A Visit to Fern Avenue Public School

This morning we had the pleasure of  visiting Fern Avenue Public School. We spent some time with Mrs. Nitsis’s grade 1/2 class and presented Canadian artist, Lawren Harris. The students learned about his life and career and his time as a member of the Group of Seven.

The students used soft pastels to create multi coloured backgrounds. Next they used fan brushes and learned how to make pine trees with a dusting of snow on their branches. We finished with paint pens to fill our sky with falling snow. It was so much fun to work with such enthusiastic students!

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Winter 2018 Newsletter

Art in Action sends out a newsletter periodically throughout the year letting subscribers know what we have been up to in our classes and other news. Check out our latest!

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Inspired by Emily Carr

“It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw.”

– Emily Carr

In our class today at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School we were inspired by the Canadian artist, Emily Carr. We used chalk pastel, oil pastel and acrylic paint to create our own pieces inspired by her Plumed Firs painting.

Emily Carr was born in Victoria, British Columbia in 1871. She was the second youngest of six children. She grew up surrounded by the rugged landscape of British Columbia which inspired her passion for nature, animals and art.

Emily Carr studied art in San Francisco, London and Paris and returned to Vancouver to teach art to children.

Carr was inspired by the indigenous people of the Pacific North West Coast. Her painting style has been characterized as a modern approach to post-impressionism. Her favourite subjects included aboriginal themes, landscapes and in particular, forest scenes with tall trees.

Carr used charcoal and watercolour for her sketches, and later house paint thinned with gasoline.  Her later work was oil on canvas or paper.

When she was 57 years old, the National Gallery of Canada was organizing an exhibition of West Coast Aboriginal art and Carr was invited to participate. Here she met members of the Group of Seven, and in particular, Lawren Harris who was to become her mentor.  Harris told Carr, who had felt unappreciated as an artist, “you are one of us.” This acceptance re-energized her career.

Emily Carr died on March 2, 1945.

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Inspired by Kal Barteski

“I was suddenly very, very proud to live in Manitoba, to be Canadian and to have had the privilege of standing in such a precious place. We are so lucky to be here and ­ I don’t think people realize it.”

– Kal Barteski

 Kal Barteski is an internationally celebrated artist. She is a TEDx speaker, a published author, and winner of a Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was featured on Animal Planet/Discovery and recently named as CBC Manitoba’s Future 40 leaders under 40.  

 She has a deep love for polar bears, ice and winter. She sells her paintings internationally and uses her signature brush script style.

A visit to Churchill,  when Animal Planet took her up to Hudson’s Bay as part of its TV series Wild Obsession she discovered that  there are 1200 polar bears and about 900 people.  Barteski was asked to paint a large mural outside the Polar Bear holding facility.   Kal Barteski fell in love with the polar bear world – the bears, the people, the complicated politics – and turned her focus to polar bears. She returns to Churchill every year.  Currently with over 100 paintings in her collection of polar bears – her work is often described as “powerful and emotional” and “a voice for bears.”

Barteski has always been an animal lover and started drawing and painting wildlife when she was eight years old, painting under her dining room table.  Polar bears did not become significant to her until 1996 when she moved to Winnipeg and met the lone polar bear at Assiniboine Park Zoo. While studying Advertising Art at Red River College, one of her assignments was to go to the zoo and draw animals.  Barteski found herself by the polar bear because the polar bear sat very, very still and that definitely made drawing easier.  The polar bear was named was Debbie.  Having never seen a live polar bear before, Barteski said she felt drawn to her, she states “I felt like I watched her so often I got to know her. I visited her regularly for many years, but her effect would take me more than a decade to realize. And now, twenty years after first laying eyes on her ­ I have completed over 150 polar bear paintings, given a polar bear TEDx talk, been a part of a polar bear documentary called Wild Obsession, participated in numerous polar bear projects, made a lot of polar bear friends and most definitely consider polar bears to be my spirit animal.”  In her TEDx talk Barrteski states a group of polar bears is called a “celebration.”

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Inspired by Yayoi Kusama

“My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.”

– Yayoi Kusama

The students at Kingsway College caught the Kusama fever that is taking over Toronto! The upcoming AGO show, Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Mirrors is experiencing an unprecedented demand for tickets and has been sold out in all the other cities who have hosted the exhibit. Today we were inspired by her illustrations of Alice in Wonderland and created our own Yayoi inspired pieces.

Yayoi Kusama was born on March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan. She grew up in an affluent family who owned a nursery and seed farm. She was drawn to art from an early age. When Kusama was 10 years old, she began to experience vivid hallucinations which she has described as “flashes of light, auras, or dense fields of dots.”

Due to the Second World War, when Kusama was 13 years old she was sent to work in a factory making parachutes for the Japanese army. She was greatly influenced by her time spent working and hearing the air raid sirens and seeing the planes flying overhead.

She went on to study a type of painting known as Nihonga, which is a traditional form of Japanese painting. She became frustrated with this traditional style and soon started to express herself in the more avant-garde styles of her European contemporaries.

In 1950 Kusama started to cover surfaces with polka dots which would become always linked with her work. In her own words, “A polka-dot is the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement…polka dots are a way to infinity.”

Kusama spent almost 20 years in New York City where she worked relentlessly on her art. She was continuously overworking and exhausting herself and money was always an issue.

In 1973 she returned to Japan where she began writing novels, short stories and poetry. In 1977 she checked herself into the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she eventually took up permanent residence. Since than she has chosen to continue living there.

Kusama continues to work and create daring and surreal art works, from large Infinity Room installations to her polka-dot paintings. On March 3, 2018 her show Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms will be at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Art example; illustration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Kusama.

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Inspired by Tom Thomson

         “Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one.”

       – Tom Thomson

Yesterday we spent a lovely afternoon with the students at Blessed Sacrament in our Group of Seven art group learning about the Canadian artist, Tom Thomson. Students made their own birch trees in a winter landscape using watercolours and acrylic paint.

Tom Thomson was born on August 5th, 1877 in Claremont Ontario. He was the sixth of ten children.

Although he was always interested in the arts, he did not devote his career to painting until he was 30.

In 1904, while working as a draftsman he met members of the Group of Seven. Although Thomson was closely associated with the artists in the Group of Seven, the Group of Seven was not founded until after his death.

After his first trip to Algonquin Park in 1912, Thomson fell in love with the beauty and nature and would disappear for days into the wilderness while working on a painting.

To offset his art career, Thomson worked as a firefighter, a ranger and a guide in Algonquin Park while living on his own in a shack on Canoe Lake. Here he produced his most famous paintings: Jack pine, West Wind and Northern River.

Thomson died mysteriously on a canoe trip in 1917 at 39 years old.

Art example: Spring in Algonquin Park

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Inspired by Lawren Harris

 “We were told, quite seriously, that there never would be a Canadian art because we had no art tradition.”

-Lawren Harris

Students were inspired by the work of Canadian painter, Lawren Harris and created their own winter landscapes. They used watercolour techniques as well as acrylic paint and fan brushes to paint their trees.

Lawren Harris was born in Brantford, Ontario on October 23, 1885. He is best known as a member of the Group of Seven who pioneered a distinctly Canadian painting style.

He attended Central Technical School and St. Andrew’s College to study art. From age 19-23 he studied in Berlin.

In 1910 he met J.E.H. MacDonald, and in 1911 they formed the Group of Seven. Harris financed the construction of a studio building in Toronto which would provide fellow artists with cheap or free space where they could live and work.

His landscape paintings were rich in colour and inspired by Toronto, the Georgian Bay and Algoma. He also painted the Canadian Rockies.  During the 1920’s his work became more abstract, especially his stark landscapes of the Canadian Arctic.

He became so popular that he stopped signing and dating his work so that people would judge his works on their own merit and not by the artist.

He died in Vancouver in 1970.

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