December 03, 2012


The idea for my latest print comes from a number of sources.  First, there’s an ornamental stone urn on the grounds of a small baroque castle in Prague where we were twelve years ago on holiday.  I loved the face adorning the urn…my mind is quick to create fairy tales about the stone faces decorating so much of the architecture of European cities…and I imagined all kinds of possibilities for this one, including the idea of a spirit trapped inside somehow

Building from that is the theme of being and/or feeling trapped in my own life: my parents trapped in a reality where they only repeat old habits and routines as their mental competence dwindles; Roland and I feeling trapped, not only by our sense of responsibility to “do the right thing” for my parents (and not being really sure just what that “right thing” is), but by the increasing burden of those responsibilities.  Last, there’s the sense of gloom I’ve been struggling to shake off over the last several weeks.  So not a particularly sunny back story for a print but there it is.

We moved my parents into a care home two weeks ago.  The call from a place with two available beds, a call we were told might take months to come, came on a Thursday morning not two weeks after we submitted the paperwork.  I was given until the next morning to accept but, really, declining the offer wasn’t an option.  Not unless I wanted to have to go through the whole assessment process all over again.  And, given that my father’s latest thing was to try unscrew light bulbs by turning them backwards and breaking them off in their sockets, we couldn’t chance a delay.  So we drove out to the place to have a look around and, having assured ourselves that it was as nice as any such place could ever be, we accepted the placement.  We had until the Monday to move my parents in. 

There’s no possible way, in a life where every day is like Groundhog Day (the movie, not the actual day), to prepare someone for being ripped out of the cocoon they’ve felt safe in for as long as they remember and then planted in a radically alien environment.  And there's no way of not feeling guilt for doing that to them. We did our best to talk to my parents about where they were going and why.  My father, the more rational one of the two, accepted it and then immediately forgot all about it.  My mother just laughed. To make it all worse, although the home had two beds free, those beds weren’t in the same room and my parents had to be separated; my father went into a room with three other men and my mother into a semi-private with another womanWe were promised this was only temporary and that they’d get a room together within a couple of weeks but try to explain that to someone with dementia. 

Yes, it’s been a heart-rending two weeks and hands down the most difficult thing Roland and I’ve had to face in our whole life together.  Nevermind how necessary this move was for both my parents’ and our safety; emotions and logic rarely move in tandem.  Now, with two horrible weeks behind us, the worst is behind us too (I hope).  My father had such a hard time with the transition, and with being separated from my mother, that the care home director put most of her energies into getting them into a room together three days after they moved in.  Things got better after that and now they’ve settled.  

They have a few favourite pieces of their own furniture and bedding, their TV, and my dad’s artwork on the walls of their room to trigger memories of home and they have a team of kind people to care for them.  They’re delighted to see us each time we visit and seem to think they (and Roland and I as well) are all living in the Czech Republic somewhere.  Yesterday the nurses told me my mother laughs all the time and my father is a very interesting and pleasant man.  He’s playing bingo (never in a million years would I have expected that), has had his hair cut and styled into something resembling one of Elton John’s wigs, and allowed the nurse (“he was VERY cooperative”) to shave off his beard.  And really, seeing my parents there only confirms how much they really need to be there.    

Here, at home, my parents have become my phantom limb.  My life was so wrapped up in caring for them for the last couple of years I feel as if their shadows still move around downstairs like they themselves did for the twelve years we've lived in this house together; I still look to see if they're sitting at their kitchen table when I get home from workAnd, at 10 each night I get up to go give my mother her medication before I remember I don't have to do that anymore.  Now the thing Roland and I need to do is to work up the balls to go downstairs and sort through all their things.  But we’re dragging our heels.  It's too hard.   

But I am working on a print.  A dark-themed print to fit my melancholy mood but a print nonetheless.  It's a very simple, only three layers, but that's enough for now. 

The first two colours are here:

Hopefully I'll get a chance to finish it next weekend.  


November 12, 2012

A State of Unbeing

The way I see it, most people can be divided into one of two groups: those who love Neil Young and "get" his music and those who don't.  Of all the people I know, the people I genuinely connect with fall into the first group.  It's always been that way. In fact, I seriously doubt Roland and I would be married to each other if either one of us didn't feel as strongly about Neil Young as we do.  Some things mean more than others. 

I don't know what it is about Neil's music that gets inside me so much but it's been a part of my life for so long, and through so many different stages of my life, I can't imagine not knowing it.  We're some years younger so he's not entirely our generation yet so much of his music, odd, raw, and obscure as it can be, has spoken to me more than that of any other artist. I'll never get tired of listening to it even though I've heard the songs  hundreds of times.  We mostly listen to classical music these days, it provides a good backdrop to life in general, but nine out of ten times when I actually put something specific on, it'll be a Neil young album. There's so much to choose from and we have them all.  

Last night we went to see Neil Young, back together on tour with Crazy Horse, live.  He came out on stage...grey, balding, sort of pudgy, troll-like...all of it forgotten as soon as he started playing. Once the music took over nothing else was significant. How fantastic is that in an age when new music is built around and sold by how the musician looks first and how the music sounds only second?  When image is more important than depth of talent?  With Neil it's always been all about the music first.  He's never sold out, he's never let his integrity be compromised by the music industry.  As an artist, he's a huge inspiration for that alone.

Anyway it was a fantastic show.  Here's one off the songs he played...from his new album Psychedelic Pill:

Now, as to printmaking... 

I suppose it's been coming on for a while but a state of mild funk has settled over my creative spirit. Having finished the blossom print, I began on something new  but, in truth, I can't seem to summon up much enthusiasm for working on it. We're at the tail end of a long weekend and we gained that extra hour of time recently, both of which I've used to definite advantage in the past, but this year I've just let the extra time slide by.  I have a bit of an excuse for this weekend: a trip over the border to pick up some things we can neither buy nor get shipped to us here and the Neil Young concert last night.  But that only covers this weekend and not the times I've let slip by when I could have worked on the print and just simply didn't.

It's mostly my parents I think.  My father has recently (and finally) been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  Prior to this, while we all knew there were serious issues, he sailed through the mental exams and fell through the cracks.  This left us doing more and more for them both, with less and less time for ourselves, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. But then he went through a particularly bad spell, started having some delusions, and having some real lapses.  On the basis of this we have a diagnosis and a geriatrician's confirmation that my father is no longer competent to look after my mother and himself.  It's become a matter of safety and they are now on a list to get into a care home where they will get more help than we, with our work schedules, can give.

Sounds great right?  Amazingly, my father also thought it sounded ok and told their case worker as much.  In fact, he openly acknowledged it was time for them to go into a home.  That was a few weeks ago.  Now he's forgotten all about being on a waiting list for a care home.  He has no short term memory so no matter how many times we can talk about it, he won't remember.  And the way it works here is that once a couple of spaces open up for them, we'll have 24 hours to accept and another 48 to move them in.  

This means that when the call comes, there'll be some significant upheaval.  I spent a week agonizing over the decision and talking to every one I know about it and I know it's the only decision I can make if I want my parents to be safe.  It doesn't make it easier.  Roland and I are doing a workshop on the Transition to Care put on by the Alzheimer's society; hopefully they'll give some ideas on how to deal with the process once the time comes.  But I'm having a rough time shaking the worry which, in turn, is affecting my printmaking efforts.

Instead of sitting and carving which I find requires a stiller mind than I currently have, I'm distracting myself in random ways, lapsing into bouts of domesticity (making sauerkraut, hunting for and trying out new recipes, and reading. I'm on a WWI kick and flew through two books back to back...incredibly compelling somehow and, compared to the hell those boys were subjected to, my life is a cakewalk. 

And I've done a small bit of work on the next print, but really not much:

That's the long and short of my story for this time around.

October 28, 2012

Blossom Print Finished

Well I added the last two colours to my latest print a couple of weeks ago and hung the print on the drying line and that's where it stayed.  Last weekend I was going to scan the latest image and write a post but somehow the weekend got away from me and I didn't get to it.  Now here it is, another weekend almost done and, yet again, I haven't done anything about bringing things up to date. 

This weekend I've got a lousy cold and my head feels like it's wrapped in fibreglass so I'm not at my best.  But I really wanted to mark the print's completion so I've dragged myself over to the computer.  Here then are the last two stages of the print:

Blossom - Reduction Linocut
9.5" x 7.5"

To be honest, I'm a bit on the fence with this one.  There are a lot of things I like about it but I think maybe the leaves are too dark and they're now over powering the blossom itself.  This is one of those works I'll have to set aside and look at for a while to see how I really feel about it.  For now, I'll go back to lying down.

October 10, 2012

Autumn Colours and Colourful Tales

So there we were, heading home along the old Princeton highway after visiting Roland’s mother in Kelowna this past weekend. We'd stopped at a couple of places along the road to take some pictures of the autumn colours...


...and now we were about two hours out of Vancouver, driving through the Manning Park area, the day golden and warm and everything around lit up by the autumn sun. We were both agreeing it doesn’t get much better than this when we passed a couple of hitchhikers standing at the side of the road. One held a sign we couldn’t read and we drove right on by them. Years ago, in California, after picking up two guys who turned out to be a lot creepier once they were in our van than they first seemed (and in whose company we spent over two anxious hours that felt like four) we decided no more hitchhikers.  Now, as we’d done many other times since that day long ago, we kept going. 

And yet, although I couldn’t read their sign, I did notice how the sunlight lit up the one guy’s white beard and how this made it look very interesting...sort of like a little upside-down halo on his face.  And I also saw that the other guy was quite young and that they both wore hiking gear and had backpacks resting on the ground at their feet.  And I guess Roland saw something compelling in them too because suddenly we were both debating whether we maybe shouldn’t have stopped to pick them up after all. There was just something about the scenario that made us want to help. We drove on, yo-yoing while five more miles passed under the wheels, and then we turned around and drove back to have another look at the two of them, to make up our minds one way or the other. 

Well, long story shortened, we picked them up.  It turned out to be the right thing to do. The best thing to do.  Turns out they were father and son: Peter and Hamish Coldicott of Christchurch, New Zealand.  And yes, they'd been out hiking.  In fact, just a couple of hours before we met them, they'd emerged out of the forest trails in Manning Park after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to BC.  Five and half months, 4,200 kilometres.  They’d gone on the hike to raise money for a children’s charity in Christchurch where a number of earthquakes have caused some significant damage over the last few years.  

They'd been planning on catching a bus from the trail end but had missed it and, since the next one wasn't going to come until the next morning, they decided to try getting a ride.  They'd been standing at that spot for a little over an hour. They rode with us for about two hours that, this time, seemed like 30 minutes and, tired though they must have been, they answered all the questions we came up with.  The story of their travel, told in a very entertaining way, is here at the walk4kids blog where Peter describes their adventures and shows off some of the photos they took.  I read every single post and looked at the photos and was immensely awed by the big things some people do with their lives. 

Funny how things go sometimes; we gave a ride to a couple of strangers and I feel like we got so much more back in return. How fitting that this should have happened on Thanksgiving weekend!

October 02, 2012

Printing With Half a Brain

My last printing day, Sunday, was one of those vexing days when trying to stick to a plan becomes more a source of stress than anything else.  The first problem was the weather.  It was too nice.  Too sunny, too warm, too beckoning.  Specially here, on the “wet coast” where we all know we’re on borrowed time at this point and six months of rain is lurking just around the corner.  So, although I really just wanted to hang out at home and indulge in a leisurely printing session, I also really wanted to walk hand-in-hand with Roland along the seawall and soak in the beauty of the day, and maybe stroll over for a coffee and a snack…
The second problem was the season.  Autumn.  Harvest time.  Our neighbour gave us some apples from his tree and, while they’re not the best eating apples, they’re tasty dried.  Sliced up, sprinkled with cinnamon, not bad at all.  It does take time though, cutting out the flaws (and ok, worm holes) and slicing and getting them ready for drying.  I didn’t actually do any of that this time, Roland took on the task, but he occupied my printing space while he was doing it so I had to wait until he was done.  By the time I got around to setting up the press it was early afternoon and I still had this crazy idea about the seawall walk. 

So, half my mind on other stuff and only half on my work, is it really any wonder that it didn’t go all that smoothly?  It’s kind of like when we’re in a rush to go somewhere and we take the dog out beforehand and the dog, normally a “let’s get this business done quickly and go home for cookies” kind of guy, decides to sniff every last telephone post and random grass clump along the way and won’t go and won’t go until his sniffing is done.  Yesterday’s printing went like that.  I felt pressured by all the things I decided I wanted to do, the things I was hellbent on doing no matter what, and so every second thing seemed designed to slow me down. 

I was only printing part of the block so I fashioned a mask but the mask was awkward. There was no place to anchor it to and it kept sticking to the brayer and then sticking to my fingers and making a mess.  I wasted time on wiping and more wiping and cursing, and all the while the hands of the clock were sweeping the precious minutes into history.  In the end I tossed the mask and just wiped off the area I didn’t want ink on after I rolled it and it went better but oh, it was still a teeth-grinding process. 

Yet, bit by bit, the image is coming together:

Sadly, even with the faster-drying inks, I've had a tough time finding the time to print more than one colour a week.  I had a three day weekend last week but spent the Monday on doctor's appointments for my mother so only managed to get the above colour down.  And if you're thinking it doesn't look any different from the one that came before that, you'd be right. You've gotta look really hard, at the leaves, to notice a slight change.  I'll admit it's not exactly the way I planned it but I'm still learning the nuances of the Akua inks and how the colours interact with each other. Here's this week's addition:

This one came out close enough to what I was going for so I'm content.  Now I just need to hack out a block of printing time to do the next colour but this coming weekend is our Thanksgiving and, as if that weren't enough, I've decided I want to go hazelnut picking.  And wild mushroom hunting too but that just might have to wait for a couple of weeks.  There's only so much I can stuff into any given weekend really.  

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving for all of you on this side of the border...   

September 20, 2012

Mixed Harvest

Green is the colour of my true love's lips, in the morning,
in the morning when we rise...

Or, we've discovered Green Smoothies.  Yes indeed, we're on a Green Smoothie honeymoon and have been for a couple of weeks.  It all started with the dehydrator we bought three weeks ago, after we decided that those amazing dried apple chips we picked up at our local farmers market were definitely something we could do at home and for less money.  Next thing you know, we're drying bananas, and peaches, and cantaloupe, and pears, and tomatoes, and even making kale and sweet potato chips. 

In fact, there's something drying on the racks pretty much every day and we're actually managing to even save some and not eat through it right away.  

Anyway, through my online quest for more dehydrator ideas I found my way to a number of raw vegan sites (the dehydrator being  essential to raw meal preparation) and that's where I ran into the whole Green Smoothie (smoothies made up of veggies & fruit) thing.  The concept appealed to me instantly specially since, like dried apples, whipping up a green smoothie is ridiculously easy.  I just stroll out into the garden each morning, grab a good handful of chard or romaine, toss it into the blender with some water, ice, and whatever fruit is on hand (and maybe even a piece of celery), and a minute later I've got a couple of glasses of caterpillar-green delight.  Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.  

Seriously though, bright green colour aside, they taste surprisingly good and they just feel so HEALTHY!  Plus, while it might just be the two months of almost non-stop sunshine we've been blessed with out here, finally, or it could all be psychosomatic, I think I have more energy and feel in better spirits lately, even with all the stuff going on with my parents.  So much so that I'm going to be sneaking in some more raw food into the mix here and there.  

But that's enough of that.  Onto printing news.  I've made some good progress with my latest print which is, yes, based on the blooming plant (the one in my earlier post here) in our bedroom.  It's a harvest of a different kind you might say.  I've managed to get four colours down so far over the last few weeks, even with all that food drying going on.  Here they are though you have to really squint to see the first one, it's very pale.  Just a blush really. 


I'm still on my honeymoon with the Akua inks too, totally getting into working with them.  So, for now, things are good. 

August 26, 2012

The Lofty and the Lowly

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. First, there were all the tasks we set out for ourselves for the first week of our summer break.  Then, having dealt with them all, we did, in the end, make a short escape from routine.  We left the house and parent responsibilities to Nora and the meal prep people and took five days to camp our way up to Banff.  The last time either of us had been up that way was when we were kids so we figured it was time to revisit.  And of course it was wonderful.  We both love road trips so to be on the road again, just driving and watching the scenery roll by, coffee in hand and music on the radio, was just the balm we needed.

Years ago, when we were working out at Wood’s Lodge in Mammoth Lakes, we met an older guy on a hike one afternoon. There we were, surrounded by the singular splendour of the High Sierras yet when he asked where we were from and we told him British Columbia, Canada, he nodded his head reverently and said:  “Ah, now that’s God’s country!”.  I’d say he was right.  Driving through chunks of the province as we did this time (although we did stick our toes into Alberta for half a day or so), we realized how varied BC really is.  And how beautiful.  There’s so much here: ocean and mists and whales, rolling hills sweeping into desert grass country, the orchard and wine country of the Okanagan, dense evergreen forests surrounded by jutting incredible mountains...

Ok, I realize I’m sounding like a spokesperson for Tourism BC here and no, they're not paying me to sing these praises (though really, if there was a job to be had, who knows…) but that's because I also realize this province we live in is spectacular and we’re lucky to be here. It’s way too easy to dream of places far away and ignore what’s right here just because it’s exactly that, right here. God knows, I’m guilty of that too often. But taking the time to look around and breathe in the air of the near-at-hand was pretty much the best thing we could have done this time around and it was a wonderful trip.  

In as much as we could, given we were headed to a major tourist draw, we tried to stay away from tourist hot spots.  And for good reason. We had to squelch feelings of anger and annoyance after we arrived at a place called Natural Bridge, in Yoho National Park. The Kicking Horse river has cut it's way through solid rock there, to leave a limestone bridge from one bank to the other while the river still pounds its way underneath in full force and power. The spray and storm of rapid water crashing over rocks is fantastic. It's the kind of place where you can remember how insignificant you are. Given the chance, that is.

Sadly, we got there at the very minute three tour buses spewed forth dozens of Nikon-toting foreigners who burst onto the scene in wild herd fashion and a cacophony of chatter and began snapping pictures. And no, not of the actual natural awesomeness of the place as much as of each other. We stood by waiting for two solid minutes as one woman posed, model-style, at the tip of the main look-out point while three other women, each with an identical looking camera, took her picture over and over and over. When she left and we finally had our chance just to stand there and breathe in the spray, some other guy asked Roland to move because he was inside his photo frame and the guy didn't want him there.  Seriously, did these people even see how magnificent the place was or did they just see it as backdrop for their camera-smiles?  Anyway, deep breath...

We also spent one hellish half hour looking for parking at Lake Louise because we really couldn't not go see it, but it was definitely one of the low points of the trip. The place was swarming with people. There was, in case anyone got bored just trying to absorb the scenery, even a guy slapping at a guitar and bleating out some dreadful song, guitar case open for donations. Gads! Don't get me wrong, as the wife of someone who used to busk on occasion once upon a time, I'm partial to street musicians.  But the operative word is musician.  This guy was far from being that.  Possibly, the busloads of picture-snapping visitors saw the guy as an enhancement of their experience there, maybe even as a photo opportunity, a sort of only in Canada moment. We sure didn't and got the hell out of there fast.

Other than this, the trip was beyond reproach. The campsites we found were all great, we were lucky enough to sit on an empty beach and watch the meteor shower on the first night, and we met enough good people along the way to restore our faith in travellers. And, not least by any means, the scenery was pure soul-food.  Here is a very inadequate sampling of some of the sights.  But there's really no way to do full justice:

This is (I think) around Boston Bar, BC and at the start of our trip.  We both took pictures here because there was a certain mood...

The three pictures above are from a hike we took at the Illecillewaet campground at Glacier National Park.  The middle picture shows the meeting of the Illecillewaet River and the Asulkan Brook. I love the visible distinction of colour in the water.

 These three are from the Johnson Canyon area in the Banff National Park.  The first two are from a hike up to two waterfalls and the third is a mountain meadow further up in the same area.

 And about 25 kilometres outside of Banff.  First, a lookout onto the Bow river and then Castle Mountain.  Apt name.

We got back to home sweet home with our heads screwed on a bit differently and still carrying, inside us, some of the inner peace we found along the way. Just as well because it didn't take long for reality to slap us awake. On the first day back the fridge broke down. It's not a very old one but it's been grumbling a bit lately and on Saturday the capacitor relay blew. Of course I haven't got a clue what that is but Roland did, and he also knew how to fix it and I was, yet again, immensely grateful I chose a man who is not only a thinker but a handyman. Except the replacement part place wasn’t open until Monday so, after I’d already washed and put away the cooler, we had to haul it out,  fill it with ice again, and hope the milk didn't turn. And, as if that wasn't enough excitement for our homecoming, the dog got sick.

I took him for a walk on Saturday and, instead of his usual solid "offering" there was a stream of what looked like crimson paint.  No scooping the poop when it runs out and seeps into the ground. I can joke about it now because after a visit to the vet and some expensive medication he's now back to normal but, at the time, it was beyond alarming. For the first couple of days of his sickness he didn't eat, not even his favourite things, yet we got up for a couple of mornings to puddles of bloody goo on the kitchen floor tile.  

To add to the angst, the vet wouldn't look us in the eye when he saw us. That seemed like a bad sign. He prodded and poked, took a temperature, asked a bunch of questions, said something about a tumour or "mass" and gave us some antibiotics to try, warning us he didn't think they'd do much because it didn't look like an infection. He suggested we need to consider our next step. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.  

We spent a sorrowful couple of days in memories of all the happy times we had with Frodo (three guesses on who chose that name and it wasn't me) while he slowly got better. Now, a mere week later, he's back to being the grumpy, food-obsessed, anti-social nasty little dog with a huge Napoleon complex which is his normal self. And, although we've done our share of complaining about him in the past eleven years and wistfully imagined how it might be to have a dog with a sweeter temperament, we've come through this episode to realize that although he is an evil little dog, he's our evil little dog. He's part of the family and we'd miss him. 

See, I wasn't kidding when I said the last couple of weeks were eventful. But, now that the fridge is fixed, and the dog is back to begging for treats, and I've got a folder-full of potential new print material to work with, it doesn't look so bad.  And, if anything, the lesson is that we (or maybe I) need to learn to appreciate what I've got, rather than wasting time in longing for what's on the other side of the fence.  

August 09, 2012

Seven Degrees of Completion

Yesterday morning I spent a good five minutes studying the incredible bloom on the plant we have in the bedroom.  And then I took a picture because I may turn it into a print.

I have no idea what the plant is called but it blooms often and in multiple clusters of flowers that fill the room with scent.  It's so perfect it almost looks fake and, yesterday, that's just what I needed to look at for a while. Some perfection.

Vacation time is here and as per prior resolve I spent Tuesday afternoon in my mother's room, sorting through and clearing clutter. Now there are two giant Rubbermaid bins full of miscellaneous sewing stuff sitting on the back porch waiting for a second sort and cull later today.  Yesterday, I needed to take a break from it because it turned out to be a bit more emotionally harrowing than I'd expected.  There I was, one minute dispassionately going through the miscellany, trying to find mates for lonely socks, and the next minute sobbing stupidly into my hands.  

My undoing were the random unfinished things I came across.  The stuff my mother had started working on, clearly with full intentions of seeing completion, and then never did: the skirt she was fixing the waistband on, pinned and ready to go, the sketches for a new jacket she planned to make, the notes about books she would look for in the library, the newspaper clippings about new films she'd watch.  All of that, suddenly halted forever in mid-swing as she now spends her days watching reruns of classic movies, all the while unaware she's seen them before.  It was as if time froze at a specific point yet she moved forward into an entirely different reality and only took a small part of herself with her.  It really wasn't that long ago she was still sketching and making notes and now she can't even write her name.

Along with my finding all these planned-for things came my realization of how her collection of "stuff" was so much like mine.  I have half-finished sewing projects in my closet and sketches for things I want to make, and lists of books and films I want to watch.  Not to mention all the ideas for new prints I hope to do "one day". How terrifying is that, unexpectedly coming face to face with how tenuous those plans and dreams can be? The whole room-sorting task really forced me to confront some things I'd prefer to be an ostrich about and it wasn't much of a leap from there to where I was feeling sorry for myself and the tears started rolling.  And then, in my head I heard the thing my dad always said when I was small and cried: don't cry, you'll pee less, and I felt even more sorry for myself then because he's got dementia too...  

I headed outside to get some sympathy from Roland but he was busy with a deck construction/repair project and fully in his "builderman" mode.  His sympathetic side was disengaged.  So I got a grip and packed up all the unfinished bits and pieces and threw them out and finished the job I started.  And then the truth hit me, that in living and growing and moving forward there'll always be something left uncompleted when the time for action is up. Something we didn't get to regardless of what the reason for the halt is.  Maybe the trick, then, is to try live life as fully as possible in order to keep the regrets over the yet-to-be-done to a minimum.  

And this is probably a pretty good place in this post to segue into the part about what a productive weekend I had, printmaking wise.  It really was marvellous.  So marvellous, in fact, that I finished the print I was working on.  I mean completely finished: signed, numbered, put away...the whole bit.  In one weekend!  This is a huge deal in my case because the print has six colours in it and I printed four of them over a mere two days and that, for me anyway, is unprecedented. The full irony here lies in the fact that I accomplished this with my new Akua inks, the inks that are supposed to be slow to dry.  

One of the main reasons I normally get only one colour down per week, and why it takes me so long to finish each print, is that I like each colour to be dry before I lay down the next one. With the my old inks, that meant waiting for at least one day and, since my only printing day is Sunday and I work most Mondays, I normally end up having to wait from one week to the next.  Unless I happen to have a Monday off with time to spare and can print two days in a row, but I could count all the times that happened on one hand.  Sounds crazy but that's the way it is.  

With this print, the first couple of colours dried really fast but I figured that was just because they were light, or thin, or something.  I fully expected to have to wait as the layers built up.  Imagine my surprise then, when I printed colour number three a week ago and it was, again, totally dry an hour later.  By this point I'd already hauled the press off of the kitchen table and packed all my stuff away and I didn't feel like hauling it all back out again. Plus there was weeding and raspberry picking to do. But I could have easily kept printing and that's just what I did do this past weekend. A great start to the vacation: two colours on Sunday and two on Monday, I felt like I was, at long last, a real printmaker.  Here's how the stages came together: 

I printed the yellow two weeks ago and the orange last weekend...

then this past Sunday I added in the sage green and

by the time I cleared the block for the next pass the print was dry and I was able to do the darker green.  

The last pass, this Monday, was the forest green.

Sunflowers - Reduction Linocut
7" x 9"  
varied edition of 10

I am totally enraptured with these new inks.  Why did I wait so long to try them???  I'd like to say a bit more about how the Akua inks compare to the Dan Smith ones I've been working with but I'll have to save that for the next post. This one's getting too long.  Plus, the detritus from my mother's room is calling me.  

July 24, 2012

Settling for Those Smaller Adventures

Sigh. I really have to stop reading other people’s blogs.  Or at least during the summer.  I haven’t been all that good with keeping up with the blogs I follow, but it seems as if every one I’ve checked in on lately is enough to make me wistful.  Really, is there anyone out there who isn’t going on some kind of summer adventure?  Art shows, workshops, random travels…all of it sounding so much more enviable than my plans for our upcoming holidays: de-cluttering the huge stockpile of  “stuff”  taking up space in my mother’s room and making the room organized. 

She has, over the last year or so, started bringing most of her clothes into her bedroom.  Previously, they were all in a large organizer outside of her room but now, little by little, a new pile appears on her bed each day and she spends a good chunk of her time folding and re-folding them and moving them around to find place for them.  Possibly, this gradual gathering has something to do with her failing mind: the need to surround herself with tangible objects because the intangible ones (ideas, thoughts, memories) are sliding from her grasp.  But because her room also has other things in it, her sewing machine and fabrics and patterns etc., there isn’t too much space for the mushrooming clothes bundles. So I need to sort through and get rid of the things she can’t use anymore, like the sewing stuff, and help her make room for the things that are important to her now.  I’ve been putting it off for a while because it’s not really a weekend project and so now vacation time is when it needs to happen. 

Meanwhile, Roland and I are dreaming a little about getting away at least for a few days, going somewhere where there aren’t any city sounds.  Somewhere where we can trade our day-to-day worries for other, temporary ones like, for example, how to park the van so it’s level and we don’t roll into each other when we’re sleeping in it.  But we haven’t totally figured out if this will happen and there’s so much to do around the house this year too that we might just end up stuck.  And of course, I’d like to have some creative time too….

Anyway, I’m now finished with the St. Fiacre print.  No real glitches or issues with this one and, although a couple of the colours are slightly different from my original idea, I’m happy with the way it turned out.  

 St. Fiacre - Reduction Linocut
7" x 9"

I’ve started thinking about who the next saint in the series will be but no decisions yet.  In the meantime, I’m working on a block I had ready from at least a year ago now.  I can’t remember why I never did anything with it when I first drew it up and which print took precedence.  But it doesn't matter and now is as good as any other time.  And, for this one, I’m venturing out of the comfort zone I’ve cocooned myself in for the last few years. 

I know, there are people out there who push at the boundaries of their fear limits by strapping themselves into a rubber raft and hurtling themselves through raging white water rapids. Or by walking across a narrow rope bridge suspended in the crowns of giant trees and above a deep gorge below them.  Or even by parachuting out of airplanes at crazy heights.  In comparison, my little step out onto a new and somewhat tenuous limb is pretty timid I admit.  But then I am a printmaker, not an adventurer, and so my sally into new territory is in keeping with that i.e. I am, for this next print, trying brand new inks.  Akua inks.

Yeah, ok, some of you are rolling your eyes right about now because this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.  And true, I have experimented with other inks besides the Dan Smith water-soluble ones I’ve been using regularly for five years or so now.  I’ve tried, for example, Dan Smith oil inks, and I’ve also tried regular oil paints mixed with that special printmaking medium that smells like over-ripe pumpkin.  But I think this is a bit different because Akua inks seem to have a certain “reputation”.  Right or wrong, in my mind they’ve always been the risky choice because the thing that always seems to come up in any discussion involving Akua inks is the “learning curve”.   

The implication seems to be that if you learn how to work with these inks they’re great but some people never master the curve and don’t like them.  There's also the second thing: they apparently take a long time to dry.  Sometimes forever.  And, like all good art stuff, they’re not cheap either, not when you factor in the outrageous shipping costs to Canada.  So, having invested a fair sum into my Dan Smith inks over the last few years, and also on account of the ifs attached to Akua inks, I’d never made the leap to actually ordering some to try until now.  I just kept on considering them though because the one big plus is that they’re supposed to be “safe” to use.  Or safer.  That's what finally made me decide to try them.

For more than a year now, whenever I’ve printed, I’ve been very conscious of the smell of the Dan Smith inks.  I print in the kitchen, without, except for a brief time in the warm weather when the door to the yard is open, ventilation.  Even though DS inks are water soluble, they’re still oil based and they have a inorganic smell I’m finding bothersome.  I have the sense that breathing that chemically smell in every weekend, in a room with improper ventilation is maybe not the best thing for me, particularly since I seem to be having some minor issues with my lungs that have been popping up, intermittently, over the last couple of years and no one has been able to figure out why. I did some research and, based on what I found, decided to set aside the DS inks for a while and try Akua.  I ordered a set of basic colours and some transparent medium and I’m ready.

My next print is the testing ground.  The main concern is the drying time.  Akua inks dry through absorption into the paper rather than evaporation.  So, after a lot of layers of ink have been built up, and some of my prints have nine or ten layers, it doesn't seem like there'd be much room for absorption right?  What happens then?  Well I don’t know but I’m about to try find out.  I printed the first layer of the new print this weekend.  I’m trying all three of the papers I normally print on: BFK Rives light and heavy weight and Rising Stonehenge.  So far so good though the first thing I found out is that these inks seem to go a lot further than you originally think they will.  This is how much ink I mixed up for ten prints, just a little Tupperware container’s worth:

You can get a better idea of the size of the container in this next picture:

Tiny right?  Well I have a good half of it left over for next time still.  You can also see how little ink I had to roll out for printing.  Of course, this could be because the first layer is very light.  

Also probably because it’s so light it dried, completely, in two hours.  Pretty great that, though as I said, I’ll have to see how things go on after more ink is built up.  Anyway, that's the story for now. Next weekend, if all goes as planned, the trial will continue.  Happy trails to everyone on those big adventures...

July 03, 2012

July in Disguise

Well, we're still waiting for summer to get here.  This weekend, the first long weekend of summer, July floated in on a torrent of water and kept us inside for most of it.  The real irony is that the soggy Canada Day holiday weekend freed me up from working outside in the garden but gave me some extra time to work on the print of the garden patron.  So, thanks to the rain, I managed to get two colours done instead of just one.  

I used a clear plastic mask to print the green:

And I got a bit of a surprise when the rust colour turned brown on top of that green.  Clearly I still have some learning to do before I can really predict what a colour will do on top of another. 

Three passes left to go now. 

June 24, 2012

Going Dotty

I suppose it's not everyone's idea of Saturday night fun but I was pretty happy to get an hour to sit and work on my block last night.  Does this mean I'm getting old?  Oh, maybe.  Do I care?  Nope, I don't.

The one bit of tedium was carving around all those little the background.

It's much too easy to slip and carve away more than I want to when it comes to stuff like that but I managed to keep most of them fairly intact.  And I didn't slice away more than I wanted to of guy's eyebrows or nose either so that's a big relief. 

Happily, printing is going smoothly so far. Last week I printed the pale yellow background but I didn't think a yellow rectangle was all that exciting to look at so I didn't bother posting it here.  Today I printed colour number two. 

It's looking pretty good to me so far but I know it's early.  That's part of the challenge of reduction prints isn't it?  Knowing that things can go sideways up until the very last minute, when there's almost nothing left of the block?