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.


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