March 31, 2010

A Life More Ordinary?


I've been, for the last couple of weeks, suffering from PODS: Post Olympic Depressive Syndrome.  This lovely little acronym was something one the people I worked with came up with to describe what so many of us have been feeling.  And it is an odd experience, to be so intensely involved with something, day in day out, for three years straight and then, poof, it's over and everyone goes their separate way.  It really is like a densely woven piece of fabric suddenly unraveling and all the separate threads getting caught up by the wind and sent flying.  There are people I've come to know, and come to know well, who I never even had a chance to say goodbye to; that's how fast it ended.  Ok, I hate goodbyes anyway but still.  Not getting to say so long to someone leaves a bit of a hole.  It's a lack of completion somehow.
 
This Monday was my last day at the Olympic Security unit and I've been filled with melancholy.  I've changed jobs and I've left places and people behind before so I know there's always that bit of sadness to see the end of something.  But I'm really having a hard time wrapping my mind around going back to work next week, to a completely new place where nothing I do will be even remotely connected to the Olympics.  This is no doubt compounded by the fact that this Olympics job was my one and only experience with the RCMP and I really have no idea what to expect from the standard police world. I'm sure it'll be fine, I've never had trouble getting along wherever I was and I've heard the new people I'll be working with are great, but still.  There will be no glitter.  And the glitter of working on the Olympics was huge. Tough shoes to fill as jobs go and I'm pretty sure, although I'm trying to stay optimistic, that it's not likely I'll have a job with as much glitter ever again.

In a rash and uncharacteristic move, I even bought the saccharin-cute Olympic mascot at the top of this post (the same one my workmates and I made fun of when they were first unveiled). Gotta love those iconic red mittens. I plan to stick some of the Olympic pins I've been given on it and take it with me to the next place as a little memento.
  
Meanwhile at home, trying to shut out the feeling of severance, I've kept on with the Easter cards.  This was Monday night, an effort to shut out the blues:


I only did a handful in the end, just in time to get them in the mail yesterday, but I was happy with the way they turned out.  I was going for a spring feel and I think I managed that.

These are some of the variations:
 

Now I'm taking a few days off, until next week, and I hope to slowly shed my PODS during that time.  I spent some of my overtime money on a really good set of pots and have planned several slow-to-cook and artful meals for the next few days to break those pots in.  And I've got an idea for a new print swimming around in my brain that I hope to sketch out today or tomorrow.  Feed the soul; that's what really counts.  



March 18, 2010

The Prince and I

It has a good ring to it in a way: the Prince and I.  Actually though, it was the Prince and 200 other people and I, but hey, it's all logistics really. Today, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, came to visit the place where I work: the Vancouver 2010 Olympic security unit of the RCMP.  I'm thinking it's safe to say this now, what with the Games being over and all.  I was, until recently, cautioned against being too open about my job a couple of times but, by now, the threat of me being kidnapped and forced to disclose Olympic security information is small.  Besides, in a couple of weeks, I'll be moving to a new job as a records management person, and my three year stint with the V2010-ISU will soon fade into hazy memory.

For now though, even though the Games are done, there's still some stuff going on.  Like the Prince coming for a visit for example.  I guess with London being the next Olympic destination it makes sense for him to want to see things here and get ideas.  Possibly.  But royal visits in workplaces probably don't happen too often to too many people so it was kind of a BIG thing.  So big, in fact, that it seemed like anyone who had even the most remote connection to ever having worked in the building showed up to claim a piece of the excitement.

Me, I'm somewhat ambivalent to the royalty thing.  On the one hand, I'm hugely fascinated by European history and kings and queens figure prominently there.  Plus, I spent the first 10 years of my life in Europe, where there's a castle almost around every bend, and castles are generally associated to royalty by default so there's that sort of royal shadow on things.  But that's the thing, it seems as if that's where kings and queens belong: in history.  Not in the modern world, touring around schools and workplaces.  Seeing Prince Edward today, in his nice conservative but contemporary suit, a pleasant looking man with good teeth and quiet manner, it was hard to link him to the vibrant royal figures in history books.  Nor did I feel more than a little flutter of interest as I watched him, an arm's length away, and tried to figure out what it was that made the royal family so fascinating to so many still.  

It really makes me wonder.  What makes celebrities such a draw for so many people?  They are, after all, just people too.  What is it about the life of a Prince that seems so golden?  If I'd had the chance, that's what I'd have asked the Prince.  I would have liked to say, preferably over a glass of some good beer:  "Hey, Edward, why is the whole royal life thing so great anyway?  Don't you ever get tired of touring around and being on display?"  But then again, maybe he likes it.  

March 14, 2010

Easter Print on The Way

I'm hardly alone in this, I know, but I love Saturday nights.  We ritually clean house on Saturday morning so the whole place feels fresh and, with a whole other day off still in the wings, Saturday really feels like freedom.  First a great dinner and some good wine (last night's was a marriage of Italy and France: homemade Pizza Margherita and a bottle of Longue-Dog) and then I lose myself in my own world and carve my latest block, or draw, until it's popcorn and movie time around 11:00.  We're lucky to belong to a video store with a wide selection of obscure and unusual films so movie time is often a bit of an adventure. 
 
Before that though, while I work, R either plays his own music or we listen to jazz.  My dad always listened to late-night jazz when I was growing up and I got used to the sounds drifting into my room as I fell asleep. I still love listening to jazz at night.  Specially when I carve.  Saturday night:  the outside world on pause, good music streaming from the internet or from the CD player, and a block to work on.  Bliss. 

Here's a picture of my work area; it's just a small corner of the bedroom but I love it here.  It's total sanctuary. 

I've got a gorgeous Annie Bissett print on the wall next to me as I work (I tried to take a picture but couldn't get past the reflection on the glass) and I like to surround myself with icons that inspire me in some way: rocks, pottery, random pictures, the Krakonoš marionette I picked up in the Czech Republic eight years ago. 


Krakonoš is a figure from Czech folklore dating back to the 1500s, a reclusive and elusive "old man of the mountains" said to protect and help good people and punish evil ones. There's a number of legends about him and I like the symbolism. I guess I lean toward odd guardian angels. 

Last night I began carving an Easter card I'm hoping to send out.  Normally I make traditional Czech Easter eggs but that's not going to happen this year so I've decided to take a different approach.  This is the sketch I did for the card:

And here's the same thing with some Photoshop colour added in:


 

It's not actually going to end up like this afterall, I changed my mind halfway through carving it but it was fun playing anyway.  I was hoping to print today but didn't finish the block yet so one more Saturday night to go.  I might just make it in time for Easter...



March 07, 2010

Mastering the Art of Printmaking

How absolutely fantastic to have a normal weekend again and not have to go to work for 12 hours on a Saturday or Sunday night!  Funny how quickly last month's shifts are already fading into hazy memory.  I still have a part to play in the Paralympics but I'm back to a regular work schedule and to my printing on Sundays routine and have finished the bridge print, now officially named Bridge Into Morning:

  Bridge Into Morning
Reduction Linocut - 8" x  9.5" 
Happily printing today, a realization I had a few nights ago came back to me.  On Thursday night I was making pipérade, a fancy name recipe for an omelet with tomatoes, onions, and peppers (from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and it suddenly hit me: Printmaking is totally like the Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I know, it seems like a bit of a stretch. Bear with me.  
A few weeks ago we watched Julie and Julia.  It's the interwoven story about Julia Child's discovery of French cooking (and how she came to write her groundbreaking cookbook about it) and New Yorker Julie Powell, who took it upon herself to cook her way through, in one year, Julia's book.  Julie P blogged about her trials and her blog also became a book and the book became the movie etc. etc.
Anyway, I was never, even remotely, drawn to either French cooking in general, or Julia Child in particular.  My main interest in the movie was Meryl Streep, whom I love and who plays Julia Child.  Since seeing the film though, I've read Julia Child's My Life in France, Julie Powell's Julie and Julia, I've watched a few U-Tube clips of the real Julia C. in action (I laughed for ten minutes watching her on David Letterman) and just finished reading, cover to cover, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I'm not sure if I've actually become a convert to French cooking but I've definitely become a Julia Child groupie.  
Why the obsession?  I don't know.  There's something inspirational about the oddball that Julia was, discovering her passion pretty late in life, following her dream, and living happily ever after.  And there's something about the food although, with a preference for vegetarian meals, I have to be selective; the chances of me dishing up a meal of offal are absolutely nil for example. 
Beyond the kidneys and marrow bone though, there's something that pulls me into the whole Julia Child French cooking thing.  For one thing, her food certainly isn't as hoighty as I imagined French cooking to be. In fact, many of the recipes in JC's book are basic old-country cooking.  So maybe that's it.  Maybe it's the connection to hundreds of years of tradition that's so appealing to me. The other night, making my fancy-named but not-so-fancy omelet, I realized I'm only one of hundreds, if not thousands of cooks (given that MTAOFC was first published almost 50 years ago and reprinted 40 times since then), who've followed the same directions to recreate a recipe hundreds of years old.  Maybe I'm also an oddball but I get a rush from that.  From doing something that reaches through time back into history.  
And this is where I draw my printmaking analogy.  In the same way I reach into history for lessons on making my perfect French omelet, when I take a piece of wood or lino and carve it into images for printing I reach back to build on traditions established by printmakers like Albrecht Dürer, or Thomas Bewick, or William Morris and so many others who followed.  In both cases, cooking or carving, the tools and materials might have changed somewhat through time but the pursuit of the craft of perfecting the cut to make the line and coax the image out of the block hasn't.  In a world so driven by technology and digital wizardry, I love being part of something rooted in a time when this technology didn't exist.
Tonight, Bridge into Morning finished and one more step taken towards my mastering the art of printmaking, I'm headed to the kitchen to cook up a batch of Julia Child's Leek and Potato soup.  Does it get much better than this?
 

March 01, 2010

Morning Bridge Print: Next Stages

Two more colours added to the Morning Bridge print.  Same as with the last colour, I used a mask over the bridge suspension lines to keep them from printing while I added the rust layer below.  I want the lines as fine as I can get them and don't want them printed more than once.  You can see where they're going to go though because, for some reason, the carbon paper tracing on the block transferred over to my print this time.  


And here's today's addition.


Only one colour left now and I was originally planning to carve the block and print it tomorrow but I ran out of steam.  I worked my last graveyard shift last night and there's only so far 5 hours of sleep will take me.