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To oil paint or not to oil paint....

Posted by Elissa Baltzer on March 16, 2013 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (2)



So here I am on the precipice of a new (to this decade of my life) medium. Holding my breath and thinking hard. Trying to screw up my courage to jump off into the unknown creative vastness that is oil paint.

When I was, oh let's say, eight or nine this was possibly the first real painting medium I worked in (besides tempra paints at school and what not). My Mom and I went to a painting class given somewheres in one of the buildings on what was then CFB Cornwallis about 10 minutes from the village I called home in Nova Scotia. I loved working with the oils, didn't like the smell of them though and really wasn't crazy about the herbal teas served in class that the adults liked. I was by far the youngest member of the class. I liked to work with lots of texture (something I had completely forgotten about until my Mother recently found one of my old oil paintings from back then). I worked in bold colours, oranges and greens, and painted still lifes(something I almost never do now). It was a whole new world of painting discovery back at that age, inside the wierd mint green walls of the classroom under the bright flourescent lights. I had no fear of what might go wrong I was just figuring out how to do something and thus not so concerned with the destination as the journey to get there. Then our class finished and that was the end of my oil painting career for the first decade of my life. I'd taken up writing and moved on to other things as we are wont to do at that young age where there is so much to discover going on all around us.

Here I am a couple of decades later trying to encourage myself to take to take the plunge again. I have the paints. I have the mediums. I have the brushes. The only thing I'm low on is courage to jump from the fast drying medium of acrylics into the slow drying medium of oils. I've had lots of Q & A sessions wih various oils painters I know and they all love oils, they encourage me and hand over lots of tips and tricks. One recently told me that the rule of thumb is you make 2 bad paintings when you switch over, trying to figure everything out, and then it's fine from there on in.

Recently however I had the extreme good luck to sit through a 400 level university course during a 4 week pose as a model and listen to a fantastic teacher walk to students through all of the steps of creating an oil painting. In listening to this amazing woman teach I realised I could do this. If I was lucky I might even bypass the two terrible paintings to get to the good painting part having watched a class of twenty students make it through unscathed themselves. I have hope.

So steeled with all of this knowledge and bravado I feel like I'm ready to take the plunge. It may be minutes, hours, days or weeks until my paint brush touches the canvas with oils but I'm ready to go...I just can't help but think this would be so much easier if I had the carefree lack of attachment I had at the ripe old age of eight or nine when I tried oils for the first time! ;)


More Musings from the Model's Side of the Canvas

Posted by Elissa Baltzer on February 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (4)

I spin moments out of thin air.


I weave stories into stillness.


Like the idea of a butterfly frozen in ice, which tells a story of flight interrupted, I tell stories with my body of moments outside of time. I could be telling your fortune gazing into a crystal ball. Perhaps I am a shamanic preistess divining from the stars. A lover smelling the subtle scent of a rose. A warrior fierce and ready for battle. I could be anything. Each movement creates a different pose, a different moment of a story which exists for seconds, minutes or hours, as the artist's hand, eye and heart interpret and capture what that movement in stillness means to them. It is a cross section of a tale laid flat on paper or canvas or scuplted into earth so that it can be apprecaited and understood by others. Throughout this process learning happens. Studies of light and shadow, and the shades between the two, take place. Angles of legs, the tilt of a head and expression are observed and noted. Visual measurements are taken by the artist. Studies of colour are done. Until we arrive at the final result of all of this understanding and work...the capturing of an ephemeral moment.



A costumed pose from a themed model session at UQAM, Montreal.

Photos by Marie-Lyne Veilleux the sessions fantasic moderator.


Tales of a Life Model

Posted by Elissa Baltzer on November 4, 2011 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

So once uopn a time many years ago in Paris....sounds like a great start to an intriguing story? Well it is! This is the story of how I started what has now become a 15 year career that I love. When I was younger than I am now I took off on an adventure across the sea to France where I spent one magical almost-year being inspired and seduced by the city of Paris cloaked in the mystery of it's history and the sparkly brillance of it's present day (at the time). I worked as a Nanny for 2 different families, studied a semester at the Sorbonne and then took a semester of sculpture and life drawing classes at a little studio in the banlieue of Paris run by two fantastic Artists. I began with sculpture and then, quickly realising that the clay was never going to make it back to Canada in my bags,I swithced to paper and started drawing the model instead of sculpting. It was fantastic. I learned a lot that semester about colour, proportion, line and artistic community. It was in this quaint atelier overflowing with creativity and artists I had drawn and sculpted with that I also first began posing as a life model.I enjoyed wathing the pieces progress slowly over time. It was fascinating to see how each person perceived me. When I eventually came back to Canada it was with a bust of my head that one of the students had given me...a pretty cool souvenir from France.

Over the years I have posed for classes in many different places in the Maritimes and also here in Montreal. I am always fascinated with the process. You never know what works of art will be created in the span of a class.To dicover the beauty poetry in a well drawn line. What creations may have come into being by the end of tweny minutes, an hour, six hours. How inspiration will weave it's way through the senses and onto the canvas. Watching the evolution of the work and the translation of my pose, light, shadow and medium onto paper canvas or into sculpture is amazing. Each artist sees and resonates with different aspects of the model and the pose. I am fascinated by watching the creation and problem solving that has gone on in each artists' work. When I take my breaks between posing I almost always do the rounds of the art in progress and the ongoing evolution of each piece.

One of the other beautiful parts of my job as an artist who is also a life model is that I get to listen to so many amazing teachers teach. No two teachers teach a concept the same way, and in truth no one teacher teaches the same class in exactly the same way twice so there is always something to learn.

Inspiration abounds. I am inspired also by the students and their work. A touch of violet in a shadow here. A brilliant line of deep yellow there, colours I might never have dared to use myself when painting the model, yet there they are beautiful jewels on someone else's canvas, and I learn from this. When I sit on the subway I then look at the faces of those arond me. I see pale blue on the plane of a cheek as the light hits it, greens in the shadows of hair falling across a face, Brilliant reds in the ear that sun is shining through in the park. And I carry the memories of these canvases with me out of the classroom and into my every day life, seeing colours in the play of light on people and objects in the streets of ths city. 

The job is really about making a beautiful mathematical equation of positions of limbs, torso, angles of the head, semblance of moments that equal beauty, inspration or both. As models what we are conveying and how we are conveying it is really important. It starts with the life model creating a pose and inspiration and ends in a interpretation of what is being seen and felt by the artist. I feel pretty lucky to get to see myself through the eyes and paintbrushes and sketchbooks of so many amazing artists.To watch ephemeral moments that will never reproduce themselves exactly rendered beautifully as art.