Observing

Image from Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chardin_pastel_selfportrait.jpg

I had a great book find a couple of weeks ago.

I discovered Alain de Botton‘s (1997) explanation of How Prost can change YOUR LIFE.

In it Alain has a chapter titled ‘How to Open Your Eyes’. He outlines how Proust regarded Jean-Baptise Chardin. Proust writes of his own essay on the painter:

In this study, I use the work of Chardin as an example, and I try to show its influence on our life, the charm and wisdom with which it coats our most modest moments by initiating us into the life of still life.

I liked Alain’s suggestion in following up on Proust’s account:

Great painters possess such power to open our eyes because of the unusual receptivity of their own eyes to aspects of visual experience …

This receptivity raises fundamental issues for all of us as to how we observe and sense the world around us. Interestingly, we all have a sense of the world that can be revealed by involuntary triggers … a smell, a fabric, a sound …

but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten small we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead, because we don’t remember them, but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.

Perhaps I was primed for this chapter after watching with my wife, Sue, the current SBS series The Impressionists presented by Waldemar Januszczak. In all three programs to date, the importance attached to observation has been at the forefront of discussions.

Photo by Margaret Zayer, http://www.lamaisondupastel.com/product.php
Photo by Margaret Zayer, http://www.lamaisondupastel.com/product.php

One delightful outcome of this week’s program (Painting the People) was to be introduced to the shop where Degas bought his pastels, La Maison du Pastel. I like this description of the Roché pastels:

At its height in the 1970s, the entire range of Roché pastels exceeded 1800 colours. Today, you will find an evolving and expanding collection of 650 colours, divided into ranges of nine gradations. Each range is composed of pure colours that are either gradated with white, black, or crossed with another colour.

Manufactured in small quantities, Roché pastels are individually hand-rolled into a form suitable for both bold and detailed work. With exceptionally lightfast pigments and a minimum of binder, the pastels possess a particular texture that allows them to adhere well to a number of supports, as well as display a remarkable intensity and clarity of color.

A limited range of half sticks, the Petits Roché, is available for those who are looking to try Roché pastels, but don’t know where to begin. 54 colours are represented in theme sets of 3, 12, and soon to be 36. They possess all of the qualities of the full sticks, minus the label.

Seeing the pastels sent me offer on another thought journey … how to be sufficiently good at observation and artistic expression to optimise the incredibly rich colours of the pastels. I liked the idea that there were Petits Roché to give a start.

Perhaps there is something here for new and experienced teachers and coaches.

 

#SpCP13 Observation and Augmented Information

This week’s topic in #SpCP13 at the University of Canberra is Observation and Augmented Information.

In this presentation I have an opportunity to mention Ian Franks, Richard Schmidt, David Berliner, and Muska Mosston.

This is the SlideCast.

Learning from Margaret and Ben

Last week the ABC’s Artscape broadcasted a beautiful program about the life and work of Margaret Olley.

An ABC Arts blog post about the program, Margaret Olley: A Life in Paint, links to the program and another program about her, Miss Olley.

An exhibition of photographs, See you tomorrow at 2, taken by Greg Weight in Margaret’s studio opened yesterday (29 July) at the Australian Galleries.

I thought the Artscape program was one of the best documentaries I have seen. There was a great amount of conversation with and about Margaret. I loved her studio home and the aesthetic it created.

As the documentary progressed I was struck forcefully by the way Margaret talked about observation, composition and light.

Ben Quilty was in the program too. I had seen his Archibald Prize winning portrait of Margaret in 2011 and read that when he first asked her to sit for him she refused: “Margaret didn’t understand why anyone would want to see a portrait of her.” She did relent and Ben was able  to celebrate a friend and mentor who had a “powerful bearing on my career.” The portrait is in oil on linen in a bright palette which paid “homage to Olley’s famous studio which is full of striking colour and “translucent works- in-progress”.”

By the end of the program I was thinking that whenever I talk about observation I will have a new language to share. I was enchanted by the studio (Margaret’s home) and it encouraged me to think about learning spaces and creativity. Margaret’s artifacts from her studio will be relocated to the Tweed River Art Gallery.

I wonder if education and sport can learn from the possibilities created by translucent works in progress.

Photo Credit

Margaret Olley (ABC Arts)