Books for Artists to Learn and be Inspired by…

I wanted to share a few of my favourite books that explain the elements of art and design in an easy to understand way.

The first one is by Molly Bang, Picture This: How Pictures WorkMs. Bang found that after writing, illustrating and publishing many books she struggled with the basic knowledge of how pictures worked, as in how basic principles of picture structure determine our emotional response—our feeling about a picture. This is the only book she has written for adults but it is very appropriate for children as well.

She uses the iconic tale of Little Red Riding Hood to show how the artist can create tension and build the story from mundane to having an element of fear. Artists of all levels can use what they learn to make their pictures more emotionally powerful.

A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make it Good by Mark Gonyea is an absolute gem of a book that introduces the concepts of design in an approachable way.

Using a sense of humour and simple shapes, lines and many examples he illustrates why designs work and why they don’t and how we can learn to make them better.

I turn to these books often and they are a great way to help artists of any age learn more about design. Happy reading!



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Inspired by Norval Morrisseau


“I want to make paintings full of colour, laughter, compassion and love. I want to make paintings that will make people happy.”

-Norval Morrisseau

This week we have been celebrating the life and career of legendary painter, Norval Morrisseau. Students used a scraping technique for the background and then used various colour of acrylic paint to create their valentines day inspired creations.

Norval Morrisseau was born in Northern Ontario, March 14, 1932.

His full name is Jean-Baptiste Norman Henry Morrisseau but he signed his work using his Ojibwa name “Copper Thunderbird” in Cree Symbols:   ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ.

Morrisseau was an Aboriginal self-taught  Canadian artist known as the “Picasso of the North.”  He had a tumultuous life filled with highs and lows.  His work is still sought out by curators and was imitated by forgers.  He was an innovative artist and arguably one of Canada’s greatest painters who received the Order of Canada in 1978.  He was married and had seven children.

He drew his first picture in the sand at the age of six when his grandfather  Moses Potan Nanakonagos began teaching him Anishinaabe customs and legends.  Morrisseau’s grandfather was a Shaman and his Grandmother Veronique  was a devout Catholic and from her he learned about the Catholic religion.  The contrast between these traditions was an important factor in his life and artistic career.

Morrisseau style is characterized by thick black outlines and bright colors. He developed a pictographic style, also referred to as “woodland Indian art”   and later “Anishinaabe Art,” “legend painting” or “x-ray art.”  Initially he painted on any material he could find – especially birch bark and moose hide.

He was a prolific artist – completing over 3000 painting in his lifetime.  His work now hangs in some of the most prestigious museums in Canada and around the world, including the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Morrisseau died in Toronto Dec. 4th 2007 at the age of 75.

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Spring Session Registration

The Spring session registration is now open for the following schools:

Swansea Public School:

Monday at lunch – Mar 26 – May 28

Wednesday at lunch – Mar 28 – May 16

Friday at lunch – Apr 6 – May 25


Tuesdays at lunch – Mar 27 – May 15

Humber Valley Village:

Wednesday after school – Mar 28 – May 16

Park Lawn:

Thursday after school – Mar 29 – May 17

Lambton Kingsway:

Monday after school – Mar 26 – May 28

John English:

Monday at lunch – Mar 26 – May 28

Friday at lunch – Apr 6 – May 25

Register early to avoid disappointment!

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Inspired by David Langevin

“ I wanted to know I could achieve any effect that I could imagine. I wanted complete expressive freedom…”

David Langevin

David Langevin currently lives and paints in Kamloops, British Columbia.  He was born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and began drawing and painting even before he started school.

After high school he received his BFA from the University of Ottawa, his restless desire to perfect his skills led him to continue his studies and research at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, and McGill University, where he obtained a Masters Degree in Art Education.

While at McGill, he pored over old texts, treatises, and manuscripts stored in the backrooms of art restoration departments and libraries reserved for conservationists.

After spending several years teaching art, David continues to lecture and give workshops on “The Craft of Painting.”

David’s painting style is somewhat unique. He uses an elaborate system of layers of transparent and translucent paint, called glazes and veils, as well as a variety of texture effects that create dramatic images of his subjects. Having studied the painting methods of his favourite historical painters like Da Vinci, Correggio, Titian, Caravaggio, Ruebens, and Rembrandt,  he has developed a system of painting that is part Renaissance, part Canadian.

David Langevin has been painting full time since 1994 and is rapidly gaining recognition for his dynamic and original landscapes and “Treescapes.” Trees and rocks, water and sky and mountains and snow are his main source of inspiration. 

Since 1992, he has been living in British Columbia where he finds an endless supply of inspiration for his art. David gives lectures, writes a regular technical column for painters, consults, and conducts workshops on painting materials and techniques. His paintings are sold in galleries across Canada.  Art example: I’ll Wait Over Here.

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In-class Session Inspired by Cressida Cowell

This afternoon we had the pleasure of working with the students of Mr. Cunneen’s class at Blessed Sacrament. We learned about the author and illustrator, Cressida Cowell who created, the How to Train Your Dragon book series.

Students in this grade 3 class used sharpies to draw their dragon eyes and scales. To create the colourful eye they used both chalk pastels and oil pastels and used blending techniques. Next up was a wash of yellow watercolour followed quickly by a wash of blue and a sprinkle of salt. We finished the details with black acrylic paint. The class did a tremendous job!

About the author:

Cressida Cowell was born on April 15, 1966 and is an English children’s author and illustrator.

Cowell grew up in London and on a “small uninhabited island off the West Coast of Scotland.” It was on this island that she first began to develop her writing and drawing talents.  According to Cowell, “Each year we spent four weeks of the summer and two weeks of the spring on the island. By the time I was eight, my family had built a small stone house on the island and with the boat, and we could fish for enough food to feed the family for the whole summer.   The house was lit by candle-light, and there was no telephone or television, so I spent a lot of time drawing and writing stories.”

Cowell is most known for the novel series How to Train Your Dragon. It has become an award-winning film adapted for the screen by DreamWorks Animation.  Cressida illustrates the Hiccup books herself.

In addition to her other publications, Cowell works with illustrator Neal Layton in the on-going series of Emily Brown The first in the series, That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, won a Nestlé Children’s Book Award.

Cowell attended Keble College, Oxford where she studied English, and she also learned illustration at Saint Martin’s School of Art as well as, Brighton University.

Cressida Cowell presently resides in London.

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Inspired by Arthur Lismer

It is necessary that… we should believe that we are as capable of producing great art as we believe we are capable of doing great deeds….”

– Arthur Lismer

Today at Blessed Sacrament we were inspired by the Group of Seven artist, Arthur Lismer to make our own waterscape paintings. Our afterschool class used chalk pastels, oil pastels, watercolour and acrylic paint to make their pieces.

Arthur Lismer was born in Sheffield, England, June 27th, 1885. He was awarded a scholarship at age 13 and studied at Sheffield School of Arts until he was 20. In 1905, he moved to Belgium and Studied at the Academie Royale.

He immigrated to Canada in 1911 seeking work as a commercial illustrator. Lismer settled in Toronto, taking a job with Grip Ltd.  Grip was the Toronto-based design firm that employed many of Canada’s premier designers and painters, including Tom Thomson, J.E.H Macdonald, F.H Johnston, and Frank Carmichael.

Lismer worked together with other members of the Group of Seven to create a nationalist sentiment.  This was developed through direct contact with Canada’s rugged wilderness.

In wartime, Lismer painted camouflaged ships and was commissioned as an official war artist.

Lismer devoted most of his time to education. He was an education supervisor at the Art Gallery of Ontario and started a successful children’s art program in the 1930s. He also ran a Children’s Art Centre in Montreal from 1941-1967.

In 1967, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

He died on March 23, 1969 in Montreal, Quebec, and was buried alongside other members of the original Group of Seven.

We were inspired by his piece, September Gale to create our own artworks.

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Adult Painting Night – The Cat Pub and Eatery

Last night we hosted an adult painting night at The Cat Pub and Eatery at 3513 Dundas Street W. We had a wonderful turnout and created our own winter landscapes inspired by the Canadian artist, Lawren Harris.

We used oil pastel, watercolours, resist techniques, and acrylic paint. Fan brushes helped the artists create their trees. The group was very enthusiastic and they did an amazing job. Many thanks for The Cat Pub and Eatery for hosting the event. Sign up for our newsletter to learn about future events.

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