Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Olivier Bertrand: The Art of Cardboard Sculptures



When I was studying art in college, one of my classes was design. Our assignments had to be made from cardboard. It was fun and challenging, but I never considered using that material for sculptural art beyond the class.Recently, I saw the sculptures of Olivier Bertrand (1975-) and changed my mind.


It's a wonderful surprise to see artists using the most ubiquitous of materials with a creative eye to expanding possibilities. Bertrand certainly falls into that category... although he went about it in a most indirect way.

He graduated university with a Master's degree in Economics. From there, he moved into web designing. These were proven commercial professions. However, he had grown up fascinated by Origami and how simply folding paper could lead to a object. 

 Bertrand had a chance to reconsider his professional choices while he was convalescing. (Interesting how slowing down creates an opportunity to reconsider our life choices.) He remembered his interest in Origami and wanted to use a material that was light, easily available and sturdy enough to hold large sculptures. The answer was cardboard!

 Using heavy cardboard to provide a framework, Bertrand cuts pieces of various strength and thickness. He bends and layers the cardboard  for the shaping of animals and humans.As he builds the sculptures, he does so keeping in mind how he must change an ephemeral medium into permanency. To that end, he covers his works with flame retardant and a epoxy resin to stiffen the cardboard.


Bertrand's fame has spread and he was invited to the Grand Palais in Paris, where he received a bronze award - a rare honor for a first-time exhibitor!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Alexandre Renoir: A Family Tree of Artists

 If the last name of Renoir sounds familiar, it's probably because Alexandre Renoir (1974-) is the great grandson of the famous Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 

As with his illustrious relative, Alexandre is drawn to Impressionism done with brightly-colored impasto and touches of Surrealism.

Alexandre comes by his career as an artist very naturally. He was born into a lineage of creatives as well as contemporary artists such as Jean Renoir, film director; Pierre Renoir, actor; Claude Renoir, photography director and many others who carry on the family name in artistic endeavors.

He was born in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France. His family moved to Canada when he was four years old. It was in Canada where he studied art. 

Now, he makes his home both in Canada and in his hometown in France, which was his great grandfather's retreat and final resting place. This may be the proof that "the apple never falls far from the tree."

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Senaka Senanayake: Keeping Hope Alive Through Art




 In this time of anticipation that Winter's cold will recede soon and be replaced by riotous colors of blooms and blossoms of Spring, the few brave Daffodils inspire hope. To nourish that sense of future, today's artist is Senaka Senanayake (1951-)



Senanayake was born and raised in Sri Lanka, an island country that has a year-round average temperature conducive to the rain forest, for which it's famous.  

By the time Senanayake was 10 years old, he already had distinguished himself as an artist. He had a one-person show in New York at that age! He would continue his education at Yale before returning to his homeland which is the subject of his paintings.


As with many of the rain forests throughout the world, Senanayake returned to his homeland only to find incursions into the forests. It was then that he made the decision to make the forest and the creatures his primary subject into an effort to make the world aware of what is at stake. 


His paintings have become a beacon of hope, much like thoughts of Spring, as he exhibited his works around the world. Not only has he shown through Europe, Asia, No. America, but also he has been featured in publications and documentaries. It is one artist's efforts to keep awareness and the possibilities for change through capturing nature's beauty.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Pastels of M. Henri Roche, Paris


As I've been preparing some of my original pastels, for a Spring sale, a memory of seeking out pastels in Paris came to mind. Two famous pastel stores were a goal - Sennelier and La Maison du Pastel. The first was easy as it's just across the Seine from The Louvre. The second would prove to be a challenge.


It wasn't easy locating the little shop that still made the pastels that chemist, Henri Roche, had made for such famous pastelists as Degas, Redon, Whistler, up to present artists. I had read about La Maison du la Pastel on the internet and wanted to find this out-of-the-way shop that was only open on Thursdays from 2-6 PM. I did find it but, alas, it was closed. There was a note on the door. I don't know French, but two-years of  Latin gave me a rudimentary idea of what was written. It seems the person in charge was next door having tea.

Bold American (me)walked into the bar and asked for Madam Roche. The waiter had no idea what I wanted. He kept trying to seat me. By a process of elimination, I found Isabelle Roche. Nothing like I expected. She was the young, college de-greed granddaughter of M. Roche.

  She had decided to use her grandfather's book of formulas to re-create his work. I thought her very clever considering the challenge she set up for herself. After all, her grandfather had collaborated with Degas, known to be difficult at best, to create acceptable pastel sticks. 

Madam Roche and I walked to the shop, which looked and felt like a typical old Paris warehouse. 

She asked what color I wanted. I said, "Gray." From behind her, she pulled out tray after tray of grays... blue gray, red gray, and so it went. I was enthralled and next asked for green. Out came tray after tray of every imaginable green.



I made the mistake of not asking the price. Madam finally brought me back to reality. She said, "These pastels are expensive," and rang up what I had so far. Mon dieux! I left in a financial daze with my carton of beautiful pastels wondering if Degas had experienced the same dazed feeling. (Below are pastels by Degas, Redon and Whistler in that order)

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Anna Alma-Tadema: The Art of the Details


There are artists, especially pencil or charcoal artists, with the most amazing portraits done in great and astonishing detail. Minute detail in painting is not as common these days as it was pre-photography days. In those days, patronage required that the artist paint the riches of the patrons.

With the advent of photography, artists were free to paint in more abstract ways. Yet, there were a certain number of artists, who were trained in the importance of detail and remained highly regarded. One such artist was Anna Alma-Tadema (1867-1943) (Self-portrait on left)

Anna was raised in a family of artists. Her father, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, shared with her his love and success in detail painting. He went about decorating their home as a Roman villa, which offered much detail for Anna to paint. 

She was so good in her use of watercolor, goache and graphite recreating these sumptious rooms that by age 18, she was exhibiting professionally. She also painted flowers, portraits and buildings - always with an eye to detail.

Anna was a suffragette who never married. Her dedication was to her art and her family. She continued to exhibit her work for 40 years (1885-1928) in the most prestigous venues. By the time her father died, the market for such detailed art had collapsed.. She eked out a living after 1928, but those works are unknown.