19, July 2016 § Leave a comment
Jane Morris Pack
Learning to draw the human figure is a challenge and demands a clear understanding of how to capture form. It is also a difficult task to do in two weeks but the eight students attending the Intensive Summer Workshop did an amazing job of pulling it all together in a short time. We worked from the model for two hours every morning and then after lunch the projects included working in clay and drawing the bones and muscles. Learning to draw the basic geometric forms was given particular attention as they are the building blocks for all form. We investigated perspective, built a clay head, foot, hand, nose and mouth. The students traced their own proportions life size on paper and then added the skeleton and muscles to those drawings. On the final day, as a creative exercise, we hung paper cutouts onto a line and played lights over their forms to suggest movement.
Since drawing is such an intense activity we needed a few distractions to smooth the steep learning curve. One night was spent watching the stars appear from a vantage point high on the mountain after sunset, on another we had a wine tasting of six prominent Greek varietals, and lastly a full day was enjoyed on a wonderful boat trip around the neighbouring island of Antiparos. Thank you to all of my wonderful and enthusiastic students from whom I learn so much.
30, June 2016 § 1 Comment
The Aegean Center summer workshop, Oil Painting Innovations, concluded this last Saturday with a successful exhibition at the Center. The five painters showed four paintings each, sharing the space with the watercolour and the photography students from the other workshops. The walls were crowded with excellent work all of which showed a high level of skill and aesthetic involvement.The painting class followed several historical methods chosen for their instructive value; Venetian heightening with white on a dark ground from the 15th century, Flemish floral painting from the 17th century and Impressionist still life from the 19th century. These methods were explained and then explored in order for the students to maximize their understanding of the principals of structured oil paintings. A fourth exercise, which dealt with the painting of an all white still life, was chosen to challenge color mixing choices and the necessary lowering of tone which oil paint dictates.
The process of hand refined linseed oil which we began using a year ago at the Center was demonstrated and became our medium. It’s unique properties allow us to forgo solvents. The oil is stronger and shinier than the store bought tube oils. The handling is fluid, each touch is recorded. It creates a tough film, maintains textural elements of brushwork and keeps its color integrity when painting wet into wet. We were in the studios every day for six hours six days a week. The new oil paint made it possible for us to continue working without the need for long drying times and so the layers went on quickly. Working on four canvases with different criteria kept us energized. Thank you to my students for their enthusiasm and their dedication.
15, May 2010 § Leave a comment
The Aegean Center has been featured in the Summer Issue of Creo Magazine. The author, Silvia Viñas, wanted to highlight a student’s firsthand experience at the Center and chose Shanoor Seervai, a student fall 2009 Italy-Greece Session, to interview. (Shanoor, we miss you!)
12, June 2009 § Leave a comment
The semester has ended and things have come to a close here in Paros. It’s hard to believe that I have spent two semesters studying with the Aegean Center. I feel incredibly lucky for this opportunity and in my time here I have met such wonderful individuals and learned so much. It has been a year of personal growth as I have had a chance to reflect and explore myself in new and unique surroundings. The beauty of Paros and the experiences I have had will be with me forever, and the magic of Paros will echo throughout my life and my art hereafter.
In Jane’s Velazquez seminar, we have completed the painting of our sections of Las Meninas. Painting a life-size replica of one of the figures was a great exercise to culminate our semester-long study of Velazquez’ style and technique. I really enjoyed working so large (120 x 75 cm). Studying how he painted has definitely influenced my technique and how I view the act and art of painting. He painted subjects ‘out-of-focus’ but included passages with more attention to detail, which is similar to our vision. We are able to focus on only a small area and all surrounding forms are more or less blurred. I now see how this gives a painting more dynamism than painting everything in perfect focus. Another idea I will continue to keep in mind when I paint is the potential for a painting to be both abstract and realistic. From a distance Velazquez’ paintings read as clean, smooth realistic depictions. Yet up close we see that they are merely slashes of paint splattered on canvas. Paint can create great illusion but is essentially just paint on canvas. This semester Jane introduced us to putty, which I have nearly become addicted to using. It gives the paint more body and sculptural form and helps me to loosen up my brushstroke. I plan on continuing to explore texture and putty for my senior honors project next year at Brown University.
Because putty lightens paint and preserves the luminosity of it without making it opaque or chalky like white, I have used it a lot in my work dealing with a particular lighting effect. I have always been attracted to and inspired by scenes where a distinct feeling of light creates a certain mood. Almost all of my paintings this semester address some specific effect of light, particularly cast shadows, as in my first painting of lamp-lit vegetables, the school courtyard walls, and the trash bin cats. In a more recent work I wanted to capture the mood of the storeroom/garage that we visited last semester at the local olive press. The strong, glowing light hitting the wall and illuminating the objects within intrigues me. I wanted to keep a loose drawing quality to it and I kept a primary color theme through repeating passages of red, yellow, and blue. I used these colors in many layers of putty and glazing.
I continued my personal exploration with olive trees with a second painting dealing with the wrinkly, knotty, and aged quality of olive trees. I learned things from my first painting that I applied to this one. I chose a different, more static composition and I included more surrounding landscape.
We also did a ‘white painting’ using a limited palette of white, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue. I really enjoyed working with such a limited palette. I find it easier to be creative when there are stricter constraints to work within. We pushed our palette as far as we could to create a variety of hues, tones, and temperatures. It was a good exercise to focus on the art of subtlety. Working with whites was a peaceful process and I like the feeling of my finished piece so I would like to do more work with a limited palette in the future.
Now that the beautiful summer weather has arrived on Paros, we went outside to paint on-scene at the bay port. I did a 2-hour study of some boats and it was a good exercise in synthesizing a large amount of information and detail. I used a limited palette similar to my white painting: only white, blue, and burnt sienna. Painting outside has its challenges. The light changes, the subjects are often in movement, and the weather conditions can be tough to work in (it was a sweltering hot day when we painted.) I learned to work with my immediate surroundings and should continue to do these quick nature studies.
I finally painted a self-portrait, which has been somewhat of a dread of mine. Jane has taught me the importance of choosing a ‘system’ and working within the parameters of that system to paint. This helped my tackle the portrait because it involves picking a method to break a painting down into manageable steps. I was getting overwhelmed with the many subtle colors and tones in the face but I worked in a series of layers that built up the form gradually. I began using the Velazquez method I have become so accustomed to: drawing with paint and adding in the dark tones then heightening with white. Then I went in with many layers of red and blue glazes. With just these two colors I was able to get many hues and tones. In places the blue and red mixed to make purple and because my imprimatura was a yellowish orange, I created a green tone when I put blue glaze on top. I found that using these layers interspersed with whites allowed me to get so many colors, temperatures, and tones without having to mix each shade of paint separately.
During our week-long semester break, I traveled to Santorini and Crete with a few other students. While in Crete, I was inspired by the geometry of the fields we drove through and the overwhelming variety of green. I was interested in how orderly and systematic they appeared, with the cast shadows of each individual tree forming a pattern across the landscape. In an ‘ode to putty’ I painted a tactile painting. How often do you see a painting labeled “please touch”? Not so much, so I decided to have some fun with layers and make a painting for the eyes and the fingers.
As a final painting of the semester I decided to do one last olive tree. After working on a large canvas for Las Meninas I wanted to do another big painting (70 x 100 cm). I went with a few other students to look at the olive trees that we pass on our way to Lefkes for hikes. I have always wanted to go up close and look at them and I am so glad I finally did it before leaving Paros! For me, these trees are incredible symbols of Paros. They have so much character strength; some have been alive for a thousand years. I feel that this painting is a good culmination of my year with the Aegean Center. Half is alive, half is dead. There is new growth and hope, yet there remains the dead wood of many years past.
My time studying at The Aegean Center has come to a close but I am excited to take with me all that I have learned to share with others and apply to my own work. The memories of the Aegean Center, and the sand, salt, and olive trees of Paros will be with me forever.
25, May 2009 § Leave a comment
Photography student Alice Houston recently captured the morning light that has visited the Church of a Hundred Doors since the fourth century AD.
19, November 2008 § Leave a comment
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.