for being here!!

 

Gail

 

PS. In case you are interested, here is my Artist Statement for the show:

Trust: An Exhibition Of New Explorations

As an artist searching for an authentic voice, I am working to trust the creative process, to allow my ideas to flow and let the work itself lead the way. Trusting the process and trusting my instinct to apply the mark, to let it happen, this is huge.

The paintings in this exhibition are a result of my letting go, of my trust in my own creative intuition, of allowing myself to trust that the work will evolve through a conversation with the piece. Sometimes I start with an idea (the horror of rape), other times colour leads the way (whether one I love eg Diarylide yellow or ones I rarely use eg. ochres and greys) or other times I make marks on the surface and see where they go.  Sometimes I set myself challenges to do things I normally wouldn’t do, for example, use a combo of muted colours, or make the dominant colour pink.

I also trust the viewer to come to the work with an open mind and heart. Engage with the work and voice your opinion about it whether positive or negative. I look forward to reading and hearing your thoughts!

The works here are Explorations – my way of delving into new territory. Some pieces will open up a path to a new series while others will be unique and a one-off.

Gail Sibley, 12 March 2015

 

PPS. Here are links to the books (Men Explain Things To Me and De Kooning: A Retrospective) and Inktense blocks .

For Canadian purchasers (see below for US and international purchasing):

 

For US and International purchasers:

And yes, I receive a wee commission if you purchase anything using these links 🙂

A Secret Gallery In La Manzanilla….Shhhhhhhhh

Posted by on 9 Mar 2015 in Art of Today, My Art Life | 15 comments

A Secret Gallery In La Manzanilla….Shhhhhhhhh

Yes, a secret gallery! Want to know more? Read on!

 

Last year, while on my annual stay in La Manzanilla, my friend and art mentor Patrizio shared a discovery with me.

There’s an abandoned house near him in front of which he has created a lovely garden. (I believe the impetus was to deter all the litter throwers who had decided the empty space was their personal garbage dump. And it worked – there’s very little ‘basura’ found there now.)

One day, Patrizio went inside the building. Rather than the empty space he expected to see, he found some imaginative and large paintings of rather strange beings. These paintings are unseen from the street, only visible upon entry. And entry is through bushes and around the side so not easily seen or accessible.

Who did these paintings? We may never know. Certainly someone with a creative soul who wanted to quietly leave his or her mark in this small fishing village.

Needless to say, I was delighted by what I saw.

 

I was in La Manzanilla again this year and a couple of times wandered through the secret gallery. Since last year, Patrizio has added his own creations to the secret gallery – a delightful surprise. When my niece Aly was visiting, I shared the secret with her.

 

And now I’m going to share the secret with you!

Let me take you on a tour:

Secret gallery - You enter and this is what you see straight ahead

You enter and this is what you see straight ahead

Secret Gallery: The first image we see on entering. (Looking back at the entry way.)

Turn to your left and you see this. (Looking back at the entry way, Aly in the doorway.) Strange art yes??

Secret gallery - Turn to your right and you'll see this painting on the wall which then leads you to....

Turn to your right and you’ll see this on the wall which then leads you to….

Secret gallery - Turn right again and you'll see these paintings. The entry is just to the right of the photo. When the artist painted these images, the papier mache eye was hanging in the window space (the one that is partially visible as it leans against the wall outside). Evidently, the eye was part of the whole scheme. If we read from the previous photo we get: You See (pointing to the eye) New. What shall you fill in that blank space?

… these paintings on your right. The entry is just to the right of the photo. When the artist painted these images, the papier mache eye was hanging in the window space (you can see it partially visible as it leans against the wall outside). Evidently, the eye was part of the whole scheme. Reading from the previous photo we get – You See (pointing to the eye) New. What shall you fill in that blank space?

Secret Gallery - Moving into another room, you come across this sleeping figure...

Moving into another room, you come across this sleeping figure…

Secret gallery - And in yet another room, this strange combination of a being sitting over a severed arm with fish hanging from above. What do you make of this?

And in yet another room, this strange combination of a figure sitting over a severed arm with fish hanging from above. What do you make of this?

Secret Gallery - And there's this rather gentle soul...

And there’s this rather gentle soul…  I don’t think the writing says anything but is rather asemic writing. Any other opinions?

Secret gallery - Added to the secret gallery by Patrizio is this bottle painted with 'Embrace'

Added to the secret gallery by Patrizio is this bottle painted with ‘Embrace’

Secret Gallery - Another Patrizio addition with figures created from his theme 'Mirar' ('Look')

Another Patrizio addition with figures created in his theme ‘Mirar’ (‘Look’)

 

 

I had an uncontrollable urge to add my own stamp to the secret gallery. What would it be? An installation of hangers and cloth that I had found? Or a selection of figures from my On The Edge theme? (Read more about this series here.) Aly convinced me to add figures, saying that they are my unique signature. Materials to use? Well, happily, Patrizio had just given me a box of pastels that had come into his possession and which he had decided he would never use. Perfect.

 

So one afternoon, I took the box of pastels and went to the secret gallery. I spent an hour plus, looking, seeing, and adding a number of figures. I examined the walls and let the contours, design, and colours lead the way.

 

Here’s what happened.

 

Secret Gallery - On entering...

On entering…

Secret Gallery-close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - Around a couple of corners

Around a couple of corners….

Secret Gallery - detail

Close-up

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - Behind Patrizio's 'Embrace'

Behind Patrizio’s ‘Embrace’

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - Below Patrizio's 'Embrace'

Below Patrizio’s ‘Embrace’

Secret Gallery - I added figures to the bricks in the window

I added figures to the bricks in the window. (Another installation, possibly by Patrizio, on the floor.)

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - Additions against yellow paint

In another room, the yellow paint called to me! (Notice the cool hanging installation…by Patrizio? You can see the ‘Mirar’ figures below.)

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - And as you turn to leave...

And as you turn to leave… (Notice that the ‘eye’ now hangs again.)

Secret Gallery - close-up

Close-up

Secret Gallery - One last one

One last figure before you leave…

 

The walls are rough and sometimes I was frustrated that I couldn’t get more detail. Also, there was no erasing once the pastel was down! All in all, a most satisfying hour of contemplation and creation. I wonder who will see my creations, this hidden graffiti?

 

Talk to me! What do you think?? Leave a comment on the blog with your thoughts  🙂

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

And in case you were curious, here’s the secret gallery from the outside. Shhhhhhh…..

The Secret Gallery from the outside

A Sketch A Day – My Commitment to Project 365!

Posted by on 25 Jan 2015 in My Art Life, My life | 0 comments

A Sketch A Day – My Commitment to Project 365!

Some days I don’t draw or paint, busy as I am on the computer with internet marketing and creating online courses. And this really gets to me sometimes. So I’ve decided to do a sketch a day in 2015 and post it daily on my Facebook Page. There will be no limits as to medium, size, complexity. Some may be a few lines, others more intricate. Some may be abstract while others are drawn from life. Most will probably be small.

 

Notice I am calling them ‘sketches’ rather than ‘drawings.’ I feel the word ‘drawing’ puts too much pressure on me – sounds too serious. ‘Sketch’ means something quick and off the cuff. Let’s see what happens. The whole exercise will be a way to keep my ‘seeing muscle’ active on those days that I am not actively in my studio.

 

As I write, it’s day 24 and I’ve posted 24 sketches so far. I know that it’s gonna be tough some days to get to sketching but having the Facebook commitment will help keep me on track. It has already as a few days ago I sure didn’t feel like sketching. But I did. And then travelling to Mexico and all that travelling entails, I may have just not got around to it. But I did. And that is most satisfying. I figure it doesn’t matter what it looks like – the main thing is to do it!

 

I’ll post a few of the sketches here so you can get an idea of what I’ve done so far. I’d love you to hop onto Facebook and see the daily sketches. You can also cheer me on – I know I’ll need it!

 

Sketch a day - 365-1- pencil. My first one!!

Sketch a day – 365-1- pencil – The Bedroom Door. My first sketch!!

 

Sketch a day 365-3 - pencil, My Honey Pondering

Sketch a day 365-3 – pencil – My Honey Pondering

 

Sketch a day 365-5 - ballpoint pen - After Tea At Murchies

Sketch a day 365-4 – ballpoint pen – After Tea At Murchies

 

Sketch a day 365-8 - HB Pencil - The Car Outside

Sketch a day 365-8 – HB Pencil – The Car Outside    I had time and interest to go beyond a contour drawing into shading!

 

Sketch a day 365-12 - pencil  Next Door Neighbours

Sketch a day 365-12 – pencil – Next Door Neighbours

 

Sketch a day 365-13  pen and ink, Looking IntoThe Kitchen

Sketch a day 365-13 – pen and ink – Looking Into The Kitchen

 

Sketch a day 365-15 pencil, Ferry Pipes

Sketch a day 365-15 – pencil – Ferry Pipes

 

Sketch a Day 365-20  pencil, View of the Street   - A day I really didn't feel like sketching!!

Sketch a Day 365-20-pencil – View of the Street     This was a day I really didn’t feel like sketching – and it’s only day 20……of 365.

 

So there you have a few of my sketch a day creations. There’s a whole lot to create before the end of the year but I’ll take it one day at a time, one sketch at a time. Please wish me luck!!

 

Happily, I’m writing you this post from La Manzanilla, Mexico! We arrived last night and have settled into our rental casita easily and quickly. It’s so lovely and warm here and it’s good to see old friends once again (bumped into quite a few over the last 24 hours!).  This is our eight year here!! And we just keep coming back for more it’s that wonderful! Mind you, this is the first time we aren’t taking a tango workshop but we’ll be sure to go to the dances (two a week) as we did bring our shoes 🙂

 

Hope you’ll check out the sketch a day on my Facebook Page (and please Like it if you haven’t  – I am very close to 500 Likes!!).

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

“The Magpie” by Claude Monet – A Close Look At A Favourite Snowscape

Posted by on 5 Jan 2015 in Art of the past, Inspiration | 10 comments

“The Magpie” by Claude Monet – A Close Look At A Favourite Snowscape

I remember when I first saw Claude Monet’s painting, “The Magpie.” It was on a greeting card that ended up in my possession many many years ago. I’ve loved it ever since.

In 2003, I was in Paris visiting the Musee d’Orsay. I rounded a corner and boom, there it was. I was blown over, first by the surprise of seeing it (I had no idea it was in this museum) and second, by its size. I was used to it as an 4 x 7 inch image but no, it’s a large painting! In 2009 I visited it again and here’s the photo I took. Unfortunately, the painting is covered by glass hence the reflections.

 

 Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris

 

 

A Little Background History

 

Claude Monet (1840-1926) created this painting on location near Etretat, Normandy, a seaside town renowned then, and now, for its cliffs. Monet did paint the cliffs (I plan to do another blog comparing various artists rendering of them) but in this painting, he got out into the snowy countryside.

 

Although born in Paris, Monet’s family moved to the coastal town of Le Havre when Monet was five. He grew up there and eventually met the local landscape artist Eugene Boudin who introduced him to working outside on location. Thus began Monet’s love of working en plein air.

 

In 1859 he moved to Paris to study art. After a short stint in the military 1861-2 (relieved of duty due to health reasons) he went back to painting. In 1865, the twenty-five year old had two seascapes accepted into the Salon, a big deal for the young artist! He had work accepted the following year as well (his painting of Camille in “Woman in a Green Dress“) but in 1867, his work, “Women in the Garden” was rejected. Even with the earlier Salon success, Monet’s work was not selling and he was in dire straits financially. His father, never approving of Monet’s profession also disapproved vehemently of Monet’s lover Camille Doncieux (from a humble background and much younger than Monet) and refused to help them out. The couple had a son, Jean, in 1867, and Monet became so depressed by their circumstances that he attempted suicide, throwing himself off a bridge into the River Seine. Luckily for us, he was unsuccessful!

 

At this lowest point, in 1868, Monet attracted his first patron, ship owner Louis-Joachim Gaudibert, who commissioned the artist to paint three life-sized portraits. (You can see one of the amazing portraits here.) Finally, Monet was financially bouyant.

 

With Gaudibert’s help, Monet rented a house in Etretat where the family went in October 1868. While there, Monet painted many oils of the cliffs and also, unusually, this painting of a snowy landscape called “The Magpie.” Apparently the location where Monet painted this is unknown but perhaps a good guess would be that it was painted close to their rented house since it is likely Monet painted it on site.

 

 

The Magpie

 

So what is it about this painting that makes it so wonderful? For one thing, I remember when I saw it that I felt like the painting was lit from within, it’s that luminous! Even looking at this small image on the screen, I have the sensation of needing to squint my eyes. The low winter sun is outside the picture on the left. It illuminates what I take to be the sea in the background (rather than fields covered in snow), and creates the shadows from the wattle fencing that crosses the painting horizontally.

 

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris. The painting from the Musee d’Orsay website.

 

 

“The Magpie” is generally a high key painting punctuated by the few darks of visible fence, the gate, a few tree trunks, and the magpie. Take a look at it in black and white. You can see most of the painting looks very light or ‘high-key’.

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - in black and white

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – in black and white

 

Monet has captured a landscape heavy with snow, lit by a low winter sun. If you’ve ever experienced a heavy snowfall, you’ll know the muffled silence that comes with it. All is quiet. Nothing moves. Except perhaps for a magpie. Take out that magpie and the painting is still beautiful but the addition of the bird adds life, movement and momentariness (is that a word?) to the painting. Has the magpie just landed? Is it sitting still or moving head side to side? Is it about to fly away? Looking at what appears be the shadow of the bird on the ground, we see it isn’t an accurate shadow of the bird that sits there. This adds to the idea that the bird is in continuous motion and Monet captured two different moments.

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris- magpie removed!

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris- magpie removed!

 

You can see that without the magpie, our mind can’t decide which is the focal point – the gate or the dark trees and fence on the right. The addition of that wee magpie makes it very clear where the center of interest is located!

 

Design-wise, Monet also successfully breaks the painting in half via the top line of the fence cutting horizontally across the picture. He also has the focal point (the magpie) situated to the far left (no rule of thirds here!).

 

Snow is the dominant subject but what a range of colours Monet uses to depict its whiteness: yellows and reds, violets and blues. The warm colours of the buildings bring relief by contrasting with the coolness of the roof in shade and the blue fence shadows. It is one of the first instances that Monet used colour in the shadows, a way of painting associated with the Impressionist movement. Monet was out in nature and observing the colours he saw. Prior to this, the conventional way of painting shadows was to use black paint. (In comparison, look at Monet’s first snowscape, “A Cart on the Snowy Road at Honfleur,” done only about a year earlier. It’s primarily a black, grey and white painting – little colour to be seen.)

 

 

Let’s have a closer look at “The Magpie.” (The photos below are taken from a reproduction of “The Magpie” in the book Monet by Michael Howard hence the colour difference from the Musee d’Oray version. I did this because I couldn’t get detailed images from the Musee d’Orsay website.)

 

Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of the fence

Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of the fence. Wonderful depiction of the wattle fence piled with snow. Look at all the colours Monet uses to convey snow in shadow! I love the way you can see light bits of snow through the fence.

 

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of trees and buildings

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of trees in front of the buildings. Monet gives much warmth to the sky behind the trees, using the same colour to describe the side of the buildings.

 

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of the sky on the left of the painting

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of the sky on the left of the painting. Look closely and you’ll see the colours in that beautiful winter sky – reds, yellows, blues. And with just a few brushstrokes, we see tree branches loaded with snow.

 

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of trees in the distance

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of trees to the right of the gate. Again, only using a few brushstrokes with muted colour, Monet gives us a clump of trees in the distance.

 

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of fence and snow to the far left

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of fence and snow to the far left. You can really get a sense of how Monet painted the snow in shadow and light here.

 

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of the gate with the magpie

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of the gate with the magpie. I love this close-up because you can see the thick paint stroke that creates the snow contrasted with the delicate detailing of the wattle fence. What is also revealing is the way the gate appears and disappears so to speak. It’s not a set of hard-edged lines but is softened by brushstrokes creating the snow behind. And with only a few strokes, the magpie sits waiting, watching, listening.

 

 

Claude Monet, "The Magpie," 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris - detail of the gate shadow

Claude Monet, “The Magpie,” 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 x 51 1/4 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris – detail of the gate shadow. You can see the magpie’s shadow more closely. Which came first? the bird or the shadow? Why did Monet choose to leave them in an unmatched way? You can see all the warm colours of the ground coming through the whites of the snow. Also, look at the way the gate shadow describes for us the lay of the land.

 

 

I think we all agree this is a pretty wonderful painting. So you may be surprised to learn that it was rejected by the Salon jury in 1869. (Note, the first Impressionist exhibition didn’t take place until April-May 1874.)

 

I hope you enjoyed this close look at “The Magpie”. Let me know YOUR thoughts on this painting.

 

Wishing you a marvellous 2015!! I look forward to your company on my artistic journey. Thanks for being here!

 

~ Gail

 

 

PS. Want to see a magpie? Click here.

 

PPS. A poem for you to celebrate the New Year. You may already know how much I appreciate the work of John O’Donohue.

Beannacht
by John O’Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.