Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts

JILL EHLERT - 12" X 12" - Mineral pigments, oyster shell white, oxidized Japanese silver leaf , pumice ground on cradle board.

JILL EHLERT - 12" X 12" - Mineral pigments, oyster shell white, oxidized Japanese silver leaf , pumice ground on cradle board.

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.


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.

The Floating Studio - aka the Marine Lab.

The Floating Studio

The Floating Studio in the evening.

The Floating Studio in the evening.


THE FLOATING STUDIO/THE MARINE LAB - A view from our workshop space and one of the critters we shared the space with.


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."


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.



The Sumi-E ink drawings above were incorporated into the mineral pigment painting below.

Jill Ehlert ©- 24" x 18" - Sumi-E Ink, Mineral pigments, Japanese silver leaf, antique Japanese pharmacy paper, punched holes on Washi paper mounted on cradle board.

Shadows as inspiration. Photos and work (12" x 12") by Jill Ehlert 


Working on a Sumi-E mat - made of wool and polyester felt.

Working on a Sumi-E mat - made of wool and polyester felt.

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.

Julie Mehretu

Author: Catherine de Zegher

Author: Catherine de Zegher


Julie Mehretu isan American artist who was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She studied at University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar (1990–91), earned a BA from Kalamazoo College, Michigan (1992), and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1997). She lives and works in New York City, NY and Berlin, Germany.

Julie Mehretu creates extremely large-scale acrylic paintings that refer to elements of architecture and mapping. Her work is often epic in proportions, with some pieces being as large as of 21 by 85 feet on canvas. The paintings are visually stunning, full of movement and an energy that seems to erupt and explode outward from a centrifugal force. These paintings are built using multiple layers of drawing with ink, pencil and acrylic paint. She pushes the boundaries between painting and drawing with her highly inventive and unique vocabulary of mark making. Swirling, flowing, erratic, combustible, bursting, choppy, staccato like marks, lines and symbols populate her work.

The focus and evolution of her studio practice comes from the language of drawing. In 1995 while in art school, Julie developed a personal visual language -- a system of marks and symbols that she uses in her work to this day.  She describes her visual language as an exploration that “goes back to the cellular level where language comes from” Laying down her individual marks in an indexical fashion, she reduced and deciphered the process until her glyph like forms became notational. Different artistic influences in her development are the Russian Constructivists, Kazimir Malevich, the Italian Futurists and Wassily Kandsinsky.  J.M.W. Turner’s skies and the atmosphere that he created in his paintings inspire her to paint forces like she senses in his work.

Julie’s rich vocabulary of symbols and glyphs remind me of the marks and lines in the etchings of Rembrandt. Mehretu’s mark making is also influenced by her experience with printmaking and Chinese calligraphy. She is also inspired by graffiti, video games and Japanese manga cartoons.

Julie recognized that one individual mark has a sense of power or social agency She describes: "the hand and mark create a ‘behaviour’ and that groups of similar marks can shift the surface of a picture by its behaviour depending on how they are drawn” for example: aggressive or passive; some groups or communities operate with one another or become devoured by each other. She feels her marks take on characteristics and in turn calls them “characters”. These characters and clusters of marks then needed a place to inhabit where they could behave, retaliate, be self-deterministic or battle with each other.

Looking to outside references, Mehretu typically begins a painting by layering her favoured source materials which usually consists of  detailed architectural plans or city maps. Her sources often incorporate schematic depictions of modern, historic or ancient buildings such as stadiums, military and industrial complexes, public spaces, airports, and financial institutions.

Julie creates these “story maps of no location” by projecting some of these references onto her support, using technical pens and rulers to trace them onto the ground. The work is preconceived and intentional. The drawing process references techniques of precision drawing by using a hard-edged geometric style. Mehretu uses Cartesian analysis throughout the research process in order to make sense of the invented places that create a context for her ‘characters’ to invade. At different points, she applies an acrylic and silica mixture which is painted and sanded smooth to create a translucent veil, which allows her to embed the drawn marks beneath creating a spatial depth.

Successive drawings traced become more abstracted through this multiple layering process. This additive and subtractive method is a transformative process that symbolizes change over history and in the painting itself. The top layer contains her painted language, which is applied loose and gestural; her calligraphic marks are painted with brush and ink through an intuitive organic process. Colour is referenced from the code colours on maps and culturally codified colours such as flags.

Mehretu’s paintings ‘depict social concerns of power, history and globalism layered with her own narrative of place, space and time that impact the formation of personal and communal identity’.

Paintings of the last few years include what she calls a ‘third space,’which emerges from the collision of the architectural drawings, her mark making and through repeated erasure. She metaphorically describes this third space “as the ruin or the un-building of space - a hybrid identity, an area of the sublime”. Mehretu describes all of these moments as being mashed together where a new potential emerges.

Julie’s central focus is always on the drawing process. She tries to understand her work through drawing; it is her point of entry and departure. Drawing is the backbone language of her practice, it informs and supports everything else in her work.  Written by Jill Ehlert

For more information on Julie:

PBS   Video: Art21   - This is a great video as are all the artist videos at this website

Audio interview from British Museum with Tim Marlowe and Julie Mehretu in conjunction with the show "Picasso to Julie Mehretu" modern drawings from the British Museum collection. 

Magazine Interview with Julie Mehretu and Lawrence Chua at

Art in America/November 2010 - article by Eleanor Heartney "Invisible Networks"

Check out Julie's work on Google Images


I just finished my 12-week "Directed Study" at the Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA) from this past winter semester. I met with Wendy Welch, the director of VISA every second week. 

VISA website describes the Directed Study: This course gives students an opportunity to work on a project under the supervision of a faculty member. Students submit an application that contains a proposal outlining what they intend to work on in their directed study. At the end of the project, students present their work to their advisor and one other faculty member for a final critique. Directed Studies can be taken up to a maximum of four times (Directed Studies I, II, III, IV). Days/times are scheduled on a per person basis. The student and advisor meet on a bi-weekly basis on a specified day and time for the duration of the semester. Directed Studies Students meet for one hour every two weeks and receive 36 credit hours upon completion. Prerequisite: enrollment in the Diploma Program or with permission of the Director. 

Final critique day with left, Danielle Hogan, middle, Jill and right, Wendy Welch. Wendy was my advisor and Danielle wass the other faculty member that was part of my last critique day. 

"Flow" - JIll Ehlert © - 48" x 48"

"Flow" - JIll Ehlert © - 48" x 48"

Panorama of the installation

I had 23 new works hung in the "Slide Room Gallery" for my critique. To see all the drawings click here.

To see this series finished click here.

Joan Mitchell

JOAN MITCHELL 1925 - 1992



The Joan Mitchell Foundation writes on their website that:

Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1925 and died in a Paris suburb in 1992. Her expatriate years began in the late 1950s and continued uninterrupted until her passing in Vetheuil, France. She occupied a celebrated stature in the generation that succeeded Pollock and Rothko. 

She declined the theoreticism of her European counterparts, and remained throughout her career the empirical American, personally accountable for her memories and emotions. 

Her work is characterized in many developments from the 1950s to the early 90s shortly prior to her passing. 

She usually worked on multiple panels or large scale canvases - striving to attract a natural rather than constructed rhythm from the composition, a rhythm emanating from the expansiveness of the gesture or from the unrestrained use of color and the pervasive luminosity. 

The titles of her last paintings suggest the abstract valleys and empirical fields of her beloved French countryside. 

In speaking of Mitchell, others tell us of her physical materiality - how she exudes the visual sentiments of nature - the objectivity of her painting, devoid of anecdote or theater and in her own words "to convey the feeling of the dying sunflower." 

Joan Mitchell as an abstract expressionist composes with long curvilinear strokes or broad stains of color, contrasting warm and cool, often on unprimed canvases. Her perceptions enrich her work with a fascinating sense of the unfinished. Joan Mitchell demonstrated in painting just as in life, anything can happen.

Ambiguous Abstraction

The following images are by Mark Bradford

Recently I received an email from  VISA (Vancouver Island School of Art) advertising a series of workshops titled "Painting Today". There were a couple of workshops that really caught my attention. One was a workshop called  "Ambiguous Abstraction" which they describe like this: 

"Ambiguous Abstraction refers to a kind of abstract imagery that opens up the question of the painting's content to a range of (often provocative) meaning and associations. 

In opposition to ‘pure abstraction’ where the subject of the painting is its own form, Ambiguous Abstraction flirts with personal and political content, and “can also embrace broad topics such as memory and presence, materiality and transcendence, and the flattening of high and low culture. Following are a few of the artists that paint in this style" Mark Bradford, Fabian Maracaccio, Terry Winters, Ingrid Calame, Ian McKeever, Beatriz Milhazes, Arturo Herrera 

In furthering my search on "Ambiguous Abstraction" 

I came across "Painting Today" by Tony Godfrey 

Painting Today by Tony Godfrey: Book Cover

"Painting Today"  presents an international roundup of the best painters of the past 40 years. 

Written by Tony Godfrey a 20-year veteran at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, the volume begins with a look at the Global Scene. Further chapters explore the neo-expressionist movement of the ‘80s, photorealism and the use of photography as a point of departure for painting, pure and ambiguous abstraction, history painting, painting space, and installation painting, as well as the requisite review of the figure, landscape, and still life. Chapters on Death and Life, the Leipzig School, Post-feminism, and Painting Tomorrow round out the beautifully designed, dynamic 448-page book, which includes 550 illustrations, artist biographies, and a chronology of painting since 1968." 

For a more in depth look at this book with links to many of the artists in this book check out the blog: