Art and Sustainability

"Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings." –William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

“Figures Observed” by Gretchen Van Dyke October 3, 2011

"Jump" oil on canvas, 20"x24” by Gretchen Van Dyke

We begin and end the year with art of the figure, just as sustainability problems and solutions essentially begin and end with choices made by the human race. Now on view through the November 30, “Figures Observed” is the fourteenth show in our “Art & Sustainability” series at Sightline Institute. It features 11 oil paintings and 6 charcoal drawings by Issaquah artist Gretchen Van Dyke.

Through observation and memory, Gretchen captures gesture, spirit, and the complexity of human nature in her drawings and paintings. Whether abstract or more representational in nature, her two-dimensional art is imbued with a sense that the subjects are three-dimensional living, breathing individuals. They make you wonder, “What are their hopes, dreams, regrets?” Gretchen says about her work:

My paintings explore time, surface, color, and human introspection. I work from observation, with memory, and abstractly, creating paintings and drawings on canvas, wood panel, and paper. Still life and the human form are my subjects. Whether painting a person or thing, my work is a direct dialogue between self and subject. It is about the act of slowing down, deeply observing, and being in the moment. It asks the question:  How is it that a brush and paint can capture the spirit of a person or thing?

A native of Washington, Gretchen has a degree in Graphic Design from The Art Institute of Seattle, as well as a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Washington. She recently completed Artist Trust‘s EDGE Professional Development Program. Her influences include the figurative painters Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud, who said, “I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.”

Gretchen’s work has been in both group and solo shows around the state. Locally, Gretchen is an active member of artEAST, Issaquah’s non-profit arts organization. She and fellow member Ellen Borison (who showed at Sightline at the beginning of the year), have curated figure drawing shows the past five years at artEAST. Gretchen also participated in the organization‘s first 24-Hour Art Marathon last spring, in which she created four oil paintings on-site in a period of 24 hours.

Conscientious about sustainability issues such as food, transportation, consumerism, and land use, Gretchen walks the talk. She lives in downtown Issaquah, where she is close to stores and services, the bus, trails, and the creek. In addition, she is the Assistant Executive Director at Athletes for Kids.

To view Gretchen’s paintings and drawings at Sightline now through the end of November, visit the office between 10am and 3pm on weekdays. Most works are available for purchase. Contact Gretchen directly at gretchenvandyke (at) earthlink (dot) net with sales inquiries.

Sightline Institute
1402 Third Ave,
Fifth Floor, Suite 500
Seattle, WA
206-447-1880 ext. 100

What thoughts about sustainability are inspired by Gretchen’s art (and by art in general)? Share yours in a comment.

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Photos from Ellen Borison’s show at Sightline February 28, 2011

Filed under: Ellen Borison,pen on paper,shows — Becky @ 3:30 pm
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The view of Ellen Borison’s “Instrumental Lines” series from the hallway

 

060224.3 guy clark, gel pen on brown paper 8.2″ x 11.7″ by Ellen Borison

 

Ellen Borison’s art hanging in the lobby of the Sightline Institute office in downtown Seattle

 

left: 050430 banjo bass workshop, gel pen on brown paper 8.2″ x 11.7″ by Ellen Borison
right: 030426.25 banjo bass workshop, gel pen on brown paper 8.2″ x 11.7″ by Ellen Borison

 

 

“Instrumental Lines” by Ellen Borison January 5, 2011

Filed under: Ellen Borison,pen on paper,shows — Becky @ 8:28 pm
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Detail of 030425.24 darrel scott, gel pen on brown paper 8.2" x 8.2" by Ellen Borison

With our tenth show in the “Art & Sustainability” series now on view at Sightline Institute in downtown Seattle through the end of February, we go back to the very basics of creating art: making marks and making music. Issaquah artist Ellen Borison elegantly (in scientific terms) combines the two in “Instrumental Lines,” a raw collection of 30 figure drawings on brown paper. This series of line drawings captures both the simplicity and the complexity of accomplished acoustic musicians performing live in concert, mostly in the genres of Americana, bluegrass, and blues. She says:

I have discovered that I listen better while drawing and draw better while listening.

The most interesting thing about drawing musicians is that they move. Rather than trying to draw impressions quickly, I draw deliberately using a modified blind contour line, often adding detail to faces . . . I often capture multiple superimposed views, giving the drawing dimensionality and dynamism.

In this body of work, Ellen juxtaposes the natural brown paper with the modern-day gel pen, which she likes because “the ink is saturated, and [she] can get strong lights on toned paper.” The results are drawings full of movement and energy.

Though both Ellen’s academic and occupational backgrounds are in computer science, she has been drawing most of her life. Most of her work is figurative and based on observation.

An active member of artEAST, Issaquah’s non-profit arts organization, she and fellow member Gretchen Van Dyke, have curated figure drawing shows the past four years, including one where participating artists drew from a model on the walls of the gallery. Ellen will also be facilitating open studio figure drawing sessions there, as well as teaching an expressive figure drawing class. For the past five years, she has also had her work included in Unclad: The Fine Art of the Figure, an annual international juried art show at Gallery by the Bay in Stanwood, Washington.

Formerly from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ellen currently resides in Issaquah with her husband and cats. See cat drawings here.

To view Ellen’s lines (literally) of line drawings at Sightline during January and February, visit the office between 10am and 3pm on weekdays. All works are available for purchase. Contact Ellen directly at ellen.borison (at) gmail (dot) com with sales inquiries.

Sightline Institute
1402 Third Ave,
Fifth Floor, Suite 500
Seattle, WA
206-447-1880 ext. 100

What thoughts about sustainability are inspired by Ellen’s art (and by art in general)? Share yours in a comment.