April 25, 2010

Birthday Florals

This weekend I was the birthday girl again although the "girl" part of it takes some suspension of disbelief in this case.  I might just be pushing it but then again, says who?  I still feel like I have some more growing up to do.  Anyway, my reward for aging so gracefully was a packet of books (there can never be enough books), a bit of jewelery, a gorgeous CD of Melody Gardot's music (I think succulent would be a fitting way to describe it), and lots of flowers. It's been a great spring for lilacs and the tree outside our window is heavy with blooms this year so R brought some of them inside for me.

Along with the usual birthday celebrations I took time for the folk floral I'd begun carving two weeks ago.

I printed the first colour last Sunday, before we left for the Southern Cross exhibit;

Today I added in the second, a lovely vibrant gold:

I was most curious, clearing the block for the second colour, about the way the dots inside the leaves would turn out.  I'm not always sure if I've carved a block deeply enough but my worries this time were unfounded.  The dots turned out just fine...

...and I'm very satisfied with the way the print is shaping up so far. 

April 18, 2010

Socially Conscious Printmaking

I don't usually take time to read the paper in the mornings.  For sure not during the week when breakfast is something that happens while I'm standing up, making lunches and getting ready for work.  But, sometimes on Saturdays, when there isn't anything else to read, I pick up the paper and scan it.  Yesterday was one of those newspaper Saturdays and how lucky for me that it was because I came across an ad for an exhibit at the Burnaby Art Gallery.  It was just a little ad, at the bottom corner of one of the pages, and all it said, essentially, was "Laurence Hyde, Southern Cross" and then the gallery address.  Almost like this, except the image was different:

Well, I confess, I didn't know who Laurence Hyde was or what, exactly, Southern Cross meant but I recognized the image in the ad as a print so I Googled both (how did people ever learn about stuff before the Internet came along???) and I knew it would be worth checking it out.  And that's what I did.  R's been at an all weekend workshop and I originally planned to go solo but took my parents along in the end, because I figured they might like an outing.  They don't get out that much anymore, specially not to such a lovely place. 

The Burnaby Art Gallery, situated in a park and surrounded by gardens, was once Ceperley House: "one of the finest examples of Edwardian architecture in the Lower Mainland" Hardwood floors, sunlight filtering in through stained glass windows, high ceilings.  Perfect for art shows.  We were alone for most of the time, it was the last day of the show, and we had plenty of time to really look at each of the engravings on display.  All 118 of them.  

Southern Cross is actually a book, a graphic novel without words, published in 1951 and reprinted again a couple of years ago by Drawn and Quarterly, a small publishing house in Montreal.  In brief, Laurence Hyde created the engravings in response to what he perceived to be a monstrous social injustice. There's more info about it here.  And some sample images here. There were only two fulls sets of the prints ever pulled and what we saw today was one of them.  That, in itself, was a rush.  The other incredible thing was how powerful the engravings were.

Despite their relatively small size, maybe 5" x  4", the images absolutely popped.  So much vitality, and so much detail, within each one. I realized again how much I love the interplay of light and shadow when it's done well.  I myself, for my own prints, usually turn to colour and, I've said this before, working with colour may just be easier in a way.  Not only is it easier to get an emotion across with the use of colour but, sometimes, with its ability to invoke an emotional response, colour may deflect from minor flaws that would be more apparent in a black and white image.  So you've got to be really good to work in black and white and to really pull the viewer in.  The engravings I saw today were damn good. There were no words but words weren't needed; the images spoke volumes. 

I'm thinking I'll have to order the book now.

April 11, 2010

Battling Creative Despair

This is the picture of a rare sight in our kitchen: my empty print-drying rack.

It really is so unusual to not see an edition of prints hanging up to dry that when the rack is empty, as it is now, it almost seems like a piece of furniture is missing from that corner of the room The current emptiness is the result of a couple of very frustrating weeks that have gone by with me unable to produce anything printable.  

Not for lack of trying; I've been working on ideas for the next print pretty much every night after work but, no matter what I put my hand to, it came out rotten.  Last night, out of desperation to carve something, ANYTHING, I turned to a block I've had sitting around since 2006.  In those days, I was experimenting with different woods and this was an image on a pine shelving remnant. The image was small; I figured I'd have it done by the time movie time rolled around at 10:30.  Not a chance.  After three hours of work, the block ended up in the garbage.  

I'm guessing it all has a lot to do with the transitions in my other life, the work life, affecting me: I've realized I have a hard time feeling creatively charged if I'm sad and, though I've tried not to be, I have been sad.  With the first week of my new job behind me there's a lot of changes, some of them major, to get used to.  Still, I pushed myself along, producing several disappointing drawings and destroying a block in the process. I sure hope I'm out of the funk now.   

I have, for a while already, been wanting to do something based on sketches I made last year of some of the Czech folk motifs in traditional folk costumes.

My idea is to combine a simple stylization of the motifs with the specific four colours (red, blue, green, ochre) used in a particular style of Czech folk pottery:

I don't necessarily want to duplicate that style, I only want to borrow some elements from it, and I began trying to bring this to life somehow last week on Monday. I was, at the time, still glowing following an incredible concert we went to the previous night, Easter Sunday.  I don't necessarily want to get into a discussion of faith here, it is, as I see it, generally a private thing.

But I will say that I have, throughout my life, gone to many an Easter service in a variety of churches and gathering places and have never felt the sense of the "holy" as I did at Sunday night's performance by Snatam Kaur.  We all felt transformed by it, even N did, and she was in recovery mode after celebrating her 21st birthday the night before. If you aren't averse to Eastern religions there is, besides Snatam's official site, a whole slew of videos on U-Tube to check out.  None of them do any justice to what the concert was really like but they do give some glimpse into why so many people find her music infinitely inspirational.

Anyway. On Monday, meditation music in the background, I began sketching my ideas and ended up with this: 

There's no green and I wasn't yet sure how I wanted to incorporate it and, to be honest, I wasn't even sure I liked this at all.  So I put it aside and over the next few nights I worked on other sketches and other ideas, each one progressively worse.  Then last night there was the destroyed block fiasco and today I woke up more depressed than ever.  I decided to return to the original sketch from last week and add in the green.

I'm happier with this now.  It has the colour combination I'm after while still being different from the traditional Czech folk style.  And, maybe just because I hate the sight of that empty drying rack and because my fingers are lonely for my chisels, I'm going to follow this idea and see where it leads as a print.