Monday, December 30, 2013

Illustration Unit: Maxfield Parrish

The last illustrator of the Golden Age for the unit is Maxfield Parrish, another influential american artist who worked in book illustration and commercial art during the first half of the twentieth century.

He is known for his intense use of colour; neoclassical figures and drapery; big open skies full of stratocumulus clouds; and painstaking three-dimensional realism achieved through extensive glazing with oil paints.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Illustration Unit: N.C. Wyeth

One of the biggest american illustrators is N.C. Wyeth (Newell Convers). He was a gifted artist as a child and went to a few art colleges before joining Howard Pyle's art school when he was twenty years old. Within a few months, he was commissioned to do a cover for the Saturday Evening Post and his career took off from there.

He went on to produce over 3000 illustrations and 112 books in his career. He also started a family of artists, with his son Andrew Wyeth becoming one of the important american fine artists of the second half of the 20th century. Interestingly, his grandson Howard Pyle Wyeth, was the drummer for Bob Dylan for a while.

N.C. Wyeth responded well to Pyle's approach to illustration and his influence can be seen throughout his work. Thematically, he continued in Pyle's tradition of americana and adventure book illustration full of pirates, native americans and Robin Hood. He also worked extensively creating magazine illustrations and advertisements. His images demonstrate an exploration of Pyle's focus on realism and an expressive use of colour within a strong composition.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Illustration Unit: Howard Pyle

The next illustrator to study in this unit is the influential american artist, writer and art teacher Howard Pyle. He started teaching at a young age and many of his students became successful artists including N.C. Wyeth. Pyle and his followers have been termed the "Brandywine School" after the region they lived in.

His work demonstrates realism with a sophisticated use of colour and composition. His images also feature recurring themes of patriotism.

Like Rackham and Pogany, Pyle's focus was on children's stories and adventure books and he has been credited with developing the typical image of the pirate.

One of his well-known works, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,  he both wrote and illustrated.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Illustration Unit: Aubrey Beardsley

The next illustrator I would cover in the art history part of the unit is the english artist Aubrey Beardsley. His work is a good example of the influence of Japanese woodcuts on European art in general on the art nouveau movement in particular.

After studying Pogany and Rackham, Aubrey Beardsley presents a different approach to illustration. His work is a great example of the power of contrast and the beauty of using shape and line. 

He offers another approach to hand-lettering that students can refer to during the research stage of the Creative Process.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Illustration Unit: Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham is another great illustrator to study from the Golden Age. His work, like Pogany's, focuses on myths, legends and fairy tales.

For the Illustration Unit, I would cover Arthur Rackham (and a few other central artists) in the introductory powerpoint/ slide-show during the first lesson. Then I would refer back to his work throughout the studio project, for inspiration and to help with ideas about technique.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Illustration Unit: Willy Pogany

I started this blog for in-class art projects and lesson plans. Lately it's been all about field trips - and I've covered a few art gallery shows in between. I want to get back to posting about in-class activities and good starting points for projects.

The golden age of illustration would make a great theme for a studio project and a long-term art history section. This high-point of traditional commercial art featured work by english artists including: Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Rackham and american artists including: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish.

This post presents a personal favourite Willy Pogany, originally from Hungary, who started his career in England and then moved to the US.

Willy Pogany illustrated many wonderful narrative books covering myths and legends, fairy tales and adventure stories. He works with pen and ink on smooth paper using short expressive line-work and an  art nouveau design approach. His work features beautiful examples of hand-lettering.

A fun studio project: students choose a myth or legend from any culture to research and illustrate one scene from the story. A title or quote must be included in the design using hand-lettering. Students can also choose from folk stories, fairy tales and adventure books. 

Students will complete a Creative Process Booklet to be submitted with the final work that will present the brainstorming, research, experimentation, rough work and reflection.

Lesson One: Intro to the Golden Age of Illustration 
Lesson Two: pen and ink basics 
Lesson Three: pen and ink techniques
Lesson Four: hand-lettering techniques
Lesson Five: The work of Willy Pogany
Lesson Six-Ten: Studio project: The Creative Process
Lesson Eleven: Final Submission - Class Presentation and Group Critique

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Beehive Design Collective

Last week I was fortunate to have three volunteers from the Beehive Design Collective visit my Challenge & Change in Society class to discuss globalization using a massive hand-drawn illustration.

The Bees use art as an educational tool to engage students and start discussions about complex social, political, economic and environmental issues. The graphic campaigns provide a thorough look at many of the negative effects that globalization is having on society.

Our workshop focused on the Free Trade graphic. Students worked in small groups to decipher one symbolic animal from the poster each and then share their ideas with the whole group. The posters provide a fascinating, interactive visual approach to learning about globalization. Here is their site.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Blyth Academy Visual Arts classes at the Varley Gallery and Ai Wei Wei at the A.G.O.

    It's been longer than usual since my last post so I'll make up for it by covering two posts in one: Blyth at the Varley Gallery and Ai Wei Wei at the AGO. The start of this school year has been so busy - but I guess they always are! I 've been less involved in art education this term because I've been teaching exclusively grade 12 Social Science courses. Even though I miss Visual Arts, the new courses have been very rewarding to teach. I organized a field trip to the Coroner's Courts in Toronto, to sit in on the Inquest into the Death of Ashley Smith. I also brought in a social justice lawyer to visit my classes and discuss the inquest after.

    That will all change soon- my courses end in mid-November and I will be establishing a Visual Arts program at Blyth Academy, Thornhill. The arts program that I've been working on with the wonderful team at Blyth is based on a parntership with the Varley Art Gallery in Markham. The students will tour the collection, paint in the studios and curate their own show that will be held in the gallery at the end of the course. I am very excited about this partnership and can't wait to get started!

Back in Toronto... the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the AGO is one of the best shows I've seen in a while. The works are thoughtful, surprising and truly creative. The pieces communicate important messages about social justice issues with a bold, thought-provoking directness. Even though he is not allowed to travel outside of China due to his open criticism of the Chinese government, Ai Wei Wei uses art to visually communicate all over the world and, luckily for us, especially in Toronto.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Museum of Anthropology (at UBC)

This month I spent some time in Vancouver and enjoyed exploring the UBC campus. One of the highlights for me was the Museum of Anthropology.

They have a variety of old and new artifacts from various cultures and places around the world, but what fascinated me the most is their huge collection of Northwest Coast Aboriginal Canadian art.

Here are a few examples, older and newer:


This would be a fantastic museum for a field trip. I envy the UBC students who get free admission anytime and who get to study here as part of their courses! If I teach in the Vancouver area I will definitely bring my classes here.