Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Drawing Conclusions About Art (and Self)

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

Discovering a new way of looking at, and creating, landscape.

As summer slides into autumn, I’m bidding a reluctant farewell to 2016’s Summer of Art.
Long-time friends as well as my long-suffering husband are familiar with my love-hate relationship with painting: I want to do it but I’m terrible at it. So when I announced I’d signed up for twelve weeks of classes at the ArtQuarters studio in Pugwash, my husband looked at me like I’d dyed my hair purple. Having witnessed my painting meltdowns in the past, I suspect he thought I was wasting my money.
Those art classes were money well-spent and provided the bonus of supporting retired art teacher Louise Cloutier’s long-time dream of opening an art studio. Seriously, if Louise could teach art to high school students for thirty years, she could teach me for one summer.

What made the classes unique were Louise’s mini lessons in art history. By showing us how art has been created since humans first began drawing in cave walls, and providing examples of the works of masters like Rembrandt, Matisse and Picasso, we gained an appreciation for the evolution of technique.
If you’d known this, you wouldn’t have been surprised when you looked in the windows and spied us dipping lengths of white string into glue and laying them on thin squares of wood boards or ripping painted paper and gluing them to pieces of cardboard.
But I was surprised when I took that particular creation to church on Sunday to share my image of a person praying in a garden, depicted in ripped paper, and a member of the congregation joined our classes the next day. I never thought I’d inspire someone with my artwork.
This is the importance of lifelong learning, of saying “Yes” to new experiences. Not only do you learn a new skill, you also learn about yourself. You may say “I can’t draw” but Louise Cloutier is adamant anyone can create art because art isn’t limited to drawing or painting.

For me, that was the value of an entire summer creating art: Realizing I don’t have to paint in order to be creative. Even when the class in the dreaded landscape painting arrived and was, as expected, totally frustrating, I didn’t have a meltdown. I knew it was only one class so doing landscapes was not my only art experience.
In fact, it was very next week that actually reclaimed the dreaded landscape for me. Using Group of Seven paintings as inspiration, we created landscape collages using pieces of colourful material like men’s shirts and upholstery.
As I was gluing those scraps of fabric into a likeness of a Tom Thompon painting, I realized these classes were teaching me about more than art; they were teaching me about myself. Through this Summer of Art, I learned I am not a details person, preferring broad strokes to specific ones; and I like creating with my hands using texture and fabric, scissors and glue.
“We need to slow our looking in order to see,” Louise told us early on. Turns out, we also need to slow our looking in order to see ourselves, as well.

The Monday night class with our final projects. Louise Cloutier is on the left.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Sara. You truly grasped that fundamental of art: teaching us about self. And that creativity is more than painting and drawing. Seeing with that other eye is what I find so fascinating about Louise's methods. I think good teachers know how to do that in every subject.