Today’s post is a work in progress – please check back later too!
Today, we travelled to the Art Gallery of Hamilton to view & exhibits and learn how to paint a portrait! We practice our inferring skills and also our critical literacy skills when viewing a media work (painting).
*** Students should be reviewing this blog tonight (as usual), and their follow-up activity is to sign into commons.hwdsb.on.ca and leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post. Students should fill in any of their inferences or reflections that I have not included on this page. ***
PART 1 – Tour of the Gallery
“ILLUMINATIONS Exhibit” – First, we saw an exhibit called, “Illuminations: Italian Baroque Masterworks in Canadian Collections“. These are paintings by Italian masters and they are between 400 and 500 years old! The paintings were borrowed from the National Art Gallery. The art works travelled from Ottawa and were heavily guarded on their trip because they are so valuable! We could not take photos of these paintings because of ownership/copyright laws; however, some of these paintings can be seen at the Art Gallery of Hamilton Illuminations exhibit at the start of this paragraph.
With the guidance of our tour guide, Linda, we interpreted art works by observing their details. It was very much a “shared reading” activity like we have done in literacy, where we use evidence to make inferences 🙂 Shared reading can involve viewing a text with words or viewing a picture (which is also considered a text!).
#1. We inferred from the first artwork that the man is in pain, as a result of his facial expression. We learned from our guide, Linda, that it was a painting of a real person from a real battle in history. He was on the losing side of the battle, and that matched our observations of his facial expression and body language.
#2. We saw a 400 year old painting of a General who lost a battle. He was blinded by his enemies as punishment. In the painting, the General is begging for coins in the street. The people looking in look sad for him.
#3. We saw a painting of an older man, a woman and a younger man. The art appeals to our sense of touch because the painting includes depictions of textures — like fur and a beard. Even though paintings are meant to be looked at, they appeal to our senses.
#4. We saw a 400 year old painting of four adults called “the fortune teller”. We inferred that the person in the foreground would be the fortune teller – a painter would put an important character in the foreground. The fortune teller is holding a hand and accepting money, and she has a purse with her money hanging on her shoulder. We inferred that the man with his hand in the woman’s bag is a pick pocket. The other man is wagging his finger at the first man, as if he is telling him “Don’t do that” (steal). Critical literacy: We learned that the Christian church commissioned many paintings like this one in order to try to teach people “right from wrong”. Most people couldn’t read.
#5. A 500 year old painting with 7 adults. The two men and the woman in the centre foreground are lighted the most as a result of the painter using light colours. One older man is holding a book and looking angry. The other (younger) man has an open relaxed hand and is speaking to the first man. The woman stands between them and her eyes are downcast. Four other older men are listening and standing behind these three. One man in the background had his hand grasping the woman’s shoulder. We inferred that the angry man with the book is angry at the woman and he wants her punishes, the woman looks sad or embarrassed, the woman might have broken the law and the younger man is standing up for her. We inferred what might happen next:
- It could end in a fight
- maybe she will be punished
- maybe they’ll listen to the younger man and set the woman free
Art Gallery of Hamilton permanent collection – We went upstairs. The paintings upstairs are part of the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s permanent collection. In other words, the Art Gallery of Hamilton owns these paintings. We are allowed to take pictures of them!
#6. The painting on the very right is an old painting of a view of the city of Hamilton. The trees look unusual, almost like they have palm fronds instead of regular leaves. A parent volunteer, Mrs Mattern, pointed out that some trees here in Ontario 200 years ago might look different than most of the trees were used to seeing now. When Europeans came to Canada starting 400 years ago, they began a migration of trees that were brought by people from other countries. So many of the trees that we are used to seeing here now are not original species to Canada. That is an interesting topic for another day! It is interesting then, that old paintings can preserve details and truths about nature that have been lost over the years. The paintings can teach and show us what nature used to look like in certain places. Of course, paintings can also show us events that happened with people in the past. This reminds me of something that we read in the Jerry Spinelli book, “Stargirl” this past week. Do you remember?
#7. This painting shows an interesting technique where the painter was able to make us see frost on the trees!
#8. Artists use all sorts of people as models for paintings. One of the monks in the background of Alophonse Legros’ painting “The Cantors” (c. 1870) is actually based on the facial appearance of an organ grinder that the artist saw in the street!
#9. In this painting by Emile Friant, the person being put to death by guillotine is based on the physical appearance of the artist himself! Sort of a self-portrait, but in a situation that the artist ever actually found himself. We wonder why he did that?
#10. Next, we responded emotionally this next painting by Canadian artist Carl Schaefer.
- It’s dark. It makes me sleepy.
- I feel calm. Almost every wooden object is curved
- I feel sad because the farm looks broken down.
- I feel scared and rushed. It looks stormy and windy. Maybe a teoster is coming.
- It looks abandoned.
We learned that Schaefer painted it in 1939 when people knew WWII was coming. The world was breaking down. Also, 1939 followed the Great Depression. This matches our feelings when we view the painting, even though we didn’t know at first that the painting was meant to reflect the emotions of people in 1939 . There are no people in the painting, but we can feel emotional when we look at it. The artist has an emotional effect on us by his choice of line and colour.
#11. The next painting is also incredible. Canadian artist Helen McNicholl effectively painted a woman in an apple orchard. McNicholl is able to get us in touch with our sense of smell. Here are the smells we said that we could almost sense while looking at the painting:
- smell of apples
- smell of grass
- smell of fresh air
(The feeling of a warm summer day, too!) Painting technique: We noticed that McNicholl put paint on with either a big fat brush or palette knife! Painting c.1911
Critical literacy: In addition to the skill level involved and the obvious beauty of the painting, one of the other reasons this painting is important is because it was painted by a woman. Women have been painting for centuries and even millennia, but there was a time when people thought that women were only capable of painting flowers.
#12. Here, Canadian artist Lawren Harris used a narrow skinny brush – but the same technique as Helen McNicoll on the previous painting where dollops of paint are placed around the canvas. Painting c.1913We might hear the swish of the wind with Harris’ painting! He also painted the two paintings on the right (below) later in his career with a different style:
#13 & #14 (two on the right)
#15 Can you recognize this Canadian landmark? (Painting c2006 by Canadian artist John Hartman) How do you think the tech nique compares to the placement of paint by Helen McNicoll and Lawren Harris their paintings that we’ve used today?
#16. What emotions do you feel when you look at this painting?
#17. This is a conventional still-life painting, c. 1923, by French painter Felix Volloton.
#18. Here is a modern take on the idea of a still life artwork, this time in the form of a sculpture (c. 1993). The theme seems to be chemicals that are harmful to creatures & the environment. Why do you think an artist would make a sculpture like this?
#19. This modern art work by a Canadian artist, c. 1966, is called multimedia because it uses many different materials to create it.
At the end of our tour, Linda asked us what part of the tour would we want to share with her best friend if we could bring him or her:
The Italian exhibit. There are some pretty fascinating things in there. I think there is something about the fall of Rome.
- The painting of a scene in Hamilton
- The 1939 pre-wartime painting
- The death-themed paintings
- The French Revolution with the guillotine
- The apple picker
PART 2 – Learning to Paint a Portrait
Amanda took us through the steps of painting a portrait!
- Eyes are in the middle of your head! Who knew?
- Face shape: Amanda used an oval
- Bottom of the nose is about half way between the eyes and chin
- Side of nose is in line with the inner point of the eyebrow
- Mouth: where your lips meet is about halfway between the bottom of the nose and the chin
- Ears- top of your ear is about in line with your eye/eyebrow
- Necks – wider than we think –
- Hair in general: think of it as a solid shape
- Start with orange (red + yellow)
- Add a tiny bit of blue to make it a bit brown — better to add the dark blue bit by bit as necessary
- Adjust in different areas of your palette:
- add white if desired
- Add a bit of magenta, etc till you get the shade you want
There are thousands of different skin tones! Create one and spread it lightly all over, even over the outline of the eye. You want to add white to the eye later and it will look more natural than your white paper. Then add your tone:
- Lighter shade around nose
- Highlight/lighter on bridge of the nose
You can even make a colour wash all over the paper so you have a background color to your painting…and add skin tone paint and details on the face with paint on TOP of the background colour wash.
THINK OF PAINTING AS LAYERING!!!
Painters paint layers over their errors and problem solve as they go.
This kind of painting is called “alla prima” painting (means “all at once” in Italian)
“Alla prima is a style of painting where, instead of building colors up with layers or glazing over an underpainting, the painting is completed while the paint is still wet. Strictly defined, an alla primapainting would be started and finished in one painting session, but the term is also more loosely applied to any painting done in a direct, expressive style, with minimal preparation.” http://painting.about.com/od/artglossarya/g/defallaprima.htm
Here are our grade 5 students at work!
Now, here is a close up of the monk in the Legros painting. How many hours and layers do students believe this face would take?
Now consider the all the faces in the whole Legros painting…..then think of the background….and the clothing on the people…..and their hands???? How many hours and layers of paint?
Here is our instructor Amanda’s partially finished portrait. We left ours on the drying rack’s, and we will be receiving them at some point in the near future!