March 29, 2009

Morning's Minion

We've had a special treat the past two mornings. Somewhere in our yard a marvelous bird has built a nest and, both yesterday and today, since we had the time to eat breakfast slowly and watch the garden outside the windows, we've been entertained. He likes the area near the bird feeder, where R scattered some seeds among the mulch, and he digs around, tossing up bits of bark and dry leaves to get at the food, almost dancing as he goes.

Given we know a big nothing about birds we don't have the first clue what kind this one is. But he's beautiful. Neither one of us have ever seen anything like him here, normally we get robins, chickadees, and starlings, and we're mesmerized.

This morning, I remembered Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem: The Windhover:

"I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn falcon..."

Yeah, ok, this little guy's no falcon and he doesn't ride wind currents, but it's what I image "dappled" to be. So for me, it fits.

"...My heart in hiding.
Stirred for a bird, --the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!"

The full poem is here.

We've tried to take pictures but without a powerful enough zoom lens the best we could manage is these grainy distance shots.

And, on the printmaking front, I've launched into my Leonard Cohen print. This is the block with the image carbon paper-transferred to it, looking sort of paint-by-numbers. I know, it looks really busy. But, if all goes well, it won't be once it's done:

I finally got the chance to use my new, super duper, Daniel Smith "professional" brayer for the first colour and, dare I say it, I was initially disappointed. It picks up ink differently than the Speedball brayers do and it took some getting used to. Plus, I stupidly forgot that bigger blocks take more ink so I didn't mix a much as I should have and really had to lay some muscle into rolling it on the block to make it to the end of the run. However, I did get the hang of it finally and managed to get the results I wanted so all is good.

There's not much to see at this point, the first colour is the base. It's roughly 2/3 transparent medium, 1/3 white ink, and a very small amount of black.

March 23, 2009

No Go for the Leonard Cohen Show

6.5" x 9"

I finished Dreams yesterday and, day off today, began getting ready for my next print. Right from the start I've hit a wall. I know what I want to do for next print, I've had it in my head for a few weeks, but there are two ways I can go at it and I can't decide on one or the other.

I've picked an ambitious theme: Leonard Cohen, whose music and poetry have been a part of life since I was 16 and my friend Ray played me a Cohen record borrowed from the library. Fast forward to now, when in a few months the 73 year-old Cohen is coming to Vancouver, on the second leg of his first tour in decades and most likely the last. Of course I wanted to go. I REALLY wanted to go. The tickets sold out before they even went online, at $495. Seems that these days, with no one buying music and everyone downloading it from the web, the only way musicians make any money is through concerts. Sad.

I sulked a bit and entered a contest on the basis of "you can't win if you don't try". And then I came across a really cool L Cohen picture and decided to adapt it for a print. I'm reading the poetry, looking for ideas, and working on the sketch. I'll post it once it's done. I'll be going back to lino for this one; I need something without a grain and wanted to give MDF another go but I don't have the right size.

March 15, 2009


The last colour went on the water nymph today. Although the image is based on the mermaid in Copenhagen, I've decided to name the print Rusalka, after the mermaid in Dvorak's opera. NOT because I'm a huge opera fan. True, I do love classical music but opera's different somehow. I know there are people out there who totally "get it" and I envy them. I've managed to make it as far as to know, and get a rush from, several of the big arias and I try listening to the opera broadcasts on the radio every Saturday. I never make it through the whole thing though. I can't seem to develop the patience for it.

It doesn't matter which opera it is, it seems to be a package of a couple of memorable, maybe even spine-tingling, arias surrounded by two hours of stomping around sounds and strange vocal bursts. But then, maybe it's a whole different thing to see it live. Maybe, like a Grateful Dead concert, you have to be there. A soundtrack just doesn't cut it and comes nowhere close to the real experience. So, if anyone wants to send me tickets to the Met, I'm game...

Anyway, yesterday I was finishing carving away the last bits of the water nymph block; the Saturday afternoon opera broadcast was Rusalka. As it happens, Rusalka has one of my most favourite arias in it: The Song to the Moon. It's right in the first act and, because I love the aria, I've often entertained dreams of sitting down and listening to the whole opera. I thought what with it being Czech and all, if I actually heard this one from beginning to end, it might just be the one to turn me into an opera lover. Well, yesterday was my big chance to listen to almost all of it. Did the doors open? Sadly, they did not. But I still really love that aria so, in tribute I've named my print after it. It seems fitting.

And here's the finished print:

And, just for something different, I also looked all over YouTube for the definitive version of the aria to share here and didn't find one. So here's Joshua Bell doing a version of it with the violin as the voice:

And an entertaining, and theatrical, clip of Lucia Popp's version:

I also added two more colours to the print of other dreaming girl. I still do want to darken those hills a bit, but my mind is already moving ahead to the next project.

March 11, 2009

Life Is Like A Cup of Coffee

I come across, through work, a fair number of people who lead very comfortable lives. To say the least. They started their careers 20 to 25 years ago and there's a lot of comfort one can accumulate in 25 years of a professional career. Sometimes, sitting in on lunch-table conversations, I feel like the poor relation in a Victorian novel. Hell, 25 years ago R and I were still driving Spot, our camperized postal van, around California and working at odd jobs as they turned up.

So far, life has been a great ride and, most of the time, I manage to squash feelings of regret. Our home maybe small but it's full of love, we may not be able to afford to fly to Cuba, Holland, or Paris or to buy front loading washing machines, but we've led a life rich with other experiences and we're happy anyway. We have our health and the opportunity to learn new things every day and to say what we want to in public. We have warmth and enough food to eat. These things alone put us in the priviliged third of the world's population and we know how blessed we are. Still, in rare and random moments of weakness, I wonder if we should have maybe done things differently.

Yesterday, I got a this little YouTube video from a friend:

No, it's got nothing to do with printmaking whatsoever and the background music is REALLY annoying, but the message is a good one. It really captures the philosophy we've tried to live our lives by. I'll have to remember the message for the next time the guys at work start talking new houses with stainless steel appliances...

March 08, 2009

Catching up to Springing Forward

Here we are, back to losing an hour. Wake up at eight, now already nine, and the rest of the day spent chasing the minutes. I guess it didn't help that we were up until 1 a.m. last night (or 2 a.m. really) even though we'd made a pact to try to get to bed sooner than we normally do on Saturday nights. It's hard to break lifelong habits; the night has an energy we both love.

I did manage to add another colour to both prints today but I felt a bit rushed and whenever I checked the clock I was surprised how late in the day it was.

I have one last colour to go on the water nymph print. Originally I thought this would be the last one but now I want to add a final shadow.

For Dreams, I've got one or two left. I think I need to reprint the hills behind the sleeping girl's head to set off the contrast of her hair more. The pale ink dried darker than it went on and the top of her head gets lost. I'm still working out how, exactly, I'll do that since I already carved the hills away weeks ago.

March 01, 2009

Taking the Leap Over to ETSY!

I tend to have very low tolerance for people who talk, over and over, about all the stuff they're going to do and then never end up doing it. No, there's nothing wrong with having dreams; I have hundreds of them. And I do know all about how sometimes life gets in the way of big plans and we end up going sideways instead of where we planned to go. That's different.

But when someone just talks about how they're going to write that best-selling novel, or learn a bunch of new languages, or take belly-dancing or sky-diving or whatever other stuff people do, and then never actually get off the couch to start typing or to register for a course, I confess, I get annoyed.

It's no surprise then that after almost two years of me telling people all about ETSY, and all about how I would join one day, and then never getting down to doing it, I was totally starting to get on my own nerves. Yeah okay, since I didn't want to seem like the type who just talks big but never sees stuff through, I made sure the people I told my big ETSY dream to were always different people. And I only told each person once. So technically, I wasn't really going on and on and on about it right? It was only myself I was irritating. Well this was the weekend I finally put a stop to all of that.

Yes, what with designing the banner and doing the write-ups it was a bit of work though to be fair, I started pulling things together a few months ago already. But it was that final leap I couldn't somehow work my way up to and I had to hold my breath and just do it.

Unfortunately, with all that excitement and also some other social obligations this weekend, I only managed to get one of my blocks ready for printing today. Here it is inked and ready to go through the press in my "idiot proof registration" jig.

And here it is just pulled...

And, finally, la voila the new colour:

I'm actually beginning to like it a bit now.