The art of the process


In anticipation of the open day in visual arts at the end of the semester, the Painting II students did not clean their studio spaces. Instead, their canvases remained on easels, some with notes affixed to the top, “Work in Progress! The prints stuck to the walls and the brushes remained ready to be used.

Hilary Irons talks to a student

Hilary Irons speaks with a student.

When the open house visitors stopped by, they were able to not only see completed paintings, but also get a glimpse of the process behind the students’ artwork.

This opening reflects a founding theme of the class, taught this semester by Hilary irons, assistant lecturer in art. “One of the goals of the class is to let the process inform the outcome of the work and the path taken by the students,” said Irons.

Experimenting – with new topics, themes and materials – is also an important part. And with experimenting and trying new things comes the specter of failure. Bowdoin’s art department, however, encourages students to reframe their ideas around perfection and the sometimes faltering path one must take to achieve success or resolution.

“Risk taking and ‘failures’ are important parts of a creative journey and often provide more value to an artist than the final created masterpiece,” said Visual Arts Academic Coordinator Gina Edwards .

Blythe Chase '23, an oil painting major in visual arts and psychology

Blythe Chase ’23, majoring in visual arts and psychology.

On the Monday morning before the Friday Open House, Blythe Chase ’23 was adding detail to her floral painting. When asked what she liked the most about Painting II, she said she appreciated the way Irons would present an assignment every two weeks or so without imposing any deadlines, allowing projects to flow back and forth. to each other.

“In the past, I always focused heavily on one project at a time and they felt separate in my mind,” she said. “In this course, we are working on several projects at the same time and it has helped me not to tire myself too much on the details of a project and to freely share ideas between them.”

Student applying oil paint to a canvas

Blythe Chase ’23 dabs a bit of red paint on its unfinished landscape.

She held up her brush at the brick red end. “Right now I’m painting a red rose, but I can apply that red here,” she said, and bent down to reach for a landscape painting with traces of autumn trees, running her brush over it. the background. “See, I can just add red here! I’m less of a perfectionist in my job, and I don’t worry all the time. It’s a lot smoother,” she said.

Isaac Gelb ’23 stood in front of two self-portraits that he had painted in a cubist style. He said the course gave him the freedom to pursue whatever interests him and that he took the opportunity to study Cubism and consider the role of time in his art and artistic process.

“A useful part of the class thought of homework and projects as multiple connected parts,” he said, “and forming ideas and long-term goals and learning to develop them into a visual series. . “

Isaac Gelb '22 in Painting II

Isaac Gelb ’23, majoring in visual arts and minor in film studies, in his studio.

Tyrese Duncan-Moore ’22, an African studies student who took several art classes, was working on a candle painting. “I’m interested in how light works and how to represent light through painting,” he explained.

One of the most valuable aspects of the class, for him, had been the ability to work at his own pace (as long as everything was done before the end of the semester !, he added). “It was hard to adjust at first, but eventually I fell into a pace where I set personal goals for my projects,” he said.

Tyrese Duncan-Moore '22 acrylic painting

Tyrese Duncan-Moore ’22 acrylic painting.

In the next booth, Michelle Behshid ’22 was working on a series of paintings of a gleaming motorcycle. “I am a realist,” she said. “But this class helped me adopt a new style and be more loose and less harsh on myself. It was fun.” She plans to give her paint of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle to her father, who owns a machine shop in Santa Clarita, California.

Michelle Behshid '22

Michelle Behshid ’22, a visual arts and math major, is working on her painting of a motorcycle.

Close up on motorcycle paint

Close-up on his process.

Teagan Cunningham '23 mix of paints

Teagan Cunningham ’23 mix of paints.

Teagan Cunningham ’22 is a visual arts minor (and a major in earth sciences and oceanography) and is also part of the sailing team. She said the painting class, which emphasized self-reliance, at times left her staring into space, making no visible progress on her canvas.

But she likened it to the practice of sailing, in which you can repeat the skills over and over again without appearing to move forward. Then all of a sudden you will have a breakthrough. “You have to change the way you look at the process,” she said. “It’s not that you are not making progress, ideas are generating, they will come.”

And in the last week of class, Cunningham “made a major breakthrough with his latest piece, a materials-based paint featuring a close-up of an eye, ”Irons said. “It was a great confirmation of the power of the process. “

“Inside the painter’s studio, the windows to many worlds are in various stages of opening and closing. … “

– Gallery statement by Hilary Irons, Professor of Painting II,

Continue reading the Hilary Irons gallery statement below. Photos by Andrew Estey.

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