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Three Graces
commercial art, illustration, women, The Three Graces, goddesses, women and creativity, imagery, book illustration, ritual, art traditions, figurative drawing, femininity, female, homage to women, detail, ink drawing, women bound, freedom and control, limitation, liberation, women's inner lives, whimsy, decorative heritage, Ukrainian, Polish, roots, symbolism, power, profile of contemporary women, elaborate pattern, symmetry, balance, design, curvilinear, pattern, informal balance, black and white, Art Nouveau, sources of ideas, narrative, ritual, feminist pattern painters, decorative motifs,
description

Phyllis Godwin’s training in  commercialPertaining to making money, i.e., creating art in order to sell it, rather than creating art for purely aesthetic purposes.  art is apparent in her illustrative drawings and paintings. Her delicate  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  and attention to detail are like those seen in book illustrations, and the stories and fantasies within books become the fodder for Godwin’s ideas and imagery. Jack Anderson comments, “Phyllis Godwin’s work looks to folk  narrativeRelating to the telling of a story, or the telling of events, etc.  for its source. Indeed, these fanciful images of women in pairs of groups of three, apparently engaged in some joyous ritual dance or action, resemble illustrations for children’s story books and the stories that are told about and frame female experience.” (Anderson 2007)

godwin portrait

In the Three Graces Godwin draws upon ancient Greek and Roman mythology for her inspiration, as many artists have done before her. The Three Graces, or Charities, were goddesses of beauty, charm and creativity, qualities that many women the world over aspire to.
 
While sticking to the basic format of traditional depictions of masters such as Botticelli and Raphael, Godwin asserts her own  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  on her Graces. Godwin’s goddesses are clothed, but they still praise the beauty of the female form. She does not represent a prominent central  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  with her back to the viewer; instead her central  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  is facing forward and, because of her smaller size, is relegated to the background. Like many traditional depictions of goddesses, Godwin’s figures appear to be moving or floating in air, but they are not dancing, as is usually the case. Regardless of how Godwin represents her Three Graces, it is apparent she values her own femininity and is paying homage to everything female.

Further to this idea, in historical works of the Three Graces there is a sense of playfulness and rejoicing not clearly evident in this Godwin work. Her women have no arms and are bound together with angel-like wings, possibly representing the inability to take action or make changes in their lives. Writer Jack Anderson states about more current Godwin works, “Pointing to showy artifice, these figures posit more external controls than freedom, more limitation than liberation.” (Anderson, 2007)

The expressions on the women’s faces reinforce this idea as they show no compassion. They are serious and earnest, the faces of strong, powerful women. Possibly, Godwin was inferring that the women need to be freed of traditional restraints and that the ‘graces’ that are most sought after in  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (Artlex.com)  women are toughness, intelligence and grit.

Jack Anderson comments further on Godwin’s representation of women when he writes, “Clearly foregrounding women, their relationships and their inner lives, these obsessively patterned pencil works lead us to American painter Miriam Schapiro and other  feministFeminism essentially comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and philosophies concerned with gender inequalities, and equal rights for people of all genders. Especially since the late 1960s, when the feminist art movement can be said to have emerged, women have been particularly interested in what makes them different from males — what makes women artists and their art different from male artists and their art. This has been most prominent in the United States, Britain, and Germany, although there are numerous precursors to the movement, and it has spread to many other cultures since the 1970s. Feminists point out that throughout most of recorded history males have imposed patriarchal (father-centered) social systems (in which they have dominated females). Although it is not the goal of this article to recount the development of feminist theory in full, the history of feminist art cannot be understood apart from it. Feminist theory must take into account the circumstances of most women's lives as mothers, household workers, and caregivers, in addition to the pervasive misconception that women are genetically inferior to men. Feminist art notes that significant in the dominant (meaning especially Western) culture's patriarchal heritage is the preponderance of art made by males, and for male audiences, sometimes transgressing against females. Men have maintained a studio system which has excluded women from training as artists, a gallery system that has kept them from exhibiting and selling their work, as well as from being collected by museums — albeit somewhat less in recent years than before. (Artlex.com)   patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  painters of the 1970’s, who used cross-cultural and transhistorical decorative motifs to speak to women’s  domesticRemaining much at home; devoted to home duties or pleasures; as, a domestic man or woman.  Living in or near human habitations; domesticated; tame as distinguished from wild; as, domestic animals.  Made in one's own house, nation, or country; as, domestic manufactures, wines, etc.  One who lives in the family of an other, as hired household assistant; a house servant. Articles of home manufacture, especially cotton goods.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  adventures.” (Anderson, 2007)

easter eggPattern can be seen in the  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  of the hair, the clothing and the organic growth-like forms surrounding the figures. It is meticulously and labouriously applied, and many of the patterns are reminiscent of the flower and leaf forms seen on Ukrainian Easter eggs. Godwin has a “passion for pattern” Anderson observes. (Anderson, 1999) Kristin Linklater reinforces this idea, saying, “Her style, which is often whimsical, draws on the rich decorative heritage of her Ukrainian Polish roots, and is laden with  symbolismAn image that stands for something else to convey meaning and information in an art work.  and elaborate pattern.” (Linklater, 2005)

Symmetry is also a trademark of Godwin’s work and the Three Graces is no exception. The image could resemble a Rorschach test  patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  in its similarity of  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  on either side of a central fold or axis. However, while adhering to this  symmetricalFormal balance where two sides of a design are identical.  design, Godwin uses slight changes from one side to the other to add to the interest and charm of the image as the viewer’s eye is led through the drawing.

The flowing  curvilinearFormed or characterized by curving lines. Elements of late Gothic and Art Nouveau ornament are examples of curvilinear treatment of form. Also curvilineal. (Artlex.com)  lines, the black and white decorative  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  and  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  of women as ethereal characterize Godwin’s work as having roots in the  Art NouveauFrench for "The New Art." An international art movement and style of decoration and architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, characterized particularly by the curvilinear depiction of leaves and flowers, often in the form of vines. These might also be described as foliate forms, with sinuous lines, and non-geometric, "whiplash" curves. Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918), Alphonse Mucha (Czechoslovakian, 1860-1939), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1861-1901), Aubrey Beardsley (English, 1872-1898), Antonio Gaudí (Spanish, 1852-1926), and Hector Guimard (French, 1867-1942) were among the most prominent artists associated with this style. The roots of Art Nouveau go back to Romanticism, Symbolism, the English Arts and Crafts Movement and William Morris (English, 1834-1896). In America, it inspired, among others, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). The name is derived from "La Maison de l'Art Nouveau," a gallery for interior design that opened in Paris in 1896. Art Nouveau is known in Germany as Jugenstil and in England as Yellow Book Style, and epitomizes what is sometimes called fin de siècle style. It reached the peak of its popularity around 1900, only to be gradually overtaken by art deco and other modernist styles. (Artlex.com)  of the early 20th century and connections to artists like Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimt.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Think about symbolism, and discuss with fellow students, artists, and teachers how visual artists like Godwin and writers use it in their work.
  • Meta Perry says about Godwin‘s works, “a great deal of their charm is found in their enigmatic quality.” She also describes her work as, “magical and mythical, romantic and refreshing.” (Perry 1983) Think about these statements as they apply to Godwin’s work.
Online Activity
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Use the drawing window below to make your own  symmetricalFormal balance where two sides of a design are identical.  design.

 

Then try out the following websites:

Studio Activity

Symmetry in art and life

  • Find examples of symmetry in artworks. Some ARTSask artists who use  symmetryFormal balance where two sides of a design are identical.  are: Lynne Cohen, Betty Godwin, Carolyn Dukes, Derek Besant, Mary Longman, John Nugent, etc. For each, ask yourself - is what you see an example of formal, informal or radial symmetry? Discover some examples of your own.

symmetrical buildings

  • Look at examples of the Rorschach test at Online Rorschach Test.  What kinds of images can you see in the shaped forms?
  • Fold a piece of paper in half.
  • Open the paper and apply dabs of paint to one side of the folded paper.
  • Fold the paper over top of the paint and apply some pressure. Be sure to not apply too much pressure as the paint may come spraying out one end if you have applied a lot of paint.
  • Open the paper and reveal your design.
  • Practise making a number of these designs and then use them as a starting points for fantasy drawings or paintings. 
symmetrical buildings

Movement and line

Capturing a sense of movement in an artwork can be exciting as it enlivens the static appearance of many visual artworks.

  • A sense of movement is often achieved through the use of flowing line. Examine how Phyllis Godwin’s work shown here and Kenneth Lochhead’s work in the ARTSask theme Place both incorporate this idea. Godwin’s work is more realistic, while Lochhead’s is abstract, but both create a sense of motion through their use of line.
  • Experiment with curving flowing line and determine how you can use it to create a sense of movement in your work.


Signature

Many artists have a unique and personal signature.

  • Look at examples of artists’ signatures. They are commonly found in the bottom right corner of an artwork.
  • Look for the red block signatures on Japanese prints. The signatures are reproduced using a specially designed stamp loaded with ink. To see examples of Sumi paintings, go to:
  • Look at calling cards that have been designed for businesses and individuals.
  • Use the design for your name as your logo and design a card to promote yourself or your business. 

Create a  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  for fabric

Find a source of white fabric to use, or  recycleThe reprocessing of old products into new ones.  For example, making new paper products out of old, used paper.  a well-used older plain white sheet or pillowcase or table cloth. Make a constant all-over  patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  to decorate fabric to be made into clothing.

  • Look at patterns in fabric and scarves.
  • Plan your design to match the size of your white fabric.
  • Allow your fabric to dry and place the fabric between sheets of paper. With a low setting pass an iron over the paper surface. The wax will gradually be extracted from the cloth and absorbed by the paper. Change your paper often and be careful to use a low setting of heat on your iron to avoid scorching and fire.

arch

Using historical references in art-making

Look through art history books for examples of artists doing work that grabs your attention and is related to something of interest to you.

  • How would you use ideas like those used by your selected artist to make your own comment on events in your life?
  • Using ideas from the artist you selected, create your own artwork to reflect your take on your own reality.

 

 

 

References

Anderson, Jack.  ‘Three Artists, Three Styles.’  Regina Leader Post, September 20, 2007.

Anderson, Jack.  ‘Gems in Small Sizes.’  Regina Leader Post. July 31, 1999.

Linklater, Kristin.  ‘Ted Godwin, Phyllis Godwin and Teddi Ruth Driediger.’  Galleries West Magazine, Spring, 2005.

Perry, Meta.  ‘Artists Phyllis and Ted Godwin Explore Two Images in Show.’  Regina Leader Post, October 6, 1983

Urquhart, Tony.  Godwin and Godwin.  Exhibition catalogue.  Art Gallery, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, 1976.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning