Artist of the Week – Stephanie Rayner

June 1, 2012 § 4 Comments

Watercolour Print Artist, Stephanie Rayner

Dan Brown has it. Nelson Mandela has it. And this week’s Artist of the Week, Stephanie Rayner, has it.

“It” is the ability to inspire people to question their beliefs. Perhaps not change anyone’s mind, but to start an internal dialogue. To encourage someone to realize that the status quo can evolve, that the necessary evolution of ideas will lead to a greater depth of understanding. Rayner engages the viewer not by forcing them to question whether what she creates is art, but instead, whether or not they are ready to ascend to a new level of perception.

She blends religion, mythology, science, art, music, media, and ideas into thought-provoking works. Every piece is not just beautiful, but opens the doors to new dimensions waiting to be discovered. Her print works are layers upon layers of watercolour and subtleties of colour and texture; her gallery creations are typically large, often installation-style pieces blending research, innuendo, metaphor, and allegory.

Although her epic creations take hundreds of hours to create and years of planning and research, her beginnings were humble enough. In this day and age, many children and youth are raised to be empowered – they believe they can do anything, be anything. Despite coming from a long line of artists, Rayner’s father discouraged her, claiming that “There’s no place for women in art”, nor would there be.

Stephanie took the advice to heart. Rather than pursuing her lifelong dream, she decided that if she couldn’t be an artist she would choose a field so closely related to it that it would amount to almost the same thing: interior design. But, either through a cruel twist of fate or part of a larger, grander design, Rayner soon realized that while her part-time jobs could collectively pay for tuition, her pockets weren’t deep enough to pay for the supplies and materials required. (Sadly, her “burlap and found-object chairs” simply didn’t impress the instructors – after all, there are only so many things you can make out of burlap before it loses its novelty…) She abandoned her studies to see the world…

In this day and age, it is hard to find places as yet undiscovered, or at the very least, off the “beaten-track”. But fortunately for Stephanie (who’d always wanted a TIME MACHINE!), there were still places in the 70s that just hadn’t quite made it into the 20th century. And the call to adventure began… Afghanistan, Iran, Central & South America, Hindu Kush…

In Africa, she lived in a tree house à la Swiss Family Robinson, during one of her trips to North Africa she was caught by slave-traders. In Central America, she rode out a hurricane with her partner in a tiny mail boat out of Belize, only to be marooned afterwards by the sailors when provisions ran low. As though torn from the pages of R. L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island itself, they met their own Ben Gunn: a man stuck on the island who’d built a raft. With three people to man it, they landed on the shores of Guatemala at 2am. At gun-point.

They were stood against a wall, a firing squad in front of them.

Rayner recollects that she walked right towards the man in charge, his machine gun raised and trained on her, fearlessly whistling. It wasn’t until she had to sleep in a cabin with thousands of rats that her mettle deserted her. “They were like maggots, if you’ve ever seen a lot of them: they were sliding back and forth over each other, and wriggling and writhing. I didn’t scream when I thought I was going to be shot. I screamed when I saw the rats.”

Detail of “Spirit”

These experiences perhaps ingrained what Stephanie now understands to be a universal truth : “[The human] ability to deal with the world has always involved art and expression, it is a window for the soul,” she explains, “From the beginning, cavemen used art to deal with things beyond their understanding.” That might begin to explain why she whistled a tune in the face of almost certain death…

Nor was the episode in Guatemala the last of her adventures. In 1999, Rayner was asked to speak in Malta at joint INSAPP II, a Vatican Symposium on religion and science. Then, Stanford University’s Centre for Advanced Learning hosted her in 2002, to lecture a group of international scholars on “Art and the Evolution of Human Consciousness” in Palo Alto, California. A couple years later, the Zygon Centre in Chicago invited her to speak at their “Epic of Creation Lecture Series”. While the next few years calmed down ever-so-slightly, the momentum picked up once more when she was invited to China in 2009 to teach her own unique printing process at Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, in Shen Yang, and to lecture on her art at various other universities and institutes throughout China.

She spoke of meaning and soulfulness in art; and how, possessed of the best technique in the world, an artist (or a work of art) can still lack soul and vitality. It was, for her, an incredible experience. Teaching energizes her; she sees the potential in each and every student and she loves to see the students blossom in their creativity.

The two courses she’s offering this summer in watercolour printmaking will no doubt be fantastic; the first, Watercolour Monotypes, will be running from July 30th – Aug 3rd and encourages students to loosen up in their creative process, while still achieving outstanding and breathtaking results; the second, Impasto Waterbase Printmaking, will be running the following week from Aug 6th – 10th and teaches the intense layering of pigmentation that reveals itself as the prints are pulled. Students have virtually filled the halls with drying prints – all exceptionally beautiful and totally unique to the artists.

“The medium is forgiving, it’s experimental but you can have control, too,” she says about her watercolour printmaking techniques. “If you dance with it, it dances back. And there has to be teamwork in the process as well: students assist each other at the press and everyone is excited when a new print is pulled. You can hear us cheering in the halls!”

Her current work in progress will be the culmination of many years of work and research: a twenty-nine foot boat titled Eternal Return, it reveals the shared mythology of the many cultures that make use of a boat to journey to the Otherworld. It is an epic mixed-media work involving moose ribs, wood, glass, DNA-sequencing, Mozart’s Requiem, dice, and countless hours of research and construction. We can’t wait to see it!

To register for either of Stephanie’s workshops, or for more information, please call 1-866-353-6464 x3 or visit us online at www.hsta.ca

To get in touch with Stephanie, please visit her website at www.stephanierayner.com

Art Tips and Tricks for your next art project – JerrysArtarama.com

May 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Art Tips and Tricks for your next art project – JerrysArtarama.com.

Looking for great tips and tricks for your art projects? Look no further!

This image borrowed from http://www.suzyssitcom.com, another great place for tips, tricks, and project ideas!

Here are tried and true ways of making the most of what you’ve got as well as improving old techniques! Great for drawing and painting artists, but don’t be discouraged if you work in a different medium… There’s loads of cool stuff in this article! Click the link at the top of the page…

Expressive Arts students explore trust and learn to dance

May 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Life is a dance.

Not ballet, not jazz, not anything choreographed.

It is movement and expression; occasionally, it is stillness.

Today, the Expressive Arts students learned to dance with new partners.

Their journey began, blindfolded, following their peers down an unseen path, with nothing but a branch of wood between them, connecting them. It was an exercise in trust: trusting each other, trusting their senses, trusting in their movements and the motions that connected them together.

Once in the woods, they were asked to breathe in the air, hear, feel, and sense their surroundings. Only after they shared this moment of sightlessness were they allowed to remove their blindfolds.

The next step of their task was to find a new dancing partner: find a tree that they could connect with, understand the movements of, and share a dance with. Not a waltz, nor a foxtrot. But, create a journey with, understand what it was to be that tree…

For many of the students, it was a journey with great rewards; for others, it brought them to a new awareness of self, and of surroundings.

For more information on the Expressive Arts Program at HSTA, please go to our website www.hsta.ca

Artist of the Week – Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

May 17, 2012 § 11 Comments

Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” Desmond Tutu, on ubuntu

Her eyes, even in the most dim conditions, seem to sparkle with an inner light. They dance, they laugh, they sing. She possesses one of those rare and pure gazes that has the ability of seeing right into a person. It is not invasive or unwelcome; you simply get the feeling that she wants to connect, to share stories and emotions, to bridge that part of all of us that keeps us apart: space.

The many years that Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman has spent in selfless service, being involved in missions from an early age in Asia and Europe, becoming an elementary teacher and  a professor, then using those skills as the president of a Christian humanitarian organization working in parts of Africa and the Caribbean to improve education for children, have served to shape both her and her outlook on life.

Some might argue that pulling away from those efforts, giving it all up to create art, well, it might seem a hair… selfish. Until, upon seeing her creations, you realize that she is undoubtedly doing the world a greater service by becoming an artist.

“My aim is to evoke universal emotions in the viewer that will encourage him or her to tap into the spirit of “Ubuntu”:  what it means to be truly human – “to be wrapped up in the bundle of life”,” she writes.  “I have become profoundly aware of how interconnected we are – with each other and with nature. Art is a vehicle through which I can explore and honour that.”

There is unquestionably in all of her artwork a touch of the whimsical, a hint of fancy. But when you actually look at her work, you will find countless other attributes that are nuanced and revealed with such subtlety and nobility, that you will wonder why it has taken Jennifer so long to share her inner-artist with us.

Her mixed-media pieces are liable to be made of nearly anything from metal and wood to glass and eggshells. The juxtaposition of these materials is equally as stunning as the work themselves: on the one hand there is a feeling of permanence, a sense of longevity and durability; yet, the organic materials incorporated flawlessly into the work reveal a fragility and offer the distinct impression that the function of everything on earth is ephemeral, merely awaiting its next stage where it will be re-purposed and given a new task.

Of all of her pieces, each one unique with no duplications, perhaps one of the most striking and powerful is that titled Offering. Made of river stones, burlap, concrete, branches, and metal it depicts a woman kneeling with her arms raised, hands in a gesture of giving, and face tilted toward the heavens. When looking at it, you’re struck by an overwhelming sense of power; there is no surrender in her offer, no weakness. The woman is offering herself, as she is – heart, body, mind, and soul – to a greater power, and in this way shows her vulnerability as well. There is no weakness, true, but in offering everything she has to give, there is without question a sense of vulnerability: what if her offering is refused?

       

Jennifer cast various pieces of herself for the project: hands, feet, face, torso, buttocks. And, while it was a very emotional piece to create due to its symbolic connections with the artist’s own beliefs, the sculpture itself maps out beautifully what it means to truly be a woman: strength and sacrifice.

And, what it takes to be human: courage and hope.

We can’t wait to see what Jennifer creates next. She has been recognized by the college not only for her exceptional work but also her consistently positive outlook on life, and will be the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class. Jennifer was also recently nominated for the BMO Student Art Competition and our fingers are crossed for her!

For more information about Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman, please contact her by email at jwilsonbridgman@sympatico.ca or by phone at 905-730-8839 . Her website will be coming soon!

picture of jennifer wilson-bridgman

Jen, doing teacher development training in Kenya, makes friends with a couple of “orphelines”…

HSTA Welcomes Area High School for Silk Screening and Landscape Painting

May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

A group of eager high school students made the beautiful journey to us yesterday to explore the craft of silk-screening and landscape painting.

Fibre artist, Elisha Barlow, took the students through the amazing process of creating screens, using a light table, rinsing, squeegee-ing, and stenciling. Many of the students wore their amazing pieces home at the end of the day!

The other half of the group enjoyed an all-day landscape drawing & painting workshop, led by Matt Mancini (soon to be this week’s Artist of the Week). Practice in the morning with pencil and paper was followed up by applying acrylic to canvas after lunch resulting in some truly beautiful creations.

Browse through the images below to see the amazing work of these talented students!

Attention Readers!

May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

The HSTA blog has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last few months, and we want to keep growing!

Typically, we like to write articles about what’s going on at the school, job opportunities and artist residencies, offering unique insight into the world of an artist – and their often humble beginnings, as well as local things to do and try!

But is there something we’re missing? We’d love to hear some suggestions!

If you like what you see, why not recommend us to a friend?

Thanks so much for Following!

Artist of the Week – Brittney Howe

February 5, 2012 § 6 Comments

Brittney Howe

“I have always had a passion for horses and how they work: the muscle connecting to the ligaments, the ligaments to the bones. Creatures so strong yet so delicate, and yet they move with such grace. Power-driven hind quarters fuel their bodies with grace and finesse; they become like butter in your hands, all 1200 pounds melting together with you… When riding my horse, my heart is no longer following the rhythm of my body, but beats with his: we become one. Imagine the greatest moment of peace you’ve ever experienced, then, multiply that by a million, and you may begin to have a glimpse of the pure joy I receive from these majestic creatures.”

Originally from Delhi, Ontario, Brittney tells us she’d always had a gift for drawing. Intrigued after discussing various arts programs with a Rep from the Peterborough Campus, Brittney decided HSTA was the place for her. From the moment she set her steel-toe-booted foot on the concrete floor of the blacksmith shop, she knew exactly what she wanted in life: to be an artist.  Manipulating and forming metal utterly fascinated her, she says: “How it starts off hard, and once yellow-hot is malleable like clay; you’re able to do anything with it.” She realized that not only did she possess a gift for drawing, but also for 3-dimensional sculpture, in particular the noble equus. “Throughout this past year, I have been diligently studying the horse: uncovering every bone, exploring every muscle, revealing new forms to better express its complex anatomy,” explains Brittney. “My study has included multiple sketches and image transfers, and 3D sculptural creations of tile and clay.”

Being pushed out of her comfort zone, she says, was the best thing that ever happened to her. Exploring different materials, different mediums, allows her “free rein” over her creativity and boundless possibilities in her work. “Once I felt comfortable with my understanding of how the horse was made, I began to create sculptures of these magnificent creatures out of scrap metals such as brass, copper and mild steel. Just as my initial study of horses began, my works are finished in the same way: layer by layer, manipulating the various metals to lend shape and form..”

  After she has completed her Ceramics and Glassblowing courses next year, she plans on setting up her own mixed-media studio called “In His Image Creations Inc.”. Without jumping the gun, she reminds us that metal is where it all began. “Combining copper, brass and mild steel to create an abundance of colour fascinates me. To be able to fashion life from the various forms and shapes of scrap [metal] pieces… taking a bare substance, manipulating it with heat to mould and shape my work, and create life, gives me purpose.” But, glass and ceramics require heat as well – perhaps she’s on to something? We can only wait and wonder at what the promising Miss Howe can come up with next…

You can catch Brittney’s feature article in an upcoming issue of The Anvil’s Ring.

Brittney can be reached at 705-457-0207 or via email at bv.howe@hotmail.com

Haliburton’s Creative Economy

July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

HSTA instructor (both in our certificate and VCAD programs) Jim Blake has recently written an article focusing on Haliburton County’s Creative Economy and the efforts of the community for the July 2011 issue of Municipal World.

Municipal World – Haliburton County Creative Economy

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