Tag Archives: ontario trillium foundation

Painting outside the lines

31 Oct

watercolour4By Diva Shari Parsons

EXETER – Aside from my love of photography, I have also wanted to learn how to paint something other than the walls of my home. Recently, I had the opportunity to “test drive my creative side” by attending a watercolour painting workshop sponsored by Creative Huron and held at the lovely Exeter Public Library.

The instructor was a lovely lady from Port Albert, Michele Miller, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Guelph. Michele told us that she has been painting since she was a child, mainly using oil or acrylic paints. This changed about 12 years ago after she took a watercolour class and the experience “transformed her painting”. She now paints almost exclusively with watercolours.

Michele began the workshop by telling us that anybody can learn to paint; it is just a matter of training your brain to paint what you see, not what you know, and, of course, to practice, practice, practice!

During the course of the workshop we learned about watercolour materials such as paints, paper and brushes. Michele showed us how to “stretch” our paper before painting so that it wouldn’t buckle.

watercolour2We did a short exercise on “value”, which is lights and darks, by learning how to paint using the “gradation” technique of starting off with the darkest value of a colour and then painting lighter and lighter values by adding a bit more water each time. Michele told us that traditional watercolourists don’t use white and rarely use black. We then tried our hand painting a still life of a coffee mug using the gradation technique. I found this exercise quite challenging as it also involved the practice of painting what I saw rather than what I knew about the mug. This meant that I was not painting stiff and formal black lines but looser shadows and highlights.

Our next exercise involved colour. Michele instructed us on how to make a colour watercolour5wheel using the primary colours of red, blue and yellow. Then we learned how to mix primary colours to make secondary colours such as green, orange and purple. She taught us that warm colours make objects appear to move forward and cool colours make objects recede. The use of warm and cool colours causes contrast and the more the contrast the more stimulating a picture is to look at. Michele also taught us that the use of complimentary colours, those opposite each other on the colour wheel, can really make colours “pop”.

The final subject of the workshop was composition, which is the layout or arrangement of the painting. Composition has a huge impact on the success of a watercolour3painting. There are two basic rules of composition: 1) never make any two intervals or spaces the same, and 2) establish a focal point – the main point of interest in the picture. “The Rule of Thirds” is used to divide up the canvas and establish the painting’s intervals and focal points. A symmetrical arrangement is not as interesting as an asymmetrical one.

Along with composition, Michele taught us how to create a mix of “hard” and “soft” edges while painting in order to create flow or movement through a painting.

Our final task was to paint a scene of sky, water and beach using all the techniques we had learned that day. A happy accident created a lovely texture to one corner of watercolour6my sky. When I was lamenting the result, Michele told us that it was important to try different techniques and that often “accidents” turned out to be something wonderful.

The four-hour workshop cost only $20 and included all the materials. I say that it was a “bargoon” for such a wonderful time!

This series of classes is produced by Huron Arts & Heritage Network and the County of Huron Cultural Services Department along with partner arts organizations: Art aRound Town,Blyth East Side Dance, Blyth Festival, Elizabeth’s Art Gallery, Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, Goderich Little Theatre, Libro Imagine Huron and Worth Their Salt. Funding is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation so that registration to all workshops is just $20.

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Guitarists jam in Rock and Roll Band Camp

21 Sep
Adam Cyr, at right, jams with students James Alcock, David Mackechnie and Aaron Neeb in Rock and Roll Band Camp.

Adam Cyr, at right, jams with students James Alcock, David Mackechnie and Aaron Neeb in Rock and Roll Band Camp.

By Diva Heather Boa

EXETER – Four musicians hunch over their guitars, listening to Tragically Hip’s Nautical Disaster, a classic garage-rock song about mass death at sea during World War II.

As lead singer Gordon Downie makes his way through the first 50 seconds, their fingers hover over the taut nylon strings, their heads bob and tilt to catch the cue. There it is: Downie says the magic words “…coast of France” and they jump into the song with two electric, one bass and one acoustic guitar. Feet pound, bodies lurch, heads rock.

I think this is a magical moment, when four guys forget the world and just rock out, strains of their music wafting down the staircase and out onto Exeter’s main street on an otherwise quiet evening. I no longer make any of them self-conscious, scribbling notes and taking photos from the sidelines at this Rock and Roll Band Camp, part of Creative Huron’s Test Drive Your Creative Side. In this moment, I probably don’t exist and they’ve even forgotten they’re in the Odd Fellows and Rebekah lodge, sharing space with a dartboard, massive pool table and old black and white photos hung on the walls. They are lost in their guitars, and loving it.

The band camp is led by Adam Cyr, who plays in local bands and teaches guitar, bass and drums and his business Joyful Sounds, which is based in South Huron. Tonight is the third session for his students, who are learning new techniques and cords, and jamming. As they play songs like Last Kiss by Wayne Cochran and Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones, Adam throws out tips and talks about things like “down, down, switch,” “1, 4, 5 blues,” “staying on the dots,” “doing some blues licks” and other things about which I know nothing. But his fellow guitarists nod in agreement and adjust their playing based on his instructions.

Creative Huron’s Test Drive Your Creative Side is a comprehensive series of classes with a maximum eight hours of instruction, designed to introduce beginners to the arts. Classes led by local artists range from Latin dance to voice, watercolours to sound systems, needle felt to lantern making. Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, classes are just $20 each.

There are still plenty of classes available to let you test drive your creative side. Give it a go.

This series of classes is produced by Huron Arts & Heritage Network and the County of Huron Cultural Services Department along with partner arts organizations: Art aRound Town,Blyth East Side Dance, Blyth Festival, Elizabeth’s Art Gallery, Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, Goderich Little Theatre, Imagine Huron and Worth Their Salt.