Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some art history - WAIT, COME BACK!

Hopefully this won't be as boring as yesterday's landscape...

The final assignment - or exam - for the art class I was in (which I promise to stop talking about soon, if you're getting sick of hearing about it already) was to pick an artist, do some research into his/her work and then to channel that person and create a work of art in that style.  We had to consider medium, substrate, colour, composition, style - all the things that make that person's work his or her own.

I chose Paul Klee, a Swiss/German painter who died in 1940.  I hadn't heard of him before taking this class but it turns out he was kind of a big deal.  He taught at the Bauhaus school in Germany, totally NAILED colour theory, and my favourite - he used any and all media and would pretty much paint or draw on anything he could get his hands on.  A man after my own heart!  Oh, plus I like his work, a lot of it really appeals to me.  He did some cool stuff with his own version of pointillism, his colour choices were amazing, and even though I don't particularly understand what he was getting at with a lot of his pieces, the mechanics of it all completely fascinate me.

Paul Klee - an example of his colour use and his version of pointillism
Not wanting to walk into this class (or EXAM) totally unprepared, I actually did more homework than you would expect from someone like me, (ie. who has the attention span of a flea) and on top of the research, I decided to try a surface that was new to me but sounded fun.  He had done some of his work on pieces of burlap, on top of which he had glued newspaper.  The newspaper was thin enough to take on the texture of the burlap, plus had the added advantage of sealing off the burlap so the paint wouldn't leak through.  It also automatically gave the work some depth, since he just painted right over the newsprint and that added a layer of text before he'd even started his work.  That sounded so cool to me, I couldn't wait to try it.

Here's where I had to deviate from the plan... burlap stinks.  Like, really, really reeks.  In the spirit of things, I did buy half a meter, but then I found this other cotton blend that also had a nice big woven texture, similar to burlap, and it didn't smell like a potato's ass.  Cotton it is!  The burlap is still sitting in a bag on the floor.  I'll have to try to pawn it off on someone else, because I can't stand it.  Bleah.
‘Untitled (The Prisoner)’, Paul Klee (1940)
Presumably on a less-stinky version of modern-day burlap... no newsprint on this one.

Anyway.  I was still in eager-student mode, so I cut off a baseball card-sized piece of the cotton and experimented with the newspaper and paint.  I had found a pic of Klee's studio after his death, and on his drawing board were a few different partially-finished works.  I tried to copy the one with the fish-like marks on it.  Then I used gouache to paint it in, and OMG I FELL IN LOVE.  The texture, the fabric, the newspaper underneath, the semi-opacity of the gouache, and the blending of the colours... be still my heart.

Paul Klee's studio after his death

My test piece - about 2 3/4" x 4"

All of this nerdery of course didn't make me any friends when I sailed into class, with my prepared fabric/newspaper surface ready to go; and found the others were feeling nervous and anxious about the exam.  I was EXCITED!!!!  I couldn't wait to get started!  I was probably super obnoxious and offensive!!  I apologize to my classmates; I hope I didn't aggravate anyone too badly.  I felt like Buddy the Elf, all "I'm SIIIINGING!!!!" but I couldn't help it.

Yes.  I was THAT excited.

So (ahem) I did the assignment and got it graded right away.  (A+, bitches!!!)  (Okay, I'm done.  Sorry for the outburst.  I promise that's the last one.)  The instructor offered a few comments, then said what I should really do next is the same kind of thing, only way, WAY bigger.  Like, use-a-staple-gun-to-put-the-fabric-on-the-wall-so-you-can-work-on-it kind of big.  And then I zoned out because I started picturing it. And liking it.  A LOT.  She probably said some other things, but hopefully none of them were dire warnings or anything because I wasn't paying attention any more at that point.

Anyway, here's the finished product.  It's hanging on my living room wall right now, which is great for catching the natural light, but crappy because you can see my shadow in the lower-left of each pic.  Please squint and pretend I'm a good photographer.

Thank you.

Nunchuk Fantasy, by Shelley Malone (fine, YOU come up with a name for it.)

Detail of some of the shading

Detail of the bottom right edge

You can see the newsprint beneath the red paint.

Okay, that's it for today.  If you made it this far, gold star for you!!!  Thanks for playing along.  I'm already picking paint colours for the next one... any suggestions?

Love Shelley!

PS: In case you think I was maybe getting a little conceited about this painting, don't fret.  My daughter came home from school, spotted it on the wall, and immediately announced that it looked like "two pigs' nostrils."

So I screamed, 'It's an ANGEL!" and flipped the table.

Artists are so misunderstood.


  1. woohoo WTG with that A+! I'd love to take a proper art class one day, jealous!

    I was in a circle journal earlier in the year and Paul Klee was one of the artists we took inspiration from:

    He's cool. I saw some of his stuff when I went art gallery hopping in Berlin in the summer.

    1. I'm jealous that you got to see the work in person! I was only able to see pics on the internet; not quite the same. : )

      Also I went and checked out your part in that circle journal and wow.... gorgeous!

  2. You are so funny Shelley!! Thanks for making my day with your creative blogging :)


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