Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pochade 5th Anniversary - (Still as solid as a tank!)

After many tests and planning I built my pochade box five years ago and made the plans available online for everyone who wants to build one. Many people have bought the detailed step by step plans. They are just $2.99. I would love to hear from them through this post and hopefully receive photos that I can share as well. It would really be wonderful.



I never regretted building my own pochade as opposed to buying one. The cost was one big factor at the beginning. It cost me less than $100 to build mine. Actually much less. But that was not all. I initially built my pochade to withstand a lot of abuse. I noticed that the ones commercially available were too dainty and I needed something that can handle being outdoors regularly not just on occasion. Over the years my pochade has survived countless accidents including falling off the top of the SUV while I drove away, being dropped down a steep hill and tumbling into a stream. You name it it has survived it. I won't even mention all the small  falls, the bangs and tripod drops that I know the more dainty ones would not survive.



The best part is that I feel it is getting stronger every year! The caking of paints and dried oil in cervices has served to make it even more solid. It also gave it an air of experience. It has been in many battles and just keeps getting better by the day.



What is your pochade like? If you built one based on my plans, please share and send me photos to add to this post if you can.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Narrative In Design - A pastel by Clarence Gagnon


Lucille Rodier Gagnon, Olive and Edna Pretty at Sainte-Pétronille, Île d’Orléans / Clarence Gagnon - 1919

This deceptively simple pastel by Clarence Gagnon is a study in design and composition. The design is not simple or formulaic or done for aesthetics alone as we will see. It impacts directly on the subject of the painting in a way that builds a narrative that can only be told through this design.

At first glance the pastel is a simple image of three ladies sitting on a fence at the edge of a river. The scenery is de-emphasized in favor of the three figures that are painted in higher chroma (brighter), and harmonious colors that make them stand out from the rest of the painting. But is there more about these girls than meets the eye? What is the story?


The blue clothing brings the right and middle figures together in the shape of the letter M forming a bond between them. The white clothing does the same in the shape of a W between the left and right figures. Their harmony of color intermingle to tell us of a friendship or a relation of the three. But something is amiss. While the two figures on the left each has her own lines that signal affinity with the figure on the right, somehow this linear affinity is not shared between them. They are close in proximity, but they each have an underlying secret affinity with the figure on the right.



There is an air of deceptive calmness to the painting that is brought about by the horizontal likes that outline the river banks. these split the painting into three almost equal horizontal areas also adding to the seeming calm. It is when you divide the painting vertically that you start seeing the tension that Gagnon has placed in there. You can clearly see that the left and middle figure have their heads almost touching. This is counter balanced by the further head of the right figure. The direction of the torsos in the figure also echo this affinity of the left and middle figure and the alienation of the right one.



More importantly though if you also draw vertical lines to divide the painting you would see how the tension is so expertly placed. The two figure on the left occupy the calm center of the painting. While the right figure literally teeters on the edge. 

The scene is peaceful, but something is not quite right with the ladies in the painting. How complex are their relationship with each other? Are there secrets that are not shared between the three? Gagnon hints to that, but leaves us to build the rest of the narrative. What an amazing painting isn't it?