Friday, January 29, 2010

Twilight Hemlocks Hollidge Tract


More 'Walking At Night', my series of images of the forest at dusk and beyond. While I walk often in York Regional Forest, Hollidge Tract and I remain endlessly fascinated by it's moods at or near dusk. The sky is always interlaced with branches and the depths are dark with hemlocks. Grand vistas and glorious sunsets are not part of Hollidge Tract's repertoire.  In winter, sunsets are most often obscured by clouds but an observant eye will see the colours of the sunset refracted from the sky onto the landscape in an ever changing transformation. Hollidge Tract begs you to look closer and look again.

This view is of the south trail, looking east, just before actual sundown.

Image: 8”x10” watercolour cold-pressed paper, watercolour, coloured pencil, fine sand and acrylic gel.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beautiful Niagara, & photo essay


I remember the first time I saw a photo of Niagara Falls before the developers got to it.  It was an old silver photo from the late 1800’s, and there was the Horseshoe Falls flanked on all sides by trees, trees, and nothing but trees.  I cried to see a scene so heartbreakingly beautiful and so utterly lost in time.

When I was a child, visiting Niagara Falls was a near yearly event.  My parents immigrated from Germany, and Niagara Falls was number one on every visiting relative’s list as a ‘must see’ tourist attraction.  I don’t remember much about those visits beyond the heat, the traffic, and the fumes, and my most compelling visual memory is one of surfing through a sea of arm-pits (our visits were always done on mid-summer afternoons).

Under the circumstances, I failed to understand the allure of the attraction. Niagara Falls became synonymous with tacky, crowded, boring, hot, swimming in oceans of pavement.  I thought nothing would ever draw me back as an adult until I saw ads for deep winter discounts on accommodations  and my frugal mind began to spin.  And so a Falls View weekend was planned.

I remember my first winter visit to the Falls as an adult.  Walking along the falls, there was not a soul in sight.  There I was, alone with nothing but tonnages of green water sheeting down, and ice and snow all around.  I almost cried again, it was so beautiful.  Somehow, without the crowds and the stench of traffic, the magic was back.

So now, every ten years or so (this was our second winter trip) we take advantage of winter discounts and enjoy what’s left of the natural beauty of this wonder of the world.  In winter, it stands alone in all it’s glory, the snow becomes a regal mantle that obscures it’s gaudy carnival cloak.


Niagara River below the falls; hiking trail just north of the Hydro Electric Dam takes you right down to the river if you are willing to scrabble and climb.  Here you can sit on rocks with nothing to separate you from a cold and watery oblivion. 

10012407niagara I actually crawled onto the rocks to get this view, but didn’t dare stand up.  With water moving so fast, one false move could spell “The End”—no guard rails here.

10012402niagara Green in the valley beneath the snow.

10012405niagara Hearts for lovers for those that can see.

10012401butterfly Amorous butterflies at the conservatory (image cropped to preserve privacy, a rather old-fashioned concept in these days of youtube but I hold to it).

10012404butterfly The lovely but uncooperative owl (I think) butterfly.  They are glorious iridescent blue in flight but always fold their wings up tight at rest.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In the Land of Giant Mushrooms


Common Scaber Stalk/leccinum scabrum

Like Alice in Wonderland, I could feel myself getting smaller with every step I took into the deeps of the Lake Superior forest. The summer of 2009 was particularly lush for Ontario; which is a very nice way of saying, damp, cold, and rainy. I’m not a sun lover and I like cool weather, but last summers grey pall of gloom even got me down. The only upside was the cornucopia of fungal growth.

While walking the coastal trail, between Gargantua Harbour and Warp Bay, we noticed immediately that there were many mushrooms, often beautiful, coming in shades of pale rose pink, flame red, chocolate brown, oh, just think rainbows of colour sprouting up from the leaf duff. The other aspect was size, and while I know I’m not supposed to admit this, sometimes size does matter. It’s hard not to notice a one foot span of pale pink mycelium (that’s fungal flesh, for those of you not into the science of such things) thrusting upwards from the forest floor. And as we wandered deeper into the forest, the mushrooms increased in size and number until I felt like I was in some surreal wonderland where I was shrinking and the forest and all it’s denizens loomed large and larger around me.

As with all things in Lake Superior Park, the experience was something that can only be had in the Land of the Gods.

Image: Coloured pencil on Stonehenge Paper. Prints available at Kaslkaos at Etsy. I’m not sure if I’m ready to let go of the original quite yet. For those of curious about coloured pencil, my Etsy listing includes some extreme close-ups of all those multiple pencil scribbles that make up a section.

PS. Artist/Bloggers following me on twitter @kaslkaos, I’ll be following you also @kaslkaosgallery where I’m trying a little harder to do promo’s. I’ll be tweeting my etsy things, and artsy chart, and continue boring you with bird and weather reports @kaslkaos. Not sure if it’s a good idea to split things up, but I like giving folks a choice.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Fish Called Fred


Metro Toronto Zoo, and unfortunately, this isn’t Fred. But I remember Fred, a fish that measured several feet in length, he lived in the Eurasia Pavilion with the butterflies and exotic birds.  He inhabited a large pool with a glass wall and developed a remarkable fascination with humans.  If you dared to be a total fool in public, you could engage him in play, or combat (I can’t read piscine minds) by shaking your hair in front of the tank; he would respond by shaking, bumping the glass and displaying his beautiful fan of fins. Alas, Fred died, and we all miss him.  This is another fish, although he seems to be developing a similar fascination to humans given how photogenic he was.  He didn’t, however, respond to a head shake.

I love fish, and maybe this photo shows you why. Also, thinking he’d make a nice linocut.

& More Zoo news, last time I visited, I heard frogs/toads singing indoors.  What a strange and magical sound to hear in mid-winter.  I couldn’t for the life of me find the little songsters, though.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Polar Bear and Linocut Mysteries Resolved

Polar Bear, available at Etsy

Thought it was about time to scratch together another ‘how-to’ post; this time regarding my linocuts. Lately I’m been printing onto both papers and fabric in the form of T-shirts. The larger size (5”x7” block) and new medium (jersy-knit) presented a few new challenges. In the past, I only carved aceo-sized blocks which actually turned out to be great practice in efficiency in detail and composition for the larger blocks. But, for the small stuff, I could get away with printing stamp style. IE. placing the inked block face down on the page and pressing from the back with my thumbs.
This does not work for a t-shirt, but a solution was found (you’ll see) and now I do all my larger ‘hand-pulled’ prints this way.
Step 1: Not literally step one, as first is concept and design. This one began as a little art card for my 365 Art Card Project. I had the idea, drew it in ink, but without reference the mom bear looked like an aardvark. So then there was research, books and jpg’s to get the proportions right, scale the whole thing up and finally draw it in soft black pencil onto tracing paper. Tracing paper allowed me to refine the drawing several steps from the 1st sketch. Here it’s ready, and the pencil drawing is face down on the lino block. I use something called ‘softoleum’ that is thick, rich and buttery (hungry yet?) and carves like a dream.
I learned the hard way, so I’ll tell you now—do not tape your image down. When I lifted the tape, it pulled up the surface of the softoleum, so the remainder of the block is permanently damaged.
The photo above shows me rubbing the drawing from the back, gently with a stick. It’s a bamboo chopstick I carved into a tool. This step transfers the image onto the block.
Here’s my handy speedball carving tool. It holds extra nibs in the body. Shown here is the ‘fine v’ nib—good for small stuff. Also shown is the lovely mess of rubber all over the place, and of course, the transferred outline of my drawing.
I lost track of steps. Oh well. Here’s the block ready for a test print, in print makers lingo, it’s called a ‘proof’. I know I need to carve more, but I want to see it on paper. It lets me know what ‘white’ (aka negative) parts still need more carving, which ridges and bumps need to be removed, and sometimes, which ones don’t.
After the proof, I realized I had a lot more work to do, so did much more carving, and a few more proofs, and washing up between each printing (I’m using water-based inks for paper and proofs so it’s soap, water and an old toothbrush in a basement sink). And now we are ready to roll.
What’s this??? You may well ask.
Well, here is the mystery resolved (and yes, I know there’s a hole in pants). My linocut prints are what are called ‘original hand-pulled prints’. That means the image was inked and pressed by hand, not spit out of a machine in the new-fangled manner. In my case, you may also called it ‘foot-stomped’. When I got to printing on fabric, I had trouble getting a good impression with hand pressure only, so now I lay out the paper (or fabric) on top of a sheet of melamine (which I found in the woods, talk about the 3-r’s at work), and then place the freshly inked block on top. A couple of old t’s are laid over the block to even out the pressure, then a block of plywood, and then, well, me. Here I am putting all those extra pounds gained over the years to very good use. I won’t tell you how many pounds per square inch gets applied per foot-stomped print; let’s just say it’s enough to make a good impression ;-)
Happy carving…

Sunday, January 3, 2010

And the Seas Shall Boil


Continuing on. Young Phaeton just paid no mind to Dad’s instruction, riding off road at high speeds, and bad stuff happened. Involving the gods, when I say bad stuff, I mean really bad stuff. The Nile River evaporated, and the seas began to boil, folks got burned and even the stars did not escape his reckless driving.


Dad, being an indulgent dude, could not do what was necessary. But Zeus the all-father had no problem laying down the law. The problem was dispatched with a single thunderbolt. I suppose, when the entire universe is at stake, maybe mercy is not much of an option.


Phaeton, and his reckless behaviour brought chaos and destruction to the universe. Zeus, and his deadly thunderbolt, returned all to order, and once again, Apollo was at the wheel, and the sun ever after rise in the east and set in the west, in a perfectly predictable perfection.


Chaos, disorder, recklessness, rule-breaking, and gosh darned creativity makes life interesting, but certain laws of the universe must be upheld, like gravity and molecular physics. Maybe art is a little like this too. Break all the rules you want, experiment, explore, throw caution to the wind, but never let it get in the way of being a decent human being that puts a thought or two towards the rest of the universe.

And in case you missed it: Phaeton, Part I

Images: more 2.5”x3.5” art cards. All on bristol using inktense coloured pencil, silver prismacolour, and pentel pocket brush. Crispy hand pic done on Yupo.


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