Art and Science
Click here to view more photos from the opening night and to watch a video of Jill describing her sources of inspiration and some of her art processes.
Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts
I attended a 5-day workshop July 3-7, 2017 with instructor Judith Kruger at the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA). I had a fabulous experience. The workshop was exciting, challenging, filled with new materials, tools and techniques. Judith has boundless energy, a knowledgeable teacher who is dedicated to Nihonga - "traditional Japanese mineral pigment painting". Judith amalgamates this ancient form of painting with her contemporary art practice, "exploring the formal and conceptual junctures between historic process and modernity as an ongoing project".
Everything in this workshop was new to me. We made our own paint and ink from organic and inorganic matter like cured oyster shells, minerals, natural ores, pine soot, mica and silica. We made a natural glue from cow cartilage to act as the binder. The materials are ecological, non-toxic and water-based. We worked with Japanese silver leaf and learned methods to oxidize it. Judith demonstrated how to mount Washi and stretch watercolour paper onto a cradle board. It was an action-packed week.
The Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts has been providing high caliber specialized workshops for artists, teachers and serious adult students since 1984. MISSA has a reputation for hosting local, national and international instructors who engage with students in an intense multidisciplinary environment. MISSA welcomes students from around the world to participate in an artistic emersion for two weeks every summer.
Artists from near and far have come together each summer to the Pearson College campus to share in spirited creative exchange. The school is positioned on the sheltered shores of Pedder Bay and looks out to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains beyond. The campus setting provides a stimulating natural environment for artistic development and exploration. It’s easy to understand why so many return year after year to be part of the ‘MISSA Magic’!
MISSA takes place every summer on the campus of Pearson College, while the students are away. Participants at MISSA can stay in college style dorms where internationals students have spent their school year. The college campus is designed in a West Coast Modern style and takes the from of a seaside village with buildings of native cedar clustered on 75 acres of old growth rainforest. The simple, low-slung structures are linked by footpaths and stand in harmony with the surrounding landscape.
THE WORKSHOP SPACE - THE FLOATING STUDIO
I was fortunate to attend a 5-day workshop July 3-7 which was held in the "Floating Studio", also known as the marine lab during the regular school year at Pearson College. The Pearson campus is in a fabulous location on Pedder Bay - truly a magical place. I stayed in residence for the duration of the week. Resident students arrive the day before, on Sunday night and also stay the night of the final day of class, for a total of six nights and leaving on the seventh day. The food is fabulous and all one has to do is art all day with all meals and snacks provided. Students can go back to the studio in the evenings.
Photos by Jill Ehlert unless otherwise stated.
REFLECTIONS AROUND THE FLOATING STUDIO
THE FLOATING STUDIO/THE MARINE LAB - A view from our workshop space and one of the critters we shared the space with.
THE WORKSHOP - "ABSTRACT ALCHEMY: BLACK, WHITE AND WARM METALLICS"
A Description of the workshop from the MISSA catalogue "In this course, students will reinterpret nature’s deep imagery and essence with a limited palette using matter from nature itself. Participants will make paint, ink and home-made gesso from inorganic and organic sources including pine soot, shells, and minerals. Natural metallics will be introduced for warmth. These arcane processes have been employed for thousands of years on ancient Asian screens and scrolls. Collage can be added and embedded for depth. A variety of drawing and painting techniques will be introduced to yield meaningful, process-driven, ecological work on varied supports, embedded with individualized expression, heart and spirit."
THE INSTRUCTOR - JUDITH KRUGER
Judith Kruger, is an American visual artist whose paintings, prints and mixed media works address Human-Environment connectivity and their shared vulnerabilities. She is recognized internationally for her advocacy of natural painting materials and historic, ecological processes.
Judith currently resides in Northwest, CT. Her studio is located in an old hosiery mill, 125 miles north of New York City, at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Click here to read Judith's artist statement.
SOME OF THE TOOLS AND MATERIALS IN THE WORKSHOP
DRAWING/PAINTING WITH SUMI-E INK
The Sumi-E ink drawings above were incorporated into the mineral pigment painting below.
Shadows as inspiration. Photos and work (12" x 12") by Jill Ehlert
My WORK IN PROGRESS AT MISSA
Water reflections as inspiration. Experimentation with Sumi-E ink, wax relief, Japanese silver leaf and mineral pigments on illustration board - 12" x 9"
I learned so many new techniques and had a good introduction to mineral pigments. This was an excellent workshop that I would recommend. Click here to see Judith Kruger's workshop page for 2018.
Jill Ehlert - solo show at the Stairwell Gallery - Victoria, BC - July/August
The Stairwell Gallery is a space devoted to the visual arts in St Philip Anglican Church. The gallery is open for viewing Monday to Friday 9am to noon and by appointment.
STATEMENT - JILL EHLERT
The body of work in the "Stairwell Gallery" and Sanctuary explore stages of the Life Cycle. "Birth - Growth - Maturity - Decay - Death - Renewal" - I am fascinated by the series of changes and transformations that an organism undergoes as it returns to the starting state.
The six drawings at the bottom of the stairwell are an exploration into the later stages of maturity and decay. Shrivelled forms of a day lily…the decaying structure of a Hosta leaf…the beautiful form of the poppy capsule -full of seeds ready for renewal.
The two triptychs in the Sanctuary are part of a series titled "Transformations". I combined dissimilar objects such as pomegranates, plankton, pears, decorative curtain tassels, the inner ear and the mechanical structure of a potato masher. These forms were simplified into smaller components through a process of drawing, editing and refining. I intermixed these unlikely combinations, creating an invented language of organic shapes.
The work on the right hand side of the stairwell and the little painted pieces on the bulletin board are invented idiosyncratic shapes inspired from those found within my "Transformations" series - keeping in mind natural forms and stages of birth and growth.
Studies on the bulletin board show my ongoing interest in the structure and stages of nature.
Natural History Illustration workshop that I participated in.
From October to Decemebr 2016 - I participated in this six-week online course through edX and the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Here is a video describing the course.
The course covered:
- Core scientific observational skills
- Field drawing and sketching techniques
- Concept sketch development
- Composition for natural history illustration
- Form, proportion and structure essentials
- Drawing and rendering techniques
This was an excellent course, I really learned a lot. I would recommend this course to anyone. I am not sure when they will run it again. The website was easy to navigate and to figure out. We learned about self-assessment and peer-assessment which was really valuable. We uploaded our homework for peer review from 5 other students. We could also upload our work to a general area for all to see and comment on. There was some fantastic work being done from students all over the world. There were many short videos to view, lots to read along with images and each module had a list of resources. I came away with new skills and an excitement to get out into field to collect specimens, so some field sketching and finished drawings back in the studio. The course was free - I am not sure why...the University of Newcastle is one of five universities to offer a Masters in Natural History Illustration - perhaps this is there way of gaining interest in the program. I decided to pay for a verifiable certificate that shows I completed and got a passing grade in a course of study offered by NewcastleX.
Below are images of the pencil work that I did for the course. The photographs are field studies showing location and the ecology of the area. The ruler gives scale to the seaweed and surrounding area. The field notes show detail, colour notation, form, structure and descriptive records. Click on an image to view larger images and a slide show.
"The Big World of Small" was inspired during my attendance at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Check out my blog for various descriptions of this adventure.
This painting was part of the fund raising art exhibit
"Oceans of Art" held June 11 - 27th 2009 in Nanaimo, BC.
is a fund raising collaboration between Art and Science. Artists inspired at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre contributed work for sale, and non-gallery proceeds will provide bursaries for schools to participate in BMSC's Public Education Program. The paintings are now on display at BMSC's RIX Centre for Ocean Discoveries.
My painting is actually still showing at the Nanaimo Art Gallery.
Our last evening in Bamfield we had a lab looking at plankton under a microscope; I was blown away by the beauty of these tiny creatures that came alive under the microscopic gaze. The following pictures and words are from a fabulous website calle Image Quest 3D. Please go there to see hundred's of fantastic images and articles. They will sweep you away.
Photos/ Image Quest 3D photo
Image-Quest 3D website has the following to say about plankton:
"The word plankton means, “that which drifts”. By this token a colossal number of marine creatures, both plants and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, qualify as members of this extraordinarily important mass of life that glides and wanders, flaps and flips, floats and flies, sinks and swims within the oceans. The very biggest jellyfish weigh more than half a tonne, some deep sea relatives of the Portuguese Man-O-War would cover a football pitch and some of the colonial salps are the size and shape of ballistic missiles.
Much of plankton is small. Diminutive though these forms are in size, their habits, colour, life cycles and relationships are some of the most bizarre in the animal kingdom and many billions directly comprise the staple diet of the ocean’s very largest inhabitants."
"This resource is much more important for the survival of this planet than all the rainforests and prairies put together. The microscopic plants of the sunlit surface waters of the oceans capture more oxygen than all other life forms. These are the organisms most likely to be affected by global warming, climate change and man’s indiscriminate and careless pollution of the oceans. Not only are they incredibly important, they are miracles of design and structure. Victorian microscopists recognised this and converted millions into microscope slides. Those illustrated in image number two are just such an example. Many of the colours are structural - like oil on water. All images are approximately x15,000."
Content from Image Quest 3D.
We were so busy while at Bamfield moving from one activity to another that there really wasn't much time for doing art. I managed to get the following sketches done. I have tons of photos for ideas.
Quick pencil sketch of a Copper Rock Fish from the Aquarium in The Rix Centre. I painted the background later at home using a techinque that Mark Hobson demonstrated for us.
Algal Art - Pressed seaweeds
We had a really good lecture on seaweeds by the Bamfield Marince Sciences Centre Public Education Coordinator Anne Stewart. Anne's team had gathered dozens of examples of seaweed for us to look at which were displayed in water-filled glass dishes. Anne described how to make "Algal Art": select pieces of seaweed, lay those on top of a piece of wet paper that has a fibre content that is low in acidity and high in absorbency. Lay this in a press to dry flat. Heavy duty wax paper was laid over top of the piece and then placed between many sheets of newspaper, j-cloths and cardboard. This takes several days to dry.
The top sketch was done en plein air while at Brady's beach. It was quite cold that day and I was sitting on my life vest on top of a log that had frost coming out of it as the morning warmed up a bit. I worked on a page in my sketch book that I had toned in blue along with some mark-making done with a couple of stamps I had made. I did this background preparation before I left home. I worked on site using a soft water soluable graphite pencil and later in the whale lab I added in the white washes to the sky and water.
The two photos I took that morning as well, but it was only a few minutes ago that I compared the sketch to the photos.
A lecture and demonstration by Mark Hobson was the main event for the first evening of our artist retreat. Mark gave a talk on his early life teaching science at Shawnigan Lake School and how he got to painting full-time and living in Tofino, BC on a float home. Mark gave a great demonstration on mixing ocean blue-greens and advice on how to paint underwater scenes especially of seaweeds. Our big group of 44 was divided into 4 groups and I was lucky enough to have Mark in our group. Mark is full of joy and he happily shared his knowledge of the natural world. He is a really nice person with a big heart, who was always jolly -- he was a lot of fun to be around.
On our way to Grappler Inlet
Mark Hobson is based in Tofino BC., on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island where he has painted for over twenty years. A diverse artist in both subject and media, he is equally comfortable in watercolour, oils, and acrylics. Mark is best known for his passionate portrayals of the B.C. coast, from pounding surf to sheltered cove; from rainforests to the underwater realm. The richness of the natural environment and its wildlife comes alive in his work. Professionally trained as a biologist, he taught high school science for nine years before painting as a career. Self-taught as an artist, his paintings are simultaneously accurate and sensitive depictions of the many moods of wilderness and rural landscapes.
The M/V Alta was built in 1981-82 by Little Hoquiam Shipyards, WA. The Alta operates bottom trawls, dredges and hydrographic instrumentation, has a range of 600+ nautical miles and a running speed of 9.5 knots. Maximum capacity is 12 passengers plus crew.
We spent an hour and a half on the M/V Alta out in open water cruising around the group of Deer Islands. There's Jeanne again.
The captain did an open ocean sampling, the dredge brings up a big bucket of what looks like sand and broken shell and dumps it in a big container. After our instructor Anne Stewart added ocean water she then separated things and found all these treasures which she put in the yellow dish pan. What delighted us the most was a little tiny baby octupus about two inches long. The beige coloured octupus darted around madly and squirted ink a couple of times; Anne immediately scooped the toxic ink out of the yellow container. The little octupus found refuge on top of the big star fish and went from beige to red and crumpled itself down into a little mass shape that looked like worms in order to disguise itself. Here it is on the side of the dish pan still in it's red colour. looking for a corner to hide.
On our way to Grappler Inlet - Jeanne Aten - my friend and roommate
The end of Grappler Inlet
Gray Whale skeleton
The Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries is a combination conference centre, teaching facility, and marine sciences laboratory for the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. The purpose of the Rix Centre is to facilitate the interaction between leading edge marine sciences research and entrepreneurial business interests. The 1200 sq.m. facility includes a spectacular ‘shell’ roofed & glazed reception area overlooking Barkley Sound, a combination classroom and lecture hall space also on the upper level, and both wet and dry laboratories, computer laboratories, seminar rooms, and offices on the lower level. The superior acoustics of the main reception hall prompted Music-by-the-Sea to choose The Rix Centre as venue for their annual music school and festival.
View out the window of "The Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries" looking across to the Coast Guard Station which is on the west side of Bamfield inlet.
On our way to West Bamfield which is across the Bamfield inlet from the Marine Sciences Centre. You can see another skiff in the background being filled with artists. That is Cindy Mawle and Wax Williams in the boat I am travelling in. This was about a two minute boat ride.
Brady's Beach and open water