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Artist's Talk: Shannon Smiley. Key Stage 3 students (Helen Nodding)
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Artist's Talk: Shannon Smiley. Key Stage 3 students (Helen Nodding)

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This is a talk that was given to Key Stage 3 Students at Arthur Terry School, in Birmingham, about the work of the Australian artist Shannon Smiley. …

This is a talk that was given to Key Stage 3 Students at Arthur Terry School, in Birmingham, about the work of the Australian artist Shannon Smiley.
February, 2014

Published in: Education

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  • You may have a preconceived idea that landscape painting is very old fashioned. You may associate it with boring rooms in the art gallery that you walk past in favour of seeing much moreexciting contemporary art.I want to show you how the landscape can be used by artists as a subject today that is relevant to many contemporary issues.
  • The first thing that I will mention is that, whilst this images may look very much like photographs to you, they are in fact all oil paintings.From what the artist has told us in his statement we know that his paintings show areas of wilderness around the city in which he lives.
  • He wants to draw our attention to the overgrown weeds and nature in his everyday environment and he spends an enormous amount of time painting this subject in great detail.
  • He gives us hints that we are in the urban/suburban environment by including evidence of human life such as man-made structures or graffiti. He finds it important to remind us that we are not out in the Australian bush here, but still very close to the city.
  • i.e. it’s not abstract art, it’s very realistic.
  • Oil painting is traditionally seen as a medium that depicts very important subject matter. Think about how the artist uses the same medium to celebrate and glorify something as humble and unwelcome as a weed.
  • Through the work the artist also suggests that life in the city has distanced us from nature. Before we had gadgets like clocks and i-phones to tell us the time and date we once relied upon nature to give us our life rhythm’s, through the changing seasons.
  • In this painting we see how nature is starting to take over the buildings of the city. Whilst we may have distanced ourselves from nature it is always ready and waiting to takeover again. In the background are two high rise blocks and we wonder if they will be next on mother nature’s hit-list!
  • Can you see the subtle outline of a bridge in the background of this painting, reminding us once more that we are not in the wild Australian Bush but still close to human civilisation, near to the city.
  • Whilst the Romantic painters concentrated on depicting the landscape they often included signs of human life such as ruins overtaken by nature. They rebelled against the growing industrialization of the cities and the factories that were starting to take over the landscape. They saw these things as being a threat to personal individuality and distancing us from nature. In their artworks, the Romantics concentrated on personal expression, trust in emotion and developing a personal relationship once more with nature.
  • Shannon Smiley is inspired by these romantic artists from the past because of the ways in which they saw beauty in nature and dealt with the subject of man’s relationship to the natural landscape. These artists were able to show us how the landscape can stimulate us and effect our moods and emotions.
  • For example, the Japanese artist HisaharuMotoda uses very famous (iconic) buildings in great cities to show us an uncertain future, where all the people have gone and nature begins to reclaim the landscape once more.
  • George Shaw is a contemporary painter (from Coventry, UK) that Shannon Smiley is very inspired by. Shaw paints very mundane (or ordinary) scenes from the suburbs in which he grew up to create a mood and interest in the everyday. Rather magically, he somehow makes the everyday seem mysterious. When you look at the works you get the feeling that something might be about to happen, or perhaps they are showing a crime scene, or places that hold a symbolic significance for him. By drawing attention to familiar scenes that we often walk past without thinking about, George Shaw is able to make us re-examine and think about the significance of the landscape of our everyday world.
  • Another artist that inspires Shannon Smiley is the Australian born Sam Leach. The paintings of Sam Leach often refer to historical, classical landscape painting which he overlays with futuristic scenes… by adding artificial and constructed layers on to them. Sam Leach links Science with Art to make us think about environmental issues, and forces us to question what our future landscapes might look like. Leach sees his paintings as being artificial landscapes of times to come, in opposition to the works we looked at of HisaharuMotoda, Leach projects an optimistic side to the future where technology and mankind can work in harmony with the environment.
  • I want to now draw your attention to a technique that you may already be familiar with from your own learning.
  • Usually, this technique is used to make an enlargement from a study or sketch, but can also be used to transfer a photograph, piece by piece, to the canvas.
  • Here we can see how Shannon is using the grid to accurately transfer visual information from the photograph to the canvas, square by square. He builds up the paint in each square layer by layer to add depth, contrast and detail.
  • And here’s the finished work!
  • This is another example where the artist has employed the grid technique.
  • Can you see the yellows, purples and blues for example?
  • Let me show you…
  • Can you see how the use of warmer colours and cooler colours gives the feeling of the light and shade that we might see on a sunny day? When we think about a sunny day we might associate it with all sorts of feelings: such as warmth and happiness, and perhaps even the freedom of Summer Holidays!
  • In this way the artist has shown us that by a clever use colour and tone we can create a mood or atmosphere within our paintings. He has also shown us that by paying attention to the things that we often walk by and ignore, we can find beauty and inspiration for artwork almost anywhere!
  • These are some questions for you to think about, you don’t necessarily have to shout out the answers now! We might all take something different away from the work of Shannon Smiley and that is the beauty of art, as there is no right answer as to what you take away from it.
  • I’ll leave you again with the artist’s own statement about the work, as that is what best describes his own feelings towards it. Thanks so much for your patience in listening! I hope that you enjoyed the presentation and have found some inspiration for your own artwork.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Helen Nodding, Artist Talk: Key Stage 3 students at Arthur Terry School, Birmingham
    • 2. Topics that this presentation will cover • Background history • Definitions • What art historical terms can we use to describe the work? • Subject matter • Influences • Research methods and source material • Technique • Colour and tone • What does the artwork make us think and feel?
    • 3. Background History • Shannon Smiley was born in Melbourne, Australia, 1977 • Artist Statement
The Australian suburban environment is for me a place where an enchanted subject can be found. In the overlooked and undefined spaces without purpose or function, a wilderness grows with an urgent will to live
    • 4. Definitions • Urban Referring to a city or town • Suburban The district or area just outside of a city or town • Wilderness A wild, uncultivated region or area of wasteland
    • 5. Whilst this images may look very much like photographs to you, they are in fact all oil paintings. From what the artist has told us in his statement we know that his paintings show areas of wilderness around the city in which he lives.
    • 6. The artist wants to draw our attention to the overgrown weeds and nature in his everyday environment and he spends an enormous amount of time painting this subject in great detail.
    • 7. The artist gives us hints that we are in the urban/suburban environment by including evidence of human life, such as man-made structures or graffiti. We are reminded that we are not out in the Australian bush here, but still very close to the city.
    • 8. What art historical words can we use to describe the work? • Landscape painting • Oil paint on canvas • Representational art The word "representational," when used to describe a work of art, means that the work depicts something easily recognized by most people
    • 9. Subject matter • The Australian urban/suburban landscape • Nature in the city • The beauty that lies within overlooked areas of our everyday environment • Draws focus upon and celebrates aspects of the city that usually go ignored, for example weeds The artists shows us the ways in which nature can inspire us or make us feel
    • 10. Oil painting is traditionally seen as a medium that depicts very important subject matter. Think about how the artist uses the same medium to celebrate and glorify something as humble and unwelcome as a weed.
    • 11. Through the work the artist also suggests that life in the city has distanced us from nature. Before we had gadgets like clocks and i-phones to tell us the time and date, we once relied upon nature to give us our life rhythm’s (through the changing seasons).
    • 12. In this painting we see how nature is starting to take over the buildings of the city. Whilst we may have distanced ourselves from nature, it is always ready and waiting to takeover again.!
    • 13. Can you see the subtle outline of a bridge in the background of this painting? It reminds us that we are not in the wild Australian Bush but still close to human civilisation, near to the city.
    • 14. The Romantic Movement • This was a movement in art and literature of the late 18th and early-19th centuries that emphasised personal experience, feeling and emotion, particularly in response to nature Caspar David Friedrich, 1774-1840
    • 15. Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) John Constable (1776-1837) Art Historical Influences JMW Turner (1775-1851) Salvator Rosa (1615-1673)
    • 16. Romantic landscape tradition • Shannon Smiley is inspired by romantic artists from the past because of the ways in which they saw beauty in nature and dealt with the subject of man’s relationship to the natural landscape. • These artists were able to show us how the landscape can stimulate us and effect our moods and emotions.
    • 17. The landscape in contemporary art • Like the Romantic painters of the past, many contemporary artists working in the landscape tradition emphasise personal experience, feeling and emotion, particularly in response to city life and urban nature Hisaharu Motoda, b.1973
    • 18. Contemporary Influences George Shaw
    • 19. George Shaw • George Shaw is a contemporary painter (from Coventry, UK). He paints very mundane (or ordinary) scenes from the suburbs in which he grew up, to create a mood and interest in the everyday. • Rather magically, he somehow makes the everyday seem mysterious. When you look at the works you get the feeling that something might be about to happen, or perhaps they are showing a crime scene, or places that hold a symbolic significance for him. • By drawing attention to familiar scenes that we often walk past without thinking about, George Shaw is able to make us re-examine and think about the significance of the landscape of our everyday world.
    • 20. Contemporary Influences Sam Leach
    • 21. Sam Leach • The paintings of Sam Leach often refer to historical, classical landscape painting which he overlays with futuristic scenes, by adding artificial and constructed layers on to them. • Sam Leach links Science with Art to make us think about environmental issues, and forces us to question what our future landscapes might look like. • Leach sees his paintings as being artificial landscapes of times to come. He projects an optimistic side to the future, where technology and mankind can work in harmony with the environment.
    • 22. Research Method • Walking The artist takes regular walks around the city and its suburbs, looking for inspiration in the overgrown nature and areas of wilderness that he finds
    • 23. Source material • Photography The artist takes photos of any scenes that he finds interesting. Taking hundreds of photographs he goes through a rigorous selection process to decide which ones will make a compositionally successful painting
    • 24. Technique • Using a grid is a good way to make a drawing from a photograph • It means you can accurately copy an image section by section more simply than sketching it by freehand
    • 25. Technique Dürer’s Grid • The grid device was made famous by 16th artist Albrecht Dürer and versions of it have been used since by many artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Jan Vermeer and Vincent van Gogh • In “Dürer’s Grid” the artist looks through the frame and copies the outlines of what he sees onto a piece of paper with a similar grid marked on it
    • 26. Technique • Preparing to paint Before he starts painting the artist, Shannon Smiley, divides his chosen photograph into a grid using a pencil and ruler. He then draws a bigger version of this grid onto his canvas, ensuring that it has the same number of squares as the grid on the photograph
    • 27. Technique • Painting The artist then works square by square to copy and enlarge the original image. He builds up the paint in layers until he is happy with the final painting
    • 28. • The artist uses the grid to accurately transfer visual information from the photograph to the canvas, square by square. • He builds up the paint in each square layer by layer to add depth, contrast and detail.
    • 29. The colour wheel • On first inspection you may think that the Shannon Smiley’s palette largely consists of the colour green • However, when we place one of his paintings next to the colour wheel, we can see that the artist has used a range of colours to create the work
    • 30. Tone • Warm colours and cool colours cool colours warm colours The artist uses lots of shades of green, but how does he create a sense of light and shadow? He mixes warm colours with green when the leaves are in the sunlight He mixes cool colours with green when the leaves are in shadow
    • 31. Contrast • When colours opposite to each other on the colour wheel are used next to each other they create contrast. Contrast can help to create a mood or atmosphere within a painting • Here we can see that the artist has used warmer colours in areas where the light falls and their opposite cooler colours in areas of shadow warm colours for sunlit areas Contrast cool colours for shaded areas
    • 32. • Through a subtle use of colour and tone we can create a mood or atmosphere within our paintings • By paying attention to the things that we often walk by and ignore, we can find beauty and inspiration for artwork almost anywhere!
    • 33. Things to think about • What do you think that the artist wants to make us think and feel about the overgrown nature in and around our cities? • Why does he dedicate so much time and care to show us a side of the city that many people don’t notice, or even see in a negative light?
    • 34. Artist Statement
 The Australian suburban environment is for me a place where an enchanted subject can be found. In the overlooked and undefined spaces without purpose or function, a wilderness grows with an urgent will to live.
    • 35. Task • When you are walking to school, the shops, or are out and about in the city, keep your eye open for any signs of nature or wilderness in your everyday environment (perhaps a weed growing through a crack in the concrete) • Take a photo (you could even use the camera on your phone if it has one). Think about the composition of the image and how it might look as a painting. You might take several photos and choose the one that you think will work best as a painting; ask your teacher for some advice • Print out your image and use the grid technique to enlarge it onto a piece of cartridge paper (your teacher will show you how) • Think about the tone and colours that you use to create the painting. Also consider how contrast can help to develop the atmosphere or mood of the artwork