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.  


Libby Fife said...

The print is looking fantastic! So nice and crisp:) Glad too that the inks are working. What a pleasant surprise.

Maybe it is a good thing that your Mom had so many things in process. Maybe that shows a kind of living anyway and not a list of things that were never gotten to.

Take care of yourself-be sure and keep some wine and chocolate on hand for these cleaning occasions. I find them to be an immeasurable help.

Annie B said...

I was very touched by this post, your thoughtful musings about life and loss, all that you're going through now with your parents.

I'm glad you found some ink that will let you make quicker progress! I know the waiting-for-ink-to-dry feeling. Seems like, given all that's going on, some quicker progress on the printmaking front is just what the doctor ordered.

Sending warm thoughts your way.

Katka said...

Thank you Libby,

You're right and my mother would have been the first to say how rich her life had been. She was, and still is, someone who could find joy in many small things. And I believe she's actually happy even now because she's not busy comparing her now self to her past self.
It's probably just me. I'm the one, seeing the huge difference in her and in what she's now incapable of, that get all distraught and upset by it all. No doubt because it scares me and yet makes me realize how precious the time we have is.


Thank you. It's always a very fine line for me between how much of "myself" and my life to reveal in a blog post.

I love reading other people's posts where they really open up and show the person behind the blog (yours are a perfect example of that) yet at the same time I worry about straying too far from the topic of printmaking and boring people with my troubles.

And yet, the work isn't something we can separate from the stuff going on in our lives, or at least I can't, because life will have an influence on it one way or another. Anyway, as Roland likes to say, it's all "soul-making".

Jennifer said...

Beautiful post, Katka- very touching. You have a wonderful way with words.

Glad to hear the Akua inks are working well for you!


Elizabeth Busey said...

Such lovely musings about life and creativity. I'm sorry this is a difficult time for you, but I am so glad you are able to print! And I agree that finding an ink that dries quickly is such a gift! Suddenly I can carve and print each day if I want to.

Love the latest sunflower print. It makes me think of Marimekko designs.

Katka said...

Thank you Jen and Elizabeth.

I appreciate your comments very much! And also the help I got from both of you...


Your prior feedback on the inks was the push I needed to buy them and I'm sure glad I did.


Your post on the masking technique you use when the block is almost cleared down to nothing saved me much frustration as I printed my last colour.


Anonymous said...


I believe your plant is a "hoya" plant. I have a few and also adore their flowers. Mine don't flower often for me, though, so consider yourself lucky if they flower for you! I have 3 of varying sizes in my house and can't remember the last time one of them bloomed!