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Chilliwack artist Chris Woods using strange object to teach

Using an “artist’s window” to help students draw on reality, local artist Chris Woods (pictured here) and UFV visual arts professor Chris Friesen will teach a drawing, painting and picture making course starting May 7. - Submitted
Using an “artist’s window” to help students draw on reality, local artist Chris Woods (pictured here) and UFV visual arts professor Chris Friesen will teach a drawing, painting and picture making course starting May 7.
— image credit: Submitted

By Dessa Bayrock/Special to the Times

Chris Woods stands in his Chilliwack studio with a strange object constructed from a couple of two-by-fours, some metal brackets, and a sheet of plexiglass.

It’s called an “artist’s window,” and while it doesn’t look like much, it’s going to be the star of a class taught at UFV by Woods and visual arts instructor Chris Friesen.

The course is called “Drawing, Painting and Picture Making: Transformational Tools for the Beginning Artist,” and runs for eight weeks on Wednesday evenings starting May  7. As a continuing education course, the only prerequisite is that students must be over the age of 15.

Woods admits the course will be far from comprehensive, because the period is so short. But with Friesen, he hopes to lay a foundation that students can build on further in the future—perhaps students who have never tried drawing or painting before, or who are intimidated by the prospect of creating realistic images by hand.

Woods, a Chilliwack secondary and UFV grad, is perhaps best known for his recent photo-realistic Star Wars-themed work. The series, called Sandstorm, was featured at the Reach gallery and museum in Abbotsford and currently hangs on display at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

His trademark realism—based in observation, rather than symbolism or interpretation—is what he hopes to impart to his students.

“I really want to emphasize picture-making over symbolic thinking,” Woods said. “Drawing is about observation, at its very base . . . In order to learn to draw you have to throw the windows wide on your eyes and let everything in.”

A large part of this learning process will involve the artist’s window, which Woods describes as “training wheels.” With a student on one side of the plexiglass and an object on another, the student can trace the lines and shadows of what they see onto a piece of acetate—translating a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional image.

“If you went to your house and looked out of a window [and] traced every object outside, that’s essentially what this artist’s window is doing,” Woods said. “It takes a little concentration but you get results with it right away.”

Other than the technical side of drawing and painting—lessons in light, shadow, and perspective—Woods hopes his students will bring their personal lives into their art, as well as their art into their personal lives.

This goal is reflected in the course’s final project; students will complete a still-life painting of an object dear to them, which could be a childhood toy, a grandfather’s hat, or their mother’s wedding veil.

“An artist doesn’t just draw pretty pictures. They choose the subjects that are most important to them. It’s not the Bob Ross approach, where you draw a pretty mountain and don’t have any connection to it,” Woods said. “Image-making is all about meaning.”

• More information is available at www.ufv.ca/cs. The course begins May 7 and runs Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on UFV’s Abbotsford campus.

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