UVic recently put a selection of Karl Spreitz films online. It’s a great cross section of his work, from nature documentaries to art films to portraits some of his fellow Limners, the latter representing a fascinating record of the heroic period of the local modern art scene.
The Limners were an interesting group. Although I’d heard of some of them individually – Maxwell Bates primarily, and I’d seen a show of Herbert Siebner’s paintings at the old Atelier gallery in Vancouver – I’d never heard of them collectively until I moved to the Island seven or eight years ago. And of course, once you’re here, it’s impossible not to hear about them, from which I conclude they had a big impact locally, but not so much elsewhere. And although one can decry the injustice of that, in another way it’s great to have some persistence of regional culture in a time when so much of what we get is the opposite; the product of a globalized culture-making machine.
Continuing on with my general theme of old stuff no one else cares about…
Back when I was learning to paint, I came to believe that the craft of painting, the heart of the discipline, had been lost amid a seemingly endless parade of fashionable styles throughout the 20th century. In a mostly unsuccessful attempt to compensate, I made a point of checking out old how-to-paint books from the university library. Most of them were awful, but every once in a while I’d come across something worth reading. A Stepladder to Painting, by Jan Gordon, fell squarely into the latter group. In its time I think it was fairly popular. I eventually bought a copy second hand (since it’s been out of print for years), and my copy from the sixth printing dates from 1944, ten years after the first printing. There was a second, updated edition in the 1960s, but the book is such a period piece that I can’t help but think any later updates would probably not have improved it.