A Bob Ross moment…

My Bob Ross Bobblehead

An artist-friend recently gave me a Bob Ross Bobblehead (with sound, eh!). Thanks again! Bob’s head bobbles of course and at the press of a button, I can now hear a few of Bob’s words of wisdom, including “lets make some nice little clouds that just float around and have fun all day”, “lets have a big ol’ tree rrrrrright about there, let’s give him a friend, everybody needs a friend”  and “That’s a good place for my little squirrel to live”.

I should say I never actually watched any of Bob’s “Joy of Painting” TV episodes when they ran on PBS (ending in the early 90s) however you can easily check these out online these days. No one would ever confuse our respective styles and WOW, I would not spray solvent around that way!

I’m invariably fascinated by truisms from different ages and genres. There are, not surprisingly, many of Bob Ross’s quotes about the internet. I’ve regularly repeated his upbeat gem that “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents” and I can relate to the underlying truism of “You have to have dark in order to show light, it’s just like in life”. And how about: “In painting, you have unlimited power. You have the ability to move mountains”.  I smiled at “That’s a crooked tree, we’ll send it to Washington” and “Water’s like me. It’s laaazy … boy, it always looks for the easiest way to do things”. However if I was to choose a favorite Bob Ross expression it would have to be:

 “Every day is a good day when you paint.”…Bob Ross

Of three “Impressionists”

Self portraits by Manet, Monet and Cézanne

Every time I read something about impressionism, I get a different view of the associations, intents and legacies. Little could have been guessed back then: they were just painters, painting in their time, perhaps occasionally rebels, although oftentimes not. Impressionism was the first major “movement” following the advent of photography. Photography changed everything, removing the imperative to describe “reality”, setting printing on a continuing path of reinvention. People are still saying “painting is dead” aren’t they? But do fewer of us paint?

In our workshops this Fall, we’ve chosen three masters in order to profile the breadth and consequences of Impressionism. Some would say two of these were not real Impressionists – Manet and Cézanne –  true if you take the view that Impressionism was just about plein-air and capturing fleeting effects of nature. However consequences of photography were freeing painters to explore new ways of communicating. Manet, Cézanne and Monet all knew each other but had very different things to say.

Édouard Manet

“There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another” 

Gare Saint-Lazare, Édouard Manet,1873, Oil on canvas

Manet was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, and he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His early masterworks particularly “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” and “Olympia”  caused great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. The explicitly painted style and photographic lighting in Manet’s paintings look specifically modern – a direct, alla prima method. His images have an element of mystery and draw us to place as well as his subtle narrative. The “Gare Saint-Lazare” above is a great example: Who’s the young woman: mother, sister, nanny? She doesn’t exactly look very happy does she. How does industrialization impact the child, what’s with the puppy and the fan?

Paul Cézanne

“We live in a rainbow of chaos”

Bibemus Quarry, Paul Cézanne, c.1900, oil on canvas

Cézanne was a major force paralleling mainstream Impressionism. Always somewhat apart, he innovated and brought fresh ways of seeing to us all: both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.”. Cézanne sought to sense something fundamental about all subjects and through his investigations of still life, figures and landscapes, gave life to modernism and changed the world of art forever. I still scratch my head somewhat when I look at a Cézanne. Normally there are some other significant painters with somewhat the same style. But not Cézanne, he just saw things differently and now so do we.

Claude Monet

“Everything changes, even stone”

Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée de l’Orangerie (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Monet was the quintessential impressionist. His 1884 painting “Impression, Sunrise” gave name to the movement and the impact of his radical departure in use of colour, types of subject and method of painting, often “en plein air” are all with us today. Monet rejected the traditional approach to landscape painting and looked at the effects of light on nature itself. Monet worked hard and long. He was prolific, consistent and brilliant. He was not rich and he needed to sell. Apart from epitomizing a new use of colour and brushwork he  pioneered the idea of a series of paintings: be they haystacks, the Cathedral at Rouen or the Cliffs at Etretat. In his later years his massive Waterlilies paintings presage the abstract expressionism of Pollack, Rothco et al.

Join us for our Fall season of Saturday workshops:

14 Oct 2017: Édouard Manet and modern life
28 Oct 2017: Through Thick and Thin – Washes, Glazes and Impasto!
04 Nov 2017: Paul Cézanne: A new way of seeing.
25 Nov 2017: Expressive portraits and the Clothed Figure.
02 Dec 2017: Claude Monet and the colour of light.

Details can be found on the website: http://www.davidkearn.com/courses_e.htm


Remington revisited…

The Frederic Remington Museum in Ogdensburg NY

Perhaps more than any artist, Frederic Remington can lay claim to have painted and sculpted the old American west. Today we might see this as a bit of romantic fiction, but there’s a certain affinity with his subjects, whether they be Native American, settlers or of course, horses. Somewhat surprisingly, Remington spent much of his life in upstate New York…just across the border in Ogdensburg. I wrote about visiting the Remington Museum in a past post:  “A day trip to Remington’s West”.

On a recent visit, I was struck by some paintings that are perhaps closer to home: studies of the local wilds, canoe expeditions, and cottages – we do all live in the same neck of the woods, after all. This set me thinking about connections with Canadian painting and painters, so I was fascinated to discover that Frederic was an active member of the Pontiac Club: A group of outdoorsy types centered around our Pontiac region in West Quebec. Probably not a lone painter, it’s interesting to speculate as to which of our Canadian painters he knew. In the meantime, here are a few of his “eastern compositions”:

Sketching Ann…

Ann sketching on the Rockcliffe Parkway

Ann sketching by the Ottawa River

One of the nicest comments I’ve had in a long time came this summer, when I was showing a little watercolour sketch featuring of one of our workshop participants. “Now I’ve been drawn by two artists” quipped Ann – “David Kearn and Arthur Lismer”!

I was, of course much honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as a stalwart of the Group of Seven, so I inquired: As a child, Ann was playing at the beach when her parents noticed someone doing a quick sketch of her. Introducing himself as Arthur Lismer, he handed them the resulting unsigned study – featuring a young Ann with an outsized piece of kelp!

“Ann plus kelp - July 1963” by Arthur Lismer

“Ann plus kelp – July 1963” by Arthur Lismer

Lismer was a keen observer of life and people, an accomplished draftsman with a keen sense of humor and humanity – you always feel his work is in the moment. He probably captured more of the informal moments than all the other members of the Group of Seven. Arthur Lismer had a lifelong passion for the arts and teaching. How many other unknown sketches like this must there be out there?

Thank you Ann!

Arthur Lismer

Arthur Lismer

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.