Friday, June 29, 2012


Coloured Pencil, ATC 2.5”x3.5”
Lately, I’ve been feeling tongue-tied. And what I wanted to say, I need to think about some more. So in the interim, some art. It ought to be worth a thousand words.  This one is going to my friend, mentor, fabulous print-maker, and everyday hero in Nebraska. It took me hours (literally) to complete this tiny piece, and to send it into her waiting hands is worth every second of effort.
She has a big heart. She is an educated and highly accomplished artist who spends most of her waking days as a building superintendent for four apartments, but she never looses her spirit, and reserves a good deal of thought and energy for others. She is the one that sent me a surprise box of rainbow coloured printing ink, which changed the direction of my art (especially printmaking) in a most significant way. More surprises and inspirations where to follow.  So as I worked into the minute corners of this piece, and added yet another uncounted layer of colour and burnish, it was all for her.
The greatest gift of all, of course, is knowing this will arrive into welcoming hands, which leaves me still and forever in her debt.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Raven and Sun

Raven and Sun, 5x7 coloured pencil on sketch paper.
There are some memes in my art that just keep coming back and back at me. I don’t analyse (except maybe after the fact), I just do. So I don’t really know why the raven and the sun keep turning up together on the page. After the fact, I did what everyone does at the start of the twenty first century and googled it. Sure enough, there is a native American legend about Raven stealing the sun. I don’t know if this is what the image is about. I very much doubt it, as I was raised on Germanic/Celtic legends (aka fairy tales) and Judaeo-Christian beliefs (Catholic school). Ravens, on that side of the pond, are harbingers of evil (exception, Huginn and Muninn, thought and memory in Norse mythology which makes them the most important thing in the universe).
Last weekend, I went to Killarney Provincial Park as usual. I took no photographs, and drew no images. I did do a lot of walking in the woods, swimming in the water, and sitting in a chair. The sitting was accompanied by the sound of ravens, mostly baby chatter, which, issued from an adolescent raven sounds a lot like an old woman squawking, continuously (and pardon, or not, the political incorrectness of THAT statement). It’s hard not to watch, and or listen, to ravens and not think they are sentient creatures. How odd that this belief was a given in hunter gatherer cultures, only to be forgotten or denied colonial cultures. This belief has only recently been resurrected by the scientific community that is actually willing to question, look and listen to the world around them.  And so, once again, it is acceptable to refer to these and other creatures as sentient creatures, that have wants and wishes and the means to carry them out.  And so I love to hear and see them and feel less alone, not just as person, but as a species. There are other thoughts out there, other interpretations, other eyes that view the world from a very different lens. And there is nothing better in this world that fresh perspectives.
So I look to the ravens, and I wonder, what are they thinking, what are they saying. And if they are thinking, that block of shade over there might be hiding a tasty hunk of dead fish, and what they are saying is ‘over here, good eats’, well then we have much in common, because what I am thinking is tonight I’m having burgers and fries, and what my husband and I say to each other, is ‘Yay! It’s FRY – day!’ so we are not really all that different when you come right done to the basics of things.  Which is something to think about when we a bulldozing over the ‘animal kingdom’ and considering ourselves oh so special.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Tools of the Trade


WIP of my next (hopefully, as I never know).

Etsy has a new feature; the ABOUT PAGE, that offers space for five luscious ‘process’ photos and captions for the shop.  It’s a great way to show folks how things are made. As a printmaker, this is incredibly important, as nowadays, the word ‘print’ = ‘copy of an original aka reproduction’ more often than not. Process photographs will give me a chance to show people that printmaking is a method of creating original works of art and that not all prints are reproductions. But that’s another story. 

I realized that before I can take advantage of the feature, I need some good process photographs, and as I’m working in coloured pencil at the moment, I might as well start there.  I actually WASHED my table (for the first time in XXXX), and sifted and sorted through a whole sea of layered papers, and then pulled my tripod out of my closet, set my timer, and, ta da.

Next time I get into making prints, I’ll have to do the same thing all over again. But that’s okay. It’s fun to show off my toys. It’ll take awhile before I’m actually ready to take advantage of all this and post it to Etsy (anyone want to write up my BIO and SHOP STORY?), oh no, just remembered I also need a self portrait. I guess a kitty pic just won’t cut it, will it?

Well, that’s it for blogging today.

Sigh, now I know why we were forced to write all those essays in high school.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Storm in Coloured Pencil

Coloured pencil, 11”x14”
I don’t think I’m done with these colours yet, there is still more of the spring season to capture. The landscape is still green and lush, the colours are intense, and when clouds move in, they are voluptuous with rain. Oddly enough, for all their threat, we haven’t had a storm yet.  I’m still completely fascinated by the treed area, so I will probably be doing a close-up, enlargement of that next.  Working with a photograph was different. Once again, got tempted into too much detail, but pulled away.  While I was working on it, I was not happy, and felt it was all coming out wrong, but kept going. I was determined to push the burnishing technique as far as it would go, so that part was interesting, but I did get some of the reds more muddied than I wanted. I was disappointed by the indigo stick, as when I went into burnishing the pigments clumped into blackish blobs.
This morning when I looked at the work once again, liked it, so I spent some time lightly scraping off the clumps, and burnishing more of the surface so it all looks like fresh oil paint.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don’t Be Afraid

No, it’s not the title of the picture. That, as yet, it untitled. It’s a statement about making art (and maybe other endeavors). I got off to a great re-start with the Blue Stag (at least I think so), but it took a good measure of nit-picking to fill in the holes, and unfortunately, that set a precedent. I’ve since begun two coloured pencils of the same size and both of them got bogged down in the details.  The first one was an attempt to go strong and unplanned, and I basically cornered myself. Those familiar with coloured pencil may know what I mean, but the short of it is that by the time I knew where I was going, I had too many lines in the wrong place, and nothing was going to fix it, but I spent a long time trying. So, next, I thought I’d play it safe, and work from a photo. That one got bogged down into far to many details. I should know that the moment I feel the need to sharpen a pencil to complete an 11'”x14” piece, that I’ve strayed a long way from my personal style.
Lately, I’ve changed my habits, and so I drive to the woods less often, and walk my neighbourhood more. It gains me fifteen more minutes of time, and I’ve come to truly appreciate the place where I live. I would love to brag about how environmentally friendly this is (fewer greenhouse gasses thrust into the atmosphere), but the real impetus was the overwarm winter and the subsequently dangerously icy forest trails. Which is still all about greenhouse gasses, but in this case, my behaviour was forced to change. And so I find myself walking around the lake, dodging traffic and the occasional dead fish, adding to my beer can collection (which magically turns itself into an ice cream sundae) and getting to see a much larger portion of the sky. One part of my walk is pretty boring (at least I thought so) as it is a long straightaway along a paved road. To the north and the south is a big empty field and the trees are far away.  But last nights stormy skies made things interesting.
So today, I started and finished my latest coloured pencil. I did not use the photo reference, as it would tempt me into nit-picking again, and so I started in with my fat red prismacolor stick, and every time I hesitated, I reminded myself to ‘not be afraid’ and just go. I’m not sure why I would be afraid, paper is cheap, but I often am, but that fear translates onto the page in the form of timid art. It also translates to many hours of lost time, as I usually end up procrastinating the next stroke in some mindless way. (like racking up 89 posts since joining ravelry, yikes!). So I will try to be less so in the future. Which may be soon, as I really like the composition in the photo. When I took it, I had no idea that the cloud made a mirror symmetry with the tree line. I almost regret not viewing and printing the photo, but I think doing without was a valuable lesson in making art.  I think I’m ready for round two.
And a scrumptious little close-up. More on coloured pencil technique; this piece is completely burnished, that means that every bit of paper is saturated with either coloured pencil, or the clear wax of the burnishing stick. It’s smooth and shiny, and a lot of fun to work with.

Friday, June 1, 2012

In Praise of Dandelions

Lately the locals of Stouffville are in a panic over dandelions. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten when reading the local paper. Yikes, Attack of the Dandelions. Apparently they are attacking and strangling the local children. Dog walkers, a little larger and stronger manage to make their escape and write about their experience in the ‘letters to the editor section’.
Me, I’m not enamoured of them, but I’m also less than impressed by the chemically derived monoculture lawns that they replace. Ontario recently enacted a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides; Ontario lawns are experiencing the awful symptoms of withdrawal. I sympathize. 15 years ago when I moved to my home on Musselman’s Lake, I withdrew chemical assistance voluntarily. I never did like astro-turf, and I wanted spend what little disposable income I had on frivolous things like annual and perennial flowers and shrubs. A lawn is something green to walk on as far I am concerned. It can take care of itself.
But a lawn that has been treated with chemicals, mowed regularly within inches of its life, and raked clean of all nutrients is not a healthy lawn. Remove chemical assistance and the disaster underfoot is exposed. Dandelions take advantage of the sterile wasteland and make the most of the sunshine, peppering our world with eye-ball searing yellow.
For most of us, a sea of school-bus yellow it is not a pretty sight.
But I’m still having trouble understanding the latest diatribes against dandelions. People can be allergic to all kinds of things; grass, birch trees, dogs and cats are some of the most common allergens and no one is trying to rid the world of them. My earliest memory of a dandelion is thinking, ‘pretty’ and then picking profusions to turn into a green and gold tiara. And although I have yet to do my own taste test, I hear that they are delicious in salad. We have maintained a chemical free lawn for the past fifteen years. It is lush and green. Our lawn care consists of mowing high (between 4” and 6”) with a mulching mower and leaving all clippings behind to nourish the soil. We also avoid mowing during a drought to minimize the browning of grass during the height of summer. The presence of clover adds nitrogen, a natural fertilizer, to the earth and pleases the bees, butterflies and myself with sweet smelling flowers. This year, I found a wild strawberry, and I hope to make a tiny tasty harvest in June. With all this competition, the dandelions are minimal and our lawn looks and smells fabulous and feels great underfoot.
Here’s my garden: (yes, there are some dandelions there, but it’s thick and lush and green)
So I think I will add some dandelion motifs to my art. They are beautiful tough and prolific. They are European invaders, just like me, and they multiply explosively just like their arch enemy, homo sapiens.  Funny how we hate the things that are most like us.
The top image is a gelatin print, this time finished with coloured pencil and regular roller-ball pen ink. For the gelatin print, I plucked ‘weeds’ from my lawn and garden, and placed them onto the inked gelatin plate. I picked the best out of eight prints, then finished with hand-drawing dandelion motifs. I have more info and a close-up posted on Etsy if you wish to look. 


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