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Monday, 22 June 2015

OLD NEWSPAPERS REVISITED


Gray Face

Increasingly, news is delivered to us via smart, shiny, electronic gadgetry.  Papers will soon follow the way of the dodo.


No more...
  • ink stained fingers after flipping pages,
  • stretching of arms and fighting with oversized sheets to read small articles in distant corners,
  • chemical smell
  • rips, holes, or missing portions of interesting articles,
  • rain-soaked, heavy, dripping masses requiring four hours of drying before they can be perused,
  • waiting for a paper that never arrives,
  • news seen 3 days prior on the Internet.

But this is what I will miss as my tablet replaces the newspaper...

  • a morning gift via home delivery,
  • the chemical smell,
  • newspaper stands fresh with high contrast headlines,
  • photographs of passionate people created with tiny dots (frequently walloped by the goddess of printing accidents),
  • the touch and sound of unfolding pages,
  • something to start a wood stove fire with,
  • scissored bits of history that yellow, fade and deteriorate (I've found many in old recipe books),
  • collage material and action poses.

The above list could be expanded ad infinitum depending on who's preparing it.  In a previous blog post, I wrote of finding old English and French newspapers dated 1942-44 in my attic.


Echo
What will we find years from now?  Will our old iPads still work after we try and charge them?  Will they become more toxic landfill?  

I think of my Spectra Polaroid Camera and slide projector that I can't bring myself to give away.  I found film for the Spectra online but the cost was way beyond my budget.  Too bad because beautiful things happen with polaroid cameras...

...but I digress.

The old newspapers were an unintended gift from someone who wanted to insulate our house.  New modern "stuffing" is now up there but a few 70 year-old papers lay forgotten after renovations were done.

I photographed numerous pages and have been creating a series that merges or juxtaposes drawings with decaying images and punchy headlines in serif fonts.  Ironically, I am integrating historical events in my digital work.  

It's territory fraught with emotion.  


Pillars

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

THESE SHOES ARE MINE

When I visit my mom at the seniors' residence, I am gobsmacked.  While a large percentage of the residents are quite a bit older than I am, quite a few are younger or around my age.  Whoa!

What has life whacked them with?   

One lady has Parkinson's and severe asthma, others appear to have speech or motor problems perhaps due to illness or an accident. They need help to function everyday.  Walkers and wheelchairs abound; the community is frail but some still manage to walk without too much difficulty.  

I constantly remind myself not to take what I have for granted and not to worry unnecessarily about matters that are beyond my control.  Things can change at the drop of a hat.  I'm thankful that I can still cook my own meals (there are no Thai curries, hot Mazatlan dips, or sushi in this publicly run residence), do my own laundry, paint and draw, go out with friends, learn new software and take care of my plants. 

I long to become an independent, eccentric crone who takes close up pictures of bugs and who paints sarcastic canvases about life's absurdities.  So...in the spirit of offbeat and whimsical aging, I would like to emphasize the importance of funky footwear.


These are my shoes.  




They make me happy.  

Warning:  The older I get, the more colourful and alive my feet will become.  




It also doesn't hurt that shoes happen to be a great source of inspiration.

Monday, 1 June 2015

DREAMING IN CLUTTER

One cramped messy corner
Before undertaking any type of project, I clean and clear to make room for what will inevitably happen. 

My studio has a life of its own. An invasion of paper, tools, binders and books appears out of nowhere to nourish an image in the making. The workspace becomes a temporary, if somewhat perilous work of art in itself.

The old studio was bigger than the one I have now, but even there, l managed to trip on litter that mysteriously grew from the floor. Precariously balanced piles of research contributed to the harvest by flying from perches and landing with a bang that I rarely ever heard.  

I suffer from creative deafness.  When I am parked at my easel, I become a frequent source of frustration for those around me.  Family members that approach while I am task-focused are met with high-pitched shrieks and leaps of surprise.  

Startling the startler is nature's revenge.

Temporary loss of hearing is also the plight of the daydreamer.  My grade school report cards attest that my mind was not on my studies but rather in world of ideas, dreams and fantasies that unimaginative elementary school teachers, frozen in bricks of rationality and routine, could never access or be bothered to understand.   

Habits continue. Mundane tasks like blowdrying hair or washing dishes require little brainpower and are equally conducive to daydreaming and part time deafness. 

"Clean up as you go along you silly goose and mop up your mind!" I hear you cry!  

But this interrupts the creative process doncha know. Once a work is done, a thorough cleaning happens. Ebb and flow...

and Leonardo da Dish Mop is born.




Sunday, 17 May 2015

BOLD AND BRAZEN

Sketchbook 
Nature repossesses her environment at the slightest opportunity.  As soon as the weather warms up, plants eagerly stretch towards the sun, nasty red ants (they bite!) build craters of sand near stones and trees, male red-winged black birds squawk and dive to protect their nests, and an army of  other creatures moves into the neighbourhood.

In previous posts, I wrote of the many unexpected visitors that have graced our property since we moved in three years ago. The list includes bullfrogs, groundhogs, foxes, metal-pecking woodpeckers (loud peckers attract more mates), field mice, snails, and of course, legendary racoons. It's rare to have encounters with wild animals because most of them have the sense to avoid humans. 

Our friendly neighbourhood cats also visit regularly and probably keep many wild things at bay around here. Recently they failed us.  

The back door was open and I suddenly noticed an animal peering into the house through the screen. I initially throught it was one of our neighbour's cats, but this one seemed larger than either Arthur or Oreo.  I stood up, edged slowly towards the door, and came face-to-face with nature's version of Zorro.  In spite of its exceptional appearance, I really didn't want it on my stoop.  I  assumed it would scoot away as soon as it saw me but no.  It looked right at me with calm, cool, collected eyes while I felt anxiety knot in my chest. 

I called my roomie and sure enough, he had already spotted Rocky through his office window.  We both dashed for our cameras and started to shoot.  It was a fearless creature who scratched a lot, washed itself repeatedly (I had no idea they were so "up" on hygiene) all the while casting the occasional glance at us.


It was an incredibly sleepy animal who decided to nap in a number of unusual positions at our door.  At one point, its head hung over the step like a tiny sack of potatoes.  We wondered if it might be sick.

Was it male or female?   It soon became apparent that Rocky was a "she" as her belly was alive with nipples. 







  







She snoozed for what seemed to us an interminable time.  We really didn't want Roquette to move in and feared that she might be pregnant because of her uncontrollable  urge to sleep. 

In a moment, everything changed.  She awoke perfectly rested out of a deep slumber, took a few guzzles out of our yet unopened pool, and nonchalantly wandered off never to be seen again.

Lovely as she is, I hope things stay that way. 



Tuesday, 5 May 2015

"SO SAYS - AINSI DIT" - THE PROCESS


Here are the English and French press releases for the exhibition "So Says - Ainsi Dit".  Thanks to Claudine Ascher for organizing such an interesting event.  I invite you to come and view the show which runs until May 24th, 2015.  

Artists were asked to document their process.  Mine follows after the press releases.






“You were doomed to put on a print dress and a rubber girdle and sit in a rocking chair on the porch….”

When I read Margaret Atwood’s quote, I was consumed by waves of memories.  

Sketch

Memory 1:

I come from a small town.  My parents and I would often take short road trips in the surrounding countryside on Sunday afternoons.  Porches played an important role in rural areas.  After church Sunday mornings, dressed to the nines, locals spent their afternoons rocking and watching to get a sense of what was happening in the world.  If strangers drove by, as we did, they were eyeballed as outsiders who’d best not stir up any trouble. I will never forget those looks, a blend of curiosity, wariness, and xenophobia.

Memory 2:

There was a house I used to avoid in my neighbourhood.  A young woman who was obviously suffering, would rock wildly on her parent’s balcony and bellow like a sick donkey every 30 seconds.   I was afraid of her.

Memory 3:

Women’s issues have always been a concern of mine.  I think of how we have been portrayed over the years, waiting, always waiting; waiting for the men to arrive. 


What I found particularly interesting about the quote was the order in which Atwood listed things:

  1. Doomed
  2. Print dress
  3. Rubber girdle
  4. Rocking chair
  5. Porch
Doomed:  A woman is in an impossible situation that she can’t get out of, fated to wait and rock in perpetuity.

Print dress:  This is the kind of flowered dress I saw women wear on my road trips.

Rubber girdle:  Interestingly, the girdle is mentioned after the dress.  I take Atwood literally and place the girdle over the dress. 

Rocking chair:  I want it a bit warped and lopsided to underscore the mood.  She is forced to sit on a slant.

Porch:  It is old, faded, in disrepair.  Weeds grow through and around things.  They are out of control.

These are the changes the painting went through...  

On the left, the painting is roughed out.  I proceed to paint the girdle pink and to darken, (doom and gloom) the background.  



I outline the limbs and define where I want white trim.  
  


I add a dandelion on the bottom left.  (They are about to sprout on my property and I am dreading having to pull them out forever and ever.)  I vary the colours in each brick. The shoes are brown.  I decide to make them match the dress.  Final refinements include adding more weeds around the bricks and darker shadows in the background, trimming the left post of the rocking chair, and adjusting the arms and hands.


 

I am tempted to create another painting based on the "Doomed Cafe" initial sketch, which would take place in a social setting with lots of savoury (and naturally unsavoury) characters.  Who knows where it will all take me.  A small paper piece is in the works at the present time.  


Saturday, 2 May 2015

LEARNING TO WRITE

The desk had a hole in the upper right hand corner.  A shiny new bottle of navy ink fit snugly inside it.  

I was going to learn how to write.

School decided we should become acquainted with dipping pens, the kind that permanently stained our clothing for the upcoming year. I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of actually writing with a pen!  (Until then, we'd only been printing in pencil).  

Imagine crusty men of old, writing in the gloom by candlelight, their bushy eyebrows and long beards dematerializing into the shadows.  It was like that but sans darkness, eyebrows, beards, and the candle. I was in another world.  

I smudged and blotched my way through years of practice.  If water happened to drop on the ink, the words would disappear into beautiful blooms of gradient colours.  Writing was definitely an aesthetic experience.  

Our pens evolved over time and eventually sported a little gizmo on the side that pulled out to suction ink into a cartridge. Dipping became obsolete. This was progress at the cost of experiential joy.  

Eventually pens came with cartridges that were already filled. The colour range was lovely, inks came in black, dark blue, and turquoise (I loved turquoise!)

Last week I came across my drawing pens. This triggered a nostalgic fit so vivid that I felt compelled to run right out and buy the old fashioned writing kind.  I initially looked online for fountain pens and was aghast at prices.  I hollered to no one in particular: "Hey people! What's with this???  I had one in Grade 3 and it cost almost nothing!!!"  

Supply and demand I guess.  

I grabbed my coat and told my roomie that I would see him later because I was going to buy a fountain pen. He looked at me as though I had just come back from cavorting with bats in the proverbial belfry.  



The ensuing dialogue went something like this:

HIM:  "What brought that on?"

ME:  "Um, I just want one."

HIM:  "Why?"

ME:  Well, um, I was thinking about what it felt like when I was a kid...writing with a pen, the ink bottle, the blotter, how the ink flowed, how the letters varied in size, how interesting the experience was.  I'm going to get one to write in my journal."

The love of my life still looked totally befuddled.

I rushed out and zoomed to the nearby office supply store. Nothing.  I went to the local art store.  Plenty of art pens but finding a simple fountain pen that wasn't for calligraphy was more of a challenge.  Finally, with help from the clerk, I bought one made by a British company that was way too expensive.  Luckily I happened to have a gift card.  It's easier to impulse buy with a gift card.

Writing with it wasn't as easy as I remembered.  It didn't flow like the one I had in my youth.  I had to shake it every time before writing.  



I tried to remember what they taught us in school.  Cursive writing was fun, full of curvy lines. I think it went something like this!

Letters had to be of even height. I often chewed on my protruding tongue to achieve a passage of visual beauty. 
















I'm still having fun with my new pen although I wish that the ink would flow more smoothly.  I have to write at a certain angle to get the results I want.  

It's a writing pen but I can't seem to stop myself from doodling.  C'est plus fort que moi.




Thursday, 16 April 2015

IN SEARCH OF DISCIPLINE

My brain is flowing out my nose in a continuous aqueous stream. At this rate of loss, I should invest in a tissue company before I am no longer capable of rational thought.

A nasty, demon-powered virus has inflamed my sinuses and eclipsed my spirit. The frustrating part is that I may have unwittingly contributed to its triumphant invasion.

As an artist without a day job, I am still, after two and a half months, trying to find a working rhythm and routine.  One advantage of not having to get up at 6:00 in the morning is exercising the freedom to work late into the night.  After years as an early but groggy riser, my body is resisting change and assailing my immune system.

From what I can gather, the benefit of working while others sleep is doing so in absolute silence and tranquility.  I nestle inside an invisible egg, far beyond the fibre optic reach of telemarketers.  The flip side rolls in the following day; energy levels plummet as I am reassigned by the body police to a blurry, unfocused, parallel universe.


Yesterday I was up at 5:30 because I couldn't breathe. I grabbed a nearby box of 3-ply tissues, plunked myself in front of the keyboard and wrote:  

Birds chirp as the crawl space pump spits out melting snow.
peel masking fluid off a paper work.
I don't have to rush.  I am grateful.

Deep stuff confirming the obvious...the head cold has fried a portion of my brain. On a positive note, (I always look for one), even with throbbing, swollen sinuses, I managed a frisket peel and started a blog post. If this isn't a manifestation of discipline, I don't know what is.  I understand that I am not ready for the army.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

FLYING BUSES



2015
I am still amazed at how commanding, man-made, vividly-coloured metallic birds manage to soar through our skies. 
Physics was never my forte.  

Like many, I prefer terra firma, but I've never been one who, in pre-flight terror, clutches the nearest airline employee for dear life in an attempt to avoid boarding.  I am generally reassured by smiling flight attendants who emit an air of total calm as they prepare one and all for take off.  

1969
My first flight ever, and the always attractive stewardesses (beauty was on the list of hiring criteria then) were young, fearless, unmarried women who were oblivious to the pitfalls of risk taking.  Airlines attempted to make the trip delightful and civilized, a brilliant strategy to maybe help passengers like myself, forget that we were actually soaring at 20,000 plus feet above the planet. 

My long legs were nowhere near the seat ahead of me.  I could wiggle in my chair and grab a safety belt without scraping my hand against the rough, durable fabric. The aircraft interior was in nearly pristine condition and free food arrived in little warm containers filled with delicacies prepared by airline chefs!

Flying is no longer what it was.  

2015 
I recently returned to Montreal from Austin, Texas. The flights to and fro were okay, late coming back because we had to wait for a good part of an hour in Detroit while a technician repaired a couple of overhead bins. 

I was happy to have leg room on the first part of the trip back (until the stopover) because my companion and I were seated at the emergency exits.  Strangely, the more we inclined towards the jet stream, the colder I became. Initially I ignored it, assumed that my imagination was overactive or that the air conditioning was on full blast.  As time went on, my right thigh felt as though I had left it in the refrigerator for thirty minutes and my toes recalled the sensation of driving a rusty Volkswagon Beetle in twenty below weather. 

Cold air was seeping into the cabin via the emergency exit door.  I borrowed my partner's winter coat and wound it tightly around my legs to keep warm.  Before long, condensation launched a steady stream of water from the window down to my shoes.  Not exactly what I would call a high-end experience.  What happened to the colour coordinated blankies and pillows?

Free service included tiny bags of either pretzels, peanuts, or chips along with water, a soft drink, or juice.  

Are you trying to stay hydrated?  Here!  Have salty food!
Do you want to keep your blood pressure down?  
Tough titty! 

Other beverages, meaning booze, had to be purchased. Part of the rug-type material edging the seat in front of me was torn and suspended directly in my line of vision.  The button to lower my companion's seat was nothing but a hollow orifice.  He could fit his finger inside quite nicely but it was useless for its intended purpose.

A nonstop creaking sound worthy of a Vincent Price  horror movie enriched the drone of the plane.  I would quickly return my car to the dealership if it had that kind of rattle.

1961
These happenings brought to mind memories of the city bus rides I took to get home from high school. 

Drivers had a knack of pushing a little too hard on those brake pedals to simulate turbulence! The occurrence was especially challenging in situations where there was nowhere to sit.  I had to stand and white-knuckle grasp an overhead bar to avoid a solo flight towards the rear of the vehicle.  I landed on my face a few times.  It was not unlike returning from the airplane loo but not quite reaching one's seat during a one thousand foot drop 

The air inside buses was foul, especially in winter. I picked up many a cold virus over the years. Airplanes today also host a variety of interesting microbes from all over the globe that innervate our immune systems.  Supposedly cabin air is no longer filtered as efficiently as it was when smoking was permitted.  It might be a good idea to don a face mask before boarding.

Pretzels were never served on the bus.  If one wanted to eat, it was necessary and healthier to bring a snack, or better still, an entire meal from home.  Hint, hint!

2015
"Air Whatever" takes us to exotic and not-so-exotic places fast and almost always, safely. That's a good thing.  Yet I dream of a day when airlines might once again make the flying experience comfortable and affordable.  Sometimes it's necessary to look back to innovate.

Monday, 16 March 2015

THE TIME CAPSULE

The Rocking Chair

Time capsules are often prepared with the intent of documenting cultural periods in history.  Objects and/or photographs are placed in sealed containers and opened a fixed number of years later. 

Those of us with a penchant for mild hoarding possess our own versions of time capsules.  I, for one, still have a folder containing a journal that I wrote in my grade nine english class, old high school report cards, anonymous letters from a teenage admirer, and diaries that I kept in early adulthood. Coming across personal mementoes invariably leads to a nostalgia riddled afternoon.

I also have boxes of objects that my children made, and anticipate that they may, in later years, enjoy exploring these little treasure troves of their past.  Then again, they might just chuck everything out in dark green garbage bags all the while exclaiming "why did mom keep all this stuff?"

Discovering artifacts, decoding languages, learning more about cultures that came before doesn't only excite archaeologists.  

I recently came across a historical find in the attic of old French and English newspapers dating from 1942-44.  They are seductively fragile, yellowed, in some cases darkened to near black. Each page must be turned with care as the paper will either immediately disintegrate or tear.  These gems were printed during World War II.  The news, for the most part, is horrendous, not unlike today's. Humanity never learns from its mistakes.

This unintentional time capsule is an artistic gift from the universe.  While the newspapers are probably too dry to work with, (I must admit I'm still at a point where I feel it would be sacrilegious to rip them up...that may change over time), I've been photographing parts to either work with collage or to create digital prints.  

The exploration begins (amidst all those other projects I have in my head!)

"The Rocking Chair" above was done on my iPad.  

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

DUST AND DISCOVERY

The abode is still a shambles due to continuing home improvements. Dust lies everywhere and things are strewn about higgledy-piggledy.  I don't have access to my usual workspace so in the spirit of "gotta-work-no-matter-what", I set myself up at the kitchen table last night to create a small work.  

I wanted to prepare a piece for Monika Mori's Turquoise International Mail-Art-Project. I printed up an image the day before but wasn't entirely satisfied with the results. I was apprehensive about sending a printed postcard to Austria and instead decided to create a one-of-a-kind painted work. I didn't know whether my wonderfully decadent, thick, hot press paper would withstand an application of acrylics but it surprised me by accepting the water-based medium extremely well. The process was a great learning experience.  

I started out with this image on my monitor.... 


...but the initial printed version on matte paper was extremely washed out. It nevertheless unveiled unexpected shapes and lovely lilac stains.  

My studio has full spectrum lights but the kitchen is lit with incandescent bulbs.  I let a warm artificial beam affect my colour choices. 



I applied both heavy body and liquid acrylic paint to the image, in some areas thick and opaque and elsewhere, extremely diluted.  My new printer uses dyes rather than inks.  To my surprise, these didn't blend with the acrylic paint.  Dyes it seems, merge with the paper.

I ended up with this.



Both versions are interesting for different reasons. Colours are hot, intense and excite me more in the digital interpretation. The tiny painting reveals a softer side that emphasizes cooler blues in line with the theme "Turquoise".  I'm tempted to paint a larger version of this image on canvas but dust, clutter and the workman must disappear before I attempt anything on a grander scale.

Away she flies!  May the post office goddess protect this wee artwork as it crosses the big pond!

UPDATE:  The postcard arrived in Austria.  It got there way more quickly than any mail I have sent to the U.S. in the past.  Bizarre.  Here's what it looks like online.