Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Garden of Delight—gelatin and polystyrene plate monoprint

Something fun, that actually took quite a long time.
I will try to tease out the steps, but it’s not a ‘how to’ explanation by a long shot.
1. Make a gelatin plate (google gelatin printmaking if you need help with this step, lots of info there)
2.  Go wild with ink, heaps of paper, and apply colours and random textures onto gelatin, repeat process endlessly until something promising appears.  Set these aside for a day, a month, or a year.
3. Make impressions on foam plates.  For the words, I used ball-point pen to flatten the negative spaces. The blue circle is the usual method, where you use the ball-point pen to inscribe the image.  It took me numberous tries, and foam plates to get the words to fit, as I wanted it to look very hand-written, and so didn’t try any typography tricks to measure things out.
4.  Cut a circle template. Cut a circle that matches your foam plate out of an a4 piece of paper, tape the paper over your half-way completed gelatin print. This protects your background print.
5. Paint the circle in acrylic paint (violet in this case).
6. Keep the template in place, as now you can use it to register your foam plate for multiple overprints. I use four marks and compass directions because I like compasses.  (if you click on the image, you might see my pen marks on the plate)
7. Ink the foam plate and press your background colour (dark green),  Let dry. Then paint in details onto the foam and press. Let dry, and repeat until you’re satisfied. I use thick ink for this stage, and it takes more than a day to dry. So I work on other things and try to cultivate patience. I’ve been working on this one for weeks.
8. Once the centre is done, you’ll probably find you need to add something to integrate the background. In this case, I decide to add text to support the theme. While it is a fun image, I was really thinking about how everything eats something, and the implications of that. We are all edible, another metaphor for mortality. Okay, or it’s just fun to play with words, whatever.
That’s it.
I place at high res image on FineArtAmerica, in case you want to have fun looking at details, or see the image sans watermarks.
Also available at Etsy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sketches from the Inside

I don’t like sketchbooks; it’s too difficult to burn/recycle/destroy/bury/hide your mistakes. My normal drawing kit includes a wad of A4 office paper in a clip board, and a small box of pre-cut recycled paper ATC’s.  Duds end up in the weekly recycling pick-up and this gives my muse freedom to secretly roam innumerable creative avenues.
But once a week I visit my Mom In Law at the nursing home.  Due to late stage dementia, she is mostly uncommunicative, and the utterances that she does make are either incomplete or non-sensible, and she cannot understand even a simple conversation.  She is still emotionally responsive to my husband, and sometimes responds to the dog.
To put things bluntly, an hour visit (my husbands standard—he is a very decent man) is a very long time for me to sit in one place ‘doing nothing’. I get bored.
Since a bored grumpy wife, is hardly an asset as a visitor, I decided to bring my sketchbook (mostly blank) for winter visits. It fits in a purse, and requires nothing more than a pencil. Because it is small, I don’t need a table or board, any chair will do.  Also while I felt okay about taking photos outdoors at the home, I do not do so indoors. The courtyard ‘felt’ like a public space, and any resident in the courtyard was either there of their own volition or was there with a family member. Indoors is more of a private space, and many residents (due to their level of infirmity) have no choices at all…so I hesitate to take pictures—which makes it hard to illustrate a story.
Well, here are the sketches. Mostly we sit in the large activity room. It is furnished with dining room tables, a kitchenette, a comfy couch, a piano, and upholstered chairs.  It has a cathedral ceiling finished in pine, a street-facing window wall another large window that looks onto a smaller courtyard. 
That’s Diva the resident cat on the upper left, in her favourite spot, on the couch that butts up against the wall window. She likes to sit there and watch whatever it is that cats like to watch.  On the upper left, there is Maureen, reading the paper. I like Maureen a lot, as she is very dignified and polite, and seems to have an aura of serene contentment. She has some trouble with memory, but is still very much a complete and mature person. She loves Dynamo (many there do) and always tells me about the german shepherd dog she had before she came to the nursing home. There is sadness there, because she can’t remember what happened to that dog. Did family members take it in (we adopted my MIL’s cat) or was the dog discarded—it happens. I’ve met her son, but I would never ask that question.
Lower left, is a couple that always seem to be in the ‘activity’ room when we are there. I really haven’t figured out which one of them is the resident, and which the visitor. They always seem to be deeply engaged in pleasant conversation with one another; the lady always wears a straw hat and dresses nice. We sometimes chat about ex-pets or Dynamo.
On the lower right is ‘the Piano Man’, although he claims to have never played piano before he came to the home. He says he always played the accordian, but now that he has a piano at his fingertips, he plays that, by ear. He is very good to listen to, and even his small mistakes as feels out the next song (he plays from memory, no sheet music) sound melodic.  When he is playing, it feels like some delightful magical spell is spinning through the home.  The first time I heard him play, I clapped and complimented him on his performance. I wanted him to know that he really was an asset, and a joy to listen to. Unfortunately, I only got around to sketching him after he was resting in his wheelchair.  I’m doing all this sketching as unobtrusively as possible, and from a distance, so it’s pretty ‘sketchy’.
My MIL loves birds, and at her home, always maintained bird feeders that dispensed HUGE quantities of bird feed to all and sundry.  She always called gold finches ‘yellow birds’, which was yet another quirk that disguised her dementia from us when she lived at home (ie. I have no idea when, or what year, she forgot that her ‘yellow birds’ where gold finches, because she liked calling things by silly made up names).  In the nursing home activity room, there is a large 6’ x 4’ bird cage that houses exotic finches and we always take her there to see the birds. Most times she seems to enjoy them, at least for awhile.  They have breeding pairs and nest cups hung up and in spring they have babies.  They never stay still for long, so I usually only have several seconds to observe a pose.  This is life drawing on speed.  Probably good practice.
When I’m not sketching, I’m visiting with residents, and bring Dynamo to see people who indicate they would like to pet her.  Sometimes the staff will bring one of their charges to me, if they know the person likes dogs. I’ve become a bit of social butterfly at the home, due to Dynamo’s ambassadorial duties. Good Dog!
Sorry this is long, but last spring so much happened that I didn’t want to talk about.  Probably I’m blathering to make up for all that silence, but, well, that’s enough for now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fun With Meat Trays, Part II


Big Chicken, foam and gelatin print on mulberry paper.
The most difficult aspect of printing with foam plates turns out to be supply. It sounds easy; just save up your foam meat trays from your grocery store purchases, or beg neighbours for the same. It turns out, however, that most packaging is damaged in less than intriguing ways, such as raised rectangles in the centre, glue spots, or deckels that are so strongly stamped they raise the inside surface.
I took to scrounging from an office garbage can, were the workers preference for take-out food led to a steady supply of polystyrene clam-shells. Usually the top clam-shell was useable, but of very small dimensions (4x6).  Then there is my supply of dollar store polystyrene plates, that give me a 6” diameter circle. I love the circles, and the thinness of the plates—they are lovely to draw on, but highly limiting.  And so I continuously searched for foam plates, and finally, here they are.
See how I lovingly view my newly acquired ginormous stash of 500!  Yikes. Smaller quantities were not available, as I had to purchase from a whole-sale supply.  The usable surface is 7”x9”, still limiting, but a good size for me to work with. Of course I had to play, and scribble with a plate.  It was a sample (the supplier let me have 1 tray as a sample), so after printing up it’s flat surface, I had some fun. Even these plates have a flaw. Small dots appear on the surface, but it turns out that they can be flattened into submission with a roller.
In other news, I decided to abandon making decent ‘sales’/professional pages on my blog, and decided to use Etsy as my showcase.  The only exceptions will be permanently framed art (as I don’t want to be in the business of shipping glass), and very large works of art (shipping, once again being the Etsy achilles heel, as one must come up with fixed shipping prices that are highly variable when it comes to non-standard sizes).
My revamped Etsy is not just about sales, but also a great presentation interface for sharing my art (without all the blog blather). so I’ll be mentioning it now and again, and leaving this blogs focus on a personal artist’s journal.
Available at Etsy, and an example of foam plate printmaking (this is one of my literal foam plate works).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life Drawing Tuesday

Finally finished a piece I want to show. I’ve been having a horrible time with the reclining poses. Actually discussed this in class and one possibility (I LOVE excuses) given is the lack of background props as reference.  The model lies on a platform in the centre of the room. In the past, we used to use a tall chair rack covered in a blanket as an artificial wall. I do wonder if it helped place the model on the page. In this case, I have to just make it up. I supposed a realist with a lot of spare time could have fun with filling in the entire swath of parquet floor. Me, I’m more partial to abstractions.
And also have started using life drawing in linocuts.
This one’s 11x14, individual linocuts are 2.5x3.5 each, background abstraction is a gelatin print.
Both of these are snapshots, not scan and shadowy corners are not part of the artwork.
Now back to the drawing board.


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