Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Merry Christmas or whatever else you want to call this winter celebration. I’m not picky as long as the greetings are sincere and joyous and generous.  It’s a bit late, because this year, my husband gave me the “gift that keeps on giving”, as in now we can both bark and snuffle in unison. I have the flu, and the worst of it was yesterday, Christmas Day.

In our our house, we celebrate Christmas Eve, with a festive but easy meal (as in frozen Chinese pot stickers heated in the oven). The only plum sauce sold is an over-sized jug and I knew I’d end up throwing most of it away, so I instead, I made my own.

1 green apple, wine vinegar, soy sauce, a large dash of ginger powder, a small dash of allspice and cardamom, a spoon of honey, boil all in the microwave until the apple turns to a thick sauce.  I was surprised at how easy and delicious this was, and also how much like the oriental plum sauce it tasted.

Then we open gifts, one at a time, with a warm fire in the hearth, and candles and traditional Christmas music.

Normally, I would also look forward to skiing my socks off on Christmas day, but (sniffle), no such luck this year.

I did get to ski my socks off on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th, because we got blessed with a decent dumping of snow this year.

Well, I would add a winter picture now, except, I’m getting tired again (flu) so maybe this will have to do.

Enjoy your life, and help others enjoy life, to the best of your ability.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

In the Winter,
Beneath the Silence,
         and the Snow
lies a treasure,
furled and sleeping,
waiting to unfold.

One thing all of us should agree on, whatever your beliefs or religion, is that life on this planet is amazing and precious and worth our utmost reverence.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Downtown Toronto—art hike in the city

12121102wall-mural-mccaul-streetStreet art at 52 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario; a quick google search revealed it to be by Brazilian street artist Nunca, so standing in this parking lot was to be standing in the presence of genius.
12121101wall-mural-mccaul-street Wall mural at 52 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario, art by Brazilian street artist Nunca. 
You can see more at this website (be prepared for an awe inspiring experience, better yet, find out if you can visit Nunca’s art in person. Lost Art: NUNCA
12121101ocad-above-ground-art-supplyAbove Ground Art Supply on McCaul Street, with the OCAD extension, giant pencil box, looming over all.
It’s too far for me to count on for artsupplies, but I did treat myself to some Faber-Castel coloured pencils, and a fine-line Prismacolor marker in sepia brown. You will be seeing them in mixed media prints.
12121101mermaid-sculpture-toronto-downtownThis was part of a beautiful set of stone sculptures. I was so completely immersed in the discovery that I forgot to take any note of where or who, and just snapped away.  All I know is that it was relatively near to Union Station, and we had taken an indoor shortcut through a lobby of an office tower, and there, amongst the suits and briefcases, there was magic to be found.  So if anyone knows where, who and what, I would love to add that info in.

"The Sedna Legend"
Taquialuk Nuna
Phillip Pitseulak
Simata Pitsiulak
George Pratt

Location:70 York Street
Sponsor: HSBC Building
Year: Installed in 1990
2nd Update, thanks to the Fuzzies -- this one from Tourism Toronto, so it seems that these statues get moved around some:

 I was advised by management that it used to be at 70 York Street in downtown Toronto but has now been relocated to the Exchange Tower, 130 King Street West, Ground Floor, North Atrium.  I was told there are a series of them (4 in total).

You owe myself and Jennifer Rose big time :-P

12121101elephant-toronto-downtownAnd somewhere near the Eaton’s Centre.  I went with this photo (as opposed to a closer crop) as the image of the elephant (life-sized and huge) dwarfed by the corporate office tower most evocative.
Those of you who know me, know that I spend most of my discretionary outdoor time surrounded by leaves and trees. But I also like the pure physical sensation of putting one foot in front of the other at a really good clip. Occasionally, for a change of pace, my husband and I abandon the woods and head for the big TO (downtown Toronto) and do our own little informal walking tour. We don’t have plans, (except to eat dinner somewhere) and so we just wander around. I love the side-streets and bi-ways of the corporate office tower, which seem much like ravines and canyons (but a lot less friendly to wildlife), and I really appreciate architecture. On this last tour, I also stumbled upon some really great art. Unfortunately, I wasn’t planning on blogging it, and never bothered taking note of the locations.
Which is a shame, because I feel very privileged to live near a city where I can see fabulous art without ever stepping foot in a gallery. And, unlike a gallery, sometimes you get to be up-close and personal (see my husband at the elephant).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Graphic Design from Low Tech to High Tech with Gimp

I’m working on my Year of the Snake submission.  This years will be dominated by a linocut (at first glance, at least, as I intend to layer it over some abstract textured gelatin prints), and I began my design the old fashioned way using a graphite pencil, a ruler, and paper.  After a few rough versions, I switched to tracing paper and cleaned up the design, but when I was done the third version, I thought, jeepers, it just needs a wee bit of tightening up. So I used a very low tech trick and chopped up my design and re-arranged on the page, but it still wasn’t happening for me (often scissors and tape does work just fine), so I decided this time use the technology that I have on hand.  In my case, this is GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), which is a powerful graphic design program available absolutely free.  It also uses less computing resources than commercial programs. In a non-tech way, I love it’s clean no-nonsense design and moveable panels.
So I plopped all the pieces on the scanner and did  a 300dpi scan in black and white. The pencils are satisfyingly crisp. Yay! Step 1. I also made a box by adding a black frame to a white template.
Next up, I make a plain white background in 8x10 300dpi  size. This will be my drawing board. I go back to my scan of drawings, and isolate elements by selecting and cropping the pieces one at time.  Then use the select option—> select by colour—> click on the white space (which selects white)—> click on the invert selection option, so that now my black drawing is selected (of course I could just select black, but if the lines are thin, that’s not easy to do).
After an element is selected, I use the copy function, and then switch to my blank white drawing board. I paste using the as a new layer option. I immediately go into “Edit Layer Attributes” and name my layer, which saves me much squinting later. So my layers are named things like ‘mr snake’, mrs snake’ ‘year of the-text’, ‘snake-text’ etc. so I can easily choose the layer I intend to move.
In this picture you can see all the pencil elements dropped off into the upper left corner, waiting for me to tell them what to do. You can also see a snippet of David Tennant as Dr Who below the GIMP boxes. He keeps me company while I do my work and makes for a seriously compelling (for me) desktop decor.
Now we’re cooking, getting closer.
It’s ready to print now; this is what I wanted. It’s also ironically close to my original un-snipped drawing, but with some gentle nudges on the hand-drawn text, and small placement adjustments.
Like Goldilocks, I ended it printing it three times. First, at it’s original size—too big. Then, I reduced it to 5'” wide—to small, and then to 6” inches wide—WHOOT! just exactly right, and it will leave plenty of room for visual exploration on an 8x10 gelatin print.
Here it is printed up. To transfer to linoleum, I just go over all the black lines with a soft pencil (6B), the softer the pencil, the more graphite will transfer. When I’m done, I just need to lie this onto the linoleum, rub it from the back, and my design will be transferred in graphite, and reversed in one step.
I have until late January to get all this done. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands messy with ink and jelly. And right now I’m reflecting on the irony of using such a high tech solution to create a hand-pressed relief print, which is about as low-tech a printing technique you can get.
IMG_5463And here’s the view from my drawing board.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Girl With Fish—Gelatin Print & Coloured Pencils

Gelatin monoprint and coloured pencil, and marker, approximately 5x6 inches.
It actually started out as a 5x8 gelatin monoprint, but I don’t plan ahead, and I started out at the top and worked my way down, and it took me awhile to get rolling, so work in the upper two inches was less than desired so it’s cropped.
That’s it for today.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Downtown Toronto—Photo Essay

12121101dundas-square-hard-rock-cafe72Dundas Square, Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the Hard Rock Cafe.
I have mixed feelings about photography. Is it art, or is it too easy?  Snap, you’re done. I have a little canon powershot, it fits in my pocket and takes regular AA batteries. It comes with handy digitally illustrated easy to guess modes, like ‘sunset’ for sunsets and ‘kids and pets’ for photo’s of kids and pets. It also has aquarium mode for, you guessed it, aquariums. In other words, I can trash all the education and sweat of the brow hours I spent in the dark room during my college years, forget about f’stops and shutter speed, and just snap away.
Of course, a little experimentation helps. I use ‘sunset mode’ for almost every outdoor shot, as the colours invariably look warmer, more saturated and more natural to my eye.  And this weekend, for the first time ever, I thought I’d give night photography, sans tripod, a whirl. Because this weekend, I was out to relax, exercise and have some fun (yes, those three things go together).
12121101bohemian-meThis is me, standing in front of the ‘traditional’ ‘holiday’ ‘structure’. Not only do we not dare call it a ‘Christmas Tree’, but we make sure it doesn’t resemble one either. But it looks fabulous, and makes a great back-drop for tourist snaps. (and yes, that’s my own crocheted handiwork plopped on my head and draped around my neck)
Those of you who know me, know that I spend most of my discretionary outdoor time surrounded by leaves and trees. But I also like the pure physical sensation of putting one foot in front of the other at a really good clip. Occasionally, for a change of pace, my husband and I abandon the woods and head for the big TO (downtown Toronto) and do our own little informal walking tour. We don’t have plans, (except to eat dinner somewhere) and so we just wander around. I love the side-streets and bi-ways of the corporate office tower, which seem much like ravines and canyons (but a lot less friendly to wildlife), and I really appreciate architecture.
121201downtown-toronto72While we were having fun on our discovery tour, others were in a REALLY BIG HURRY. It was Friday, late afternoon, so folks were still working, and or going to and from. This is Bay Street (I think).
The sun goes down early at this time of the year, so by 4:30pm, on a rainy afternoon, things look dismal quick, excepting all the bright city lights. I experimented with various likely ‘modes’ on my camera, such as ‘night shot’ and ‘fireworks’ and ‘indoors’ none of which worked, and then thought, ‘what the heck’ and tried ‘fish tank’ (aquarium) mode, and that’s the setting used for all of these photos. I didn’t want to bother with a tripod, so I used a steady hand with the help of local objects, such as stone benches and garbage cans to add stability. The only other ‘trick’ I used for these photo's was GIMP’s perspective tool to adjust the perspective to something a little more natural.
12121101bce-place-taelonHere is one of my favourite buildings, the BCE Place, 161 Bay, Toronto, Ontario. I’m not sure if it’s tricked up for Christmas, but I love the lighting, and the rainy wet weather helped. And, so slow you don’t notice, the colours keep changing.
Inside, the BCE Place is even more awesome and not just a little disturbing, as makes literal the concept of commerce as the religion of our era, giving this corridor all the trappings of a cathedral. (and you gotta love the ‘up-lighting’).  This probably wasn’t lost on the producers of Earth Final Conflict, a sci-fi series that I avidly watched, as the building was used in the series as Taelon Headquarters.  The Taelons were aliens that had taken over the earth in much the same way that the British Colonialists took over northern North America. In fact, the series was one long metaphor exploring conquest through trade and technology.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tree of Life–Gelatin Print Mixed Media

12121101tree-of-life72cDetails (above and below) of Tree of Life, Gelatin Print Mixed Media with graphite and coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper.
And here’s the whole thing, size clocks in at a whopping 5x7 inches, so it definitely classifies as miniature art. I needed my trusty reading glasses, and talk about putting one’s nose into the work.  12121101tree-of-life72
Tree of Life began as a very soft gelatin print that I put aside during my 'bacteria' series. I loved the details, but it needed a delicate hand to turn it into a finished piece. I finally braved those waters using a fine-point technical pencil. I was fondly amused to see what popped up onto the surface, and we won't talk about that, will we?  But I named it Tree of Life as for me it brings to mind the whole seething pool procreation from the beginning of evolution and proverbial primordial soup to the end of it as I insist that that creature with the multiple eyeballs is a result of something brewed from toxic waste. 
As for the snakes, I like snakes, so it’s an element that will certainly shift with the viewer, as symbolically they are quite versatile. And no, I had nothing specific in mind, as I like to work from thoughts below the surface and do not attempt to push a point a theme.
I posted this one to fineartamerica if you want to play with close-ups.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

PPS. ***AMENDMENT*** on Oven Dried Prints

12120601soltice72detail  A ‘no spoiler’ detail, of my rescued print.
On the last post, I proudly crowed my ingenuity on using the oven to dry my prints, and then made a quick amendment when I realized the waxed paper had left random spots on the pages.
But, there was NO WAY that I would turf hours of painful work (hand-rubbed, I ended up with a finger-ache!).  So once again, my absolute genius came to the rescue. I thought, if you make a little mistake, it looks like—wait for it—a mistake. What if I turned that little mistake (random soft blotches) into a big all over mistake?  Will it look like I did it on purpose?  So I brought out the iron, and the waxed paper, and then I crinkled the wax paper and ironed the crinkled paper onto the print, and got, YAY, a lovely (mostly) frosty pattern overlay (as above).  While I wish I had not pulled such a stunt, I am not entirely regretful. Some are better than others. A few of you, who are on my mailing list, may have received my previous ‘un-waxed’ prints, and others of you will get to snicker and laugh and hopefully enjoy the ‘frost patterns’ on the page. I may, someday, even do it all over again on purpose.

In case you missed it: here’s the amendment from my first post on oven dried prints
Um, oops, and DUH!!! Wax paper+heat??? What was I thinking? Of course, my lovely prints now have spots. So don't be stupid (unlike moi) and DON'T USE WAX PAPER AS A PROTECTIVE SHEET IF YOU ARE HEAT DRYING YOUR PRINTS. DUH!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

Alternate Title: How to dry prints in your oven 

Yes, this is my oven. It’s old and gold (tone) and it works. It ‘came with the house’, is a relic from the 1970’s and is still perfectly functional. We don’t use it much, being modern folks, meaning we often dine on Mr. Noodles and KD or my favourite, miniravioli in a can. Okay, we’re not THAT bad, but dinners usually involve the stove top, only rarely the oven, therefore, the oven is there for storage.
Most of the time, our oven houses cat food and dog food, to protect it from predators (such as cats and dogs). It also houses rarely used cookie sheets (baking cookies is a terrible idea in my house, because I eat them all), and printmaking supplies in the form of plexiglass, glass sheet and baking trays (all for the making of my gelatine plates).  Sometimes it houses the dogs dish with dog food within to protect it from Rambo the giant cat with the bigger appetite.
But today it’s looking a lot like Christmas. As usual, I procrastinate and left some of my printing too late in the year. I forgot to calculate the drying time for oil-based inks, which is much longer than the water-based inks (days/weeks vs minutes/hours). The blue thing on the left is a t-shirt, printed up on Tuesday with oil-based ink. I need to ship this, so it needs to be dry and this morning it was worse than tacky. So I needed some heat to hurry things along.
And then there is this years batch of Christmas cards (NO SPOILERS HERE) and I’m using some silver oil-based ink, and, yep, forgot to calculate drying time for these also. They were all pressed on Tuesday too.  Desperation is the mother of invention (is that the correct cliche?) and so at 9am this morning I cleared the oven of all sundry kipple, turned the oven dial to 200f, and commandeered the cookie sheets into print-making duty. The little genie bottle is an air-freshener, hopefully to mitigate the inevitable oven odours that warmth may impart to the items.
Now, at 1pm, I can tell you, the oven smells very nice, and not at all edible, and the prints are reasonably dry and ready for stage two.
Now, I could warn you all, and say, “don’t try this at home” kiddies, being a fire hazard and all, but here’s how I did it. I turned the oven on while rummaging around for coffee. THEN I checked the inside temperature with my hand. If it was hot, but comfortable for my hand, I figure it is safe for t-shirts and papers. I turned the oven OFF and put the goods inside.
If you want to play it really safe, you would do things in this order every half-hour until dry. I didn’t. I just occassionally turned the oven ON again at the low temperature and managed to turn it OFF again within a few minutes. The danger of this method, is you might forget and leave things ON, which is not …. oh, oops, gotta run….

PS. Now that the oven if OFF, those little waxed paper sheets are there to protect the tacky ink from my ruler as I cut paper to size.  Sometimes, procrastination adds a whole lot of extra labour to the list.

Um, oops, and DUH!!! Wax paper+heat??? What was I thinking? Of course, my lovely prints now have spots. So don't be stupid (unlike moi) and DON'T USE WAX PAPER AS A PROTECTIVE SHEET IF YOU ARE HEAT DRYING YOUR PRINTS. DUH!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

12112701george-male-nude-life-drawingthirty minute sketch on kraft paper with coloured pencils
So maybe by now you wonder, what does she do with all these drawings of nude people. Well, most of them end up in the recycling bin, which is fine, because it’s only paper.  And why does she draw nude people? Mostly it’s practice, practice practice and nobody ever spends too much time practicing.
When I’m at life drawing, I get to stretch artistically. I know that most goes into the bin, and that I’m there to practice and learn (although I love the moments when something good happens) and try things. Like colour combinations. I love colour. Here I use a  ‘black cherry’ Prismacolor pencil, one of my favourite darks for sketching, with yellow ochre, bright blue and white prismacolor sticks.  I’m also stretching from my usual small sized work to paper that is 18” x 15”, and, because it’s kraft paper, I also have neutral beige background and so get to add in highlights with white, which is quite different from reserving the whites as one must on white paper. But the real surprise was the way that blue colour stick just pops on the beige paper. Wow!  so that was my thrill for the evening.
12112702one-minute-life-drawingsHere’s some of the one minute sketches. I love the one-minutes, and often wish I could maintain that freshness for the longer poses. Partly, it’s the poses, as a model can be much more dynamic in the short poses, but I also get way to ‘careful’ about what I’m doing when I have more time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Representing Some Serious Bum Time

12112703graphite-line-drawinggraphite line drawing, which may or may not ever be worked up into a finished something
Writers may be more familiar with the term; at least, that’s were I came across it first when attending writers groups and seminars (once upon a time, I wanted to be an Author).  “Bum Time” is the thing that happens when your bum hits the chair, and not all of it is good, but that doesn’t matter, very little of it makes it to publication, but that’s the point. Bum time represents work that doesn’t always make it to the finished stage, but by giving it a name, you remind yourself that indirectly, it is essential to get to where you are going.  
In writing, two things need to happen. Butt hits chair, and fingers hit keyboard, repeatedly (or pen scribbles on foolscap, whichever makes your boat float)
In art, it’s not much different.  You sit (or stand) and do art. If you don’t feel like doing art, you still do art. If it’s ‘just not happening today’ you still make lines, swaths, blocks of colour or whatever on the page. Keep moving, don’t edit, don’t judge whether it’s good or bad, just keep going. Eventually, as writer, you will have a big heap of words, and even on a bad day, somewhere in that slush you will find a treasure. Maybe even just one short phrase that you can build on later, on a better day. In the meantime, you’ve been doing something essential to your craft—practising. The day of may feel like torture, but remember, you will be rewarded later, maybe moments later when Eureka! slams into your brain, maybe years later, when you finally realize you can make something happen.
12112704graphite-line-drawinggraphite line drawing, parts of this I love, other parts not so much, so this page goes nowhere, but someday I may ‘lift’ elements I like, but it’s guaranteed that the time spent was a learning experience.
When I was a child, a young adult, an art student, and an adult before my best before date (like now I’m after my bbd) I spent a lot of time not doing art. I didn’t do art, because whatever I did really sucked. It never occurred to me that it really did suck because I hadn’t been at it long enough.
I just read an interview with a successful sci-fi writer. She talks about starting her first novel at the age of eight. It was ten pages long and it was really bad, but if you write a ten page novel at the age of eight, it’s a huge accomplishment. If you do this as an adult, you will likely see it as a BIG FAT FAILURE, but the problem is, if you haven’t started yet, FAILURE is what you have to start with, fight through, and keep going. So there are tricks for adults to get you through, and calling it Bum Time is one of them.  Another term is ten thousand hours, as in, unless you are some sort of freak of nature, you won’t be a genius at anything unless you’ve put in ten thousand hours of practice. And again, if you started when you where five years old, you would have gotten serious praise for every little squeak that escaped your trombone, but as an adult, you’ll like achieve noise complaints from the neighbours.  Somehow, the struggle to achieve is no longer cute after a certain age.  So you need quash those inner, and possibly outer, negative voices, and just go, go, go, and leave the judgements for later. Much later, years later, when you look at the page you wrote, or drew, or made, with a sense of wonder.
Life is always too short if its full of opportunities lost to inaction, but it just might be long enough to achieve something wonderful if you keep plugging away at what is truly important to you.
12112705graphite-line-drawingI think this was page three of some random sketches that seemed to be going nowhere, and Eureka! see the lower right hand corner, that one is destined to become my Year of the Snake linocut for a Print show and exchange in February, in fact, in my stack I’ve already developed it into  a nice graphic line drawing that still needs some spacing adjustments before transfer to linoleum.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Midnight Forest—adventures in clayboard

12112701midnight-forest725”x7” scratchboard, coloured pencil, watersoluble pencil, watercolour,  india and sepia ink
Midnight Forest looms large within the space of five by seven inches. It began as an abstract coloured pencil on scratchboard, but the Greenman/ Cernunnos pushed himself to the fore on this one, and I always pay close attention to messages from the deeps.  I'm not pagan (or any other religion), but I do believe that we humans need to remember the natural world that we emerged from and indeed are still an integral part of whether we wish it or not.
As for the art notes. This is another clayboard. The first layer was a red prisma-color stick  (think artist quality wax crayon), followed by many scratches in an abstract composition, after which I applied peacock blue coloured pencil, and more scratching in preparation for a layer of Gamboges Yellow watercolour. I was fully expecting that scratched areas would go in bright yellow and the coloured pencil to stay put. It didn’t! The coloured pencil lifted and mixed as pigment, and I ended up with a lot of greens, not my intention or expectation.  I layered over with brown ink and a lot of wiping to warm things up again, and then worked with that and followed up with more scraping back including using sandpaper.
And that is when the face emerged, which I brought forward with my black ink brush.  More scraping in the highlights, adding in red, and last but not least, very lightly sanded back the portions of the india ink to reveal the coloured pencil layers beneath.  I thought I would share the technical journey, as it is one that can be applied to any style of art, and, FRANKLY, Google will not find you without LOTS OF WORDS. Now there’s a bluntly honest statement.  Otherwise, I would love to just post the image and let it speak (or not) for itself.
Midnight Forest at FineArtAmerica

Thursday, November 22, 2012

We, The Creatures, a declaration in scratchboard

12112201creatures727”x5” scratchboard
I’ve long been aware that animals in general are not considered fit subjects for fine art, but here is an excerpt from a local ‘call to artists’ with fine art defined as: “The selective re-creation of reality, to express human perspectives and values in a highly skilled fashion, incorporating creative innovation through the medium of painting, drawing,….”
It’s a definition that pretty much rules out a natural landscape or a painting of an animal. In some ways, I get that. There are endless Robert Bateman look-a-likes and Group of Seven Wannabes (the former I loath, and the latter I love) but to erase the ‘other’ by refusing to acknowledge the sentience of animals is a mistake that the scientific community, with their mandate to search for truth however discomfiting, has finally rescinded. Not so the ‘fine art’ community that still cleaves to the Judaeo-Christian trope that Man is the supreme being and the ultimate creation of god, an attitude that transcends actual religious belief (hence in the last century, plenty of irreligious scientists would argue vociferously about the absence of emotion in animals). Now in the twenty-first century, we have an elite arts community that is convinced that any thoughts about non-human life-forms are trite and without consequence and only the mind and works of man are exulted enough to be worthy of exploration. 
I’m not trying to argue that my art is, or is or is not, ‘fine art’. This is not for me to judge.  I am arguing that it is dangerous and narrow-minded to shut out the natural (or non-human) world from consideration.  That as artists and art lovers we should be opening our minds to other possibilities, not shutting them out. And while it is impossible for me to see the world from any point of view than my very own as an individual and a human, the exercise of imagining the ‘other’ is a worthy one.  If there was a little more of that going on perhaps we wouldn’t be treating this planet as both larder and latrine.
And for a little further reading. What is it like to be a bat?  (about defining consciousness, written by a philosopher, but much touted by the scientific community as the explore consciousness in other species.
And, GOOD NEWS, for a change. Just north of where I live, a giant mega-quarry proposal has been scrapped. The power of people who care for more than their pocket books.
Ugh, and having spent over an hour attempting to write something semi-intelligent for a change, I’m hitting the ‘post’ button and firing this off for better or worse.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Glitter for This Hamlet


Hamlet, Shakespeare, Scene IV
…What is a man,(35)
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason(40)
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event—
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward—I do not know…
Yet another Hamlet on mulberry paper. Of course it’s a series, albeit one slow to come forth.  It’s a 9x12 gelatin print on mulberry paper, worked up with coloured pencil, sepia ink (looks black on screen but isn’t) and for the final highlights, thick white gouache. Somehow, the gold or silver ink did not seem appropriate for the mood of the piece but it needed a lift from filled in background.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Works In Progress—Scratchboard and Linocut

It should be Life Drawing Tuesday, but the image I wanted to post isn’t quite ready yet; it requires some finishing, so instead, some WIP’s.  I’ve decided I’ve been frittering away too much time on the computer on my art days,but I never have a clue as to exactly how much time. It’s just a stretch break, right? Oh, well, I had to pee, so might as well check my email while I’m at it, right? Jeepers, I’m stuck for ideas, maybe I should surf the web to see if something jogs my creativity, just a few moments, right?
Well, I have no CLUE what it all adds up to, and by the end of the day, I feel disheartened about all the time I wasted.
SOOOOOO… this morning, I DID NOT TURN ON THE COMPUTER.  I left it dark, cold and dead. And then I sat at my chair and settled in for some serious bum-time.  Two hours turned into four turned into six.
I learned two things. A) I get more done without the computer to distract me (duh!) B) Making art does take serious bum time, and clearly I hadn’t been wasting quite as much time at the PC as I had accused myself of doing.  It’s not like I finished seven masterpieces in the space of a day. In fact, the scratchboard work is 5x7, and, well, you can see how far I got, and I still intend to paint in colour when I’m done scritching and scratching. But I am much happier, knowing that I spent most of my day making art, rather than staring at a screen.
close-up-linocut1  close-up-linocut2
These are macro close-ups of my latest linocut. Another Work In Progress.
Enough for now. I still have chores to do.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mapping the Moon—Mixed Media Gelatin Print

Detail of Mapping the Moon, gelatin print with coloured pencil and permanent ink on 5”x7” paper.
Another one of my favourite abstracts that I was sitting on like a hen on eggs for many moons (pun intended).  I let the piece ‘speak to me’ and it turned itself into the moon, as I worked over it in violet and red and ochre pencils I remembered a night last summer when the news reported a pending ‘super moon’, and I actually bothered to set my alarm, crawl out of bed, grab my binoculars and stand out on my front porch at midnight getting a good look at it. I’ll never be sure how much of an event the super moon was, as perhaps its giant looming presence in the night was due to my own attention, but it did leave a permanent impression on my mind as I could see the details of its alien landscape in my lens and clearly see that there was and is another world out there and pretty close by.
I grew up in the era when putting a man on the moon was an exciting event, and I miss those days, when problems closer to home on this planet did not loom so dangerously close.  I still believe that scientific curiosity and exploration is healthy for the human race and surely beats dropping bombs on people when it comes to promoting ones culture.
Sales info for Mapping the Moon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Imagination—Claybord trial and review

Another ‘tools of the trade shot. I like these, as it shows both scale and process.  No need to describe what I used excepting that search engines can’t read pictures.
I’m using Claybord, which was a gift from a friend (yah, THAT friend, from the USA who sends me surprise care packages of art supplies and books).  I’ve heard of clayboard before, but never tried it.
I will admit that I found it somewhat frustrating, and in order to combat that, I ended up laying in far more nit-picking details than I usually do, but in the end, I like the result, so I need to learn patience.  I still have another piece left. For those of you wondering what it’s like, it’s smooth and has the consistency of an old-fashioned top quality chalk board (not the kind you can buy in the school section of the dollar store). I’ve heard that it was easy to alter a water colour image but I found that it stained instantly and could not be lifted out with water, so I needed to sand out some highlights at the end stage and poke back into it for detailing with a very fine brush.  I also left some fingerprints behind, which I think is a not a bad thing for this piece and I truly believe that finished art should reveal process, but I’m not foud of materials that get accidentally marked so easilly. I used Inktense water soluble pencils for this one, and again, I really had to fight to get the depths in, as the pigment just sat on the surface. On the other hand, the wax-based Prisma colours went in like cream. So I may try a dry piece next time.
The nice thing about claybord is that, unlike works on paper, this one is ‘ready hang’ as is without a frame, just like an oil on canvas.
I drew the initial image/lines very quickly, off the cuff, without a plan, but as soon as the image was down, I thought it much looked and felt like an illustration of ‘chasing the muse’ which is ‘slippery as a fish’. Funny how the subconscious speaks in cliches, or should I call them Archetypes (sounds much more impressive that way).
12110601imagination72 5”x7”
I’m posting this one to FineArtAmerica.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

Here’s me, finishing up a piece this very morning from last Tuesdays session. It was a very dynamic pose and I drew it from several angles, and therefore ran out of time during the session, and so finished up at home.
So I thought todays topic would be, Why Life Drawing? Or Why draw naked people?
Some people may look at my life drawings and think I have some particular love for figure drawing, but my real motivation is practice. There is no better way to learn to draw or improve drawing skills than to draw from life. The human body is a hard task master. You either get it right, or wrong. I know all to well that that sinking feeling I get when a ‘drawing goes south’ (usually five minutes in to a half-hour (or longer) pose).  Without any outside input at all, there is plenty feedback for better or worse right before your eyes. 
Life drawing hones hand-eye co-ordination, but it also produces or reveals that mysterious thing called ‘style’.  Style is what makes your art look like no other persons art; style is like a signature or hand-writing, and just as in hand-writing, the faster you go, the less time you have to make text-book perfect letters.
In life-drawing, it is often the quickies that reveal your personal style. Time-constraints, whether they are one minute, five minute or one hour poses press you into getting things down fast and not fiddling with photographic perfection. You’ll learn how and when to take short cuts, and some of them may be beautiful, or not so much. It really doesn’t matter, as right or wrong, you are always learning something.
Things I’ve learned from life drawing:
My peculiar (I know it is) style.
I love coloured pencils more than paints, pastels, and charcoals.
To see negative space. (something that I’ve tried to deliberately to learn without success, but after years of Life Drawing Tuesdays, yep, I see them now)
Anatomy and proportion. (continuous improvement, and one can never know enough, and not just for humans, as it’s easy to see parallels and apply this knowledge to other living creatures)
To make a line on paper that matches up to the line in my minds eye (another on the continuous improvement list, as in, not there yet, but always getting closer to an unattainable goal)
And best yet, the ability to draw without a reference. This is something I struggled (and still struggle) to do all of my life, to draw from the imagination. There is nothing wrong with using a reference, doing research and finding a reference, but the more you can do without, the more freedom of expression you have.  I’m finally getting somewhere with this.
Well, that’s my list for now. I’m sure there’s more. If you do life drawing, I’d love to hear your list.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Very Small Art—gelatin printmaking

Sometimes I hold on to very small bits of my gelatin prints for a very long time. This one sat at the back of my printmaking studio, waiting to be finished, or declared finished. I get mesmerized by the random elements in a gelatin print, and this one was no exception as it was pulled from a very mouldy gelatin plate, one so old that it left a glazed sheen on the paper. I finally brought all that to fore with a violet pen and hand-mixed gold ink. The original is 2.5x3.5 inches and gifted to a friend and mentor in the USA.
very-small-artSee the reading glasses in the corner? They are essential to getting something like this done (I don’t need them for reading—yet)
12110101very-small-art3And a super close-up, as I scanned this in 600dpi. I love getting in close to the work, and I love looking at scanned close-up where I can see more things than with the naked eye—well maybe not when it’s the occasional cat hair.
I posted this one to Fine Art America, where you can play with magnify function (look for cat hairs!), also, I always find it somewhat absurd to be selling a ‘print’ of ‘print’, but in this case the original is already spoken for.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

11”x14” coloured pencil, figure drawing from life drawing session,
figure-drawing-one-minute72a figure-drawing-one-minute72b
Graphite drawings on A4 paper (my favourite for quickies). These are all one and two minute poses
Last nights model was heavy, possibly in the obese category, which was interesting, because lately obesity has been raised to the level of vice, and the latest target is ‘junk food’.  On the news, there was serious discussion of putting warning labels on ring-o-lo’s or whatever, to combat the growing girth of children. Most of the brands and items shown as examples of this rising evil where recognizable from my own childhood, a time when fat children were a rare thing (I was so skinny my little tummy stuck out from my ribs). Obviously there is something more going on than junk food for sale (I LOVED (and LOVE) Fudgee-o cookies). Or maybe not so obvious, as while sugar is villainized these days, nothing is said about the tethering of children (literal and figuratively) to a hovering parent. I spent my childhood playing OUTDOORS and OUT OF SIGHT of my parents, in the woods, up cliffs, by the water, on the water, in the water, down the street, up the creek, through a hole in the fence, behind the factories, down the road, on the road, at the park, on the swings, through the woods, on the ice, etc… Exercise was not a concept, or thought, and I was not involved in anything I called sports, but there I was, running, walking, swimming, biking and no one around to stop me.  In this century, it would be considered criminal neglect, and yet, without trying, I was healthy and fit.  Many others from my generation can say the same thing.  Risk was involved (did I mention cliffs? ice?) but not much is ever accomplished without risk.
And then there is obsession with weight that we have, whether too much or too little, it gets measured in increments, graphed and documented. We have fashion models built like sticks, an impossible ideal and folk so fat they can only waddle splay footed down the street as they guzzle the big gulp. But somewhere in the middle (and it’s a very large middle from fairly skinny to pretty darn fat) is the truth, where one is fit and healthy, something that no scale or measurement will tell. Which brings me around our model, who walked, talked, and carried herself as someone who is supremely fit, and by her dynamic poses, I’m pretty sure she is, and if she is comfortable in her own skin (I should hope so) she has every right be as she is so obviously strong and muscular and healthy. She was a great model, and her weight, and the way she carried it (looked wonderful) made me think that the media have it all wrong, forget the junk food, the calorie counts, the weigh scales and callipers and fitness clubs and just get people out and about moving and playing and exploring and having fun.
Maybe the primary menace in our lives is the chair, whether it be at our desk, in our living room, or the comfy upholstery in our gasoline powered cars. So if you can, get out and walk (or run, or bike, or ski, or swim, or dance).


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