By Cynthia Robertson
Hazel Ross is an artist in every sense of the word. Her voice is like music, with a pretty brogue she still has from her native Scotland. Her smile is warm and infectious, and she loves to joke almost as much she loves the colors in the sunset or the portrait of her cat she’s painting.
She is a natural born leader for the Safari Art Circle that meets weekly for both new and experienced artists. Instructing them to bring just a sketchpad, an eraser, a pencil, a ruler and a sense of humor for their first day of the “Drawing Boot Camp,” Ross eases her students into what might be their first drawing.
Many of those students have emerged as prolific artists able to sell their own work. Most of them claim to be as good as they are because of Ross and everything she pours into her art classes.
Recently, the San Carlos Library held a reception for Ross’s new exhibit, displaying her work, as well as the work of her students, throughout the library. As part of the reception, Ross was also invited to demonstrate the way she creates artwork not often seen in San Diego: wildlife collages. Using old National Geographic magazines, she cuts out pieces of photographs, illustrations and even text that will go into her drawings on black matte board, the ideal color surface for the collages.
Ross does not concern herself with the subject matter of the pieces as much as the color and light in the ultimate effect.
“There is very little in nature that is truly black and truly white,” she said. None of the pieces of magazine photos she used in a collage of a lion were ever of that particular animal.
For the lion collage, Ross used about 40 magazines.
Her methodology for developing the color and shape of a rhinoceros has interesting origins as well.
“All together, I used cut pieces from pictures of the Virgin Mary, Michelangelo’s statue of David and naked ladies,” she said.
On a more practical note, Ross recommended to cut, not tear, the pieces of a magazine picture. Also, she uses a mixture of Elmer’s Glue and water (equal parts) for pasting the pieces onto the board.
Ross picked up a photograph of a large rock from a National Geographic magazine. She held it up for everyone to see.
“I’ve got to get this in somewhere. I think it will be perfect as the rock that the hippo stands on,” she said, holding it at the bottom of the rhino collage.
Someone asked Ross where she got the idea of making collages from magazine pages. She said that one day when she was walking by the central museum of Edinburgh, there was a poster for a show comprised of girls’ faces from magazine covers.
“I looked at that poster and said ‘I can do something like that,’” Ross said.
Marty Armstrong, a student in Ross’ Safari Art Circle who has several pieces in the current exhibit as well, had first met Ross in a Life Drawing class at Foothills.
From Ross’ class, Armstrong said that she learned all the basics about art — focal point, value, contrast and shape — and to never place the subject on exactly the half point of the paper.
“Hazel makes us all better. She makes anyone who wants to be an artist a better one,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong had recommended a friend of hers, Stephen Roeder, to the Safari Art Circle. A retired physics professor from San Diego State, Roeder had dabbled in art since his retirement. He enrolled in Ross’s Safari Art Circle.
“I’ve always loved art. My passion is portraits. I like to catch a person’s likeness and make them look good. From Hazel, I learn the composition of a picture and how that makes a big difference. But she also encourages me in doing whatever I want to do,” said Roeder, who hopes to have some of his own work in the next exhibit of Safari Art Circle.
The next new class of the Safari Art Circle will begin this summer. For more information, email Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Contact Cynthia Robertson at email@example.com.