This V. Note includes a selection of recent paintings from Charity Baker’s November show at Catherine Fosnot Gallery. There are several large paintings of figures in the landscape and some small plein air landscapes featuring scenes from Pennsylvania, New York, and sunsets on the Hudson River. Charity Baker is a recent graduate from the New York Studio School. She came to the Seattle Artist League on recommendation from Fran O’Neill, and I have a growing pile of enthusiastic feedback from her drawing students. The Seattle Artist League has been working with several teachers from NYSS (Fran O’Neill, Jonathan Harkham, Shruti Ghatak, and Charity Baker). Each artist’s work is completely different from the other’s, but they all talk about the process of making art with a similar language. NYSS artists talk a lot about space. They talk about pathways, activating areas of the rectangle, and they say things like “how do you get from here to there?” At first I was baffled, and I confess, I was a little irritated by their vocabulary. I didn’t know what they meant. Space? This painting doesn’t use any of the tools I’d been taught to express space and depth in a painting. Why are they talking about space when the work is clearly flat? What space do they mean? Where is it? And what do they mean “how do you get from here to there?” In the first moment – the first 1.25 seconds – of looking Charity’s work, I thought it lacked some of the refinement I associated with strong academic drawing and painting. And yet… I couldn’t stop looking at it. The work was captivating. There was an energy in the shapes and brushstrokes that met me directly and kept me engaged. Even within the apparent simplicity, there seemed to be so much to look at! Take a look at the shapes in this painting. Every edge of the rectangle is engaged. There is something reaching to touch the edge of every side. The toe on the left. The elbow on the right, the fingertips at the bottom, and the hills and clouds, they all seem to be reaching for the edge of the painting. This makes interesting and dynamic shapes both in and outside the figure. It also gives my eye lots of pathways to follow. I am lead in and through the painting. Look how the cloud takes us in and down to the hill. Look how the hill takes us through and down to the arm. Look how the grass below is activated by brushstrokes. Look how the shape of the figure mirrors the shape of the clouds above it. The painting seems simple, but it is skillfully built for active engagement with the viewer. Space isn’t expressed in an illusion from linear or atmospheric perspective, it’s expressed by pathways, as if you were a little ant walking across all the shapes and surfaces. This painting is my favorite in the show. I’ve included a gallery shot so you can see the scale. It’s big! Charity Baker’s November show at Catherine Fosnot Gallery The narrative of this dark painting is playful and full of joy. The figure with their arms raised seems to be in mid happy-yell, the little figure in the middle personally meets my gaze with a friendly smile. The next turns us to the left, where the upside down figure introduces surprising delight, as it hangs from a mysterious something to connect with the water. The activity is so friendly and inviting, I can dream into this imagined scene as if I was there, somehow joining the party moment with my own nostalgia. More than the narrative, I enjoy the clever way this painting was put together. The physical paint application feels direct and full of energy. Every edge of the rectangle has been engaged. Every shape and space has been activated by brushstrokes of color. Look how the path – a literal path – takes us from the sun and clouds, down the hill, and into the little figure. Look how the lines and shapes take us from the figure, down and over to the next figure, and to the water, then to the hand, and back up again. Each figure’s gaze, gesture, and shapes take us to the next. There is so much to explore! …And did you see the shadow of the person standing where we’re standing – our own shadow – vertically placed upon the center figure? We are there! We are actually in the painting! Look how in this painting of people lounging on the dock, the figures connect and make pathways for us to follow through the painting. Notice that the shapes of the figures resemble the shapes in the clouds. See how the lines in the dock refer to the lines in the water? How about this strange painting. Look how the pink shape in the sky has been inverted and repeated in the water. Look how the shape has also been repeated in the figure’s arm. See how the shoulders of the figure are similar to the rock below? And how at ease his round broad shape is amongst the hills? Notice how the white sections of waterfall form a curve that takes us from the top right, down and around the figure’s left side, and how when it pauses, the shirt and the rock pick up the pathway to continue our journey through. The more I look at Charity Baker’s work, the more I love it. Below are a delightful series of small plein air paintings, with similarly collaborative shapes and pathways. You all know that artists develop their own individual voices in response to the miles of work and influences that helped to shape them. As the League grows into our fifth year of classes, the school’s individual voice and personality is also taking shape. I am proud of who we are becoming: a school to foster informed creative intelligence, individualism, and bravery in all levels of artists. We have teachers like Charity Baker to thank for this. Interested in drawing with Charity Baker? She has a 4 week shortie starting this Wednesday – beginners welcome! Sessions are recorded, so if you miss one you can catch up! Click here to learn more. Drawing with Observation and Imagination Teacher: Charity BakerClass Length: 4 WeeksClass Days: Wednesdays, beginning November 25Time: 1:30 – 4:00 pm PST Space is limited. Register today! Click here to check out Charity Baker’s website and Instagram.