Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunshine after Dusk

Darkness falls early in November, and I find myself in the woods after sunset, when the colours are leeched from the land, and all is shades of grey, followed by formless darkness.
Looking up, just after sundown, I see gold in the tree tops. I'm mystified and mesmerized. How does the sun, which has dipped below the horizon reach the tops of the trees?
Looking up, I invent theories of reflection and refraction, sundogs and high altitude ice particles, anything to explain the strange phenomena of sunlight shining high in the trees after sundown. The moon is up, cold and white. Could it be moonlight?
I finish my walk, in darkness. Both the ordinary kind and the knowledge kind, my question remains unanswered.
On the weekend, I recall the tamaracks that grow in the forest. They flourish in a plantation in the North Tract, York Regional Forest. I don't often walk the North Tract; it is a relatively 'new' forest, and too much of it covered by obvious row-planted trees. It has life, but lacks aesthetics, but this is the place to go if you wish to see the autumn glory of the tamarack.  I thought of it a little late, spending all October visiting Uxbridge's Glen Major Tract and enjoying the colours of the mixed maple woodlands. It's late in the season and it may be too late, but suddenly it all seems very urgent.
I drag my husband along. He his willing to the adventure, but time is limited, as he has tickets for the evening. I promise him a direct route through the woods, as I know exactly where that stand of tamarack lies.  And while this is true, I quickly realize that I don't know the path. I make choices that begin in the right direction and veer repeatedly away from the destination. This happens with each path I take, and while there are plenty of side trails leading away from my destination, none seem willing to take me there. I realize the origin of the enchanted forest archetype, and the living trees that move and reshape the trails to entangle visitors and leave them lost and wandering forever.
Well, it's not quite that bad, afterall, I am here, returned to write this post. Eventually, I found a trail the cut in the right direction, and quickly veered away again, and another trail, the cut in the right direction and then meandered dog style in a convoluted serpentine that eventually led us directly beneath a stately tamarack, still brilliant shining gold.
Looking up, my husband (not known for poetic flights of fancy) said, "It's just like sunshine". Looking up I thought so too.

The next time I walked in the woods after dusk, I looked up and saw the golden tops of trees shining amidst the gloom and finally made the connection.  The 'sunlight' I perceived in the tree tops was nothing more nor less then the autumn gold of the tamaracks still gleaming in the dusk.

I haven't been able to get the tamaracks out of my mind since, and so far am working on my third painting of tamaracks.

And as a brief synopsys of our adventure, we didn't get out of the woods quite on time, had hustle, really hustle back to the car, but my husband was so thrilled the phenomenon of the tamaracks that he didn't mind at all.

Watercolours are 9"x12"; I have a new batch of masking frisket, and have put it to good use. I don't think I want to be without it again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More on Gelatin Printmaking

It’s been awhile, as I found that during the summer, my gelatin plates were disintegrating in the most disgusting way far to quickly (they go mouldy).  For those of you who don’t already know, gelatin printing involves cooking up a batch of gelatin, pouring into a mould, letting it set (usually overnight) and the next day rolling ink onto it with a brayer.  The method itself ensures that each impression is unique, discarding the need for ‘editions’.
I use two plates for my printing, one a large slab of 9”x12”, and a second small square of 5”x5”. For the print above, I began by rolling out yellow onto the large plate, then presssed my relief linocuts onto the surface for texture, and then lay my paper on top and gently rub by hand. The process gets repeated many times (overprinting) as I change colours. I also used the small plate as a ‘stamp pad’. I ink the small plate, then lay the linocut onto the slab to ink it up, and then ‘stamp’ onto the large plate.  It has a distinctive ‘bubbly’ and translucent quality. The finally layer in two shades of blue is inked the traditional way by apply ink directly to the linoleum with a brayer which adds an opaque top layer.
I never know where I’m going with these, I only know when I’m done (if I’m lucky).  If I’m unlucky, I’ll add one layer too many and kill the whole thing. I usual work several sheets at a time and watch them as they each develop into unique works of art. Usually, I spend a certain amount of time ‘listening’ the work as it progresses as I decide on what the next layer should be.  Out of all my artwork, I’d have to call the gelatin prints the most serendipitous but also enjoyable. Like walking into an unknown maze, I never know where I’ll end up, but eventually I get to somewhere interesting.
Here’s an example of one I need to ‘listen’ too. It may be finished, but a little low contrast. The red top lay is achieved using the second small plate to ink up. Below, two details so that you can see the ‘bubbly and translucent’ texture this extra step give. After scanning and blogging this one, I’m thinking the image is finished but it took me a few days to come to this conclusion.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mess coalescing into some semblance of order.

An Update from my 365 Artcard Project.
I’ve been at this since (some undefined time), but suffice to say, at one point in time, there were none, then some, now many and it’s only just begun. Since ‘whenever’ I’ve kept close at hand tiny 2.5” x 3.5” pieces of paper, often recycled from failed artworks (sweet revenge). At night before bed (while in bed, btw), while visiting (before guitar) and while in the car waiting  for doors to open, I work on these small works of art.
I named it the 365 Artcard Project, a name nondescript enough to leave the field wide open to experiment and explore all sorts of avenues. A project to plenty of room for discovery.  Because I didn’t want to set myself up for failure or impose limits, I never pledged to do one per day. Instead, I do as many as often as I can; days go by without progress followed by spurts of multiples.  While I do keep most, as even the worst of them can reveal germs of ideas and threads to riff off of, I do allow myself to discard, reuse or destroy those I wish to disappear.
After many months I have a huge amount, and nope, I’m not counting them. I’d rather just watch the pile grow.  Threads and themes emerge as I sift through the pile and I sort them, more or less, accordingly. Dropped months previous are pulled forward into my mind, and abandoned ideas seen with fresh eyes.
Above is their home; looks like an expanded wing should be on order. The piles are loosely sorted by their apparent themes.
By the Sea
Faces, etc…
Actually, I’ve put a bunch up in Picasso photo album.  You’re welcome to rummage through. The singles featured in the album are all from the first month when I ambitiously intended to scan and post each one individually (quickly abandoned because it would leave no time for art!).  At the time, I was trying anything and everything, but styles and methods developed from those scattered beginnings and now coalesce into some semblance of order. 
This is my idea factory, you can peak at more here:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finding the Line


If you follow this blog, you already know that I paint in water colour, off and on, but I have to admit, that often enough they don’t feel like ‘my’ paintings (the more realistic the less I like them).  Lately, I’ve had another ‘bout’ of continuous watercolours, as I was feeling rusty, I just kept at it, over and over again (some get recycled into my artcard project so you won’t see them here).  I have always been fascinated by wet in wet wash technique but it’s very difficult to control and I’m very frugal meaning I don’t experiment enough. 

So in the past, I’ve felt a real disconnect between styles of my watercolours (most of them, not all) and my other works of art.  But this one is really mine.

I love lines, lines of all kinds, and this is the major reason I love coloured pencils as one can compose full colour paintings made up entirely of lines. What, then, am I doing in watercolours? I suppose it was somewhat of matter of faith that things would come around if I keep hammering away at it.  And yes, sometimes art (or a lot of times) art feels just like that, kind of like jogging while wearing a 50lb backpack in order to learn how to fly.

Top Image: Exotics: from Uxbridges Glen Major Tract, top of the hill, reclaimed gravel pit area.


Above: Staghorn Sumac (this one is the 3rd try, the two previous are have been sliced up into  future 2.5’x3.5’ art cards for my 365 Art Card Project, yep, I’m THAT frugal. (and I’ll be blogging about that later, but you can see the pics on Picassa now)

Below: Maple Line, more from Uxbridge Glen Major Tract.  Fall colours were astounding in the soft damp weather of October.


These are not on Etsy yet, but others that have not been blogged are.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I’ve been working through a number of watercolours since my return from holidays. Some of them you have seen, some of them you will see, and others will never be seen except by me. I’ve worked in watercolour on and off, most often when I want to work with photo reference, and I’ve always been very careful as mistakes are, for the most part, indelible. I consider it a good medium for discipline in this regard, but much of what I’ve done in the past was more or less ‘realism’ which is not my style. I suppose I felt a need to ‘go there’, perhaps to prove a point, and it was also a ‘safe’ direction to go while learning. Well, I’m still learning  (and hope that process never stops) and this week I needed to abandon my masking frisket as it became all but unusable. With that crutch out of reach (but on my shopping list, I like the stuff) I felt free to just load up the page with colour and see what happens. It helps that there was a scene in my head that never had been translated into a photograph, and here it is. Fall Fantasy, inspired by South Glen Major Tract, Uxbridge, during peak colours in October. 
I’m still scratching my brain out trying to come up with my next mixed media/coloured pencil project. I have not a clue what I want to settle down with for a few weeks of time. In the meantime, there’ll be plenty of water colour.
Fall Fantasy is available on Etsy.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Some of my favourite fungi are slime.  Introducing the red raspberry slime, aka tubifera ferruginosa.  This little creeper was found in the Hollidge Tract, York Regional forest, and yes, the slime moulds are capable of movement, defying the definition of animal vs vegetable. They are also shape shifters, here appearing as its name sake, but over time will change to a darker colour, and from this tasty looking cluster will turn tubular and cigarlike.
Below is an unidentified white slime.  From a distance, it looks like frost formation on wood. Since it was well above zero when I found it, I knew it had to yet another slime mould. If anyone can identify it, I would be happy to hear it. It might be tapioca slime, brefeldia maxima.  Shapeshifters that they are, I can’t be sure.
When you’re walking in the woods, never forget to look down, and not just for reasons of safety. There’s a wonderful world down there, if you take the time to observe closely.
More on mushrooms here: The Mushroom Pages
PS. New watercolours are up at Kaslkaos Etsy store. I’ll blog about some of them later.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Life Drawing

Maybe I should call it adventures in colour. Most folks sketch in black charcoal, grey pencil, or conte, although I’ve seen my habits spreading to my neighbours.  Somehow, applying colour to the blank page just does something beyond the black. The colours speak to me and on I go. Sometimes I select colours to go with a pose, other times on a whim. I did find using the bright red quite exciting, and it may end up becoming my default colour for quick monochrome sketches.  Here, I had somewhat more time, and indulged in two, and three colours respectively. The lower is on grey Stonehenge paper, the upper on white. As these did not fit my scanner, I did my best with photographs. Scans always work out better, but the 9x12 bed is a little limiting.
Now I’m asking, any fellow artists that engage in life drawing. What is on your mind while you draw? Sublime thoughts, deep philosophy, food?  Taking note of my thoughts; here’s a snippet of mine.
Nice pose/and or challenging/or boring, etc.
Wow, this one inspires.
Did I finish my coffee already? Maybe there’s a drop left over, lets check (tips mug all the way back and sighs in disappointment)
I’m hungry.
Which snack shall I eat when I get home, cheese? Baloney? A sandwich, no, it’s too late for a sandwich. Maybe a pickle, straight from the jar…
What time is it? I’m tired. Oh jeepers, an hour to go (yawn), I hope I can stay awake for this (yawn). I hope the model doesn’t take all this yawning personally (yawn).
OMG, I’m drawing a sausage (when the sketching goes south)/or WOW! This one rocks! (sometimes on the same night, but usually I have off nights followed by on nights). Also noticed that the more ‘off’ the night, the more yawning and food thoughts go on. Not sure of the relationship though; tired and hungry and therefore off or having trouble with a pose and seeking distraction?
So how about you? When creating art, is your brain sublime or banal or wandering about like rabbit?


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