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 dots...berries...in 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?  

June 14, 2012

St. Fiacre of the Gardeners

As promised, I’m making a concentrated effort to give some more info on what I’m working on now, print wise.  I have a precious afternoon free, thanks to a day of leave for Nora’s university convocation ceremony this morning, and I made up my mind to put my time to good use.   


My first in what I hope to be a series of saint prints is Saint Fiacre, generally regarded as the patron of gardeners.  Also, oddly, of cab drivers but I’m not going there.

(click on image to link to the image source)

He was an Irish monk who lived around the end of the 6th century.  Extremely skilled with herbs, he gained fame as a healer and holy man and disciples began flocking to him in numbers.  He wasn’t too crazy about that so he left Ireland and went to France where he was granted some land in the province of Brie and where he built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a hospice for strangers.  It’s an interesting paradox that he chose to honour Mary with the chapel since, apparently, he had an aversion to women and barred them from his monastery.  I’m not holding that against him though.  Maybe he was just a recluse who didn’t want distractions. 

For my own version of St. Fiacre, I want the image to be suggestive of stained-glass, as much as such a thing is possible within the confines of a relief print.  I also want it to bear some similarity to early Christian icons so I’m going with a fairly basic border and keeping the image simple.

I had a lot of fun, and indulged in some hair pulling, working out the above colour sketch using my computer and the Waccom pen tablet I got for my birthday three years ago.  I haven’t used it much before and it’s already obsolete but I actually may use it more from now on.    

The symbol in the corners of the border is the Triquetra and I chose it as a link to this saint's origins.  

It’s a simple little image but it packs a lot of punch, symbolically, and learning how to draw it was, though definitely not nearly as easy as it looks, great. So much so that I ordered a marvellous book on drawing Celtic designs (Draw Your Own Celtic Designs) and have been practising some others.  Who knows what use I’ll have for that knowledge in the future right?

Anyway, the Triquetra is apparently an early pagan symbol found on some ancient rune stones but it was also used in early Celtic manuscripts like the Book of Kells and has made its way to representing the trinity in Christian symbolism.  Pretty suitable for my purposes I’d say.  As to the Book of Kells, I’m giving it one further nod by keeping the colours I’m using for this print limited to those used for the illustrations there.  

Now, block fully ready to go, I can start carving and printing.  Will I be able to, on Father's Day?  Hmmm....who can say.

June 12, 2012

Sort of Stalled and Sort of Stalling

Well, clearly, I’ve turned into one of those bloggers who only manage to post something with long lapses in between.  Oh, the weight of the guilt of that.  I try to remind myself of that old prayer about being granted the serenity to accept things I can’t change.  And I’ve resolved to accept that, for now, as I struggle to look after two households instead of just one, there’s less time than ever before for my printmaking.   

Spring is usually a busy time anyway, a time when the veggie garden goes in and the weeding frenzy begins.  This year, with us now looking after my parents' shopping, and laundry, and house keeping along with our own, my free time gets eroded.  My mother is now in stage 6 (of 7) of her dementia and can do almost nothing for herself and my father is probably at stage 3 or 4 so I know the time will come when Roland and I won’t be able to cope with things.  Until then, we take each day as it comes and I steal bits of time, smaller now, between work and family obligations.  And, predictably the blog suffers.

Anyway.  I began researching my next print about 6 weeks ago and am now at the point where I hope to print this coming weekend.  I’m still keeping to the religious theme of my last print, if the Driftwood Madonna print can be classified as religious.  I’ve always been fascinated by iconography, specially if there’s a folk aspect to the icon.  Also, while I have no ties to any particular organized religion, I like the idea of patron saints.  I wouldn’t mind having a couple of them watching my back right about now.  So, that in mind, I’ve decided to shoot for a series of patron saint prints.  I compiled a list, completely astounded at how many patron saints are actually out there…even saints for odd stuff like volcanic eruptions and television!   Of course, I only chose a select few, only the ones I liked the sound of. 

I’m starting with the patron saint of gardeners.  The choice seemed very timely six weeks ago when the garden was just starting to come into life and is even more relevant now, after six weeks of weather that’s more like March than May and June.  Rain, rain, rain, and cool temperatures.  The only things happy are the lettuces and garlic. The weather people are telling us this is normal for Vancouver but I’m not buying it.  Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I saw steam on my breath at the beginning of June.   

Last week I actually saw a guy wearing his woollen winter coat and the crazy part is I didn’t think he was crazy; it’s been that cold.  Hopefully, now that I’ve begun actual work on the print, the saintly patronage will kick in and the garden will be ok even with the crappy weather. 

I don’t have any pictures of my progress to show yet, I haven't had a chance to scan them, but I will by this weekend.  Honest, I will. 

For now, just so this post isn't only words, here's a picture of the rock garden from a few weeks ago.  The primroses have passed by this time, but it's still pretty.