A year ago the Orange Art Gallery challenged it’s artists to create works of art based on the theme “The Railway Crossing”. The Orange Art Gallery is in a 120 year old historic building that used to house the bank for the CN Rails and is now where the new light rail connects. The exhibit runs from July 6th to August 13th. I created two sculptures for this exhibit. One of them was inspired by a Canadian song from the Littlest Hobo television series, “Maybe Tomorrow”. This is my sculpture, “Riding the Rails”.
Many people think of a Hobo as a homeless vagrant, but originally they were actually a man or woman who worked as they traveled. Hobos came from all walks of life and decided to ride the rails and live outside as an alternative. As a matter of fact, Hobos organized themselves and formed a union during the mid 1800’s as a way to catch rides with friendly conductors by showing them the union card.
The number of Hobos increased after the Second World War and then the Great Depression hit. Hobos were then considered penniless wanderers. Without money men hopped onto trains and “rode the rails”, criss-crossing the country in a frustrating search for work and food. Illegal and very dangerous, thousands of hobos were killed or seriously injured jumping on or off freight cars. Some hobos laid boards across the brake rods under the railway cars. They could ride on these boards hidden from view – a very dangerous, noisy and uncomfortable ride. Most rode inside or on top of boxcars on freight trains.
Hobos carried a bindle, a stick with a cloth or blanket tied around one end for holding items. Supported over the shoulder it offered a comfortable grip and doubled as a weapon if needed. A stereotypical symbol for anyone running away from home, Norman Rockwell used it in his 1958 illustration “The Runaway”.
The figure in “Riding the Rails” measures 16″ high x 14″ x 10″ deep. It’s sculpted from polymer clay and textiles. The whole composition including the Railroad Crossing sign is 25″tall. The sign is embedded into a cement base which is the resting spot for this weary traveller. His old weathered banjo case is plastered with stickers from some of the stops on his journey across Canada where he played for a meal or a place to sleep. In his left hand he holds a flask of heat to help him get through the cold nights.
“Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down, Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.”
For as long as the Circus has been around, it's been a source of inspiration and theme in both Art and Literature. Edgar Degas created a sensation in 1879 with his acrobat "Lady La La". Renoir painted "The Jugglers" the same year. In the 1890s Toulouse-Lautrec was committed to a sanatorium and in an effort to convince his doctors he was sane, produced a brilliant series of circus drawings from memory. More than 300 paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures or photographs of Picasso are related to the circus and were a recurring theme in his life . Chagall saw circus people as the perfect example of artists who desire to be loved and to achieve their dreams.
Before television, the circus was the most popular form of mass entertainment. Everybody went to the Circus and the exotic subject matter made it appealing to both artists and patrons.
Even today, the incredible Cirque du Soleil is a combination of mystique and spectacle and the inspiration for many artists around the world. Myself included. What started as a suggestion several months ago by one of my students has evolved into an ongoing series. From jugglers and stilt walkers, to contortionists and acrobats to the most recent - a couple of old-world carnival style characters, "The Ring Master" and "The Strong Man". You can see some of these pieces at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa or during the Sculpture Studio Tour on the April 22-23 weekend. More information on the Studio Tour is available at on my facebook page at www.facebook.com/saracinocollection
January and February can feel long, cold and boring, especially for those of us who live in the colder climates. That's why Carnival season is such a welcome celebration to break up the winter doldrums in northern climates and such an exciting time of year in warmer climates. I've channelled this theme in several of my sculptures and it's now one of the courses I offer in my in-studio and online workshops. You can find out more on my website at www.saracinocollection.com under "Open Classes", or for the online version through www.aforartistic.com
Whenever we hear the word “Carnival” a few celebrations that come to mind include Rio de Janeiro, music and people dancing in colorful costumes and headpieces, or maybe Renaissance-themed dresses, powdered wigs and masks at the Venetian carnival. New Orleans famous Mardi-Gras is celebrated across North America. In Canada we have "Carnaval de Quebec" from January 27-February 12 and right here in the country's capital we have "Winterlude" from February 3-20th.
But have you ever stopped to wonder, where does this celebration come from? Or, why do we celebrate it in the early months of the year? Here are a few fun facts to help you understand this celebration better!
Carnival season occurs before Lent and is traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic population. Lent is the six weeks directly before Easter and is marked by fasting, pious or penitential practices. Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats and sugar. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of, so people threw a big party with the whole community to finish all of it. The celebration combined elements of a circus, a public street party and of course, masks. Some of the best-known traditions, including carnival parades and masquerade balls were first recorded in medieval Italy. The Carnival of Venice was, for a long time, the most famous carnival and considered to be the origin of Carnival.
From Italy, Carnival traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal, and France. From France it spread to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal it spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America. (excerpts from latintimes.com)
The exact origin of the name "Carnival" is disputed, but some state that the word comes from the Late Latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat," signifying that those were the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent. The word carne may also be translated as flesh, so suggesting carne vale as "a farewell to the flesh," a phrase actually embraced by certain Carnival celebrants who encourage letting go of your former self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival. The last day of Carnival is "Mardi Gras"
The six weeks of Lent in 2017 starts on March 1st. So between now and then is the time to celebrate "CARNEVALE"! And if you are feeling creative, sign up for my open in-studio workshop or the online class at www.aforartistic.com
When you think about sculpture you often think of two or three-dimensional forms carved in traditional mediums of stone or wood or cast in metal or plaster. My medium of polymer clay is still considered the new kid on the block. It's classified as a clay but contains no natural occurring clay minerals - it's actually polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the same material as the pipes under your sink. First developed in the 1930's it didn't make an appearance in the arts and crafts market until the 1980's. Originally snubbed as a fine art medium, polymer clay can now be found in major museums and galleries around the world.
Polymer Clay is non-toxic and safe when used properly. It is a form of plastic and some people think of the term plasticizers and phthalates and naturally think of the health hazards associated with these chemicals. However in 2009 the US passed a law outlawing specific phthalates in children’s items. Because polymer clay is classified as a toy, the formulation was changed and phthalate esters were no longer used. Most polymer clay manufacturers had already switched to other plasticizers well before this date. Plasticizers are the chemical that is used to make a substance soft and pliable. Plastic is used in almost everything in our homes and offices and most plastics have plasticizers. Vinyl garden hoses, plastic dish ware and cutlery, your toothbrush, your shoes, even gum uses an edible version. But don't worry - today, modern plasticizers stay locked up inside plastic, making it safe.
As with anything in life, it's a good idea to follow a few guidelines for the safest use of polymer clay. First of all don't eat it! As a matter of fact, don't eat anything that's not real food. Although it probably won't kill you, it's definitely not good for you. Don't eat off of it, either. Cured or uncured polymer clay should not come in contact with food in general. Cured polymer clay is too porous to be sufficiently cleaned which can be a breeding ground for bacteria. If you are using polymer clay to create pottery - remember - it is only for decorative display.
Use tools or equipment that is dedicated to working with polymer clay. There are many kitchen tools that work really well with polymer clay like rolling pins, food processors, pasta machines and cake decorating tools. Once you've used it with clay, keep it out of the kitchen.
Don't burn it! The temperature that it's baked at should never go above 275 degrees. If polymer clay is overheated enough or accidentally burned, the PVC will break down and release toxic fumes so it's important that your oven temperature is correct. An oven thermometer is all you need to ensure your temperature is accurate. As long as clay is baked at the correct temperature, there are no "fumes" to worry about. Never, ever use a microwave oven to bake polymer clay and don't use toaster ovens - the temperature fluctuates too much and the heat source is too close to the clay. You don't need a special oven, your regular kitchen oven is fine especially if you regularly clean it. It's okay to cure clay and bake food in the same oven, just not at the same time.
There are so many things I love about this medium. It's an oil based product so it doesn't dry out. This means I can take my time working on a sculpture. I can create whimsical sculptures or add fine details for hyper realistic sculptures. I can play with skin tones and colours. It accepts paint. Once it's baked it's very strong. I can work in any size from miniature to life size. I've been classified as a Master Polymer Clay Artist, I guess mostly because I've been working with this medium for more than 20 years. My style and technique has improved and developed over the years. Some of my earlier work had a very primitive look, but with practice and persistance I've developed as a figurative artist. As per Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers", "You need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good." Even American rapper Macklemore wrote a hit song about it, rapping that "the greats weren't great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot."
If you are interested in learning more about polymer clay and trying your hand at sculpting, I offer several classes in polymer clay, from beginner to advanced. Polymer Clay is so versatile - many jewelry artists use it to make intricate beads and patterns. You can use it to create molds or for stamping projects, card making, creating figures, figurines, action figures, fantasy etc. It even has commercial applications and is used to make decorative parts for furniture, picture frames and more. The possibilities of polymer clay are still being explored and people are coming up with unique and creative ways to use this medium. For a full list of available workshops visit my website at www.saracinocollection.com
One last thing . . . in this day and age, plastics, polymers and resins are part of everyone's life, from our homes to our cars - from our clothes and personal products to our food containers. What is important is that we all take responsibility in how we use these products and how we dispose of them. Recycle . . . recylcle . . . recycle! Recycled plastic is now being used in innovative new ways like creating building blocks for the construction of homes.
I’m sure you’ve walked into an office and seen some beautiful artwork on the walls or sculptures in the lobby. Did you know that if you operate a business in Canada, buying original artwork qualifies as a tax deduction provided that certain criteria are met. Primarily, the artwork must have been created by a Canadian artist, it must cost over $200 and it must be displayed where it will be seen by clients.
Some business owners rent art so that they can rotate and introduce different pieces throughout the year, and of course this can be used as a business expense, however investing in Canadian art can be even more beneficial from a tax point of view. Many companies take advantage of the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) to build their own private collections. If you’re a professional or business owner, you can purchase original Canadian art, immediately claim the HST then amortize the artwork over 3 to 5 years.
This is definitely something worth talking to your accountant about. Not only would you be surrounding your work space with beautiful artwork and building a valuable asset for your business, but you would be supporting and encouraging Canadian artists. One more thing – don’t limit yourself to just paintings on the wall, add a few sculptural pieces and your office will cover all three forms of visual art.