Friday, October 25, 2013

Ravens New and Old

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Raven Gelatin Monoprint on 8.5” x 11” paper.
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Raven Gelatin Monoprint on 8.5” x 11” paper.
Finally made myself a fresh batch of gelatin. My old one (from last February?) is still alive and well but in pieces. That plate was indestructible. My new plate is not.  In fact, it began to shred as soon as I tried to remove it from the mould, so after cutting the damaged ends off, I left it in the tray to print. It’s just big enough to cover the A4 paper, so all is well, although I’m not sure why it’s so soft this time around. I thought I was following my usual recipe.
New is the Akua Ink I purchased. I bought the liquid blue and LOOK! at that colour. See the bright bits of blue in the lower print. That is liquid Akua. Wow! Speedball just doesn’t have that intensity no matter how hard I try.  So far I just have blue, as it is one of the Speedball colours I’m most disappointed with (Speedball Red is another, unless I want Cadmium Hue, which it is). This experiment proves it can be mixed and matched within a piece, and good thing too, as I’m well-stocked with Speedball, it’s cheaper, and for earth tones and yellows, very nice.
And on the raven front, Yippee! I hear them more and more. Now, not only when I walk in the woods, but even as I sit and type at my computer. This is exciting! I still own a bird book that lists them as extirpated in Southern Ontario, which means locally extinct. It is Wonderful to hear them speak again. It’s no wonder that I decided to use my raven stencils today.
And these two fresh pressed prints are available at Etsy, in Nature Section.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Everything But the Kitchen Sink—Life Drawing Tuesday

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Detail of Life Drawing, female nude on 9x12 watercolour paper using coloured pencil, watercolour pencil, and oil pastel.
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Life Drawing is a chance to practice, experiment, and discover. I was armed with all of my toys: brand new pre-cut 9x12 watercolour paper, oil pastels, watercolour pencils, brush pen, paper stump, and my old standby, plain old coloured pencil, and I used all of it on this piece.
It began with yellow, followed by sepia pencils. I usually start pale, and work my way up.  Then I added the violet watercolour pencil and brushed it in with a brush pen. A brush pen is a brush that comes with a cartridge that you fill with water. It allows you to use water colours anywhere without needing extra water. While waiting for the paper to dry, the negative spaces screamed for red, RED, RED, so worked in oils, layering bright red with sepia, brown and violet. The texture of the paper was getting in the way of saturation, so a mashed it all with a paper stump, filling in all the white channels. By then the paper was dry, and I used my favourite turquoise oil, layered over the violet washes. That’s all.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Towab Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park


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Friday, Sept. 13
Awoke at first light, I'd prefer an alarm clock, as I would sleep better.  6:30am, and had a leisurely breakfast, but were packed and on the trail by 8:40. 9:10 Burnt Rock Pool, 10:50 middle campsite. 11:40 The Falls. Lunched 'till 12:30, Burnt rock 3-3:30 at the car by 4.
What a fabulous day, awoke at the crack of dawn to 3C temperatures.  Cold, but breakfast was toasty warm, 4 pants! And hot cereal, and coffee!
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Then out to Towab with clear blue skies. It was cool but great hiking temps. 
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Violet Branched Coral Fungus, clavaria zollingeri
I found a purple coral mushroom, one to look up, and took photos. I've never seen one before, and it was gorgeous, like a gem with the morning sun shining through it.  I was excited, I took pictures, wow. I almost get how birders feel when they get to add a rare one to the list. Towab Trail is 12km one way, which makes for a really long there and back hike but much of the way is flat and easy except for what I call the humps, which are slippery and strenuous.  Today we named those humps, Hors D'oeuvres, for the first rise, Appetizers for the next, and The Main Course for the extended climb away from the river and up the valley edge, cliff.
And of course, there was Dessert, which I named Chocolate Bombe, for it's round shape, this hump had us climb a goat path inches away from a quick slide to doom.
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The river was higher than we've ever seen it.  The falls were thunderous cascades of cauliflowers, and scrolling spirals of foam.  Burnt Rock Pool had none of its lazy look, and seemed to be in a very big hurry. 
We both saw a bald eagle, and a pair of merganzers. During lunch, we saw a small fish leap up into the air and belly-flop back in, right in front of us.
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Burnt Rock Pool, Towab Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park
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The cool air must have been good to us because we made it back in good cheer, and in time for a swim in Agawa Bay.
It was cold! 14C and a brisk breeze razoring in from the North West.  The waves were high and forming rollers and swells. I refrained from body surfing backwards or any body surfing at all. I don't wish to be flensed by waves and pebbles.
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The waves were beautiful, making a white surf that raced up the beach. To warm up and dry my hair, we walked to Rocky Point.
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What a full day, we were hungry, very hungry, and ate much, crackers and cheese and tomatoes after the main course.
before sunset, watched the galloping waves--out to sea, two shades of blue, steel and ultramarine, all choppy and sharp like a sea of dancing knives, and undulating and gathering into long swells that crashed and curled up onto the beach.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From Quick Sketch to Finished Piece

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Sumo Girl, coloured pencil and ink on 9x12 warm tan Stonehenge Paper.
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Untitled, Female Nude, Oil Pastel and coloured pencil on 9x12 Canson Mi-Tientes Black Pastel Paper.
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1 minute sketches with blue crayon on A4 office paper (I tweaked the colours in gimp)
Every life drawing session begins with a warm-up: I and other artists insist on a series of 1 minute poses. Usual it’s ten one-minute poses, followed by five two-minute poses, and then we decide on the remaining time by concensus.  That means some of my best drawings end up on scattered pieces of crappy paper. Most artists use some kind of cheap paper for the minute poses, these are warm-ups and exercises after all. Large newsprint is the common preference; I use A4 office paper for all my sketching.
Most of them end up in recycling, but what to do with a good drawing on bad paper?  Mostly, I assess, winnow, store and move on. This time around, I decided to transfer two of my favourites to a better support and take some home studio time to work of something new. The biggest challenge was maintaining the energy and spontaneity of the quick sketch, not nearly as easy as it sounds.  I do find it frustrating that when the model settles into a long pose and I pull out my ‘good’ paper I quite often experience creative freeze. But, give me a loose leaf of A4 Staples Business Depot 90lb office paper, and a one minute deadline, pizzazz. 
So here’s how I did it. I made my own ‘graphite paper’, which is a sheet of thin (tracing) paper covered in graphite (translate, scribble to full coverage with a soft pencil). Lay the graphite paper face down on your paper of choice (tan stonehenge), lay the sketch face up on top (like a fine art sandwich) and with a stylus (you can use a pen but then you’ll add ink your favourite sketch) draw on top of your sketch. Now you will have transferred faint lines of your sketch onto your good paper, and can continue your ‘life drawing’ at leisure in the medium of your choice.
For the black paper, I took white chalk pastel and made a page of chalk paper for use in the transfer. In hindsight, I would have picked a darker complimentary colour as I spent a great deal of time removing white chalk dust. Of course, ideally, I would have the confidence (or $$$) to use ‘good paper’ in the first place. In a perfect world….
The A4 sketches are exclusive to this blog, the ink sumo, and glowing girl on black are available on Etsy in my Life Drawing Portfolio.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Awausee Trail and Sinclair Cove, Lake Superior Provincial Park


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Awausee Trail, 11km, hiked in the rain. As the trail climbs up, I can say we hiked right up through the clouds and almost saw the sun on the absolutely darkest of rainy days.  Randy slipped on the trail and sprained, or at least painfully injured his thumb. (update: it actually only ached the one day)
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One of the innumerable waterfalls on the Awausee Trail. 2013 was a record setter for rainfall. I’ve hiked this trail many times, but never saw so much water. It was beautiful, but mostly too dark for casual snapshots, and we were too busy negotiating wet rocks, pools and streamlets to want to bother with tripod set-ups.
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Sinclair Cove off in the distance. The hike north of Sinclair Cove is consistently spectacular and only moderately difficult. What a treat.
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After hiking the rugged coast north of Sinclair Cove, we spent the remainder of the day enjoying the beach. I am wearing 4 pairs of pants.  Every time I visit the outhouse, I'm am grateful to whoever invented elastic and pull-on pants. I am warm.  I am also grateful to our ancient ancestors for their discovery of fire.  We had our chairs down by the water, watched waves, I crocheted, Randy read and read to me.  I wore 2 zippered hoodies, a thermal shirt, a heavy turtle neck, and a gore-tex jacket, hoods up, zippers up. We drank coffee, ate nuts and cookies.  I was warm enough and when I wasn't we walked up the beach to Rocky Point, so without sun and warmth, still, we had our relaxing beach day.
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Tomorrow, we'll see if we can do Towab Trail.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Life Drawing Tuesday


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Detail from my first (for this year) use of oil pastel, not like coloured pencil at all, but really pops off the black page.
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Available on Etsy in my Life Drawing Portfolio
Direct from my Journal:  Life Drawing today, we had Jane, squat, round, voluptuous, athletic, great to draw, I may have one pastel on black, Jane (model) declared it awesome--thanks Jane!... but the one hour pose went South for me.  Jane likes Bass fishing, catch and release.  She names all the fish she catches.  I know this because D. asked her.  I have no idea how he knew to ask her.  He fishes bass too, barbless hooks, catch and release.  He calls them friends, the fish, I'm not sure they concur in spite of gentle handling.  We all try to find a way to make connections.
The lady I sat beside loves soft black conte for the depths of its blacks but spends much time smudging them to greys. I spent 15 of 60 minutes roughing in pencil only to erase to a faint outline so that I could get it right in coloured pencil.  I did not.
Last week I tried coloured pencil on black paper. I liked it, but found the colour intensity disappointing at a distance. I’m using Canson Mi-Tientes Pastel Paper.  So I pulled out my soft pastels to give them a whirl. They gave me absolutely stunningly vibrant colours, but the soft (chalk) pastels just can’t stand up to the kind of abuse I dish out even after a hefty spritz of fixative.
So I dug out my motley collection of oil pastels. I found some colours and brands to be muddy and dull over black, and so sorted them out by their vibrancy (or lack thereof) on black and brought the best of them to my life drawing session. 
My four Caran d'Ache Neopastels gave consistently excellent coverage over black including the pale yellow you see, Weber was the worst (most of a full set got left behind), Mungyo not great, and while I’ve read good things about Holbien, bright yellow, and orange both failed and stayed at home.  However, mungyo provided the vibrant orange you see. If I continue with pastel, I will grow my neopastel collection.
It wasn’t easy getting detail into a 9x12 work of art with fat bodied pastels, so that was a challenge, another challenge, although also a pleasant surprise, was how both colour and line changed as the pastels built up over black. Better yet, when two days later I went back the work to assess and finish, it seemed like the pastel had ‘set’ allowing me add pure colour on top. That is something to remember.
Unlike soft pastels, these stick tight unless you do something really stupid. No fixer necessary.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Backwards Bodysurfing and other tall tales at camp

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Thursday, 12
Not raining...and so, can journal.
Last night, Randy provided room service and brought supper down to the beach.  It felt very grand.  Yesterday, we went to Pancake Bay to try the new trail.  the lookout was fantastic, the falls were pretty but i declare most of the hike boring.  It was also 50 percent wet, puddles, rivers of water ran down the trails, and we tramped in wet shoes-- this after spending all day Tuesday in wet boots. Tuesday was wet too, woke to blowing mist, and fog.
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Agawa Bay, looking north, the hills are shrouded in low lying clouds.
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Tarpology, I am the spider queen, master of tarps. Stringing the tarps is my job. I was pretty proud of this endeavour as it kept us (relatively) dry until the mist started blowing in, then we huddled in the grey tunnel (middle right behind the picnic table). It’s large enough for two adults sitting in camp chairs.
Hiked Awausee, which is beautiful even when wet, right up through the clouds we went where a little more light shone through. down below was a very dark day--I know this as the solar lantern we left down by the beach didn't light up that night.
Yesterday began the same, but the sun was out and strong by the time we reached Pancake Bay.  it was too late by then to turn it into the beach day we wanted.  We did go swimming after our walk, ate some nuts in the sunshine, and I jumped in again.
Back at Agawa, I jumped in again to take full advantage of the rare sunlight. 
Last night, Randy spotted a rabbit at the campsite.
Today we hiked north from Sinclair Cove, it was absolutely beautiful, as the entire trail is a fabulous vista along a rocky coast of coves and beaches, but we got back by 2. 
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Rocky Point, Agawa Bay/ the red sign on the left warns of a dangerous undertow around the rocks.
So determined I was to have a beach day, that I ignored the chill of a 14C day, and overcast gloom and jumped in any way.  The waves were those long vast powerful swells that gather and grow offshore and make their slow thunder up the beach. I briefly lost caution and considered body surfing, and briefly, the genius notion to try it backwards, head first facing the sky.  Briefly experienced sheer joy and exhilaration as, catching the largest wave with perfection, I shot like a bullet up the stony beach.  OW, OW, OW!  Instant road rash as my back scraped through the gravel. This manoeuvre will not be tried again.
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Agawa Bay, and what passed for sunset on many evenings.  The lake, however, is in constant motion, Lake Superior is Great indeed.
to be continued…

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lake Superior Provincial Park, Agawa Rock Caves

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Natural Rock Caves, Lake Superior Coastal Trail, south of Agawa Rock, these are boulder/errratics tumbled together forming large caves. The trail goes through several caves.
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monday, (September 9th edited, because by this time I’d already forgotten the dates, )
yikess, rain all day
and damp weather. Purcey acting up, mosquitoes hungry, early dark.  Walked south from the pictographs.  The caves were better than ever.  I don't know why the fascinate me so, but they d (<—edit: turns out that touch screen tablets with capacitive screens become completely useless in damp conditions. And no, I was not using it in the pouring rain, but with the fog, the rain and the blowing mist, even the interior of the van was too damp to allow input, and I didn’t feel like hauling out a limp sheet of paper either. Luckily, my digital camera has no such problems and I got lots of pictures to tell the story. (Purcey is what I call my android tablet)).
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This cave has a magnificent cathedral ceiling that angles down into darkness.
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Lake Superior Coastal Trail, south of Agawa Rock, North of Agawa River
Since my journal cacked out in the rainy weather (what a miserable day!) I’ll add some notes on how to get there. Park at the Pictographs, and take the trail south. Fit healthy adults (me and Randy) should get to the first one in about 40 minutes. Agile experienced hikers will get there much sooner, and those used to strolling through city parks may not get there at all. The trail, especially before and after the caves is genuinely difficult.  You need to haul yourself over and through rock-cuts. Some gaps leave me inches to spare, so there truly is a weight/fitness limit on this trail.  It’s all worth it for the caves and the views.
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Pyramid Power greets you as you exit back to the parking lot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Life Drawing Tuesday

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Viola, (figure drawing from live model) on A4 heavy paper in sepia coloured pencil.
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In the Limelight, (figure drawing, life drawing) on 9x12 pastel paper.
After a long hiatus, I’m back at life drawing again.  Not just figure drawing, but drawing from a live modelling session.  The dynamics are so different. This year I'll be working in standard sizes, 9x12 or under because I’m tired of accumulating reams of large un-shippable art. 9x12 and under can be mailed via lettermail and Canada Post does a good job with this, and there is standard pricing for Canada, USA, and International.  Another way the online universe can shift art and the artist. In my case, I have a marked preference for small format art, so I perhaps am using it as excuse to do what comes naturally.  That said, I had been working in larger sizes, partially to prove that I could, and the only real draw back is storage and shipping…so will be keeping things small this year.
The irony of it all, is that the Latcham Gallery now has kindly included horses (these are benches that you straddle to accommodate artists using very large boards). I tried attaching my 9x12 to a big board, but my shoulder got sore, so I put my pad down between my knees and propped up on a pencil box. That worked fabulous. In fact, the more upright posture for my back, and dropped shoulders helped me stay awake and comfortable, so I’ll be doing that again.
I will still have to hit the books occasionally, though, as I saw the model roster, and of 10 sessions, only 1 male model is booked, so I will need photo reference if I want to do male nudes. I miss Greg. Really really miss Greg. Greg, if you’re out there, please come back. We old ladies can be a bit prudish but really do appreciate a good model (sigh). Long story there if you can read between the lines. We sadly lack male models right now.

Life Drawing on Etsy

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