Tuesday, 29 September 2009

You - and organising things

This is another of those illustrations i did for the poetry book.

It is probably one of the few drawings I have done that you could say is actually digital. Because I did the original drawing and then took it into photoshop where i airbrushed the shading in and otherwise coloured it in by computer as well as superimposing butterfly wings as a background.

I liked the theme of this - the poem itself was rather tragic, but I chose to focus on the way love bewitches you for better or worse. The subject is obviously represented here as just that - a little witch.

In general my life right now is shifting subtly to a run-down into our impending move. Right at this moment it is the one thing on my mind as i am organising things like the packing and throwing away and/or selling of all the stuff we have accumulated during our stay here. As always I am amazed at how much one or two people can collect in such a short space of time. In fairness we had been open to staying a bit longer, hence the bicycles, stereo sound system (zeppelin) and the printer (although a printer is rather an essential tool don't you think?).

Learning Spanish is rather high on my list of priorities too and i am walking around both the apartment, as well as Stavanger town centre, speaking or whispering to myself in Spanish. The phrases are based around finding somewhere to eat or how to get a doctor, not to mention how good milk is for you when you are sick. I can say that I am American (North American to be precise) which of course I am not, but as yet I do not know how to say that I am Irish, although I do understand that all I need to find out what 'Irish' is and I will be away in a hack! i do grasp the concept, but am in no hurry to start worrying unduly about those little details. I am, however, banging away at the lessons as much as I can to get some fluency before i get to Spain. if I have the tools to start with I am certain that the vocabulary will fall into place pretty quickly.

The town we are moving to is not touristy and therefore the Spanish people there speak Spanish as opposed to being geared towards English and German tourists. It will help in the long run as trying to learn Norwegian here was a huge challenge as almost everyone here not only speaks English but they speak it exceptionally well and they like using it.

But I am getting a bit sidetracked there I think. What I was really doing was making excuses for why I have slowed down on the blogging front as well as on the art creation front. That said. i did most recently have a very successful print run (as you know), which is always draining and left me feeling a bit empty and exhausted afterward, so i am also regrouping. It is great for the apartment because I tend to use the more menial tasks to unwind - as in dusting, cleaning and cooking, but not ironing! I am also, of course, waiting for the prints I made to dry out completely so that i can give some of them a colour wash. The ink is intentionally very slow drying and will take a couple of weeks to dry , although i am trying to speed up the process by using heaters and such. Still I will not rush it to be on the safe side.

I do intend to do a few more drawings/paintings for my exhibition, but also intend to have all my work finished by the time I go to Spain (to check on building) on the 24th of october. i will be back on the 1st of November and will spend the remaining couple of weeks organising for the exhibition - I hate having to rush these things at the last minute - it makes enjoyment of the evening much harder, in case you have forgotten something. But I may have mentioned this before. Such is the nature of excuses.

I hope you will still check up on my blog though - because I do not intend to give up in it. I am just more excited putting on new work rather than plundering the archives for older stuff. i think though, that once I start drawing again and my life settles back into that creative pattern I will just start blogging again naturally anyway - so please do not give up on this space!

Friday, 25 September 2009

going to pub

Great day's printing.

Going to pub

Thursday, 24 September 2009

soft footfall - a print


Everything hurts.

I think it is that fact that I get very intense when I am completing a plate and running the first test prints. And this is what this is. My test print of what will have to be my final Norwegian print as I have run out of lino. Well I actually still have a small piece (A4) but I really find for the detail that I wish to achieve in these prints the A3 size is the absolute minimum.

I am really satisfied with the development of my technical facility for cutting these printing plates. Although this one has taken me days to complete. It was extremely intricate and I did not want to rush it or be too rough hewn about it. However, the length of time was not entirely the fault of the lino as there were other things that came up in the past few days which held me up too.

I will be hand colouring this print also - like my fern frond - but that said I actually think that I may do a couple without colour too - it seems to work. I am pleased with the different gradations of shade achieved. In fact, as I think about it I may keep the colour washes very neutral, very thin washes of sepia perhaps and some green. I still think that there need to be some shadows you see. If I was considering one colour only from the start I would have cut it differently. Something to put into the back of my brain for the next one.

So, today I was running those first test prints. Rolling the ink, taking a hand rubbed print on my thin japanese paper. Then I had to check for areas that still needed work. Then I had to do a little more cutting, thankfully not very much at all. Then another print. Another look. And of course there was just a tiny bit more to cut and then I took the final test print which you now see before you. It is really intense, you find yourself all bent over the table looking for flaws and mistakes. Also as I was doing more cutting and the plate was all sticky with ink so I ended up with little flakes of lino stuck in the ink and they of course do so destroy a print - so they had to be picked off first. They have to picked off individually and you get ink all over your hands as well as squinting at the plate against the light. Are you getting the picture?

I love it though. there is something magic about printing. I cannot explain it. I think it has something to do with all that process going into it, from concept to sketch to cutting the plate and finally the whole print taking and then you peel the paper off the plate with your breath held, hoping for the perfect print. As of yet, none of them have been perfect, but I believe it is only a matter of time and I will be able to run them off one after the other until the run is complete.

Well, we have three months left now until we leave Norway, i feel myself winding down a bit I must say, losing momentum at this time as my mind turns to the usual feat of packing. Of course I still have work to do, but I will not be pushing myself as hard now. After all, my energies will now have to go into organising my exhibition at the end of November. So the work I start now has to be completed. The ink on those prints takes several weeks to dry so that is another reason why they have to printed tomorrow and put to dry. i will then turn my attention to some more painting - with a few ideas fermenting as we speak. I can paint right up to the night before the exhibition actually, so there is no urgency now for those.

There will be catologues to produce then and posters and flyers to advertise the event and then to decide what day to have it on and then just hope that everyone turns up with their wallets open and ready to buy.

That is a funny thing itself. Of course I love to sell my work. It is the reward and it is the recognition that the work is appreciated by others. But there is always a part of me that hates to say goodbye to my 'babies'. They have so much work in them, so many hours and so much thought and planning and then I sell them to strangers when I would so very much like to have them hanging on my own walls. It is an eternal problem with art and the artist.

Anyway! Enough for now! I have mused on enough about my problems and passions. I have a print room to clean and a dinner to cook and a bit more packing to attend to also.

Sometimes it is quite challenging being a multi-tasker!

Monday, 21 September 2009

How Wings Work

I thought that something a bit more gentle might make a better start to the week.

this is gentle in execution and gentle in theme I think you will agree. Also when I took the photo the sun shone a ray across the picture and I liked it so i have left it in. I think it enhances the painting - it makes the central portion look slightly translucent, don't you think?

I had a bit of a struggle painting this all the same - but when don't I struggle - but in the end it came together very satisfactorily. With nice washes of colour to build up the flesh tones and then slightly stronger paint to make the wings.

This idea came to me one morning when I was lying in bed looking up at the ceiling and out the balcony door at the blue sky. i was half dozing and half dreaming I think and I jsut started thinking about how wings are held together. I seem to have some memory - it might be a bird wing actually - that some of the feathers are latched together by organic hook and eyes. So I decided to use this system for these metamoth wings too. I thought it was just one simple thought in a painting. Not too crowded like some of my others. Sometimes that simplicity is just very relaxing.

I like thinking about how things work; wings, crests on birds, lizard feet and those great long lizard tongues that shoot out to catch insects, insect feet on water, how seeds germinate and how they get from a to b, how fingers and toes bend and point and how chestnuts open and how they protect their seeds. The list is endless and as varied as the whole world. It gives me something to do in the early hours of the morning though.

Today being Monday I thought i would ease myself in to the week on moth wings.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Hate and the inherited anger

How's this for strong feelings!

I know - a bit cliche, but that was the theme of the poem too.

Anyway I am sure that everyone reading this can close their eyes and remember feeling this way about someone who they loved or even still love.

Or maybe not. Not everyone experiences such strong feelings of anger and hate.

I used to have a terrible temper. I couldn't control it at all. I inherited it from my father. Yeah. I know, it wasn't a born in trait but a learned behaviour. My father used to fire up pretty quickly, sometimes for not real reason at all. He would go all red in the face and shout so much that he would sort of froth at the mouth. Sometimes his dinner would go all over the wall, at the other side of the room! Glasses were not safe at all. But I do not remember him slapping (really laying into us that is) me or my siblings when he was in a rage.

I know he didn't hit my mother either. But that sort of temper is still terrifying for everyone around it. I tried to be so good so that I would not draw his ire on me.

My mother on the other hand was so cool. She never lost it with him. There really would have been no point. But I don't think it diffused his temper, in fact, I think it made him all the angrier. But he really could do nothing more against her because she did not react. I know how frustrating that is - it is like hitting a pillow. Very unsatisfactory.

Well, I developed a temper like his. I used to go into my room and throw my possessions around the place and hit the wall and things like that. it was terrible. I did not know how to control it at all. In fact I didn't realise that I was supposed to control it. I thought that this was normal behaviour. We were fiery Russians after all. Temperamental and passionate. But I remember how exhausting that sort of behaviour is. It does not actually release the anger and frustration, in fact it does the opposite. The angrier you become the more you wind yourself up until you are so angry that you think you will burst and then there is nowhere to go so you just sort of collapse in tears and frustration. You remain all hot and bothered and it takes ages to cool down again.

This anger followed me for many, many years and possibly my biggest regret is that my son thinks of me as an angry person to this day - moody Mary he calls me. Ironically i have to thank my husband for eventually teaching me to control my temper. It is ironic because he was the cause of so much of my anger during our marriage. It was only as our marriage was ending that I realised if I was ever to win an argument with him I would have to control that terrible rage. And so i did. It was miraculous, like a complete catharsis. As if the scales fell from my eyes and I could control it and I could finally see clearly about the damaging nature of such a terrible anger. Damaging for yourself but also for those around you - especially your children.

I rarely get angry now - and if i do it is just not that same debilitating fury. It is wonderful. In itself it has a really calming effect on me - so I just get more and more chilled. Happy days :-)

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Hand I Held in Mine

This was an illustration i did for a book of poems. The theme of the poems (at least the ones I illustrated) was love. And as with most good love stories the love was not plain sailing. The different poems each taking a different approach and each telling a story either of love gone wrong, or love with issues that could be worked out, or love that started as total passion but ended in a desire to kill. Unfortunately I do not have the poems themselves to hand, but I am sure that you get my drift. There was no story that was about fairytale love - but then that is just that - a fairytale.

Call me cynical - but I don't think I am. I still believe in love and I believe that it can be good and that it can endure. I am a realist - I think - others are not of the same mind - but I have not been ground down by life in spite of love that has gone wrong and in spite of the curveballs that life has thrown at me. Love must be allowed to grow and develop, but change is never easy and growth can be painful, but nothing stands still so the work has to be put in. That is realism, is it not?

My father was a pessimist and I always used to say to him "can't you look on the bright side of life for a change - the worst is not always going to happen". So as long as he was alive I had to be this amazing Pollyanna type figure as i tried to win him over with my positive outlook. But somewhere along the way I realised that he did in fact have a point. If you always expect the worst then you may be pleasantly surprised when the worst does not happen. If, on the other hand, you are an optimist like I was, you can be disappointed and disillusioned time and time again - which I was.

So I did try to take a leaf out of his book although I also try to temper it with my natural joy of life. Life would be too miserable if you were always looking for that cloud. I still (secretly) really believe in happy endings although I also realise that sometimes they do not happen for everyone and not all the time. But I do believe that a positive outlook can actually help the outcome whatever it is - as Scarlett O'Hara said "After all, tomorrow is another day" (if I have quoted her correctly)

Here, I do apologise for going on about it (and I cannot remember if I have blogged about this before - it is quite likely as a father's influence cannot be underestimated!) but thinking about these poems, written incidentally by a friend of mine called Christy Parker, from Youghal in Co Cork, brings up these thoughts about life and especially love.

Regarding the illustration - i tried with this one to convey in a simple graphic way how the love in the story was in the past. The soft and gentle hand, has a little sting to it.

In addition I think you can tell from this drawing how much I like hands for their wonderful expressiveness. Think of puppeteers and what stories they can tell with the expression of their hands - or a ballet dancer or just an Italian. It has been said that I speak with my hands too by the way. Hands are so expressive!

I always liked that silly schoolgirl joke "How can you silence an Italian?" answer: "Tie his hands behind his back" Boom, boom!

Friday, 11 September 2009


Aaaah! Garlic!
I love garlic. I have drawn it before, several times, but just garlic and most people don't find it that interesting. So now I have put it into a proper drawing with a theme. The theme of this one being companion planting.

Garlic can be planted amongst roses to help keep aphids under control. Of course there are other things afoot here (hehehe! little pun), where there's a rose there is always a thorn for instance. Also you can see the cycle of life from the little rosebud in the foreground through the full blown rose flower, trampled as it is, to the ripe and fertile rosehip. Even the word, rosehip, has nice female connotations as well as a female form. Garlic is of course very female I think you will agree.

But it does not stop there!

Garlic is so delicious. I love cooking with garlic. I love the way it comes in a great big head, bulging with goodness. And then you have to peel some of the outer layers and start to see the very defined separate cloves. Only then can you start to crunch the cloves apart. I then like to give them a bit of a thumping on the chopping board before I peel the individual cloves, this helps to loosen their little jackets. I cut off the little hard end with a sharp knife and try to get the whole peel to come off in one go. Actually if the garlic is very fresh - which is naturally better - this peel does not come off quite so easily. If it is a bit older then it just falls off quite satisfyingly.

We use masses of garlic now - more and more every week if the truth be known. But we both realise that is is soooo good for you and we do care about our health - like most middle-aged slightly less springy adults. So it just goes into absolutely everything. I like it best when Vic roasts it whole in the oven for me. He always lets me have the lion's share of it. He doesn't actually peel it then at all, he leaves it in its jacket and just roasts it complete. It comes out browned and smoky and as soft as tootpaste. Gorgeous because cooking it this way gives it a wonderful melting sweet flavour.

All I can say is, it is lucky we both like it or we would have to sleep in separate bedrooms. And that wouldn't be much fun now would it?

I won't go on - but I could - about how good garlic is for you. From blood pressure, to heart, to braininess etc etc. If we keep going this way we will live forever! And the added advantage is that we would be eternally immune to vampires too and that can't be any bad thing :-)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Jester in Print - and moving forward

Now, I will show you this print already, even though it is not yet finished. I want to hand colour it, but the ink is extremely slow drying so I will have to wait patiently for it to dry completely before I wash watercolour over it.

Even in just black and white it is not too bad I think, although i am still not completely happy with my linocuts yet. It is not easy to get the more gentle sinuous line that I like. Because of course the very character of linocut is generally more crude and immediate.

So i have to explore it further to see if I can use the nature of the medium as it is or try to bend it to suit my own needs. Of course you will probably gather that I favour the latter course of action. I love a challenge. I know it can be done, because I have seen linocuts that are far more subtle than mine so far. The act of adding hand painting to the print will of course help to soften the angular, roughcut lines. But I want to be able to control the cutting better from the outset. I suppose more practice is required.

Scale is another factor. In a very small print it is hard to cut the lines fine enough, so I have moved up a notch - this print is approximately A3 in size and has allowed me more detail, but I think I will have to perhaps invest in a professional cutting tool at some point in the not too distant future. But of course, you know what I am going to say now - it will have to wait until we get to Spain! Mañana, mañana. But in this instance I know that tomorrow will come and that all good things come to those who wait.

I have one more piece of lino with me and have the opportunity to make one more A3 sized print (also another in A4, but as I am running out of paper also that might not happen) and as we speak I am working through some sketches of ideas for this final Norwegian print. Let us hope that everything I have learned so far about linocut printing will come together for me then.

The really good news is that the scaffolding is, right this moment being taken down! I cannot wait.

It has been up for near enough two months now and I had not fully considered how it would affect our view from the windows and how much light it would block from the apartment. Not that we had any say in the matter of course, as we are only tenants here and as such have no say in decisions of that type. Anyway, even if we owned the building we would also have to endure the scaffolding if we wished to get any work done.

I think that once the scaffolding comes off we will all be fully able to appreciate how much better the apartment block will look though. So far the new paint looks pretty good and the building is starting to look very smart.

I have pulled up the blinds in the front of the house to let the sunshine stream in now as it hasn't for all these weeks. It really lifts the spirits.

Of course the summer has now really slipped away - today it is quite cool. We are definitely into Autumn now with leaves beginning to turn brown and yellow and chestnuts ripening and beginning to fall, great brown conkers ready for a fight. I have been here almost a full year - I came on the 25th of September so this was pretty much what i arrived to. What an adventure it has been, in so many ways. Finding out about a new country and a new way of living and learning how to live with my Victor as well, which has been like any relationship in the early stages; good for the most part, but with a few moments of doubts and misunderstandings too. But we have weathered the storms and we have kept moving forward, which is of course what it is all about really.

And like this year, my work has kept on moving forward and I look back and see how much I have achieved during that time and I have to be pleased with my progress. i think also that if you were to look back over the work i have done and posted on this site you will see a development and an improvement - and that is what it is all about. Moving forward

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Bitter Nest

I am not making excuses for not posting yesterday. I just had nothing to say and nothing to show.

I spent all yesterday morning preparing paper, rolling ink and printing my array of lino cuts. By the time I had finished and cleaned up and spread all the new prints over a towel on the bed it was about two o'clock and I was absolutely happily exhausted.

I also had to get down to the harbour to take some photos, although the weather was so terrible that i really did not get such great photos at all. I was drenched and more importantly so was my camera, even though I kept slipping it back into its plastic bag whenever i was not actually in action. But you know what it is like - eventually you are putting a wet camera back into a wet bag, no real advantage in that. So I bought some provisions and got back home.

But, back to the printing. Really happy with it. The new ink is definitely the bizz. I could tell as I was rolling it out, thick and viscous. It made that lovely tacky sort of stick stick noise as I rolled it out onto the glass plate. And then, when I rolled it onto the plate, it stuck to the surface without running down into the grooves at all. I could roll it over and over, building up a nice thickness of ink without ruining the edges. What a joy.

The actual printing was a bit more problematic as i am not fully equipped. I am using an old clothes mangle to print, but do not have a large enough bed to lie the print and paper on and i was feeling my way with pressure and padding pressing down on the top. So there were quite a few spoiled prints, but also there were some almost complete successes. i won't say complete success as there was no print that did not have little areas where the ink did not take. Still I think that the prints I have made, for the equipment I have are really good and, while I will not issue them as numbered prints, I will certainly issue them as trial prints, and in that of course they are in fact unique. I can tell you that is the sort of print I would prefer myself!

I will only do a couple of each - I do not have the paper anyway to print the whole run - and keep the plates for printing after I move. In Spain I will be able to set up a dedicated print area and also work on getting a printing press with all the correct paraphernalia.

I must say though that i am really pleased with my 'printing press'. As I mentioned, it is in fact an old clothes mangle which Vic bought me for my birthday present last December - it took a long time to put it to use, but it had to be bought when it was seen, with a view to the future. The sad thing is that I will not be able to take it with me when we leave - it weighs an absolute ton! I only hope we will be able to pick up something like it in Spain too.

This print is a little, graphic style picture of that nest with a cuckoo's egg in it. I enjoyed very much letting the twigs jut, twist and jerk their way into the weaving of the nest. I used the words of the bitter herbs that were woven into the walls. The herbs of tears and despair. I allowed the character of the lino cut to describe a background. It sort of lent itself really. I suppose it could be seen as a sketch really, but at the same time it does describe quite a nice whole. i find simplicity difficult, isn't that funny!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Friday again!

I have ben very busy today. I was busy making test prints and making subsequent adjustments to my plates.

I am absolutely wrecked!

So, no blog again today - but Monday I will have a proper print to show you.

Just going to hop into the shower now, wash my hair, brush my teeth, get my glad rags on and I'll be off out down to the Martinique for a couple of drinks and a slice of Pizza!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Soft Footfall on the Forest Floor - part 2

There now. My latest drawing. The concept is obviously the same as my little two colour mezzotint, but it contains more detail.

This was a total joy for me to make. It drew and painted itself really. Every moment for me was a pleasure of making. I did not rush it at all. I did not panic at any point and everything just seemed to find its place. That said, there are some bits I would improve if I were to do it again, but that is how I always feel about every single piece of work I have ever done. "If I were to do that again I would do that bit differently" That is no bad thing I believe as I continually strive to improve on what i do. I believe that that is the guiding hand of most artists and creatives. You always want to do better.

Anyway, himself made it back safely eventually. It was so nice to catch up. he brought back all the gossip and news from home with him and he himself came back looking really well and refreshed, in spite of his gruelling airport ordeal. He enjoyed himself immensely and that seemed to glow out of him. The stories were mainly positive, sometimes they are all sad and tragic. So sitting chewing the fat was enormously enjoyable. We shared the bottle of wine and a few of the prawns and eventually called it a night, very late!

And now things are getting back to normal. Nice to have the man around again. The house is so quiet and still without him. Nice in its own way, but the positive energy of another person in the house just makes life fuller and richer.

AS well as the gossip and the duty free he also brought me back a jar of printing ink! Now I can start printing again, this time I hope with better results than before. Hopefully I have got it right this time and ordered the correct type for my needs. This awaits to be seen of course and I will have to do a few test prints to get it as right as possible.

So that pretty well plots out my work for today and tomorrow and I hope to be able to show you some results very soon.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Moth and Arch and a midnight feast

And this is the other little Mezzotint that I did. They are both only about 5 or 6 inches across, but size definitely isn't everything - I hope you agree with me.

I think you can appreciate from this print just how well mezzotint works in mono-colour. It is much harder to get the white to zing when it has to be highlighted twice, there is much more room for graininess.

I think it might also have something to do with its resemblance to an old grainy black and white film. Black therefore, or even sepia becomes the natural colour for it.

I really wasn't supposed to be working today at all. I was looking forward to doing a little bit of shopping in the morning, a few fresh prawns (ferske reker as they call them here) and a nice bottle of wine for Victor's homecoming lunch. Only then he rang to say that he would not be home on time as his first flight from Manchester was cancelled. Of course this then became compounded by the fact that there is no direct flight to Stavanger, so he has to make a connection in Amsterdam. So now I am waiting patiently to hear from him to let me know what time he will be home. I hope he makes the flight that gets in for 4.30, then at least we can have a nice leisurely supper together. Otherwise it will be after after 10.00. So fingers crossed.

The silver lining is that I have been working away on my latest drawing, which is coming along just nicely. It has been a productive weekend and I feel very satisfied.

Otherwise not much else to report. The weather continues a la Ireland! Wet, wet, wet! But it is not unbeautiful. The rain with the water of the Fjord and the boats and ships in the harbour all work together really well, albeit in a watery way!

Oh Dear. I just got a phonecall from himself. He will be on the later flight :-( never mind we will just have to have a midnight feast.