Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ritual Matters


Ritual matters, so I won’t be calling this a ‘holiday tree’. It is a Christmas Tree, and we northern folks have been worshipping evergreens for a VERY long time, and will continue. Winter Solstice tree would likely be more accurate, because such things predate Christianity (although the rituals were a little less peaceful back then,the less said the better), but as Christmas celebrate the very important natural cycles of rebirth, I will just say Merry Christmas, and here is my tree for all to see, which looks much like last years tree, and the year before that. This one, oddly enough, will not die. At the tree farm, we left behind a tall stump and strong branches, from which a new tree will grow. There’s some strong symbolism in that.

And gosh, I wanted to write more, and show you more pictures (already on facebook), but it’s Christmas Eve, and it’s time to celebrate.

Merry Christmas All (or whatever you want to call it), because there is no denying that the longest night of winter is now over, and the days will get longer hereafter (at least until next year).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cellular Life

It's a busy time, and I'm still scrambling to get more art done, Year of the Dragon print exchange included (8 on the go of those), so this is a quickie post, let the image speak for itself as I intend to explore many iterations on this theme, and have numerous little foam 'bacteria' stamps ready to go (inventing bacteria is DARNED addictive); lucky you that I'm an artist not a scientist, because I'm having WAY too much fun to stop doing it. Well, 99% are good or neutral (and I just made that number up, remember, I'm an artist, not a scientist) but let's celebrate the small things that keep us going. Yogurt anyone? Or cheese? Beer?  I can't think of any other bacterial delights right now--maybe because it's usually the bacteria doing the consuming...hmmm

PS. If you don't already know, this monoprint was done using an incredibly aged and pitted gelatin plate, and meat tray polystyrene foam.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two of the Three R’s—Gelatin Leaf Prints

Recycle and Reuse
Two ATC Gelatin Leaf Prints overlaid with black and silver technical pen drawings. Some gelatin prints need finishing, and these where from my September batch of leaf prints on card stock.  I have a stack that I really love, but they just don’t seem complete, so I am selecting a few for further renditions into ATC format. I have a clear plastic template that I slide over the A4 print until I find a composition I like, pencil in the outline and repeat the hunt until there are no more good pieces left. (seems like 5 ATC’s per page is the average), then I put the results into my pile of blank ATC’s, where they can be finished with inks and pencils.  With exceptions, they turned out better than I expected, and I think I will make ‘rendering’ select unfinished gelatine prints a habit.  Sometimes ‘recycling’ uncovers new avenues.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Above: Raven and Sun, 2.5”x3.5” gelatin print with stencils and polystyrene (available at Etsy).
WIP: wanted to do a raven motif for a t-shirt for a LONG time, but every time I tried to draw one, it looked like anything but (eagle, vulture, crow, dove, but definitely NOT raven).  Problem is, that I have very little experience with them. Here in southern Ontario, they are just beginning to make a come back, as they move into the forest preserves of the Oak-Ridges Morraine, but they are shy and elusive in this area. I count myself VERY lucky if I manage to hear one “GRONK”, or “Gwoink” or ‘pic’ while flying unseen above the trees.
So I spent alot of time watching you-tube video’s on-line.  Lots of time, lots of video’s, much of it not related to the image. Raven’s playing ball with a dog, raven saying “hello” and ‘come here buddy’, raven interrupting eagle courtship, ravens rolling down a snow slope, ravens waddling across kitchen counters, and raven’s playing with border collies, racing cars, stealing sandwiches and on and on. The charm of all these video’s is that they were captures of real ravens being ravens, and the sometimes unnatural circumstances only highlight their intelligence and adaptability. You would have to blind not to admit after viewing them that we share this planet with other sentient creatures, and ravens are a notable member of the club.  And after all this screen time, I finally feel like I can draw Raven. 
This one is also a gelatin print using stencils and polystyrene.  It’s about 7” wide, and may or may not be finished.

More Ravens and other gelatin prints at Etsy

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fun With Foam for Everyone

loon-foam plate
WARNING: Major Spoiler for certain young family members (who probably don’t read my blog anyway, but just in case, NO PEEKING!)
This is an early Christmas gift in case you want to use the idea. I’ve been using my foam plates for some pretty elaborate fine art projects, but I realized that they make GREAT do-it-yourself stamps, especially for kids. Unlike wood and linoleum, there is no need for carving tools. A ball point pen is all you need, as long as a parent is around to cut the initial shape, or cut out the shape after the pen work is done.
Pictured here is everything you need (click on the image for an enlargement).
Here are the steps.
Cut the foam tray into smaller bits (you can refine the cut later). 
Draw with the ball point pen onto the foam, see my flower stamps. It’s that easy. I draw the entire stamp first, and then cut into the ball point pen outline.  This gives you a smooth rounded edge on the impression (foam cuts have some ragged edges, that won’t show up if they are squished down with the pen).
Flip your foam over, and stick a pinched piece of masking tape on the back. This gives you a handle for stamping. I also label with pen at this stage, and add a ‘this way up’ arrow if that’s important (see the ‘K’ foam stamp in the middle).
Now you can stamp away.  Soft spongy craft store stamp kits work best. Hard ‘office type’ fabric pads don’t work well at all as your stamp is too soft press hard.
For Letters and text, there is an extra step unless you can write backwards in a pleasing way.  I design my letters on tracing paper with a soft pencil, then I flip the tracing paper over the foam plate, then gently with the soft part of my finger, rub the back of the tracing paper. This should transfer the graphite pencil onto the back of the foam without inscribing the foam.
Then I inscribe with ball-point pen all around the transferred letter, but NOT on the transferred pencil letter itself.  This gives you a positive letter image. You could instead flip the tracing paper onto the foam, and then inscribe the lettered part with your pen. In that case, the foam plate will show a negative image, which is also just fine. The lettering will appear white (or whatever colour your paper is) and the shape of your stamp will be the colour of your ink.
Now stamp away!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life-Drawing Tuesday

It’s all over for the season, but I got behind in posting, so these will be popping up now and again. Maintaining the illusion that a blog-post is a real-time thing is just a little silly too. However, the other notable thing with life-drawing, is sometimes they are best assessed after some time passes (actually, this holds true with a lot of art, and procrastination can be a very good thing anytime you feel ‘stuck’).
Notable here is ‘the hand’. It may not be a great hand, but it’s one of my better ‘hands’ and astounding evidence that I really really did need glasses.  I always had trouble drawing hands, and never seemed to get better at it. Try as I might, I couldn’t even begin to guess where the knuckles and nails where.  Now that I have glasses, I find while I don’t need them for general figure drawing, they are essential for ‘fingers, and toes, eyes, ears and nose’. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Life-Drawing Tuesday

Here’s Greg, a good night for me, having fun with colours, and Greg putting on a good pose.  We have great models.
PS. Decided that I will not worry about sensitive eyes when posting mild nudity.  It’s really really silly to worry about such things when, thankfully, it is perfectly acceptable in public art. Whew, no fig leaves on these either:
Beautiful Nude Public Statue at Union Station Toronto

Celebrations from the Inside


“Yes, we are having fun”

On December 1st, the nursing home put on a Christmas party for the residents and family. Of course, Randy and I attended. I was looking forward to it (free food is always a big draw for me), but had WAY more fun than expected.

1st surprise, is evidenced in the introductory photo.  Here are some folks who are obviously having fun, that I’ve never really gotten to know.


I don’t really know the lady on the right, but in the middle is my Mom-In-Law’s roommate. She only has one available eye to do it (eye patch is permanent now), but she keeps an eye out on my MIL, and, while, my MIL can’t, she gives us an account of her day. Much appreciated as my MIL is mostly non-verbal now. Maureen has her head turned, but she’s a real fan of Dynamo, and owned her own shepherd before she was admitted.  It’s a bad photo, but here I was sitting amoungst friends, people I know and like. I forgot to take a photo of Dolores, the lady who asked me two weeks ago if I would sit with her at this party, because her family wouldn’t be there. That sounds lonely, but Dolores is so much fun, and so sociable, that she has plenty of friends. Just behind me, was Tim, whom I can’t understand very well, but we speak in smiles. I’ve gone into the home exceedingly grumpy (for very good reasons) and Tim will put a smile on my face.


Here’s the resident ‘musician’ (one of them, because he’s not the piano man I was talking about). He played many instruments in his life, but athritis has turned his hands into things that look like broken wings. He now has a ‘digital guitar’ that he plays, he writes songs, and he sings.  Beside him is the music therapist.


More of the d guitar, bad pic again, but you get the idea.

So why did I devote a blog post to this, you may wonder.  Visiting the nursing home has been a discovery for me, the feelings I have of friendship for certain individuals has surprised me. I began the adventure horrified at a all the ‘broken, helpless’ people. I think many never get beyond that, and choose the avoid the scene altogether. and simply stop visiting or visit seldom. But with familiarity. the prejudice falls away. Here are real people, leading rich lives full of meaning, largely without absent family members. Those who are capable, mix, mingle, make friends, gossip, break rules, create art, express themselves and help one another.  It is only those on the outside who see this as a ‘warehouse for old people’ (I term I’ve heard used). 

What makes a home a home are the people within. In this case, residents and staff. When I walked in on Thursday night, and saw all the familiar faces, I felt welcome. When I found an empty chair beside Dolores and fulfilled my promise, I felt I had gained an extended family. I looked ahead and behind me and realized I was surrounded by friends, and it felt really really good. And I sang (badly) Christmas carols with the rest of them.

PS. I took photographs, because it was a public performance, and that’s okay. I’m still being careful not to identify anybody in a real way. (Which is why I don’t name the home)


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