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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Practice, Practice

After raiding my own family's black and white photos for inspiration, I was overjoyed to hear that my husband had just received an email with a bunch of old family photos from his uncle in India. The pictures are beautiful and are perfect for pen and ink sketches. Perfect, that is, until I try my unpracticed hand at them and end up making some serious (accidental) revisions.

For example, the photo below should, in theory, look like a member of T's family.

Things started off well...

...but, after a million tiny corrections, the result is somewhat less familiar.

Oh well, I'm still just practicing. And I love ink... even if it sometimes falls in giant splotches on my drawings.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What is Happening to October?

Ah! So many days have zipped by!

I actually have been working on artsy stuff despite the appearances of my blog. I tackled some potential Christmas card designs on the weekend, but most were fails and, disheartened, I couldn't bring myself to post.

I did have an amazing day on Saturday just wandering around the city, window shopping, actual shopping, and jotting down project ideas in my favourite pink book. A lot of these ideas have remained in their conceptual phase however, because once I'm back into the work week I keep having to choose between spending my energy on a treadmill or at the drawing board (literally - on both fronts - I'm not about to wander off into any crazy spiritual metaphors here).

Anyway, I opted out of the gym tonight, so I better have an ink drawing to show for it by tomorrow. In the meantime, here is the one potentially good Christmas print that I drew on Sunday. I've never carved people's faces like this before, so it could be a hilarious bust. I promise to post the test print regardless.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My New Friend

I've always wanted one of these little wooden guys and the last time I was in an art store they just happened to be stacked strategically in an 'impulse buy' display formation. Naturally, I caved and have been happily contorting him/her/it ever since.

Tonight I started playing around with some basic movement sketches (mostly, because I've been a bit too tired during the last few evenings to tackle another pen and ink drawing). I'm a bit disappointed that my little figure has some unfortunate limitations (no hip/leg rotation!), but it's been fun to figure out the poses anyway.

This one is T's favourite:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Family Tree

After spending most of yesterday erasing any last traces of green from my apartment walls, I couldn't bear to pick up another paint brush today (even for the noble cause of printmaking). Instead, I finally sat down with my little bottle of blue ink and worked on the first pen and ink drawing (we're taking old school dipping-metal-nib-in-inkwell drawing) I've done in a long time.

It took me a little while to remember some of the techniques and to come to terms with the fact that ink drawings sometimes take on a life of their own. Despite a few little mistakes (or 'liberties' as they will now be known), the end result wasn't too bad.

The subject of the drawing requires a little back story. A number of years ago my paternal grandmother gathered together all of the photos she could find of both sides of my dad's family and made an album for each of her grandchildren. Also included in the album was a document detailing the history of my father's family in Canada back, oh, about eight or nine generations. Amazing, right?

A few days ago I pulled out the album and realized that (naturally) it is overflowing with amazing old black and white photos. My ink drawing tonight is based on a woman from one of those photos and I think she's destined to be the first in a long line of family-inspired sketches.

This drawing also makes me very happy because it finally gave me a reason to pull out the letterpress prints I made at Snap & Tumble's Letterpress Curiosity Workshop. I'm determined to put every last print I made at the workshop to some good creative use because it would be criminal to waste such beautiful paper. Unfortunately, the blue inks aren't a perfect match, so I might switch over to black ink for my next experiment.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Goodbye Windsurfer!

Hello beautiful Snowfall white!

Shout outs to Wren and my awesome sister for helping out!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


So, I ended up tinkering with the wreath stamp and I think I made the right decision. I worked on both the wreath and the stocking stamp tonight and about half way through carving the stocking I started to seriously question the level of detail I had drawn in the pattern. Also complicating matters was the fact that I decided to twist the blade as I cut to try and produce a 'stitched look'.

To fix the wreath print, I carved out the bow and cleaned up the lines around the berries and pine cones to make everything stand out more. It's still not perfect, but the image is definitely clearer. I might try to carve another wreath and incorporate some of the lessons learned from this one. And there's definitely some good potential for a pine/Christmas tree too.

The stocking stamp wasn't as precise as I was hoping it would be, especially after all of the carving. However, it is fun and cute. I'm thinking that it might be a candidate for a double print of green over red in the same technique that I used for my faux 3-D typewriters (Than reminds me, I've got to return to that experiment). For now I'll just have to settle for my side-by-side, red and green test prints.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to perfect these two prints in the next few days. I do feel like I'm finally coming down with T's monster cold though, so we'll have to see.

Monday, October 12, 2009

'Tis The Season

After an amazing, restful weekend with my family, I finally got back to some printmaking this afternoon. Today I turned my focus to something a little more practical - Christmas cards! It feels a little early to be breaking out candy cane themes, but I don't want to be rushing to make the cards in November either. Plus, now that word about my card making has spread a bit, I'm starting to get Christmas card inquiries. Hooray!

I have a few Christmas-y text phrases that I might try, but today I focused on simple, classic images. First up:

The Christmas Wreath

I tested the print in green and was pretty happy with the way the detail of the branches turned out. However, the little holly berries and pine cones aren't very visible among the branches.

I thought I would try using two colours of ink to make the berries and bow stand out, but the test print was a complete disaster. By the time I applied the red ink the green ink was half dry and didn't even show up in some places. The red ink placement also looked far too messy.

I need to make a few more tests to get the ink consistency right for this print, but I'm going to wait until I have a little more time and energy. I'm also debating whether it might be better to completely carve out the bow (except for the outline) and berries so that they're more visible. This would give me the option of painting in the red by hand. To tinker or not to tinker... that, dear readers, is the question.

I also drew a stocking stamp that I have high hopes for, but I haven't carved it yet.

Oh, and as a quick follow up to my earlier pen and ink post, I snapped a picture of my first angry elf drawing today before leaving my parent's house. This is the bizarre image that started my love affair with pen and ink.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of food and merriment. I certainly ate enough pie and rocky road squares to last me until late December!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Giving Thanks, Hometown Style

I'm heading to my hometown for Thanksgiving and I can't wait to get out of the city for a few days. The weather was amazing last year - perfect for walks out in the wilderness.

The weather doesn't look quite as fun this year, but I'm still hoping to get a least one nice walk through the marsh.

Oh, and in the spirit of the holiday, just a few of the things I'm thankful for:

1. My wonderful husband who is currently battling a terrible cold.

2. My crazy mother who, when I mentioned that T was sick, recommended that I 'put a hex on him' to ward off the illness. Apparently she's been hexing her co-workers for years with great success. (My mother doesn't think she's a witch, by the way, she just believes in the power of hexing.)

3. And while I'm at it, the rest of my crazy family (including those now bound to me through marriage, meaning they're about to experience their first Canadian Christmas!).

4. Handmade Things - The more I make myself, the more I appreciate the incredible work of others.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Putting The 'Best' in 'Best Friend'

My pen and ink plans were derailed again yesterday by the best sort of distraction: a surprise gift! My best friend and her lovely boyfriend happened upon an 'estate sale' this weekend (don't ask me how... ) and while there they came across this fabulous old electric typewriter.

Naturally, when confronted with something print-oriented, bizarre, and ink dispensing, they thought of me and immediately scooped it up.

I spent most of Sunday afternoon tinkering around with this glorious machine. It works pretty well for a device that appears not to have been operated since before the millennium. A few of the type bars stick and don't strike the ribbon enough to leave an imprint, but who really needs an 's', 'w' or 'e' anyway?

I'm pretty sure my dad will be able to help me get the malfunctioning keys working again and, if not, I plan on formally accepting this divine oulipian challenge. Watch out, Christian Bök!

Of course, now I'm going to have to seriously brush up on my keyboarding skills. Nothing like a typewriter to show you that your accuracy rate is at an abysmal 20%.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pen and Ink: A Personal History

I'm not exactly sure what has spurred my latest artistic preoccupation, but I've had pen and ink on the brain lately. I think it was attending the letterpress workshop that really got some old wheels turning because I came home with a big stack of gorgeous printed paper, but knew that I needed to add something to the letterpress designs in order to translate the little 5 x 7 prints into something gift worthy.

I've loved ink drawing ever since grade nine art class when an inexpensive pen nib, holder, and bottle of black india ink were part of our $50 dollar basic art kit. Ink can be a pretty brutal medium to work with (especially India ink) because one misplaced stroke or wayward drop can destroy hours worth of hunched-over, painstaking crosshatching. But I've always loved precise, detailed, life drawings and pen and ink has such a beautiful clarity when it's done well.

I did quite a few ink drawings in high school (my first angry elf sketch still hangs proudly in my parent's living room), but my true love affair with ink really began with a backpacking trip I took with Wren when we were nineteen. We spent five and a half months scampering through Europe like poor little church mice in dirty clothes and along the way we saw some pretty incredible art and architecture. While there, we decided to start making pen sketches of some of the buildings and statues with the intention of sending our drawings back to our families at Christmas. The resulting sketch book is one of the most cherished things I posses.

[Insert my mother pointing out that because the book was 'a gift to my family' technically it is HERS and that I don't have any rights to it and should return it to her immediately. Yes, Mom, I know.]

I was thinking a lot about the book today while I was out wandering around the city (and having my bank card eaten by a malfunctioning ATM!), especially when I stopped into an art supply store to pick up a little bottle of blue india ink. I'm planning to use this to add some sketches to the prints I made at the letterpress workshop, but I'm not quite sure yet what I'm going to draw.

Hopefully the ink is close enough to the blue from the letterpress prints. It looks like a good match in the bottle.

Details and photos of the resulting treasures/disasters to follow shortly.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good Artistic Intentions

Tonight was one of those amazing nights when I planned to do a bunch of practical, productive things, but ended up attending an art show opening, drinking red wine, and sharing stories with two great friends (one of whom I hadn't seen in over five years!).

The art show opening was the launch of a new kozyndan project called The Unknown Portraits: A Collection of Imagined Personae.

The book - a vivid collection of found photos that have been redrawn and transformed in all kinds of fabulous and vaguely disturbing ways - is incredible. Getting to see the actual framed drawings at the show was even more amazing, especially since most of them are only a few inches in size.

The husband and wife team that make up kozyndan (Dan and Kozue Kitchens) were both at the show and because a simple signature just wouldn't suffice for such an amazing collection, Kozue was drawing a quick portrait of each attendee on the spot.

The show was incredibly inspiring (and has me itching to do some more pencil drawing even though I've been trying to commit to pen and ink). Even better was getting to catch up with the girls, hear about their adventures, and laugh about the morning nearly a decade ago (wow!) when we met each other in our first undergraduate music class. Good times.