Artist as Activist

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Grow Up or Blow Up
generation, regeneration, Emma Lake, decay, decaying tree, new life, humanity's future, the future, editorial cartoon, the bomb
start quoteThere is no end to anything. The horizon is only an apparent division. As we move forward, it keeps moving away. There is no end to anything. There is only change.end quote-- Ernest Lindner

Ernest Lindner was a master at detailed drawing, painting, and watercolours, able to draw the large lesson from small details. He was fascinated by the cycle of life - the notion of generation and regeneration. His daughter Degen once said that he likely knew every stump on the island in Emma Lake where their summer home was located. He was fascinated that a decaying tree stump could contribute to new life.

In Grow Up or Blow Up! from the Mendel Art Gallery  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (  Lindner again questions humanity’s future, as he did in the ARTSask theme, Future Perfect. In Grow Up or Blow Up! Lindner portrays mankind as a baby with no concern for consequences as he lights the fuse to a bomb. Lindner has drawn a face on the bomb, and given it a look of concern, complete with a furrowed brow. Using a  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.  similar to that of editorial cartoons found in newspapers, Lindner seems to be suggesting that humanity’s creation – the bomb – has more concern about the future than the bomb’s creator.

additional resources Dan Ring - On Ernest Lindner
Duration: 2:11 min
Size: 9290kb
Dan Ring - On Lindner’s Saturday Nights
Duration: 1:48 min
Size: 7692kb
Degen Lindner - High School Art Teacher
Duration: 1:14 min
Size: 5306kb
Degen Lindner - Lindner was in Love with Nature
Duration: 2:26 min
Size: 10292kb
Degen Lindner - Loneliness and Boredom
Duration: 2:58 min
Size: 12783kb
Degen Lindner - Saturday Nights
Duration: 2:58 min
Size: 2755kb
Degen Lindner - The Saskatchewan Arts Board
Duration: 2:21 min
Size: 9808kb
Ernest Lindner Cherry Films 1974
Things to Think About
  • Artists often give objects or animals human characteristics, as Lindner has done with this drawing. Why do you think that is? Is this an effective way to give a lesson or express an idea?
Advanced Activity

Most students think of the ‘60s as a time of great music, fashion, and fascinating and quirky personalities. But the '60s also marked a time of fear associated with the Cold War, the onset of war in Vietnam, and anxiety about “the bomb” as indicated in Lindner’s cartoon drawing.

60s poster

The following links might b60s postere useful for generating ideas for lessons about the arts and social studies :

  • :  This is a site entitled “Groovy Times” dedicated to music fashion and personalities of the sixties. Detailed information on bands and music downloads.
Online Activity
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Using the drawing tool, create a drawing in a  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.  similar to Lindner’s. Draw the baby again and this time show another dangerous product that might look like innocent fun for a baby, but is potentially deadly. This product might not be a weapon of war, but another product (for example, junk food, drugs, cigarettes, pollution of some kind, etc.). You might create the drawing in the  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (  of an advertisement or poster.

Save your drawing to your computer and use a photo program to resize it, add other elements, or print it to display.

Studio Activity

Thinking out loud

Spy equipment Imagine you are a spy or a double spy in the ‘60s Cold War era. (see the Advanced Activity page for links)  You are trapped in a difficult situation with no means of communication to the outside world, but before you escape you need to leave messages and information to others as warning or clues.

  • This might become a class project.  For example, you might develop it as a game or simulate a thriller narrative.

For further inspiration see:

Read compelling thriller novels

For example, read the book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy or The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré who was a spy during the Cold War era.  You can also watch 007 (James Bond) movies. The early movies in this  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  were made about the same time as Lindner’s piece.  For more information about John Le Carré, go to:


Anderson, Jack. Lindner, Ernest Friedrich. The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

Author unknown. ‘Famous landscape artist, educator.’ Saskatoon Star Phoenix, May 26, 2006.

Fenton, Terry. ‘Ernest Lindner.’ Canadian Prairie Watercolour Landscapes. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

Gouin, Judy. ‘Lindner, Ernest.’ The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

Heath, Terrence. ‘The drawings of Ernest Lindner.’ artscanada, Spring, 1972. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

---. Lindner’s Forest. Exhibition notes. Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1983. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

---. The life and art of Ernest Lindner. Centre for  ContemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (  Canadian Art. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

Saskatoon Library. ‘Ernest Linder: Portrait of the Artist Series. Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:

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