Art/Author Blog

Happy Canada Day!

Dessert

I’ve been away on family visits, and I’m deep into gardening catch-up and preparation for more family visits.

I have less time in the studio but I’m continuing my study of digital illustration. I struggle with two different things:

  • I have trouble thinking of things to illustrate and,
  • When I do create something, it looks stiff and self-conscious

In this little mouse painting, I used my brushes more like I would if I were creating with analog mediums like watercolour or oil paint and I think it has helped.

Are mice fond of blackberries for dessert? I have no idea, but dessert is good. Go ahead and have an extra helping of Canada Day cake!

Krita 4.2.1 is here.

My son taught me how to use computers. I think the first oneI tried was an an IBM XT. It had two floppy drives. One held the WordPerfect software I was hoping to use, and the other held your documents. It was a terrible exercise in frustration for me–all those arcane keystrokes, I could never remember–but I was hooked.

My education in computers took a long time. As a single mom, of two, just finishing my degree in fine art, I didn’t have money to buy computers and operating systems, but there were enough of them around to find old computers whose hardware you could scavenge to build something for yourself. By the mid-nineties, my son taught me about open-source operating systems and software. He taught me about Linux. (I use Ubuntu)

I fell in love with the co-operative way Linux was built, and how it offered opportunity to people who couldn’t pop out and buy computers at a whim. My son ended up becoming a software engineer. And I’m still a fan of computers and the ideals behind open-source software.

Krita is one such software. It’s an amazing drawing program that rivals and exceeds the ability of expensive digital editing software like Adobe Photoshop. It’s both robust enough for production artwork and cost friendly enough for beginners who don’t have the money to buy visual artmaking software.

According to Wikipedia, Krita is the Swedish word for crayon and rita is Swedish word for ‘to draw’.

The newest version of Krita just came out, and I spent the tail end of last week and all weekend, trying new brush sets (offered for free by many) and the colourize mask that allows you to colour your work quickly and easily.

Above is a composition of my own that is a little Handmaid’s Tale and a little Mother of Dragon’s, and mostly neither. My very quick granddaughter noted that the expression on the woman’s face is all wrong given the miracle of a dragon hatching in your hands. She’s so right.

The other drawing is a portrait of Dominique Tipper who plays Naomi Nagata in the TV series The Expanse.

Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow

Flora #2 03-06-2019
Flora #2, 2019, egg-tempera on panel, 14″ x 11″

When I was a kid, making my own art with left-over paint-by-number paints, it took a long time to get a painting done. Not only because I didn’t know what I was doing (I didn’t) but also because the things I painted were detailed and required a lot of work. I wish I could find one of those paintings for you. I know that somewhere there is a painting of a deer leaping through water, fear in its eyes. On a cliff above lurked a mountain lion. Only the mountain lion was beyond my abilities so I didn’t paint it in. I was working from a photo from one of my father’s Field and Stream magazines. It was slow work.

Fast forward to my thirties, I went off to study studio art-painting at university. The Canadian prairies had a whole lot of art envy going on and we were particularly smitten with the Abstract Expressionism coming out of New York City. Most of our professors studied in America and the university had an off-campus camp at Emma Lake where guest artists came to lecture. Artists like Barnett Newman, Stanley Boxer, Kenneth Noland and Donald Judd along with critics like Clement Greenberg.

The focus was on abstraction and if you were going to paint something recognizable it would be best if it was in an expressionistic style.

Expressionistic work was all about quick lines, by its nature quick and you didn’t labour over an abstraction for weeks either. In fact, we didn’t labour over any one painting. Part of that was the school schedule was heavy and no student had the time for work that took weeks or months to complete.

I loved all of it, the quick, quick of expressionistic work, the pouring and splashing of paint. But the need to go slow found me. I began to make large paintings made up of small bits of paper. The process took time. First the gluing of paper, and then the pouring of paint and more gluing of paper.

I think my recent fascination with making highly detailed paintings of flora have some of that same process and quality my paper constructions had. The abstract underpinnings are still there.

Flora #2 isn’t quite done, but you know, slowly, slowly.

I also managed to find time to write the last half of a short story I was stuck on. It’s still in first draft, so who knows what flaws are lurking in it, but fixing them is working for another day.

Making Lemonade

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Old Woman #1, 2019, oil on paper, 5 x 5″

Some time ago, someone gave me sheets and sheets of fabulous d’Arches watercolour paper. This is seriously expensive paper: deckled edges, cold pressed texture, and thick. It has to be at least a 250-pound paper. Bond paper, the kind you use in your printer, weighs about five pounds per ream (500 sheets). This paper is 56 x 72 centimetres. If paper weight is measured is the same with all papers, 500 sheets of this paper would weight 250 pounds or more. The paper does not buckle or wrinkle when you get it wet.

And did I mention, that it is very expensive?

The thing is, I don’t like it. I don’t like how it takes water mediums. And I don’t like its rough texture. It’s been kicking around for ages. I’ve moved it from one studio to another and used very little of it. It occurred to me, recently, that if I gave it a good coat of gesso I could practice oil painting on it.

Years ago I painted in oils—when I was a kid really—and I didn’t have much of a clue on how to use oils. It seemed like a good time to learn.

The gessoed paper works well for this purpose.

2019-05-16 08.15.54
Old Woman, #2, 2019, oil on paper, 10 x 8″

I’m continuing with a foliage motif in my egg-tempera paintings, but on this paper, I decided to do portraits of old women. Above you have portraits of two colourful ladies whose photos I found on Pinterest.

Memory and Thought

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I’ve been spending some time working on my altered book, as well as writing and painting. Gardening has temporarily been put on hold because the weather has turned cool. There is a promise of snow every now and than, but so far we’ve missed it. It’s  dry, dry, dry. We could use some rain. I’d even take the snow if it meant a bit of moisture.

Above are some of the Altered Book pages I’ve been working on. I made a digitial drawing of the ravens a while ago, and then I read Book Two, Child of Dragon’s in the Leather Tales series by Regine Haensel. In this book, Regine features two ravens name Thought, Memory. I love that, and though my ravens don’t have names, it’s nice to think about thought and memory and where they intersect and change each other.

The leafed garland is a scan of an engraving by Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th Century naturalist, entomologist and artist. She did some amazing work.

You can find Regine’s books here, and read about Maria Sibylla Merian here and here.

 

It’s Complicated

Leaf Thing smFor the past few weeks, I’ve been making changes. Changes in my environment. No, I’m not moving house. I’ll leave the rooms where they are, but anything inside those rooms is in danger of being gone, or in another room entirely.

A few weeks ago I painted the walls in the little room I call an office most of the time, my study when I’m being pretentious. The walls are now a lovely deep grey.

Then in the middle of last week, I noticed that the hardwood floors in the living-room were taking a beating from my dog, Caro’s, nails. Down I went on my hands and knees and scrubbed the whole floor, moving each piece of the furniture at least once, so I could get every corner. I then used a renewing product to make the floor look better.

Nice!

But the dog’s nails will abrade the hardwood all over again if I leave it as is. No problem. I moved the area rug from the family room downstairs, gave it a shampoo, and carried the 10′ x 12′ carpet upstairs to roll out on the living-room floor. More moving of furniture.

So why did I do all that? Does my little office look so much better after I shifted all the furniture again this morning?

The simple answer, my gloating answer is, because I can.

Whaaat?

Yes, because I’m old, and I can. If you’re under fifty, you probably don’t get that, but believe me, carrying a slightly damp 10′ x 12′ carpet up twelve steps to unroll in another room isn’t so easy when you’re almost seventy.

This will sound like a digression, but there is a link. Here goes.

In mid-April, I read a report in American Scientific with the headline “Implicit Bias toward Race and Sexuality have Decreased”

I’m all about good news and I was delighted to read that bias against race and sexual difference are on the wane. But as I continued to read I saw that while people may more tolerant toward others of differing race and sexuality, they have become more biased against the old. Well yuck!

I had already noticed bias against the old. Heck, I do it myself, often barely restraining a heavy sigh when some elderly person ahead of me at the grocery store counts out their coins for a loaf of bread and three bananas.

Now I’m the old one, working hard to prove that I’m still relevant.

You see how complicated things get?

If you’re lucky you’ll get old, and even if you have always been in the right group, the admired group, a time will come when you’re not.

The above painting is in it’s beginning stage. I’ll continue by adding darker and lighter greys. Colour might happen and I think I might call it: “It’s Complicated.”