Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bison Abound

Living next to Yellowstone, how can we not be inspired by these great creatures?
Some of our latest work inspired by the bison around us...
John's NEWEST bronze sculpture!

Prairie Storm - bison in bronze
by John Stacy

Detail of Prairie Storm

A pencil sketch I've worked on over the last few weeks...
A life size bison skull -
(My start of this drawing is in a prior post)
Bison Skull -  graphite  25" x 25"
by Shirl Ireland
(This bison skull is in the collection of the
Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center)

And some other  'bison inspired' paintings to round things out....
Old Tex
by Shirl Ireland
(This bison skull is also in the collection of the
Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center.)

Sometimes It Snows In April - study in oil
by Shirl Ireland

Yellowstone Icons
by Shirl Ireland

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Art in Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole Wyoming is a big art town... particularly this time of year during the "Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival". With Jackson being 'the next town south from Gardiner' (just a gorgeous drive through Yellowstone and the Tetons), we love to see what's going on.

Here's a peek....
Photos from the Jackson Hole quick draw this morning - An annual event of artists set up in the Jackson Town Square...

 Legacy Gallery has a show of Tim Shinabarger sculpture that we stopped in to see as well.

The scenery on the way through Yellowstone and the Tetons was absolutely 'jaw dropping'....


Amazing landscapes all around, artist friends to catch up with... and art everywhere!
A great day.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Paradise Valley Perspective

A little Montana cabin in Paradise Valley I painted the other day.
8x10 plein air study by Shirl Ireland
Paradise Valley is the gorgeous area north of us that has endless painting potential - expansive mountain views and abundant wildlife. A quintessential Montana feel. A wide open valley with soaring mountains on either side and the Yellowstone River running through it. It's a beautiful spot to spend the day painting...AND studying perspective!
With so many interesting old cabins, barns, rustic small Montana buildings, (even a one room schoolhouse I have my eye on!), it's the perfect place to kick off a perspective drawing lesson!...
While we're on the drawing subject, we don't want to miss out on perspective. Because the principles of perspective are at work in everything you draw.
You’ll notice that all things receding from your eye become smaller. But to complicate matters, overlapping and foreshortening can occur.
Most obvious examples of perspective can be seen in buildings, railroad tracks across a flat plane, and boxes -  but the effects of perspective occur in EVERYTHING…including trees, clouds in the sky, a winding road and shadows.
Since you will use perspective whether you’re drawing a house or a landscape or people on a beach it’s good to familiarize yourself with at least the basic elements of horizon line and vanishing points.
To draw, you need to transform the three-dimensional experience into two dimensions, so you can put it on canvas. View the scene as a flat arrangement of shapes, NOT as assorted items separated from one another in space.  
Simple small buildings, such as the cabin I painted, are good illustrations of perspective.
A photo of some other small buildings in the area I've painted -
more good examples to show perspective.
Notice the angles on the planes of the cabin walls and the angles of the roof.  Look at the road, how it changes in the distance. And even the different cabins as they recede, overall getting smaller and smaller as they become further away from you.....Perspective.
As I mentioned above, all things receding from your eye become smallerincluding the wall of a building. Therefore, the front vertical edge of the wall would be larger than the vertical end of the wall that is further away from you. That is the principle of vanishing points…the horizontal top and bottom edges would converge to a vanishing point. 
Now, we're getting into a more complicated subject than I can cover in one post - after all my college class on perspective was an entire semester. If you'd like to learn a little more about the basics of vanishing points and horizon lines, click here.
Just remember, perspective is EVERYWHERE. Look at the clouds at the horizon compared to the clouds over your head, look at the trees in the foreground vs. the faraway background, the change in a winding river from the foreground to the background.
And if you get to Paradise Valley, it's great place to start a perspective lesson...and see beautiful views and wildlife too!
Some big horn sheep 'crossing my path' on the drive up the Valley.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Drawing - MORE than you may even want to know!

Drawing is the 'bones' of art. You have to be able to walk before you can run.
Dion Archibald
To flex my drawing muscles, I drew some 'bones' today at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center. I started sketching a bison skull, collected as evidence near Fountain Paint Pots in Yellowstone National Park. A very interesting skull with loads of intrigue for a pencil sketch...
Bison skull in the collection of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
Evidence tag on the bison skull.
The start of my pencil sketch - 25 " x 25" graphite on board
Good drawing forms the 'bones' on which a strong painting hangs.
Chris Bingle
We started the discussion on ‘back to basics’ on my last post, because drawing is a building block for much of art.

However, I know that for many, drawing is NOT basic! It can seem very difficult and elusive. With a degree in Art and Education, I have heard much angst associated with drawing. I’ve read many books on the subject of drawing and learning to draw and thought I’d post some excerpts - an interesting topic to look at a little deeper....

Drawing isn’t learned quickly. Some people regard it as chiefly a matter of coordinating hand and eye, but probably the manual dexterity required is already developed by the age at which you want to be able to depict precise and detailed things.  Others talk of drawing as a matter merely of sharpening the eye, but that, too, is a simplification. 

Semir Zeki, professor of psychology at the University College London, points out that one sees not with the eye, but with the cerebral cortex – of which the eye itself is merely an extension.  Seeing, perceiving form and depth and texture, and translating what you see into line segments and tones, then directing the hand to make even tiny line segments, requires one to communicate all these things to various parts of the brain.  It is a complicated and challenging complex of behaviors, requiring one to perfect and coordinate a wide array of different mental skills, and then to perform a variety of difficult tasks simultaneously, or at least in precise and rapid sequence.

Simply focusing on right-brain/left-brain dominance probably leaves us with an inadequate picture of what goes on when we draw. Probably both hemispheres are working simultaneously – the left being more oriented to detail, breaking the visual configuration into more convenient parts, while the right looks at the whole pattern of the configuration. John Gabrieli, a Stanford University neurophysiologist, thinks the brain is too complex to be purely right– or left– hemisphere oriented. He believes there are more connections and interplay between hemispheres and that in drawing; interplay between front- and rear-brain areas may be just as important.

Drawing at least requires the ability to separate a figure or subject from its ground or setting and the abilities to detect shapes, forms, sizes and orientation.  It requires some mechanism for storing that information on a short-term basis and for passing it on to other parts of the brain that will translate it into line or shape or value, or all three. The impulses must forward to parts of the brain that allow you to judge whether you have placed the line or shape appropriately.  Other parts of the brain will probably judge whether you have drawn it too large or too small.

When drawing, one is also processing impulses through areas of the brain that have to do with intentionality and self-control, areas that keep one focused on the purpose and feeling of one’s work. One is also processing impulses through areas that direct arm and wrist and finger movements.  The visual areas are at the rear of the brain, the areas that keep one focused on a task at the front.  Areas that have to do with perception of spatial relationships are largely in the right side of the brain, while areas that have to do with naming things are largely in the left side.  When you are drawing, your body is still, but your brain is crackling with alarms and errands.

Learning to draw is learning to control these alarms and errands.  And that is not a matter of knowing but a matter of practice.

Drawing seems to provide an extra measure of engagement. Especially the kind of drawing that pulls you out of yourself, and even off the page, into contemplation of something outside you.  It’s almost as though, while drawing, we generate a sort of psychic camouflage, becoming still like the surface of a pond when the wind dies down. There is something in the world that is pleased when we do that, which steals up behind us then.  We feel it as an increased clarity, as a hush, a kind of music.

Matisse said he drew “to liberate grace and character” and saw the work as “that of understanding myself”.

So get out that pencil and exercise your brain - AND liberate your grace and character! Drawing is a good place to start....
(Excerpts from The Undressed Art by Peter Steinhart and A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back To Basics

Of course, for me that phrase usually takes on an art bent.  And with my life at the edge of Yellowstone, an overall simplification can be read into that line as well.

Back to ‘Art Basics’...

I love to draw. Always have. But once you take on the challenge of painting, drawing a la carte can often get put aside.

Now remember, when you paint you ARE drawing with the added complexity of color involved – but you are STILL exercising your drawing muscles. I’ve had to debunk that myth many times, as people have told me “they wanted to learn to paint, since they can’t draw”. The two are intertwined. You can’t skip the drawing phase and just move onto painting.
I’ve heard of rigorous art training courses in the past that kept you drawing for two solid years before allowing you to wield a brush. Probably not so popular in this ‘instant gratification era’ – but it makes you realize drawing's importance in the scheme of things.

Certainly, at times, it can be good to revisit the important drawing skills for their own sake. Concentrating on drawing separately...not tied with color mixing, brushwork and the other complexities of painting, really can be liberating.
Since I’m planning some wildlife paintings for my studio time this fall and winter, I thought I’d warm up with some pencil and ink sketches.

Green-tailed Towhee sketch

A nice 'back to basics' point about sketching?...only paper and pencil required.

Why not flex your drawing muscles and try a quick sketch or two – anything will do.... the salt shaker in the kitchen, your shoe, your ‘other’ hand, whatever is ‘handy’. Heck, one of my favorite drawings I did in college was of an old wrinkled up paper bag! Try anything - you might be surprised at how engaged your mind can become with the challenge of drawing.

(If you're interested in drawing skills and would like to hear more - just throw out a comment here. I'd be happy to give more specific tips in future posts.)

And Back to ‘life basics'...
We must journey out so that we might journey in. 
Terry Tempest Williams
We paddled to Peale Island on Yellowstone Lake with friends over Labor Day weekend. Glorious to say the least.

Camping in one of the most remote areas of Yellowstone – the elk were bugling, the birds were migrating and all was beautiful, calm and serene...just as it should be. We watched swans, loons, eagles, cranes, kingfishers, deer, etc. etc. along with the sunrises, sunsets and oh, the stars.

Yellowstone is truly a magical place that everyone should have the opportunity to experience for themselves.

Sunrise on Peale Island

An eagle in the trees above

Sunset on Peale Island

Sandhill crane pair flying overhead

A loon on Yellowstone Lake

The sunrises were amazing!
I go out into places where human beings are small and insignificant to sense my place in them.
Susan Zwinger

Back to basics - It's a good place to be.