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).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taste Starlight—Mixed Media Gelatin Monoprint

A close up of another gelatin monoprint worked up and into with ink (violet roller-ball and my own gold mix), and coloured pencil.
This is the artist as actor, not director. The process is one of discovery, where the chattering 'me', that logical voice in my head that mostly sits around asking what's for supper, takes a back seat and I allow the mysterious subconscious to take over and call the shots. While I stubbornly forge my own path through the world of art, that fact is not lost on my that I follow in the tradition of the Automatistes, who looked to stream of consciousness drawing and writing for their creativity. Strange things happen, this one is called Taste Starlight and it's up to you decide what, if anything, it's all about. Me, I just let it happen, and whatever wondering I do will be kept private.

The process itself is exciting, and the making of art becomes an act worth doing.
This may be par for the course for other artists, but I think I’ve spent too much time in the past trying to make something that would impress someone (could be me) or prove something (look, my trees look like trees!) or be counted as fine art (that’s SOOOOOOO profound).  There is a HUGE amount of freedom in letting go of all that and just DIVING RIGHT IN to a piece and letting things happen.
Also, I’m having fun with ‘tools of the trade’ photos lately, and now refuse to be ashamed of the scale (or my guitar-pared fingernails!) so here you can see the size of things.
As usual, if I like it enough to blog about it, it’s made available at Etsy.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bay of Fundy: Moosehorn to Laverty Falls

First Cascade on Moosehorn Trail, Bay of Fundy National Park
I took more than 500 photographs on my trek to Nova Scotia and home again. In this age of digital camera’s, that’s probably not much, but I still remember when I counted out my pennies calculating the cost of 36 pictures, 1 roll of film plus processing and printing. I was/am miserly about that. Now, after the initial outlay for the physical device (the camera), one picture costs about the same as 200, and money (or lack thereof) is no longer a deterrent to copious photographs, a calculation I reminded myself of many times on my travels far from home. 
moosehorn moosehorn-downriver 
Views of Moosehorn upriver and downriver, Bay of Fundy National Park
But 500 photographs is a lot of images to inflict on anyone, including myself.  500 stuffed into a computer file, unsorted, unedited, is useless and unseen at best, mind-numbingly boring at worst (I still recall sitting for one excruciatingly long hour watching someone’s endless video of icebergs floating by (there were five more hours of the same which we declined to watch)). So I’m whittling my pile down into tiny bite-sized chunks.
One of the many beautiful spillways on route along the Moosehorn River Trail
This is the hike from Moosehorn to Laverty Falls. The two trails make a lovely day-hike loop that is pleasant, but strenuous enough to satisfy one’s exercise needs—7.5km of varied terrain from easy flats to rocky scrambles. But I was mostly looking forward to the pool at Laverty Falls. Every time I asked about swimming in the ocean, the answer, repeatedly, was yes you can, but it’s really cold; you should hike to Laverty Falls, where there is a pool just below a curtains fall--it’s a popular swimming hole.
watching-the-spillway72 Randy watching the Moosehorn waters rushing down river towards the sea.
Long before we reached the falls (or heard its roar) we could hear shrieks and screams, which let me know that we were a) getting close, and b) the water would be exactly as warm and welcoming as I expected a deep forest river pool to be.
The famous swimming hole below Laverty Falls, a curtain falls with a deep pool below (me on the left).
Which means eyeball freezing cold. Now if you’ve never jumped into really cold water, this may need some explanation. If you are like me, your relationship with your eyeballs is one of comfortable ignorance. I don’t normally think about them, nor do I associate any presence from them. They are there, doing their job, sending signals regarding light and motion to my brain, and otherwise they hum along in the background un-noticed.
Now, there’s Laverty Falls. It’s September, the pool is dark deep and shady. The river runs through a forest. I had a clue. I found a sandy entry so I could go in toe first, one toe at a time, but eventually, I was bobbing in the current, and no matter how cold it is, it just does not count as swimming until my hair is wet. And so, I ducked under the water, and WOW, suddenly I am fully and completely aware of every square millimetre of my eyeballs, and they are NOT happy. That is the meaning of eyeball freezing cold. It was also chest collapsing cold (when the water is so cold it feels like someone put a giant vice about your chest, and sit shivering in the sun for an hour while you eat lunch cold. In short, it was pretty darn cold, maybe the coldest water I’ve ever been in, although Burnt Rock Pool, on the Agawa River (Lake Superior) might be a tie (another deep forest pool). But this pool had a curtain falls, and a ledge where you could sit under the jets and get a super jacuzzi combination hair wash (better than shampoo!) and stunning fairy-tale scenery. So I stayed in (and out) a long time. There were the sunny rocks to warm up on (sort of), and the current to swim against, and the deep brown water that tasted beautifully sweet, and, well, it was just screaming good fun to play in and around a waterfall.
laverty-curtain-fallsJacuzzi time, the most luxurious accommodations in the forest if you don’t mind the temperatures.
lunch72The remains of lunch, one granny smith, and two little Bay of Fundy roadside apples, plucked from an overhanging tree (there are many). The puddle is a perfect example of a river carved drill hole, a completely natural creation through time.
And then we had a lunch of crunchy granola bars and apples at the top the falls, where I shivered (dry and fully dressed) in the sun, followed by a return trip through the woods up a gentle but steady slope that did warm me up thoroughly.
It was one the most memorable (and fun) swims I’ve ever had.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hamlet and the Sparrow

This is a close-up. I’m still following the path of my gelatin prints, and letting them speak to me--it is a fascinating journey. This was a red and blue abstract gelatin print using stencils shaped like shards of glass. I actually did not like the cold colours and thought it was ready for the recycle bin, but I hung onto it as scrap for experiments. I always feel more free to create and express feelings, especially the less sociable ones, when using materials I am not invested in. And once again, surprised. Hamlet showed up. Actually, it’s from a whole series of gelatin prints I did while contemplating Hamlet. While I drew in the lines (or found them), it all reminded me so much of Hamlet’s ‘sparrow speech’. I love that speech, it speaks so much of accepting one’s fate, something that is often our only comfort when confronted by a world we cannot control.
If your mind dislike any thing, obey it. I will forestall their
repair hither, and say you are not fit.
Not a whit, we defy augury. There is special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to
come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the
readiness is all. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is't
to leave betimes, let be.
Hamlet Act 5, scene 2, 217–224
This is the whole image, 9x12 on mulberry paper, more info at Etsy

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I remember stars, appearing in their billions in the night; I, staring up, wondering…how many and where do their pathways lead. The skies were dark, then, a blue-black deep velvet full of diamond points and wonder. It was in an era still celebrating the first man on the moon, when the wonders of science were boundless, and its consequences left unconsidered, when forests were trackless and unknown, before satellites had mapped every square inch of the planet and anything was possible and nothing impossible and my father still walked by my side pontificating on all he knew of science, a considerable amount considering university was never an option for him-- he worked as a tradesman. But he wondered at the universe and its billions of stars, watched Star Trek with pleasure as he critiqued its absurdities, spouted Carl Sagan mantras, stood in awe of the Aurora Borealis, purchased a lake front lot in the Canadian Shield, built a cottage from bedrock to rooftop, went fishing and filleted his catch, proud to provide natures bounty and mourning the loss of piscine life in equal measure. All this wrapped up in my memories of gazing up at the stars on a cold winters night.
Stargazing is a 9”x12” image on Stonehenge paper. It began as one of those amorphous gelatin prints that I so treasure I hesitate to complete them. I had this one in my pile for quite a long time. I finally decided to develop it further. I started to sketch in with pencil but quickly realized that risk can be an integral part of a piece of art and picked up violet permanent ink. From the first mark to the last, there was no going back, no edits, changes or erasures to be done, as I worked it triggered so many memories of dark nights under starry skies.
12101901stargazing-one72e   12101901stargazing-one-72d
There are faint silvery details that refuse to be scanned. In fact, these is one of those pieces that doesn’t show very well on the internet. In real life, the silver marks come and go, from virtually invisible to become important compositional elements. Hopefully the photo’s give a hint of that.
Of course, it’s available on Etsy, along with a companion piece, Stargazing Two (which was a little less complicated in execution)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anima Animus--Mixed Media Gelatin Print

12101601anima-animus72bMore than one way to hang art.
This one’s done on 9x12 mulberry paper with hand-torn edges. The paper is very thin and flexible, almost like fabric and somewhat translucent. Once again, it begins with a gelatin monotype, and I worked it up with brush and black ink, hand-coloured with pencils, and highlighted with silver ink.  Texture, in this case seemed important to me, so I brushed in acrylic gel medium (after experimenting on another piece) which gave the whole work shine and substance. (also makes it tricky to photograph), and now it’s done.
12101601anima-animus72d up close and personal 12101601anima-animus72e
As these pieces seem to go, it was once again a work of discovery. I call it Anima Animus as it seems that aspects of self pushed forward, male, female and animistic elements, a subconscious portrait of self in the end, and with that gel coating, the physical work itself is tough and resilient, which is something I hope to be (don’t we all).
available on etsy

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

There is alot to be said about experience. This is Yanna, and one of my favourite and best models. She’s been at it since she was 18 and she has grand-children. She is so at ease you never see her finding or settling into a pose. She’s slides right into them as the most natural thing in the world.  She is calm, relaxed, and chatty. Given her long tenure as a model, she is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Toronto art scene. Her poses are interesting and varied. 
Blaming the model for a bad drawing is just making excuses, but I must admit, that having Yanna as a model makes life drawing seem almost easy.
IMG_5072Some one and two minute poses, and a pre-class doodle. I love drawing Yanna.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Domestic Archaeology

Okay, I should have titled this ‘clean up your studio’, but Domestic Archaeology is much more fun as far as titles go. Sometimes when we dig through mounds of clutter, buried treasure is found beneath. I find that digging through art piles is one of the most difficult tasks, but also the most necessary for forward movement. In my case, I literally could not get any work done, as my desk was piled high with a motley assortment of works in progress (some that should have been abandoned), to do lists that were either done or never would be, print-outs of ‘calls to artists’ and ‘submissions forms’ (mostly long out of date or not appropriate for my art), etc. 
And look at it now; you can actually see the faux wood finish of my drafting table, yippy yay. The white pages underneath are actually ‘calls to artists’ that I thought about, and then am using as padding, along with the grey cardboard that I us as a cutting surface and more padding (in other words, that’s not clutter).  So here I finally have some work and breathing space.
12101201vernal-pool72And this is what I found in one of my piles. I had started it before I went on holidays, and it is one of my first forays into combining coloured pencil drawing with a gelatin monoprint. It still lacked definition, until I accented all with a well-sharpened violet-blue coloured pencil, and now is finally ready to post for sale on Etsy.
12101201vernal-pool72bup close12101201vernal-pool72c
I’m really happy the way this turned out, especially the grey trey frog as he just emerges from the page. The scientific name is hyla versicolor as they have the chameleon's ability to change colours to match their surroundings. I recall having one that was resident on our verandah, and he had perfectly matched himself to the bright white of posts, and then later, as he moved across to another section, he form dark grey blotches to perfectly match the peeling paint.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Salmon Run

Title: Salmon Run, gelatin monotype mixed-media ink (available at Etsy)
Size: 5.5" x 8.5" paper
Materials: speedball watersoluble printers ink, gelatin plate, natural found objects, permanent ink pen, coloured pencil

Salmon Run has me thinking of 'input/output' as an artist. It was not so long ago that I travelled to the east coast, Bay of Fundy National Park and while chatting about the rainy weather with a park ranger, he stated how welcome the rain was (which was bucketing down at the time) as they'd had the salmon trapped in a down stream pool for some weeks, and recent deluge had raised the river and the salmon had all made their way up stream. I nodded politely that this was a wonderful thing, but I only really understood when I read that in the Atlantic, the Atlantic Salmon had almost gone extinct, and only 250 remained in their natural Atlantic streams. I happen to live in the current Atlantic Salmon hotspot, being Southern Ontario where Atlantic Salmon have been successfully introduced to a number of local streams. Here, they are thriving; the Bay of Fundy is not so lucky, where they still struggle.
So salmon runs must of been on my mind when I worked up this image. I was not expecting fish when I looked at this particular gelatin print, as it was all leaves in forest brown and shadow blue, but in the autumn, the salmon travel up shallow forest streams that are full of fallen leaves and other detritus, and it seems to me a place where the aquatic piscine world merges with the woodlands and there is no boundary between the two.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

Life Drawing Tuesdays is BACK!!! Once again, weekly, I sit and draw, and along with my fellow artists engage in a time-honoured artistic tradition. The location is lovingly referred to as The Bunker, alternately, on occasion, The Dungeon, as it is a small room below ground level. If you arrive late, you’ll get the chair in front of a central support pillar, and with ten attendees, it gets pretty crowded in there, but it smells like art, which means it smells wonderful.
So I recently got a compliment on my life drawing, but the delivery included some self-deprecation on the part of the artist. Sooooo, I thought it is high time I came clean.  When I post my life drawing, I post the best of the night, and some nights, I post nothing at all. I never ever post my worst—until now. Are you ready, really ready, for some really bad life drawing?
Especially, look to the right. Now realize that I had twenty full minutes to mutilate that pristine page of bright white A4 paper with my pencil. Rambo knows exactly what this was good for, and is pleased to demonstrate for you.
So there’s a peak at my recycling pile, and now you know how really really bad things can get. However, the pose on the upper left is one of the keepers, a one minute pose that I may use for reference. The joy of the one minute drawings is you just don’t get enough time to totally destroy them, not to mention that the models have the opportunity to present more dynamic poses as they don’t have to worry about their ability to hold the pose.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Decluttering my Universe

music-roomEdwin (left) and Edward (right) come out to play.
I’ve been desperately de-cluttering my home, in bits and pieces over the last year. Many corners, cupboards and closets to go, but there is breathing space in the master bedroom now, in fact, although it is of a modest size, it now doubles as my ‘music’ room, with the guitars propped up in the corner, a cat scratching post doubling  as a stool, a crocheted blanket becomes a cushion, and a night table serves as music stand. It feels SO GOOD to have carved more useable space into my cottage sized home.
IMG_4964Edward and Edwin, now out of the closet, cuddle up together in their new digs.
And sooner or later, as I toss sweaters, books, knapsacks, flashlights, birdfeeders, tool kits, journals, and pads of paper, and,…. yeah, just about everything in abundance I start to look at my piles of art. They are always there, in the corner of my minds eyes, and gathering in heaps and drifts in physical reality. I still haven’t figured out how to organize them, rarely, too rarely, I sift through and recycle the things I’ve moved beyond, but too much remains. It weighs me down, it sits like a heap of rubble in the road, barring my way forward creatively.  Before I begin anything, I think, do I really want to add to the pile? And, it’s not just psychological, but a physical barrier, where every morning I push papers off my desk into yet another pile to make way for a blank sheet.
I think I’ve told you this before, and it has produced a new style, wherein I sift through the heaps of gelatin prints and draw on top of them.
Some of the new creations are very very small.
I know that on many levels our mantra of bigger is better is driving the planet to destruction, so why do I still feel the need to apologize for my small art? Well, less and less, to be honest, I love the way these two turned out. They came from larger gelatin prints, and I just let my hand go, without any agenda at all, a process of discovery, and an on-going process as you’ve seen. Now, at least a few piles of prints have been rescued from clutter and transformed into potential, and I can’t wait to see what images form upon their flat planes.
12092502flower-fairy72Flower Fairy, 2.5”x3.5”, gelatin monotype and brush ink (on etsy)
  12092503jungle-cat72Jungle Cat, 2.5”x3.5”, gelatin monotype and brush ink (on etsy)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lazy Afternoon—Kirigami Minibook

The latest issue of P.I.O. Books, (Perfection is Overrated) is ready and available. Free, if you find in Stouffville. Free, if you run into me. And free if you want to download, print, slice and dice and fold it yourself.
For the cost of mailing, by request (that way you don’t have to do all that complicated stuff).
12100401lazy-afternoon-minibookYep, here it is, 300dpi.
Cut and fold instructions on this page. It's not meant to be peered at online, although I'd love to watch the contortions as you try.
Ps. I have no way of testing whether this prints out properly (it’s fine for me) so let me know if it’s not working out.


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