Student Post: Melissa Henry

27, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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In Jun’s painting class we have moved beyond the Earth palette and onto the “prismatic palette,” which consists of cadmium yellow, a true red, ultramarine blue, and white. We found that the range of colors we were able to mix with these was a lot wider than what we can achieve with the Earth palette, but we now have to consider the boldness and intensity of the hues more, since they can be very vibrant if they come directly out of the tube.

Most of us painted from still life setups again, which I find are the most conducive to learning about painting technique. They are consistent in terms of form and position, and we can control the lighting (assuming you work quicker than the speed of ripening and soon to be rotting vegetables).

We began our paintings with a blue monochromatic underpainting which was different from the warm burnt sienna underpainting I normally use because it gives everything an underlying cool temperature. It is hard to eliminate or alter this cool tone if it is underneath, say, a warm layer of paint, so I tried to plan out my tonal values and temperatures fairly well and stayed on the lighter, warmer side of the spectrum since I figured I could always darken things, but it is difficult to get the luminosity back once it is lost.

I decided to go bright and bold with my paint as a change of pace from the neutrality of the Earth palette, so I chose my subject accordingly: vivid, vibrant, vivacious vegetables! I also wanted to create a ‘fun’ dynamic composition for this piece, so I ‘zoomed’ in to crop my view. I tried to incorporate diagonal axes to add interest and draw the eye around.

I found depicting the eggplant particularly tricky because of the subtle change in color and tone. At a quick glance it looked to be a flat plane of deep purple, but I found I needed to exaggerate the gradation to suggest its form and position in space. I also tried to minimize my use of white to preserve the luminosity, intensity, and warmth of the vegetables since white has a ‘cooling’ effect and can give a chalky, opaque appearance. Incorporating the glazing techniques I used in my older paintings was very helpful in giving the peppers their rounded form.

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Image 1 Detail

In continuing with the prismatic palette, we dove into Impressionism, led by Jun, always the enthusiast. This was a fun break from the more careful, step-by-step approach that I have taken thus far. Impressionism, as we learned, is about capturing the essence of the subject with attention to the varying plays of light and color. Paintings are expressive and often involve visible brushstrokes and bright hues. The process I used involved wet-on-wet application of paint more or less all at once, without re-working or going back into it. This helped me capture the spirit of impressionism – to give the viewer the feeling or sense (hence “impression-ism”). Like Matisse said when he was criticized for his skewed form, “This is not a woman. This is a painting.”

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For my subject, a pitcher with flowers and a bowl with oranges, I tried to use my brushstrokes and the tonal values of the paint to suggest the objects’ forms since I was not going to go back in with scumbling or glazes. The inside of the rounded bowl or the spherical fruit, for example, show how I attempted to capture where the light hit, and I used direction of brushstroke to imply the curvature of form.

Because complementary colors (especially when used side by side) intensify each other and make both colors appear more vibrant, impressionists used them frequently. I used complementary colors particularly in shadows. Instead of using a dull green or neutral blue for the shadows in the green bowl, I used the complement of green: red (and varying hues of red).

I find thick paint quite satisfying, and I found myself gravitating toward my Brown painting education as I ‘chunked’ thick globs of vibrant color onto my canvas. Part of the beauty of impressionism is the attitude, or maybe just the attitude I took on of “Anything goes! My impression of my subject is just as good as any, so all I need to do is express that.” This was liberation from my usual intentions of creating a disciplined, carefully considered rendering of my subject. I find that I like to find a happy medium, to paint realistically with glazing and scumbling techniques, but at the same time incorporate passages with thick, visible brushstroke and bright paint. It makes a painting more enjoyable to both look at and to paint – it keeps things interesting.

Read Melissa Henry’s first post here.

Student Post: Nadya Keating

26, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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Sketch by Melissa Henry

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View from the Temple of Athena

I am from Sydney, Australia and I have come to The Aegean Center to develop my skills in the visual arts, to enrich my understanding of art history, and to enjoy Italian and Greek culture. I have just completed a Bachelor of Education (Hons) at the University of Sydney and am hoping to start working as a visual arts teacher next year. My university degree focused on education theory, art history and theory, and literature, but after graduation I felt that, as a teacher of the visual arts, I lacked knowledge of practical visual arts skills. While at The Aegean Center, I have been studying basic drawing, life drawing and oil painting. In addition to these set classes the school also offers more casual, extracurricular activities, like the Draw Club.

Draw Club meets in the school’s courtyard on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 9:00am. Here, under the olive tree, we draw the surrounding nature, still lives, and each other’s portraits. Draw Club is open to all students, including students who are not taking any drawing classes. Members often arrive sleepy-eyed to meetings, coffee in hand, but are very serious about the club and its longevity –- club t-shirts and other merchandise are currently being designed.

Most recently, Draw Club has been working with Jane Pack in re-designing the school’s logo. After brainstorming, tracing, cutting out and studying pigeons around Paroikia, the group has collaborated to come up with some wonderful designs.

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The Temple of Athena

The Club has also ventured outside the school courtyard to draw from important cultural sites in town. Our visit to the Temple of Athena was particularly beautiful. The temple is situated on top of a hillside looking over the Aegean Sea. Many students took advantage of the clear day and drew the view from the temple. Others took the opportunity to study the ancient architecture and to closely observe the majesty of carved marble.

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Ancient Columns

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Sketch by Nadya Keating

Draw Club offers students the opportunity to practice their drawing skills in a relaxed and social setting. It is an example of one of the many simple ways we can use the visual arts to enrich our everyday lives. When I return home I am planning on founding my own Draw Club!

The Aegean Center Olive Harvest

25, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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John getting to every last olive

Thriving in the Aegean Center courtyard is an olive tree of remarkable size. Watered by a natural, underground spring, this tree is capable of producing quite a large olive crop. With olive picking season upon us, we recently made a day of raking out the olives from every last branch and collecting them in a large sack. It was quite a few days, however, before we were able to take our harvest, which weighed in at almost 20 kilos, to Iakovo’s Olive Press, and as a result, it was lost to mold – a lesson sadly learned. Fortunately, on the day of our visit, Iakovo was pressing a local farmer’s olives, so we were still able to witness firsthand a centuries old process.

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The Aegean Center Olive Picking Squad

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At Iakovo's Olive Press

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Spanning the length of the machine

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Iakovo with the finished product

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Walking home

Thanks to Nadya Keating, Amber Thompson, and Aimee Palladino for the photos.

Student Post: Maggie Bell

19, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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Maggie Bell and Emily Ogelsby

I am from outside of Cleveland, Ohio and I am a junior from Dartmouth College majoring in Classical Studies and European History. After spending the past calendar year with a full academic load, I chose to take the fall quarter off from school and try something completely new. The Aegean Center Italy & Greece program gives me the opportunity to combine my current academic interests with the fine arts, which I have not studied since high school. I am taking courses in digital photography, basic camera usage, photo history, Greek art history, Greek literature, Greek language, and Greek dancing.

Throughout high school and college I have been involved in vocal performance in school choruses, church choirs, and an all female a cappella group. I am particularly lucky here and get to continue singing this fall with the Aegean Center Vocal Ensemble. The Vocal Ensemble is comprised of five students and nine Paros residents. While we were in Italy, Orfeas, the Ensemble’s director, worked with the new students on some of the basic technique we would need once we joined the rest of the ensemble in Greece. These lessons included work on vowel pronunciation, breathing technique, and blending our sound.

The Ensemble practices twice a week, for two and a half hours at a time, preparing our repertoire for the winter concert. During the second week of December, we will perform our concert for the public once in Naoussa and twice in Paroikia. The program includes four Medieval church songs, seven French Renaissance court songs, and three contemporary pieces. We are expected to learn the basics of our music on our own so that we do not waste rehearsal time reviewing basic intervals and parts.

Each rehearsal begins with a 30-minute warm up of physical and vocal exercises. These often focus on more than just our pitch, such as our ability to blend as a group and make one, uniform sound. We then fine tune our songs, focusing on dynamics (when to sing louder vs more softly) and on memorizing. Our Wednesday rehearsals are spent doing run-thrus of the entire concert. It has been great to hear not just the group pieces, but the many solos, duets and trios that are part of the repertoire. Another student, Emily Oglesby, and I are performing a French Renaissance court song as a duet, and singing it in front of the group each week will hopefully help me get all the nervousness out of my system before December.

The Vocal Ensemble is definitely a lot of work, but the atmosphere of rehearsals is also a lot of fun, and not simply intense. It is a great opportunity to meet and interact with more Paros residents then we might otherwise, and there is always some time during rehearsal to laugh at something ridiculous that someone says or does. The Ensemble is a great way to work toward a final product that is very different from what we are producing with our studio work, and I can not wait to see, or rather hear, how all of our hard work pays off at the concerts.

Student Post: Amber Thompson

17, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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My name is Amber Thompson and this semester I am a returning student at the Aegean Center for Fine Arts. I attended the spring semester of this year and I decided to also attend in the fall because the program has a lot to offer and I felt I couldn’t do just one semester.

Last spring, I was enrolled in the photography program. I took digital photography as well as dark room photography. I had plenty of one on one with my teachers, who are really great and patient, and I learned a lot. But I decided my time at the Aegean Center was not over, so I enrolled for another semester. Now I am in Paros, Greece working away on my photographs yet again.

I am actually taking more than just photography this time. I am taking Painting and Life Drawing as well. I have never taken any painting or drawing classes before and the teachers are really patient with me. I have two paintings done and a self portrait. I am learning a lot and am loving it! My photography is also going well. I love walking around the town of Parikia and finding ideas for my paintings or taking pictures that I can later work on. I feel as though I was meant to be here at the Aegean Center to improve not only my art work but myself as well.

Currently in painting class we have to complete a painting with the prismatic palette. This is only four colors, to my surprise – blue, yellow, red and white. The color wheel of this palette is endless! Till now, we have been working with the earth palette which is a little more warm in tone than the prismatic.

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First I had to decide what to paint. I walked around my studio in circles trying to come up with a still life. In fact I had to leave my studio to get inspiration. Some other students were drawing the skeleton that we have in the main room and I thought, What would I really want to take home with me to remind me of my time here? Then it came to me. Yes! I have been sketching the skeleton, so why not have a painting of a skeleton being sketched? So after the other students were done with the skull I snatched it up and set up my still life. First I sketched what I saw on my canvas with some charcoal and then patted it out lightly. I analyzed every aspect of the drawing and then decided to go for it. I decided to use a blue glaze on my shadows to get them dark.

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This is as far as I have gotten and I am excited to use the prismatic further. A little nervous as well but that is what painting is all about for me; playing with my paints and learning from my mistakes. Can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Fall Break

12, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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This semester’s fall break spanned the first week of November. Most students worked quietly in their studios, in long, uninterrupted stretches of time. Others took the opportunity to travel, some back to Athens and Rome, others to Spain, London and Egypt. Photography student Samyukta Lakshmi journeyed to neighboring Naxos which she found wild with wind and beauty.space

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Fall 2008 Boat Trip

11, November 2008 § Leave a comment

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This semester’s boat trip took place on October 31. Students sailed towards the southern tip of Antiparos on-board a traditional Greek kaiki and joined diver and marine biologist Peter Nicolaidis in an underwater exploration of the area.

The trip, taken each semester, aims to introduce our students to the biological diversity of the Aegean Sea and its effect on the evolution of culture in the region. With this invaluable understanding of history and the perspective it offers, our students become ever more conscious of our responsibility towards the sea and the environment in general.

Click here for photos of this semester’s boat trip. For a look at past boat trips, click here.

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