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Mosaiculture and Magnets

August 22, 2013

This summer the Montreal botanical garden (Jardin Botanique) is the host for Mosaiculture International. It’s a show of topiary follies. Painstakingly planted and clipped sculptural works on a grand scale. I’m estimating some of the larger ones being 30 feet across.

It’s certainly a spectacle, attracting big crowds. Get your tickets online to avoid a significant wait; but alas, no Access Montreal discount for the speedy service.

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At best the plantings can feel like forest spirits. A sculpture of organic material – clay, dead wood, antler, moss, lichen, (on a steel armature) combine with plant species selected for color and texture to create figures of living foliage.

At worst, it’s high-kitsch. Enormous blooming bumble bees knock over pots of cartoon flowers. Leafy lemurs, flowery clown fish, and succulent gila-monsters amuse kids and oldsters alike.

I’m not going to try and convince you it’s worth the steep admission – it is after all just an extravagant walk in the park. But if you’re looking for something to sketch (or photo) in Montreal right now – it was many years in the making, and might not happen again soon.

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I’ve been talking a lot lately about painting on location, with the big easel and the whole shebang. I thought this time I’d try out something completely opposite. A real guerilla operation. This is a trick I saw at some sketchcrawl – perhaps it was our workshop in Portland?

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The idea is to use super strong magnets to clip water bottles and palettes onto a drawing board. (One magnet goes right in your bottle of water, the other goes underneath the board – jumping from your fingers and clamping on).

It gives you some freedom to walk around, wave the board in the air, and generally not worry too much about holding stuff while you try and see through a crowd of tourists. Certainly, if you’re walking all day, it’s nice not to have to carry a tripod or easel.  I used it standing for short periods of time, but more often it’s a kind of lap desk.

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With strong enough magnets it’s not a fragile setup. Things won’t fall off on their own – but the magnets will slide if you push them – so could end up nudging things off the edge. If that happens, the magnets will snap together with wicked force. I got some nice pinches getting used to that behavior.

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I’ve seen a variation on this, a sketcher had a large panel of sheet magnet (sold as something to make photographic fridge decorations) contact cemented to their board. Making a kind of bulletin board for art supplies. Her Altoid tin watercolor kit stuck on nicely.

This trip I was experimenting with Line over Color – (reversing the normal approach – loose, exploratory washes first, tightening with line after). Something I’ve seen offered as a class at the USk symposium, but never had the chance to do.

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So, there you go – something worth trying out. I think this magnetic setup is best suited for clipping a bottle of india ink to your board and doing big brush drawings in the field. It would probably be great at life drawing. I’m going to try that next. Something a little more streamlined than clipping on my full size folding palette. Perhaps just a few bottles of pre-mixed watercolor. Should be interesting to play with.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2013 8:37 pm

    Great idea the magnets – even for clipping a water jar to a paint tin (à la Liz Steel style).

    The line over the watercolour gives a fairytale look. Perfect for this subject.

    • August 22, 2013 9:01 pm

      Aiee! Caught red handed! I know I said we’d go to this with you🙂 But we had guests in town with a ‘tween and a teen needing diversion. When you get back, we can go again – I saved some of the best sculptures for a return trip🙂

  2. September 1, 2013 5:08 am

    In the second last picture on the post you’re using some sort of soft tipped pen or something. What is it?

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