Click here to see my full list of goals for 2010

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to Grade 10 Art Class

Now that I'm considering taking the full 8 week screen printing course at Open Studio, one of my goals for the winter is to build a new set of drawings to incorporate into potential prints. I'll probably work on ink drawings for the prints because they'll make clearer reproductions, but for now my goal is just some old school practice.

And by old school I mean Grade 10 art class and the classic still life.

Today's experiment revealed that I still have some serious issues with proportion, mainly because I don't plan ahead. Next time I'll have to remember to check the basic shapes for size before starting with the detail. Still, it was fun to work with pencil again and T kindly volunteered to eat the halved apple afterward so that I didn't waste it!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I was really hoping to get at least one post up before I headed up north for Christmas, but after a crazy week of work, potlucks, and holiday prepping, I was ready to take a break from everything, including blogging.

I had a great time at my parent's house, which is situated in the middle of snowy, silent Ontario farm country. Lots of food, tea, poker, and holiday movies... pretty much perfect.

I'm back in the city now and feel 100% rested (and full of Christmas cookies). Over the next few days, my goals include cleaning out my art hutch, working on some still-life drawings, and completing my artistic goals list for 2010. My original plan was to come up with 365 items, but I'm starting to think that number is a little high. Maybe 100 goals is a little more manageable.

I think I did pretty well with my gift giving this year, although, as usual, my plan to make everything by hand went out the window by mid-December. I also received a bunch of fabulous gifts including a new digital camera! No more 'borrowing' my sister's camera for +6 month stretches. Well, hopefully not. One of my New Year's Resolutions is going to have to be don't drop any expensive electronic equipment.

My sweet husband also bought be this stunning Bonnie Bag from Sew Mo'

I've been coveting it ever since the Winter Fling craft show, especially since my wardrobe is always in need of a splash of colour.

In addition to the purse, T also gave me a horrible cold, but I won't hold that against him. If there's ever a good time to get a cold it's when your main activity of the day is to snooze on a couch and watch movies. Plus, look at the adorable company I had to nurse me through my illness.

I'm hoping to start posting a little more regularly now that things have calmed down a bit from the pre-Christmas rush. I'll have to add that to my goals list!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Screenprinting Heaven

I wasn't all that excited for my final Open Studio course because I didn't really think there was any chance it would inspire me to pursue any further work in the medium. Boy, was I wrong. The class was INCREDIBLE and, to my great surprise, I'm now considering signing up for the 8 week screenprinting course instead of the etching one.

My surprise was partly rooted in the fact that I seriously misunderstood how the process worked. I had the old school, stencil-style process in mind when I headed to class, but when our instructor explained the process of using light-sensitive emulsions to perfectly transfer black and white images I had a mini artistic flip out. I also immediately regretted not bringing photocopies of my own drawings into the class because I would have loved to practice with those images instead of a photograph.

The photograph I ended up using is this family classic. I worked with a photocopied enlargement of the whole image and it's a good thing I made the copy because step one involved soaking the paper in vegetable oil to make the white areas of the image translucent enough to let the light reach the emulsion on the screen.

Open Studio's step up for this process is pretty high tech. We exposed our screens in a special room using a large glass and vacuum enclosure and very bright, industrial-sized light. Apparently, this process can also be done on a much smaller scale at home, but I think I need to do a bit more research before I start squeegeeing large quantities of emulsion onto screens over my bathtub.

Once the screens had been exposed to the light long enough for the emulsion to capture the image, we washed out the excess emulsion and started printing. We worked in teams of two (although, we each printed our own image), and my partner and I chose a brilliant, golden yellow and a slate grey to use for a two-layer print.

I really wish I had pictures of the first, yellow print of the image because it looked so interesting. However, I have four perfect copies of the final print to play with as I mull over my printmaking future.

Etching or screenprinting?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wonderful December

It was another super busy weekend in the city. Between arts shows, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, and Christmas cards, I've barely had a moment to think about my own arts projects.

I was extremely excited for City of Craft, which was my first stop on Saturday morning. I had my heart set on a bunch of Snap and Tumble letterpress items and Tanya's table certainly didn't disappoint. If only I had an unlimited budget for beautifully printed paper!

I picked up two carte postales complete with envelopes hand crafted out of old atlas pages, a stunning botanical print card, and two ringed notebooks with letterpress printed covers (which Tanya was kind enough to bring in by special request - much appreciated!). Down the aisle, I also picked up a simple hand-bound journal from Night Jar Books. So lovely.

There were so many other amazing items at the show, but after weeks of crafts and art shows, I really had to keep my budget in check. Plus, my next stop was the Toronto Small Press Book Fair.

The show featured a really interest mix of presses, but I ended up spending the most time at the last table I came across, self-publisher Jen Pilles. Ink drawings! Hand-bound books! Homemade wrapping paper!

After a day of browsing the handmade work of others, I knuckled down and printed my last batch of Christmas cards. Hundreds of reindeer and +30 goodwill messages to co-workers later, I'm finally finished with all Christmas-relating printing. Hooray!

It took all afternoon, but I'm really glad I got them finished because the rest of this week is booked solid with classes and dinners. I'm not sure how many posts I'll get in before next weekend, but I'll do my best to at least write about my last Open Studio class. Up this week - Screenprinting!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lithography 1, Victoria 0

My printmaking class was on Tuesday this week and just happened to coincide with a super-busy day at work. You might be able to tell from my sketch that I was feeling a little stressed by the time I made it into the studio.

This sketch started out as an old woman, turned into an old man, turned back into an old woman wearing a scarf around her head, then not, then squiggles, then... well, this thing is pretty much the worst thing I've ever drawn in my life.

Despite my disastrous sketch, the class was fascinating. I had no idea how lithography worked before the class and even after three hours of apprenticeship I'm still pretty in the dark about the details. The one thing I did fully absorb is the incredible amount of labour that goes into preparing and printing a lithograph. Any art process that starts with the slow and meticulous grinding of tiny metal particles against a large, flat stone is bound to be a time consuming process, but last night I discovered that stone grinding is only the beginning.

My shorthand of the very complicated process is something like this: Grind stone until perfectly flat, draw on stone using grease-based pencils, cover stone with talc powder, cover stone in gum base, etch stone with acid and gum base mix, clean off gum base, dry stone, transport stone to press, clean grease pencil drawing off stone, add chemicals including a tar like substance 'used to pave roads', remove tar substance, wet stone, ink stone, wet, stone, ink stone (repeat x 5), print stone.

Best upper body workout in town! However, for a girl who's already head over heels for etching, lithography is a pretty hard sell. It's more labour intensive, requires a lot of materials, and, based on the examples I saw in the studio, doesn't really suit my aesthetic. Granted, I did see one incredible litho print that perfectly replicated the soft, tiny strokes of a pencil drawing and THAT definitely impressed me.

The printing process still ended with a very gratifying slow peel of the image off the press. However, I quickly learned that the downside of printmaking is that when you make a crazy old lady drawing you end up having to take home four crazy old lady prints.

So lithography is probably not a medium I'm going to pursue in the near future. I'm happy to have seen the process though, if only to appreciate the work that is involved the next time I see a lithograph hanging in a gallery.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


After my adventures in the city yesterday, I stayed closer to home today and spent some time making a Christmas classic - Gingerbread!

My gingerbread men were a little wonky, but the stars turned out perfectly.

Christmas tree... check.
Gingerbread... check.
Christmas holidays... SOON!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

People Are Amazing

I've been in handmade heaven these last few days. I took yesterday off and managed to make it out to the One of a Kind show before the crazy weekend crowds. The show was quite a marathon, especially since my strategy involved scoping out every booth before making any purchasing decisions and, thus, having to back track through the labyrinth. I managed to scratch a few key Christmas gifts of my list and, oh, how I wish I could post some pictures! Hand-printed fabric, embroidery... lovely.

Today, ventured out for some smaller-scale, but no less impressive arts shows in the city. I dropped by Winter Fling just in time to pick up one of their last loot bags (hooray!) and this stunning lino print card by Katie Muth. A perfect reminder that as frustrating and sometimes limiting lino appears to be, it has the potential to produce beautiful images.

Already starry-eyed with the beautiful crafts at Winter Fling, I then headed down to the OCAD Book Arts Fair. Consider my bookbinding passion officially rekindled. My affections for lino also increased x10 when I saw Marta Chudolinska's incredible novel Back + Forth composed completely out of lino prints. I've only just started to explore it, but already I'm amazed at the haunting narrative of the images she's created.

There were so many other amazing pieces. I wish I could have been able to buy something from everyone and help support such amazing work. Of course, now my own head is buzzing with new ideas, projects, experiments... So many things to add to my 365 list!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Good Kind of Acid Wash

I went to my second Open Studio class yesterday and the technique of the night was etching. Oh, etching - the perfect combination of line drawing, detail, texture, and shadow. I finally know how to produce the ink effects I love so much in a repeatable format!

It might sound silly, but I actually felt a strange sadness while participating in the process because I kept thinking This is it... This is exactly the medium I've wanted to work in since I started to draw. Why have I never tried this before?

Unfortunately, in addition to learning the finer details of producing an etched print, I also learned how extremely labour intensive the process is. Zinc plates, waxy grounds, acids, solvents, giant presses! Not the kind of material a lady generally keeps around the house.

First, we polished our zinc plates and then coated the surface with a dark brown wax-type liquid called 'ground'. We had approximately thirty minutes to carve the actual image through the ground and into the metal, and, true to form, I picked something overly complex and had to rush my way through it. I used another one of T's old family photographs for inspiration because I knew I could quickly translate the black and white photo into a line drawing. With such limited time, I ended up making some hilarious omissions (check out the uncarved ears!), but I was happy to have at least etched out the main parts of the image.

Next, we placed the plates in an acid bath for 30 minutes to allow the exposed metal to be eaten away enough to burn the image into the zinc plate. This was about the point I realized that there was absolutely no way I could replicate this process at home. Sigh.

Once the acid had worked its magic, we cleaned off the ground and rubbed our prints with black ink, making sure to fill all of the lines completely before cleaning off the excess.

We used heavy, cottony paper to print the images (much like the type of paper used for letterpressing) making sure to soak the sheets in water for a few minutes before placing them over the plate to ensure that the paper had enough softness to press into the tiny lines of the etching. Then, we used a big, hand-turned press to create the prints. The pressure of the roller was so intense that the plate itself left a sizable bite in paper (making the printed image look as if had been placed behind a matte).

The image itself is more than a little flawed, but I love the resulting print. It has an amazing shadowy, aged feel and reminds me of an old daguerreotype. I'm going crazy dreaming up the types of prints that might be possible if I had, say, a few hours to work on an etching instead of just a few minutes.

Fortunately, Open Studio offers a separate 8 week course focused exclusively on etching and something tells me I might end up enrolled in this course at some point in 2010!

In the meantime, does anyone have an acid bath they'd mind lending me?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm going to need some more reindeer names...

It was all about the reindeer tonight. Between the black set, the red set, and the black/red set, I printed the reindeer stamp at least 350 times... and then I threw it off the balcony.


The reindeer has actually proved to be an incredibly consistent stamp to print, which helps my bank account and my sanity.

[I apologize for the lame photos, by they way. I really need to stop taking important product shots with a low battery camera late at night. I promise my etsy photos will be more creative.]

I'm still only half way through my big Christmas card order, but I've been making extras of every print so that I can put together some separate etsy sets. Unfortunately, I messed up a little with my card stock order and requested brown recycled card stock that was a size bigger than the envelopes I already had. I'm hoping I can find some envelopes that fit them locally so that I don't need to place another order.

Now it's off to bed. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have reindeer running through my dreams tonight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Linoblocking Like a Pro

After months of toiling away at my kitchen table, I attended my first Open Studio printmaking course last night and experienced what it was like to make a print with proper inks and a real press. The class was fantastic and some of the examples our instructor showcased as an introduction to the topic of relief printmaking were absolutely mind blowing! After struggling through semi-intricate two inch stamps, it is inconceivable for me to imagine the amount of time, energy, and precision that goes into a 2 x 3 foot print. Seeing that level of skill executed by a local artist seriously restored my creative motivation.

For my own print, I decided to use an idea that I'd had floating around in my notebooks for a few months: a fossil! I've carved most of my prints as a positive image surrounded by negative, carved space, but with a real press at my disposal (i.e. no more ink distribution issues), I decided to carve the image out instead.

We worked with oil-based inks and rollers, which were both new to me. I've been using water-based ink (easier clean-up) and painting it on the image by hand (hence, the consistency issues). The oil-based inks were so lovely to work with because they left such a rich colour impression on the paper. If only I had a twenty foot glass table surface and mechanical press to play with at home!

I loved how the prints turned out and was sad that the three hour class zipped by in no time at all. I took so much time with my initial carving that I didn't even have time to experiment with two colour printing, which was definitely disappointing. The key for me now is to come up with some good, simple designs for the next three classes so that I don't waste too much time thinking of an image or starting with an image that's too complex.

Ideas... inspiration... dinosaur bones! Pretty much the perfect way to spend a Monday evening.

This first class has me even more excited for the next three. After all of my stamping experiments, the lino class felt a little bit like familiar territory, but lithography, screenprint, and etching will be totally new ground.

Of course, while I'm busy dreaming of new printmaking enterprises, I also have to get down to business with my Christmas cards. My paper shipment has arrived and I've got some serious work to get done if I want to fill all of my Christmas orders by December 1st!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gifts, Weird Projects, Whatnot...

My official birthday may be over, but lovely gifts continue to roll in.

Check out the amazing yellow tote my sister-in-law sent me from NYC! She's currently setting NYU on fire with her ferocious intellect, but in her spare time she has been scouting out Brooklyn's finest paper stores and then baiting me to visit with tales of luxurious paper goods. It's totally working too! NYC, March 2010! (fingers crossed).

And speaking of sweet little paper shops, here is the fabulous organizer I purchased with a birthday gift card from my lovely friend Grace. Not only does the colour set my heart a-flutter, but, if everything goes according to plan, this organizer is going to save me innumerable hours of digging through my card inventory. I'm looking forward to bringing some much need order to the chaos that is my art hutch.

I'm currently waiting for my new order of card stock to arrive, so I turned my thoughts to other projects this week. Work has been really intense lately, so my only real artistic accomplishment was a pencil sketch of a combine that I have wild and wonderful plans for. I sketched this during an 'art night' I had with Bethany and Erin. It was so fun and productive; I really do need to have more of them. (If you click on the image, it should be a little easier to see.)

Next week is shaping up to be a busy one, so I'm not sure how many posts I'll get done. Hopefully, I'll have some fun stuff to show after my first printmaking course on Monday night!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nearly Perfect

Oh, little wreath stamp... I knew you had it in you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmas Experiments - Round 1

I tackled some new Christmas print ideas today and ended up with a few cute images. Next weekend is going to be dedicated to baking gingerbread cookies (and ornaments) and setting up my Christmas tree, so I knew I needed to get down to business today.

I started out with nine images and ended up carving five. The snowflakes took forever to carve (and produced the most disappointing prints), so I've pretty much had it with them.

The tiny penguin and reindeer stamps ended up being the most fun to work with. The photos below are of the rough test prints, so please disregard the little marks and ink smudges.

Here's the best of the snowflake prints. I might try to work with these stamps again to see if I can make a more polished design, but for now they're officially banned from my printmaking activities.

There are some other print patterns too, although I didn't take pictures of them. I'm glad I finally have a range of stamps to work with so that I can present interested parties with a range of options for their Christmas cards.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Future Plans

I’ve been thinking more broadly about Sonnet & Mayhem and what kinds of projects I want to start working towards in the future. I’ll be starting the Open Studio printmaking workshop in less than two weeks and I’m going to hold off on starting any major new projects until I see what sorts of ideas and inspiration the classes bring (besides the Christmas cards, of course. I must make the Christmas cards!).

Lately, I’ve been tempted to temporarily shelve my stamping work so that I can focus on some new ink drawings and writing projects, but I also feel torn about neglecting the main goals of my whole blog/etsy shop endeavour – mainly, I want to create works that I can reproduce and sell. I’m hoping that the new printmaking techniques I learn will finally enable me to translate my ink drawings (or etchings) into reproducible prints. Once I have that ability, there are so many projects that I want try.

I’ve also started drafting a list of artistic goals for 2010. Writing out and sharing my goals on this blog has been an incredibly motivating force for me and I’m hoping to increase my productivity by upping the level of shame and laziness I will feel if I don’t keep working on the ideas I’ve developed and posted about. (Plus, I love a good list!). I truly value the readership of this blog (especially your comments) and even though it’s not huge, just knowing that a few other creative minds are interested in what I’m doing is enough to make me keep trying to produce interesting work.

My latest thought on the goals list is to write 365 entries and see how many I can get done in a year. Obviously, some goals will have to be smaller and easier than others, but overall I want to capture as many of my little dreamed up experiments as possible.

If you're interested in becoming an official member of the 'shame Victoria's lack of productivity' insult squad, please feel free leave a sample scolding in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I carved and tested the baby penguin tonight. The print is definitely cute, if a bit flawed. I opted for clean lines instead of trying to replicate the fuzzy baby penguin fur and I'm glad I went with the simple look. However, I don't think the stamp is good enough yet for formal Christmas cards.

My new plan is to carve another version of this stamp at about a quarter of the size of this one. Smaller stamps are so much easier to print with and it would be fun to produce some more intricate patterns with this image.

Also, I should note that the beautiful homemade angel food cake in my previous post was made by my lovely sister. Thanks again, T.J.! My best friend sweetened the pot with a cheese cake as well. Two birthday cakes - definitely a good way to celebrate one's birthday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Birthday Fun!

Today is my birthday, so I’m in a celebratory and happily reflective mood. Mondays don’t really make for the best birthdays, but after an incredible weekend spent with the people I love, I feel very blessed indeed.

My absence here is due in equal parts to the stunning weather we had this weekend, visits from my family, and my wonderful husband who planned a big surprise birthday party for me on Saturday night. T is already in the upper percentile of sweet, brilliant, loving, hilarious men, so adding ‘surprise party planner’ to the list makes him pretty much the most amazing human being in the world (no bias, I swear). It was great to see so many of my friends and family together in one spot. Lots and lots of love!

The party and sunshine translated into a Sunday full of long walks, fresh air, introspection (and the season finale of Mad Men… wow!). All that walking meant that my little penguin remains uncarved and my stack of Christmas cards unprinted, but I plan to get back to business this week and get some projects done. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Water, also AWOL

As promised, here is a picture of the little penguin stamp I'm working on.

I didn't get around to carving it this evening because T and I came home from the gym tonight to discover that the water had been turned off in our building. Nothing like thirst and body odour to curb one's creative energies. Thankfully, the water is now back on and I am squeaky clean.

The bad news is that I don't think I'm going to have a chance to do any carving until this weekend. I've got lovely dining and drinks plans for tomorrow night and Friday evening will be dedicated to my eternal quest for the perfect pair of winter boots!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Camera is AWOL

I was working on an adorable little baby penguin stamp tonight, but then discovered that T has taken our camera to work.

Therefore, instead of baby penguins, I'm posting a few of the photos that we're currently considering for a new living room art arrangement. I've been dreaming of creating a perfect square of nine 12 x 12 inch photos for a while now, but I think budget constraints might necessitate a six photo pattern in more a more traditional 8 x 10 size. Either way, I've got a bunch of black and white photos that I've taken over the last few years and I might as well do something productive with them.

Our question right now is should we go all modern city shots, all natural country shots, or a funky mix of the two. Thoughts?