In a new adventure, I signed up for a course in Colour Theory Foundation at George Brown College and got the chance to deepen my understanding of how colour works in art. I taught colour theory during my many years in the classroom, but the knowledge needed to get points across to my audience of adolescents was superficial compared to what I was able to examine here. It was a struggle at first, climbing to the top of the hill of existing knowledge to see from its summit the new world laid bare before me.
Working with military subjects, my palette has often been restricted to earth tones. Even when completing figurative art, intense hues were not exactly what I would be reaching for when placing them in the mixing trays. The opportunity to work with hues out of the tube in gouache has turned out to be a fun process, reuniting me with a medium I enjoy painting with.
From this point, I created a motif and used it for the subsequent pieces. I wanted to resist going to the old standby of aviation, as suggested by the instructor, but after much stewing and sketching, I saw saw on Instagram a picture of a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire entitled ‘A Perfect Example of Primary Colours’ and realised that was it.
The next step was to create twelve studies of the aircraft in mixes of complimentary colours. What follows are the studies and a new composite piece I created from them.
The next piece was to use the motif in a colour wheel featuring a shopping list of colour effects, including complimentary pairs, triads, tetrads, analagous colours and… the Bezold Effect! This one was so complex that I completed a primer to identify what colours went where in the piece. I then pulled out the paints and applied them using the primer one hue at a time. The images below show some of the process behind this piece.
The final piece, scanned and in a better resolution follows below…
Outside of the other galleries are works I post here because they sit apart from the archival works or other illustrative pieces seen in that directory. Where possible, I will include information about the media and size of each piece. I hope you enjoy them.
I hadn’t done much with nature scenes in the past, but helping so many students with their drawings of animals gave me a sense of wanting to try it. So here it is, an original design cobbled together from different images showing these birds on perches of different kinds. The wood and doorway is, like the bird, a new creation. I started it in the winter of 2013, left it when I was working on other projects, revisited it before Christmas of 2014 and left it again until recently when I just sat down and finished it.
ENGLISH ROBIN. 8.5×10″, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015
WESTERN FRONT FANTASIES
In 2013, before I gave a lecture and presentation on war art in Canada from the past to the present, I examined the idea of creating new images of conflict based on researching primary source material like photos and accounts and then working from there to draw or paint imagined scenes of action or devastation. The Western Front as a landscape subject itself inspired many artists at the time and was a formative influence on members of the Group of Seven who served overseas during the First World War. If you look at some of the landscapes produced in the 1920s by some of them, the stripped trees of the Ontario north could just as easily be Belgium or ‘some field in France’.
We know the Group of Seven created oil sketches on site during their painting trips into Algonquin and other places, using them to develop finished paintings later in their studios. I wondered what I could do to create imaginary scenes from the photos in books about the war. The works below are the result. They were created with no rough drafts straight onto the final support as spontaneously as posssible, as if done ‘on the spot’ in the field. The first piece used charcoal, conte and Wolff pencils, carefully building the composition from background to foreground. The second one was done on some new black paper from Australia, recently arrived in Curry’s art supply store. I was the first customer to purchase the paper and try it out. The surface is very grainy, like a kind of sandpaper, which made it great for blending the colours and creating light effects like the rolling smoke in the distance and the shaft of light coming through the shattered window of the ruined church.
When they were first displayed at the lecture in 2013, they created a stir next to the more recognizable aviation works I had done, which are shown if you scroll down the screen. We discussed the fact that video games, graphic novels and films already undertake this kind of historic re-creation in their media. Using traditional media to create images like those realised by official war artists years ago was not something any of us present at the show had recalled seeing before.
The other thing that struck viewers of the work as intriguing was how oddly peaceful the first image was. “The war is definitely over. Look at the hope in that sky,” commented one person. I would be interested in hearing how viewers would react to it now, since the release of the Oscar winning film 1917.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.1. 14×11″ Wolff pencils, charcoal and conte on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.2. 11×14″ conte on black paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
The next piece was a little Christmas project, imagined the same way as the war pieces above. It was a piece to practice pushing backgrounds into the background, softening them up to not fight with the foreground elements.
I needed a demo piece for teaching pen and ink to some of my senior students. As professional development, I used the last few days after shutting down the classroom studio for the summer to create this work, using ink and wash- the first I had done since the works in Cartooning 2 at George Brown and the first ever in colour. I gave the place a crooked roof and cobbled it together from bits and pieces of various places I’d photographed during my last trip to England. So, if you, like others I’ve shown this to, want to visit the place, you will need to travel through the landscape of my imagination to reach it. (It sounds so Rod Serling, don’t you think?) Here is a sequence of photos showing the piece as it was completed. I hope you find them useful.
A COTTAGE IN THE COUNTRY. 10×8″ ink and wash on watercolour board. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2017.
STUDY IN OWLS
Here was a little study I did of a stuffed owl at a conservation center in Northumberland Region. It was found dead and brought to the center, where it was set up and prepared for display. I enjoyed working on it in coloured pastel pencils, so I thought I’d throw it in.
OWL STUDY.9×12″ pastel pencil and charcoal mixed media on art paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman 2018.
In my courses at George Brown, a valuable part of the instructive process involved reproducing panels from existing cartoons, comic strips and graphic novels. It was a great way to learn the techniques of others, test one’s observation skills, and through the use of comparable media, broaden one’s range in terms of drawing and painting. In one case, reproducing a comic strip had us taking the last panel- which had been blanked out- and creating our own ending for it. Cheating by looking up the original strip was not encouraged. Tracing wasn’t an option either. These exercises were meant to give us something like an atelier experience, where students can spend years copying from plasters and the works of the old masters before venturing out to create their own pieces from scratch. It worked for us. I remember one of the most unusual things I had to sort out was a foot belonging to Dennis the Menace. Hank Ketchum’s rendering of it was stylized, to say the least. In among the other elements, it was unremarkable. Once you looked at it on its own, it became something otherworldly and very strange.