Monday 28 April 2014

Turning the tables

Earlier this month I had the infinite pleasure of participating in an art workshop - not as instructor for a change, but as student. The instructor: artist Dawn Emerson. My artistic goal: to loosen up and have fun! The outcome: success (at least I think so).

Dawn Emerson is a mixed media artist from central Oregon. The workshop coordinator for my local chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists is an enthusiastic fan of Dawn's and suggested we bring her north to teach us a bit of what she knows. When I saw Dawn's work online I knew I wanted to experience whatever she had to offer (you can check out her work at www. She has a colourful esthetic and powerfully abstract point of view, and you're bound to notice that she shares a passion for animals not dis-similar from my own. She also, like me, loves to draw.

For three days, under Dawn's guidance, we scissored and pasted and sketched and immersed ourselves in what were, for me, some unfamiliar media and techniques as well as some that were old "friends" from my days in art school: charcoal, pastels of various types, paints and papers I'd forgotten I knew anything about. We contemplated our subjects in abstract terms; in the simple language of light and shadow. We fooled around with colour, not from life but from our imaginations. We played and experimented with combinations of different media and techniques. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to leave behind the business of art making and all it entails, and simply enjoy the experience.

Interestingly enough, we concentrated for a time on images of pears - something with which participants in my own coloured pencil workshops are very familiar!

Pears in charcoal - light and shadow creating forms.

Pears in mixed media - six varied approaches.

I was really pleased with what I produced, particularly on the third day of the workshop. It began with a series of big, loose charcoal sketches based on a black and white photograph of a marsh wren I'd brought along for reference. Here is a sampling of some of the sketches:


The series culminated with this colour sketch completed in charcoal and pastel, with only the black and white photo and my previous sketches for reference:

It's a far cry from the finely-detailed coloured pencil drawings over which I slave for days on end, or for the highly-refined concepts that I produce as silk paintings. It was fast, it was loose and it reminded me of why I make art - for the pure joy of it!

Thank you, Dawn, for a memorable art-making experience.

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