Another Hand…

A helping hand

Give that hand a rest!

Those who know my courses are not surprised when I have participants practice a few exercises using their other hand. That is, the non-dominant hand. This fairly well- established idea puts you outside of your comfort zone and can yield some great results, by slowing down the drawing process and increasing concentration. The focus becomes observation over dexterity –  and so much of drawing is about observation. I wrote about this previously, in my blog article ”on the other hand”.

Fair’s fair of course, so I often do a short demonstration. Perhaps it’s lack of facility that’s quietly freeing – it’s not me really drawing after all is it? I can relax, enjoy the path of the line unraveling, generally following someone’s bidding, surprising with interesting and random side paths. Here are a few of my recent other-handed studies! Try it!

Isobel Scott Kearn (1924 – 2016)

Mum and award-winning painting circa 1985

Mum and award-winning painting in the 1980’s

My mother painted and did so quietly. She started after I left the UK for Canada in the early 80’s and throughout my life over here, it did not really come up as a major subject of conversation. There was always lots to catch up on whenever I came back to visit and never enough time.

Mum was entirely self-taught and set out to capture the places and subjects that meant so much to her: the highlands and valleys of Scotland and the Lake District, flowers from her garden. She knew what she liked in a painting. These days, I’ve been enjoying her views of the places she and Dad once walked. Always true to the subject, her work has an unassuming sense of place and and an easy coherence.

I’m proud to share some of Mum’s work.


Slow to Judge

One that almost bit the dust...

One that almost bit the dust…

You won’t be surprised when I tell you that towards the end of term, I have a pretty big pile of demos waiting to be “dispositioned”, that is: either 1) keep, 2) rework or 3) “file under circular”. Whenever I demonstrate something in class, into the pile it goes, for a while.

At the end of the teaching day, I become a bit “art blind” – I can’t see what’s pleasing and what’s not. That’s why it’s good to be “slow to judge”.

Time adds clarity – here are a few recent pieces I was about to toss, but am glad I kept:

Remembering Gerald Smith (1929 – 2015)

Gerald Steadman Smith (1929-2015) with some of his large format portraits.

Gerald Smith (1929-2015) with some of his large format portraits.

A Memorial Exhibition of the Art of Gerald Smith runs at the Ottawa School of Art until Monday 29th February. Gerald was a longstanding instructor at the Ottawa School of Art, teaching for 19 years until 2013.

Gerald was a light-keepers son, brought up on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. He was inspired to follow a path in art after seeing an exhibition by the Group of Seven.  Moving from the maritimes, he obtained his Masters in Studio Art and taught in Saskatchewan, following which he and his family came to Ottawa. Gerald was a prolific artist, producing over 800 works.

Until fairly recently, I knew none of this… it’s curious how little instructors at the Ottawa School of Art actually see of each other on a daily basis. We come and go to suit our teaching requirements. Gerald and I both taught portraits, so we were invariably scheduled on different days. I knew him for his large-format portraits and remember that we were introduced by a mutual student, in a coffee shop near Ottawa U. I believe we were both attending a seminar. I liked him immediately. Thoughtful and understated, he accepted me as a fellow art traveler.

I only glancingly learned about his full range of art: his large paintings of heads, wonderful figures in gallery settings, seascapes, even ringing abstracts and sculptures. Fine examples of all of these are on display in the Memorial Exhibition.

Two from Gerald Smith's Art Gallery series

Two from Gerald Smith’s “Art Gallery” series

The Exhibition includes a wide range of Gerald's art

The Memorial Exhibition includes a wide range of Gerald’s art

The last time I saw Gerald was at a solo exhibition of his at the Shenkman Centre in 2013. This was to be his last solo show. It was all quiet at the end of the day and he showed me ’round each of the works he’d selected. It was the first time he had exhibited some of his “Art Gallery Series” of paintings in decades. Then we just sat and talked –  about exactly what I can’t remember. I very much regret not having known him longer.

The Memorial Exhibition runs for only 10 days and closes this Monday evening. It’s an all too brief tribute to a wonderful artist, instructor and person. If you can find yourself downtown this weekend, I highly recommended it – well worth the detour.

Gerald Steadman Smith Memorial Exhibition at the Ottawa School of Art

The Gerald Smith Memorial Exhibition at the Ottawa School of Art

David & France’s Spring Break Art Camp at the Shenkman Centre


Children’s camps!

Children’s camps! Why do we love to participate in them??? Because, quite simply, we probably have more fun than the campers do!

When school and fun go hand-in-hand, much is learned of course, however more importantly, curiosity develops into a powerful tool for continued education.

We aim to create new memories and expand horizons. Building confidence is the order of the day, so that children may have an increased chance of delving further into their world, independently, when the “teacher” is not nearby.

Our Spring Break Camp for for 9 to 12 year olds – “The Magic of Colour” – runs with the Ottawa School of Art at the Shenkman Centre from the 14th to 18th March.

Further details and book on-line at the OSA website:

Let your whole family know!