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Showing posts from June, 2010

Postcard from Interlochen 7: Printmaking Day 2

On day 2 of the printmaking class (Tuesday), I led the participants through different ways of doing colour monoprints, using the subtractive method, the additive method, and combinations of the two. In the afternoon, they started combining monoprints with drypoints cut into aluminum flashing tiles or sheets of duralar. Some of the great results can be seen in the following short slideshow: If I was going to miss the last two World Cup round of 16 matches, I'm glad it was for this reason.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

On a toy drink

From Praeterita Patty and I went for a drink at a local roadhouse after the first class. I had a Blue Lagoon, which was vodka, blue curacao, schnapps, and seven up. Here in Michigan that means it comes in a pint glass. And they also gave me a toy seahorse, which I am holding proudly in the above picture.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Postcard from Interlochen 6: Printmaking Class

Yesterday was the first printmaking class at Interlochen. There are four adult students, and it is the inaugural class in the Mallory-Towsley building, a purpose-built facility for the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. It's quite incredible, the facilities they have here: light, airy classrooms, overhead projectors where you can just plug in your laptop to a wall socket and off you go. We did contact monoprints in the first class, both black and white and multi-colour. The print displayed above is a black and white contact monoprint by some student whose name I think is Patty McNair or something. A contact monoprint is so-called because you roll a think layer of ink on a clear sheet of acetate, place paper over the inked plate, and start drawing. When you lift the paper up, you see that the ink has transferred wherever the paper came into contact with the layer of ink. On Tuesday, we'll do additive monoprint, which is essentially painting with inks on the acetate.   Su

On walking around Interlochen

Along the road that runs beside the Interlochen campus, banners hang from posts placed about 100 metres apart, each one bearing the slogan ‘Art Lives Here.’ Every time we pass them, Patty says: ‘Who’s Art? And where does he live?’ Of course, it doesn’t really refer to someone called Arthur – unless that person were Arturo Toscanini, perhaps. Because even though Interlochen has a great creative writing program and fine art program, and stunning purpose-made buildings to match, music is still King here.  As I go out for my morning walk (briskly, 3 pound weight in each hand, Olympic-style weird-wiggle-walk, approximately 4-5 mph) I see the high-school kids emerging from the cabins in the woods and sloping off to their summer camp music programs. When I pass some of the campus buildings, I can hear even at 8 am the sound of a young pianist practising two-handed scales at lightning speed, someone in the percussion building banging a glockenspiel, a clear soprano voice singing a heart-sto

On Kara Walker's 'My Complement . . .'

This week's Meditation is on a recent survey of the work of Kara Walker, an African-American artist who mainly makes gigantic murals from cut silhouettes.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

On looking through old sketchbooks: 13

Abandoned church, Fayence, France, 1987 “One must always draw, draw with the eyes, when one cannot draw with a pencil.”—Ingres and Balthus.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Interview with Chicago artist Tom Robinson

When you meet Tom Robinson ( ), it's like encountering a natural force in its untamed state. There's a warmth and friendliness coupled with a barely-contained energy, which is evident in the many activities that he has been involved with in Chicago, and nationally, for more than 30 years. He is an artist and sculptor who has designed furniture, created many public art projects, and was instrumental in setting up the Chicago Art Open, an annual showcase for the work of Chicago's vibrant and eclectic art scene. I met Tom in his huge new studio and gallery space on the opening night of the show ' Drawing Attention '. Philip : You work in a variety of media. Do you see common threads or themes when you move between drawing, painting, sculpture, and constructions? Tom : I work in series and am very procedural, so each piece of work starts independently of the other. I would like to believe each medium eventually peaks into one thing. Phil

Postcard from Interlochen 5: Final class

So yesterday was the final meeting of the Interlochen Journal and Sketchbook class. We gave them a lot of time to draw and write: And they produced entries in their journal/sketchbooks that looked like this: And like this: Patty and I gave a craft presentation during which we got all the people attending the conference to try some drawing and quick writing. Then we had put up pictures on the walls of the room where we held our class, and laid out our participants' journal/sketchbooks in an impromptu exhibition for all conference attendees to look at and envy: Four days is a short length of time, but it certainly produces intensity; and if it isn't enough time to finish a piece of writing, we at least got all of our students started on some truly interesting pieces of memoir and fiction. This Writers' Retreat is growing year by year, and I would recommend that you come along next time if you were thinking about it this year. Next week, I'll be posting about t

Postcard from Interlochen 4

Anne Marie reading at final dinner

Postcard from Interlochen 3: Blind contour drawings

Yesterday during the Journal+Sketchbook class, we got the participants to do blind contour drawings of stuff we set up for them in the Great Room. Things such as grapes, crumpled up paper bags, bottles: And once again, after some initial bewilderment about what they were asked to do (''What! Draw without looking at the page? Draw without lifting the pen from the paper?'), they all produced highly expressive and interesting drawings, as you will see in the following slideshow: After they draw for half an hour, Patty leads them into a writing exercise. I always show the drawings from these classes, even though this is really aimed at writers - but writers quite rightly don't want their first rough drafts reproduced on someone's blog. So you'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that the act of moving from drawing and back to the writing often produces new directions in things they're already writing, or starts for completely new material.

Postcard from Interlochen 2: Hike and Write

Tuesday afternoon was the annual Writers' Retreat Hike and Write. Program co-ordinator Anne-Marie organises a trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline, which overlooks the vastness of Lake Michigan. The idea is that people hike through a forest and up a hill, emerging at the top of the dune. After a short walk along the crest of the dune (which rises to about 200 feet at points), people get the time to sit looking out at the lake in the sunshine, and either write in their journals, continue writing they've already started, or do some drawing: It was a scorching mid-summer day, which wasn't so great for my pale Anglo-Irish skin. But it was worth frying in the open air for the chance to look out at the lake from my perch up on the sand dune. On the way back we all visited a local chocolatier called Mimi Wheeler, who makes hand made chocolates from cocoa pods she imports from South America. The choccies are filled with wild ingredients like beetroot, hot chilli peppers,

Postcard from Interlochen College of Creative Arts

I'm at the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan for the next two weeks. Patty and I have just done our first day teaching the Journal and Sketchbook class to a group of five adults, and it went really well. There are 40 people here for the week. Some are taking our workshop, others are taking workshops in Fiction, Poetry, and Memoir. On Monday afternoon Patty read from some of her published fiction and I gave a video-assisted presentation on my work to the whole group. It took place in the beautiful Writers' Building, which has these enormous pillars made from small rocks: It's also supported by these gigantic columns made from tree trunks, about five feet in circumference and maybe 25 feet high: In the evening Anne-Marie Oomen, who runs this writer's retreat, gave a reading from her own memoir: Even after the first half day, there was a vibrant feeling of shared creativity in the air. All of the people attending have used precious holiday time and pai

On looking through old sketchbooks: 12

Street vendor, Havana, 2001 "I draw like other people bite their nails." -- Picasso.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

On a 15th century Aztec Figure in Clay

This week's Meditation is on a piece of clay sculpture by an Aztec artist from c. 1450, and the relation between so-called primitive art and the Western tradition.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

On looking through old sketchbooks: 11

"But what is your final goal, you may ask. That goal will become clearer, will emerge slowly but surely, much as the draft turns into the sketch and the sketch into the painting through the serious work done on it, through the elaboration of the original vague idea and through the consolidation of the first fleeting and passing thought." Vincent Van Gogh, Letter to Theo Van Gogh, July 1880. Free association drawing, marker pen on vellum, 2005   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Interview with Chattanooga artists Janet Chenoweth & Roger Halligan

(L) Jan Chenoweth: 'Graves on a hill', Acrylic on canvas, 24" by 24"                                                             (R) Roger Halligan: 'Fortune Flowers I', 11" x 4.5" x 4.5"                     When I was in Chattanooga last weekend, I visited a number of artists' studios on the south side, an area that has been transformed in recent years by the arrival of painters, sculptors, glass artists, furniture makers, and other creative people. The two artists who impressed me the most were painter Janet Chenoweth and sculptor Roger Halligan , who have a building near Main Street that combines a large workshop and studio area at the back with a beautiful gallery area at the front. They were kind enough to agree to a joint interview, and I began by asking them to talk about their work. Philip : Jan, your work has an interesting balance between 2-D elements such as texture, colour, and drawing, and 3-D elements such as jars, found

On the brevity of a life

Ten years. That's the entire span of Vincent Van Gogh's life as an artist. I've been dipping into a selection of his letters again, and I had forgotten the following sobering facts: in the Spring of 1880, he decided he wanted to become an artist; by July 1890, he was dead. The selection of his letters is illustrated with lots of his drawings and sketches. His earliest efforts were really not that good. The best you can say about them is that they are direct and earnest. But his progress in drawing mirrors his phenomenal progress in painting. In ten short years, he went from drawing like this: . . . to drawing like this: Only ten years. Just think what you were doing ten years ago. Feel how it seems so close by, so recent. A lot can happen in a decade, of course, but it's still not that long a piece of a human life. Yet Van Gogh accomplished so much during that short career. He puts to shame all of us who complain about not having enough time in the day to get to

On Looking Through Old Sketchbooks: 10

Bass player, Havana, 2001 “Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.”—Michelangelo.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

On the Hunter Museum of American Art

Audio slideshow interview with Katrina Craven from Philip Hartigan on Vimeo . This is my first full blog entry after my trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was there to take photos for a travel article that Patty was researching. We were hosted by a superb PR company called Geiger & Associates, who organise press trips to places such as Chattanooga in order to introduce journalists to as much of a particular town as possible in three or four days. For example, on our first full day there, our itinerary was: visit to the Moon Pie factory (a hallowed biscuit/cookie maker); a tour of the aquarium (otters! penguins! more fish than one person could ever eat!); a boat trip up the Tennessee River gorge; a tour of the Delta Queen riverboat; a stroll around the artisans and artists area of Bluff View; dinner; then a walk deep underground in the caves below Lookout Mountain. I also took the opportunity a few days later to visit Chattanooga's Main Street Arts District, and later I wi