Tuesday 1 July 2014

What Defines Good Design? Plus, since we're on the topic of art, some pictures from my past...

Yeah, like, sez who? Well, it ain't you deciding, and it sure ain't me. It may be as amorphous as air and exist only in the eye of the beholder, but good design is still as real as... real. 

I've been a subscriber of Robert Genn's newsletter and a fan of his thinking for years. He recently died, and his daughter Sara, an artist in her own right, is continuing the newsletter, writing her own columns and rerunning her dad's old columns which were -- are -- ruminations on all manner of topics applicable to any creative endeavour. Just sub out "paints", "painter" and "painting" for whatever you do and the materials you use. I highly recommend you subscribe.

A little detour: Maybe some of you don't know but I was/still am, if on hiatus, a figurative artist who seven or eight years ago moved into using PMC silver clay, largely for its sculptural possibilities, but also because I like to work insanely tiny (also I move a lot and full size sculptures and ceramics are a complete pain in the patootie to haul around). But then PMC got expensive, the economy tanked and nobody was buying the expensive stuff. At the same time, I got more and more into buying and selling beads, if for no other reason than I really like rocks. Waaaaay back in my own mists of time, I used to get paid to climb mountains and look at rocks, so I come by that interest naturally. Then I'd go back to Vancouver on my days off and go to the drawing studio (Basic Inquiry, which I see is still going strong. I also took a look at their Facebook page, some reeeeeally incredible work is shown there.). 

Some drawings from the Basic Inquiry years:

Jerry, Vancouver, 1989 (Founder of the Basic Inquiry studio, Vancouver, BC)

Peter Reede, Nelson, BC, 1992 (Peter was/is one of the better-known models at Basic Inquiry) 

Peter Reede, Vancouver, 1991 (Famous for his "moving poses")

Peter, Nelson, BC, 1992 (Another "moving pose")

Peter Winding His Watch, Nelson, BC, 1992 (I changed my position while drawing him this time)

"Len on the Rocks", Vancouver, 1991 (I'd just come back from my own Great European Tour and seen Leonardo's "Madonna of the Rocks")

Monica, Vancouver 1988 (A Vancouver dance & performance artist. She could hold the most incredible poses for the longest time)

Josie, Vancouver, 1991 (Elfen & impossible to capture.
It was as if I couldn't draw her features; I could only draw the air she displaced.)

Okay, back from the mists, Genn's column today on design resonated enormously with me and I LOVELOVELOVE this quote: "True artists," said William Shipley, "are people who find bad design physically nauseating." YESSSSS!!!! 

I concur with Robert's definition of design and it applies to anything one creates, including jewellery. Long story short, Robert Genn's definition of what design is:

Continuum: Continuity is seen from one element to another. 
Harmony: Shapes echo and complement one another. 
Functionality: How does it work? Form follows function.
Implication: Elements are suggestive or metaphoric.
Concentricity: Elements circulate, extend and focus.
Control: The viewer's eye does what you want it to.
Strength: Forms are solid, committed, authoritative.
Personality: Your design motifs can be yours alone.

To this I would add "Wit": Not wit meaning funny ha-ha, but wit meaning intelligence and engagement -- that ineffable next step that makes the drawing, the painting, the jewellery piece, the architecture become "mine", as in I gotta have it. I gotta live there. It's ME. 

What would you add to this list?

Even more asides because it's the holiday (so it's raining, of course) and I have time. This weather makes me think of travel and Rome is always on my mind. But, in my real world, four days in Toronto is fast approaching, and that will have to do. In no particular order, some of my favourite drawings -- plus the only oil painting I ever did... whereupon I discovered I'm allergic to oil paint fumes, fumes of any description for that matter: a room full of 20-odd students using acrylics? Gag me. But so far so good on drawing materials:

Pat, sitting, from the back, Toronto 1998

Shawn, seated, Toronto, 1998

"L'Olfatto", pencil copy after Passante, Rome, 1997

Natasha, Rome, 1998 - SOLD

Monsieur Poisson (aka Mimmo Pesce), drawing instructor; Natasha, my favourite model; Me, Artist in ROME!!!; Sigfrido Oliva, painter; Solo Show, Via dell' Orso, Rome, 1998 (FYI, the gallery was located just a few doors down from the building Julia Roberts' character rented in Eat, Pray, Love)

After-the-show party. One of the happiest nights of my life. Yep, dinner even included a strolling Gypsy violinist. Rome, 1998

Holding up the wall at a group show four of us held in the apartment I shared, Rome, 1996. I was quite drunk, having just been dumped by the then love of my life whose name escapes me. 

Half-way through painting Somalian Refugee Baby in my painting teacher's studio, Toronto, 1999 (I took two years of painting in Vancouver where we were left to our own devices to reinvent the wheel and I learned sweet zip. I also failed art school. Phhht. Ten years later I paid this guy Michael to teach me classical painting techniques. We got through one technique (grisaille plus yellow, then red, then blue glaze) before he left town, something about teaching scuba diving in Bermuda... somewhere white sand beachy. Sigh...)

Closeup of Somalian Refugee Baby, Toronto, 1999

McMichael Fall Art Show, Kleinburg, Ontario, 1999 (See how the face of that baby in its mother's arms has gotten larger and larger -- and AGED!??! I've always had more than a little problem with keeping control over whatever I'm drawing)

Photo of Omar, Baby Tiger, Camping Sette Colli, Rome, 1995 (The campground was a zoo, with both human and animal/bird inhabitants pretty much freely wandering, and the owner had a licence to temporarily care for abandoned or injured wild animals which would then be returned to the Rome Zoo. This little guy had been rejected by its mother and Tony and his family were hand-raising it. He'd already been returned to the zoo, but Omar missed Tony and wouldn't eat, so he came back for another week or two. This was Omar's last day at the campground, as he was getting too big and didn't know his own strength. He was such a clown, and oh, my, did he stink.)

Baby Tiger, Plexi Etching, Toronto, 2001

Baby Tiger, Mylar Etching, Toronto, 2001

Model back view, seated, Montreal, 1993 (She was a postie by day) - SOLD

Portrait of a young man, Montreal, 1993 (Esoterica: when this guy came around to look at our drawings, he said to me: "I feel like you must have been walking around in my brain, that you know what I was thinking, because I recognise the expression on my face." I think this is one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.)

Ken, 1994, Montreal (This was the first time I felt like I captured the light in someone's eyes, and that's what all my drawing is about, really: capturing the light, the spark, that animates us)
As always, anatomy eludes me...

All images copyright me, Barbara MacDougall, 1988-2014. Please do NOT use, copy, redistribute or reprint without my express written permission. Thank you. 

Thanks for looking!


Nelson Beads said...

Sheesh, Barbara, those are fantastic. I used to draw when I was younger, too. Another lost love.

Barbara said...

Thank you. I'd like to get back to it one of these days...