Artist as Activist

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Untitled (student march)
student march, under-drawing, conté sticks, conté crayon, figure drawing, peace march, student activism, one-point perspective, protest,
description
start quoteI very much wantred to be a war artist...when I did become one. I'm sure Jackson had something to do with it.end quote
-- Molly Lamb Bobak

In the  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  presented here from the Mendel Art Gallery collection, Bobak portrays a student march using conté sticks or crayons. These crayons are used for drawing and for the under-drawing that artists sometimes use to prepare for an  oilSlow-drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colours is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward. (Artlex.com)  painting.

The student march presented in this drawing shows Bobak’s impressionistic style. The figures of the marching students and of the spectators to the right are identifiable as individual figures, but none of them have distinctive, recognizable features. Some of the words on one banner are legible, but the meaning of “Joe can so can Louie” is unclear.

The 1960s, when Bobak created this drawing, was a period of student activism in many parts of the world. Students demonstrated, protested and marched on many university and college campuses. Bobak’s drawing documents what appears to be a peaceful march down a tree-lined road, with the outline of buildings just visible in the background. The scene may have been a march or demonstration at the University of New Brunswick, but by depicting the event in an impressionistic way – and obscuring what the banners say - she has made it representative of any student march on any campus.

 

additional resources Things to Think About Advanced Activity

Links for information on war art and artists:

See a Video interview with Molly Lamb Bobak:

Online Activity
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Getting perspective

In this drawing, Untitled (student march), Lamb Bobak uses a  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  spatial device called one-point linear  perspectiveA method used to create the illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface. It can be created by overlapping, placement, detail, colour, converging lines and size. See HandPrint.com (http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/perspect3.html and http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/perspect4.html) for some examples.  to create the deep  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  in the picture. A  vantage pointThe position from which the viewer looks at an object or visual field.  is  setThe hardening process of paint, plaster of Paris, concrete, resin, an adhesive, or any other material which must harden before working with it further. (Artlex.com)  up in which we see the whole procession of student marchers up the street to the buildings. In one-point linear perspective all  parallel linesTwo or more straight lines or edges on the same plane that do not intersect. Parallel lines have the same direction. (artlex.com)  (in this case the people and trees) recede into a vanishing point (in this case the end of the street and buildings in our view). As well as all  convergence linesConvergent lines approach one another, to a common point.  or orthogonals (in this case the edges of the street) converge into the vanishing point.  The vanishing point is on the horizon line. The  horizon lineA level line where water or land seems to end and the sky begins. Vanishing points are usually located on this line.  (artlex.com)  is always at eye level. Because the people are placed below the  horizon lineA level line where water or land seems to end and the sky begins. Vanishing points are usually located on this line.  (artlex.com)  and vanishing point we have an overhead view of them.

Click on the terms listed on the Lamb Bobak print below to see the basic layout of the one-point linear perspective devices used in this drawing:

 

Studio Activity

Molly Lamb Bobak was the first woman in Canada to become an official war artist. In this role she recorded the day-to-day work and activities of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in World War II.

Create a  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)  of sketches and photographs that focus on recording and documenting.

  • Think of an occupation, pursuit, or event which you consider an important service. This could be a wide range of activities or occupations such as: teacher, nurse, doctor, parent, coach, armed forces personnel, farmer, aid worker, artist, firefighter, construction worker, spiritual leader, animal rescue worker, environmentalist, librarian, food bank volunteer or many, many other occupations; or any kind of charity or cultural event.  Arrange for permission and access to record people or one particular person in the work environment.
  • Use a combination of detail (close-up) or general, overall vantage points for both the sketches and photographs; think about images that will provide both a sense of the task and the person doing the task
  • Edit your documentation by selecting the best images to use in a series. Look for the images that depict the moment and circumstances around the activities most clearly. Print and display your photo and sketches together either on the wall, in book format or on-line.
Studio Activity

Cross curriculum:  Visual art/history/creative writing

Write a fictional account of a place or event in war time using the work of a war artist as a reference.

  • Study Canada’s war art and the role of the war artist.  (See the Advanced Activity page for links.)
  • After studying numerous works of war art, discuss the various roles of the war artist
  • Decide on one artist, then one artwork you would like to work from as a reference; do research on that war artist
  • Write a fictional account of the event or place depicted in the artwork as told by the artist observing and recording that event, time and place in the war
  • Display the writing with a reproduction of the corresponding war art piece
  • At the conclusion invite feedback, discussion, and questions from the audience
References

Gillis, Raina-Clair.  ‘Artistic Impressions of War.’  Canadian Military Journal, Autumn 2005.

Lamb-Bobak, Molly.  Double Duty: Sketches and Diaries of Molly Lamb Bobak, Canadian War Artist.  Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1992.

Library and Archives Canada.  ‘Molly Lamb Bobak.’  Canadian War Artists.

Lumsden, Gordon.  ‘Bobak, Molly Joan.’  The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 8, 2008 from:  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0000846

Morse, Jennifer.  ‘Molly Lamb Bobak.’  Legion Magazine, January/February 1996.

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