I hope, like this polar bear, you can look ahead with hope, and that your year will be full of good health, caring, and whatever success you wish.
Interpreting positive and negative space is one of the compositional skills practised by visual artists when they draw and paint. It is also a handy method to trigger one's imagination either as a drawing exercise, or when illustrating.
What is positive and negative space?
Positive space is the space occupied by the subject. Negative space is the space on the page around it. A classic example of this is the image below, the Rubin Vase -
The positive space is the yellow vase. The negative space is the inverse of this space, i.e. everything outside the vase. In this picture, can you see the two profiled faces in the negative space? This is a well-known example of illusion, thanks to its use of positive and negative space. However, negative space usually does not have another recognizable image.
Using a printout of an image of one of my stone kitchen tiles, I drew a scene on that printout inspired by the shapes and tones I saw there. The Angry Polar Bear (above) is one such illustration. The Infamous Heart-Nosed Hedgehog below, is another of these The Sketchbook Project drawings.
What is the positive space in the drawing below? What is the negative?
The Positives (and negatives) of the Polar Bear & The Hedgehog
Surprise! Although you probably guessed it, the same tile image inspired the polar bear and hedgehog drawings. Here they are, together.
The Infamous Heart-nosed Hedgehog . The positive space is the hedgehog. The negative space, is all the other space. In this case, that space is filled in with clouds.
The Angry Polar Bear. Using another printout of the same tile, I placed my subject, the polar bear, in what was the negative space of the hedgehog illustration. You can see the shape of the hedgehog in the space to the left of the polar bear. So, in this drawing,the positive space is the polar bear.
But wait! There are actually two subjects in this drawing! There is a little figure in a fur-trimmed hooded parka in the bottom left corner. His head is where the hedgehog's eye is in the hedgehog drawing. This little figure is also a positive space (although his actions may be negative. I will leave that up to your imagination!). So the negative space of this image is all the space around them, including the top right corner of the image.
Does this help you to understand positive and negative space?
To see my 2013 The Sketchbook Project (Brooklyn Art Library, Brooklyn, New York) about a polar bear world "CRAM" click here
It wasn't long after the stone tile backsplash was installed in my kitchen, that I started seeing things. Movement, right there in the 2" x 4" tiles. As I stared, the tan, grey and white striations in the stone shapeshifted into landscapes. Snowy ones. Cloud-filled and foggy ones. Dark ones.
As if portals to other worlds like in old school Star Trek .
And these worlds, they seemed to be..gulp..inhabited! Polar bears and other bear-like animals, fox, and fish, and others, that I couldn't begin to classify.
I sketch portraits of these creatures when I can. For the most part, they seem unaware I am there, as they fly, swim, and run past my window to their world. But when some stop and gaze my way, I confess I sketch faster.
When Strange Neighbors appeared as a category in The Sketchbook Project, I sent my sketchbook their way. I had to let you know what lives with me in my kitchen. Even if you only believe it's all in my imagination.
The Sketchbook Project (www.sketchbookproject.com), is a global, crowd-sourced art project and interactive traveling exhibition, of handmade books. It is the flagship endevour of Art House, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.. It consists of three libraries: Brooklyn Art Library, Mobile Library, and The Digital Library.
Spoiler alert! Don't look at the interior photographs of the Small Arms Inspection Building below, if you want to be surprised completely at 2013 Doors Open Mississauga art show and WWII related demos Saturday, September 28, 10 am - 4 pm. This remarkable 144,000 sq. ft. architecture has a rich history involving the war effort (where the Lee-Enfield Rifle was manufactured) , women's independence, and the revitalization of Lakeview, Mississauga (then Longbranch). It sits empty now, but is it any wonder that the space, high ceilings, huge windows and skylights,have inspired plans to renovate it as a world-class arts centre of working artist studios, performance space, art galleries, a museum and coffee shop?
To give you a hint of just how dynamic this centre will be, 30 artists (including myself) will show and sell their art. My portraits of people and polar bears will be at the end of the hall on the first floor.
Also in the works! Heather Brissenden will sing hits from the Blitz, the Lorne Scots (this was once their home, too) machine gun teams will compete, The Honorary Colonel Gerald Haddon will speak about J.A.D. McCurdy, the Canadian aviation pioneer and much, much more (really!).
There is plenty of free parking. Just find your way to Lakeshore Rd., and Dixie Rd, Mississauga, ON. For more info on what's on, how to get there, and about the Small Arms itself, please go to www.smallarms.ca
This Saturday, September 28, from 10 am - 4 pm, my portraits and polar bear oil paintings will be for show and sale at the Small Arms Inspection Building, as part of Doors Open Mississauga 2013. The Small Arms Building is near and dear to my heart. Why?
The Small Arms Building is a 144,000 sq.ft example of WWII industrial architecture. During the war, over 40,000 women, "Rosie the Riveters", came from all over Canada to work at this site, where they manufactured about 1 million Lee-Enfield rifles.
The Lakeview Legacy Foundation, of which I was proudly a founding member, has set out to repurpose this impressive, but empty building into a desperately needed arts centre of working artists studios, performance space, art galleries, and museum. In other words, arms to arts. (Read more about it here)
And, to help you envision just how dynamic this centre will be when it houses studios for working visual artists, (and musicians, actors, dancers, filmmakers, creative scientists, etc.) over 20 artists (including me) will each set up shop in an office. We'll show our craft as if a working day in our studios, and offer work for sale.
But that's not all.
The Honorary Colonel Gerald Haddon will speak about J.A.D. McCurdy, the Canadian aviation pioneer.
Heather Brissenden will sing Hits of the Blitz from 10:00 to 14:00.
The Lorne Scots machine gun teams will compete through out the day.
The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion will also be there.
You can see a Sherman tank.
And best of all, you will have the rare opportunity to meet some of the wonderful Rosie the Riveters who actually worked at Small Arms.
http://www.smallarms.ca/SmallArms.html for contact info, schedule, & parking (it's free!). P.S. a very short walk west from Longbranch Go Station, Toronto.
Now, can you find the polar bear in the photos below?
In his latest book, The Icarus Deception, marketing guru Seth Godin shares his ideas on how art has evolved, who is an artist, and the importance of the “connection economy” to both.
Seth writes “Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul…there’s an abundance of things to buy and people to hire…What’s scarce is trust, connection, and surprise. These are three elements in the work of the work of a successful artist…”
He goes on to say “The internet network connects people to one another, people to organizations and best of all, people to ideas... Welcome to the connection economy…anyone with a laptop is now connected to just about everyone else. ..it’s the bridges between people that generate value”
Here’s how two good friends, Matt Cook and Sorin Mihailovici, decided to have an adventure, but created much more. Their vision of travel became a story that surprised and connected us to their ideas. It fanned our trust so that we shared the story and supported its occurrence. Matt and Sorin did the dreaming, the planning and the travelling, but the connection economy was key to their success.
Matt and Sorin are the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada guys who, in 2011, threw caution to the wind and a dart at the map to choose a destination for an adventure of a lifetime. Dart thrown, they only had a month to sort out logistics and raise a heck of a lot of money for their trip to… (wait for it)…Svalbard, Norway.
Svalbard. Closest town to the North Pole. 24 hours of darkness. 2000 people. 3000 polar bears.
Now most of us, if we dared to throw the dart, would celebrate that it landed on Svalbard oops, slipsies count, Hawaii, and head straight on down to the closest convenience store to buy us a lottery ticket.
But Sorin and Matt? Not these guys. They got their “grit”, as Seth calls it, going. They made the decision to fundraise for the polar bear, as well as themselves. Polar Faith.com was on its way. Through their website, social and traditional media they shared the Polar Faith story.
And the story delighted us. We trusted, and connected to them because their story was fun, and they sounded like fun, too. They could be the guys next door. The story was new, told with passion, humour and some urgency. They didn’t have a lot of time, these guys, to make it on their way. Let's help.
We helped by further growing the connections. The story spread across Canada in the media and online.
I think we wanted Polar Faith to work, and so I hope backing was as successful as it seems. It was certainly convenient and trustworthy (paypal). As well, Matt and Sorin, returned the favor. From hand warmers to personalized videos, thank-you items scaled to financial contribution.
Matt and Sorin personally answered their emails. There was value in this. Everyone was giving and getting something for their part in the project. Connections and trust? Established.
By the way, this is where my personal involvement came in. I had just competed my large oil painting “Polar Bear Swimming in the Northern Lights” here and I planned for more paintings in the series. So why not give to a project that both captured my imagination and helped polar bears?
In return for my modest financial contribution to their trip, I received back more than my money’s worth. Shortly before New Years Eve 2011, a photo arrived in my email. Taken New Year’s Eve, Norway time, the bundled up duo stand in the dark under a North Pole sign. Thumbs up, they are holding a home-made sign with my url www.christinemontague.com My family roars with laughter (the wonder of the internet), I share it online in a blog click here and in Happy New Year Greetings emails to family, friends and clients. An 8 x 10 printout hung in my open artist studio at the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre until I left the end of 2012, and another one hung for months in the only public washroom there (whatever works). (Note: This photo, along with a nice shout out - is on the front page of their new website. Scroll down once you click www.travelbydart.com Thanks Guys!)
Matt and Sorin documented their very excellent adventure. The short film "Polar Faith" premiered March 3rd, 2013 at the Global Visions Films Festival, Edmonton, Alberta.
They have created a pilot for a television series “Travel by Dart”.
By Seth Godin’s definition of art, Matt and Sorin seized new ground and made connections between people and ideas. They may have started with a map, but continued without one. According to Seth ”these are works of art, and if you do them, you are an artist, regardless of whether you wear a smock..”
The journey’s the art, along with entrepreneurship, customer service, invention, connection, technology, leadership, and all those other thing Seth talks about in the evolution of fine art. The internet and “connection economy” allowed Matt and Sorin to share their invention “Polar Faith”, and fund their project. Previously, the final product, the film, was the “art”, and the journey, the prep work. In this new model, the journey, and the connections made are the art, and the movie and the TV show, the very fine byproduct.
Today is International Polar Bear Day. Here's an interesting FAQ page from Polar Bears International. http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/about-polar-bears/faqs
And although most of us have learned by now, that penguins and polar bears do not co-exist, I did not know "arctic comes from the Greek word for bear, and Antarctic comes from the Greek meaning the opposite, without bear" (Polar bears International).
How sad would it be, if re: the polar bear, "Antarctic " applied to the world?
Perhaps , all the snow we have received today in the Toronto Area, will not seem as miserable, if regarded as a tribute to the mighty ursus maritimus.
The little envelope containing my sketchbook from The Sketchbook Project, somehow was mislaid during my studio move, and completely out of mind with the excitement of family home for Christmas. My memory was suddenly jogged when The Sketchbook Project people wisely sent out a "deadline tomorrow" email yesterday.
There was no way I was going to miss out on this terrific drawing project where artists from around the world have their sketchbooks (provided by the project) on display in the Brooklyn Art Library (U.S.A.), as well as online, and in a travelling art show.
So, what to do?! With less than 24 hours to fill a sketchbook, I would do the student "thing" and CRAM which, by the way, became the sketchbook title, and maybe more than that , too.
And what did I draw? Why I followed The Sketchbook Project recommendations:
" The Sketchbook project is a space for new work and experiment - it's not intended to be a portfolio" and " ...follow your book wherever it takes you and change your mind along the way".
And that's exactly what I did, I veered off the course of the few sketches I had done before Christmas and my move out of my Williams Mill studio, and spent well into the night immersed into my polar bear fantasy world. You know how it is when you have a good book you can't put down? That's how I felt last night as I worked deep into the night with ease.
To read more about The Sketchbook Project 2013, and to mark it on your calendar to take part in, visit www.thesketchbookproject.com
Also I'd love to know what you think of my foray into fantasy illustration, and if you'd enjoy more posts on this.
No danger though, the seven polar bears in question are the 8" x 8" polar bear portrait oil paintings I completed earlier this year. This is their first excursion out of my Williams Mill studio, and you can see them at the Dragonfly Arts on Broadway Gallery in Orangeville, Ontario. Joan Hope, the very personable gallery owner, and a great lover of original art, and supporter of Canadian art & Canadian artists, saw them online and asked that I bring them in. Done!
These Ursus maritimus portrait oil paintings, inspired by Inukshuk, the Toronto Zoo's male polar bear, are studies for future larger artworks. Thus I have priced them similarly to my little portrait painting series (here) . They are 8" x 8" gallery mount canvases, framed in black floater frames, and are easily shipped.
If you would like to see these polar bear portraits in person or would like more information. Here is Dragonfly Arts contact information: 189 Broadway, Orangeville, ON L9W 1K2 (519) 941-5249 · dragonflyarts.ca
Here's the google map http://goo.gl/maps/fwP4
Well, I realize not quite like the remarkable story of the British Columbia man who can swim with the polar bears, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7rZTZBOrqQ&noredirect=1 but I hope you enjoy perusing these works online, or at Dragonfly Arts.
P.S. Orangeville has a delightful main street, Broadway, with Dragonfly Arts, home design shops, Orangeville Theatre, an art supply store and a myriad of restaurants for every taste. Plenty of free parking, too. I can't tell you how great it is to find parking almost in front of the gallery so I can unload my work with ease!
And for a great story about encounters with a polar besr listen to cbc radios The Wild Side with Grant Lawrence. It's great. http://www.cbc.ca/thewildside/
For some great reading about polar bears in Canadian north, and the effect of changes in snow on reproduction, read this related article
- Changing climate threatens to disrupt the denning habits of polar bears (vancouversun.com)
The seventh in the series of little polar bear portrait oil paintings joins the fifth and sixth portraits of polar bears in the moonlight. The Toronto Zoo's male polar bear “Inukshuk” is the model.
By painting these little portraits I am familiarizing myself with the shape of the polar bear's head and the structure of his eyes, snout and ears.
The eyes , although intelligent, are so small, I have to ignore my natural inclination is to paint them larger. I love painting his thick, rounded fuzzy ears - the only thing "teddy bear" about him. But I'm not fooled. In Portrait 8, which I also finished this week, I painted Inukshuk's very large teeth.
The sixth in the series of little polar bear portrait oil paintings now dries on my easel. The Toronto Zoo's male polar bear "Inukshuk" is once again the model, and as in the fifth portrait, he is lit by the moonlight. Two more of these little portraits are blocked in and waiting completion. Yup. Those big blank canvases are calling for attention now.
- New Portrait Painting: Polar Bear 5 (christinemontagueart.wordpress.com)
This is the fifth 8" x 8" polar bear portrait oil painting in my "Polar Bear Dreams" Series. Inukshuk, the male polar bear at the Toronto Zoo is my model.
The first four little portraits (here) in these series have aqua blue backgrounds that suggest ice. However, as the larger works in the series will feature polar bear in the night sky, I switched to the dark blue background. As much as I love the first four portraits, I am quite satisfied with the result.
Don't you feel you are there, with Inukshuk, in the moonlight?
I just wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year! Hot of the presses, I just received this Jan. 1st, 2012 photo of my url www.christinemontague.com from Matt Cook and Sorin Mihailovici, the "dart guys" from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Matt and Sorin, are presently in Svalbard, an archipelago in the arctic that makes up the northernmost part of Norway and where there are more polar bears than humans. It has been 2012 there for a few hours!
So why are these two adventurers (who I don't know) holding a poster with my web site markered on it up at Norway's North Pole?
Matt and Sorin are fundraising for the polar bear in a very unique, highly creative and fun way . Go to www.polarfaith.com to learn more and to follow their journey. You'll find out why they are called the "dart guys, too!
And, If you're like me, you'll
envy them , ...um, offer a bit of financial support to their very worthy cause.
Wishing you all two thumbs up for 2012 from here in southern Ontario . Not quite as exciting as one thumb up from Norway, but the wish is sincere all the same.