15, December 2008 § Leave a comment
The Aegean Center’s Student Exhibition for the Fall 2008 semester took place Friday, December 12. For pictures from the exhibition, please click here.
Check back January 20 for more news and notes from the Aegean Center. Till then, Happy Holidays!
15, December 2008 § Leave a comment
It is hard to believe that my time at the Aegean Center has ended for the semester. What an incredible opportunity it has been. From Pistoia to Paros, I am so lucky to have lived and learned with such amazing individuals and experienced such magical places. In my time here, I have grown and developed as an individual and as an artist. With the mentoring and guidance of our brilliant professors, we have been taught to see the world differently. As I look around myself I am more observant of the ‘art’ in our daily lives: the temperature of the shadow cast across the wall, the negative space between the tree’s leaves, or the subtle gradation between the colors of the Aegean waters. Our instructors have shared with us the beauty of the natural environment through examples from art and with our favorite ‘Friday hikes’. Many of us have been inspired by the paradise of our surroundings and have incorporated it into our own art.
In my last two paintings of the semester, I was inspired by the delicate play of light and shadow in spaces that I am so fond of. The first of these depicts the student apartments, where the side terrace to my home is. I am intrigued by the white, geometric simplicity of the local Greek architecture and I find it a refreshing breath away from any of the structures I am used to from home or our visit to Italy. The way the shadows bounce off the forms attracted me and I decided to convey this in a painting. It was a huge challenge and honestly, I am not completely happy with the result but I must see it as a ‘learning’ piece.
Achieving the subtle differences in the white walls was difficult. I used scumbling for most of this effect. Where I wanted to convey a sense of depth, as in the staircase, I used glazing techniques. I enjoyed painting the stone tiles in the ground since I find repetitive actions like this rather meditative. The reason for my discontent with this painting is that there is little ‘personality’ in it to me. I see nothing that is ‘me’ and feel there was and perhaps still is something lacking. Maybe it needs some highlights of color, or personal objects that say something about who inhabits the space. Instead I feel as though it may seem a bit depressing and empty. I hoped to add a little ‘life’ with the vibrant (yet tiny) geraniums. I am working more on personalizing my work so it is not merely a recreation of what I see.
Ironically, I feel as though my final painting may be missing something as well, and again I wonder if it is something personal to make the painting more of a narrative. I painted the printing press and easel outside my studio. I wanted to capture the wonderful afternoon light that streams into the space and creates beautiful shadows on the walls and the press. From the outset this was a more enjoyable painting to paint. I worked with countless layers of glaze and made a point to save the whites of the canvas like I did in my reflection painting with the onions so many weeks ago! This gives all of my light areas a luminous quality that cannot be achieved by using chalky white paint, since white paint creates a cooling effect. One tricky part was sketching out my composition from life. The press is such a complicated, intricate contraption with many angles. The precise perspective was difficult for me to depict and there are parts of it I wish I could re-sketch.
I found that the major constraining factor was the short time period when the daylight fell at the appropriate angle, which was only for about one hour each day, and that was only if we were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny Paros day which ironically did not happen too much when I was working on this painting! This was actually quite good for me to learn to be less dependent upon the ‘model.’ The way I am most comfortable painting is when I have a setup that allows me to control the lighting and movement. But this is rather limiting so I need to begin to try to capture transient effects more. I began using my own judgment and asking myself what would ‘look or feel right’ in terms of temperature, color, and value. My favorite parts of the painting are the light effects in the lower left region, the wall with the paper reflections, and the back of the canvas. I painted these passages using my own judgment more than direct observation and found that these came out the most relaxed. The reproduction here unfortunately doesn’t capture how the light shows the many transparent layers of glaze.
I used very few colors in my painting and I think this helps me achieve a harmonious unity. The underpainting is in burnt sienna and ultramarine blue in various combinations. Even the over layers of paint, all glazing included, is essentially these two hues. I did introduce green in back of the press and after this I chose to add very subtle green glazes throughout the painting. As with my apartment painting, I again felt there is perhaps something personal missing but I am fairly pleased with the way I captured the luminosity of this special space.
I have many goals for my future in painting, but currently my major goal is to loosen up and be less focused on the exact depiction of my subject. I have more fun when I am freer with my color and brushstroke, which I learned from my impressionist painting (bowl of oranges and pitcher). I need to remind myself that I am not creating a photo but a painting. I want to involve the viewer in an interactive dialogue with my work. This could mean doing things like including exploratory or playful marks that aren’t necessarily in the scene, using more open, less controlled brushwork, or including colors that may not be there (or making subtle ones more prominent). Most importantly, I need to keep an imaginary ‘veil’ up between my subject and I so that I must constantly ask myself how I WANT to express/convey it in paint, regardless of what I see in from of me. I have learned a tremendous amount but I have a lot more to discover, experience, and explore. I am excited to share that I will return to the Aegean Center this spring to continue my studies. I am looking forward to another semester on Paros, experiencing the local culture and environment, and learning from Jane, John, Jun, Jeffrey, and Liz.
9, December 2008 § Leave a comment
I come to the Aegean Center from Athens, Georgia and am taking a “gap” year before heading off to college next Fall. I was drawn to the Aegean Center because of my interest in photography (as well as other mediums) and my desire to live abroad. Originally, I had planned to be involved in photography classes only, but the encouraging atmosphere of the Center opened me to attempting courses in which I was less confident. So, what once would have been a light schedule is now a wonderfully full schedule. I am taking basic drawing, figure drawing, Greek literature, Greek art history, Greek dancing, photo history, digital photography, silver photography, and a class on the camera. One of the many great things about my schedule is that I have at least one class with almost every instructor at the Center.
Working in both digital and silver photography allows me one-on-one time with Elizabeth Carson and John Pack. With Liz I am learning the art of the darkroom and with John the art of producing a fine digital print. The first step in both classes is making photographs. From our travels in Italy and our time in Greece I have accumulated a number of images, both film and digital, that I am currently working on.
During the first week, Liz taught all of the silver students how to develop film and how to begin printing. For many, this was a welcome review as almost all of us were out of practice and needed to be acclimated to the darkroom here. The best way to learn in the darkroom is to work when Liz is there, by just sitting down and exchanging ideas with her. Also, having her trained eye reviewing my test strips and proofs has helped me to train my own eye to see subtle differences in tonality and to see that even the slightest change can make a print look entirely different. I have progressed in my understanding of photography and enjoy working in the darkroom even if it means I am not outside in the wonderful Greek sunlight 24/7.
Digital photography is a whole different world from silver. Our digital class consists of about ten people and we meet twice a week. We learn about Photoshop and printing by looking at each other’s work and seeing the changes we have made to our images. We also spend time working with John individually throughout the week. When working with John, I typically open up an image that I have worked on and we discuss the changes I’ve made and different ways to make those changes. Often we play around with different modifications until we find the best image.
4, December 2008 § 2 Comments
Dear Mr. Van Buren,
As the end of the semester approaches and we are all working diligently on finishing and preparing final pieces for the exhibit, I am moved to write you a letter to express my gratitude again for making the last few months possible. You have not been far from my thoughts through this experience, as I am aware that it was your generosity that helped manifest this. As I mentioned in my past email to you, the decision to attend the Aegean Center was a heart-centered and passion-filled one — a departure from my anticipated next step of attending a master’s or law degree program. Reflecting on these amazing months, I cannot believe that I could have continued my life without having lived this! As a result, I would love to share a long-awaited update on how I have been.
I had never been to Italy before, and considering my Italian-American heritage, was so excited for our time at the Villa. Apart from the amazing food (from which I have acquired many new recipes!), the art history component was the most effective and sustainable way that art history can be taught. I wrote home to my family saying that I felt like all of my childhood art books had come to life! We recently had a discussion in my painting class about the important connection that new artwork has to tradition. If my time in Italy was demonstrative of anything, it was the importance of understanding the ancestral artistic mastery in the Mediterranean. I feel confident that I can walk into any church and assess its history based on time period, architecture and the intention for construction. In addition, I feel comfortable with my ability to identify the defining characteristics of most 12th-17th century Italian art — such an amazing amount of material taught to us in just one month! I particularly loved Bellini’s works (I am spending one night in Rome before I depart to the US and am hoping to go to the Bellini exhibit!), especially his ‘Sacred Conversations’ in Venice. In addition, Simone Martini’s ‘Annunciation’ and Donatello’s wooden sculpture of ‘Mary Magdelen’ were very memorable. The Sistine Chapel was exciting to finally see in person — I actually attached a drawing I started of one of the Sybil’s. I am planning on turning this into a painting or pastel piece one day. I know I will return to Italy again in the future, and hopefully at that point will be able to speak a bit more Italian!
Since arriving to Greece, I have continued the Ancient Greek part of Art History which has been fascinating in the context of the Renaissance work we observed in Italy. In addition to Art History, I am taking Basic Drawing, Oil Painting, Life (Figure) Drawing, Photo History and Greek Literature. Since I had never oil painted before, the first day of painting was exciting and also a bit reminiscent of being younger and trying something new for the first time — I realized how long it had been since I had been a complete beginner at anything! My first painting assignment was spent largely trying to understand how to control the paint — how to thin it, what brushes to use, how to do an under-painting. Afterwards, we started using color and I learned how to mix paints effectively and to stretch a palette to its limit by just using 3-4 colors. Since I have recently started feeling more comfortable with the paint and mixing colors, I am trying to pay more attention to things like brush stroke and composition. I have attached four pictures of the paintings I have done, since unfortunately you will not be able to see them at the show! The attachment is the third oil painting I did and is a study of how ‘reflections’ can be rendered, using the earth palette. The next painting is the first that I did using the prismatic palette (so much brighter!). I chose a zoomed in composition of the familiar chairs at the school, specifically because of how nostalgic they will be for me after leaving here. I was a bit worried that they looked too graphic, but after playing with shadows and negative space, I hope they have a bit more character to them.
The next painting I attached is a study we did of a master by using a method of modeling our painting from a dark background up with whites. I originally intended to do a self-portrait, but found this John Singer Sargent painting and felt instantly excited about it. Sargent uses so many glazing techniques and is fantastic at rendering the form with simple and deliberate strokes — a technique I would love to achieve! It was a great study to attempt and a very important exercise in understanding glazing.
The last attachment is my landscape assignment. I wanted to depart from my more controlled and tight initial paintings and attempt something with larger brushes. I bought 2 large brushes and a roller and really enjoyed this one — I am struggling now, however, with whether or not I should add more rocks in the bottom right corner to make the composition more interesting.
I recently had a conversation with Jane about how to improve my artwork and we discussed that while I achieve clarity in my work, my next challenge is not to just ‘illustrate’ something as an exact copy, but to learn how to render an image that provokes an emotion in the viewer. Today we did a portrait of a classmate and I spent time making choices about shadows, definition and mood and I actually feel positive about the outcome. I will forward along a picture of that when it is finished, if you’d like, so you can see the progression of my work.
It is so apparent to me how much I have learned here and also how much learning I have to go still. I never imagined where this experience would lead, but I knew it felt right… I realize now as the semester concludes what an incredible turning point it has been. I look around and notice light and color differently– the negative space between objects, the shapes that shadows make in a composition, the temperature of color. I have in the past compartmentalized art in (and out of) my life. When I began this program, I had the fear that my time here would be a departure from myself and after 3 months, I would return and revert back to the ‘Aimee’ I was before, scared of embracing and creating art. This time has awakened a familiar part of myself that is both natural and true. The delight and gratitude I feel to wake up every morning and have nothing else to do but paint and draw is very revelatory for me in terms of understanding what makes me happy! I am in the process of integrating this experience and realize how much I want this learning process about art and the Self to continue — as they are largely part of the same process. For the first time in my life, I see a long-term commitment to develop and foster this passion. I cannot imagine a better place to learn than this program. John, Jane, Jun, Jeffrey and Liz are a remarkable group of teachers — who extend beyond the classroom and understand the importance of self-improvement, self-love, building community and becoming better in touch with the land and nature. It is truly admirable that you take such an interest in the Aegean Center and its students — I can confidently say that you are not only supporting people’s artistic journeys, but also allowing them the opportunity for the larger journey to the Self. Paros is a magical place that inevitably awakens a sensual and archetypal connection to the earth that I will forever take with me.
Thank you again for all of your support, well-wishes and practical generosity. I apologize that this email has come late in the semester, but it seems like a great time to reflect, integrate and share all I have learned. Please let me know if you would like me to send any more drawings along to you. I am actually in the process of writing a blog post about Basic Drawing class and will be attaching more of my drawings to the entry. If you check the website, keep your eye out for it! In addition, I have some video footage of me stretching canvas and painting. I am scrambling to cut and edit it into something small, but if I get a chance to, I will send it along. It will probably be a great way for you to see a personal view of the students that you support here at the center!
I am hoping all has been well with you and that this email finds you healthy and happy.