Peter Sansom - Artist Workshops (art/clil) Adult Education School Resources
Adult Education

Nostalgia


Nostalgia is a very broad term and in an artistic context can be picked up and developed in an assortment of ways.  Consider the following:


There are artists who have approached their work with a strong sense of nostalgia, think about the Pre-Raphaelites for instance. But maybe it equally interesting to reference the work of artists who didn't necessarily set out to produce nostalgic art, but with the passage of time their work has taken on a nostalgic feel, Edward Hopper for instance.


Another interesting route might be to take on items that change rapidly through the years and use them in the design of compositions. Consider:


Urban decay


The ideas of the picturesque and aesthetic beauty are concepts that have a strong and long running tradition in western art. Over the years both in painting and perhaps even more so in photography decay and decline has gained its own sense of aesthetics and beauty - think of the work of photographers who focus their attention on close ups of peeling paint, crumbling architecture and rusting vehicles.

The Netherlands perhaps doesn't have the wealth of urban decay that some other countries do. We do seem to have a strong tendency to tidy things up! But if you look carefully there are possibilities, think for instance about the remnants of old industry on the Enka site in Ede or a rusting and graffiti covered train left in a siding outside a station.

The internet of course has a limitless supply of this sort of imagery if you search a little.


One word of advice when you make or search for your source material, try to be selective and be careful not to gather too broad a view point, frame it carefully and work with the most interesting part.


Some artists and art to consider:


Frames of viewing


All figurative paintings rely to a degree on a framing device, they might not literally be in a frame, but the edges of the canvas still work as a sort of window through which we look, shutting off some areas and allowing us to see others. But within the painting itself there may be any number of other frames or framing devices through which our vision passes. These could literally be a window frame or doorway that frames our viewpoint, but it could equally be a visual restriction formed by other forms such as trees, a group of figures, an alley way between buildings or other large scale objects.

For this assignment you have to create a composition where our sight line(s) is/are clearly effected by the presence of restrictive elements in the composition. Try and think creatively, it could be through a car or aeroplane window, between the hulls or ships passing in the harbour or through the opening of a rubbish bin!


The above description refers clearly to figurative art, but there is no reason why you shouldn't approach this assignment with an abstract composition.


A few names and works for inspiration and ideas:


Fragmentation


This is perhaps one of the more challenging assignments in this list, or at least one than is open to a more personal interpretation.  Fragmentation means literally the breaking up into smaller parts. A porcelain teapot that crashes to the floor in the kitchen and smashes into hundreds of pieces is a form of fragmentation. A society that consists of countless groups and sub-cultures is said to be a fragmented society and an over full hard disk on your computer packed with files and folders is said to be in need of de-fragmentation.

The example of the computer hard disk is quite an abstract idea, the teapot a lot more literal, but maybe you have your own ideas on what fragmentation might mean for you.


Your composition may show/document fragmented objects from the real world (as in the example of the teapot) or painting itself could be a complex form of fragmentation made up of numerous parts (either figurative or abstract).


Spatial effects


The illusion of space is at the centre of the work of the visual artist. A painting is almost always a two dimensional object that aims to create some sort of deception or illusion of depth.  This might be quite a small or shallow effect, or it could be intended to be kilometers deep!

A painter has a number of options to help create these spatial effects that can be used individually or be combined to achieve often spectacular effects.

 Linear Perspective, a discovery of Renaissance artists

 Aerial or Atmospheric Perspective, used by many painters, but particularly favored by the Impressionists - the intensity or colours and tones lessens the further away things get

 Overlapping - a relatively simple approach but one that offers easy spatial depth


Spatial depth is obviously important in figurative art, but also in abstract art, look at the work of:


Inspired by Japanese wood block prints


When the art of Japanese woodblock printmakers first started to reach Europe in the nineteenth century they presented a new way looking at and representing of, the world around us.

The sharp graphic techniques were new and different and surprising to the eyes of Western European artists.  The images had a powerful simplicity that hadn't been seen before. But there were also other quite radical approaches such as often quite uncomfortable cutting off of parts of the composition by the frame of the picture. This might mean for example, a person who is half in and half out of the image or a building that is strangely cut off. Interesting and unusual uses of perspective that were different to the perspective developed during the Renaissance in the west were also common and fascinatingly different for European eyes.

The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists were particularly interested in these new and surprising approaches.  Many of them started to collect the prints for themselves and they began in turn to influence their own work. Painters such as Van Gogh and Degas were particularly impressed and clear connections can be found in their paintings.

Take an extended look at the work of the Japanese woodblock printers and develop your own compositions using some their works as a starting point.


Artists to look at:


The abstract in the real world


Dutch photographer Gerco de Ruijter takes landscape photographs. There is nothing manipulated in his work, there is no use of digital photographic techniques.  What makes his work unusual are the angles he photographs from and the subjects that he chooses. Most of his subjects he photographs from the air above them by making use of a relatively low technology of a kite to which he attaches his camera.

In many of the specific subjects that he chooses focus on man's interventions in the landscape and have a strong abstract quality to them.


Use one of de Ruijter's photographs (or something similar that you have found for yourself) as the starting point for an abstract composition. You do not have to keep the colouring, composition or framing of the original photograph.


Website to look at:


Musical inspiration


The link between music and visual art is one that is often discussed, particularly in relation to abstract art.  Where music presents us with a collection of sounds, rhythms, tones and patterns that have no directly recognizable relationship with the physical world around us, abstract art gives us shapes, lines, forms, colours and textures. Both music and abstract art are involved in constructing compositions or arrangements - it is no coincidence that much of the language we use for both creative approaches it interchangeable!


Everyone has their own favourite sort of music, rock, pop, classical, jazz and so on. How can you take the essence of your own particular musical preference and give it a visual (and abstract) form? It is probably easiest to do this with a piece of instrumental music to prevent having too much distraction from lyrics or text., but having chosen a piece of, or type of, music consider the following:


This is an assignment where there are endless variations possible, so experiment first on paper with both composition all arrangements and possible uses of colour.


There are many artists who might be interesting to look at in relationship to this assignment. Some might acknowledge a link with music others not necessarily but within the context of this assignment are certainly interesting to consider:

 

The architecture and structures of plants


Plants and flowers have been the theme for many artists for a very long time. For this assignment though it is not so much about a vase of flowers on a table, it is more about getting in close and taking a look at the structure of the plants.  The list of artists who could be referenced here is long and starts with a very interesting photographer:


Equally you could reference botanical illustrations from Floras, old or modern.


The aim is to build a composition that makes use of the plant world in a realistic or abstracted way to take use loser in than only viewing the arrangement from a distance.


Organic and irregular architecture


Much architecture is built of linear forms, and 90 degree angles.  There however some notable exceptions.  Take a look at the buildings designed by the following architects:


How can the lines and forms used by one or more of these architects be used to create a composition? It maybe figurative or abstract or somewhere in between. It maybe based directly on one or more of the buildings or deal more with the essence of the architecture.

Artists to look at:



Climate


When we think of the term climate to initial thought for most will be for the weather we experience. Weather has been for countless artists a source of inspiration, think about artists such as:


If you choose to focus on this theme you too can focus on the direct effects and moods of the weather. For these maybe the sky, the landscape or sea could play an important part in any composition.

Maybe you could also go a little more abstract in your lines of thought and produce a composition that has a steamy hot heat to it or a icy chill.


Alternatively you could take an approach that takes a broader and perhaps more contemporary view to climate and focuses on the changes that are taking place in our world. There are artists doing this sort of work in a huge number of ways, take a look for instance on:


http://www.vanishing-ice.org

http://artistsandclimatechange.com


Gerco de Ruijter