Monday, May 28, 2012

The Kids are Alright

Save Us! because we are not killed by the cold but from you!!! Pollution.” (spelling errors and omissions are my bad)
At least some of them care. I’m sorry I can’t credit the budding artists/activists who designed and posted this notice, but it made my heart sing to know that someone out there cares, and that someone is young yet, and hopefully will grow into their passion.
blue-green-algae-musselmans-lakeBlue green algae, Ninth Line, east shoreline of Musselman’s Lake.
But here’s the whole sad story. A few years ago, dead fish started turning up in spring (previously, this was NOT a noticeable occurrence). Folks were justifiably alarmed and the Ministry of Natural Resources was called in to investigate. The official story is as follows; after a long winter with significant ice cover, small lakes may be starved of oxygen, fish die—it’s natural, don’t worry. Then it happened again, and again. Our last winter, of course, was significantly shorter than most, which stretches the official story more than a little thin. About the same time as the fish kill, blue-green algae showed up in significant numbers.  What I mean by significant, is that the lake turned a brilliant emerald green.  The slime patch above is this years visible crop and the lake smells like an open sewer on the east shore (I’m not supposed to talk about this, I am sure. Property values may plummet) and sometimes on the west shore. I’ve lived on the lake for 15 years now, and while I wouldn’t call it the most pristine body of water, being weedy, shallow, and vaguely greenish, until recently, it never stank, it never had swaths of scum growing on it, and I never observed wreaths of dead fish on the shoreline in spring.
Of course no one wants to take ownership of this (and fortunately or unfortunately I don’t own lakefront so I can’t do much), but there are REALLY simple things people could be doing.
1. Stop using fertilizer’s that will run off into the lake; natural or man-made really doesn’t make a difference, if it has nitrogen or phosphorus, if the next rain will wash it into the lake, it WILL feed the algae.
2. Allow the shoreline to naturalize. Cattails, reeds, rushes, etc. absorb nutrients, and filter the water. These plants will EAT the fertilizer before it gets into the water.  Along with that, you can relax and have a beer as you will have less lawn to mow.
3. Keep your septic systems in tact, of adequate size for your household, in good repair, and out of the water-table. I personally have a hard time believing any septic bed is functional if it’s on lake front property, but there are tests available to figure out if YOURS is polluting the lake.
4. It’s not the horse farm. People always blamed the horse farm for any algae and weed problems in the lake; well, the horses are long gone, and the problem worsens, so, guess what, it must be YOU!
Rant finished. Here’s the lake:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Last One Standing

This is a proof from a 15 print edition I did for a print exchange.  The theme was Heads Up, and after boring myself with several literal, and cute/funny interpretations, I decided to go with ‘heads up’ as a warning. I’m hoping the connection is not too obscure, I’m hoping people care enough to see it AS a warning, but I fear it will be just a pretty landscape, with a city skyline and we like city skylines, right? Well, actually I do like city skylines myself, I would even like cities, and suburbs too if they knew their boundaries and stayed behind them, but they creep and crawl in ever expanding circles until every good thing is chewed up and paved over. 
When I was growing up, I lived in a suburb. At least it seemed very suburban. All the streets had quaint names, and there were cul-de-sacs, and repetitive designs, and I had a fantastic view of the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant from my back yard. But we also had old overgrown orchards, farmers fields, and creeks to explore, and you didn’t have to venture far to get into farm country.  But of course the tiny little suburb I grew up in is now surrounded by multiple suburbs and shopping malls, a six lane highway, super centres etc.
farm-country1 farm-country2Ninth Line, north of Musselman’s Lake
So I moved North. Up here on my hill (yes, I live literally on top of hill, and reside on one of the highest humps of the Oakridges Moraine) things are still pretty. If I travel north, there still is farm country, and forest, much of it protected (York Regional Forest), but travelling south I see that the suburbs have followed me northwards, as they actively munch away at the landscape.  Of course I have no photo’s of the cancerous northward sprawl of Stouffville, but the bull-dozers are daily busy chewing things up. They are unstoppable.
well, there’s my rant… I’m tired of being polite and trying not to step on any toes. Right now I’ve insulted all those new-comers to Stouffville, the ones buying the cookie cutter houses that spring up like mushrooms.

PS. so busy ranting, forgot to add art notes on the print. It is a ACEO sized linocut on a gelatin print. I used something like collograph technique to get the texture; which means I used acrylic gel on hard board to create a textured plate, and pressed that into inked gelatine. Small art for a small planet. Not sure if I should post this one to etsy or not.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Blue Stag

I would love to blog about Legends of the Forest, Cernunnos, Lord of the Hunt, how I feel about the forest and the natural world, but all  I can really think about is a great sense of relief. Finally, I have done another one of my painterly coloured pencils. It has been a very long time, and I miss them.  I’ve often looked back on some of my first coloured pencils with longing. They were fresh and honest, but I always would always consider them from someone else’s  point of view, and think, naive, garish, rough.  These are images created with the internal editor turned off, and the things that lurk in the back of the brain are quite like that.
This is an image that has been kicking around in the back of my head since last May. I’d would love to give you an eloquent story about it being inspired by Celtic legend, but here’s the bare truth.
I was walking in the woods with my husband and friends in Magnetawan Provincial Park. The path was blocked by a very large puddle, and none of us wanted to get our feet wet, so we tried an off-trail detour.  Trickles and wet patches led us ever further from the trail, and as we wandered about trying to find dry path back we became separated.  It was a hemlock swamp and we were hopping from rock, to tussock, to mossy log, and it was all very dark and mysterious in spite of the fine sunny day.  Then my husband reappeared from the shadows. He was wearing a bright sapphire blue t-shirt, and somehow it all looked quite striking, as my friend said, “Look, a blue deer”, and indeed, that image stuck.  I instantly knew it would have to be rendered in coloured pencil, but I hadn’t done coloured pencil is such a very long time, and I had a great deal of other things to think about at the time so I filed the thought away for ‘someday’.
Well, ‘someday’ finally came along. Two friends’ experiences led to ‘someday’ happening. First, my mentor and fellow printmaker had embarked on 36”x24” oil painting. She spends most of her days as independent building superintendent for four apartments; her studio is a storage room. As you can imagine, she has little time to create art, so this was a large ambitious undertaking.  And, her words, she wanted to be one of those artists who leaves behind an attic full of undiscovered masterpieces. In other words, art for the sake of creating art. Art without an audience, a gallery, or juror, or buyer in mind.  I admired her for that purity, and then she wrote back that at it’s half-way stage, it had been dropped and punctured right through the middle. I can’t stop thinking of that, and how much of a risk she took to begin this thing. Maybe it was time for me to take some artist risk too.
And then fine artist and fellow blogger Michelle showed us a very personal work of art on her blog and it was yet another reminder to me of what is really important in art. 
Which made me brave enough to work on my coloured pencils again, banish the editor (or at least try to) and GO!
Blue Stag is 11x14 and fully burnished. I’ll call it a painting in the tradition of pastel artists (pastel works have been listed as paintings for a very long time). My own criteria, with coloured pencil is the level of coverage, layering and blending. For example, most of my life drawings in coloured pencils are drawings (long poses) and sketches (short poses).
Listed on Etsy, but nope, I’m not in a hurry to sell. This one’s for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

Ursula, again. This was a long a pose (and a very pretty one, thanks Ursula). I got most of the colour down during the live session, but when I assessed at home, I felt that something was missing (it was a fairly delicate and conservative rendering), so I spent some adding some heavy colour and burnishing with a colourless blender.  Some hand-cramps later, I really liked the result. Yip!
And another close-up (and a hand that I actually like!)
For those of you on facebook, you’ve already noticed that I’m working in coloured pencil again after a long hiatus (if I don’t include Life Drawing Tuesdays). I’m working on two 11x14’s (same paper as this one) and really filling up the page. I haven’t work in cp for a long time, but I very glad I kept on doing so with the life drawing, as this time around I’m faster and bolder and so can work on something bigger with more fill and burnishing. Well, next post (x-ing fingers) will be a new cp. 
In the meantime, still filling my Etsy space, and get to add this one to my small but growing figure drawing portfolio.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Like a lot of bloggers, I check my stats. I like to see who visits, and where they are from. Recently, I had a hit from Nigeria. Curious, I followed the link to the image, and it was one I’d posted of my husband, waist deep in a frigid Lake Superior; he was fetching the days drinking water. I remember posting that snap, thinking it was funny, as in, ‘see how much we’re roughing it, we have fetch water from the lake’.
Re-imagining the image from a Nigerian perspective, makes me think differently of the whole scene. It changes the subtext of the image in a significant way, from an amusing camping brag to a luxury.  What a privilege it is to be able to stand waist deep, or be completely immersed in drinking water that stretches in volume from horizon to horizon.  Amazing what a change in perspective can do.
Photograph of fetching water from Lake Superior
Three images are Cobble Beach, linocut relief, with watercolour. Last year we camped on the cobble beach and we spent an enormous amount of time just watching the waves roll in and crash.  I haven’t posted these on Etsy yet, but there where 6 reduction linocuts done, and I posted my favourite there (3 others went to Australia as part of an exchange). Reduction Linocut of Cobble Beach

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Contemplating Hamlet

Contemplating Hamlet, monoprints on A4 paper using gelatin plate and paper cut-out stencils. (available at Etsy)
I’ve been contemplating Hamlet for quite awhile now.  I have a heap of prints on mulberry paper (not shown) that I haven’t posted. I did these some months ago, but wasn’t quite ready yet.  Now I’ve done a few more. Actually, I was just playing around with the ‘bones’ stencils (see hints of rib-cage) and then spontaneously drew and cut the facial profile to ‘finish’ the piece, and realized I was back at Hamlet. Again.
So I will try to describe why.
In high school, we studied the play, and judging from my pencilled side notes (I still have the hard-cover book) I had no clue what was going on. I found Hamlet confusing, to say the least. It wasn’t until recently that I ‘tried’ to re-read it, and I’m not sure why. I had trouble imagining the characters as I read, and so tried some you-tube vid’s of David Tennant playing Hamlet.  That put the pictures in my head, and then I read the play from cover to cover, and then I did it all over again. Four times so far (not to mention that I’ve watched the DVD 3 times). 
There is much in the play that I could not have understood with my younger self. As I teen, I thought personality was a solid thing, I thought I knew who I was and what I was made of, and only much later, with horror, did I come to know what a fragile shifting breakable thing a soul can be.  In this last year, I’ve watched my mom-in-law lose all the essential bits of herself to progressive and last-stage dementia, and there is no way to come away from that without realizing that ultimately we are not in control.
I have in large and small ways not lived up to my own standards; and I have felt confused and betrayed when those I loved did not live up theirs (or mine), and never managed to make the leap until I read Hamlet. Hamlet is full of contradictions, stating noble intentions and doing quite the opposite. And this is how most of us live.  We have (hopefully) heroic inner narratives that we strive to fulfil, and then there is the crumbly jumbled mess of who we really are, the self that changes with moment to moment, buffeted by circumstance, health, and the intrusions of others.  And others in our lives are equally fallible, and Hamlet can help us understand those shifts.
And on that note, I would love to pronounce this my favourite and profound line in Hamlet,
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.

But, if I am honest, it is this exchange that sticks in my head:
Ophelia: You are keen my lord…
Hamlet: It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
Act 3, Scene 2, in case you are interested.
PS. I posted detail shots on etsy of the gelatin prints, and some more muddled musings on Hamlet (and I’m STILL not making sense). I may edit that out soon.  Honest take, I think I’m still incapable of talking about Hamlet. Well, maybe that’s why I’m making art about it.


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