August 27, 2007

Kootenay Trails

On Saturday we got back from our "big" trip through the Kootenays and to Nelson. We figured it would be a nice place to spend our anniversary; we've heard so many enticing things about it over the years. Maybe too many enticing things because it ended up disappointing. We went looking for some sense of artistic spirit and inspiration, hoping to find little galleries with original work created by people who aren't clones of others.

But we only found one art gallery and one or two stores selling things hand-crafted by local artists. Otherwise, lots of pubs and coffee places, two expensive outdoor clothing stores, a few fancy dress shops, and an otherwise typical array of small town shops. And lots of young people trying to look artistic but seeming a bit fake and, sadly, clone-like. Even the metaphysical store seemed like a clone of so many others like it elsewhere. "You're all wearing a uniform, don't kid yourselves" said Frank Zappa to a crowd of hippies at one of his concerts and that's what we though of as we walked up and down the streets of Nelson. Dreadlocks, VW buses, and multiple piercings are status symbols too yet they do not automatically guarantee real depth of soul.

With the exception of the couple who entertained us while we ate out dinner, he on a Dobro and she on an accordion, what we found in Nelson was mostly a town with a culture that was maybe an alternate one, but not specifically an artistic one. Or maybe the artists were there, but in hiding, creating their unique visions away from the tourist hub of downtown. Maybe we just didn't have enough time to find them. Worse thought yet, maybe there used to be more galleries there in the past but they were replaced by the trendy clothing shops because art does not sell.

Anyway, the country up to, and from, Nelson was BC at its spectacular best and was really the star of the trip. We took lots of pictures: some that didn't turn out and a few that kind of did:

August 17, 2007

Hybiscus Endings & Field Flower Beginnings

It took exactly a week for the black ink to dry enough for the prints to come down from the drying line. Even today the ink's still tacky and needs to be drier before I can mat it but I wanted to make room on the line for the next project.

This is the final colour close up:



Now I'm working on my all Shina woodblock print. I began carving it last Saturday night and immediately remembered two things: 1) woodblock is not lino and 2) the tools better be sharp. Both are pretty obvious yet, naively, I still began carving the block without taking either into consideration so the first cut was a jagged, splintery, fugly line. So were the second and the third cuts and then I got wise and set about sharpening.
The problem is that, for all the years in the knife store where I not only told all those people how to sharpen their chisels and gouges and knives but also really sold them on how easy it is, I myself am (or was until this week) a total sharpening dummy. The concept is one thing; the practice is another. It's like spirituality really: you can know all kinds of truths and dogmas yet unless you really really know, then all of it is useless.

So, lack of proper sharpening knowledge in hand, I set about almost wrecking my good V-gouge, the one that came in a set (for Christmas) and that you can't buy again unless you buy the set again too -- not cheap. That's when R showed up, summoned by the sound of me gnashing my teeth in frustration no doubt, to give me some hints and the determination to keep going. And, like the zen koen about the girl seeing the moon's reflection in her bucket of water and becoming enlightened, the light suddenly came on. I'm not sure what flipped the switch exactly yet, suddenly, I knew what, and what I should be, doing. Then I not only resurrected the gouge, but also sharpened my knife and two other chisels -- two Japanese chisels I almost got rid of (fool) because they're not so great for lino. But they're great for wood and, hence, lino is not wood. After that, the wood really did cut (almost, wood's still wood) like butter. I did have to turn the block over (cool thing about working with wood) and start new on the other side but, no more fugly lines.

This is the rough sketch of the print design and the first colour down, printed today:


9.5" x 7.5"

I don't expect I'll get much more work done on it for a few weeks, given our upcoming trip to Nelson but so be it.

August 12, 2007

In the Meantime...

The new oil inks from Daniel Smith came on Friday. Not a bad way to begin my first day of summer holidays, new inks to try. Not to waste time, I printed the last layer for Hybiscus.

Ok, wow! Huge difference from using oil paints mixed with printmaking medium. Whereas the paint/printmaking medium combination was mustard-like in consistency, the DS inks are much more viscous. Keeping to the food analogies, they're like peanut butter: thick and velvety. And, as much as I can tell from using only two colours, black and yellow, a little seems to go a long way. I'll have to remember that when I'm actually mixing the colours: don't use too much.

For now, I'm waiting for the ink to set and, according to what the printmakers on WetCanvas say, I'm in for a long wait. Here it is, Sunday night, two days after printing, and the ink is still as wet as it was on Friday. It's too wet to scan even so there's no close up of the finished print but here they are hanging out in the kitchen.



It'll be interesting to see how long it really takes. Maybe somewhere around Wednesday I might be able to take them down, stack them, and print the first colour for my next print. which I began work on last night.

August 06, 2007

The Return Swing of the Pendulum

So here it is, a Tuesday that feels like a Monday, all on account of the long weekend. And what a glorious weekend it was. Truly.
N was away camping with the BF all three days, the neighbours were away too -- no noise pollution of lawn-mowers or weed-eaters -- and R and I determined to seize the moment and find some peace. Even though there are gates to be built and steps to be replaced. Even though the weeds grow like weeds in the garden.

We took the whole weekend and, apart from the weekly obligatory house chores, did nothing serious and didn't drive anywhere except to the farmers market on Saturday morning for local veggies. It's ironic, having to drive for half an hour to get local stuff, to help the environment, but I guess it still beats buying Safeway imports from thousands of miles away. Other than the trip to the market though, we were outside soaking in the sun as much as possible. It's hard to sit on the deck and feel down:



On Sunday I printed another layer in the Hybiscus print. I more or less dragged myself to it after the disappointment of last week, not hoping for much but determined to hang in, as Azul says. And, maybe it was on account of the next colour being pretty basic, no complicated mixing, or maybe it was the sun shining outside, or maybe it was just that the pendulum swung over to the positive side of the map this time but, whatever the reason, the printing went way better than I even hoped. The colour came together nicely, no issues with registration, and the image is beginning to take shape.



Now there's just black to put in and I'll be done. That in mind, yesterday I woke up with a new image in my head and had it sketched out by afternoon, colour map and all. I'm still going through bouts of longing or homesickness or whatever it is for the Czech Republic so my next print is going to be a Czech scene again. And it'll be from the Shina plywood I ordered a while back from McLains. I can't wait to try it; I loved working with wood but the old press didn't have enough clearance to take it. So tonight, even though I had to wake at six to go to work and there's lots of stress there lately, I'm in good spirits.