Selfies. Yes, they can be frivolous and narcissistic. But when you’re the wrong side of fifty? Eh, not so much. And a few hours at the easel is a bit different from a couple of happy-snaps clicked at arm’s-length with an iphone. Forces you to recognize a few things. Things from which a sporty red running jacket can only serve as so much of a distraction.
Just spent a very interesting afternoon in the auditorium of the Mississauga Central Library. Project Inkwell is a one-day conference aimed at developing creativity in youth. It is focused on creative writing in particular, but I was one of a number of people with backgrounds in visual arts and music that were asked asked to facilitate workshops to explore themes across different media.
What I didn’t know at the time i agreed to take this on, was that my time allotment was just 30 minutes! Now, I paint pretty fast as it is, but doing a credible demo in half an hour while trying to keep a class of 16-year-olds engaged in conversation was going certainly going to be a new challenge.
I was the last of three presenters in the Auditorium in the afternoon. (There were concurrent sessions going on at the Art Gallery and the Glass Pavilion) I arrived early, so I was lucky enough to catch two interesting sessions beforehand. One facilitated by Christopher Doda. The other by David Leask. Christopher talked about ‘Found Poetry’. This is the literary equivalent of using ‘found objects’ in the visual arts world. After introducing the topic and quoting some examples, he handed out sections of newspapers to the audience and asked them to go exploring. I would have loved to have heard more of what the kids came up with, but time, unfortunately ran out.
It seemed to me the concept would have been of particular interest to the facilitator that followed. David is a singer-songwriter, and the ‘found poetry’ idea sounded like it would be a great way to bust out of a bout of writer’s block. I know Bowie, and perhaps others, used similar methods years ago, although I think Christopher would have described these attempts as “dirty” found poetry. The idea of true found poetry is not to modify or embellish the source material. The only thing that changes is the context. David talked about his craft and performed some of his own material (Which is excellent, by the way. Check it out at www.davidleask.com). It was a tough act to follow, but some of the things he said set me up nicely to explore with the group, some of the visual equivalents (looking vs listening; hook lines and focal points etc.)
….. but it all had to get done in 30 minutes!
I chose a street scene – well inside my ‘comfort zone’. I used acrylics throughout. (No time for re-tooling to oils). And I went slightly smaller than usual (20″ x 24″). I couldn’t go much smaller if everyone in the audience was to see what was happening. Stuck with the approach of using an under-painting – with ample use of a hairdryer to quick-dry the under-painting . Not best practice perhaps, but a bit of a necessity in the circumstances.
No time to fuss with details of course. The area around the two pedestrians framed between the tail lights of the car behind them , I tried to keep reasonably resolved. Other areas, particularly far left, are “barely there”.
An interesting project. I would certainly recommend it as an exercise. Compare a 30-minute sketch with a similar piece executed in 2 hours, vs an 8-hour vs a multi-day effort. How much “value” does the additional time add in each case? The answer will vary with each person of course, but I think many of us would be surprised just how quickly the law of diminishing returns sets in and when in fact the additional labour becomes as net negative.