Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spruce Grove-Hollidge Tract


This is the Hollidge Tract, York Regional Forest, south end, looking West at the sun going down through a screen of trees. The spruce grove is a small dense plantation. Trees in rows are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but all the hoary lichen strung branches filtering an apricot makes creates a transformation.

I’ve been holding onto this one for some days. I had an ambitious and profound blog post composed in my head to go with it. Unfortunately, that masterpiece of eloquence has gone AWOL. Something about seeing the light, and the artists eye, and blah blah blah blather blather blather…

What the heck, this is a personal blog, not philosophy course so I’ll just nudge it on track with casual irreverence, lest I wallow too long in pretentiousness. Ha!

Image: 11”x14” on ripple watercolour paper. Mixed media combining watercolour, watersoluble coloured pencil, coloured pencils, acrylic gel & fine sand. Below, detail for texture. I love texture, some day I think I’ll just roam digitally looking for compositions within the composition, if you get my drift.

If you haven't already seen it, Work In Progress here



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

365 Art Card Project-the Faq


Since I've been asked, by several people, the why's and the wherefore's; I will tell.

365 is an arbitrary number and is not tied to any 'one per day' rule. It is meant to be an achievable goal (by the end of one year), whether I do a dozen per day or none for a week.

So do I have rules? yes. The cards are pre-cut (by me) to 2.5" x 3.5" inches. I date them & number them on the back. That's it.

Beyond that, anything goes, any medium, any subject any style.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I'm not the only person in the world who feels artists/writers block, from the best of us to the worst of us so I'm sharing a secret.

Taking on the project has opened up whole new avenues, even whole new worlds. I also began exploration abstraction and love it. Given that a coloured pencil work as small as 8"x10" can take days to complete, art cards clock in at the relatively quick average of 1/2 to 1 hour. Of course there are extremes. An inspired monochrome may make a spontaneous appearance in 5 minutes, while others, sporting multiple layers, painted in and outlined often take 2 hours. But that is still FAST, FAST, FAST compared to my larger works.

Size doesn't matter when it comes to working with composition. If it rocks it rocks, if it sucks it sucks. The only difference is that while a failed work of 2.5"x3.5" is no great loss and an excellent learning experience, turn those inches into feet, and you're talking a huge waste of time and resources. Meaning that I can explore so many more themes, theories, colours, elements and take them to completion in this small format than I could ever do in conventional sizes.

Not to mention I can do these in bed, or in the car (no idling! engine off!) while I wait.

Here's my kit.


A whole bunch of pre-cut cards, blank and ready to go. (a recent addition, are cards made from used art paper (failed life drawings). Since these are impossible to mess up (already messed up, aren't they?) I can be very relaxed about them.

Travel brushes, miniature brushes with water reservoir (yes, you can paint in bed)

Inktense Watersoluble Pencils: the slim case means it travels well, and it's all the colours you really need (want is another matter)

Pentel Pocket Brush: permanent ink, and a brush nib that keeps it's point.

Pencils, lots.

Prismacolor Pencils, magenta, lemon yellow, peacock blue, silver, sienna, expresso & black.

Sharp knife for sharpening

Clip board & cheap paper.

Not shown, the pencil case, and floppy cloth small size briefcase that holds absolutely everything + a good book.

I've probably missed something. But you get the picture; this kit travels well, goes anywhere, sits on your lap so there's never an excuse.

& the real fabulous joy of the project, is that I have lots of finished pieces some of which turn into larger finished pieces, some of which end up in my 'itty bitty' books, etc..

Now start some of your own, hide the duds, contemplate the experiments, take joy in the successes, hoard them, share them, sell them, burn them, stick them on your wall. Do anything you like, just don't get precious about them. Let them take you somewhere, don't force them along a set pathway. Worlds await.

Want to see some of them? Posts that include an artcard are tagged “365 Art Card Project”, just scroll down the labels or search this blog.

They are also the main source of illustrations for my “Itty Bitty Tiny Little Books”. A 12 month (12 mailing) subscription is $25.00. Singles by request $3.00, free shipping anywhere on this planet in either case.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Oldest Story Ever Told – zoo day


Here is the oldest story ever told: the miraculous birth.  It predates us, although I didn’t know it. I always thought it a human story, a Christian story, a Christmas story.  Baby Jesus in his crib, with a reverent procession of visitors both sublime and banal, from heavenly angels to donkey and cow, from three wise men to simple shepherds.  All, regardless of status, changed the course of their day to bear witness to the miracle.


And here it is yet again. Look at the picture. Do you see the expressions of reverence and awe on their faces; in their bodies?  These are sheep, Barbary sheep. They live in the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. Through the course of the day, they wander, they bleat, they shit and they eat.  They wander through their enclosure leaping up the rocks and curling up in the sun. Sometimes they jostle for status, or huddle for comfort, but this is not an ordinary day. Twins just born, the placenta still quivers, a perfect circle of red and pink.  The mother exhausted, brings herself to stand on shaky feet.  The lambs struggle up to take the teat, the first action of their new lives.

Change, and the potential for change, has entered their predictable lives. Because once born, everything changes, in the pack, the flock, the family, the social group.  There is potential in a newborn babe, not just innocence, because we never know what the adult will be. Saint, sinner, bully, mentor, days or years it will take to realize the result, but the potential is here, at the moment of birth where it all begins.  And we all know, and even the sheep know it, and mark the moment in this brief but moving ritual of greeting.

And all the sheep bear witness. Animals they may be, but their actions bear the unmistakable stamp of ritual. So this, I will say is the oldest story ever told, because even the animals tell it, to this day.

PS. I’m not making this up.  Really, really, I saw this happen. The sheep all turning as one to greet the newest members of the flock.  I learned more from that moment than I could in any book. I learned, more than ever, to appreciate the depths of another species mind. Not to mention, more fodder to my speculations on the origins of religion.

PPS. This took me two weeks to write down! I just couldn’t get my head around what I was trying to say. Here goes---POST IT!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Official Launch of ‘An Itty Bitty Tiny…


Upon the suggestion of another artist/printmaker I’ve started ‘An Itty Bitty Tiny Little Book’ series, kind of like a ‘book of the month club’. These are little tiny books made of a single sheet of folded paper origami style. And while I could have assembled things using cut, paste & scan I chose instead to bang my head repeatedly against the wall of “things I don’t know how to do in GIMP”. After stormy weather (roiling thunderheads & stinging sleet) in my brain all Thursday, by the end of Friday the lyrics of a song “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone” began coursing through my head.

I think I’ve finally got it. I think I’ve finally figured it out, well almost, at least the basics. I can compile my little books in GIMP, I can handle layers, transparencies, and gaussian blur (whatever the heck that is) and even play with fractals (cool). I can specify the size and have it print that way (sounds simple, but I managed to get it wrong). And I can ink my own text & then do some super cool digital things with it, and so on and on.

And so, to celebrate, I’ll share it with you. Absolutely free.

I have $10.00 set aside in postage, so while supplies last, I’ll send it out on a first asked, first served basis (though for a few special friends I’ll make exceptions). And after that, well if you can at least spot me for postage expenses, that would be fine. Trades welcome.

Edit: free offer is up, $3.00 (free shipping) for one sample issue. If you saw this first on Etsy, please make payment through Etsy.

This actually is part of a series, sort of a book of the month club. And I really am committed to do 12, as that friend I told you about, already ponied up, in advance, a $25 subscription. Nothing like commitment & deadline to put the burn on.


So if you want to see what’s on the inside, you only need to ask.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mishepeshu, the Great Lynx, Lake Superior


More Lake Superior.  It is a place that is never far from my mind, even now, when I sit 900km & many months away from my next pilgrimage, erm… visit.

At least, with art, I have a way of drawing things closer, and if I can’t be there in body, then perhaps in spirit.

Mishepeshu (Michipeshu), The Great Lynx, is believed to live and control the deep waters, and when you visit Agawa Rock it is impossible not to feel his awesome presence. Ever since I first visited the shores of Lake Superior, I have been forever more haunted by it's presence, and this image is both a tribute and a compulsion to somehow feel connected to the most powerful of the Great Lakes.

This one available at Etsy.

And yep, come this summer, I’ll be wearing it too. 

Image: Linocut on watercolour.  Using New Gamboges, Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson & Burnt Sienna as my watercolours.  I must say, New Gamboges is an exciting new yellow I’ve added to my pallette, rich & thick as a runny egg yolk.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Tale Told By Five Pencils – Colour Theory!


Five pencils, count ‘em, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  Here are 6 ACEO’s done with the following pencils Prismacolor, 949 Silver (outliner only, not fill), 915 Lemon Yellow, 930 Magenta, 1027 Peacock Blue, 945 Sienna Brown.

I hate colour wheels; they are boring. So instead, I delved deep into the realm of the abstract to see how far I could push the colour range using only primary colours (magenta, yellow, cyan) + one neutral (sienna). The grey’s were especially fun.

This project felt like alchemy, turning lead into gold or getting a rainbow out of four pencils is all magic to me.  Mixing paint colours, well, I learned that ages ago, but in coloured pencil you can see all the original colours (optical mixing) and at the same time register ‘red’ ‘brown’ ‘chartreuse’ ‘orange’ ‘plum’. (you may want to click on the image for more detail)

Actually practicing colour theory (as above) has far greater benefits beyond the page.  I now see the world in techno-colour. Tree bark is no longer ‘brown’ or ‘grey’ but a brilliant mix of pinks, greens, silvers & blues, etc.. The snow is never again just white, but full of sky, and leaf and sun.  Clouds are a blend a million shades. So change your life; practice your colour theory.


Um, & if you don’t already know, cyan + yellow = greens, magenta + yellow = red (or orange depending on the blend), cyan + magenta = blues & purples

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have to STOP


Sometimes you just have to stop, whatever it is that you are doing, where ever you are, what ever your hurry.

How many sunsets/sunrises have I missed, driving along to somewhere in particular, some daily/weekly destination where the view is always the same, and because I was thinking of the goal, I failed to look beside.  Oh, I notice them all, and if I’m not behind the wheel I’ll take a good long look.  But unless I’m on holiday, or sitting on the veranda on a summer night do I actually take the time to watch the sun go down from start to finish the way I would watch a feature movie.

And it isn’t summer, and it wasn’t a holiday, and I was on my way home to dinner such as it was (bland, I’m still recovering from stomach flu) but I did stop.  I was driving, but it was impossible not to notice the day-glo colours, the sun pillar spiking the sky & the iconic barn on the horizon.  It was a distraction; my first impulse (safety first) was to tear my eyes away, look ahead down the road along an avenue of snow dusted pavement.  My second was to think and realize I could, after all, just stop.  Dinner could wait just a few more minutes, traffic, if it arrived could get around me, and maybe they’d look and notice too.  So I did just that, and in some small part captured the moment to share it with you.


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