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.