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 January of 2013, I took a course at George Brown College in Toronto on illustration for Children’s Books. This was the first formal studio courses I’d attended for marks since 1983. It was a great experience and I learned a lot in terms of composition and technique as a result. My work for this course led to a series of works related to Paul Gallico’s novella, THE SNOW GOOSE, first published in 1940 after the evacuation from Dunkirk. Subtitled “A Tale of Dunkirk,” it was a story about Philip Rhyadher, a reclusive artist, who while tending a lighthouse on the Essex coast in the last years before the outbreak of the Second World War, was approached by a girl of the marshlands who had found an injured snow goose that had been blown across the Atlantic from Canada. Rhyadher heals the bird and allows the girl, Fritha, into his life. A closeness between them develops as the years pass, with the snow goose being at the centre of their platonically loving relationship. Fritha becomes a woman who grows to love Philip, only to have the events of 1940 come between them.
No spoilers beyond that…
This story won awards when released in the U.S. in 1941 and helped Gallico establish himself as an author of note, creating later books like THOMASINA, and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. THE SNOW GOOSE itself was adapted into an award winning film for the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1973 with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter and while it does not appear to be available beyond the world of YouTube, audio books are more accessible to modern audiences.
I chose this book as the core work for my study in the class, developing several works around it and spending a lot of time researching the time, the location and extrapolating on ideas I was developing for the costumes. I even created a music mix to listen to while working on it, using music from JOYEUX NOEL by Philippe Rombi in a rearranged form intermixed with radio passages from Churchill and Chamberlain to add more weight to the work. Ironically, the music did so well in my mix, it was hard to remember it coming from that wonderful and so tragic film. It is available from Virgin Classics (0946 338279 2) and helped greatly in the creation of the final pieces below. I would also recommend you seek out the progressive rock group Camel’s album from 1975, THE SNOW GOOSE, inspired by the book. (Label: Decca – Universal Special Imports. ASIN: B00005V1B2)
I think the idea for doing this came from driving into Toronto one day for the class an seeing in the distance black oily smoke rising from a fire on the docks in Oshawa. It reminded me vividly of one of Peter Scott’s illustrations for the original edition of the book in 1941 and one thought jumped to another and the images below were the end result. I think my work on it in turn helped bring about the creation of MANNA later on.
SKETCH OF PROPOSED SETTING FOR STORY. 10×8″ graphite on acid free cardstock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
THE LOST PRINCESS. 11X14 in., graphite on acid free paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
I had never drawn a goose in my life. I used the same techniques I employed creating a piece I never put in the aviation art show of a Bristol Monoplane. The clouds were blended graphite with a white eraser being used to bring up the details.
RHYADHER’S BOAT. 9×12 in. graphite pencil on acid free cardstock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
This was a study of Philip’s boat, which figures prominently throughout the book. I made the sails a little transparent, as I had noticed in some of the photos of small sailing craft I studied, you could see the shadow of one of the sheets through another when the light was right.
FRITHA AND THE LOST PRINCESS- four different versions. 12w x 16h in. graphite pencil on vellum (60lb.) stock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.Other versions in watercolour, coloured pencil and mixed media and pen and ink on illustration board.
Here, after creating various thumbnails showing other compositional possibilities, was the first run at the final piece, sized the same as the hand-in work but done as a graphite tonal study. It remains one of my favourites. Fritha is as scruffy as Gallico describes her, with a dirty face. Mind you, if you saw the marshlands on the Essex coast, it would not be hard to imagine her this way. They look really wet. The overalls and top are all frayed and worn. Gallico never went into detail on her clothes, but I imagined one described as wild-looking as Fritha could look like this when she showed up on Rhyadher’s doorstep with this little bundle in her arms.
I joined Big Art Buzz, an artist’s collective for people across Ontario, in 2015. Besides having my work posted on the core website and its social media affiliates, I also enjoy the opportunity to display pieces in person at various events and to conduct demos. Here are some pictures from events that took place in recent years. The first images include pictures of the art work. The last two have me at my table with Keith Moreau, creator and organizer of Big Art Buzz, speaking with visitors. (I can say there’s somewhat less of me now than when those pictures were taken.) You can visit the site at www.bigartbuzz.com. Visit also the Big Art Buzz channel on YouTube. There is also the work of Keith Moreau on YouTube, which if you click on his name in this article you can see.
PART TWO: FIGURATIVE PIECES, STUDIES, LIFE DRAWINGS AND EXPERIMENTS
I have always said to my students if you can learn how to draw the human figure and water, you can do just about anything in flat art. Water is one challenge because it has so much movement, simple and complex shapes that constantly change, colour and transparency and so much more. The human figure is the other challenge because its structure has proportions that change over time, a shape that varies from person to person, lines, shapes, forms, textures and values, and so much more. The subject of the human face or figure is as old as art itself. Anyone wishing to create comics, animation, games and such must gain some understanding of how the figure is put together if there is to be any success in the workplace later.
To quote Andrew Loomis:
“The nude human figure must serve as the basis for all figure study. It is impossible to draw the clothed or draped figure without a knowledge of the structure and form of the figure underneath. The artist who cannot put the figure together properly does not have one chance in a thousand of success…. If you are offended by the body…give up all thought of a career in art.“
I agree with this and have yet to see anyone who can’t or won’t master the human form make a success of their work with the figure beyond being simple copyists of photos using grids or other ‘tricks’. The human figure, clothed or otherwise, is something that requires constant practice in mastering. Drawing from life is best, but I have found students have managed to achieve success from working with near life sized projections of computer generated models. The latter is not the ideal, but when circumstances dictate it, it’s better than downloading photos and copying them, allowing grids and such to dictate the creative process rather than freehand drawing, which can be more expressive and natural. With practice, the freehand approach becomes more polished and if precision is what is desired, it becomes achievable with greater ease.
It’s the same with painting. Look up close at one of John Singer Sargent’s portraits. A single, well placed dab of paint accomplishes so much. A single trained, expressive line in a drawing can do the same, acting like a signature for the artist and cutting to the core of the pose, which is why quick gesture drawings are so important as warm-ups.
We’ll explore this topic more in other posts. For now, from the archives, are some life drawing samples. The previous website featured clothed ones and portraits, and that is what you will see here. Click on the images in the galleries for hopefully larger versions. Many of these old pieces go back a few years. The day job and lack of life drawing classes in my area have made providing more updated images harder to acquire.
Here are some images drawn from photos for practice as much as anything else. Click on them, etc….
This next batch represents a sampling of paintings and mixed media pieces completed years ago. The first two pieces were modified significantly from photos, using new backgrounds, changed clothing and such. For the bubble blowing image, I can’t recall how I set that one up, but I suspect I probably used a computer generated model in Poser to pose the piece and work from there. In the case of the girls chasing the model airplanes across a field, I used wooden mannequins to pose the models. That piece earned me a place at the National Aviation Museum in their annual show of art from across the country and I still like the concept, but boy, would I ever do that one differently if I re-imagined it. NO MANNEQUINS would be the first rule. Those models you see these days from Japan are much more flexible than the wooden ones available years ago.
Another gallery from the archives, showcasing works completed over a number of years in different media. Where possible, I will try to include information on titles, dates of completion, size, media and so on. Enjoy!
All images here are copyrighted C.A. Seaman and may not be reproduced without permission.