April 26, 2011

Stanley Park Treasure

This year, I think for the first time ever, my birthday fell on Easter Sunday and that was as good a reason as anything for getting out of cooking Easter dinner.  I've been putting out Easter feasts for more years than I can count and the rewards for all the work involved don't seem to be there as much these days.  So we opted for a walk in Stanley Park followed by a nice brunch out instead

The day was drizzly and the walkway along the Seawall was whipped by gusts of wind that tore at our umbrellas and blew my hood off constantly and that got old very quickly.  Not wanting to arrive at the restaurant looking like wild bush people, we chose the shelter of the park itself and walked around Lost Lagoon. 

The path was, pardon the cliche, a riot of countless shades and nuances of green, everything bursting into new life, and the shrubs and lagoon were full of birds: red-winged black birds, coots, ducks (of course), spotted towhees.  I tried to take pictures but the birds, too intent on breakfast, weren't cooperating.  Only the swans, nesting and duty-bound to stay with their nests, kept still long enough for me to fiddle with the camera and take a picture:

Bird science neophyte that I am, I was absolutely blown away by the size of their nests. Not that I gave it much thought before, but I'd never guess a swan's nest is such an impressive and massive throne. It just goes to show it's still possible to find a new sense of wonder even in familiar places.  Plus, while we didn't consciously set out on an Easter egg hunt when we left the house, we even found an Easter egg:

And what an egg!  Huge! Yet oddly very vulnerable somehow, seeing as there's just the one.  Marvelous really.
I printed the next colours for both prints yesterday.  A bit of a fiasco actually.  I didn't have as much time as I normally do, we had an appointment to go to,  and I had to rush through the printing a bit.  So first, rushing and not thinking, I married up the wrong block with the wrong print and printed the next colour for the garden scene onto the nursery rhyme print.  Duh! I knew there was a reason for not working on two prints at the same time!
I'll cut myself a bit of slack (though I did call myself a lot of colourful names first) because both colours I printed last time were similar (yellow) so it was, sort of, an easy mistake for a distracted mind to make.  And I only pulled a proof before I realized what I'd done so minimal damage.  But then I had to rush through and not fiddle as much with mixing colours and both prints, though mainly the nursery rhyme one, turned out darker than I want.  And, a further annoyance, the yellow still looks like mustard. 

Like I said, a bit of a fiasco. Obviously, there are lessons to be learned here and I guess I can be grateful for any knew knowledge but even so, I'm now in a somewhat foul mood, debating what to do, and whether I can still make it work or not, and if this is one of those "accidents" that actually end up being a good thing instead of bad. 

April 17, 2011

Time Fades Away

 Precious time is slippin' away,
You know you're only queen for a day;
It doesn't matter to which God you pray,
Precious time is slippin' away...
                                                                                    Van Morrison

I've been feeling down lately. It happens from time to time, even though I am, as a rule, a positive, glass half-full person, happy in my reality.  Or at least able to accept it and make the most of it.  But every now and then, like many people, I look at my life and wish it were a little different.  Most often the feeling is connected to the limited amount of time I have for printmaking.  That's when I indulge in dreams of waking up in the morning, without having to go work in an office all day to make money, able to start drawing and carving and printing right away.  And, yes, I know I've whined about this before and, in the big scheme of things, it's really a minor issue but, as Neil Young so aptly put it: "Though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away".
Currently, my blues have a lot to do with my parents' steady downhill slide into old age.  My mother has recently been diagnosed with dementia: she lives in an alternate reality that has, I guess, some resemblance to what her life was once like but is mostly fantasy.  My father, although marginally better because he at least knows what day it is and what his phone number is, also has severe memory problems and also lives in a world mostly removed from reality. They're still able to look after themselves in a basic way so the health authorities still say they're ok to live with us, but it's rough.  Much of the time I feel as if I'm looking after two very stubborn and temperamental children who need to have everything explained to them, over and over again, only to forget the explanations from one day to the next.  Looking after all their financial issues, and health issues, and appointments, has not only cut away another chunk of the already limited time I have for printmaking but leaves me in a constant state of mourning for the people I knew who are now gone.  

Sadly, standing as witness to the decline of the two of them and remembering that they once were, without exaggeration, brilliant, artistic, capable, and incredibly productive, makes me realize that life can sometimes cut our productivity and creativity short.  And I feel an even greater yearning for more creative time, and a greater sense of urgency to make as much as I can of the time I myself have while, ironically, in my new role as "caregiver", there's less of it.

Maybe for this reason, or maybe simply because it's an escape of sorts, I'm working on two prints at once now and, for the first time in a long time, even opted out of movie night last night and worked until 1:00 am to get my blocks "print ready" for today.

The colour I mixed for the second layer of the current nursery rhyme print was a lovely rich egg-yolk yellow but, as is clear in this picture, the blue underneath it muted it down:

I think my next colour will give the gold the illusion of more warmth but for now it looks just a bit dull.

After I finished up with the above for today, I washed the brayer and inking plate and mixed a similar yellow for my other print.  For this one though, I'm beginning the print with Georgian oil paints and printmaking medium because I want a more translucent quality.  

I'm not sure if the photos really capture the difference between the mixture of oil paint and medium and DS inks but, in real life, it's very easy to see the distinctions in viscosity just in the way it rolls out on the inking plate and block (a more detailed comparison can be found here):

With Daniel Smith inks, the carbon drawing wouldn't be anywhere near as visible as it is here:

And here it is, when printed on BFK Rives heavyweight:

Beyond this, I'm once again on the fence about the next colour(s) and the two options I'm considering are polar opposites to each other.  I have to make a decision by next week, before the second colour goes down so I guess I'd better start thinking.   

April 10, 2011

Next Nursery Print

This is the sketch for the third print in the nursery rhyme series.  

I printed the first pass last Sunday,

but didn't finish clearing all the background away in time to print another colour today.  I'm really enjoying the carving this time so I'm not rushing it.  

I've also been working out some ideas and preparing blocks for a few other, "non-kid" prints.  The first is based on a photograph taken in the garden a couple of summers ago.  

This will be the second print I do of this rooster, the first being one of the very first prints I ever did, and I'd like to try something a little different with the print this time.  I've purposely kept the sketch minimalistic and hope to work in more detail as I carve.